The way it was 150 years ago: A door closes; a window opens
By Seabrook Wilkinson
If the eventual victors in the War were already thoroughly war-weary by the middle of 1864, how much more so were the defeated by the time the inevitable became official in the late spring of 1865. Even for one whose pacific task has been to write a column about the War for four years, fatigue has set in — if I cannot proclaim “I ain’ gon’ study war no more,” I am ready to take a sabbatical. Yet how much I have learned during these four years; I hope my readers will also feel they have profited from the experience of commemoration. We have met scores of utterly unfamiliar characters, fought battles almost entirely forgotten and discovered new things about figures such as Nathan Bedford Forrest we assumed we knew well.
The way it was 150 years ago: Saving the city while facing signs of the end times
By Seabrook Wilkinson
Retreat and surrender are not actions generally associated with heroism, but there are times when further resistance to the overwhelming force of an enemy is suicidal and it sometimes takes a mind of heroic cast to recognize this hard fact. In April 1861 South Carolina was at the center of action to establish a new nation. In February 1865 the state was again the focus of attention, as the young nation staggered towards the final surrender of extinction. Gen. Lafayette McLaws and Mayor Charles Macbeth, by retreating at the Battle of Rivers’ Bridge on February 3 and then by surrendering the city of Charleston on February 18, prevented much destruction and further useless loss of life.
Egomaniac McClellan Prolonged War
By Karl K. Gruber
On July 27, 1861, General McClellan rode into Washington to assume command of the capital and its army. McClellan was returning from recent victories in West Virginia and was a hero.
General Lincoln welcomed him formally at the White House. For a city reeling from the recent defeat at Bull Run, he was treated deferentially by both politicians and military leaders. He was seen at the solution to bring about a quick resolution to the war.
Apparently this inside-the-beltway experience quickly went to his head, as he wrote to his wife: “I find myself in a strange and new position here: President, cabinet, General Scott, and all deferring to me … I almost think that was I to win one whole success now I could become dictator or anything else that might please me.” This was a bad sign.
Within mere weeks, McClellan had taken it upon himself to propose a grand new strategy for total defeat of the South. His plan was ambitious, calling for a force of 225,000 men to march forth and take Richmond. In August, McClellan issued a letter calling the defense of Washington inadequate and demanding an additional 100,000 men. General Scott, commander of all union armies, was indignant. In his opinion Washington was well defended and he was tiring of being bypassed and overridden by his junior.
The Bance Island, the Ferry and the Dispatch
By Herb Frazier
Three ships carrying captured West Africans arrived in the Carolina Colony between May 1760 and September 1761, ending long voyages at Ashley Ferry Town seven miles up the Ashley River.
The historical significance of where these British-owned ships — the Bance Island, the Fanny and the Dispatch — delivered human cargo has been nearly forgotten. Each ship made at least one stop at the town’s Ashley Ferry, which today is near Drayton on the Ashley, a quiet subdivision off South Carolina 61 near Bees Ferry Road.
The site is not only linked to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, but Ashley Ferry Town was once a river port where colonial leaders held a peace summit with the Cherokee and convened the government when a smallpox epidemic gripped Charles Town.
The records of slave ship voyages and the papers of slave trader and prominent businessman and politician Henry Laurens document the ships’ arrivals at Ashley Ferry, later called Bees Ferry. Laurens was the Charleston agent for the British owners of Bunce Island, a tiny slave-trading post up the Sierra Leone River near Freetown. The vessels came from Sierra Leone, and an iconic slave ad from the Charleston Gazette announced on April 26, 1760, that the Bance Island had brought a shipment of 250 “fine healthy Negroes” from the Rice Coast.
Slavery’s Legacy Alive in the Heart of The Gambia
By Herb Frazier
EDITOR’S NOTE: Herb Frazier recently traveled to The Gambia where he conducted a four-day election coverage workshop for Gambian journalists, sponsored by the International Center for Journalists in Washington, DC, and the Gambian Press Union.
KUNTA KINTE ISLAND, The Gambia - Before and after the slave trade to America, Africans only used this tiny island in the River Gambia as a rest stop when they fished these waters.
The Europeans, however, took the island as a base from which to hold captured Africans before they were shipped to plantations in the Western Hemisphere, including rice fields in South Carolina.
First settled by the Portuguese in 1456, the island was initially called St. Andrews. Then in 1651, the Duke of Courland, now in modern-day Latvia, built a fort here to establish an empire in this part of West Africa when it was called the Rice Coast.
A decade before Charleston was founded, England seized the fort in 1661 and renamed the island for James, the Duke of York. Then over a period of 118 years, the island changed hands between the English, the French and pirates. The fort was destroyed then rebuilt, whereupon the French seized it again in 1779. After England unilaterally outlawed the slave trade, the island was abandoned in 1829.
From that time on, Gambians didn’t take much of an interest in the island, except for the fishermen, until Alex Haley’s book Roots and the subsequent television series changed things.