1861 - February 1865

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 who you believe. No one will ever know.

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. 

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

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. 

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.


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.

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 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 visit the grave and hear the story of Arthur T. Wayne, the greatest scientist you've never heard of on our French Santee Tour.
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.