Today In Charleston History: July 11

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler was born in County Carlow, Ireland. His father was Sir Richard Butler, member of Parliament and a baronet. Like so many younger sons of the British aristocracy who could not inherit their fathers’ estates because of primogeniture, Butler pursued a military career. He became a major in His Majesty’s 29th Regiment and during the colonial unrest was posted to Boston in 1768 to quell disturbances there. In 1771 he married Mary Middleton, daughter of a wealthy South Carolinian, and resigned his commission to take up a planter’s life in the Charleston area


A Patriot mob led by Commodore Alexander Gillon started a riot against Tories sill living in Charleston, tarring and feathering several Loyalists.

1804- Duel

Vice-President Aaron Burr met former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton outside Weehawken, New Jersey, in a duel, at the same spot where Hamilton’s son had died in 1801. A letter Hamilton wrote the night before the duel stated:

I have resolved, if our interview [duel] is conducted in the usual manner, and it pleases God to give me the opportunity, to reserve and throw away my first fire, and I have thoughts even of reserving my second fire.

At dawn, the duel began. Hamilton’s shot broke a tree branch directly above Burr’s head. Burr’s shot hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. He died the next day.

Burr was charged with murder and fled to South Carolina where his daughter Theodosia lived with her family. 

Hamilton-Burr duel

Hamilton-Burr duel


St. John’s Lutheran – the first church hit by Federal fire – became the first Lutheran church to resume services after the War. 

Unitarian Church (left) and St. John’s Lutheran (right), circa 1865

Today In Charleston: January 25


Andrew Rutledge married Sarah Hext, widow of Hugh Hext, one of the richest men in South Carolina. Hext left Sarah a plantation in Christ Church on the Wando Neck and twenty-three slaves. His other holdings were left as a legacy for his eight-year daughter, Sarah, to inherit when she turned twenty-one or upon her marriage, whichever came first. They included: two houses in Charlestown, a 550-acre plantation at Stono and a 640-acre plantation at St. Helena (Beaufort).


Major Pierce Butler of the British Army married Mary Middleton. She was heiress to a vast fortune, the orphaned daughter of Thomas Middleton, a South Carolina planter and slave importer. Two years later Butler resigned his commission in the British Army and settled with Mary in South Carolina.

Pierce Butler

Pierce Butler

The War for Independence cost him much of his property, and his finances were so precarious for a time that he was forced to travel to Amsterdam to seek a personal loan. Butler won election to both the Continental Congress (1787-88) and the Constitutional Convention. In the latter assembly, he was an outspoken nationalist who attended practically every session and was a key spokesman for the Madison-Wilson caucus. Butler also supported the interests of southern slaveholders. He served on the Committee on Postponed Matters. He was one of the four signers of the Constitution from South Carolina. 

His later career was spent as a wealthy planter. In his last years, he moved to Philadelphia, apparently to be near a daughter who had married a local physician. Butler died there in 1822 at the age of 77 and was buried in the yard of Christ Church.


Today In Charleston History: September 17


The three ships of the Carolina expedition – the Carolina, the Albermarle and the Port Royal – left Ireland for the trans-Atlantic crossing. Mr. Joseph West was appointed Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Carolina expedition until its arrival at Barbados, or until another Governor was appointed. 

1739 – Births

j. rutledgeJohn Rutledge, son of Dr. John and Sarah Rutledge was born. He would become the most prominent lawyer in Charles Town, the first governor of South Carolina and a signer of the U.S. Constitution.  

1787 -Constitutional Convention.

South Carolina delegates John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney and Pierce Butler signed the new Constitution of the United States.


Howard Christy’s “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States.” The South Carolina delegation is pictured in the lower left hand corner.