Today In Charleston History: June 6

1713-Port Statistics

The leading exports of the year were:

  • 73,790 deerskins
  • 75 Indian slaves
  • 12,677 barrels of rice
  • 6617 barrels of pitch and tar
  • 661 barrels of turpentine
  • 1965 sides of leather
  • 1963 barrels of beef
1770 – Hurricane

A hurricane made landfall south of Charleston. According to the South Carolina Gazette: 

On Wednesday night last we had a most violent gale of wind … with heavy rains, which has done more damage to the shipping and wharfs (sic) of any that has happened here in the memory of oldest man living. (The hurricane in 1752 only excepted.) Mr. Lamboll’s bridge is destroyed, and the bathing house also; all the fortifications from thence to Craven’s is one continuous scene of ruins.  

1785-Religion

Rev. John Tunnel was appointed by Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury to the Charleston Circuit. He continued to lead services in the Baptist Meeting House until one Sunday when they found the church boarded up and the benches tossed into the street.

 1836

The South Carolina Jockey Club purchased the sixty-three acres of the Washington Race Course for $5000.

1864-Bombardment of Charleston.  

Gus Smythe, on duty in St. Michael’s steeple for the Confederate Signal Corps, wrote to his sister Sue:

Yesterday they aimed at the Steeple & the shells flew round here thick & fast. Thirteen fell between Queen St. & St. Michael’s Alley yesterday after 12 … Two of these struck Hibernian Hall, one the Mills House, one the Court House, two fell here at the corner of Broad, two in the City Hall Square, & one in the Sunday School Union … It is miraculous that this Steeple has not yet been hit.

Hibernian Hall, cannon damage

Hibernian Hall, cannon damage

Court house and City Hall, across the street from St. Michael's Church

Court house and City Hall, across the street from St. Michael’s Church

Today In Charleston History: April 28

1865

Two dozen men from the local African Methodist Episcopal churches organized a group called “Friends of the Martyrs” and the Patriotic Association of Colored Men.” They built a white picket fence around the Union burial ground of the Washington Race Course with an arch which read, “The Martyrs of the Race Course.” The location was approximately near the present day intersection of Tenth Avenue and Mary Murray Boulevard.  

Washington Race Track - 1857. A one-mile loop around what is present day Hampton Park. Library of Congress

Washington Race Track – 1857. A one-mile loop around what is present day Hampton Park. Library of Congress

Washington_Race_Course_graves

Union graves behind the Washington Race Course.

1874

There was a run on the Freedmen’s Bank branch in Charleston. Within 2 months (after 9 years in business), the entire Bank would collapse.

“The reasons for the bank’s failure are debatable. Some scholars, such as Carl R. Osthaus, argue that the government forgot about the freedmen and made no great effort to relieve their economic plight. Other historians, including Walter L. Fleming, contend that government officials and bankers colluded for individual profit. The legacy of the Bank has been debated, too. Some write that African Americans lost their faith in the American dream and middle-class values and abandoned frugality. Others cite the establishment of black-owned banks less than fifteen years after the collapse of the Freedmen’s Bank as evidence that many African Americans remained enterprising. One thing is certain: freedmen adjusted quickly to the demands of a free-labor economy. In the words of Osthaus, they ‘made a massive investment of money.’ Over the life of the Bank, approximately 70,000 depositors had moved a little over 57 million dollars to and from their accounts.”

Today In Charleston History: April 20

1780The Siege of Charlestown

Gen. Lincoln convened the council of war in Charlestown. He informed his officers that the Continental garrison had ten days of provisions left and discussed offering terms of capitulation to British general, Sir Henry Clinton – surrendering the city. His terms were:

  • The American army withdrawing from Charlestown within thirty-six hours, keeping their arms, artillery and all stores they were able to transport.
  • Sir Clinton was to allow the Americans ten days “to march wherever Gen. Lincoln may think proper … without any movement being made by the British troops.”
  • Security to the persons and property of the citizens

Clinton rejected the terms, considering the offer “insolence.” At 10:30 pm the British resumed their bombardment, firing more than 800 rounds into the city.

1789 – Charleston First.
Ramsay's petition to Congress. National Archives

Ramsay’s petition to Congress. National Archives

Dr. David Ramsay filed a petition with the House of Representatives asking Congress to pass a law to grant him the exclusive right of “vending and disposing” of his books within the United States. The Congressional committee approved his petition on April 20, 1789 – the first private citizen granted a copyright.

1828-Religion.

Angelina Grimke wrote in her diary:

Today is the last time I expect to visit the Presbyterian Church – the last time I expect to teach my interesting class in Sabbath School. I saw Mr. McDowell day before yesterday … and told me that he pitied me sincerely for that I certainly was under the delusions of the arch adversary…

She began to attend the Quaker Meeting House which had two members – two elderly men who never talked to each other. Angelina discovered that one of the men was a slaveholder and had cheated the other man out of a sum of money. When she tried to facilitate a reconciliation by telling them “Christians ought to be gentle and courteous to all men,” they called her  “busybody in other men’s business.” 

1864-Bombardment of Charleston. 
Sam_Jones

Gen. Samuel Jones

Gen. P.G.T.Beauregard was relieved from the Charleston command and replaced by Major General Samuel Jones, Beauregard’s former major of artillery at Manassas.  Jones was not considered a good officer. He had not impressed Gen. Robert e. Lee, who had him transferred to Charleston. Beauregard wrote, “I hope he will do, but from what I hear I fear not.” Beauregard had longed complained about the quality officers assigned to Charleston, calling it the “Department of Refuge.”

1903 – Washington Race Course  

The city of Charleston donated the four gateposts of the Washington Race Course to August Belmont of New York, who was planning to build the largest horse-racing facility in the country – Belmont Park. The posts were made of brick and weighed ten tons each. During their removal one of the columns slipped from a wire and William Mosimann had “the life mashed out of him.”

The “gift” to a Yankee millionaire was not universally popular among the people of Charleston. A letter to the editor in the News and Courier complained:

It seems to me that we have relics to burn … too much history and too many landmarks. We should be glad that Mr. Belmont has accepted the brick pillars and we might give away the old City Wall, the old Postoffice [sic], the Powder Magazine and a score of other relics that hamper our progress.  

 Other editorials described the pillars as “valued souvenirs of past peculiarities of a peculiar people” and “relics of a glorious past.”

Today the brick pillars are located at the automobile entrance of the Belmont Park clubhouse in New York. The bronze plaque on the left pillar reads: 

Pillars at Belmont Park

Pillars at Belmont Park

Presented to Belmont Park May 1903 by the Mayor and Park Commissioners of the City of Charleston SC.  At the suggestion of B. R. Kittredge Esq. and through the good offices of A. W. Marshall Esq. These piers stood at the entrance to the grounds of the Washington Course of the South Carolina Jockey Club Charleston SC. Which course was opened Feb. 15th 1792 under presidency of J. E. McPherson Esq. and was last used for racing in December 1882. Theo. G. Barker Esq. being then president.