Today In Charleston History: May 8

1734 – Culture – Poetry

In a letter in the Gazette, a writer commented on an affair between an elderly gentleman and a young lady with a poem:

In this our Town I’ve heard some Youngsters say

That cold December does make Love to May

This may be true, that warm’d by youthful charms

He thinks of Spring, when melting in her arms

As trees, when crown’d with blossoms white as snow

May feel the heat, and yet no life below

1780-The Siege of Charlestown.

After several weeks under siege, living conditions in Charlestown were becoming grim. Colonel Grimke recorded, “no more Meat served out.” Gen. Lincoln convened the war council within the Horn Work to discuss Sir Clinton’s new summons of surrender. A 24-hour cease fire was ordered for the Americans to consider the offer.

Gen. Moultrie welcomed the cease fire. He wrote that fatigue “was so great, for want of sleep, that many faces were so swelled they could scarcely see out of their eyes.” Many of the militia:

Looked upon all the business as settled, and without orders, took up their baggage and walked into town, leaving the lines quite defenceless.

Sixty-one officers composed the war council that met with Gen. Lincoln. A vote of 49-12 favored offering surrender terms to the British. The twelve dissenters included Col. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Lt. Col. John Laurens, natives of the city. Lincoln ordered the officers to draw up articles for surrender, which was sent to Sir Clinton that night.

1781-American Revolution. 
Francis Marion

Francis Marion

General Nathanael Greene returned to South Carolina with his Continental Army, and reinforced General Francis Marion’s brigade with Lt. Col. Henry “Light Horse” Harry Lee and his Legion. The task of this combined force was to capture and destroy the line of British forts that protected communications and supplies between Charlestown and the interior of South Carolina. Fort Motte was one of those.

Fearing that British reinforcements were on the way, Marion and Lee decided to attack at once. Ft. Motte was put under siege. Rebecca and her family were ordered to the nearby overseer’s cottage for safety.


May 8, 1791
Gen. William Moultrie

Gen. William Moultrie

 President Washington spent the Sunday in Charleston attending crowded churches” in the morning (St. Michael’s) and evening (St. Philip’s).

His evening meal was with Gen. William Moultrie.


Dr. David Ramsay died at 7 a.m. from his wounds at the hand of William Linnen. He was buried at the Circular Congregational Church next to his wife, Martha.

Ramsay grave, Circular Church graveyard

Ramsay grave, Circular Church graveyard

Today In Charleston History: May 7

1725 – Gov. Nicholson leaves.
Sir Francis Nicholson

Sir Francis Nicholson

Gov. Nicholson returned to London, carrying with him Cherokee baskets that became part of the earliest collections in the British Museum. Arthur Middleton, as president of the Council, assumed the administration of South Carolina.

 1780-The Siege of Charlestown.

Ft. Moultrie fell to the British. This was militarily significant, but for most citizens it was also psychologically devastating. Moultrie had successfully repulsed the British on June 28, 1776. but it was now under the enemy’s control, the British flag flying from its ramparts. The reality that the British were winning the siege of Charlestown was driven home. 

1781-British Occupation

Gen. Clinton issued a proclamation encouraging “Rebels or those serving in Rebel army or militia” to enlist in the British army. For a three-year enlistment, the British promised the “regiment of his choice, six guineas (a gold coin worth £1 sterling) and a grant of land.”


Saturday, May 7, 1791

        Before breakfast, Washington visited the Orphan House at which there were 107 boys and girls, and he was impressed with the management of the house.After touring the house and gardens, the President had breakfast with the children. 

(Note: The Orphan House was being operated out of a building off Market Street at this time. The famous Orphan House building on Calhoun street opened in 1794.)

        Washington wrote in his diary:

I also viewed the City from the balcony (the portico above the clock) of [St. Michael’s] Church from whence the whole is seen in one view and to advantage, the Gardens & green trees which are interspersed adding much to the beauty of the prospect. Charleston stands on a Pininsula [sic] between the Ashley & Cooper Rivers and contains about 1600 dwelling houses and nearly 16.000 Souls of which about 8000 are white—It lies low with unpaved streets (except the footways) of sand. —There are a number of very good houses of Brick & wood but most of the latter—The Inhabitants are wealthy, —Gay—& hospitable; appear happy and satisfied w’ith the Genl. Government.

st. michael's - postcard

St. Michael’s Church, built in 1762. 

Today In Charleston History: May 6

1766-Stamp Act. American Revolution – Foundations.

News reached Charlestown that Parliament had repealed the Stamp Act. The city celebrated by ringing church bells and burning bonfires. Lt. Gov. Bull hosted “a very elegant entertainment” at Dillon’s Tavern for the Council and Assembly.

The Assembly voted £1000 sterling for a marble statue of William Pitt in gratitude of his exertions for the repeal of the Stamp Act. They also voted to appropriate funds for portraits of Gadsden, John Rutledge and Thomas Lynch to be displayed in the Assembly room in recognition of their service during the Stamp Act Congress.

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

Liberty Tree marker on Alexander Street

They also learned that Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated that Parliament’s authority was the same in America as in Britain – their laws were as binding on the American colonies as in England. That night, Christopher Gadsden gave a speech under the great oak tree in Mr. Mazyck’s cow pasture. He:

harangued them at considerable length on the folly of relaxing their opposition and vigilance, or of indulging in the fallacious hope that Great Britain would relinquish their designs and pretensions.

Gadsden cautioned not to rejoice in the repeal of the Stamp Act, because the Declaratory Act was a threat to the liberty of all Americans. From that night onward, the oak was called the Liberty Tree. At the end of the meeting the men gathered hands around the tree and swore resistance to future tyranny. 

1780-The Seige of Charlestown

Knowing of the extreme conditions within the city, Sir Clinton was frustrated by the American resistance. He wrote, “I begin to think these people will be Blockheads enough to wait the assault.”


May 6, 1791

Washington toured the town on horseback for most of the day, riding up and down most of the principal streets. Sometime during the day Washington stopped to observe the work on rebuilding of the State House and talk with the supervising architect, James Hoban.

Charleston  courthouse- Old  _large

Charleston County Courthouse, formerly the State House.

Washington had recently been given the duty by Congress to build “the President’s House” (later called the White House) in D.C. Hoban was given the job by Washington to design and supervise the construction of the White House. 

The evening meal was at Sen. Pierce Butler’s home and then a party at Gov. Pinckney’s home.

the alstons

Joseph Alston and Theodsia Burr Alston

Vice-president Aaron Burr arrived in Charleston for the birth of his grandson. His daughter, Theodosia, was married to Joseph Alston. His carriage was floated across the Cooper River from Mt. Pleasant to Charleston. The Charleston Times wrote,

“The Vice-President of the United States is expected in town, this evening. The Federalist Artillery Company have orders to salute him on his landing.”


On a Saturday afternoon, David Ramsay strolled down Broad Street, on his way home. He passed William Linnen who was standing behind the columns of St. Michael’s Church. Linnen stepped out and “took a large horseman’s pistol … and shot the doctor in the back.”

According to one source:

Having been carried home, and being surrounded by a crowd of anxious citizens, after first calling their attention to what he was about to utter, he said ‘I know not if these wounds be mortal; I am not afraid to die; but should that be my fate, I call on all here present to bear witness, that I consider the unfortunate perpetrator of this deed a lunatic, and free from guilt.’

Dr. David Ramsay

Dr. David Ramsay

One month previously, Dr. David Ramsay had been appointed by the court to examine William Linnen, a tailor known for serial litigation and nuisance suits against lawyers, judges and juries.  After Linnen had attempted to murder his attorney Ramsay examined Linnen and reported to the court that he was “deranged and that it would be dangerous to let him go at large.” After apparently regaining his sanity, Linnen was released. Though he had threatened Ramsay, the doctor did not take the threat seriously.

Today In Charleston History: September 18


George Washington wrote a letter of introduction for Charles Pinckney for the Marquis de Lafayette. Pinckney was planning to finally fulfill his dream to travel to Europe, delayed first by the Revolution and then his father’s death. However, he delayed the trip to return to South Carolina to campaign for the ratification of the Constitution of the United States.