Today In Charleston History: May 27


Six weeks after the colonists’ arrival, the ship Carolina, now commanded by Captain Henry Braine, sailed to Virginia for supplies. The sloop, Three Brothers, sailed to Bermuda for more settlers and supplies.

A sloop, similar to the Three Brothers

A sloop, similar to the Three Brothers

A frigate class vessel, similar to the Carolina.

A  vessel similar to the Carolina.


Twenty-two year old Eliza Lucas married Charles Pinckney, a widower who was twice her age. She took her family responsibilities seriously, vowing:

 to make a good wife to my dear Husband in all its several branches; to make all my actions Correspond with that sincere love and Duty I bear him… I am resolved to be a good mother to my children, to pray for them, to set them good examples, to give them good advice, to be careful both of their souls and bodies, to watch over their tender minds.

Today In Charleston History: May 20


Charles and Eliza Pinckney returned to Charlestown from London, with their ten-year old daughter Harriot. Their sons, Charles Cotesworth and Thomas, remained in England to attend school. Charles contracted malaria soon after their arrival.

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens

Henry Laurens sent his schooner, Wambaw, loaded with provisions, to his Georgia plantation without clearing Charlestown customs. The Wambaw offloaded her cargo and took on 50,000 cypress shingles as ballast and sailed back to Charlestown. Customs Collector Moore refused to allow the ship legal clearance of the harbor and seized the vessel.

1780-British Occupation. 

Most of the American militia were given parole and allowed to return to their homes. Many of the important men, stripped of their property, had little recourse than to pledge loyalty to the Crown.

John Wells of the South Carolina and American General Gazette quickly swore allegiance to the King to save his property. He was allowed to resume publication in July.

Peter Timothy’s paper, the South Carolina Gazette, was seized by the British and given to the Tory Robert Wells.

miles brewton house

Miles Brewton House, 27 King Street

The Miles Brewton home at 27 King Street was made headquarters for Gen. Henry Clinton, and later Lt. Col. Nisbit Balfour, commandant of Charlestown, and Lord Rawdon, supreme commander of British troops in South Carolina.

Rebecca Brewton Motte, with a sick and invalid husband, refused to give up her brother’s home to the occupying force. Although she was at the mercy of her “guests”, she always “sat at the head of her table in the large drawing-room and commanded the respect, at least, of his lordship and followers.” The officers “showed her the greatest courtesy and referred to themselves as ‘her guests’.”

Rebecca’s main concern was the safety of her three daughters and the care of her husband. The Motte family was crowded into a small area of the house on the third floor while the British lived in comfort in the large rooms on the lower floors.


Capt. Joseph Vesey died at the age of eighty-eight. Vesey was a notorious figure in Charleston. His former slave, Denmark Vesey, had been executed in 1822 as the leader of a large slave insurrection. 

Today In Charleston History: May 2


In a letter to a friend, Eliza Lucas wrote:

Charles Town … is a polite, agreeable place. The people live very Gentile and very much in the English taste … there is two worthy Ladies in Charles town, Mrs. Pinckney and Mrs. Cleland, who are partial enough to me to be always pleased to have me with them and insist upon my making their houses my home with in town. [Note: the Pinckney house was on Union, (now State) Street.]

1780-The Seige of Charlestown.

Loyalist Maj. Patrick Ferguson and sixty American Volunteers marched to Haddrell’s Point to attack a small fort that stood on a causeway that led to Fort Moultrie. The fort, about 150 yards from the mainland, was defended by Capt. John Williams and twenty soldiers of the South Carolina 1st Regiment. The British took the fort while the cannons from Fort Moultrie fired on them until dark. The British soon fortified the fort for a possible attack.


Monday, May 2, 1791

Washington had breakfast at Snee Farm, the home of Gov. Charles Pinckney. Pinckney apologized for the house, calling the home “a place so indifferently furnished and where your fare will be entirely that of a farm.”

After breakfast Washington crossed into Charleston from Haddrell’s Point which was the eastern terminus of the ferry. Washington was rowed across the river on a large barge by “12 American Captains of Ships, most elegantly dressed.” He noted:

 There were a great number of boats and barges on the river filled with Gentlemen and Ladies, as well as two boats of musicians, all of whom attended Washington across the river.

Washington was greeted at the Point by city recorder John Bee Holmes, and Gen. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Edward Rutledge. A month after the meeting Washington offered Pinckney and Rutledge a seat on the Supreme Court, a seat that had recently been vacated by Edward’s brother, John Rutledge. Both men declined due to family finances.

Once in Charleston Washington was greeted by Lt. Gov. Isaac Holmes, Charleston intendant (mayor) Arnoldus Vanderhorst, and S. Carolina’s two U.S. Senators – Pierce Butler and Ralph Izard. The president was greeted at the Exchange Building where he stood on the balcony facing East Bay Street and watched a “procession in his honor to whom he politely and gracefully bowed as they passed in review before him.”

Washington was then taken to his lodgings on Church Street (Heyward-Washington House) where he was attended by several of Mr. Heyward’s servants.


Thomas Heyward’s house @ 87 Church Street, where George slept. 

1822-Denmark Vesey Rebellion.

During a midnight meeting at his house on Bull Street, Denmark Vesey, a free black carpenter, told the gathered crowd that:

we were going to have a war and fight the white people … those that did not join must be regarded as an enemy and put to death. Who made you – God – and then aren’t you just as good as your master, if God made him & you, aren’t you as free?

 During the meeting Vesey set Sunday, July 14 as the date of the revolution. Why Sunday? On Sunday, thousands of people came into Charleston by river for worship services or to sell and purchase goods at the Public Market. The blacks recruited for the revolution were instructed to bring “their hoes, hatchets, axes and spades, which might be used as offensive weapons, or as instruments to break open doors.” The leaders of the Rebellion were:

  • Ned Bennett: A trusted and loved slave in the household of Governor Thomas Bennett who lived at 19 Lynch Street (now Ashley Avenue), less than three blocks from Denmark’s home. On the night of the revolt, Ned’s job was to seize the State Arsenal and distribute the weapons, which included more than 200 muskets, bayonets and swords.
  • Rolla Bennett: Also a slave in service of Governor Bennett. Although Rolla admitted that governor treated him like a son, he volunteered to murder his master and his family on the night of the rebellion.
  • Batteau Bennett: Yet another trusted slave in the house of the governor. Batteau claimed he would rather murder his master or die violently resisting than continue his life as a privileged slave.
  • Monday Gell: Monday’s master, John Gell, owned a livery stable at 127 Church Street and regarded his slave as intelligent and dependable. Monday was an excellent harness maker and his master hired him out to a shop on Meeting street, letting his slave keep a portion of the earnings for himself.
  • Bacchus Hammett: An early and eager convert to Denmark’s vision. He stole a keg of gunpowder which was hidden for weeks at Denmark’s house.
  • Peter Poyas: A ship’s carpenter who “wrote in a good hand” and owned by James Poyas lived at 49 King Street and operated a shipyard on Bay Street. Peter had his own weapons and agreed with Denmark that “we are obliged to revolt.” Poyas may have been more eager than Denmark for the rebellion to take place. He often urged Denmark that “we cannot go on like this.”
Thomas Tudor Tucker

Thomas Tudor Tucker

Thomas Tudor Tucker, a Charleston native, died in office as the Treasurer of the United States, a position he held for 26 years. He also was President James Madison’s personal physician.


Rev.  Daniel Jenkins, who operated the Jenkins Orphanage House, received a telegram from Jules Hurtig that read “Bring with you the best musicians you have of small boys.

Hurtig was a booking agent on Broadway. He had seen a production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in which the Jenkins Orphanage Band played a role. Hurtig was quick to realize the band’s commerical potential. He was also responsible for supplying American acts for Anglo-American Exposition, scheduled to be held in London, and he thought the Jenkins Bands would be a major draw.

Jenkins Orphanage Band "The Pickaninny Bands"

Jenkins Orphanage Band at the Anglo-American Expo in London.

Hurtig offered Rev. Jenkins a contract that paid $100 a week for a ten-week engagement, in addition to new uniforms for the band, all transportation and board for the band and caretakers. Jenkins agreed immediately. He was smart enough to bring more than just “young boys” to the Expo. The band would be performing a rigorous five hour program each day in London, on a regular stage in front of thousands of people, so Jenkins decided to bring several of his older, more accomplished and seasoned players in their late teens. He recognized that this was the most significant opportunity for the Jenkins Band to prove they were a serious musical entity. 

doin' the charlestonFor the entire story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band history, read Doin’ The Charleston.

Today In Charleston History: April 29

1710 – Education

The Assembly passed an act to establish a

“Free School … for the instruction of Youth … in grammar, arts and sciences and the principals of Christianity.”

Requirements for the teacher included being able to teach “Latin and Greek and be of the Church of England.”

1753 – Politics

Former Chief Justice Charles Pinckney was appointed Agent for South Carolina in England. His entire family accompanied him to Britain – wife Eliza, sons Charles Cotesworth and Thomas and daughter Harriot. The sons were educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford and France. The sons’ friend, William Henry Drayton, accompanied the family and also entered school in Britain.

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown
John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

American workers were “employed in closing the Horn Work” behind the lines. Gen. Lincoln informed his officers “that he intended the Horn Work as a place of retreat for the whole army” if the British drove them from the main line. Lt. Colonel John Laurens and his light infantry was assigned in front of the Horn Work to cover any retreat into it.

Remnants of the "horn work" at Marion Square.

Remnants of the “horn work” at Marion Square.

Today In Charleston History: February 25

1746 – Births

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a Future signer of the U.S. Constitution, was born in Charles Town. He was the eldest son of Charles and Eliza Pinckney. Seven years later, he accompanied his father, who had been appointed colonial agent for South Carolina, to England. As a result, Cotesworth enjoyed a European education.


Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, age 6

He received tutoring in London, attended several preparatory schools, and went on to Christ Church College, Oxford, and graduated in 1764. Pinckney next pursued legal training at London’s Middle Temple. He was accepted for admission into the English bar in 1769. He then spent part of a year touring Europe and studying chemistry, military science, and botany under leading authorities.

In late 1769 Pinckney sailed home. He entered private practice in South Carolina and was elected to the provincial assembly. In 1773 he acted as attorney general in the colony. In 1775 he was a supporter of the patriot cause and was elected to the provincial congress. The next year he was elected to the local committee of safety and made chairman of a committee that drew up a plan for the interim government of South Carolina.

When hostilities broke out, Pinckney, who had been a royal militia officer since 1769, pursued a full-time military calling and joined the First South Carolina Regiment as a captain. He rose to the rank of colonel and fought in the South in defense of Charleston and at the Battles of Brandywine, PA, and Germantown, PA. He commanded a regiment in the campaign against the British in the Floridas in 1778 and at the siege of Savannah. When Charleston fell in 1780, he was taken prisoner and held until 1782. The following year, he was discharged as a brevet brigadier general.


Pinckney, military officer for Continental Army

After the war, Pinckney resumed his legal practice and the management of estates in the Charleston area but found time to continue his public service, which during the war had included tours in the lower house of the state legislature (1778 and 1782) and the senate (1779).

Pinckney was one of the leaders at the Constitutional Convention. He was present at all the sessions, and strongly advocated for a powerful national government. He proposed that senators should serve without pay, but that idea was not adopted, but he exerted influence in such matters as the power of the Senate to ratify treaties and the compromise that was reached concerning abolition of the international slave trade. 

Pinckney became a devoted Federalist. Between 1789 and 1795, he declined presidential offers to command the U.S. Army, to serve on the Supreme Court and as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. In 1796, he accepted the post of Minister to France, but the revolutionary regime refused to receive him and he was forced to proceed to the Netherlands. The next year, however, he returned to France when he was appointed to a special mission to restore relations with that country. During the ensuing XYZ affair, refusing to pay a bribe suggested by a French agent to facilitate negotiations, he was said to have replied “No! No! Not a sixpence!”

When Pinckney arrived back in the United States in 1798, he found the country preparing for war with France. That year, he was appointed as a major general in command of American forces in the South and served in that capacity until 1800, when the threat of war ended. That year, he represented the Federalists as Vice-Presidential candidate, and in 1804 and 1808 as the Presidential nominee, but was defeated on all three occasions.


An elderly Cotesworth Pinckney

For the rest of his life, Pinckney engaged in legal practice, served in the legislature, and was active in many philanthropic activities. He was:

  • a charter member of the board of trustees of South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina)
  • first president of the Charleston Bible Society
  • chief executive of the Charleston Library Society

During the later period of his life, Pinckney enjoyed his Belmont estate and Charleston high society. He was twice married; first to Sarah Middleton in 1773 and after her death to Mary Stead in 1786. He died in Charleston in 1825 at the age of 79 and was interred there in the cemetery at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church.


Grave of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, St. Michael’s Church


George Alfred Trenholm  was born in Charleston, South Carolina. Due to his father’s death, George left school at age 16 to work for a major cotton broker, John Fraser and Company in Charleston. By 1853 he was head of the company, and by 1860 he was one of the wealthiest men in the United States with financial interests in steamships, hotels, cotton, plantations, and slaves. His fortune including owning real estate worth $90,000 and personal property (including slaves) valued at about $35,000.  About 39 enslaved persons lived with Trenholm’s family as domestic staff in Charleston.


George Trenholm

When the War broke out, Trenholm immediately moved his company’s head office from New York to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Liverpool. He was appointed to South Carolina’s State Marine Battery Commission, where he oversaw construction of the Confederate ironclad Chicora. Trenholm also personally financed construction of a twelve-vessel flotilla for Charleston’s defense. During the War, his company – now called Fraser, Trenholm and Company – became the Confederate government’s overseas banker. From their Liverpool office, they arranged cotton sales and financed its own fleet of blockade runners, profiting more than $9 million.

Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, Christopher Memminger, used Trenholm as an unofficial adviser. When Memminger resigned, Trenholm was appointed to that post on July 18, 1864.

When Richmond fell to Federal troops, Trenholm fled with the rest of the government in April 1865 and reached Fort Mill, South Carolina. Due to illness he asked President Jefferson Davis to accept his resignation, which Davis accepted with his thanks on April 27, 1865. Trenholm was later briefly imprisoned at Fort Pulaski near Savannah, Georgia. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and ordered released on October 11, 1865. 

E. Lee Spence wrote a book in 1995, Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The ‘Real Rhett Butler’ & Other Revelations, which effectively argued the case that Trenholm was the inspiration for the character of Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.


The South Carolina Military Academy officially changed its name name to “The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.” The word “Academy” had become synonymous with secondary schools and the public had the misconception that the South Carolina Military Academy was a preparatory school.


The South Carolina Military Academy, c. 1861. 

Today In Charleston History: January 12


colonel-william-rhettCol. William Rhett died of apoplexy in Charlestown. He was described as “greedy, violent, vulgar, lawless, brave, impulsive, generous … greedily violating law and propriety for bigger profits, insulting the noble and courteous Gov. Craven.” He was also one of the most important citizens of early Charles Town. Rhett served as colonel of the Provincial Militia, receiver general of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, surveyor and comptroller of customs for Carolina and the Bahama Islands. 

In 1706 Rhett commanded a flotilla that fought off a Franco-Spanish attack on Charles Town.Ten years later, he outfitted two ships as pirate hunters – the Henry and the Sea Nymph, each with eight guns and a crew of between 60 and 70 men. Rhett assumed the position of captain of this small flotilla and led it to victory in the 1718 Battle of Cape Fear River, capturing the infamous Stede Bonnet, the so-called “gentleman pirate.”

1760 – Epidemics

One of the most severe small pox outbreaks in colonial America started, most likely brought to the city by returning soldiers from the Cherokee Indian expedition.  More than 6000 people contracted the disease, resulting in 380 deaths among whites and about 350 blacks. This led to the first mass inoculation of the Charlestown population, with more than 2000 people taking the shot within a few weeks, more than 600 in one day according to Dr. Alexander Garden.

Three month old Martha Ramsay was pronounced dead of smallpox. Her body was laid out in preparation for a funeral and placed next to an open window. Dr. John Moultrie arrived and pronounced her still alive, speculating she had been revived by the fresh breeze.

Eliza Pinckney wrote: “Many poor wretches … died for want of proper nursing … smallpox rages the city so that it almost puts a stop to all business.”

1773 – Charleston First

Charleston Museum was established – 1st museum in America.

The Charleston Library Society provided the core collection of natural history artifacts for the founding of the Charleston Museum (the first in America) in 1773. Residents were encouraged to donate objects for the new museum on Chalmers Street. Some of initial acquisitions included “a drawing of the head of a bird, an Indian hatchet, a Hawaiian woven helmet, and a Cassava basket from Surinam.”

The museum also acquired “a Rittenhouse orrery, a Manigault telescope, a Camera obscura, a hydrostatic balance, and a pair of elegant globes.”

Today In Charleston History: December 28


Affra Harleston’s will, divided her estate between her nephew, John Harleston, and her husband’s half-nephew, Elias Ball.

1723 – Births

Elizabeth Lucas (known as “Eliza) was born in Antigua, West Indies at Cabbage Tree Plantation. It was customary for elite colonists to send boys to England for their education. Her father, Lieut.-Colonel George Lucas, recognized Eliza’s intelligence and against the custom of the time, sent her to boarding school in London at age eight. Her favorite subject was botany.  She wrote to her father that she felt her “education, which I esteem a more valuable fortune than any you could have given me, will make me happy through my future.”


The Charlestown Library Society was organized by seventeen young gentlemen of various trades and professions who wished to avail themselves of the latest publications from Great Britain. At first, the elected librarians safeguarded the Library’s materials in their homes. From 1765 until 1778, it resided in the upstairs of Gabriel Manigault’s liquor warehouse.

In 1792, the collection was transferred to the upper floor of the Statehouse, currently the County Courthouse at Broad and Meeting. From 1835 until its 1914 move to the current King Street location, the Charleston Library Society occupied the Bank of South Carolina building at the corner of Church and Broad Streets. That building was paid for with “Brick” memberships, a permanent membership for a one-time lump sum: several of these memberships are still in use, generations later, by Charleston families.


Surveyor for the Southern District of North America, William Gerard de Brahm, sent a report to his Majesty which said:

The city of Charlestown is in every respect the most eminent and by far the richest city in the Southern District of North America; it contains about 1500, and most of them big houses, arrayed by straight, broad and regular streets; the principal of them is seventy-two feet wide call’d Broad Street, is decorated, besides many fine houses, with a State house near the centre of said street, constructed to contain two rooms, one of the Governor and Council, th’ other for the Representative of the people, the Secretary’s office, and a Court room; opposite the state House is the Armory-house, item St. Michael’s Church, whose steeple is 192 foot high, and seen by vessels at sea before they make any land; also with a new Exchange on the east end of said street upon the bay; all four buildings have been rais’d since the year 1752, an no expense spared to make them solide, convenient and elegant.

The city is inhabited by above 12,000 souls, more than half are Negroes and Mulattoes; the city is divided in two parishes, has two churches, St. Michaels and St. Philips, and six meeting-houses, vid, an Independent, a Presbyterian, a French, a German and two Baptists. There is also an assembly for Quakers, and another for Jews, all which are composed of several nations.

Charleston, circa 1780

Charleston, circa 1780

1832 – Nullification Crisis

John C. Calhoun resigned as Vice President to take Sen. Robert Hayne’s vacated seat in the U.S. Senate. It was a coordinated political move as a response to the Nullification Crisis and perceived heavy Federal hand of Pres. Andrew Jackson. 

1864 – Civil War    

Gen Henry Halleck, Army chief of staff wrote to Gen. William Sherman, who was in Savannah after burning through Georgia:

 … should you capture Charleston, I hope by some accident that the place be destroyed, and if a little salt should be sown on the site it may prevent the future growth of nullification and secession.

Today In Charleston History: December 14


George Lucas was named Lt. Royal Governor of Antigua. He realized that he would never live in Carolina again. He sent his oldest son, George, to Carolina to bring his family back to the island. His daughter, Eliza, who was running her father’s plantation in his absence wrote to a friend, “We expect my brother George very shortly … His arrival will, I suppose, determine how long we shall continue here.”

Eliza was horrified about leaving Carolina. She had built a successful life and did not want to leave.

1782 – British Occupation.

The British Army evacuated Charlestown.

Wholesale looting by British troops began weeks before the withdrawal, private property from houses. More than 5000 slaves were taken by enterprising British officers, who contracted transport to the West Indies where the slaves were re-sold. Major Traile of the Royal Artillery, took down the church bells of St. Michael’s and carried them away as being British property.

As significant as the material losses were, perhaps the loss of people was more devastating in the long run. Approximately, 3800 whites and 5300 blacks joined the British exodus, resettling in Jamaica, Bermuda, England and St. Lucia. However, hundreds of British soldiers deserted and remained in South Carolina.

The Continental Army entered the city that afternoon. At Gov. Rutledge’s invitation, Gen. Green made his headquarters on Rutledge’s house on Broad Street. The thirty-month nightmare occupation was over, with bitterness lingering between both sides.

british evacuate

British evacuate Charlestown


The Best Friend locomotive pulled two fourteen-foot coaches with forty men at twenty miles per hour.

Best Friend of Charleston

Best Friend of Charleston

1839 – Births.

Angelina Grimke Weld gave birth to a son, Charles Stuart.

Today In Charleston History: October 13

1758 –Deaths 

Charles Pinckney died of malaria in Charlestown. His wife, Eliza, was nearly overcome with her grief. She wrote to her sons:

How shall I write to you! What shall I say to you! You have met with the greatest loss … Your dear, dear father, the best and most valuable of parents, is no more! He met the king of terrors without the least terror … and without agony, and went like a Lamb into eternity, into a blessed Eternity! where I have not the least doubt he will reap immortal joy for Ever and Ever.

1822 portrait of John C. Calhoun ... before he became so scary-looking.

1822 portrait of John C. Calhoun … before he became so scary-looking.

John C. Calhoun was elected to the South Carolina general assembly from his home town Abbeville, SC.