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Fort Johnson Chronology

1704: First fortification erected for defense of Charleston Harbor at the northeast point of James Island—to meet threatened invasion by French fleet under M. De Febourne—named after Sir Nathaniel Johnson, Governor of the Carolinas under the Proprietory Government.

1759: A second fort built of “Tapia” erected on site of the preceding. This was the fort of the revolutionary period. It was close in advance of and to the northeast of the Post Revolutionary work. A defensible sea wall of Tapia extended the fortification to the west and southwest. It was a British Military Post at this time.

1765: A British sloop of war arrived in Charleston harbor with a supply of stamped paper which was landed and stored at Fort Johnson. The Citizens did not want to be compelled to use stamped paper. Three companies of volunteers were organized by the citizens and took possession of Fort Johnson and the stamped paper.

1775: Fort Johnson was again seized by the Colonials and a survey showed that the Fort Johnson Reservation contained 89 1/2 acres exclusive of the Fort.

1793: The third Fort was built by Governor Wm. Moultrie of South Carolina.shot-fired

1796: It was repaired by the United States Government.

1800: A breach was made in the sea wall, east of the Fort, by the violence of a gale and so serious was the inroad of the seas that the Fort was temporarily abandoned.

1812: In view of the threatened war with England, General J. G. Swift reported to General Pinckney that the survey of Fort Johnson would be hastened and that two batteries would be ready for service in a short time.

1815: General Swift noted that “Fort Johnson is little better than a battery in ruins, the gale of 1813 having nearly destroyed it,” and he recommended the abandonment of the site and the construction of a new work, to mount 12 guns, a short distance in rear of it.

1821: Captain W. T. Poussin of the Topographical Engineers, surveyed and showed the fort to be in ruins. He reported, “The northeast of James Island, projecting into the harbor about midway between Sullivan's Island and the City, is the site of the few remains of old Fort Johnson.”

1827: Scarcely a vestige of the fort remained. Later two permanent buildings for officers and men, and a “Mortello Tower”, to the southeast were built and remained standing until after hostilities began in 1861.

1861: To aid in the reduction of Fort Sumter, a mortar battery was installed at this point, and at four o'clock on the morning of April 12th, 1861, a shell from a mortar was exploded over Fort Sumter, and this was the signal for the bombardment of Sumter to begin. Captain James was charge of the mortar battery on the occasion. Subsequent changes and improvements of this locality in the 1861-65 period made Fort Johnson, with its outposts, Battery Simpkins and the southeast, Battery Glover on the west oat One Hundred Pines, and Battery Wampler near the old Martello Tower, an extensive entrenched camp of considerable strength and capacity. The Fort proper mounted 20 guns and mortars of which 8 were of the heaviest caliber - 8 and 10 inch Columbiads and 6 and 7 inch rifles. Battery Simpkins and its adjacent works mounted besides three heavy guns and 3 mortars.

1864: On the 3rd of July an attacking force of two regiments of infantry and 60 “Artillerists”, coming in boats from Morris Island, under the command of General Gurney of New York, attempted to land between Battery Simpkins and Fort Johnson but were quickly repulsed by the Confederate infantry and artillery.

1865: On the 17th of February, this fort was evacuated and the works have been allowed to go to decay. Guns in position when the fort was abandoned were:

  • 4 - thirty-two pound smooth bore
  • 1 - 7" Brooks, banded and rifled gun
  • 1 - 10" smooth bore Columbiad
  • 2 - 10" rifled and banded Columbiads
  • 2 - 10" smooth bore
  • 4 - 8" Columbiads, smooth bore
  • 2 - 8" Mortars
  • 1 - 6" banded Brooks gun (rifled)
  • 2 - 30 pound rifled Parrott guns
  • 1 - 42 pound rifled and banded

The Battery one mile above Fort Johnson (Cheves) on east coast of James Island had 4 - 8" Columbiads mounted on Naval carriages.

The above information was taken from the Year Book of the City of Charleston for the year 1883.

John W. Trask Medical Director
October 22, 1940