Another Charleston First- Memorial Day

Wow, it’s hard to believe that this weekend is the official start of summer. Not only is it that but more importantly is a time to honor all those that have died serving our Country. The tradition of remembering those who lost their lives while defending their country and its beliefs began here in Charleston. It is estimated that 752,000 men perished in the Civil War. During the war, women would bury the dead and decorate their graves but it was not until May 1, 1865 when a group of freed slaves got together to honor a large group of Union Soldiers. The Hampton Race Track had been used as a Confederate Prison Camp and a mass grave was dug on-site for the Union Soldiers that died within the camp. After the war was over, freed slaves exhumed the bodies and reinterred them in individual graves. A crowd of up to ten thousand (mainly blacks) came together to honor those soldiers. A day of sermons, singing and picnicking ensued. This day was given the name of “Decoration Day”. Officially in 1966 Waterloo, a town in New York was given credit for the start of this holiday because on May 5, 1866 all businesses closed for the day and the community held a city-wide event in which residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. (I personally think the federal government needs to revisit this decree.)

In 1868, General John Logan officially proclaimed that Decoration Day should be observed nationwide. The day was carefully chosen to be May 30, a date that was not an anniversary of any battle. Flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

This day of remembrance which was declared by a “Yankee” did not sit well with the South. They refused to acknowledge this day and would honor their dead on Confederate Memorial Day. Southern states would choose their own day but usually the dates ranged from April 26 to mid June. In South Carolina, May 10th was selected. This was the date that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863 and the date of the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in 1865.

For both sides this day originally started out as a way for veterans and families to remember those that had been lost privately. As time went along it was a way for veterans, ministers and politicians to commemorate the War but also to rehash the atrocities of the enemy. By the end of the 1870’s much of the malice had subsided and soldiers from both sides were praised. Though in the South, the Confederate dead were still honored on a separate day until after World War I when the holiday was changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to those who died in all American wars. At that time, the day came to represent the American ideals and the duty to uphold freedom in the world.

Today 9 Southern states still officially observe Confederate Memorial Day: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

The name “Decoration Day” stayed until the early 1880’s and then it slowly changed to “Memorial Day”. It was not until after WWII that it become common to call the holiday “Memorial Day” and it was not officially declared that until 1967.

I want to Thank all of those who have served and lost their lives. Especially, I want to thank their families. Your loved ones have given us the greatest thing of all, freedom and we will never forget their sacrifices.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day.

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

Money, Money, Money

Where did it come from?

Coinage was the backbone of monetary systems around the world. But here on U.S. soil, we did not have the precious metals that were used for coinage so the colonies turned to paper. Massachusetts was the first to use paper money in 1690 and the colony of South Carolina was second in 1703. This money was printed on behalf of the colonial governments. The money was circulated and guaranteed by the government. This was fine until after the American Revolution when the new country was left with a hefty monetary depreciation because Britain did not back the paper money with coinage as before. (A British pound was a legal tender whose value floated relative to the value of gold.) Our founding fathers hoped to take care of this situation for future generations by addressing the coinage issue in the Constitution. Guidelines in the Constitution stated that States could not be involved with coinage; only the national government. The interesting thing is that the Constitution mentioned nothing about paper money. So who would be able to handle the demand for paper currency? (The U.S. was still lacking the precious metal needed for coinage) The banks! South Carolina had 20 banks printing paper money. The paper money was a walking advertisement for the bank. So the money reflected the environment it was created in. Fancy scenes, portraits of influential people and picturesque designs were the rage. Money also reflected the current events of time. This was especially true of the time between the Compromise of 1850 and the beginning of the Civil War. Images of slavery were printed on paper money. Southern Banks thought that positive images of slavery such as a field hand smiling as he worked would help to show the North that slavery was good for both sides (the economy and the slave themselves). It was also used to help boast Southern morale and conviction.

SlaveHarvestingCottonNote

 

In Charleston, 3 Broad Street was the home of Walkers, Evans & Cogswell. They were a firm of printers and book publishers who were retained as the printers for the Secession Convention and were responsible for the lithograph copies of the Articles of Secession. They also imprinted Confederate money which was authorized by the Confederate government in 1861 and government bonds during the Civil War. Below is a picture of money produced by Evans and Cogswell. The money was printed for the Bank of South Carolina. The bank failed after the war and was closed. The Reconstruction Government did honor notes issued before December 20, 1860 but any notes that were issued during the war were worthless. This changed after Reconstruction when the control of the government was shifted back to the State of South Carolina. In 1879, a law was passed that stated that money from the years of the Civil War would be redeemed for 50% of face value which would be payable in bonds. The money was turned in and then was either ink-cancelled or cut- cancelled, bundled, sealed and set aside for destruction which did not happen. For decades, the bundles sat in the Statehouse and were eventually transferred to the State Archives in 1961. No one knows for sure why the notes were not destroyed but it is thought that the task was put off for later and then forgotten.

 

bundle of confederate money007   014

 

During the Civil War coinage became scarce. Citizens began to hoard gold, silver and copper coins. This made it very difficult for businesses to do transactions. Merchants turned to private minters to fill the void. The result was Civil War tokens. “It is estimated that by 1864, there were 25,000 tokens (nearly all redeemable for one cent) in circulation and approximately 7000-8000 varieties.” There were 3 main types of tokens:

1. Patriotic: A patriotic slogan or image. This was mainly found up North and was usually pro Union.

2. Store cards: Businesses would design their own token. It would display their name and/or location.

3. Sutler: This would contain the name of a particular army unit and the name of the sutler who conducted transactions with the regiment. A sutler is a merchant who sells provisions to an army in the field. The wares were sold from the back of a wagon or tent which would allow the sutler to travel along with the army.

By 1864, Congress had passed regulations outlawing the usage of Civil War tokens.

009

011

 

Another attempt at coinage was the Confederate Cent. This was die cast by a gentleman from Philadelphia named Robert Lovett. He made 12 coins out of copper-nickel but then afraid of being arrested for helping the South, he buried the die and the Confederate Cents in his basement. After the war, he would carry one of them in his pocket and in 1873 by accident; he spent one of the Confederate Cents in a bar in Philadelphia. His secret was out. A local coin collector purchased the die cast and made 54 copper strikes but on the 55th the die broke. None of the re-strikes were made in the original copper nickel material. Today the die can be seen in the Smithsonian.

confederate cent

 

Who knew that money could be so interesting?

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

The Southern Perspective

Last month, I wrote about my opinion as to why the Northern states initially fought in the Civil War. This month I will discuss my opinion as to why the Southern states decided that Secession was the right thing for them to do. Southerners did not arrive at this decision overnight. Lincoln’s election for President was a symptom of a bigger problem that had been festering for years.

The Southern states originally went from a “society with slaves” which also included indentured servants to a “slave society” where slavery was the basis of the economy. This created a foundation where a minority of men formed a powerful ruling class. When we think of slave owners in the South, we think of the large plantations with hundreds of slaves. In reality, approximately 25% of Southerners had slaves and if they did it was usually 1 or 2 slaves to help the family in the fields. It was expensive to own a slave. In today’s currency a slave could cost up to $36,000. So a minority of men with large slave holdings ran the Southern governments. In fact, “no other state has such a large contingent of slave owners in its legislature” as South Carolina did. The Planter class supported the idea of secession in hopes that it would protect their property and their investments. Soon to be President, Abraham Lincoln in an 1860 speech stated that “The value of the slave population is not less than $2,000,000,000. This amount of property has a vast influence upon the minds of those who own it…Slaveholders battle any policy which depreciates their slaves as property. What increases the value of this property, they favor.”

In fact, the South Carolina delegation of 169 representatives that voted to secede on December 20, 1860 was comprised of nearly all men that were slave owners. Almost most half of them owned at least 50 slaves and 27 of them owned more than 100 slaves each. It was these men that decided an additional document was needed that would Justify the secession of South Carolina. This document was the “Declaration of Immediate Causes.” It was stated in this document, not in the “Ordinance of Secession” that the Northern States had “deliberately broken the federal compact by repudiating their responsibility under the fourth article of the United States Constitution to return runaway slaves.”

Many delegates felt it was not an accurate representation of what they voted for. “The report was so heavily laced with slavery rhetoric that another delegate, Maxcy Gregg, stood up and complained that “not one word is said about the tariff, which for so many years caused a contest in this State against the Federal Government.” They also wanted the document to include the issue about the federal expenditures for internal improvements. There was a motion to table the Memminger’ report, as it was called before it got its official title of “Declaration of Immediate Causes.” Gregg had at least 2 dozen delegates on his side. A voice vote was done on Christmas Eve and it passed by a margin of 4 to 1. The influential planters’ delegates such as Williams Middleton had the power in that room. Because it was done as a voice vote, even today it is not know how many really voted for slavery to be the main reason to secede. As delegate Lawrence M. Keitt stated this declaration “rest disunion upon the question of slavery.”  An interesting fact in the days leading up to December 20, there were other drafts presented to a committee for the wording of the “Ordinance of Secession”. One that survived is dated December 11, 1860 and it cites tariffs in addition to the issue of fugitive slave laws as a reason that South Carolina was seceding. Somehow along the way the perception of states’ rights changed from a tariff issue to the runaway slave laws.

As I mentioned in my December blog: 151 Years Ago Secession, it was the tariff issues of 1828 & 1832 and Calhoun’s Nullification Paper that started the push for secession. In a speech by John C. Calhoun in 1850, (10 years before the war)he discusses the main reasons why the state of the Union had gotten to point of an exploding conflict.

  1. “The equilibrium between the two sections in the government as it stood when the constitution was ratified and the government put in action has been destroyed. At that time there was nearly a perfect equilibrium between the two, which afforded ample means to act to protect itself against the aggression of the other; but as it now stands, one section has the exclusive power of controlling the government, which leaves the other without any adequate means of protecting itself against its encroachment of and oppression.” This can be seen in the election of Lincoln. Lincoln had the Electoral College vote even if the Democratic Party had not split its unity between candidates. The interesting thing is that Lincoln was not on any ballots in the South. How scary is that for a Southern to think that a man can be elected President by only Northern voters. This uneven power was not going to change as new states were added to the Union unless they were allowed to be “slave states”. As stated by Mary A. DeCredico in her book “Mary Boykin Chestnut” “The plank that enraged them most was one that called for the prohibition of slavery in the territories. The prospect that a sectional party would drive them out of an equal share in western territories was a threat that could not be tolerated.”
  2. “.. System of revenue and disbursements which has been adopted by the government. It is well known that the government has derived its revenue mainly from duties on imports…..duties must necessarily fall mainly on the exporting states, and that the South, as the great exporting portion of the Union, has in reality paid vastly more than her due proportion of the revenue;… if to this be added that many of the duties were imposed, not for revenue but for protection—that is, intended to put money, not in the Treasury, but directly into the pockets of manufacturers.” This relates the issue of the Tariffs of 1828 & 1832 and other economic measures that were in place to assist Northern businesses.
  3. Slavery: “On the contrary, the Southern section regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness; and accordingly they feel bound by every consideration of interest and safety to defend it.” This in my opinion is the real reason that Slavery was such a big issue. It was the economics of it. William Lowndes Yancey (1860): “Look at the value of that property. These slaves are worth $2800,000,000…Twenty-eight hundred millions of dollars are to be affected by the decision of this question [Presidential election of 1860]” And as stated by H.S. Foote : “If the price of slaves comes down, then the permanence of the institution comes down…the permanence of the system depends on keeping the prices high.” The South was commitment to agriculture for their economy.

The Northern businessman’s perception was that if slavery continued to exist it would affect the system of “free labor”. They were also afraid that decreasing land values would threaten the value of stocks in the railroads. (Land value was higher in the North and the value of personal property was higher in the South. Slaves were considered personal property). Each side felt that if their way of doing business was not expanded that it would die.

To read Calhoun’s speech in its entirety: http://www.nationalcenter.org/CalhounClayCompromise.html

Let’s put all of this in perspective, in the ten years before the war began, Southerners were subject to the following:

  • The Republican platform that endorsed a National Bank with no support from the Southern states
  • Federal aid for internal improvements for roads with most funding funneled to Northern states
  • Federal involvement and policies in regards to slavery and expansionism in the West, again with no regard (say) of the Southern states
  • Minority representation in both houses of Congress, thus no influence towards the 3rdbranch of government the Supreme Court
  • Attacks by Northerners on Southerners for defending their right to own slaves. (Slavery was a right in the Constitution at this time.)
  • The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 even though he did not even APPEAR on any ballots in the South.

At this moment in time (December 1860), the election of Abraham Lincoln represented the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” and was the boiling point for Southerners. It would be logical to say that the Southern states had no say, influence or vote in all three branches of the federal government.

Therefore it can be reasoned that the Southern states lived in a reality of “taxation without representation” and thought it their right (as did the founding fathers in 1776) to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another”. It is also no surprise that many of the Southern leaders “wrapped themselves” in the cloak of the founding fathers and the spirit of ’76 at the beginning of the war.

But as the war proceeded the majority of Southerner’s perspective became that the Civil War was a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” Most confederate soldiers were notslaveholders but believed in the right of each state to define its slave law, not the Federal government. Most Southern politicians wove the above points and portrayed the plight of the Southern man with no say in the Federal government as such that war was inevitable.

Over these last 2 blogs I hope that I have given you a new perspective on why the Civil War was fought and how the “Peculiar Institution”: Slavery was part of the reason for the war but not in the way that you may have thought.

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

The Northern Perspective

Last month, I talked about the start of the Civil War; “The Ordinance of Secession” and the events surround the signing of this life changing document. This month, I want to talk about what the document meant and my belief on why the Civil War was fought. Most people feel that the main reason the South seceded was to preserve their “Peculiar Institution: Slavery.” Slavery is definitely part of the reason the war was fought but not in the way that you may think.

In my opinion, for the South: it was all about economics and the power of the federal government to dictate the lives of the Southerners. (The Northern States at that time held a majority in BOTH Houses of Congress). For the North at the beginning the war, first and foremost their priority was to save the Union, not for their moral concerns about Slavery.

Lincoln believed that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. He felt that the Southern states’ seceding was akin to a child throwing a tantrum and they would eventually come around as soon as the “fit” was done. Lincoln thoughts were that he needed to disperse the bands of rebels and establish loyal Southern governments. In the final passage of his inaugural address in March of 1861, Lincoln spoke of his willingness to rewrite parts of the constitution to accommodate the South. Just hours before his address, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment, that read “No Amendment, shall ever be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of person held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” This was passed by both houses and only had to be ratified by the states. Of course the problem was to get the two-thirds of the states to ratify this amendment. (I will discuss this on the Southern side.) He also stated in that speech that “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the State where it exists.” “I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” He was against the spread of slavery because he felt that it was affecting the “free labor economy”. It was not for the plight of the black man. In 1858, Lincoln stated “I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races…… and I as much as any other man I am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” He did believe though that Negros did have rights even if the races were unequal. “In the right to into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned… (The Negro) is the equal of every other man white or black.” Much of the North had the same feelings; they were opposed to the expansion of slavery because of a dislike of the Negro as well as the dislike of slavery. Slavery was affecting Northern economic prosperity. In his Hartford Speech of 1860, Lincoln talks about slavery and how it was affecting the economy and the Union: “Slavery comes in, and white free labor that can strike will give way to slave labor that cannot!” Slavery is wrong in its effect upon white people and free labor; it is the only thing that threatens the Union.” As Gene Leach discussed in “Glimpses of Lincoln‘s Brilliance”, “Lincoln argued, it was not the product of a wickedness unique to slaveholders. Nor was slavery a bizarre anachronism standing in the way of the nation’s economic growth. To the contrary, Lincoln identified slavery with the driving engines of that growth. That was exactly the problem: In their zeal for material progress, all Americans, North and South, were losing their moral bearings. Southerners held slaves, and many Northerners tolerated the practice, because “pecuniary value” had become their ruling value.”

Lincoln’s main goal was to preserve the union. He said if he could accomplish this without freeing any slaves he would: if he could save the union by freeing all the slaves he would. In fact in 1861, The US House of Rep. passed a resolution declaring the Civil War was being waged to preserve the Union rather than to end slavery.

It was not until 1863 when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation did the moral concern of slavery become a rally point for the North. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” He felt at this point in time it was “a military necessity… We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued”.

This proclamation was done to bring more support for the Union from Britain and France. If Britain and France continued to give support to the Confederacy it would look like would look like support for slavery, which both of these nations had abolished. It also increased the number of soldiers for the Union while helping to eliminate the Confederacy’s workhorse, the slaves. Every battle was expanding the domain of freedom and the black man was able to help liberate himself. Slaves quickly began to escape to the Union lines. The Proclamation did not free all the slaves, only those in states that seceded from the Union. Slavery was still legal in the Border States and parts of the Confederacy that were under Northern control. Thus, freedom from slavery was dependent on a Union military victory.

Lincoln had always been in favor of emancipation for the Negroes but he envisioned a gradual process in which there would be financial compensation to the owner. He understood the financial hardship that the immediate lost of property would do the Southern states and how it would ruin the Southern economy. In an 1858 speech, Lincoln stated that the “regions 4 million slaves were valued at no less than 2 billion dollars.” That sum was greater than the value of all the nation’s factories and railroads in both the North and South. He also believed in the colonization of the Negroes outside of the United States. In 1862, Lincoln states to Congress that “I cannot make it better know that it already is, that I strongly favor colonization.” He spoke with a group of Negroes in 1862 and said that a “physical difference is a great disadvantage to us both, as I think your race suffers very greatly… by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence.”

Lincoln did what he felt that would help to end this war; to stop the wounded and the dying on both sides of the battle field. He took a great risk because many in the North still believed the war was about preserving the Union, not about freeing the slaves. This proclamation lead to the thirteenth amendment to our Constitution. The Republican Senate passed the amendment in April of 1864 but it was not until January of 1865 that the Democratic House barely vetoed for the amendment. It was ratified by two thirds of the states on December 6, 1865 when Georgia gave its consent.

Unfortunately this did not immediately end the discrimination to the Negroes. It would be another 100 years until there would be balance between the races. It would have been very interesting to see what would have happened if Lincoln had lived?

Next month, I will talk about the Southern perspective.

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

151 Years Ago- Secession

151 years ago on December 20, 1860, the Civil War started in Charleston, South Carolina. What you are probably thinking is “no April 12, 1861 was the start of the Civil War” and yes that is correct too.  April 12, 1861 was the 1st actual shots of the war. The “War” really began with a piece of paper; “The Ordinance of Secession”.

Secession was not entirely a new concept for Americans and especially Southerners’ at this time. In 1812, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut almost secede over the war with Britain. By 1832, it was a hot topic for Southerners. The federal government had passed a tariff that favored Northern industry. Southerners called the tariff “The Tariff of Abominations”. At one time, the tariff was at 47% which almost doubled the cost of foreign goods purchased by Southerners. Northern merchants used the situation to raise their prices. It also caused a decline in Britain’s orders for Southern cotton. This tariff lead to John C. Calhoun writing the “Nullification Papers” (He wrote this manuscript at a house on 94 Church Street.) Calhoun at this time was the Vice President under Andrew Jackson. This document declared that a “state could refuse to obey federal laws if a state deemed them unconstitutional. “

Things quieted down for a bit and then started to heat up again in 1851. Every year on “Carolina Day”, Charleston citizens would celebrate at Fort Moultrie the Battle of Fort Sullivan. This battle during the American Revolution was where Colonial William Moultrie was able to beat the British and save Charleston from being captured. It was one of the 1st major battles that the Patriots won against Mother England. In 1851, the Federal government would not let the citizens of Charleston into the fort for the annual celebration. Soon after that episode, the Palmetto Guard was established and in April of 1852 South Carolina moved to secede.

By the time 1860 rolled around things were at a boiling point. The South Carolina Assembly delegates were meeting in Columbia, South Carolina to decide if secession was going to happen. Originally Georgia then Alabama was to secede first but they did not do so. It was left up to the South Carolinians. It was whispered among the men that this time it was really going to happen. But wait, the delegates did not want to be Columbia, they wanted to be in Charleston where they could get more bang for their buck. Charleston was the hot seat for secession and had been pushing for it for years. Suddenly there was an “outbreak of small pox” (at that time there was 1 reported case of small pox in Columbia). Off went the delegates to Charleston were they reconvened at St. Andrew’s Society Hall and here a roll call vote was taken in 8 minutes.

Unanimous vote, South Carolina had seceded from the Union.

Shouts of celebration erupted through the city as it was announced. To make this even a bigger deal, it was decided that the document would be signed at the South Carolina Institute Hall. The hall could hold 3,000 people and it was the place to be that night. A standing room only crowd waited for the delegates as they marched down Broad Street to Meeting. As they walked, they grabbed one of the many banners that were flying for the buildings. This was to be their symbol. The banner shows a mighty arch with 15 squares that represented the New Confederacy. John C. Calhoun stands at the top holding the constitution and below are words “Built from the Ruins”. The banner was hung across the stage behind the table when the gentlemen were signing the Ordinance. During the war, the banner made its way to New England where it was safely kept until 1963 when it made its way home again. Unfortunately it laid discarded for many in years in a bottom of a drawer.

gs_secbanner

Now it can be seen at the South Carolina Historical Society.

After the delegates made their way to South Carolina Institute, the document was read to the audience: “An Ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and the other States untied with her under the compact entitled “The Constitution of the United States of America”…..

Per the Charleston Mercury Newspaper during the reading of it “the men could contain themselves no longer, and a shout that shook the very building, reverberated, long-continued, rose to Heaven, and ceased only with the loss of breath.” It took 2 hours for the Ordinance to be signed. The signers of the Ordinance were the “who’s who” of South Carolina politics before and during the War. These men were so proud: “the greatest honor of my life” and “the proudest day of my life”. Cannons were fired, bands played and rockets exploded. The celebration continued around the South for several days. Several cities had 100 gun salutes. In Charleston, the newspaper headlines were “The Union is dissolved”.

 union is disolved

Not all thought this was a wise idea. A Charlestonian, James Louis Petigru remarked that “South Carolina was too small to be an independent nation but too large to be an insane asylum.” The last surviving signer passed away in 1914.

Immediately following the signing, delegates were sent to all the Southern states with the news and the task of urging the other states to follow suit. 4 months later by the time the 1st shots of the Civil War, 6 other states had joined the Confederacy. Not all of the Southern States secede (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and Missouri did not) Tennessee only seceded after the Governor made the decision. The populace vote had defeated the proposal.

The Original “Ordinance of Secession” did survive the war and is kept in the South Carolina archives in Columbia, SC. The document has been in the hands of a South Carolina official ever since that fateful night in 1860. Many times during the war, Union soldiers thought they had found the original but what they came across was one of the 200 lithographs made of the document. These were such excellent copies that in 1966 the Mayor of Keokuk, Iowa offered to return “the Articles of Secession from the Union by your State in the year 1860”. Even having one of the lithograph copies was a prized possession. In 1865, as Yankees were approaching Governor John L. Manning’s home, he stuffed his copy behind an “immense Empire bookcase”; it was discovered nearly 100 years later.

Today the document looks very little like the lithograph copies. The original was very badly faded; even the ink blots from the day of the signing had disappeared, so somewhere between 1890-1894, the original was re-inked by a German scribe. (On the lithograph copies you are able to see those ink blots.) All that is left of the St. Andrews Society Hall and the South Carolina Institute is the ironworks in front of a parking lot which use to be the home of the St. Andrews Society. A great fire burned through the city in 1861 and destroyed both of those buildings. (We will save that story for another time)

SC Institute inside with banner

So began the events that would change the course of our history. Next month, I will talk more about what “Ordinance of Secession” meant.

May you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Thanks for reading

Lee Ann

Turkey Day Traditions

Welcome,

It’s hard to believe that it’s November already. When I was thinking about writing this month’s blog, I knew I wanted to write something about Thanksgiving and its history. We all know about the “First Thanksgiving Feast” so I will not bore you with that. There are so many other fun pieces of trivia and tradition that are associated with this holiday so that is what I am going to share. It’s not all related to Charleston so please forgive me if I stray a bit this month.

Before 1789, Thanksgiving was a day that was regionally observed. That year, President George Washington declared the first nationwide Thanksgiving for the New United States. This tradition continued until 1815 when it was phased out of fashion. It was not until 1863, when a “Mrs. Hale” convinced President Lincoln that a national Thanksgiving might help to unite a war-torn county. She had been writing letters to previous Presidents, all state governors and each member of Congress since 1847. President Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November to be the national holiday. Of course you can imagine how well this went over in the South. The Texas Governor, Oran Milo Roberts chose not to decree the holiday saying “it was a damned Yankee Institution.” By the late 1800’s Thanksgiving became popular in the South. Of course, we could notallow the Yankees to dictate the menu so we added our own touches: corn bread stuffing, sweet potatoes casserole, ham and pecan pie.

Thanksgiving was celebrated on the last Thursday of the month until 1939 when President Franklin Roosevelt moved the date to the 3rd Thursday because retailers persuaded him that having it that late would dampen their holiday sales. Announcements were placed in newspapers across the country with the date change. The new holiday was given the nickname “Franksgiving”. For 3 years people celebrated one or the other or both dates. Finally in 1941, President Roosevelt realized his mistake and signed a Congressional bill that stated that the 4thThursday would be the official holiday.

Thanksgiving Traditions:

Sports and Games: Have been enjoyed since the first Thanksgiving in 1621. Back then there would have been activities such “pitching the bar” which was tossing logs, wrestling matches and musket target shooting. It was not until 1876 when the first football game on Thanksgiving Day was played (Yale beat Princeton 2 goals to nil). In the 1890’s, the Collegiate League’s Championship game was held on Thanksgiving Day. It was a premier event in the New York social season and churches started making sure that their services were done in time so that their members could make it to kickoff. Professional football did not get into the action until 1934. The owner of the Detroit Lions (George Richards) arranged the game between the Lions and the Chicago Bears to be broadcasted on the radio across the country. Football was here to stay as a Thanksgiving tradition.

Parades:Began back in the 1780’s, Fantastical Companies which were lively groups of young working-class men from different New York neighborhoods would dress in flamboyant costumes and celebrate their day off from work. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade started in 1924 as the “Macy’s Christmas Parade.” Macy’s employees, many who were immigrants, created the parade in a European style which included costumes, animals, bands and floats. The first balloon was Felix the Cat and it made its début in 1927. The parade was first broadcast locally in the New York area in 1939 as an experiment and then on national television in 1948.

Pardoning the Turkey: President Harry Truman was the first to receive a live turkey and 2 dressed turkeys from the Turkey Federation. Too bad for the live turkey that year though because he did not get pardoned. It was not until 1989 when George H. W. Bush was President, that the live turkey was pardoned. The turkey to be pardoned goes through an extensive interview process. He is evaluated on size, plumage and poise. Starting in August, the turkey also undergoes 6 months of training. The bird is exposed to men in dark business suits so that when the big day arrives there will not be any mishaps.

That’s all for this month. I hope you have wonderful Thanksgiving.

Enjoy

Lee Ann

Restaurant Tid Bits

Welcome to my 2nd blog of Charleston History. I have added a new page, “Restaurant Rec’s.”These are some of my favorite restaurants in Charleston. In no way is this list complete. I still have many more to sample so keep checking back for the latest.

Not only do the restaurants in Charleston have fantastic cuisine but they also have some unique and historic details about them.

McCrady’s:The original structure was built in 1778 and was on East Bay Street. Here the Liberty Tree Boys would meet to discuss Great Britain’s policies and how it was affecting the colony. Edward McCrady was a Revolutionary Leader and was imprisoned in St. Augustine, Florida after the Siege of Charleston by the British. When he was released, he came home and increased the size of his tavern by building 2 Unity Alley. His “Long Room” was the entertainment spot of Charleston. The Charleston Theatre would perform here and when George Washington was visiting during his Southern Tour in 1791, a dinner party was thrown in his honor in this room. Today when you dine at McCrady’s you are sitting in the old kitchen. The early brick fireplace is still visible. The bar area was once horse and buggy stalls. If they are not having a reception upstairs, ask to go see the original Long Room. History is alive in this room. If only these walls could talk.

82 Queen:One of my favorite spots for “She Crab Soup”. Originally “She Crab Soup” was based on a Scottish seafood bisque brought here in the early 18th century. Of course in the early 1900’s that was not good enough for a famous guest of our Charleston Mayor Rhett. President Taft was a frequent guest at the Mayor’s home and the Mayor was concerned that the crab soup was too pale for the President. William Deas, who was his butler, was given the task of livening up the soup. His creation is what we eat today: meat of the small female blue crab was added to bisque and then it was decorated with their orange hued eggs to add color and flavor. Tradition has it that President Taft loved the soup so much that he added it to the White House menu. Not only was the President eating it but lots of congressmen were too. Mendel Rivers a congressman in the 1940’s would arrange for thermoses of Deas’ “She Crab Soup” to be flown to DC and serviced at his committee meetings.

Amen Street:Today the restaurant is located on the corner of East Bay and Cumberland St. Before the street was called Cumberland, it was known as Amen St. It was said that the street got its name because you could hear the “Amens” being chanted by the church members of St. Philips and the Methodist Meeting House. In the 1870’s this building was the store of the William Bird Company; hardware and paint. They were known for their sign: a large golden whale.

 

Poe’s:Poe’s Tavern, which is located on Sullivan’s Island, derives its name from Edgar Allen Poe who was stationed at Fort Moultrie for 13 months beginning in November of 1827. Poe enlisted in the army under the name of Edgar Allan Perry to avoid a large debt that he had accrued. His time at Fort Moultrie inspired him to write the Golden Bug.

Circa 1886: Is located in the original carriage house for the Wentworth Mansion. This magnetic home was built by Francis Silas Rodgers who was a cotton merchant. His home was very self sufficient for that time period. It had its own water supply which included a windmill and a small gas plant that provided the house with an independent light system. 21 panes of Tiffany stain glass were installed on the main floor of the home. The stain glass buckled but did not break during the Great Earthquake of 1886. One of the other captivating features of the home is its cupola. Rodgers would spend hours gazing over the city looking for signs of smoke which might suggest a fire. He is credited with organizing the city’s first paid professional fire department. In my opinion, this is the one of the best skyline views in Charleston especially during a full moon.

If you like the restaurant history, keep checking back. I have more to share at a later date.

Also don’t forget to take a look at my new page “Restaurant Rec’s”for more great places to eat.

See you next month

Lee Ann

Charleston Firsts

Welcome to the first blog of Charleston History. Just to let you know a little about myself, my name is Lee Ann and I am a licensed tour guide in Charleston, South Carolina. Charleston is an amazing city and so much has happened here over the last 341 years that I wanted to share with you the society, scoundrels and conflicts that have defined Charleston. For those that have visited our fair city before, I hope this will be an entertaining way to stay in touch with what is going in Charleston in the present and in the past. For those that have not visited, I hope this will entice you to make a journey to Charleston so that you can experience this enchanting city for yourself.

Charleston is a city of many things and since this is my first blog, I thought I would tell you about some of “Charleston’s Firsts”:

On December 20, 1860, the South Carolina assembly voted unanimously to become the first state to secede from the Union and it happened right here in Charleston. Georgia or Alabama was supposed to secede first but Charlestonians’ got tired of waiting for them to make up their minds so we went ahead and did the “big deed” ourselves. Yes, patience has never been our strength. 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War.

Charlestonians were the ones to fire the 1st shot of the Civil War. It was cool and misty on April 12, 1861 when 43 guns started firing rhythmically on Fort Sumter at 4:30 in the morning. The chess match between Lincoln and Davis was over and Lincoln had won the first game. He had gotten the Confederates to fire the first shots of the war. An excellent book to read about the days leading up to that fateful morning in April is “Allegiance” by David Detzer.

Off our shores, the Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship during warfare. The Housatonic was prey to the Hunley on Feb. 17, 1864. After a successful mission, the Hunley was heading for home but never made it. The Hunley was lost and the search began. Even a $100,000 award was offered by P.T. Barnum to the person who could locate her. It was not until 1995 that the Hunley was found buried under 30 feet of water and covered with 131 years of silt and sediment. In 2000, she was brought to the surface and the research began to see if scientists could solve her mysteries. To this day, there is not a conclusive explanation as to what happened to her. The scientists have not given up. In fact, within the last 2 months she has been up righted. (For 147 years she has been resting at a 45 degree angle.) Scientist can now study the last hidden part portions of the boat. Maybe this will be the final piece to her mystery. To keep in touch with the latest on the Hunley go to www.hunley.org

We are really not all about war here in Charleston. We are city of culture and refinement. Entertainment was and is still very important to Charlestonians. Of course only the finest would do…

So we established the St. Cecilia Society in 1766. Its purpose was to bring the finest concert music available to Charleston. In this pursuit, the St. Cecilia Society was the 1st musical organization in America to have a paid orchestra. As time went along, dancing became more important and the St. Cecilia Society started to host balls. These balls were the highlight of the Charleston Social Season. It was a great embarrassment not to be invited to the St. Cecilia Ball. If you did not receive an invitation, on the evening of the ball you would close your shutters and blinds and go to bed early so that it looked to others that you were attending the ball. To this day The St. Cecilia Society is still in existence and is still holding their magnificent balls.

Theatre has been in Charleston since the early 1700’s and by the year 1735, Charlestonians decided that they need a building specifically for theatrical performances. (Previously, plays were performed in taverns.) More plays were performed in Charleston then in any other colony. The Dock Street Theater was built as the “first theater” building in America.Today, Dock Street Theatre is the home of the Charleston Stage. (For all you Criminal Minds Fans this is where Thomas Gibson got his start with the Footlight Players.)

Our pursuit of cultural intellect would not be complete without museums. In 1773, the Charleston Library Society established the Charleston Museum. (The first one in America.) Today, the museum hosts the most compressive collection of Charleston and South Carolina’s natural and cultural history artifacts.

Beauty surrounds our city. It can be found in the private gardens of the homes on the Peninsula or in the magnificent gardens of Middleton and Magnolia Plantations. Magnolia is the nation’s first private garden opened to the public in 1870. The garden has portions of it that are more than 325 years old. By opening his gardens to the world, Rev. Drayton saved his plantation from ruins after the Civil War.

What better way to enjoy the natural beauty of Charleston than by spending time on a golf course. America’s first golf course, the “South Carolina Golf Club” was established by Charlestonians in 1786. Golf was played on the common public area or village green during the 1700’s. A “forecaddie” was to go ahead of the golfers to warn those walking or riding through the village that the golfers were approaching.

Well that is it for now. Check back next month for more fun Charleston history.

Lee Ann