Today In Charleston History: December 1

1773 – American Revolution – Foundations.

Two hundred and fifty-seven chests of tea arrived in Charlestown on the ship London. Consigned by the East India Company, the arrival of the tea set off a crisis. Handbills were passed out, calling for a mass meeting of all South Carolinians at the great hall in the Exchange Building.

1781 American Revolution

Henry Laurens, Charleston diplomat, and the first American imprisoned in the Tower of London, wrote a bitter note which was smuggled out of the Tower and sent to Congress:

Almost fifteen months I have been closely confined and inhumanely treated. The treaty for exchange is abortive. There has been languor, and there is neglect somewhere. If I merit your attention, you will not longer delay speedy and efficacious means for my deliverance.

laurens, tower

Tower of London; Henry Laurens’ cell. Photos by Mark R. Jones


Dr. Thomas Tudor Tucker

Dr. Thomas Tudor Tucker of Charleston was appointed as Treasurer of the United States by President Thomas Jefferson. He would hold the position for twenty-six years under four different presidents: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams, and died while holding the office in 1828. From 1809 to 1817, Tucker managed to hold the treasurer’s post while also serving as President James Madison’s personal physician.

Tucker was the longest serving Treasurer in American history.


Thomas Bennett was elected governor of South Carolina.

1822 – Slavery

As a result of the Vesey Conspiracy, SC Legislature passed a law requiring all free black males over fifteen years old either take a white guardian, or be sold into slavery.  Any free black who left South Carolina and returned could be enslaved.

1832 – Nullification Crisis

In a coordinated effort with V-P Calhoun, Robert Hayne resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate.


On December 1, the Planter was caught in a crossfire between Union and Confederate forces. The ship’s commander, Captain Nickerson, decided to surrender. The ship’s pilot, Robert Smalls refused, fearing that the black crewmen would not be treated as prisoners of war and might be summarily killed. The Planter was a former Confederate vessel that was piloted out of Charleston harbor by an enslaved pilot, Robert Smalls, who surrendered the vessel to the United States navy. Smalls and his family were given their freedom and Smalls later met with Pres. Lincoln. 

Taking command of the Planter from Nickerson, Smalls piloted the ship out of range of the Confederate guns. For his bravery, Smalls was named to replace Nickerson as the Planter’s captain – the first black captain of a vessel in the service of the United States.


The Planter

Today In Charleston History: October 6

1780 -American Revolution

Gov. Rutledge commissioned Thomas Sumter as Brigadier-General in command of all state militia. His instructions to Sumter were to inspire the public, enroll as many men as possible, and be prepared to “co-operate with the Continental forces.”

Rutledge, in order to escape capture by the British, was living in the field, moving from Hillsborough, North Carolina, to Salisbury, to Charlotte, to Cheraw, South Carolina.

1780 – American Revolution – England

Henry_laurensHenry Laurens, was sentenced to the Tower of London for “suspicion of high treason.” His imprisonment was protested by the Americans. Laurens was captured by the British navy while acting as an envoy for the Continental Congress, negotiating treaties with European countries to support the American cause against the British. During his imprisonment, Laurens was assisted by Richard Oswald, his former business partner and the principal owner of Bunce Island. Oswald argued on Laurens’ behalf to the British government.

He was the first American to be imprisoned in the Tower. 

laurens, tower

L: Tower of London. R: Henry Laurens’ room in the Tower. Photos by Mark R. Jones