We are visiting Charleston, SC, as snowbirds. We are also meeting up with friends and family -- not native South Carolinians, but transplants from the Northeast who are living here now.
Charleston is a mid-size coastal city which is growing very quickly ... and has lots of traffic. It is known especially for its role in American history. The city was invaded and held by the British for two and a half years during the Revolutionary War. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union and of course, as everyone knows, Charleston is home to Fort Sumter, where the first shot of the Civil War was fired.
Charleston even played a tangential role in the two World Wars: A German submarine was discovered outside Charleston bay during World War I, and today its harbor provides the final berth for the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that served in the Pacific during World War II.
The USS Yorktown was named after the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, which effectively ended the American Revolution -- and resulted in the British moving out of Charleston. I didn't know this, but during the Revolution the British offered American slaves their freedom if they would turn against their owners. When the war ended, thousands of black slaves clamored aboard British ships as they left the Carolina shores. Some were brought to Canada, some were carried back to England, and others transported to Sierra Leone and Liberia in Africa.
|View of Charleston skyline from Fort Sumter|
South Carolina seceded in December 1860, after Lincoln was elected, and demanded that federal troops turn over Fort Sumter. After they refused James Buchanan, who was still president, sent a merchant ship called Star of the West to resupply the U.S. troops. When the ship arrived in January, Confederate cadets fired from the mainland, hit the ship three times, and forced the supply vessel to abandon its mission.
|Gun emplacement in Fort Sumter|
Eventually, Union forces returned to Charleston and reduced the fort to a pile of rubble; but the Confederate army held the fort until the conclusion of the war.
|The crowd on King St.|
We also visited a former slave market (now a museum), an art gallery, the College of Charleston, and then participated in Second Sunday, which has no historical significance whatsoever. But Second Sunday does have significant commercial value as King Street is closed to traffic, stores stay open, and local restaurants set up tents and tables out on the sidewalk.
Did I mention that Charleston is a dog friendly town? Many of the shoppers brought their dogs as they promenaded up and down King Street.
There's also entertainment from barbershop to bluegrass, as well as face painting, free giveaways and some sidewalk sales.
|Local bluegrass band|
But no matter where you go in Charleston, you're never far away from the modern symbol of the city -- the Ravenel Bridge, opened in 2005 to ease traffic to the suburb of Mount Pleasant and then parts north.
|Ravenel Bridge, from the Fort Sumter ferry|