In City Under Siege, see the Museum’s newly renovated exhibit concerning Charleston’s role in the Civil War, featuring updated display panels and images, along with additional artifacts.


On December 20, 1860, South Carolina formally seceded from the United States of America and severed its ties with the Union. At St. Andrew’s Hall in Charleston that evening, delegates of the state’s Secession Convention drafted the Ordinance of Secession using this table and chairs. Convention president, D.F. Jamison, used the rococo­ style chair later at the official signing of the Ordinance at Institute Hall on Meeting Street.

The War Begins

The Civil War began in Charleston on April 12, 1861, with the first shots fired at Fort Sumter from nearby James Island. In the four years that followed, tumult, anxiety, and loss permeated the city.

Top left: Colt 1860 Army revolver. Lower left: Colt Model 1848 Dragoon revolver. Belonged to Pvt. John Happoldt, Co. B, 25th South Carolina. Right: Colt 1851 Navy revolver with relief­ carved ivory grips. Belonged to Capt. Cleland Kinloch Huger of the Rutledge Mounted Riflemen.

Distress and Destruction

City Under Siege​ examines this traumatic period in Charleston’s past and the impact it had on soldiers, both Federal and Confederate, and civilians, both free and enslaved.

Left: Saber (unmarked) c. 1855. Engraved for Capt. John Morris Wampler, topographical engineer and chief architect of Confederate batteries on Morris Island. Upper right: Effigy pipe fragment, c. 1863. Excavated from a former Union encampment site at the north end of Folly Beach, SC. Lower right: Officer’s sword (unmarked) c. 1860. Engraved for Capt. Charles E. Chichester, commander of the Zouave Cadets at Castle Pinckney and later chief of artillery at Battery Wagner.

The Wake of the War

On exhibit in C​ity Under Siege​ are uniforms, weaponry, medical tools and equipment, and personal possessions owned by Charleston families during the conflict. Each tells a poignant story of the War’s dramatic effects.

Left: Uniform coat worn by Captain Thomas Pinckney of the 4th Regiment South Carolina Cavalry. (NOT ON PERMANENT EXHIBIT) Upper right: Uniform epaulettes worn by Capt. W.P. Appleby of Company G, 4th South Carolina Cavalry. Bottom right: Lap desk belonged to Stephen Dill Lee, Aide­de­camp to General Pierre Beauregard.

Buy Tickets
Explore Our Exhibits