Independence Day Remembering Charleston’s rebellious, Colonial roots

The Old Exchange Building on East Bay Street.

There are plenty more reasons right now to discuss South Carolina’s Civil War history over the role the Palmetto State played in the Revolutionary War.

But with Independence Day upon us, maybe we could use some perspective and discover the sites in the Lowcountry that can inspire us all to be patriotic.

Charleston was, after all, a key proving ground for the Colonies that led to our victory against Great Britain in the Revolutionary War.

“There’s a lot of hidden history about the Revolutionary War in downtown Charleston and nobody realizes it’s there,” said Carl Borick, director of the Charleston Museum.

For instance, at 80 Alexander St., there’s a marker commemorating the site of the Liberty Tree, “a large live oak under which Christopher Gadsden and the local Sons of Liberty would meet,” Borick said, adding that tree was where Gadsden would rally people around the idea of Colonial independence.

It’s also marked by historians as the site where South Carolinians first heard and celebrated the news of the Declaration of Independence.

Although the British had it chopped down in the 1780s, Borick said the concept of the tree as a meeting ground for ideas “is something folks can still rally around.”

The Old Exchange Building on Broad Street was where the Declaration of Independence was read publicly to the people of Charleston for the first time.

To commemorate that occasion, the museum will hold a reading of the important document from the balcony at 9 a.m. Saturday.

“I can’t think of a better way to pronounce your patriotism,” said Tony Youmans, director of the historic site. “It’s a powerful document. It needs to be read, and it needs to be understood.”

The Charleston Museum, which houses many artifacts from the Charleston’s Colonial era, will be open to visitors on July Fourth.

So will the Heyward-Washington House, which was owned by Thomas Heyward, one of the signers of the Declaration and a patriot leader who led the South Carolina militia during the Revolutionary War.

The name “Washington” was tagged onto the house because it housed President George Washington during his week-long stay in the city in 1791 after the war.

It was later sold to John F. Grimke, another Revolutionary War officer, whose daughters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, became leading suffragettes and abolitionists in the South.

If you’d rather spend your holiday at the beach than in a museum, you’ll still find some opportunities to soak in the patriotism.

There’s of course Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, which protected the coast from a British invasion by holding strong against a nine-hour naval attack. Another historic site is on the other end of the island, but it’s not visited quite as often.

Called Thomson Park, it marks a battleground where roughly 900 patriots led by Col. William Thomson resisted more than 3,500 British men at Breech’s Inlet.

“It may look like sand and a parking lot, but stop there a moment to perhaps review what these men did,” Youmans said. “Great Britain had the best royal Navy in the world, so for these Colonials to repel them, wow. That was huge.”

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.