Self Guided Civil War Tour

The first shots of the Civil War rang out right here in Charleston. Fueled by knowledge and passion the Free Tours By Foot Civil War Tour guide will make the characters of the war come alive. Learn what conflicts prompted the war, what side fired the first shots, and what the aftermath and consequences were of the “War of Northern Aggression,” all while strolling the streets and the battery of Charleston.

Be sure to check out our guided Charleston Civil War Tour.

imageA: Market Building/ Daughters of the Confederacy Museum

180 Meeting St

This 1841 Market Building is a former public hall that was often used to raise funds for the Confederate cause. Today, it’s used as a museum site run by the Daughters of the Confederacy.
Head south on Meeting St to the first stop.

B: Circular Church/former location of S.C. Institute Hall (Secession Hall)
150/134 Meeting St

This is the site of the South Carolina Institute Hall. Built in 1854, this was the image_1largest public exhibition hall in 3 states and could hold 2500 people. On December 20, 1860, recently elected state officials gathered with family and friends to witness the signing of the “Ordinance of Secession” pulling South Carolina out of Federal statehood.

The hall was lost to the “Great Fire of 1861” on December 11, 1861.

CONTINUE SOUTH ONE HALF BLOCK TO STOP 2

image_2C: Mills House Hotel
115 Meeting St 

Originally built by Otis Mills in 1853, the “Mills House” was the site of General P.G.T. Beauregard’s first headquarters and housed Robert E. Lee & staff in 1861.

HEAD SOUTH ON MEETING ST TO NEXT STOP

D: Hibernian Hallimage_3
105 Meeting St

The Hibernian Society was founded by Charleston’s elite Irish immigrant merchant class to aid other Irish families in establishing themselves in Charleston. This hall, built in 1840 was used by the “Republic of South Carolina” as its first and only government capital building (Dec. 1860- April 1861) until the Confederate States were unified.

HEAD SOUTH ON MEETING ST, CROSS BROAD ST AT MEETING ST

imageE: St. Micheal’s Church
80 Meeting St.

St. Michael’s is the oldest standing church in Charleston, built in 1761, and has always been the house of worship for the city’s finest families, including the wealthiest plantation owners. Because of this history, this church was the main target used by Union controlled sea island fort guns surrounding the city. From August 1863 thru February 1865, Charleston was shelled on a daily basis, ending when the city was evacuated by the Confederates.
HEAD SOUTH ON MEETING ST TO NEXT STOP

image_1F: Nathaniel Russell House Museum
51 Meeting St. 

Built in 1808 by Charleston’s wealthiest merchant, Nathaniel Russel. The house was purchased by Governor Robert Allston & owned by his family from 1857-1870. Governor Allston was the last elected Governor of South Carolina before S.C. secession in 1860. He removed himself from politics because he believed that the ” Union” should be preserved.

HEAD SOUTH ON MEETING ST TO NEXT STOP

image_2G: Simmons/ Mills House
37 Meeting St.  

This house was built in 1760. A century later, after General P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee had to evacuate their hotel because of the fire of 1861, hotel owner Otis Mills offered his personal residence to be used as the new headquarters.

HEAD SOUTH ON MEETING ST TO NEXT STOP

H: Calhoun Mansion (George Williams House)
16 Meeting St. image_3

Built nearly 10 years after the Civil War ended, this is the largest private home in the city, nearly 25,000 sq ft. George Williams was a member of the City Council and was chosen to offer the surrender of the city to Sherman’s Army on Feb.18,1865. This effectively ended the war for the people of Charleston.

HEAD SOUTH TO THE CORNER OF MEETING ST & SOUTH BATTERY.

I: Robinson/ Middleton House image_4
1 Meeting St

Owned by one of the most powerful and richest families in the city, this house (built 1846) was seized by Union General Rufus Saxton during the occupation of the city and used as his residence.

CROSS SOUTH BATTERY TO THE PARK ACROSS THE WAY.

J: White Point Gardensimage_5

Always a public park, in 1861 White Point was converted into a large fortification of earthworks spiked with large cannons to protect the lower part of the city from attack by the Union armies.

TURN EAST TOWARDS THE HARBOR AND WALK THE LENGTH OF THE PARK TO THE CORNER OF SOUTH & EAST BATTERY STREETS. CROSS EAST BAY AT imageSTEPS TO BATTERY WALL.

K: Battery Wall
This wall (c. 1820) is where the citizens of Charleston watched the bombardment of Fort Sumter (April 12-14 1861) by newly founded S.C. militia located in forts surrounding the harbor.

HEAD NORTH ALONG SEA WALL TO NEXT STOP

L: Edmondston/ Alston House Museumimage_1
21 East Battery St 

During the bombardment of Fort Sumter, owner Charles Alston sent General P.G.T. Beauregard an invitation to dine and rest in this circa 1825 house. The last 4 hours of the battle were commanded by Beauregard from the second floor gallery of this home.

HEAD NORTH TO THE NEXT STOP

image_2M: Headquarters of Historic Charleston Foundation
40 East Bay St.

The Historic Charleston Foundation is headquartered at this site. In 1862, it was here in the Charleston habor that an enslaved man, Robert Smalls, commandeered the USS Planter and piloted through the Federal blockade to freedom. There is an historical market with details of his story, be sure to read both side!

N:  John Frasier Mansion image_3

51 East Bay St.

John Fraser was a wealthy shipowner and cotton broker who used his ships to slip war materials and luxury goods past the Union warships blocking the mouth of Charleston Harbor. He was later known as the richest “blockade runner” in the South. His mansion were was built in 1818.

CONTINUE NORTH ON EAST BAY st TO NEXT STOP

O: Old Exchange Building image_4
122 East Bay St.

This 1771 colonial-era town hall/exchange was later used as the city’s post office from 1820-1865.
Occupying Union officials used this building as a commissary for the recently emancipated slaves flooding into Charleston after the war.

HEAD WEST ON BROAD st towards STATE st. Turn right ( north) on State and walk to the next block. AT CHALMERS st HEAD WEST TO NEXT STOP

P: Old “Slave Mart” Museumimage_5
6 Chalmers St

Built in 1856, this was one of an estimated 40 slave auction houses in a 3 block radius serving Charleston’s demand for new slaves at the plantations. The last slave sold here was in January 1865, three weeks before Union occupation of Charleston February 18,1865.

WALK WEST TO CHURCH st AND TURN RIGHT. Continue halfway down the block.

Q:  Dock Street Theatre (Planters Inn Hotel)image_6
135 Church St

Now the site of a theatre, this 1850s building was the original “Planter’s Inn” hotel. The wealthy plantation owners with family, racehorses and servants, used this hotel during the Charleston social season (Christmas thru Spring planting) until the war. Union soldiers were quartered in the hotel during occupation in 1865.

LOOK DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET AT NEXT SITE

R: French Protestant (Huguenot) Churchimage_7
136 Church St

This is the 3rd church on this site, the French “Huguenot” church was established in 1685 but the structure you see was built in 1845. During the early occupation in February 1865, members of an Ohio regiment looted the church and stole most of the hymnals and bibles. The organ was dismantled and loaded aboard a ship bound for the North. Legend says the ladies of the congregation marched down to the dock and demanded it’s return. The original organ is still played on Sunday.

image_8WALK TOWARDS THE NEXT CHURCH DOWN THE BLOCK

S: St. Phillips Church
146 Church St

Still serving the city’s oldest families, Saint Phillips is the oldest congregation in Charleston, founded in 1682. This current church was built in 1838. The original bells were donated by the church and melted down to make cannons for the Confederacy.

You can follow Church Street to the Market area to end your tour in the city’s market.