History comes alive during a walk through Charleston. Stroll along the promenade of the Battery and imagine the battles, the hurricanes, the fires and the resilience of the Charlestonians who came before. Imagine tall-masted sailing ships, the sound of horses and carriages, the rustling of palmetto fronds. Smell the salty sea air, and at low tide the unique fragrance of lowcountry pluff mud. Look across the harbor at James Island, Mount Pleasant and Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. This idyllic spot in Charleston is a great place to relax and reflect, but its history wasn’t always so carefree.
Built on marshland, the point of peninsular Charleston where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet was first a fortified area protecting the city from assaults by those who would like to conquer, destroy or loot the city. Originally called Broughton’s Battery, and built in 1736 as a seawall fortress, the Battery was situated at the very tip of Charleston and could view incoming “visitors.” It was part of the original walled city of Charles Town, but was demolished and later rebuilt in the 1820’s. A promenade was added for walks along the top of the seawall and later (1837) a park built just inside the point, called White Point Garden.
Original colonists called the point Oyster Point or White Point because of the mound of oyster shells that had built up there by local Indians. It became known as the battery during the War of 1812 when 15 large canons were placed on and near the seawall, facing the harbor and any incoming attackers.
Stede Bonnet, Charleston’s “Gentleman Pirate,” was hanged and buried at White Point Garden along with 29 other pirates for capturing and looting merchant ships along the eastern seaboard. He and the notorious Edward Teach (Blackbeard) were compatriots and sailed their ships the Revenge and the Queen Anne’s Revenge seeking easy plunder. A plaque with Stede Bonnet’s date of death, December 10, 1718, is located in the northeast portion of the park.
The Battery is where Charlestonians gathered in an almost party-like atmosphere to watch the shelling of Fort Sumter in 1861, happily ignorant of the terrors to come. A short time later the North would have the last laugh, as the Battery and all of Charleston up to Broad Street would bear the brunt of brutal shelling during the long siege of the city (the rest of the city was out of reach of Union guns).
Today White Point Garden is a large grassy park shaded by massive old live oaks and ringed with cannons, monuments, and historical statues. Grand mansions stand guard across the street, catching the sea breeze as they have for over two centuries. A large white gazebo in the garden is a popular place for weddings and photography shoots and it isn’t unusual to hear a string quartet playing there. Horse and carriage tours roll around the Battery and the park off and on all day, giving visitors a hint of Charleston’s illustrious past.
You’ll find a walk from the Governor’s House Inn to Charleston’s famous Battery a stroll through the sights and sounds of living history. Looking for more places to stroll, sites to visit, restaurants? Click here to download a copy of our Charleston Vacation Guide.