Tourists at The Battery sure got their money's worth Thursday, but they may have felt underdressed.
White Point Garden on Carolina Day was a sea of well-dressed ladies and men in seersucker suits, as hundreds gathered under the shade of live oaks to witness the unveiling of a statue of Revolutionary War hero and Charleston native son Maj. Gen. William Moultrie.
The statue dedication was a ceremony of great pomp and pageantry, with people in period costume looking on, flag-bearing honor guards, a concert by the Charleston Community Band and celebratory cannon fire that set off car alarms and frightened small children.
Moultrie is best remembered for fighting off a British attempt to seize control of Charles Town Harbor on the very day Thomas Jefferson finished writing the Declaration of Independence. From Sullivan's Island, then-Col. Moultrie and his garrison of roughly 400 men rebuffed the British fleet from a fort made of sand and Palmetto logs on Sullivan's Island, while sharpshooters and the notorious tides at Breach Inlet held back a 2,000-man British force attempting to cross from what is now Isle of Palms.
The battle at Fort Sullivan, now Fort Moultrie, was one of the first decisive victories of the Revolutionary War.
"This statue represents freedom and liberty, from now to eternity, for this great nation," former Gov. James B. Edwards said.
Although the British eventually took Charleston in 1780 and captured Moultrie, he was later released in a prisoner exchange and went on to twice serve as governor of South Carolina.
Under Gov. Moultrie, the state capitol was moved from Charleston to Columbia, but for that he has apparently been forgiven.
A number of local society and nonprofit groups worked for years to raise $250,000 for the statue, created by local sculptor John Ney Michel.
Moultrie's eighth-generation grandson, George Brailsford, was among those on the Moultrie Statue Fund Committee.
The 8-foot statue, atop a 7-foot pedestal, depicts a uniformed Moultrie, sword in sheath, holding his hat at his side as he appears to survey Charleston Harbor. It is a more understated statue than the nearby "Defenders of Charleston" Confederate memorial, which features a strapping warrior wearing little more than a fig leaf, holding a shield and broken sword.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley praised the Moultrie statue, calling it "beautiful and patriotic," the result of an ambitious undertaking.
"Liberty is a precious thing, and our forefathers are rightly venerated for their bravery and devotion," Riley said.
Moultrie's accomplishments were further celebrated on Thursday evening with a ceremony at Fort Moultrie.