The Civil War in Mount Pleasant, SC
General Robert E. Lee was sent to Charleston in early November 1861 to oversee the design and construction of defenses for the South Carolina coast and the cities of Charleston and Savannah. Lee and his engineers analyzed the multiple possible attack points on Charleston and determined that the Federal army had three likely choices:
1. Land on James Island along the Stono River, proceed across the island to capture Fort Johnson. From that vantage point, force the surrender of Fort Sumter and place Charleston under direct threat from batteries erected along the James Island northern shore.
2. Land on Folly Island and cross Morris Island to attack Fort Sumter. After the capitulation of Fort Sumter, the Federal Navy could move to the inner harbor to force the surrender of Charleston.
3. Land at Bull’s Bay, cross into Mount Pleasant, attack Sullivan’s Island from the rear and establish batteries to fire across the harbor into Charleston.
Map illustrating the 3 possible Federal attack routes to take Charleston.
Lee designed a defensive solution for each attack point. To address the approach from Bull’s Bay, he ordered the construction of a long continuous defensive line in Christ Church Parish starting at Butler’s Creek at Boone Hall Plantation, extending east to Hamlin Sound.
Historic map of the Christ Church Lines overlaid with aerial laser scanner survey data showing the lines as they exist today.
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and modern maps
The lines consist of large linear earthen infantry parapets with redans constructed at strategic locations to provide strong points at which field artillery could be placed. The redans, triangular protrusions in the lines, can be seen in the above historic and aerial laser scanner images.
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A.J. Russel, Ditch and abattis in front of Fort Sedgewick. Courtesy of the Library of Congress
To the front of the Christ Church Lines, the trees were felled for 1 1/2 miles to provide for clear field of fire upon any attacking force. The cut trees were placed with the braches facing outward to create an abatis, a barricade intended to serve as an obstacle for the enemy.
The lines with abatis would have appeared similar to the above image of Fort Sedgewick in Petersburg, Virginia.
Aerial laser scanning image showing Fort Palmetto and connection to the Christ Church Line.
Fort Palmetto, a three-gun battery, was constructed at the eastern terminus of the Christ Church Lines. This strong fortification commanded both Copahee Sound and Dewee’s Inlet. Dewee’s Inlet, located between Long Island (Isle of Palms) and Dewee’s Island, was a possible access point for Federal ships coming in from the ocean. The inlet was twelve feet deep at mean high tide and seven feet deep at low tide, enough water for a light-draft ship or barge transporting troops.
The earthwork fortification measured 160 feet long and eighty feet deep with a parapet fifteen feet tall and included a powder magazine twenty-five feet tall. It was armed with one 9-inch Dahlgren gun and two 32-pound rifled and banded guns. A company of the 20th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry served as the garrison for much of the war.