Charleston And Fort Sumter
( Originally Published 1900 )
The railway from Wilmington to the South at first goes westward through a region largely composed of swamps, and then entering South Carolina turns southward past Florence to Charleston. The country is a variation of pine barrens and morass, sparsely inhabited, but raising much cotton, with many bales brought to the stations for shipment. There is a much larger population of blacks than of whites. Charleston, the metropolis of South Carolina, is an active seaport with sixty-five thousand inhabitants, having a good export trade in cotton, timber, naval stores, rice, fruits and phosphate rock, of which there are extensive deposits on Ashley River nearby. It is a low-lying city, built upon a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, just inland from the ocean, and having a good harbor. Its many wooden houses are varied by more pretentious ones of brick and stone, but there is an air of decadence produced by the traces still remaining of the earthquake of 1886, which destroyed the greater part of the buildings and killed many people. The dwelling architecture of Charleston presents the tropical features of open verandas, spacious porticos and broad windows looking out upon gardens in which the palmetto tree grows, typical of South Carolina, the a Palmetto State." At the point of the peninsula between the rivers is the Battery, a park and popular promenade overlooking the harbor, with Fort Sumter down on its little shoal-like island, seen as a small dark streak upon the distant horizon. The first settlements in this part of South Carolina were made on the west bank of Ashley River, but the town, which had been named in honor of King Charles II., in 1680 was transferred to its present site. Charleston was prominent in the Revolution, its troops- under Colonel Moultrie repelling a British attack upon Sullivan's Island in 1776 ; but the city was captured by Sir Henry Clinton in 1780 after an obstinate defense. Before the Civil War it was the chief cotton-shipping port of America, though it is now surpassed by the Gulf ports and y Savannah. The great memory in the city of that time of its greatest prosperity is of the apostle of " State Rights," the South Carolina statesman, John C. Calhoun, who died in 1850. His statue stands in Citadel Square, and his grave is in St. Philip's churchyard.
The broad estuary of Charleston harbor is completely landlocked, and has an entrance from the sea about a mile wide. On the southern side is Fort Moultrie, which was enlarged from the battery that repulsed the British attack in 1776, on Sullivan's Island, this now being a favorite summer resort, and dotted with wooden cottages facing the sea. Just behind the fort is the grave of Osceola, the famous chief of the Seminoles, who long carried on war in the Florida everglades, but was captured and brought a prisoner to Fort Moultrie, dying in 1838. Fort Sumter, three miles below Charleston, stands upon a shoal of about three acres, out in mid-channel, which is protected from the water encroachment by stone rip-rapping. It was faced with brick during the Civil War, but the work has since been modernized. At the opening of the war, Major Anderson occupied this fort with the small force of seventy-five men, which, after the secession of South Carolina from the Union, December 20, 1860, had been transferred thither from Fort Moultrie, the State troops immediately seizing Moultrie and all the other forts around the harbor, and the Federal public buildings in Charleston. They also constructed new batteries on Morris Island, the nearest land to Fort Sumter. On January 9, 1861, the Government at Washington sent the steamer " Star of the West " into the harbor with provisions and a reinforcement of two hundred and fifty troops. The first shot of the Civil War was on that day fired at her from Morris Island, and the ship being struck by this and subsequent shots, her commander abandoned the project and withdrew. There was a good deal of negotiation and delay afterwards, the Government, on April 8th, finally deter-mining to provision Fort Sumter, as Anderson's supplies would be exhausted on the 15th, and so in-forming the Governor of South Carolina. On the 11th, General Beauregard, commanding the State forces, demanded the surrender of the fort, which was refused. Major Anderson was notified early next morning that the fort would be fired upon in one hour, and cannonading began at 4.20 A.M. on the 12th. A fleet of vessels appeared off the harbor at noon with provisions, exchanged signals with the fort, but made no attempt to land, and on the 13th terms of surrender were arranged by which Major Anderson and his little command marched out on the 14th with the honors of war, saluting the American flag with fifty guns. This bombardment and evacuation set the North in a blaze of patriotic excitement and began the Civil War.
The naval forces of the United States attacked Fort Sumter in April, 1863, but were repulsed, the monitor "Keokuk" being so seriously injured that she afterwards sunk. Subsequently, the Union-troops landed on Morris Island, erected batteries, and in August partly destroyed the works at Sumter; and its bombardment, and also that of Charleston, continued with but brief intermission till the war closed in 1865. On Morris Island was set up the original "long-range gun," General Gillmore's "Swamp Angel," now adorning a drinking-fountain at Trenton, New Jersey ; and its ability, until it unfortunately burst, to shoot its bolts into Charleston, then regarded as an almost impossible distance to carry a projectile, attracted the attention of gunnery experts throughout the world. Its conspicuous mark was the white spire of St. Michael's Church up in the beleaguered city. This famous old church, dating from 1752, was struck six times during these attacks and seriously damaged. It was also partly demolished by a cyclone in 1885, and nearly destroyed y the earthquake of 1886 ; but it has been since restored, and its prominent steeple commands a good view. Charleston, however, seems to have always been used to this sort of thing. Its statue of William Pitt in front of the City Hall had the right arm broken off by a British cannon-shot in 1780. But if the city is thus somewhat in dilapidation, its grand development of foliage and flowers gives a compensation. Everywhere in the suburbs and in the streets and gardens are seen magnificent azaleas, magnolias, camellias, and the famous live oak, which flourish in luxuriance and add to the charms of this restful South Carolina metropolis.