While American Indians had long inhabited the Charleston area, the first immigrants arrived in 1670. Settlers from England sailed up the Ashley River, stopping at Albemarle Point, but just a few years later moved back down the river to White Point Garden, which was easier to defend against their French, Spanish and Indian enemies. On each tour, you’ll get to explore White Point Garden, which sits along Charleston’s High Battery, for yourself and see what enchanted these first settlers.
This beautiful spot was also the place where one of Charleston’s most infamous characters was hanged. While Charleston was a beautiful and popular spot during early 1700s, it was also home to a number of pirates. In 1718, alone, nearly 50 pirates were hanged in Charleston. While Blackbeard, who arrived in Charleston harbor that same year taking ships and hostages for ransom, may be the best known, it was Stede Bonnet, known as the Gentleman Pirate, who met his fate in the gallows at White Point Garden. Bonnet, who came from a good family and who had become a major in the Barbados army, was captured after a fierce battle with Colonel William Rhett.
From Pirates to the Revolutionary War…
In 1774, many Charlestonians were named delegates to the First Continental Congress, prior to the start of the Revolutionary War. Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island served as the site of first major naval battle of the war. Soldiers at Fort Moultrie used palmetto logs to construct the fort, and it was their strength which helped to successfully block the British assault. As a result, you’ll find the palmetto tree on both the state seal and the South Carolina flag.
Victory did not last, however, and in 1780, British troops began a siege on Charleston lasting one month and eventually resulting in control of the city, which they held for the remainder of the Revolutionary War.
After the war in 1783, the city was incorporated and officially named “Charleston.” The College of Charleston, the state institution you will see on the Charleston History Tour, was granted its charter in 1785. In the years to follow, 18th century Charleston was marked by wealth from the “Carolina Gold” rice produced from area plantations by slaves workers.
From Wealth to Turmoil…
But the good days for plantation owners ended in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. As a result, South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Secession, declaring itself an independent commonwealth and seceding from the Union.
In 1861, the first shots of the Civil War rang out when confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter, eventually taking control. Over the course of the next four years, union troops continued to fire on the fort with no success. Finally in 1865, the threat of General Sherman coming north from Savannah and a lack of supplies forced the confederates to evacuate.
Another famous moment in Charleston’s Civil War history is the sinking of the confederate submarine, the H.L. Hunley. In 1864, the submarine sank the federal ship, Housatonic, in less than two minutes, but disappeared shortly after, never returning to port. In 1995, divers found the submarine underwater off Sullivan’s Island, and it was eventually raised for restoration with the help of author Clive Cussler. You will see a full size replica of the submarine outside the Charleston Museum located on Meeting Street, and the actual ship is being restored at a site in North Charleston.
From Then to Now….
Historic Charleston, South Carolina is not only a sensory experience enabling visitors to envision her colorful past…she is a vibrant city of today ranked by Conde Nast Traveler readers as the #1 city to visit in the USA and the world! Charleston is unique among American cities – it was this country’s first major settlement with aspirations of refinement, culture and civility. Its architecture, residential gardens, house museums and outlying plantations are steeped in beauty and history. Charleston is much more than simply a restored colonial city. Charleston is a piece of American history, wonderfully preserved, where the past continues to exist and the future is unfolding. Gray Line of Charleston, Fort Sumter Tours and SpiritLine Cruises – Charleston’s Premier Cruise Fleet can let you experience all of Charleston’s charms…from both the land and seaside perspectives.