Friday, July 24, 2009

South Carolina: Jeff King, Day 4

Charleston

I got a tremendous early start on the day by touring the Battery. I found a good parking space and was able to walk to almost all of today’s sites. The Charleston Museum Mile Brochure is very helpful.

The Battery at the end of Meeting Street is full of Charleston’s history from day one. The park here is manicured and beautiful. I really liked the Still on Patrol Marker for US Navy Submarines Losses. The artillery row here is as impressive as the one at Fort Moultrie. The 7-inch banded Brookes, 11-inch Dahlgren and 13-inch mortars look ready to commit serious destruction. There is a 10-inch Columbiad like the one that woke Confederate defenders for the Battle of Secessionville. Don’t miss the monument to the CSS Hunley, the UDC stone monument, and the Confederate Defenders of Charleston monument.

Hibernian Hall at 105 Meeting St. was Stephen Douglas’s Headquarters during the ill-fated 1860 Democratic Convention. Institute Hall at 134 Meeting St. was where the Ordinance of Secession was signed. The Petigru Law Office at 8 St. Michael’s Alley is tricky to get to. Don’t expect a full-size pick-up truck to maneuver here easily or even go the entire length of the alley for that matter. James Louis Petigru was the lawyer and Union man who noted, “South Carolina was too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum.”

City Hall at Broad and Meeting streets is more than worth a stop for the portraits and mementos — portraits of T.J. Jackson, Wade Hampton, John C. Calhoun and Pierre G.T. Beauregard; busts of James Petigru and John C. Calhoun; and the sword given to P.G.T. Beauregard by the ladies of New Orleans in 1861. Be sure to visit the Washington Park area outside City Hall where statues and monuments to the Confederacy were placed.

Marion Square at the corner of Calhoun and Meeting streets is a nice city park with a huge monument to John C. Calhoun more than worth the time to see. There is also a monument to Hampton’s Legion on the north side of the park. There were a few homeless at the park, but they didn’t disturb me. Compared to the homeless population at the Civil War Monument Parks in Washington DC, the few at Marion Park were minor.

Charleston Museum at 360 Meeting St. is a detailed and complete city museum. The Civil War from the first shot through shortages to the barrenness of the city at war’s end is covered. Highlights:
  • A round from the Swamp Angle, which battered Charleston from the Union position 4 miles away
  • A picture of the ceremony in 1865 for reclaiming Fort Sumter for the Union on the fourth anniversary of its surrender
  • Furniture from the secession convention with a great deal of detail on secession and the convention
  • A printing plate for the lyrics of “The Bonnie Blue Flag”
  • President Davis’s walking cane presented to him by the children of Charleston
  • A copy of the newspaper article declaring Lee’s “victory” at Gettysburg.
  • A neat model of the Hunley with a spar torpedo at the museum entrance (It was ironic that the day I was there they were working on it so electrical cords ran in and out of it.)
  • Jed Hotchkiss’s field glasses
  • The 1st SC battle flag
You can learn a great deal about blockade running. For example, the Syran ran the blockade 93 times. As you can well imagine, there is good detail on all military actions in the Charleston area including torpedo boats and ironclads. There are haunting pictures of the destruction of Charleston that look much like the same shambles Richmond laid in after its abandonment. There is also black history with ballot boxes and detail on the 54th Massachusetts regiment.

Daughters of the Confederacy Museum
188 Meeting St. upstairs at the City Market Building

I’ve said before that the National Prisoner of War complex in Andersonville, Georgia, and the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Luminaries Ceremony are my two favorite Civil War places/events. However, this location takes a back seat to no other. This was the induction location for South Carolina soldiers going off to war. This was where they were debriefed after their service. This is where they held their meetings after the war. This is where they and their relatives brought their most valued possessions from the war. The term "labor of love" was invented for the work that is done here. If you only visit one site in the Carolinas, this is the place to go.

I was fortunate enough to speak with June Wells, former president of the UDC, for nearly 20 minutes on my visit. She was there as a child to meet most of the remaining veterans and then to see their families as they brought in their treasured memories. She was there to pick up the pieces after Hurricane Hugo ripped off the roof. She was there to fight for another long-term lease when the City of Charleston wanted to use the building for something else at the expiration of the 99-year lease originally signed after the war. She says the mayor of Charleston crosses the street to avoid her now. It would be impossible to describe in detail all the articles on display. If you ask, the volunteers here can tell you the soldier they came from and the story behind them.
A Civil War souvenir store on the ground floor in the farmer’s market area, not associated with the UDC Museum, has an interesting inventory.

Magnolia Cemetery at 70 Cunningham Ave. has a Gettysburg section, a monument with names to those who fell on 2 July at Gettysburg, Gen. Micah Jenkins obelisk, a monument to all the SC CSA generals who served in the war, a monument to the Washington Light Artillery & their names, a cavalry obelisk, a SC ironclads monument, a couple of unknown CS naval sections, a SC seaman monument to those killed in the war with names, a section for the second Hunley crew, and the recent burials of the CSS Hunley crew. Finding all these highlights was time consuming as the sections are not connected and I was unable to find an office for a cemetery map.

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