Castle Pinckney "Not A Death Camp"
Castle Pinckney was a small masonry fortification built by the federal government in the 1790s in Charleston Harbor, SC. Built to protect the city of Charleston, it was located about a mile off shore from Charleston on a shoal off Shutes Folly Island, and was named for the Revolutionary War hero Charles C. Pinckney. By 1860 Castle Pinckney had become obsolete, superseded by larger, more strategically placed forts.
When South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20, 1860, Castle Pinckney, Fort Moultrie, and Fort Sumter- the three federal military installations in Charleston Harbor- were considered unwanted foreign military presences by the secessionists. On December 27, the day after Union Maj. Robert Anderson secretly abandoned Fort Moultrie and moved his soldiers to the more defensible Fort Sumter, South Carolina soldiers set out to occupy both Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. Late that afternoon, three companies of sharply dressed South Carolina militiamen stormed off their boat and charged up the dock at Castle Pinckney only to find a single surprised Union officer, whom they allowed to join his comrades at Fort Sumter.
Castle Pinckney became one of the war's first prisoner-of-war camps and one of the few that was not a death camp. Its casemates were bricked up and converted to sleeping quarters for prisoners, and it was garrisoned by the Charleston Zouave Cadets, a group of elite young Charlestonians who operated their facility most effectively. The first prisoners, captured at the 1st Battle of Bull Run, were an intelligent group of New Yorkers and Michiganers, and both guards and prisoners treated one another with civility and respect. The Confederate soldiers maintained strict discipline and ensured the prisoners maintained clean and sanitary conditions. The prison was peaceful, and there is no record of a prisoner having escaped from Castle Pinckney.
Fascinating Fact: The "Castle Pinckney Brotherhood", created by the prisoners with the aid of the Confederate guards, established rules for prison life and made provisions for prison entertainment.
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