Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Charleston
CHARLESTON, a city, a seaport, and the capital of Charleston county, South Carolina, United States, is situated in 32° 45′ N. lat. and 79° 57′ W. long. It stands upon a flat tongue of land pointing south-eastward between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, which here debouche into a spacious harbour extending about 7 miles south-east to the Atlantic, with an average width of two miles. The harbour is surrounded by land on all sides except the entrance, which is about one mile wide and 18 feet deep. The water in the harbour, however, is very much deeper, and the work of increasing the depth of the entrance is in progress. Fronting the Atlantic, and extending northwards, is Sullivan's Island, about six miles long; and on the other side of the entrance is Morris Island which stretches to the southward. Both islands are penetrated by channels. The harbour is well defended,—at its entrance by Forts Sumter and Moultrie, and inside by Castle Pinckney and Fort Ripley.
Owing to the lowness of the ground on which it is built, Charleston presents a peculiarly picturesque appearance from the harbour. Its spires and public buildings seem to rise out of the sea, while the richness of the surrounding foliage gives the place a particularly engaging aspect. Its proximity to the ocean tends materially to the equalization of the climate. In June 1874 the mean temperature in January was 52° 1′, in June 81°, in July 79° 3′, and in August 79° 1′. The maximum temperature (96°) occurred in June, and the minimum (27°) in January. The city covers an area of about five square miles, and has a water front of about nine miles. The streets are regularly laid out, and are generally well paved and lighted with gas. King Street and Meeting Street, the two chief avenues of the city, extend in nearly parallel lines, and are intersected by the shorter cross streets, which run between Ashley and Cooper rivers. There is little uniformity in the buildings, and there is a want of public squares and places; but many of the residences are surrounded with spacious ornamental grounds, which, with the numerous shade trees of all kinds, give the city a picturesque appearance. The most noted public buildings are the city orphan house, which has extensive grounds, the city hall, the custom-house, the arsenal, the court-house, and the Academy of Music, a theatre, which is esteemed one of the best in the southern States. The population of Charleston has increased from 18,711 in 1800 to 42,985 in 1850, to 40,519 in 1860, to 48,956 in 1870 (of whom 22,749 were coloured and 4892 foreigners), and to 56,540 in 1875 (of whom 32,012 were coloured).
Charleston is one of the leading commercial cities of the South, being the outlet for a very rich rice and cotton producing country, and a point of supply for an extensive territory embracing South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The commerce consists chiefly of exports. During the year ending June 30, 1875, the foreign commerce comprised exports to the value of $19,655,966, and imports valued at $680,343. Included in the exports there were 265,410 bales of cotton, valued at $18,709,949. Besides this foreign commerce there is an extensive trade in cotton, rice, naval stores, phosphate, and lumber, which are shipped in large quantities to ports of the United States. The extent of the commerce in these articles will be indicated by the following statement of the quantities received in Charleston from the interior for shipment for a series of years ending August 31:—
Charleston was founded about 1680 by English colonists who had come over with William Sayle. As early as 1670 they had settled a few miles distant from the site of the present city at a place which they named Charleston. The new village soon began to flourish, while the original settlement dwindled away and disappeared. During the revolutionary war two unsuccessful attempts were made by the British forces to take Charleston,—the first by Sir Peter Parker and Sir Henry Clinton in 1776, and the second by General Prevost in 1779. After a siege of several weeks, the city was taken in May 1780 by a force under Sir Henry Clinton, but it was evacuated by the British in December 1782. In the recent civil war between the Northern and the Southern States Charleston was the scene of the first hostilities, which commenced April 12, 1861, with the bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Confederate General Beauregard. After the surrender of the Fort the Confederates took possession of the city, and held it until February 1865. In April 1863 a naval attack was made upon the fortifications in the harbour by a Federal fleet of nine iron-clads commanded by Admiral Du Pont. This effort, however, proved unsuccessful, as was also a land attack made by General Gillmore in July ensuing. The advance of General Sherman's army through South Carolina, and the fall of Columbia, the capital of the State, led to the evacuation of Charleston by the Confederates on the 17th of February 1865. The public buildings, cotton warehouses, stores, shipping, &c., had previously been fired by order of the general in command. From this and other causes the city suffered much injury during the war; but since its close many new buildings have been erected, and there has been marked commercial and industrial progress.
(e. s. d.)