archaeology


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 In addition to showing the usual array of maps and historical documents, I’ll reveal my latest conceptual drawings of what I think the old “wharf wall” looked like between the 1690s and the 1780s.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.

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.

Everyone interested in archaeology of colonial South Carolina will be pleased to know about the exciting work now under way at the “Lord Ashley Site” on the upper reaches of the Ashley River. This rural site contains the remnants of St. Giles Seigniory, a fortified plantation established by Andrew Percivall in 1675 on behalf of his employer, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. Percivall maintained this frontier outpost for only a decade, and Sir Anthony never visited the site, but the recently rediscovered remains of the plantation house and moat provide an unparalleled opportunity to study the earliest interaction between English settlers and Native Americans in South Carolina. The dig is being conducted as part of a bi-annual College of Charleston field school in historical archaeology.

Want to learn more about this fascinating discovery? The rural dig site is not open to the public, but everyone is welcome to witness the progress over the next few weeks by pointing their browsers to the official Lord Ashley Site blog: http://lordashleysite.wordpress.com. Principal investigator Andrew Agha and others digging at the Lord Ashley Site will give you first-hand accounts (and photographs) of what they find each day.

Following the 2008 and 2009 excavations of the colonial-era redan at the east end of Tradd Street (now South Adger’s Wharf), the Mayor’s Walled City Task Force began planning with the City of Charleston to depict the outline of the redan’s foundation on the present landscape. After considering and dismissing several methods and materials for accomplishing this goal, Mayor Joseph P. Riley insisted that brick should be used in order to render the outline as visible and as durable as possible. Some months ago Charleston Museum’s archaeologist Martha Zierden used spray-paint to touch up the series of pink dots on the road surface that indicate the outline of the redan’s inner and outer faces. This morning workers used masonry saws to connect those dots, and removed the asphalt and cobblestones between the inscribed lines. In the coming days, we’ll see the finished effect–a handsome brick pathway that follows the precise outline of the redan’s walls, which remain standing just two feet below the modern surface. The public is invited to visit South Adger’s Wharf and view the new work. If you can’t make it down to the site, enjoy these photos taken by task force co-chair, Katherine Saunders Pemberton, earlier today.  480822_10151683727331264_1591341619_n943555_10151683729741264_2075123487_n

For those of you who were unable to attend the recent program discussing the graves found at the Gaillard Center, I’m pleased to announce that a video of the entire event is now available online. You can watch it at Youtube.com, or right here:

At the end of last week’s program, Dr. Eric Poplin, the leader of the team from Brockington and Associates that excavated the graves, agreed to return to the Charleston County Public Library after further laboratory research has been completed. Stay tuned–the follow-up event will probably take place towards the end of 2013.

We owe a special thanks to Dr. Eric Poplin for sharing his work with the Charleston community, and to CCPL’s own Kevin Crothers for creating and editing the video documentation.

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