The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, surrendered control of the city to Union Brigadier General Alexander Schimmelfennig at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 18, 1865. With commanding General William T. Sherman‘s arrival imminent, evacuation of the city began on February 17 and continued through the early morning hours of February 18. The city had been under siege since July 10, 1863.
A City of ruins, —silent, mournful, in deepest humiliation…The band was playing ‘Hail, Columbia,’ and the strains floated through the desolate city, awakening wild enthusiasm in the hearts of the colored people…
A Northern reporter’s description of Charleston, South Carolina, on February 18, 1865. Cited in E. B. Long with Barbara Long, Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 640.
From the Nullification Crisis of 1832-33, to passage of the First Ordinance of Secession on December 20, 1860, South Carolina played a leading role in events leading up to the Civil War. Personified by John C. Calhoun, South Carolina’s long-time senator, the state traditionally defended slavery and states rights. When Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in April 1861, few could have been surprised that events in South Carolina would push the nation into civil war.
Click on the photograph for a better view of three small African-American children clustered at the column’s base.
- President Lincoln’s uncertainty in the face of the crisis at Fort Sumter is revealed in his draft of instructions sent to the officer in command on April 4, 1861. This document is featured in Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division’s First 100 Years.
- Selected Civil War Photographs, includes many images of Charleston during the Civil War. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and his march to the sea also are included in the collection.
- Search on Charleston in Map Collections to view numerous maps of the city and its harbor as well as that of the state of South Carolina.
- View the following collections for materials in various formats:
- Band Music from the Civil War Era
- Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society External
- Civil War Maps
- The Hotchkiss Map Collection
- A Civil War Soldier in the Wild Cat Regiment : selections from the Tilton C. Reynolds Papers
- Washington during the Civil War: the Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865
- Selected Civil War Photographs and
- The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana
- Read the Today in History features on:
- General Lee’s evacuation of Richmond and his surrender to Grant;
- Military engagements at Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Nashville, and Antietam;
- Other key figures from the Civil War era such as Jefferson Davis and Mary Todd Lincoln;
- Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address