Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Charleston

From volume V of the work.
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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:—

1873. 1874. 1875.
 Cotton, Upland . . . . . . . . . . bales
      ”      Sea Island . . . . . .   ”   
 Rice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . tierces
 Naval stores, spirits . . . . . casks
           ”            rosin . . . . .
 Phosphate, raw . . . . . . . . . tons
      ”           manufactured   ”   
 Timber . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . feet
368,710  425,394  409,724 
17,418  11,362  10,223 
48,943  43,667  46,796 
40,000  41,000  50,265 
185,683  180,000  225,957 
49,838  56,413  51,546 
56,298  46,302  49,500 
 21,000,000   21,000,000    5,242,238 

Of the total shipments of cotton during the year ending August 31, 1875, 264,305 bales were sent to foreign, and 154,869 to home ports. The large quantities of bone phosphate annually shipped are obtained in the vicinity of the city, where the richest deposits of this material in the United States have been discovered. A valuable fertilizer is manufactured from the phosphate. During the year ending June 30, 1875, 236 vessels, of 102,023 tons, entered in the foreign trade, and 268, of 119,274 tons, cleared; 504 vessels, of 382,018 tons, entered, and 461, of 328,266 tons, cleared in the coastwise trade. The number of vessels registered, enrolled, and licensed was 185, of 12,051 tons. The manufactures of Charleston are of inferior importance compared with its commerce. Among the most important industries are the manufacture of fertilizers from phosphate, in which more than $2,000,000 is invested, and the preparation of rice for market by removing the husk, cleaning, &c. There are three rice mills in the city, where a large part of the rice crop of South Carolina and Georgia is cleaned. The manufacture of sulphuric acid is extensively carried on in connection with the phosphate industry. Charleston has an extensive wholesale trade in dry goods, boots and shoes, clothing, hats and caps, drugs and medicines, &c. The city has three national, four State, and five savings banks. Three railroads have their termini here,—the North-Eastern, extending to Florence; the South Carolina, to Augusta, Ga.; and the Savannah and Charleston. The Santee canal, 22 miles long, connects Charleston with the Santee River. The city is divided into eight wards, and is governed by a mayor and eighteen aldermen. It has an excellent fire department and an efficient police system. Among the public charitable institutions are the city orphan house, the catholic orphan asylum, the almshouse, the asylum for the aged and infirm, the city hospital, and the asylum for coloured orphans. In 1874 the school population was 12,727 of whom 3291 white and 2221 coloured children were attending the public schools. There were 75 teachers employed, of whom all were white, and all, except four, were females. The public schools are graded as primary, grammar, and high. There is also a normal school for girls. The higher institutions of learning are the College of Charleston, founded in 1785, which has a faculty of five and an excellent museum; and the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, opened in 1832, which has a faculty of eight and a valuable pathological and anatomical museum. The Charleston library was founded in 1748, and has about 15,000 volumes. There are published in the city fifteen newspapers and periodicalsfour daily, two thrice a week, four weekly, two fortnightly, two monthly, and one quarterly. The city contains 39 churches, the most noted edifices being St Michael's, built in 1752, and St Philip's, both Episcopal.

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.