|Some of the many stately cannon|
|Porcher-Simonds House, 1856|
To mention Charleston, South Carolina and history in the same breath is to be redundant. It’s in the salty air that’s filled a million sails, on the smooth cobblestone streets, under the shadows of the magnificent antebellum mansions, among the spreading bi-centenarian oak trees, borne on the swaying fronds of the tall palmetto trees.
I mentioned antebellum mansions. Everybody know that antebellum means prewar, or in Charleston’s case, pre-Civil War?
The Battery. You may know it by other gentrified names, like Battery Park, or White Point Gardens. Dozen of names have been stamped on this jutting portion of the Charleston peninsula, at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. At times it’s been Fort Broughton, or Fort Wilkins (Revolutionary War and War of 1812). In 1837 it became a park, only to revert to it’s military lineage during the Civil War.
Who fired the first shots of the civil war and from where? Was it from The Battery? As with most conflicts, the answer twists in the wind. Some say the shots fired at Harper’s Ferry, during John Brown’s raid were first. Some say the battles that raged in Kansas for the best part of tens years were the first. Others say cadets from The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina) fired at a ship on 9 Jan 1861 (Star of the West) sent to relieve the union garrison at Fort Sumter.
Those were all sparks, certainly. But to my mind, the Civil War began after succession, not with a few stray rifle shots at an unarmed relief ship, but when the Confederacy decided to fire on Ft Sumter. If we use that as a starting point, the first shots were fired from Morris Island, as recorded by Abner Doubleday, Sumter’s second in command, and later the inventor of baseball. 12 April 1861.
During the Civil War, The Battery played a prominent and continuing role and in the end, tons of Confederate explosives were blown up here to prevent them from being captured by Union Forces.
War is not the only page of The Battery’s bloody history. Pirates roamed these waters and many were hung from the oak trees in what is now The Battery.
These days, The Battery is a place for tourists to wander and stare out across Charleston Harbor to Fort Sumter. Children roam the grounds and climb the cannon and stacks of cannon balls. Monuments are tucked into every corner of the tree-covered respite, and horse-drawn carriages offer tours. Best of all are the magnificent homes that line the streets, most built by wealthy merchants, shippers, and cotton brokers.
The Battery offers a microcosm of Charleston’s glorious and inglorious past. At the same time, it’s a quiet corner of one of America’s most historic and interesting cities. If a quick stroll isn’t enough for you, check out bed and breakfasts occupying several of The Battery’s oldest mansions. Stroll down the street to see Rainbow Row, of Porgy and Bess fame, or dine at any of Charleston’s fine restaurants. Me? I’m partial to 39 Rue de Jean, which as you might imagine is located at 39 John Street!
In any case, a visit to The Battery has got to be at the top of your list when you visit Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a welcome stroll along the water’s edge, a moment to pause and reflect in the shade of ancient oaks. There are other parks, in other cities, many of them beautiful, majestic, and serene, but The Battery is special. It’s different and somehow more soothing. It’s a vision of layers of history come alive.
|Monument to Confederate Defenders of Charleston|
|William Moultrie, a general and hero of the Revolutionary War|
|View from near The Battery|
|Carriage rides! A Must!|