The Civil War had a multi-faceted effect on Charleston, South Carolina. As a result of the American Civil War, Charleston’s economy, agriculture, slavery, architecture, and lifestyle forever changed. Charleston, the site of great devastation during and after the American Civil War, took decades to recover. However, Charleston became the most beautiful city in South Carolina.
The American Civil War affected Charleston’s agriculture in an enormous way. During the Civil War, as Charleston’s Confederates left the city, and the federal troops entered the city, the Confederates set fire to and blew up many of their own supplies (including cotton, rice and munitions). The Confederates made this drastic choice to prevent the Union, once they raided the city, from obtaining the supplies necessary to help them win the war. In Charleston, barely a plantation remained fit for planting crops after the Civil War. The agriculture system around Charleston survived due to the freed African American slaves and poor whites who knew how to care for the crops. The sturdy farmers kept on fighting alone and, somehow, they held on to their piece of earth and made it bear crops once more (History of SC Agriculture).
Next, the American Civil War almost destroyed the grand architecture of Charleston’s beautiful buildings. On July 10, 1863, the Union Army began its attack on Charleston, and the fighting continued for almost two years. Many people lost their lives during the fighting, and bombardment ruined many buildings ("Charleston Surrendered"). Between the initial shelling and the fire, when the Union bombarded Charleston, it created a fire so big it practically destroyed Broad Street. Evidence of the fire can still be found today. The fire also consumed most of Meeting Street, including historical buildings such as the South Carolina Institute Hall, the Circular Congregational Church, and St. John’s Episcopal Church, which got bombarded by shells 10 times (Bostick 132,144). Reporter Sidney Andrews, who arrived in Charleston in September of 1865, saw “a city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant windows, of widowed women, of rotting wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed-wild gardens, of miles of grass grown streets, of acres of pitiful and voice full barrenness” (Doyle 56).
The Civil War tremendously affected Charleston’s economy. After the Civil War, cotton production, a major cash crop in Charleston, decreased dramatically: 4 million bales in 1861, down to 300,000 in 1865. With the destruction of the economic system in the South, farm values diminished 41% after the war, leaving most of the farmers in poverty (Unit4/CivilWargoals). The Confederate currency became worthless in the post-Civil War economy. Charlestonians grew unable...