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Stolen Charleston: The Spoils of War

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During both the American Revolution and the Civil War, Charleston was not just a symbolic target but a fantastically wealthy one as well, Celebrating its grandeur unlike any other region in the south—at least until the shelling started.

When the Redcoats of 1780 and the Federals of 1865 found their way into town, no church, businesses, or private home was safe from pillaging. By 1782, hundreds of rice barrels packed with irreplaceable jewelry, artwork, ceramics, and silver had been carted off. To add to the loss and chaos, even Charleston’s own home-front defenders oftentimes helped themselves to unguarded goods left behind by their fleeing neighbors.

An exact tally of Charleston’s lost elegance remains difficult to quantify and, while most of Charleston’s treasures are still lost, some pieces occasionally turn up centuries later and in the unlikeliest of places.

In this book, Chief Curator of The Charleston Museum, J. Grahame Long recounts the looting and lost treasures of Charleston. While Long does a remarkable job of chronicling these stories of loss and where stolen goods have eventually resurface—such as the Central Park Zoo-- the search for missing items, taken from their owners nearly 150 years ago, continues even to this day.