Charleston "Defiant To The Last"
The gay, old, romantic city of Charleston, SC, seemed determined not to let the Civil War curtail its active social life. As long as blockade runners slipped out of port with cargoes of cotton and returned with champagne and luxury goods, members of the city's upper crust managed to maintain their old way of life. Boatloads of pretty girls dressed in satin rode out to Fort Sumter in the middle of Charleston Harbor and danced the night away on the parade ground. On city piazzas and in the ballrooms of country mansions, many a young officer clad in a dazzling uniform "with his leave in his pocket and his heart on his sleeve' was entertained in a world vastly different from that faced by their comrades on distant battlefields.
The realities of war and wartime economy only slowly grasped the city. With the September 1863 capture by Union forces of Morris Island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, blockade running was seriously hampered and shortages of material goods began to be felt by the rich as well as the poor. Soon Union cannon began firing on the city itself. A historical section of the town, devastated by the incessant shelling, had to be evacuated. Ten shells crashed into venerable St. Phillips Church, whose steeple had been used to sight the Yankee guns. Shells also pounded Fort Sumter and reduced the structure to a large pile of rubble.
The proud city withstood all that the Yankee cannon and ships could inflict upon it and held out defiantly to the very end. Only after Union Gen. William T. Sherman's armies marched through the interior of the state and threatened to cut off Charleston's garrison from the rest of the Confederacy did the Southern soldiers evacuate the city. The Union troops that quickly marched in found only a shadow of what Charleston had once been. Bushes and weeds grew in the rubble-strewn streets that their artillery had devastated for more than a year, and gaunt, weary faces had replaced the charming smiles that had entertained the Southern soldiers.
Fascinating Fact: The 130 blockade runners that successfully steamed out of Charleston between July 1, 1861, and March 30, 1863, carried 32,050 bales of cotton valued at $3,054,476.
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