Looking north along the east face of Granville's Bastion

Looking north along the east face of Granville’s Bastion

Last week I had an opportunity to visit Granville’s Bastion, under the Missroon House (headquarters of the Historic Charleston Foundation) at 40 East Bay Street, with Walled City Task Force co-chair, Katherine Pemberton. With the aid of a couple of shop lights, a tape measure, and a compass, we were able to take a number of photos and measurements that will aid our future efforts to document and re-imagine the former appearance of this late-seventeenth-century structure. As you can see in the photo here, a significant portion of the bastion’s once-mighty walls remain intact under the Missroon House, even after the bastion was razed to street level in 1785. In fact, nearly the entire length of its east face, measuring approximately ninety feet from south to north, still stands approximately four feet above the sand. Using plats and descriptions dating from the 1690s to the 1990s, in conjunction with these physical remains, there is still much to learn about the design and construction of this historic structure.

Want to learn more about Granville’s Bastion, the brick “fortress” that guarded the southeast corner of colonial Charleston? Please join me for a free program at the Charleston County Public Library titled:

“Granville’s Bastion, 1696–1785: Charleston’s First Brick Fortress.”

Time: Wednesday, March 26th 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.

In the autumn of 2012 I presented a lecture illustrating the rise and fall of Charleston “wharf wall” or “curtain line,” a massive brick line of fortification stretching nearly 2,600 feet along the colonial town’s Cooper River waterfront. Since that time the Walled City Task Force has located and exposed a small portion of that wall, and I’ve refined my theories about its design and appearance.  Later this month, on February 26th 2014, I’ll continue our monthly series of “Walled City” lectures by presenting an updated history of this important feature of colonial Charleston. In addition to showing the usual array of maps and historical documents, I’ll reveal my latest conceptual drawings of what I think the old “wharf wall” looked like between the 1690s and the 1780s. If you’d like to learn more about this topic—the longest standing and most expensive part of Charleston’s colonial fortifications—please join us for a free lecture at the Charleston County Public Library:

Charleston’s “Wharf Wall”:

Frontline of our Colonial Fortifications”

Time: Wednesday, February 26th 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.

Missed a Walled City program in 2013? Have no fear–I’m going to repeat the entire series in 2014! Each month I’ll present a different lecture on a specific feature of Charleston’s colonial fortifications, fresh with updated conclusions and new digital bells and whistles. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find a one-page description of the twelve-part series. Feel free to download and share this flyer. Remember to check this blog site each month to learn the date and time of each program–there may be a few scheduling changes down the road.

Our first 2014 program, on Wednesday, January 22nd, will provide an overview of the first century of Charleston’s fortifications, when the town’s urban landscape was dominated by defensive walls, moats, drawbridges, and cannons. These features dictated the growth of the town, but the story of their evolution and expansion between the 1680s and the 1780s isn’t yet found in any history books. Please join us for this free event!

“The Urban Fortifications of Colonial Charleston, 1680–1789″

Time: Wednesday, January 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.

2014 Fortification Lectures (PDF file)

2014 Fortification Lectures (PDF file)

Last month’s “Walled City” program focused on one specific structure—the “Horn Work” that straddled King Street between 1757 and 1784. That large fortification served as the centerpiece of Charleston’s counterattack during the British siege of 1780, but it was just a small part of the town’s defenses. Between the autumn of 1775 and the spring of 1780, local forces erected an expansive network of fortifications that literally surrounded the town (excepting only marshes considered “impassable”). The materials used to construct these works ( including brick, tabby, palmettos, and earth) and their locations reflect the defensive strategy conceived by the American forces in anticipation of an inevitable British attack. Despite these preparations, the town’s defenses were overpowered by the British Army in May 1780, and the fortifications lingered in disrepair until the end of the war in 1783.

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, please join Dr. Nic Butler and the Walled City Task Force for an illustrated survey titled

“Charleston’s Fortifications of the American Revolution, 1775-1783″

Time: Monday, November 25th 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 a 1777 map of Charleston harbor

Detail from a 1777 map of Charleston harbor

Ever wondered about the story behind that slab of tabby standing inside an iron fence in Marion Square? Well, you’re not alone. For Charlestonians and tourists alike, that curious mass of oyster-shell cement seems to defy explanation. A small iron plaque from the 1880s provides the only clue to its history: “Remnant of Horn Work. May 1780. Siege of Charleston.” Those few words provide but a paltry testimonial of the importance and scale of what was once a major part of Charleston’s fortification history. That slab of tabby, measuring approximately six feet high and nearly ten feet long, is just a very small part of what was once a five to seven acre fortification that served both as the town gate, straddling King Street, and the centerpiece of Charleston’s defenses during the British siege of 1780. It’s actually a textbook example of a Horn Work—a type of fortification characterized by a pair of half-bastions or “horns” connected by a central curtain line. The foundation of the entire eastern half of the Horn Work lies just below the grassy surface of Marion Square, while the other half is now covered by buildings on the west side of King Street.

Horn_Work_flyer_2013Care to learn more about the Horn Work? Please join Dr. Nic Butler, public historian at the Charleston County Public Library, for an illustrated history of this “tabby fortress” from its creation in 1757 to its demolition in 1784. Information drawn from colonial descriptions, period illustrations, and recent archaeology, provide sufficient information to re-imagine the Horn Work in an exciting new three-dimensional rendering. Please join the Walled City Task Force for an exploration of its history, and become an advocate for the improved interpretation and protection of this important city landmark.

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

Time: Wednesday, October  23rd at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

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

Elevation of Broughton's Battery, north side, by William De Brahm, July 1757

Elevation of Broughton’s Battery, north side, by William De Brahm, July 1757

The most elaborate and extensive plans for fortifying colonial Charleston were drafted by William De Brahm in the 1750s, during what we now call the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years’ War. De Brahm, a German engineer working for the British government, created at least three separate plans for enclosing the town in a complex system of walls and moats, each of which was hotly debated by the South Carolina legislature. Surviving copies of his plans depict massive defensive works that our colony could scarcely afford, and therein lies the root of De Brahm’s ultimate failure to complete his fortification plans for Charleston.

If you’d like to learn more about this interesting episode in Charleston’s fortification history, and see reproductions of De Brahm’s plans, please join Dr. Nic Butler for a program entitled

“William De Brahm’s Fortification Plans For Charleston, 1752–1757″

Time: Saturday, September 21st at 1:00 p.m.

Place: 2nd 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.

Charleston's new northern town wall, erected in 1745–1746

Charleston’s new northern town wall, erected in 1745–1746

One of the most significant, but little-known chapters in Charleston’s fortification history took place during a protracted war between Britain and Spain (and later France) from 1739 to 1748. Known by various names including the “War of Austrian Succession” and” King George’s War,” the name “War of Jenkins’ Ear” is usually applied to the early, North American and Caribbean phrase of the conflict. By the mid-1730s most South Carolinans realized that a new war with our Spanish neighbors in Florida was inevitable. After dismantling much of Charleston’s fortifications during the peacetime of the early 1730s, however, our colonial legislature was obliged to build a new system of defensive works after Britain declared war against Spain in 1739. You’re invited to join CCPL’s public historian, Dr. Nic Butler, for an illustrated investigation of these hastily-constructed works, and to learn how they represent an important maturing episode in Charleston’s early life as a “walled city.”

Fortifying Charleston during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, 1739-1748

Time: Wednesday, August 28th at 6:00 p.m., 2nd 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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