Brief of South Carolina History

September 23rd, 2011 3:46 am

More than 28 separate tribes of Native Americans have lived in what is now South Carolina, many of them Cherokee who were later forcibly removed during the Trail of Tears.

The English founded the Carolina colony in 1670, with settlers pouring in from the royal outpost of Barbados, giving the port city known as Charles Towne a Caribbean flavor.

West African slaves were brought over to turn the thick coastal swamps into rice paddies and by the mid-1700s the area was deeply divided between the slave-owning aristocrats of the Lowcountry and the poor Scots-Irish and German farmers of the rural Backcountry.

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, and the first battle of the Civil War occurred at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The end of the war left much of the state in ruins.

South Carolina traded in cotton and textiles for most of the 20th century. It remains a relatively poor agricultural state, though with a thriving coastal tourism business.

Civil War and Reconstruction

September 23rd, 2011 3:42 am

After Lincoln’s election South Carolina was the first state to secede (Dec. 20, 1860) from the Union. Gov. Francis W. Pickens immediately demanded all federal property within the state, including Fort Sumter, which was held by Union men under Major Robert Anderson. The firing on Sumter by Confederate batteries on Apr. 12, 1861, precipitated the Civil War.

In Nov., 1861, a Union naval force under Samuel F. Du Pont took the forts of Port Royal Sound, but Charleston’s forts withstood severe bombardments in 1863, and the state was saved from heavy military action until early in 1865. Then Gen. William T. Sherman, commanding the army that had marched through Georgia, crossed the Savannah River and advanced north through the state. Because South Carolina was viewed as the birthplace of secession, it was difficult to restrain many of the Union soldiers, and the deliberate devastation, culminating in the burning of Columbia, was appalling.

The Reconstruction period that followed the war was no less disastrous. South Carolina was selected for President Andrew Johnson’s moderate program, but the program had only a brief trial before the radical Republicans took over. For a decade the state was ruled by carpetbaggers and scalawags, with the support of African-American votes. The constitution of 1868, which established universal male suffrage and ended property qualifications for office holding, gained the state readmittance (June, 1868) to the Union.

During the period from 1868 to 1874 accomplishments such as the building of schools and railroads were offset by waste and corruption in the state government and by high taxation. Many of these abuses were corrected by the honest administration of Gov. Daniel H. Chamberlain (1874–76), the state’s last Republican governor until the late 20th cent. The Democratic party regained vitality in the late 1870s and South Carolina’s politics were strongly Democratic after this period; not until the late 1960s did Republicans regain strength in both state and national elections.

South Carolina’s war hero, Wade Hampton, was selected as the Democratic party’s candidate for governor in 1876. The election was marked by irregular practices on both sides, and, although Hampton gained a majority, Chamberlain refused to accept defeat. Thus there existed two state governments until 1877, when President Rutherford B. Hayes removed all federal troops from the South, and Chamberlain, bereft of the support that had made Republican rule possible, withdrew. Hampton attempted moderation on race issues, but, despite his efforts, by 1882 the vast majority of blacks had lost the vote and white political supremacy was assured.