Today In Charleston History: May 21


A fort was completed at Albemarle Point. Even though plans were well underway to moving the colony to Oyster Point, security against the Spanish was still a major consideration.

1721-Bloodless Revolution  
Sir Nathaniel Johnson

Sir Nathaniel Johnson

Former Governor Nathaniel Johnson, with the assistance of Colonel Rhett and Nicholas Trott, assembled members of his former Proprietary council and a group of about 120 armed men, including the Captain Hildesly and the crew of the H.M.S. Flamborough. They marched into Charlestown and demanded the Revolutionary Assembly surrender.

Governor James Moore II announced that he was prepared to defend the colony “in the king’s name” and fired three cannon into Johnson’s forces. Moore then presented official British government documents that recognized Moore and the Commons House of Assembly.

In the new administration, Rhett was allowed to keep his positions:

  • Comptroller of the King’s Customs
  • the Proprietor’s Receiver General
  • Overseer of the Repairs and Fortifications of Charles Town.
 1771-American Revolution – Foundations

At a meeting under the Liberty Tree, a group of citizens decided that no tea should be imported while the tax on it remained.

Today In Charleston History: February 5

1698 – Arrivals.  

Nicholas Trott

Nicholas Trott was appointed Attorney General of Carolina. Trott had served the same post in Bermuda. He was the first Carolina official who was trained at the Inns of Court – a professional association for barristers. His uncle, Sir Nicholas Trott, had been governor of the Bahamas and was accused of harboring pirates for personal profit. Edmund Bohun was appointed Chief Justice.


The first recorded earthquake shook the lowcountry.

1755- Walled City

The South Carolina Assembly agreed to hire German-born engineer William De Brahm to build new fortifications under the direction of the Assembly-appointed Commissioners of Fortifications. They decided to concentrate on building up the southeastern seaward side of the peninsula.


gadsdenChristopher Gadsden defended the Assembly’s decision to cease all business until a disputed election issue was settled. It was an early declaration of the “natural rights” philosophy which would soon sweep the American colonies during the opposition against British policies. Gadsden called their action: 

Absolutely necessary, and the only step that a free assembly, freely representing a free people, that have any regard for the preservation of the happy constitution handed down to them by their ancestors, their own most essential welfare, and that of their posterity, could freely take. ‘Tis a joke to talk of individual liberty of free men, unless a collective body, freely chosen from amongst themselves are empowered to watch and guard it.


John Rutledge was elected Governor of South Carolina, replacing Lowndes as chief executive.

Today In Charleston History: November 12

1718 – Piracy

Stede Bonnet

Judge Nicholas Trott sentenced Bonnet to death. Trott’s long harangue during sentencing – quoting scripture and lecturing Bonnet on morality – probably felt like a death sentence to the pirate. Trott stated that Bonnet faced “not just physical death, but everlasting burning … in fire and brimstone.”

Bonnet was allowed an appeal, which he wrote to Governor Johnson.

Also, late that day, twenty-four pirates, Richard Worley’s crew, were put on trial. Five of the crew were acquitted, probably because they agreed to testify for the Crown. The other nineteen were found guilty, sentenced to death and hanged. 

stede bonnet - letter



Today In Charleston History: September 15


Judge Trott wrote in defense of the Church Act: “The reason why we passed the Act to exclude them (Dissenters) from being chosen was because they never did any good there nor never do any.”

1718 – Piracy

Col. William Rhett’s expedition left searching for Charles Vane. Information indicated that the pirates had sailed up the Edisto River. However, the search was in vain. Rhett found no trace of the pirates and sailed north to Cape Fear to continue his patrol.


The Commissioners of Fortification reported they had “viewed the fortifications on White Point and find the whole in ruinous condition and some parts broke through by the sea …”

1775 – American Revolution. Charleston First

Lord William Campbell was injured on June 28, 1776 during the battle of Sullivan’s Island on board the HMS Bristol. He later died of his wounds.

Lord William Campbell discovered that Patriot leaders learned of his coordinating with back country Loyalists. Fearing attack from Revolutionaries in Charlestown, Campbell fled his house on Meeting Street in the early morning hours to HMS Tamar. This effectively ended British rule in South Carolina.

Almost immediately, Colonel William Moultrie led a local militia unit with Captain Francis Marion, seized Fort Johnson and its twenty-one guns, with no resistance from the British. Lord William Campbell, on board the Tamar, considered this action an overt act of war. The fact that this was done in plain view of two British warships, practically under Campbell’s nose, made it particularly insulting.

Moultrie was then directed by the Council of Safety to devise a flag. He chose the blue of the 1st and 2nd Regiments and the silver crescent which adorned their hats. This flag was raised over Ft. Johnson – the first American flag to replace the Union Jack. 

1832 – Nullification Crisis

 The Union and Nullifier Parties signed a formal agreement to prohibit late night meetings and abolish free liquor to all supporters. They set a 10:00 p.m. curfew for all meetings to end. This was an attempt to limit the number of drunken brawls and shootings that had plagued the city during the run-up to the election.


Wreck of the Central America

The S.S. Central America sank in a hurricane off the Charleston coast. It was a 278-foot steamer sailing from Panama to New York City carrying 30,000 pounds of California Gold Rush-era coins and ingots – giving rise to the name Ship of Gold. Four hundred and twenty-five passengers and crew were lost. At the time of its sinking, Central America carried gold then valued at approximately $2 million. The loss shook public confidence in the economy, and contributed to the Panic of 1857.

On September 11, 1988. The ship was located by the use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The total value of the recovered gold was estimated at $100–150 million. A recovered gold ingot weighing 80 lb sold for a record $8 million and was recognized as the most valuable piece of currency in the world at that time. Currently only “5 per cent of the ship has been excavated. 

Read an August 2014 story from Newsweek about the excavation.

Today In Charleston History: September 8

1714 – England.

After several meetings with Chief Justice Nicholas Trott, the Proprietors issued an order declaring him:

a permanent member of the Council without whose presence there should be no quorum for the transaction of business, and without whose consent practically no law should be passed.

Trott became the most powerful man in South Carolina: Attorney General, Chief Justice and without his presence, the Upon Trott’s return to Charles Town, Governor Craven and the Assembly were obviously distressed. They wrote: “A power in one man not heard of before … unheard of in any of the British dominions.”

 1782 – American Revolution – The Battle of Eutaw Springs.

This was the last major battle in the Carolinas, and Col. William Washington’s final action. Midway through the battle, Gen. Greene ordered Washington to charge a portion of the British line positioned in a thicket along Eutaw Creek. During the last charge, Washington’s mount was shot out from under him, and he was pinned beneath his horse. He was bayoneted, taken prisoner, and held under house arrest in the Charleston area for the remainder of the war.

1895 – Charleston minister appeared in a London court.
Rev. Daniel Jenkins

Rev. Daniel Jenkins

Reverend Daniel Jenkins appeared in the magistrate’s courtroom on Bow Street, followed by more than a dozen of his charges, all under the age of fourteen. The next day the London Daily Telegraph filed the following story:

Just before the rising of the court, a coloured man entered with a troupe of thirteen little Negro boys whose ages ranged from five to about fourteen years. The man in charge of the boys said he was the Reverend D. J. Jenkins, a Baptist Minister of Charlestown [sic], America, and he wished to make an application to the magistrate.

On entering the witness box, the appellant stated that he had come over to this country to raise funds for an Orphanage with which he was connected in Charlestown. He had brought with him his boys, who all played on brass instruments, and his object was to let the boys play their band in the public streets, after which he lectured and collected money for the Orphanage. He had been stopped that morning whilst thus engaged, and told that he was liable to be taken into custody for what he was doing, and he wished to be informed whether that was so.

Sir John Bridge told applicant that of course he must not cause an obstruction in the public thoroughfares or the police would interfere. Inspector Sara, who was on duty in the court, pointed out that under an Act of Parliament no child under the age of eleven years was allowed to sing, play or perform for profit in the public streets.

Applicant: But could not an exception be made in my case, seeing the object I have in view?

Sir John Bridges: Certainly not. The law makes no exceptions.

Applicant then said he was without money to take the children back to America. Sir John Bridge said he had no fund which was available for such a purpose, and advised applicant to apply to the American consulate. Inspector Sara said he would send an officer with the Applicant to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children where probably he could obtain assistance, and Sir John Bridges gave a sovereign to applicant for present necessities, for which he appeared very grateful.

This news item provoked an editorial on Page 4 of the same issue, which concluded:

Much may be done, no doubt, to raise money for an Orphanage; but to let loose a brass band of thirteen Negro children upon an urban population suffering from nerves is likely to create almost as many orphans as it would relieve.

After the court appearance and subsequent publicity, Jenkins was approached by the owner of a local London theater who offered to feature the Orphan Band on stage. Jenkins agreed, but then changed his mind once he appealed to local churches who eagerly invited him to speak during their services. From the pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Jenkins pled for help and more than £100 was raised in a matter of moments. He repeated this successful appeal at several more churches before steaming back home to Charleston, where he paid off the debt.