Charleston Surrenders

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 Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861-1865, by E. B. Long with Barbara Long. (New York: Doubleday, 1971), 640.

Charleston, S.C. St. Michael’s Church. George N. Barnard, photographer, April 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

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.

Charleston, S.C. View of ruined buildings through porch of the Circular Church (150 Meeting Street). George N.Barnard, photographer, April 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

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