Charleston SC History

Related to Captain Jacob Milligan

More History of Early Charleston is here.


          Updated Tuesday, April 10, 2018                

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Charles Town - Named for King Charles II

In April of 1670 a group of colonists in two English ships, the Carolina and a nameless sloop, entered what is now Charleston harbor and proceeded up what is now the Ashley River. The English ships sailed past a large, gleaming white oyster bank to their right. It was later named Oyster Point and, still later, White Point Gardens. They proceeded up the river past marshes, trees, and creeks, past the present site of the two Ashley River bridges, and landed on the first high ground on the western bank of the Ashley River, which they named Albemarle Point, now Charles Towne Landing. They were five miles from the sea, just south of an Indian village. They named the settlement Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England.

The character of Charleston was indelibly stamped with the character of Charles II and his reign. The aristocratic city that developed in the 18th and 19th centuries reflected Restoration England just as 18th and 19th century Boston reflected Puritan England. In fact, the early Charlestonians, like the early Bostonians, came to the New World on their own "errand into the wilderness": to recreate the luxurious, cosmopolitan, pleasure-filled world of Restoration England. Charleston was the namesake of one of the most hedonistic of English monarchs, and its unspoken mission was to build a miniature aristocratic London in the midst of a recreated English countryside inhabited by a landed gentry.

How did the vulnerable Charles Town, the only fortified city in English America, become Charlestown, fourth largest, most beautiful, and wealthiest city in colonial America? The answer lies in the shipping trade. Rice, indigo, and slavery ("black ivory") were the major ingredients in the original Low Country recipe, and it was on that simple but powerful economy that colonial Charlestown was built.

--Rosen, Robert. A Short History of Charleston. Charleston, South Carolina: Peninsula Press, 1992.

Charles Town before 1780 - 300 Ships a Day

Revolutionary War Situation in SC - The Shot Heard Round the World

The first foray of the British into Charleston occurred June 28th, 1776. On this day 425 Americans under the command of Col. Moultrie on Sullivan's Island (now called Ft. Moultrie) fought bravely against 20 British ships approaching with canon firing.  The Americans repelled the Brits, and it was during this battle that our ancestor Jacob Milligan received fame for his bravery. His efforts on the ship Actaeon are well documented and earned him a commission as Captain.

By 1779 lack of success by the British in the North and French intervention forced the British to rethink their strategy.  The South was wealthier than the North, and the capture of a major port would help the naval war against France.  The rich rice producing lowlands would better support an army and allow for more active campaigning.  Loyalists were more numerous in the South and might be encouraged to join the cause.  Savannah, Georgia had already been captured, but attempts on Charleston had been so far repulsed.  A larger army with proper naval support might be successful, however.

Sir Henry Clinton left Sandy Hook outside of New York harbor on the day after Christmas, 1779, with 8,700 men.  Storms scattered ships and even sank some.  Most of the horses were lost, and one ship was even blown clear across the Atlantic.  A majority of the ships, however, were off the Georgia coast near Savannah by the end of January 1780.  Clinton sent 1,400 men, including his cavalry on a raid into the Georgia interior and proceeded by sea to Charleston.   From

Captain Jacob Milligan - American Patriot 

There are several more history books with similar accounts of the Actaeon. The British took Charleston in 1780 and held it until the following....(from Dr. Johnson's Reminiscences.....) "Milligan had by this time left the service and taken command of a privateer, with which he cruised, very successfully, in the West Indies. He captured many British vessels, took them into Spanish ports, but from the want of responsibility of Spanish agents at the time, or from some other cause, he did not appear to have profited by his adventures. Milligan was captured in the schooner Margery, his privateer, on the 21st May, 1778, by the ship Levant of 28 guns when off the coast of Georgia. He lost everything that he was worth, but thought that he got off very well, in not being confined in the British prison ship. Capt. Martin of the Levant treated him very civilly, and put him on shore at Bloddy Point, on parole. As soon as Milligan could be exchanged, he went on privateering, but returned to Charleston a little before the siege, and was again put in command of one of the State armed vessels. While in command of this vessel, a suitable quantity of powder was delivered to him for her stores and use when occasion should arise.

In 1780, to prevent the British from obtaining the 14 tons of gunpowder which Charleston has in store, Gen. Marion requested Captain Milligan to hide the powder.  Milligan stored the powder in the arch under the west portico of the Exchange, and converted it into a magazine. It was stipulated in the surrender that all the arms and ammunition in the garrison should be delivered up to the British authorities; but this did not set well with Milligan's stomach, and instead of doing so, he took out the doors and frames of the magazine, and boarded up all the open spaces, so that the change could not be discovered. When the Americans retook the city, Milligan went to look for his powder; it appeared to be just as he left it, But had become damp from the dampness of the closed vault, and was totally ruined. Milligan, however, consoled himself by saying that the devil might have it rather that the British. (Footnote: The Acts of the Provincial Revolutionary Houses of Assembly with the records of the State were secreted and preserved in the same vault.) Milligan was made the harbor master after the revolution, and continued in office, I believe, to the end of his life."

The 1794 directory lists Jacob Milligan as harbor master, with address NE of Exchange. Also of interest to me was the fact that the 1794 directory was compiled by Jacob Milligan!

More History of Early Charleston is here.


The Charleston ExchangeThe Charleston Exchange and Provost Dungeon, built 1767

Captain Milligan lived NE of the Exchange, and was the Harbor Master of Charleston, SC

Visit The Exchange

Old Exchange Building

From I-26, stay in left lane and take Exit 221B (Meeting Street/Visitor Center). Turn right at the bottom of the exit ramp going south on Meeting Street. Proceed on Meeting Street approx. 1.5 miles through the historic district (watch for turn lanes). Turn left onto Broad Street. The Old Exchange building is straight ahead where Broad Street ends at East Bay. Turn left onto East Bay. See parking options below.
--From the Charleston Visitors Center (at Meeting and Ann St.), turn right onto Meeting Street and proceed through the historic district. Turn left onto Broad Street; the Old Exchange is straight ahead where Broad Street ends at East Bay. Turn left onto East Bay. See parking options below.

Parking for the Exchange


Modern Charleston Map


Exchange photo - estimated after Civil War

Old Charleston Powder Magazine


The Powder Magazine is the oldest public building in the Carolinas.  The Powder Magazine was built in 1713 to store Charleston’s loose gunpowder safely and securely.  It was used as a powder magazine from 1713-1770 and again briefly during the Revolutionary War. Its other uses during its first 200 years were as a stable, a wine cellar, a print shop and finally a museum. In the 20th Century its present owners operated it as their Headquarters, meeting place and museum.

The Powder Magazine, originally a military storage area for loose gun powder, is located on 79 Cumberland Street in Charleston, SC. It is a small brick building with walls three feet thick and four groin arches that were on 3 inches thick at the top  so the Powder Magazine would implode in case of an explosion. This was necessary so the surrounding property would not be subject to a spreading fire in case of an explosion of any kind- an accidental one or from an enemy invasion.  Also, the only metal allowed in Powder Magazine was copper to eliminate and possibility of accidental sparks which could detonate a large explosion.

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