In October 2013 Charleston’s Post and Courier ran a front-page story about my research on the “Horn Work,” a large tabby fortification that once straddled King Street and served as the gateway into the town.  As a result of that press coverage, we had a very large turnout for my 2013 “Horn Work” presentation at CCPL. In case you missed that event, we’re offering two ways to catch up on your knowledge of Charleston’s largest fortification. First, you can watch last year’s presentation at your leisure via the following YouTube link:

Second, I’m presenting an updated version of this lecture at CCPL on Wednesday, October 22nd at 6 p.m. What’s new for 2014? I’ve been tinkering with my three-dimensional model of the Horn Work in an effort to render its size and materials more accurately. I’ve also gathered some new information from the British Library about Lt. Col. Henry Bouquet‘s role in convincing the South Carolina General Assembly to fund the construction of this important fortification project. Bouquet arrived in Charleston in mid-June 1757 as commander of the first battalion of the newly-formed 60th Regiment of Foot, better known as the “Royal Americans.” Bouquet’s surviving correspondence also reveals that in August 1757 he sent an illustrated plan of Charleston’s new fortifications to his superior officer, John Campbell, the 4th Earl of Loudoun. Many of the earl’s papers from the era of the “French and Indian War” survive in scattered archives, so I’ve begun a search for this forgotten 1757 treasure.

Archival sources at the British Library also provide “new” information about Lieutenant Emanuel Hess, the young Swiss engineer who accompanied the “Royal Americans” to South Carolina in 1757. Within a period of less than six months, Lieutenant Hess designed a series of new fortifications for Charleston, James Island, and Beaufort. After supervising the initial stages of these construction projects, Lt. Hess and the rest of the Royal Americans sailed from Charleston to Philadelphia in the late spring of 1758. Lt. Col. Bouquet then marched his troops towards the French at Fort Duquesne, but Lt. Hess fell ill and was left behind in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There he died of tuberculosis and was buried on 22 February 1759.

If you’d like to learn more about Lieutenant’s Hess’s “Horn Work” in Charleston, and the other fortifications he designed for South Carolina, please join me for a program titled:

“The Horn Work: Charleston’s Tabby Fortress, 1757–1784″

Time: Wednesday, October 22nd 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

William De Brahm’s tenure in South Carolina was as dramatic as it was brief. Within a period of five years between 1752 and 1757 he drafted several different audaciously sophisticated plans for fortifying urban Charleston, charmed the doubting General Assembly, and ultimately roused the contempt of most of his supporters. Along the way he left a paper trail that provides fascinating insight into the most intensive period of fortification construction in pre-Revolutionary Charleston.

The German-born De Brahm initially came to British North America to work as a surveyor for the colony of Georgia, but South Carolina’s governor, James Glen, lured him to move to Charleston with promises of a lucrative contract to design and build fortifications for the port town. Although Governor Glen’s scheme was initially rebuked by the South Carolina legislature, the outbreak of fresh hostilities Between Britain and France—what we now call the French and Indian War—convinced our politicians of the urgent need to repair and expand Charleston’s aging fortifications.

De Brahm's ca. 1755 plan included a fortified canal connecting the Ashley and Cooper Rivers

De Brahm’s ca. 1755 plan for a fortified canal connecting the Ashley and Cooper Rivers

De Brahm’s designs for fortifying Charleston survive among archival collections at the National Archive of the United Kingdom and at the British Library. A total of six drawings survive, illustrating De Brahm’s proposed defensive works for urban Charleston, Fort Johnson on James Island, and a “Fortified Canal across the Neck from Ashley to Cooper River.” From these documents we see not only De Brahm’s considerable skill as a draftsman, but also the depth of his training and understanding of the science of military architecture.

Encouraged by Governor Glen and finally approved by the General Assembly, De Brahm commenced work in 1755 to transform the peninsula of Charleston into the most sophisticated military enceinte in British North America. If he had completed this project, Charleston would have become an island, separated from “the neck” of the peninsula by a fortified canal flanked by two small forts. But De Brahm’s work dragged on at a snail’s pace while the war with France move increasingly northward. By 1757 it was clear that the Canadian frontier was the epicenter of the war, and the perceived need for coastal defenses in South Carolina diminished. De Brahm’s elaborate new works for Charleston were already behind schedule and over budget, and in 1757 he learned that his services were no longer needed in South Carolina.

Fortunately for us, De Brahm left a robust paper trail of his activities in South Carolina. Many (but not all) of the drawings he made in Charleston survive in British archives, and in 1773 De Brahm presented an illustrated summary of his work in South Carolina and elsewhere to his ultimate employer, King George III. From these records, combined with accounts and descriptions in the surviving legislative records of colonial South Carolina, we can learn much about the ambitious efforts to expand Charleston’s fortifications in the 1750s. This era forms one of the most fascinating and well-documented chapters in the fortification history of urban Charleston, and the projects set in motion by De Brahm had long-lasting ramifications for the growth of the city’s built environment.

If you’d like to learn more more about this topic, please join me next week for an illustrated program titled:

“William De Brahm’s Fortification Plans

for Charleston, 1752–1757″

Time: Wednesday, September 24th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

Fort Washington, erected in late 1814 at the east end of the "The Lines" of Charleston.

Fort Washington, erected in late 1814 at the east end of the “The Lines” of Charleston.

Technically speaking, the mission of the Mayor’s Walled City Task Force is to raise awareness about the colonial-era fortifications erected in urban Charleston. But I’ll go out on a limb for a moment and guess that readers of this blog might also be interested in learning about some of Charleston’s post-colonial fortifications. Shortly after Britain and France declared war on each other in 1793, the South Carolina government began erecting new fortifications (such as Fort Mechanic in 1794 and Fort Pinckney in 1798) to protect Charleston against possible incursions of either of these dueling nations. As the United States drifted towards war with Britain in the early nineteenth century, local leaders took further steps to defend our port city. Besides improving Charleston’s existing harbor defenses (consisting of forts Johnson, Moultrie, and Pinckney), our intrepid citizens erected in 1814 a significant line of earthwork and brick fortifications across the “neck” of the peninsula, connecting the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. This half-mile-long, zig-zag entrenchment and moat was intended to defend the city against any hostile attempts to attack the city from the north, as the British army had done in the spring of 1780.

This September we commemorate the 200th anniversary of that forgotten line of fortifications. No trace of “The Lines,” as they were commonly called, survives above the surface of modern Charleston, but our modern Line Street marks the site of this once-formidable barrier. I’ve written a few more words about the history of these War of 1812 fortifications at my other blog, The Charleston Time Machine, and I’ll be presenting an overview of the construction of “The Lines” next week. If you’d like to learn more about this little-known fortification episode in the history of our fair city, please join me for an illustrated program titled:

“The Bicentennial of Charleston’s

Line Street, 1814–2014″

Time: Wednesday, September 10th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

 

 

A map of Charleston's new northern wall of 1745, and the town's second gate (in yellow) at the modern intersection of Market and King Streets.

Charleston’s new northern wall of 1745 (red) and its moat (blue), and the town’s second gate (yellow) at the modern intersection of Market and King Streets.

For most of our colonial era, visitors walking or riding into urban Charleston by land had but one avenue of entry: the so-called “high road” or “broad path” that we now call King Street. Between late 1703 and the early 1730s, the entrance into town was controlled by a ravelin and gate at what is now the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets. Following the outbreak of a new war between Britain and Spain in 1739, the so-called “War of Jenkins’ Ear,” our provincial legislature commenced building new fortifications around the perimeter of Charleston.

The culmination of this defensive project was the completion ca. 1745 of a new earthen wall and moat measuring approximately 3,400 linear feet along the town’s northern boundary, with a new gate in the center of the line. Beginning at its eastern flank, the wall commenced with a battery or bastion next to a marsh at the modern intersection of Market and Church Streets and ran westward approximately 2,000 feet to another bastion at the intersection of what is now Market Street and Beaufain Street (then the town’s northern boundary). From that point the wall turned southwestwardly and ran approximately 700 feet to a third bastion at the modern intersection of Magazine and Franklin Streets. There the wall turned again and headed nearly due south a further 700 feet or so, terminating in a tidal inlet extending from the Ashley River.

By tracing this fortification path on a modern map, as seen in the photo above, we are reminded that the land mass of the Charleston peninsula has grown quite a bit since the 1740s thanks to various landfill projects. The eastern and southwestern ends of this wall were once connected to muddy tidal inlets that provided the town with natural barriers against any invading forces. Thus between its construction in 1745 and its demotion in 1765, this northern wall and moat funneled all traffic in and out of the town through a single portal—a ravelin with two drawbridges and a gate located at the modern intersection of Market and King Streets. This “New Gate,” as it was briefly known, was the second and shortest-lived of Charleston’s three colonial-era town gates. No visible reminders of it appear on our modern landscape, and there are no markers to commemorate its long-forgotten existence. If you have ever walked along Market Street between Church and Archdale Streets, however, you’ve actually walked along the broad moat fronting this 1740s fortification wall.

If you’d like to learn more about Charleston’s new fortifications of the 1740s, please join me Wednesday evening, August 27th, for a program titled:

“Fortifying Charleston during the

War of Jenkins’ Ear, 1739–1748″

Time: Wednesday, August 27th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

A 1780 illustration of Broughton's Battery at the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula

A 1780 illustration of Broughton’s Battery at the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula

Nearly a year an a half ago, in April 2013, I presented a lecture on Broughton’s Battery, a formidable brick fortification that stood at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers from 1736 to 1784. At that time I proposed that this little-known work, which was designed by Swiss engineer Gabriel Bernard, was one of the largest and most significant fortifications constructed in colonial Charleston. It was designed to mount up to forty cannon, although South Carolina’s artillery-starved colonial militia could scarcely afford to mount more than 25 or 30 guns at the site. Unfortunately for us, there is scant extant information about the battery’s design and precise location. Since April 2013, however, I’ve gathered a lot more information about the history of the real estate immediately surrounding the battery, which will help us determine its location more exactly. I’ve also acquired a couple of new, informative images. The image displayed here, for example, is a very small detail from a hand-drawn 1780 map of Charleston’s defenses, the original of which is in the National Archives of the United Kingdom. In short, we know a lot more about Broughton’s Battery in July 2014 than we did a year and a half ago. Want to hear all the latest news? Please join me Wednesday, July 23d for:

“A Brief History of

Broughton’s Battery, 1736–1784″

Time: Wednesday, July 23th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

Detail from John Muller's 1757 fortification treatise, The Attac and Defense of Fortified Places

Detail from a profile of an earthen entrenchment and ditch, from John Muller’s 1757 fortification treatise, The Attac and Defense of Fortified Places

Earthen walls and moats (or ditches) go hand-in-hand in the history of military architecture, and the same was true in colonial Charleston. At this month’s Walled City lecture, I’ll discuss the evidence—both documentary and physical—of the first system of earthen walls and the associated moat that protected the north, west, and south sides of Charleston from late 1703 to ca. 1734. Very little information about these walls survives, but we can attempt to fill in the blanks in our knowledge by taking lessons from the fortification textbooks of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Such textbooks, including those published by John Muller in the 1740s and 1750s, provide instructions for laying out all sorts of fortifications, and provide very useful formulas and tables for calculating the height, breadth, and slope of walls, as well as the depth and breath of moats. Armed with this knowledge of eighteenth-century “best practices” in fortification construction, we can attempt to postulate the scale, and predict the location, of Charleston’s early earthen walls and the first moat that surrounded the town.

If you’re envisioning towering, forbidding walls, you’ll be disappointed to learn that our walls were probably in the range of seven to ten feet high, and perhaps only twice that size in breath. There is a tendency in Charleston to exaggerate the size of these walls when describing them to visitors, but the truth is we desperately need additional evidence in order to make more accurate estimates. Even a small scrap of physical evidence would be amazingly useful, but unfortunately the town’s early walls were reduced to a mere stain in the ground nearly three hundred years ago. Perhaps future archaeology will provide much-needed clues, but in the meantime we’ll have to make the most of the available data and use our historically-informed imaginations. If you’d like to learn more about the evidence of Charleston’s first moat and its early earthen walls, please join me for the next Walled City lecture titled:

“The Earthen Walls Surrounding

Charleston, 1703–ca. 1734″

Time: Wednesday, June 25th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

 

 

Determining the location and the scope of the remnants of Craven’s Bastion is not as easy as studying those of Granville’s Bastion. Significant portions of the latter bastion remain standing under the Missroon Building at 40 East Bay Street, while the foundations of the former are obscured by large-scale nineteenth century construction. In short, it’s very difficult to pinpoint the precise location of Craven’s Bastion, and, without engaging in some very destructive excavation, it may be impossible to determine if any of its brick foundations remain below the modern street scape. Nevertheless, the historical record provides some valuable clues that offer hope for determining the approximate location of this once-formidable fortification.

Craven’s Bastion was conceived in late 1703, but its construction dragged on for several years because of the general demand for bricks for the various fortification projects then underway in Charleston. It formed the northeast corner of the “walled city” of early Charleston, one half a mile north of Granville’s Bastion, and stood until the summer of 1789. As the last vestige of the city’s colonial fortifications to be demolished, Craven’s Bastion was surveyed and platted on several occasions because it formed an obstruction in the city’s post-colonial efforts to widen and straighten the northward extension of East Bay Street. The existence of several plats illustrating the growth of that street around—and then over—the vestiges of the bastion allows us to determine, with a moderate degree of confidence, the approximate location and size of this lost defensive work.

A 1789 plat of Craven's Bastion superimposed on a recent satellite image of the U.S. Custom House on East Bay Street, showing the approximate size and location of the bastion.

A 1789 plat of Craven’s Bastion superimposed on a recent satellite image of the U.S. Custom House on East Bay Street, showing the approximate size and location of the bastion.

Most of Craven’s Bastion is now under the expansive granite steps leading from East Bay Street to the west facade of the United States Custom House (built 1859–79). That site, once a mud flat washed by the tides, was filled with hundreds of wooden piles during the construction of the Custom House. Thus it is likely that the majority of the remnants of Craven’s Bastion were obliterated during the third quarter of the nineteenth century. The foundations of the westernmost part of the bastion, including its entry gate and a two-story brick residence, however, might still survive. Those portions probably lie under the broad concrete sidewalk on the east side of East Bay Street, and probably extend into the street itself. As the image to your right illustrates, a person pausing on the sidewalk to read the bronze bastion marker mounted on the south pillar of the Custom House steps is potentially standing a few feet from the gateway into the old bastion. Permission for an exploratory excavation of this site might be impossible to obtain, but the use of ground-penetrating radar technology might reveal the outline of the bastion under the sidewalk.

If you’d like to learn more about the colorful history of Craven’s Bastion, please join me for a presentation next week titled:

“A Brief History of Craven’s Bastion, 1703–1789″

Time: Wednesday, May 28th 2014 at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Second Floor Classroom, Charleston County Public Library, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

For more information, please contact Dr. Butler at butlern[at]ccpl.org or 843–805–6968.

 

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