The Destruction of Charleston in the Civil War
Visitors to the South Carolina city can still see signs of the pre-Civil War structures that were devastated by Union bombardment and a blazing fire devastated
- By Ray Gordon and Molly Roberts
- Smithsonian.com, March 23, 2011
(Library of Congress / Molly Roberts)
Founded in 1681, the Circular Congregational Church (shown with St. Phillips in distance) is one of the oldest continuously operating houses of worship in the South. Its architect, Robert Mills, who also designed the Washington Monument, was inspired by the shape of the Pantheon in Rome. On the night of December 11, 1861, eight months after the attack on Fort Sumter, a suspicious fire started near the Cooper River and swept across the city, destroying the church. This photo, taken in 1863, shows the ruins of the church; an earthquake in 1886 would finish the job. Six years later, architects reused the old bricks to reconstruct the building. The graveyard behind the church is the city’s oldest, with one monument still standing from the 17th century.