Historic Markers Across South Carolina

The Walled City of Charles Town

Marker ID:  
Location: on E. Bay St. (US 52), Charleston, SC
County: Charleston
Coordinates: N 32° 46.414    W 079° 55.634
  32.77356666    -79.92723333


In 1670 English men and women established the Carolina settlement at Albemarle Point on the Ashley River, the present-day site of Charles Towne Landing State Park. Ten years later, the settlers moved their town to its location here on the peninsula. By the 1690s there was a formal plan to enclose 62 acres of the settlement within a brick and earthen fortification to protect its residence from French, Spanish, and hostile Indians.
Charles Town's fortifications were completed by 1711. Bastions or small forts were named for Lord Proprietors Granville, Craven Colleton, and Carteret were constructed at each corner of the walled city. Three triangular redans were constructed in the wall along the Cooper River. A drawbridge guarded the land entrance at Meeting and Broad streets. The Half Moon Battery stood at the foot of Broad Street to provide a formal entrance to the town from the water. Charles Town was the only British walled city built in North America.

Anatomy of the Walled City
The engineering plans for the walls likely were based on European design principals for the fortifications. The seawall or curtain wall that fronted the Cooper River, as well as the bastions, redans and the Half Moon Battery, were built of hand-made bricks to protect the town against a sea assault. The seawall was six feet wide at the base and extended some 15 feet above the low tide line.
Historians and archaeologists have found a few records that describe how the landward walls were constructed. They believe these fortifications were made by digging a ditch to create a moat and piling up the excavated earth to form walls that were strengthened with wood. They think these walls were eight to 10 feet high.

The Elusive City Wall
(Advertised sale inset) By the 1730s most of the earthen walls were demolished to accommodate the growing town. The harbor-side fortifications remain intact through the American Revolution. In 1784 the City advertised the bastions and redans for sale at public auction. The new owners demolished the aboveground portions of the fortifications and paved over them to make way for the expanding commercial waterfront. Gradually, knowledge about the location and design of the wall faded from community memory.

(Map included)
This 1711 map by Edward Crisp shows walled Charles Town. The large wharves and flotilla of merchant ships speak to the town's booming economy. The names of later streets are labeled red.
( a QR tag present for additional information - use for modern cellphone and similar devices) Pictures included:Hand-hewed cedar pilings from the drawbridge found under the Charleston County Courthouse and Two bastions and a redan were advertised for sale in 1784.

Erected 2012 by City of Charleston, its citizens and grant from the Southeastern Archaeological Conference.