Summer Road Trip 2019: The Other Fortification in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina

Leaving Raleigh, North Carolina, we head southwest down to Charleston, South Carolina, for the next stop on the Summer Road Trip.  While the first thing that might spring to mind about Charleston is Fort Sumter, that is not the only fortification sitting in Charleston Harbor, though it is the only one that you can still visit!

Just off the coast of the French Quarter section of Charleston lies an island which is home to a structure now known as “Pinckney Castle”.  Coming from RG 77: Fortifications Map File, in the holdings of the Cartographic Department,  a plan of the castle in both  cross-sectional and plan views with additional coloration highlighting surrounding water and foundations.

RG 77: Fortification Map File Plans of Military Forts, 1818-1941.  Plan of a Projected Castle for Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.  NAID: 6039496.

The current structure, now in a state of bad disrepair, was built over a previous fortification known as “Fort Pinckney”. Built in the late 1700s, the original structure standing on this site was intended to help stave off a French attack that never came. A few years later, in 1804, the original structure was nearly destroyed by a hurricane.  The structure, shown above, was built during the years 1809-1810.

Over the course of the building’s history, it has served as a garrison, a prisoner of war camp, was the first federal building seized by Confederate forces.  Today, due to the high cost of maintaining the site, difficulty in accessing the site physically, and a lack of public interest in preservation, the castle stands abandoned in Charleston harbor.

For more information regarding Fort Sumter, please see Charleston Harbor at the Brink of War: Sketches from the RG 94, Civil War Atlas Manuscript Maps Series and Building Fort Sumter. 


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