Castle Pinckney
Charleston Harbor's Other Fort

The Fort was constructed of Brick and mortar prior to the War of 1812 and was the last of several fortifications constructed on Shutes Folly, a large, marshy island in Charleston Harbor. It was named after General Charles Coteworth Pinckney who commanded the 1st Regiment of South Carolina and is probably least known of South Carolin'as American Revolutionary Generals. overshawed by Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox), Thomas Sumter (The Gamcodk) who commanded the 1st Regiment of South Carolina, General WIlliam Moultrie, commander of a South Carolina Regiment of Continental Troops at the Battle of Sullivan's Island (Charleston Harbor) in 25 June 1776 when the colonists turned back an English force attaching the city. A nickname might have helped.
It saw no action in the war of 1812 and was ungarrissoned for many years thereafter, falling into disrepair. The fort was regarrisoned during the Nullification Crisis of 1832 when conflict over the tariff resulted in President Jackson preparing to collect the tariff with military force if necessary. After that brief period of activity, the fort fell into disuse again and was primarily a storehouse for powder and other military supplies.

Image, left, early in the war, the Fort was garrisoned by members of the Charleston Zoave Cadets, who wore gray uniforms with red trim, not the more exotic zoave outfits of other units. The young soldiers were photographed with the walls and parapets of the fort rising behind them.

On 27 December 1860, one week after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the State of South Carolina forced the Sergeant manning Pinckney to surrender it and join Major Anderson, who had relocated the federal garrison to two days before. This makes Castle Pinckney the first Federal Fort taken over by a Southern Government. The change of command was orderly, but represented the first time a Southern Government received the surrender of a Federal Military Position

Image, right, engraving of Castle Pinckney early in the war, note the SC Flag which may date this image between Secession and the organization of the Confederacy

After first Manassas members of several units captured at the battle were held prisoner at Castle Pinckney. While numbers are sketchy, the best estimate is that the number of POWS were 156 prisoners, members of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves, 69th NY ("Irish") Regiment, 79th NY Regiment, and 8th Michigan Infantry and arrived in late summer. The lower casemates were enclosed and turned into cells. The hot shot furnace was converted into a cook oven. Some of the Canon in the fort were relocated to other positions in Charleston Harbor. There was no record of escapes from Castle Pinckney. When exchange agreement was reached, the POWs were shipped to Richmond.

After these prisoners were removed, the fort was returned to defensive service when the range and power of the Federal bombardment were increased. Mortars and 4 columbiads were mounted on the barbette tier of the fort. Castle Pinckney's position allowed it to fire on ships moving towards Charleston in the main Harbor Channel and from her central location in the inner harbor, landing parties attempting to enter the city were within range of her fire. Her position guarded the wharves and industrial areas of Charleston and would have defended the city from an attack across the Harbor from Mt. Pleasant, had the Federals attempted to attack from there. To increase the fort's capacity to endure bombardment, earth embankments were constructed and sodded around the outside of the fort and on the parapet.

It is disputed whether Castle Pinckney ever fired a shot, but had the Federal Navy ever successfully entered the Harbor, Castle Pinckney would have been one of Bueregards secondary defensive positions. The guns are still in place today.

Columbia Military Prison


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