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The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1073, p. 129.

February 9, 1861


This seaport city, capital of a district of the same name in the State of South Carolina, stands on a tongue of land formed by the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. The bay is a large estuary formed by the confluence of the two rivers, and extends about seven miles south-east from Charleston to the ocean, having an average width of two miles. A sandbar extends across its mouth, but there are several channel entrances, the deepest of which passes close to Sullivan's Island. Cooper and Ashley Rivers are both deep, and capable of accommodating the largest class of vessels; the former being 1400 and the latter 2100 yards wide opposite the city. The harbour is open to easterly winds, and vessels in it are much exposed during storms from that quarter. Charleston, one of the oldest cities in the Union, was founded as early as 1672, and was first called Oysterpoint Town. It soon became a place of considerable trade, and was chartered as a city in 1783. The ground on which it is built is low, being only eight or nine feet above high tide, which rises here about six feet; and the city has several times suffered from inundations by the water of the harbour being driven up by violent winds. The city is regularly laid out in parallel streets running east and west from the Cooper to the Ashley, and intersected by others nearly at right angles. The streets, which vary in width from thirty-five to seventy feet, are lined with a tree termed the "Pride of India;" while elegant villas, adorned with verandahs, and surrounded with orange-trees, magnolias, and palmettos, add much to the elegance and beauty of the city. The population of Charleston in 1850 was 42,985, of whom 14,692 were slaves: this was exclusive of the suburb St. Philip, which contains about 16,000 inhabitants. The Number of this Journal for the 19th ult. contained a description of the forts in Charleston harbour. A despatch, of which the following is a copy, has been received by the Secretary of the Admiralty from Mr. Bunch, her Majesty's Consul at Charleston, relative to the obstruction of the entrances to the harbour at that place by the local Government:—"British Consulate, Charleston, Jan. 11, 1861.—Sir,—In my letter of the 3rd inst. I had the honour to acquaint you that the de facto Government of the State of South Carolina had caused the lighthouse, beacons, buoys, &c., of this coast and harbour to be extinguished and removed. I now have to state that, in addition to these very summary measures, the same authorities have seen fit to close all the channels leading into the harbour by sinking vessels in them, except Moffitts' Channel, which may be said to be available for vessels drawing only 14 feet 6 inches of water."

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