CHARLESTON, CRADLE OF SECESSION

1861 - February 1865

1861
Jan. 9 -- What some say was the "real" first shot of the Civil War was fired from the Morris Island/Fort Johnson area at a United States merchant ship named Star of the West that was bound for Fort Sumter, either to simply bring food and medical supplies to the Federal troops stationed there, or to also bring arms and reinforcements, depending on whom you believe.

Jan. 31 -- In the wake of Seccession, S.C. Attorney General Issac W. Hayne, who was serving Gov. Francis W. Pickens as an envoy to Washington, wrote to U.S. President Buchanan warning him that the U.S. possession and occupation of Fort Sumter "if continued long enough, must lead to a collision." (Source: Confederate South Carolina, p. 19-20)

Feb. 2 -- The Illustrated London News ran an illustration of the lobby of the Charleston Hotel as part of its coverage of the impending Civil War. 

Feb. 6 -- Joseph Holt, U.S.President James Buchanan's Secretary of War, wrote to Isaac W. Hayne, who was S.C. Gov. Francis W. Pickens' attorney general and envoy to Washington (not to be confused with the Revolutionary hero), that Fort Sumter's purpose was the defense of Charleston Harbor and that if some "public enemy" menaced the city or the harbor, the fort's batteries would "be at once exerted for their protection." (Source: Confederate South Carolina, p. 20)

Feb. 7 -- S.C. Attorney General Isaac W. Hayne, replied to U.S. Secretary of War Joseph Holt's letter, received the day before, saying: "Are you not aware, that to hold in the territory of a foreign power a fortress against her will, avowedly for the purpose of protecting her citizens is perhaps the highest insult which one government can offer to another? But Fort Sumter was never garrisoned at all until South Carolina had dissolved her connection with your Government. This garrison entered it in the night with every circumstance of secrecy after spiking the guns and burning the gun carriages and cutting down the flag-staff of an adjacent fort which was then abandoned. South Carolina had not taken Fort Sumter into her own possession only because of her misplaced confidence in a government which deceived her." (Source: Confederate South Carolina, p. 20-21)

April 12 -- The first shots were fired at Fort Sumter. The Civil War had begun in Charleston Harbor.

May 31 -- The Tenth Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers gathered for the first time. Among them was Henry Michael Lofton. (Source: Home in the Village, p. 75)

Dec. 11 -- The largest, most destructive fire in Charleston's history began near Hasell and East Bay streets, swept west to Meeting Street, down to Broad Street, and all the way over to the Ashley River side of the peninsula, burning more than 540 acres, 575 homes, many businesses and five churches, including the Pinckney Mansion, S.C. Institute Hall, Circular Congregational Church, St. Andrew's Hall, and the Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar. Property damage was estimated to be between $5 million and $8 million. 

1862

Jan. 30 -- Henry Michael Lofton of the 10th Regiment, took time off from the Civil War to marry Susan Ann Morrison at Second Presbyterian Church. (Source: Home in the Village, p. 76)

1863
Jan. 1 -- Arthur Trezevant Wayne was born as his mother sought refuge from the war in Charleston.

July 14 -- A writer forThe Mercury reported: "The battes at Gettysburg, like all that have succeeded the first Manassas, leaves the Yankee army undestroyed and nothing decided. Always there is some fatality, miscalculation or inadvertence, which closes us out of a complete victory." (Source: Seabrook Wilkinson in "The Way It Was 150 Years Ago: A disappointing lunch," Charleston Mercury, July 2013, p.16)

July 18 -- 650 members of the all-black (except for Col. Robert Gould Shaw) 54th Massachusetts Regiment attacked Battery Wagner on Morris Island in one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

Aug. 22 -- Some time around 10:45 p.m., Union Maj. Gen. Quincy Gillmore sent a note to Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard demanding Charleston's immediate surrender or else at midnight he would commence firing from a floating battery recently built between James and Morris islands to hold the 12-ton canon known as the Swamp Angel.

Aug. 23 -- Union Maj. Gen. Quincy Gillmore began firing upon Charleston using the canon known as the Swamp Angel.

Aug. 24 -- On its third night of firing, the Swamp Angel exploded on its 20th shot.

 

1864
Feb. 17 -- The HL Hunley became the first submarine to successfully sink its target, the Housatonic. Though successfully completing their mission, the sub with its crew, never returned to shore and remained on the bottom of the ocean for the next 136 years.

July 1 -- The Union Army exploded a massive charge of dynamite placed in a tunnel that went under the Confederate lines at Petersburg, Va., killing a large contingent of South Carolina's 24th Regiment. John Marion Lofton, serving with the 23rd Regiment, was among the four Confederate units who responded to the blast, successfully staving off an attempt by 14 Union units to charge through the crater created by the blast. (Source: Home in the Village, p. 78)

1865
Feb. 17 -- Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard called for all Confederate troops to evacuate the city, loading any useful things aboard the last train out of the Northeastern Railway's Wilmington Depot and destroying anything left that the enemy could use. As fires blazed across the peninsula, the city fell to Union troops.

Feb. 18 -- As the last train transporting Confederate soldiers and supplies pulled away, a horrible explosion at the Northeastern Railroad Depot killed more than 250 desperate men, women and children scavenging for whatever food and supplies they could find.

We discuss the beginning of the Civil War on our Charleston Overview Tour. 
Learn more about one of nation's great antellum hotels, the Charleston Hotel, on our Lost Charleston Tour. (Photo credit: Library of Congress.)
The dramatic story of the ill-fated Swamp Angel is a part of our Lost Charleston Tours. (Photo credit: Library of Congress)
One of the most poignant stories told on our Lost Charleston Tour is that of the Northeastern Railway's Wilmington Depot. (Image: Library of Congress)
The Great Fire of 1861 was the most destructive ever to blow through Charleston. As seen in this image, the Mills Hotel was spared, but Secession Hall and the Circular Church (at left) were destroyed. We talk extensively about this event on our Lost Charleston and Charleston Overview tours. (Photo credit: Library of Congress, 1865)
We learn the story of the Lofton family on our Day on the French Santee Tour. (Photo: Leigh Handal, Charleston Raconteurs)