Notes from the Holy City
I got home late Friday after a much-too-brief trip to Charleston. I was there working on a project, and in making the flight arrangements the travel agent requested (among other things) my passport information. It wasn’t actually needed, buy there’s a joke in there somewhere about needing a passport to travel from the United States to South Carolina.
I didn’t take a proper camera, but I did get a few shots here and there.
My hotel was on Vendue Range, on the waterfront in South Charleston. Here it is the street in front of the hotel in 1865, and 150 years later. The brick buildings at left with the dormer windows are original.
The old U.S. Customs House in Charleston.
Wow — didn’t expect to run into this guy in Charleston. (This was a hyper-realistic sculpture, about three times life size, on display in the hotel lobby along with some other remarkable artwork.)
Visited the Old Slave Mart Museum, which is small but very well done. One slightly discordant note was that the first section breaks out into three stories — that of the enslaved person, the slave buyer, and the slave trader. The slave trader section is dominated by a huge image of Nathan Bedford Forrest, in Confederate uniform. Forrest was from Memphis, and (AFAIK) had no connection to Charleston at all. I looked, and didn’t even see Forrest mentioned by name anywhere in that section, even to identify the person in the photo. I don’t have any qualms about calling out Forrest on that account (so to speak), but he has no special relevance to the story they’re telling about Charleston; it’s not a curatorial decision I would have made.
In any case, my experience there was better than Kevin’s.
Edit: an online friend who knows Forrest’s story better than I do tells me that Forrest purchased slave “stock” in Charleston that he went on to sell in Memphis. If that had been explained in the exhibit, it would have strengthened the interpretation of Charleston’s importance in the domestic slave trade. (“Slave dealers like Nathan Bedford Forrest, from as far away as Memphis, made purchases through Charleston. . . .”). But if the exhibit said anything like that, I missed it.
The view from the pier at the end of Vendue Range, looking down the harbor. Castle Pinckney, flying a French tricoleur, stands at center, is a little under a mile away. Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island, is not discernible, but would be just to the left of Pinckney.
Informative displays on the waterfront, showing Charleston’s development over the centuries. A really superb feature; I know just the place from something like that in Galveston.
The Blossom restaurant on East Bay Street. Try the grilled mahi mahi on shrimp and rice. Seriously.
The sally port at Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island. It was this installation, surrounded by secessionist militia demanding its surrender, that Major Anderson evacuated in late December 1860, to occupy Fort Sumter in the harbor. Visiting the actual site, you can see immediately that it could not be successfully defended, particularly with the small number of men Anderson had at his command.
Fifteen-inch Rodman guns at Moultrie. These pieces were mounted here post-Civil War, and served until the time of the fort’s expansion during the Spanish Was in 1898.
View from the parapet at Moultrie, looking toward Fort Sumter, almost exactly one mile distant.
Smoothbore guns (32-pounders?), typical of the artillery mounted at Moultrie during the Civil War.
A replica gun “gin” (short for engine) at Moultrie, used for mounting and dismounting guns from their carriages.
All in all, a fantastic trip, but much too short.