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CHRIST CHURCH LINES
MOUNT PLEASANT, SC
View of the Christ Church Lines as they appear today
Photo of the historic marker for the lines.
Map showing the extent of the lines.
Early in the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee was sent to Charleston in 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 he designed a defensive solution for each attack point.
One possible scenario was a combined Union army and navy landing at Bull’s Bay to advance through Christ Church Parish to attack Charleston across the Cooper River. Aware of this possibility, General Lee ordered the construction of a long continuous defensive line bisecting Christ Church Parish starting at Butler’s Creek at Boone Hall Plantation, extending east to Copahee Sound.
The Christ Church Lines were constructed using slave labor from area plantations. On December 16, 1861, Lee reported to Secretary of War J. P. Benjamin in Richmond that, “[the] branch through Christ Church Parish to the sound, are in good state of progress, . . . The works have been mostly constructed by labor furnished by the planters. I hope they will be completed this week.” On Christmas Day, Brigadier General Roswell Ripley reported that “the lines on Christ Church will be done in the course of three days, and will be quite strong; Lieutenant Blake has carried them quite down to the inland navigation, covering the landing.” Two companies of the 23rd South Carolina Infantry (also known as Hatch’s Coast Rangers) were assigned to the lines to act as lookouts. Incredibly, this two and a half mile long defensive line was constructed in less than two months.
There were several redans constructed in the line for forward infantry positions or in which field artillery could be placed. As illustrated in the 1863 map by Confederate engineer Lieutenant John Johnson, Confederate troops were distributed along the lines in three positions to be able to effectively respond to any threat or attack. On the outside of the Christ Church Lines to the northeast, the trees were cleared for one and a half miles to provide for good lanes of fire. The felled trees were placed with the branches facing outward to create an abatis, a barricade intended to serve as an obstacle for the enemy.
Though there are some breaks in the defensive line, primarily made by modern roads, most of the Christ Church Lines are extant today. In 2003, the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust was granted a conservation easement by Christ Church for the preservation of the Christ Church Lines on their property.