Today In Charleston History: July 6

1769-Slavery

Peter Timothy, editor of the South Carolina Gazette wrote:

From the first of January last to the first of July no less than 4,233 [Negroes] had been imported and many more were expected before the close of the year. This scarcely needs comment; every man’s own mind must suggest the consequences of such enormous importation, especially at this time.

1774-American Revolution – Foundations
Exchange Building, 1823

Exchange Building, 1823

One hundred and four delegates arrived at the Exchange Building for a general meeting. Charlestonians Henry Middleton, John Rutledge, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Lynch, and Christopher Gadsden were named delegates to the First Continental Congress.

Dr. David Ramsay attended the meeting and wrote:

This Convention of the people, and these resolutions, laid the foundation of all subsequent proceedings which ultimately terminated in a revolution … The people, by virtue of their inherent right to resist illegal oppression by their rulers, delegated full powers to five men of their own choice to take care of their political interest … the germ of representative government then planted, has grown up to the tree of liberty and happiness …

Edward Rutledge wrote to Ralph Izard boasting that he was elected by a “great majority – 397.”

1775-American Revolution – Continental Congress

 Continental Congress issues a “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms.” It stated that the Americans are “resolved to die free men rather than live as slaves.”

1777

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

John Laurens secured a place on George Washington’s staff, with Alexander Hamilton and Marquis de Lafayette. Hamilton wrote that John had “stolen into my affections without my consent.”

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: March 30

 1780 – The Seige of Charlestown.

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

John Laurens, 1780 (by Charles Willson Peale)

First action that morning was led by Col. John Laurens’ unit against the advancing British light infantry. After several hours of scattered battle, Lauren’s men retreated back behind the city’s fortifications at dark. Laurens described it as “a frolicking skirmish for our young soldiers.” It was the first engagement fought within sight of the city, or as one officer noted, “in view of … many ladies.”

The British set up camp at Gibbes Landing (present-day Lownde’s Grove), which was a perfect staging area from which to lay siege to Charlestown.

Three principal types of artillery used during the Revolution: field guns, howitzers and mortars.

  • Field Guns: mounted on large-wheeled carriages and fixed to fire at low angles. Varied in size from three-pound (weight of solid shot fired) to forty-two pounds. Larger guns weighed appx. 5000 pounds (2½ tons).
  • Howizters: Similar to field guns, but with shorter and stockier barrels. Could be fired at a low or high angle. Range: 1300-2000 yards.
  • Mortars: a useful weapon because of its small size and ease of movement.  It usually had a fixed trajectory (around 45 degrees), and the distance the shot traveled was adjusted by varying the powder charge.  Just like the howitzer, the use of the exploding shell was popular to reach troops inside fortifications. Range: 2000 yards.

 1843 – Marriage.

Susan Petigru King Bowen, in later life

Susan Petigru King Bowen, in later life

Susan Petigru, 19, married Henry Campbell King, “short, stout, and physically unattractive.” Henry was the son of a prominent Charleston lawyer, Mitchell King, and friend of Susan’s father.  

Susan, the daughter of another prominent Charleston lawyer, James Petigru, was something of a rebel so the marriage to King was considered the best the Petigrus could do for her. Susan herself wrote that she would “probably get no better offer.” She had been a rambunctious child who grew to be a quick-tempered woman who never bothered to conform to the role of a society belle. She moved into her husband’s family mansion at 24 George Street.

Today In Charleston History: March 29

1722 – Religion.
St. Philips Church, 1723

St. Philips Church, 1722

On Easter Sunday, the congregation of St. Philip’s worshipped for the first time in their new church. The structure was described as a

work of … Magnitude Regularity Beauty … not paralleled in his majesty’s Dominions in America … lofty arches and massive pillars, an octagonal tower topped by a dome and a quadrangular Lantern and weathervane soared eighty feet above the church.

1780 – The Seige of Charlestown.

The British army crossed the Ashley River and landed on the Charlestown peninsula, two miles north of the Continental lines, approximately near the present-day site of the Citadel. 

Due to lack of men the Continental army could not stop the British crossing. Gen. Lincoln was so determined to save Charlestown that he gambled by keeping the bulk of the Southern Army within the city. However, he did order a light infantry unit led by Col. John Laurens to take post outside the city’s fortifications “to watch the motions of the Enemy and prevent too sudden an approach.” He also wrote to the Continental Congress:

We have to lament that, from the want of Men, we are denied the advantages of opposing them with any considerable force in crossing this river.

1900     

Mayor J. Adger Smyth and the Charleston City Council endorsed the plans for an Exposition in Charleston. The newly organized South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition Co. had already raised more than $40,000 and chosen Captain F.W. Wagner as the company’s chairman.

Not everyone was confident of the Exposition’s success. W.D. Parsons wrote in the Inter-State Journal, “The audacity of this little town in sandwiching in an exposition between the great fairs of Buffalo and St. Louis is truly great.”

Today In Charleston History: November 6

1782 – Revolutionary War. 
John Laurens

John Laurens

Upon receiving the news of John Laurens’ death, John Adams wrote to Henry Laurens:

“I feel for you more than I can or ought to express. Our country has lost its most promising character, in a manner, however, that was worthy of the cause. I can say nothing more to you, but that you have much greater reasons to say, in this case, as a Duke of Ormond said of an Earl of Ossory, “I would not exchange my dead son for any living son in the world.”

 Henry Laurens replied, “Thank God, I had a son who dared to die in defence of his country.”

1860 – Road to Secession.

Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to be elected President. Voter turnout was 81.2 %, the highest in American history at the time. Lincoln did not carry a single slave-holding state and won the Electoral College with less than 40% of the vote.

 

1860 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION RESULTS

CANDIDATE / POLITICAL PARTY PERCENTAGE OF VOTE
Abraham Lincoln (Republican) 39.8%
John Breckenridge (Southern Democrat) 18.1%
John Bell (Constitution Union / Whig) 12.6%
Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrat) 29.5%

South Carolina legislature immediately called for a state secession convention. Since the new state house was under construction, the legislature held meetings at the First Baptist Church in Columbia, as it was the largest meeting place in the city.

city hall - lincoln election

Charleston City Hall – assembled crowd awaiting the result of the 1860 Presidential elections. Harper’s Weekly image.

Today In Charleston History: August 27

1706 – Queen Anne’s War.

The six French ships (a frigate, four sloops and one galley) from Martinique, led by Captain De Feboure, crossed the Charles Town bar with more than 700 Spanish soldiers on board. They anchored off Sullivan’s Island, awaiting winds in which to sail into the harbor.

1780 – British Occupation.

old exchange bildgThirty-three people were arrested in Charlestown and charged with encouraging residents to resist British authority. The prisoners, some of whom had been placed under house arrest, were dragged from their beds by British soldiers, and jailed in the Provost Dungeon of the Exchange Building. The arrested men included:

  • Christopher Gadsden
  • Alexander Moultrie
  • Richard Hutson
  • Dr. John S. Budd
  • William Massey
  • John Neufville
  • Joseph Parker
  • Thomas Savage
  • Dr. Peter Fayssoux
  • Dr. David Ramsay
  • Dr. John E. Poyas
  • Tom Singleton
  • Thomas Ferguson
  • Edward Rutledge
  • Hugh Rutledge
  • Thomas Heyward, Jr.
  • Arthur Middleton
  • Thomas Grimball
  • William Johnson
  • Peter Timothy

Within a few days the prisoners were transferred to the ship Sandwich in Charlestown harbor. Edward Rutledge learned of his two-year old son’s death while on board. Being unable to attend the funeral and comfort his wife increased his bitterness toward Britain. Militiamen like Charles Pinckney were paroled to their homes.

1782 – American Revolution.
_John_Laurens_-_Google_Art_Project

John Laurens

Col. John Laurens was killed at Tar Bluff on the Combahee River, about forty miles south west of Charleston, in a completely useless skirmish. The British were trying to loot supplies of rice before leaving, and Laurens’ company of fifty men were determined to stop them. John Laurens was the first Patriot killed.

Martha Laurens, living in Vigan, France, did not learn about her brother’s death until three months later. However, during her morning prayers for her family, on this day, she stopped praying for her brother as she “felt there was no longer need.”

Years later, while visiting Charleston, Lafayette stated, “Colonel Laurens was the most valiant officer and accomplished gentleman I ever knew. He was the beau ideal of gallantry.”

In 2015 John Laurens became a more well known cultural figure through the popularity of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” Laurens was a major character in the the first Act, and Hamilton mourns Laurens’ death in Act II.