Monday, May 13, 2013


On our second day in Charleston, we took the ferry to Fort Sumter.  I hadn't realized that it is on a tiny island in the bay.
Sights in Charleston Harbor:

Shots fired from this fort on April 12, 1861, are considered to be the start of the Civil War.
A ring of flags represents the different periods for the fort:
I especially liked the various star configurations for Old Glory:
The island is really just big enough for the fort and a small strip of land that serves as a buffer:
The walls of the fort are five feet thick in most places, and even thicker than that in others:
Should you happen to look down a cannon barrel, this is what you will see:

A 10-inch mortar similar to this one fired the signal shot on April 12, 1861.  This tiny little cannon has a range of 2225 yards, well over a mile:
It was a blustery day. I'm guessing that's what it usually is out there on the water:
A small museum includes the flag that flew over the fort during the initial siege.  Confederate General Beauregard allowed Federal forces to take this flag with them when they evacuated:
This Palmetto Guard Flag, the first flag Confederates raised over Sumter, replaced the stars and stripes.

We have seen many war sites as we have traveled the world, and it was sobering to see the place where Americans began fighting against each other.

In the afternoon we were back in Charlotte, and we appreciated the historical tips we saw throughout town:

We also enjoyed the fun Southern atmosphere:

Unlike many other places we have been, most of the city's churches were not open to tourists.  We would have liked to see the interior of this Huguenot church, the only such church we have ever seen:
We were also intrigued by this Circular Congregational Church, founded in 1681.  The original building was designed in 1805 by the same architect who drew the plans for the Washington Monument, but it burned in the Great Fire of 1861 and was later rebuilt in its original round shape.
Like the colonial churches of Boston and New York City, the churches of Charleston have wonderful old cemeteries that are perfect for haunting by the spirits of those buried there:
I wish I knew the story of these sisters buried here under a joint headstone. As only one birthdate is given, I'm guessing they were twins.

The St. Philip's Church graveyard includes the tomb of Charles Pinckney, signer of the U.S. Consitution, and Edward Rutledge, who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Dear Nieces and Nephews, FYI, I expect you to erect a monument like this near my grave:
My favorite church (maybe because it is the only one we got inside) was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Like many other buildings in Charleston, the first structure burned down in the fire of 1861. It was rebuilt from 1890-1907 on the same foundation using plans by the same architect. The steeple was not added until 2010:
The exterior looks somewhat like the LDS Temple in Salt Lake City. Both buildings are of a neo-Gothic design:

The stained glass windows, which really took us by surprise, are what make this church so spectacular. The windows were made by Franz Meyer and Company of Munich, Germany, and are as fine as many of the stained glass windows we have seen in Europe:
Details from the above nativity scene:

The boy Jesus in the temple (left) and John declaring the divinity of Christ (right):

The Lamb of God (left) and Christ with the children (right):

The Sermon on the Mount (left) and the Mount of Transfiguration (right:)

Baptism by John in the upper window, and the Last Supper below:
{Fuzzy} Detail of the Last Supper:

The Crucifixion:
Detail from window above:
I was especially drawn to this dozing soldier at the food of the cross in one of the windows.  He looks just like I feel sometimes, but I have to wonder how he could be sleeping during such a significant event:

Charleston is definitely a brilliant little gem.  It would be an interesting and relaxing place to spend a week.  We need to go back some day just for the purpose of getting into all of those churches we missed!  (Okay, we also need to go back to sample more of the Southern cooking.)

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is historical fiction set partly in pre-Civil War Charleston. It tells the story of the childhood and coming of age of the Grimke sisters, major figures in both the abolition movement and the women's movement. Their stories are tied to the stories of the slaves owned by their traditionally Southern parents, and in particular to one slave called Handful, who is about the age of Sarah, the older of the two Grimke sisters. Handful is a fictional character, but many other characters in the book are historical, including Denmark Vesey, Lucretia Mott, Theodore Weld, William Lloyd Garrison, and John Greenleaf Whittier.

While not always completely accurate, the book is nevertheless a very interesting look into anti-slavery movements and Southern abolitionists dating back to the 1820s, and Charleston sights, events, and citizens figure prominently in the story.


  1. Charleston is one of my favorite destinations so far in the U.S. You could easily spend three or four days eating great food and seeing great destinations.

  2. I love all of those flags, and the churches with their soaring heights and beautiful stained glass must have reminded you somewhat of Europe.

  3. It's always fun to take a history tour with you on your travels, and this is no exception. I've never been to Charleston, but will have to add it to my (ever growing) list. Wonderful post--I, too, love those stained glass windows.