The Travelers' Charleston: Accounts of Charleston and Lowcountry, South Carolina, 1666-1861

The Travelers' Charleston: Accounts of Charleston and Lowcountry, South Carolina, 1666-1861

The Travelers' Charleston: Accounts of Charleston and Lowcountry, South Carolina, 1666-1861

The Travelers' Charleston: Accounts of Charleston and Lowcountry, South Carolina, 1666-1861


The Travelers' Charleston is an innovative collection of firsthand narratives that document the history of the South Carolina lowcountry region, specifically that of Charleston, from 1666 until the start of the Civil War. Jennie Holton Fant has compiled and edited a rich and comprehensive history as seen through the eyes of writers from outside the South. She provides a selection of unique texts that include the travelogues, travel narratives, letters, and memoirs of a diverse array of travelers who described the region over time. Further, Fant has mined her material not only for validity but to identify any characters her travelers encounter or events they describe. She augments her resources with copious annotations and provides a wealth of information that enhances the significance of the texts.
The Travelers' Charleston begins with explorer Joseph Woory's account of the Carolina coast four years before the founding of Charles Town, and it concludes as Anna Brackett, a Charleston schoolteacher from Boston, witnesses the start of the Civil War. The volume includes Josiah Quincy Jr.'s original 1773 journal; the previously unpublished letters of Samuel F. B. Morse, a portrait artist in Charleston between 1818 and 1820; the original letters of Scottish aristocrat and traveler Margaret Hunter Hall (1824); and a compilation of the letters of William Makepeace Thackeray written in Charleston during his famous lecture tours in the 1850s. Using these sources, combined with excepts from carefully chosen travel accounts, Fant provides an unusual and authoritative documentary record of Charleston and the lowcountry, which allows the reader to step back in time and observe a bygone society, culture, and politics to note key characters and hear them talk and to witness firsthand the history of one of the country's most distinctive regions.


These charming gardens, in connection with the piazzas resting on
ornamental pillars, make the whole town graceful. One sits, in the
morning, in these open chambers, inhaling the refreshing air from the
sea, its perfume mingled with that of the flowers below; and, at midday,
closing the Venetian shutters to exclude the sun, he rests in grateful
shade. Here, too, throughout the longer portion of the year, may be
spread, at evening, the tea table; while the heavens still glow with the
purple-and amber of the sunset. and here lingers the family until the
bells from the tower of St. Michael’s, sweetly ringing their silver chimes
through the calm, starry air, announce, at last, the hour of repose.

John Milton Mackie, From Cape Cod to
Dixie and the Tropics, 1864

Soon after he was restored to the English throne in 1660, King Charles ii rewarded eight men who had supported him in exile with a large section of the American continent. These men, constituted “lords proprietors,” were granted the province of Carolina by a charter dated 1663, which gave them permission to develop “all that territory, or tract of ground called Carolina scituate, lying, and being within our dominions of America.” Carolina extended over a vast and unexplored terrain from Virginia to Florida.

Five months later, a group of Barbados businessmen sponsored an expedition to explore the coastal regions of the grant. Commanded by Captain William Hilton, the expedition left Barbados in August of 1663 and arrived in the province of Carolina. They sailed in the proximity of the Combahee and Edisto rivers, Port Royal, and St. Helena Sound. in a report, Hilton described the region as “one of the greatest and fairest havens in the world.”

Influenced by Captain Hilton’s favorable description, at the end of 1663 a second English group set out from Barbados to settle an area on the Charles River (later named the Clarendon River, now the Cape Fear River), which they named Charles Town. When that colony proved unsuccessful, the lords proprietors encouraged the Barbadians to explore the territory further south for settlement . . .

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