Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Too Cold For A Trip To Morris Island

It's a frosty and chilly morning here in the land of palm trees, and I am enjoying my morning coffee at the kitchen table while watching a lone male cardinal take his breakfast at the feeder beside the back patio. As I log onto my Ipod to check the weather, thoughts of a round of golf abruptly exit the entirety of my brain. With my attention now turned toward scanning the online version of the Charleston Post and Courier a video captures my attention, hmmm...., Star of The West Reenactment.

After watching the video for a split second, I think, maybe I'll take a trip down to Folly Beach to walk on the beach and snap some pictures of the lighthouse on Morris Island from the shores of Folly. After all it would provide excellent material for a blog entry on my newly revived From The Land Of Palm Trees blog. Then the brain thing activated again, it quickly said, "dummy, if it is too cold to play golf, it is way to cold to go walk on the beach." And, well, I listened. But, thanks to The Living Military History Society from The Citadel, the video had piqued my interest.

Morris Island, a small barrier island residing within the Charleston Harbor, is one of the many historical points of interest in Charleston. Morris Island is a mere 840 acres and is accessible only by boat. Thanks to shifting sands, the barrier island is under constant threat of going away. Many locals spend lazy summer days and nights anchored off of the tiny island, enjoying an adult beverage or three and letting their dogs splash in the surf. I have never set foot on Morris Island, but I have viewed the island up close from the Fort Sumter boat tour. Any visitor to one of the neatest Atlantic Beaches of Charleston, Folly Beach, recognizes the lighthouse standing 300 yards or so from the Northeast shore of the beach. The Morris Island lighthouse dates back to the late 1700's and used to be on a small patch of land but it is now surrounded by seawater. Below is a picutre of what I would have seen this morning on my Folly Beach stroll if I hadn't been such a wimp.
The tiny patch of sand known as Morris Island is associated with a variety of events that took place during the Civil War, but as the re-enactment video illustrates, on January 9, 1861 a group of Cadets from The Citadel, predecors of the same Citadel Cadets that you will surely notice mixing in with the tourists nightly on Market Street when you visit the Holy City, opened fire on a civilian supply ship as it steamed toward Fort Sumter intending to re-supply Federal troops who occupied the South Carolina Fort under the leadership of Major Robert Anderson. The cadets were said to be the best qualified soldiers in Charleston at the time. The circumstances that lead to the firing on the Star of The West are well chronicled. In December of the year 1860 South Carolina held a state convention after the election of Abraham Lincoln and passed an ordinance to secede from the Union. At the time there were 3 forts in Charleston occupied by Federal troops; Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter. The citizenry and leaders of South Carolina as a seceeded republic that the forts were in it's domain and they intended to occupy the forts with South Carolinians. Major Anderson and his men occupied Fort Moultrie at the time and President Buchannan remained in the White House. As you might imagine, there were rumors flying about and on December 26, 1860 Major Anderson, after hearing that President Buchanan was considering a decision to have Anderson abandon Fort Moultrie, decided to move his troops to a less vulnerable position at Fort Sumter. Shortly thereafter, South Carolina took possession of Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, and this prompted President Buchanan to order that the unarmed merchant vessel, The Star of the West, be sent to re-supply Anderson and his troops. Thus, a couple of weeks later when said ship attempted to enter the Charleston Harbor with it's care packages meant for Anderson et. al., the Citadel Cadets were more than happy to offer a less than hospitable greeting to the visitors from up Nawth. For those of you who are intrigued by the story, a full account of the encounter can be found in Harper's Weekly from January 23,1861.

Ultimately, this simple defense of Charleston Harbor by the cadets of The Citadel from the shores of tiny Morris Island lead to an all out attack of the federally occupied Fort Sumter and the subsequent surrender of the fort by Major Anderson, but that's another blog. So, if you are a tourist in the land of the palm trees, be sure and take a boat tour of Fort Sumter
. If you are a local, then the next time you have the good fortune of being on a boat hangin' out in the harbor, take a side trip out to tiny Morris Island, but be a good guest whilst you wander and clean up after yourself because she is a jewel in the crown that is the land of the palm trees.

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