In City Under Siege, see the Museum’s exhibition concerning Charleston’s role in the Civil War.


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: This uniform was worn by James Wiley Gibson, who was born in Orangeburg County, South Carolina. He was killed in the battle of Secessionville in June 1862 on James Island. This image shows a close up of the bullet hole left behind. Right: Prosthetic arm and hand made for Colonel Peter Charles Gaillard (1812-1889) following a serious injury received at Battery Wagner on Morris Island in 1863.

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