Dorchester State Park, old English settlement near Charleston

“I passed Dorchester, where there are the remains of what appears to have once been a considerable town: there are the ruins of an elegant church, and the vestiges of several well-built houses.” – A 1788 account by a passing traveler

Fort Dorchester built in 1775

The Dorchester Garrison commanded by Capt. Francis Marion during Revolutionary War


Few months ago I had the opportunity to visit Dorchester State Historic Park, a short drive from Summerville, the magnificent plantations and North Charleston.

Similarly to nearby Charles Towne Landing, visitors are rewarded with one of America’s most complete archaeological records of colonial life.

The park is open daily 9AM to 6PM and admission is $2 for adults, free for kids 15 and younger. Most Saturdays, from June through September you can attend educational programs and observe archaeologist at work (free with park admission, 10AM to 2PM)

Historic highlights and interesting artifacts (data and quotes provided by the park exhibits and brochure guide)

On October 20, 1695, Joseph Lord, Increase Summer and William Pratt were dismissed from their church from Dorchester, Massachusetts for “Ye gathering of A Church for ye South Carolina.” After securing 4050 of land here along the Ashley River, they sailed home to their congregation in New England.

Coming to South Carolina for an acceptable settlement

Lord, Summer and Pratt gathering of A Church for ye South Carolina


They returned in 1697 with other church members who hoped “to go to South Carolina to Settel the Gospel ther”.

When the new Dorchester was laid out, the village contained 116 quarter acre lots, a town square and commons. The St. George Anglican church was built in 1720, a fair was established in 1723 and the Free School opened in 1761.

By 1781, Dorchester became a booming trade center and boasted about 40 houses by 1781. The town gradually declined after the American Revolution and was abandoned in 1788. The threat of malaria and the shortage of land cause the Congregationalist colony to leave Dorchester and start a new settlement in Midway, Georgia.

In 1969, the land was donated to the South Carolina State Park Service. The village of Dorchester is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Dorchester Free School – The school was established in 1758 and consisted of

How it was like to go to school in the 18th century

The Dorchester Free School where girls were allowed to attend.

“two Brick Houses of the Dimensions of 23 feet in weadth & 36 feet in length, & one story high, with a dutch roof, shall be built for the use of the sd. School, one of them to serve as a School House, & other for a dwelling house for the Master, & his Family…”

Several girls attended the free school, an amazing feat for the time given most girls were raised to become just mothers and housewives.

During Revolutionary War the schoolmaster was removed from this post for remaining loyal to England and the school was closed.

The British troops burned it down and it did not reopen for almost 25 years. In 1818 the school moved to Summerville.

The St. George’s Anglican Church and Bell Tower – Angry with the Anglican Church, the Puritan Pilgrims left England in 1620.

Anglican Church Tower

St. George’s Anglican Church was built here in 1720. The bell tower was added in 1751.

Their descendants, known as Congregationalists, founded Dorchester in 1697, only to endure South Carolina’s 1706 declaration of Anglicanism as the colony’s official church.

With the Congregationalists worshiping only 2 miles away, St. George’s Anglican Church was built in 1720 in the center of Dorchester. Village founders and the other village “dissenters” were even taxed to support St. George’s.

The church was enlarged in the 1730s to meet its growing and prosperous parish. The bell tower was added in 1751.

St. George’s Anglican Church may have been a more convenient location for local worship, however the Congregationalist Church remained the religious center for most of Dorchester’s Puritan settlers.

The Native Coosa Tribe – Long before the English settlers, a small Native American tribe, the Coosa, lived here. The relationship with the English has always been uneasy. In 1671, the Charles Towne settlers accused them of stealing corn and livestock

17th century Indian village in South Carolina

The Coosa were one of the original inhabitants in the Lowcountry

and in 1674 they were even accused of murder.

The settlers waged war against the Coosa. After defeating the Indians, they required a monthly payment of deerskin per colony.

In 1675, one of the Lord Proprietors was granted the land where the Coosa village once stood. Although the grant gave him legal title he officially purchased the land from the surviving Coosa for “a valuable parcel of cloth, hatchet, beads and other goods and manufactures now received…” He called his home there the “Cussoo House”

By 1696, the Coosa ceased to have a significance presence in this area. Some had settled in the nearby St. Paul’s Parish, some migrated west, others died or intermarried with the English.

Fort Dorchester – During the French and Indian War rumors of an impeding naval attack by the French forced swift action by leaders in Charles Towne.

Dorchester earthen and osyster shells colonial defense

The powder magazine was fortified in 1775


A brick powder magazine enclosed by a tabby wall 8 feet high was built here in 1757.

During the Revolution, Dorchester was a strategic point.

In 1775, the magazine was fortified and the garrison commanded by Capt. Francis Marion. British troops occupied the town in April 1780 and again in 1781. At one point there were over 600 British soldiers in Dorchester.

They were driven out by cavalry and infantry under Col. Wade Hampton and Gen. Nathaniel Greene on December 1, 1781.

The meeting House was located 2 miles west of the village. The first structure was built of wood and replaced in the mid 1700 with a brick building. The interior is described as:

“A single door admitted to a single aisle, leading to a lofty pulpit, with a sounding board above it.

Congregationalist colony ruins Dorchester Park

What is left of the Dorchester burial ground

In front of the pulpit was an elevated seat for the ruling elder; a little lower and just behind the communion table was a seat for the deacons.

On either side of the island were several plain benches, capable of seating four or five persons each.

Along the sides of the house were two or three long seats, and at the site of the pulpit were several shorter ones. Back by the door two seats were fitted up for the guardsmen, with their old matchlocks.”

During the Revolutionary War, the British occupied the building and reportedly burned it when they evacuated the area. In 1794 the structure was repaired, and eventually its congregation entered into an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church.

As the Dorchester settlement declined and the town of Summerville grew, a new church was constructed nearer the town. Over time the old meeting house fell in disrepair and in 1886 it was severely damaged by the Great Earthquake. Today, only crumbling walls and the burial grounds remain.

The Artifacts – At the center you can see numerous artifacts such as hand painted pearl ware, Staffordshire candle holder, lead-glazed earthenware, white salt-glazed stoneware and the Colono ware. The Colono ware is similar to pottery from Nigeria and Ghana. It started to be produced in Carolina around 1680, peaked in the early 1700s and then disappeared by 1800. Typical vessels were flat bottomed, burnished, grit-tempered and often had an “X” incised on their bases.

Step back in the colonial period at Dorchester State Historic Park!

Dorchester State Park outdoor attractions

Best place to have a picnic along Ashley River

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Middleton Place self guided walking tour photos and travel tips

This year we started our Charleston spring vacation at Middleton Place. It was the fair thing to do, since last year we visited Magnolia Plantation.

Funny birds at the Stableyards

Respect the dandy Stableyards keeper!


Middleton Place is more expensive ($25 adults / $5 children 7-15 general admission vs. $15 adults / $10 children 6-12 at Magnolia).

They both have beautiful landscaped gardens, history and nature walks, and guided tours dedicated to the African slaves.

Middleton stands out with its Stableyards, while Magnolia has more activities for kids.

This is an overview of what to expect and things to enjoy on the Middleton Place self-guided walking tour. Just in case, here is a slide show from my visit.

Things to know before you go
• Use the excellent self-guided tour brochure and map you get with your admission ticket (most historic data in this post comes from the brochure)!
• Wear very comfortable shoes. You will be walking or standing on your feet for hours. Have sunscreen, bug spray and plenty of water.
• The place is swarming with flying insects. My daughter got stung by a hornet near the buffalo pond at the Stableyards. Best to wear lightweight long sleeves shirts, pants and a sun hat.
• For food you can bring your own picnic, or purchase sandwiches, salads, ice-cream and drinks at the Garden Market. The Middleton Restaurant serves lunch daily 11AM – 3PM and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. For dinner reservations call (843) 556 – 6020 ext. 118.
• Take advantage of the free tours: African American Focus at 11AM and 1PM, and the Garden Overview at the top of each hour from 10AM to 3PM
• The guided House Museum tour is extra $10, runs from 9:30AM to 5PM and lasts about 25 minutes.

The gentlemen guest wing rebuilt 1970s

Beware this is not the 18th century house! The original was destroyed by Civil War and the 1886 Earthquake

Note this is not the original 18th century plantation house, but the restored gentlemen guest wing.

The only thing left from that period is the south flank. Everything else was destroyed either by fire in the Civil War or the Great 1886 Earthquake.

Inside there are original Benjamin West family portraits, Charleston-made rice beds and fine English silver. Further, through August 30, the museum features the “Carolina Gold from Rice to Riches” exhibit.

Tour highlights, historic trivia and fun things to do

Best place to have a picnic and let the kids run free is at the terraces.

The Versailles of Charleston

Butterfly Lakes, Terrace Gardens and Rice Mill

The gardens were designed by Andre´ le Notre, the landscape architect of Versailles. The formal lawn provided a reception area at the house east entrance. Many visitors came by boat.

Legend has it in 1786 the French botanist Andre´ Michaux gave the Middletons the first four camellias to be planted in an American garden.

Now you can relax among “Queen of Flowers” camellias, azaleas, tea plants, magnolia trees and gaze upon the picture perfect Butterfly Lakes or the timeless Ashley River.

Most popular place for kids inside Middleton Place is the Stableyards.

Interpreter guide at work Middleton Place

Making rice barrels the old fashion way

Here you can watch live demonstrations by artisan craftsmen, play with colonial time farm equipment and carriages and see, pet and even milk (some days around 4PM) the animals!

Check out these pictures for a detailed Stableyards tour.

This was my first encounter with a male peacock in a full fledged feather dance. It was impressive! My daughter loved the kitty sleeping in the Weaving room. Everyone was eager to pet the majestic Suffolk horses, that are used today on all the carriage tours.

Best photography and wedding ceremony spot is by the Azalea Hillside

Middleton Spring House and Plantation Chapel

Most picturesque spot on Middleton grounds

and the Rice Mill Pond Bridge.
The hillside was planted in the 1920s with thousands of spring blooming azaleas. The pond formed after a creek that flowed into Ashley River was dammed.

Nowadays geese, swan, wood ducks and mallards swim at ease under the picturesque cypress bridge.

Across Rice Mill Pond is the Spring House and Plantation Chapel. At the lower level, spring waters provided cool storage for dairy products and other foods.

The upper floor, added in 1851, was used as a chapel for the slaves until the Civil War.

Learn about rice farming, the Carolina Gold crop! Rice cultivation flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries with the labor and skills of thousands of enslaved Africans. After the Civil War it declined. Today “Carolina Gold” is being grown in the demonstration rice field located next to the Rice Mill.

How rice was cultivated harvested and trade in 18th century

Kids learn the tedious process of farming rice inside Rice Mill


Water played a vital role in the economic life of the plantation. Ashley River was the primary highway to and from outside world for Middleton Place residents.

While water was essential in cultivating rice it also provided power for the mill.

Milling was the final step in rice processing. The underwater turbine turned a horizontal spiked wheel, from which a belt moved through the two holes in the west wall to power the mill.

Most romantic place is around the Reflection Pool (where the self-guided tour starts). Here you can admire the Secret and Sundial Gardens, the Wood Nymph, one of the few original statues that survived Civil War, and the gigantic Middleton Live Oak that once marked a pre-colonial Indian Trail.

Swan Lake Live in Charleston Middleton

All roads lead to the Reflection Pool

Here are more reviews from travelers on Middleton Inn and Restaurant, Middleton weddings, and the Museum House and Carriage tours.


Fun family attractions in the area

Audubon Swamp Garden at Magnolia Plantation, America’s newest and most unique garden and wildlife preserve ($7 admission, free for kids under 6)

Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of South Carolina, rewards you with incredible history, a zoo and full size trading ship to play on! ($5 adults, $3 children 6-15)

How sweet it is! Charleston tea plantation, your weekend paradise escape

I’ve always wanted to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation, America’s only tea garden and this Spring I finally made it! Nestled in the picturesque Wadmalaw Island, the plantation is a short drive from both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach.

Come to the First Flush Festival at Charleston Tea Plantation

We made it to Americas only tea garden!

Things to know before you go
You can tour the indoor tea factory for free or take the $10 (free for kids under 6) trolley tour around the farm.

The plantation is open daily 10AM to 4PM (noon on Sundays), except on major holidays.

Although the Charleston Tea Plantation started in 1987, its roots go way back.

In the 1700’s the Camellia Sinensis tea plant first arrived in the United States from China in an attempt to produce the exquisitely aromatic tea.

It only took about 150 years…In 1888, Dr. Charles Shepard managed to produce the first American grown tea on his Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville, SC.

In 1963, Shepard’s tea plants were transplanted from Pinehurst to a 127 acres potato farm located on Wadmalaw Island.

State of the art machinery on display at Charleston Tea Plantation

Here comes The Green Giant!

This farm eventually became known as the Charleston Tea Plantation.

Every Camellia Sinensis plant growing on the grounds today is direct descendant of Dr. Shepard’s 1888 crop, making the Charleston Tea Plantation a living part of American history!

The trolley tour lasts about 20 minutes. You listen to a recorded audio that goes over the most interesting aspects of growing tea.

The trolley makes frequent stops so you can take pictures, and have plenty of time to marvel at the charming garden, serene irrigation ponds, and blooming rows after rows of tea plants.

Charleston Tea Plantation facts, trivia and tips

Picture perfect spot from the tea trolley

I feel jolly on the trolley!

• This is probably one of the most eco-friendly plant farms in the world. They use no herbicides, pesticides or insecticides and consequently there is minimum soil erosion.

• The plantation is not only organic but very high tech. They have designed their own fully sustainable irrigation system and the Green Giant tea harvesting machine…truly unique in the world!

• Did you know that green, black and Oolong tea all come from the same plant? The difference is in processing: green tea leaves, once harvested go straight to drying, and within minutes, are sorted, then put into bags or let loose.

• Tea plants, once mature are very sturdy and resilient and can live for hundreds of years!

• A cup American Classic Tea contains half the amount of caffeine than the average cup of coffee. To reduce the caffeine in hot tea try the following: Pour boiling water over your tea and let it sit for 60 seconds. Pour OUT that first cup (heat releases caffeine), then again pour boiling water over the tea and enjoy!

• To get the best flavor and lower caffeine iced tea, pour cold water over your tea bags (DO NOT use boiling water!) and let it sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, remove your tea bags, add a sweetener if desired and serve over ice.

See how tea is made

The self guided free factory tour

The self guided factory tour is free and takes about 15 minutes. You watch video on a TV screen about each major step in the tea producing process: harvesting, withering, maceration, filtration, oxidation, drying and packaging.

Note the tour may be boring for young children (mine ran up and down the corridor)…

It gets more exciting during the harvesting season, May through October, when visitors can see all the big machines in action!

Once done with the tour, enjoy all you can drink fresh-made tea or shop for one of kind gourmet items at the Shoppe. Make sure to get the American Classic Tea sampler box, featuring six delicious varieties of loose leaf tea in the staple pyramid bags.

Indulge in most delicious green and black Southern tea

Yummy, yummy in the tummy!

Health benefits of green and black tea
• Great source of antioxidants
• Promote cardiovascular health, higher bone density
• Help reduce body fat
• Have no carbohydrates or calories

Irrigation pond

High tech, eco friendly and so, so beautiful...

Best time to visit the plantation is during annual First Flush Festival, which this year is on May 16, from 10AM to 6PM. The first flush is when the most fresh, flavorful and aromatic tea is produced. There will be great music bands, art, local cuisine, and fun kids games.

Festival tickets are $15 until May 1, $20 until May 16, and $25 at the door on the event day. Kids 6 and under get in FREE.

Family fun attractions in the area
• The 1,500 years old, gigantic Angel Oak Tree on John’s Island
• The romantic Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the most revered historic landmarks on the Charleston Harbor
Folly Beach, featuring one of the best surfing and fishing spots on the Atlantic Coast.

Charleston boom or bust? The Old Exchange and Dungeon tour

The Old Exchange Building was the state’s commercial, political and social epicenter during the Golden Age.

Kids are fascinated by the old colonial style dressed people

Trick or treat...the start of the Dungeon tour

Today it’s the most significant historic public building in Charleston, and a highly advertised family attraction.

Although the building has many exhibits to enjoy, don’t expect “fireworks” or dramatic re-enactments on the guided Dungeon tour ($8 adults, $4 children 7-12).

The museum is open daily 9AM to 5PM.

You can park in the metered lot left of the building or the garage on Mid-Atlantic Wharf ($1 per hour, $10 per day).

Things to know before you go
1. The tour is geared toward kids and lasts about 30 minutes.

Talking mannequins...some like it, some do not

Most of the time you listen to animated mannequins tell you stories about the burgeoning British rule, the capture of famous Caribbean pirates and the Patriots uprising.

My 5 years old really enjoyed it, she was intrigued about all the (fake) rats roaming around.

2. Mystery seekers should consider one of the city night tours, like the “Charleston Ghost and Dungeon Tour” offered by Bulldogs Tour ($18 adults, $10 children over 7. The website offers a $2 coupon). At night the Dungeon will make you shiver with its pitch dark pathways and eerie sounds…you may even catch an orb or two on your digital camera.

3. History buffs will appreciate the 2 stories filled with photos, original artifacts, exquisite furniture and stories from the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. I was humbled by the many pictures depicting the overwhelming destruction Charleston suffered during Civil War.

Most significant events that took place at the Old Exchange building (data from the official website):

Revolutionary War defense against British

Don't let the British get their hands on this!


• Stede Bonnet “the Gentleman Pirate” and crew are imprisoned prior to their hanging at the Battery Park.
• British tea is seized and stored in the Exchange cellars.
• South Carolina drafts its first constitution and declares independence from Great Britain.
• General William Moultrie hides 10,000 pounds of gunpowder in the cellar.
• Colonel Isaac Hayne is imprisoned in the Exchange, and later executed by the British.
• George Washington is entertained here several times during his Southern Tour.
• The Charleston Post Office moves into the Exchange.
• The Half-Moon Battery, part of the original Charleston fortification is excavated beneath the cellar of the Exchange.

4. There are many cool colonial artifacts throughout the Exchange: the “Stair to Nowhere”, the Half Moon wall, the 17th century bronze Spanish war vest, the 18th century flintlock British pistols, the Post Office replica, Gen. William Moultrie waistcoast and Gen. Marion Francis lucky charm buckeyes and much more…

Down in the Dungeon

Trying on the Spanish bronze vest and drums

5. Children will enjoy the stories and graphical representations of the most famous Pirates who used to rule the Charleston Harbor and the Sea Islands: Stede Bonnet, Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

Old Exchange tour exhibits

Hey look at these old guns!

Nearby family attractions:

The kids favorite Waterfront Park (free)
• The Old Slave Mart Museum ($7)
• SC Aquarium ($18 adults, $11 children over 2)
• The Powder Magazine ($2)
• The Market.

If you decide to vacation at Folly Beach make sure to check out the beautiful Morris Island Lighthouse and to visit the country’s only Tea Plantation, that produces the flavorful, aromatic and truly eco-friendly American Classic Tea.

A Hunley tour to remember! Travel tips, photos and what kids love to do in North Charleston

The Hunley submarine, “the find of the century” is South Carolina’s most prized historic military possessions. So on your next Charleston vacation make sure to visit the Hunley, the world’s first submarine to sink an enemy ship.

Tours are offered Saturday from 10AM – 5PM and Sunday 12 – 5 PM. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, and free for kids 5 and under.

H.L. Hunley museum photos North Charleston

A real tight squeeze even for a child...

Things to know before you go

• The guided tour lasts about 20 minutes, most spent on a platform overlooking the conservation tank. Here you’ll be “bombarded” with all kinds of facts, figures and trivia that will make your head spin.

• For obvious conservation reasons you will not be able to get too close to the sub nor take any pictures once inside the lab area.

The Hunley tour is about to begin

People line up for the real tour

• Take your time in the exhibit gallery. Here you and the kids can play inside life-size submarine replicas, learn about the Hunley history, crew and recovery efforts, see amazing artifacts and even get your own golden lucky charm coin.

I really enjoyed watching the National Geographic documentary “Raising the Hunley”. Who knew there is still so much drama surrounding the sub discovery?

• The most difficult part is finding the museum! From I-526 take exit 19, then N. Rhett east until you reach the Park Circle roundabout. Take Sprull to McMillan where your turn left. McMillan will take you to the old Charleston Naval Base. Follow the (small) white signs to the Friends of the Hunley museum. Here is the Google Map.


What kids love to do inside the museum

No wonder they call it the Infernal Machine! The 4 by 3.5 foot cabin could barely fit 8 men; all sat hunched on benches cranking hard on a center shaft while the captain steered. One flimsy candle provided a glimmer of light…

Happy kid playing inside Hunley full size replica

Is not as easy as it looks...this is hard mom!

Just for kids fun activities…pretend you’re the captain of the mighty submarine!

Children games at Warren Lausch conservation center

Peekaboo! Hunley just for kids

Check out Pioneer, the first submarine build by the Hunley, McClintock and Watson trio. The 3-men submersible was fabricated from quarter-inch iron plates bolted to an iron frame.

Touching Pioneer replica at Charleston Hunley museum

It looks a little scary...

A small, hand turned spiral propeller at the stern provided mobility, while dividing planes on either side allowed the vessel to sink and rise as the crew desired.

Although Pioneer received a privateering commission from the Confederate government it didn’t have a chance to prove itself.

When Admiral Farragut captured New Orleans, Pioneer was scuttled so it will not fall into enemy hands. Unfortunately, it was soon discovered and dragged to shore by Union soldiers. The little torpedo boat was examined, sketched, and in 1868, auctioned away as scrap metal…

The battle mystery begins! What ever happened to the submarine? Learn all about the clues, theories, legends and the incredible forensic analysis.

Mesmerized child at HL Hunley Conservation Center

Wow! Can you believe this?

More fun family attractions in the area

• The American LaFrance Fire Museum has the best fire show in town (free for kids, $6 adults).

• Isle of Palms beach and park feature the best playground and free outdoor family recreation in the Charleston area.

• Fort Moultrie, a cradle of heroism and southern ingenuity (free for kids, $3 adults).

The “Infernal Machine”! HL Hunley’s submarine amazing artifacts and good-luck charms

The find of the century…

The Charleston Harbor is home to the country’s most intriguing Civil War naval battle. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only HL Hunley, also called “The Diver”, “The Infernal Machine”, “The Fish Boat”, “The Peripatetic Coffin”. The Hunley was the world’s first combat submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship, and recently, I got a chance to see it.

The museum is open Saturday 9AM – 5PM and Sunday noon – 5PM. Admission is $12 (free for kids 5 years and under) and includes a 20 minutes guided talk on top of the 90,000 gallons tank holding the Hunley, access to interactive exhibits and two full size

Inside the submarine hull

Playing inside Hunley full size replica from the TNT movie

submarines replicas, and viewing of the Natl Geographic “Raising the Hunley” documentary.

Among the 3,000 artifacts recovered from the mysterious HL Hunley submarine, the most incredible findings are those not yet displayed to the public:

Like Lt. George Dixon’s watch, that when opened had the hands still in position!…or crewmen brain tissue inside the skulls, soft tissue in the shoes, and most amazing discovery of all… fingerprints!

However, here are the cool ones you can see at the HL Hunley Lauch Conservation Center (historic data taken from the exhibits):

The power of love
For more than a century a romantic legend has captured the hearts and minds of countless Civil War history buffs: the story of the lucky $20 gold coin that saved the life of Lt. George Dixon, the captain who lead HL Hunley in its final mission.

It was believed, his sweetheart, Queenie Bennet gave Dixon a 1860-minted gold coin as a good luck charm. And the coin delivered!

$20 gold coin replica HL Hunley Museum

The lucky coin that dodged a bullet during Civil War Shiloh battle

During the 1862 Battle of Shiloh, he was shot point blank. A bullet ripped into the pocket of his trousers and struck the center of the coin. The impact was said to have left the gold piece bent, with the bullet embedded in it.

Was the legend true or merely a romantic tale?

The world got the answer 137 years later. In 2000, during the excavation of the H.L. Hunley, the gold coin was discovered next to the remains of Lt. George Dixon. It was deeply indented and carried traces of lead!

The front of the coin features the Lady Liberty image, while the back has the Shield and Eagle symbol and a hand inscription:

Shiloh
April 6, 1862
My life Preserver
G. E. D.

The above photo is from the coin replica displayed inside the HL Hunley Museum. It was cast from the original. Now, for $10, you can purchase a similar gold coin replica from the Friends of the Hunley online store.

Dixon’s gold and diamond ring and brooch…another charm, another love story?
While excavating the fragile waterlogged textiles of Lt. Dixon the Hunley research team uncovered two enigmatic pieces of gold jewelry:

9 diamonds 24 carat gold ring and 37 small diamonds brooch

Exquisite diamond gold jewelry on a Civil War secret mission?


• A 18-24 carat gold ring with 9 large diamonds It has no inscriptions or jewelry marks and resembles a ring for a rich and more mature woman.

• A gold brooch with 37 small diamonds. Originally pinned to a small piece of fabric, it appears to have been wrapped in cloth along with the ring, most likely for safekeeping.

The brooch featured a popular 1820s design symbolizing wealth and high status for its owner.

It is believed the two pieces were made from different jewelers. Together they represented quite a fortune during Civil War.

Why did Dixon carry such expensive jewelry with him in a perilous battle? Whom did they belong to? Were they also a lucky charm gift?

It was known that Lt. Dixon was a “ladies man”….

A Union soldier fighting with the Confederates on board Hunley?!
On April 27, 2001, the excavation team was surprised to discover a Union ID tag inside one of the most secret Confederate naval weapon!

Prized enemy capture discovered inside HL Hunley

Another Civil War mystery solved ~130 years later: Ezra Chamberlain's medallion found with a Confederate soldier inside the HL Hunley submarine


The ID tag was found on the skull of one of the Hunley crewmen, bearing the name and class of Ezra Chamberlain, Private, 7th Connecticut Infantry, Union Forces.

Was Ezra onboard that fateful night? Did he switch sides?

Was he a prisoner and thus forced to operate the Hunley?

Was Ezra’s ID tag picked up from the battlefield by a Hunley crewman as a souvenir of war?

Mystery Solved! Early 2002, forensic experts found that the Hunley crewman wearing the tag was in his 30s, while Ezra would have been only 24 at the time of the mission. Further research suggests that Pvt. Chamberlain was killed in action 7 months earlier, during the Fort Wagner battle on Morris Island.

The brass medallion was indeed a battlefield souvenir picked up by Joseph Ridgaway.

A candle in the wind…
This simple white candle was used to light the interior of the submarine.

Mind boggling discoveries from H.L. Hunley submarine Civil War battle

Only one candle lit the cramped 4 foot interior ...here it is more than a century later

When the flame of the candle diminished, the crew knew the oxygen level in the hull was getting low.

Before the Hunley’s last mission, Lt. Dixon put the crew to rigorous training to test their physical and emotional endurance.

On one occasion the men hat to wait at their stations for 2 and half hours, in complete darkness, while the submarine was resting on the ocean floor.

This exercise proved extremely helpful during the mission since most of the navigation was done after the candle light blew off.

To walk in their shoes…
When found this leather shoe still had bones and tissue inside, more than 130 years after the submarine sinking!

Priceless Civil War blockade naval warfare memorabilia

A shoe from the past...another inspirational human touch from HL Hunley submarine

Where is smoke, is (explosion) fire…
Three wooden tobacco pipe bowls were found inside the Hunley, with one still holding a tobacco wad! Among the personal possessions scientists also found the remains of a delicate matchstick.

Civil War Charleston Harbor Blockade memorabilia

One of three tobacco pipes found inside the Fish Boat

Dress for success…
On May 3rd, 1995, NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency) archaeologist

Original uniforms of the NUMA crew who discovered the submarine

The suit of the man who first touched the Hunley

Harry Pecorelli, wore this wetsuit during his first dive to investigate an object on the ocean floor.

Upon touching the sub, he radioed back to the boat, “I don’t know what it is, but it is definitely not the Hunley.”

The structure proved to be the Hunley, and Harri Pecorelli became the first person to touch the elusive submarine in more than 130 years!

Then Harry was affectionately nicknamed “the first person to have never found the Hunley.”

Check out this cool animation of the “2000 Raising of Hunley” provided on the museum official website.

A face to remember
The human remains underwent comprehensive analysis by some of the world’s most noted forensic anthropologists.

The real faces of the HL Hunley volunteers

The heroic crew of HL Hunley who sunk the Housatonic

The results were remarkable showing the crew spatial distribution and the facial reconstruction of each member.

A biographical and physical portrait was assembled for each man who perished in the 1864 attack.

In 2004 the crew was buried with full military honors at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. They were laid to rest next to the two previous crews who also died while serving on HL Hunley.

2011 update! Hunley is sitting in an upright position almost 150 years after its sinking.
“Instead of looking like an artifact, it now looks like a stealth weapon,” said Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission. The newly exposed side of the hull may finally reveal the answers needed in solving the century old mystery…”we are seeing some tantalizing clues on that side,” said Hunley lead archaeologist Maria Jacobsen.

Relive the Civil War’s true “Mission Impossible” with the HL Hunley in Charleston!

From Charleston to Savannah with love…Favorite places to visit with my kid in the Lowcountry

Here are the most surprising places I have found during my travel adventures in South Carolina (all approved by my preschool daughter). Today I’ll go over the Lowcountry: Charleston, Edisto, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Savannah.

The American LaFrance Fire Museum in North Charleston

This place is FUN with capital letters! Best of all its free for kids and only $6 for adults.

Kids get fired up in Charleston!

Drive a real fire truck at the North Charleston Fire Museum


Children can climb-on a real fire truck, go through a full-fledged emergency response, including a simulated street driving, honk horns, talk on the radio and push all sorts of buttons.

You get to see an amazing display of legendary fire engines from the 1700s to modern days.

I loved learning about the fire fighting history and its technological marvels, the fire trivia (i.e. Benjamin Franklin started the first successful fire insurance company in US) and the most devastating fires in the world (from AD 64 in Rome to 1906 in San Francisco).

The museum is open 10AM – 5PM (1PM on Sundays) and is located near the Tanger Outlets.

Charles Towne Landing Historic Park and Animal Fores Zoo

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of America, is a wonderful place filled with educational, recreational and fun things to do for everyone.

Walk the plank at Charles Towne Landing

17th century justice is served

The park is open daily 9AM to 5 PM. Admission is $5 adults, $3 children 6-15 and free for 3 and under.

Start at the Visitors Center to see how life was like in the 1670s for the Lord Proprietors, settlers, native tribes, indentured servants, and slaves.

Visit the Animal Forest zoo home to pumas, bison, alligators, black bears, otters, bobcats, wolves and a variety of birds.

Be a captain aboard Adventure, a life-size 17th century trading ship replica.

Walk, stroll, jog or bike along the marsh or through the 80 acres of magnificent gardens, featuring thousands of azaleas, camellias and centuries old oak trees.

Edisto Island Serpentarium

Gigantic alligators, deadly snakes, funny looking lizards and snappy turtles “with a face only a mother could love”…

Incredible reptiles on Edisto Island near Charleston

Edisto's best buddies

The park features beautiful indoor and outdoor exhibits filled with native species as well as weird reptiles from around the world.

Make sure to attend the live snake education programs (at 11, 1, 3 and 5PM) and the alligator feedings (12 and 4PM).

Some may not have the stomach for it, yet we were thrilled!

Kids really enjoy digging through pre-historic bones from once native saber tooth cats, whales, mammoths and giant bears.

Edisto Island Serpentarium is open May through Labor Day Thursday to Saturdays from 10AM to 6PM (Monday to Saturday in the summer).

Admission is $12.95 adults, $9.95 children (6-12), $5.95 children 4 and 5, free for those 3 and under.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Beautiful 18th century church near CharlestonA deeply moving and inspirational historic site remnant of the 1745 Prince William Parish.

Twice burned, once during Revolutionary War and again during the Civil War March to the Sea and yet still standing…

Amid tragedy there hope and rebirth. The ruins have become a very popular site for outdoor wedding ceremonies and a photographers composition dream.

Mark your calendar! Once a year, on the second Sunday after Easter, the prestigious St. Helena Church holds a public service at the ruins.

The church ruins are located on Old Sheldon Road right off highway 21 between Beaufort and Yemassee.

Hunting Island Lighthouse and State Park – Breath-taking views, romantic beach and lush maritime forest. Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in South Carolina, and for good reasons.
Best state park in South Carolina The park jewel is South Carolina’s only publicly accessible historic lighthouse. Dating from the 1870s, the Hunting Island Lighthouse shoots 170 feet into the air, rewarding visitors magnificent views of the Lowcountry marshland and the Atlantic Ocean.

Enjoy 5 miles of soft sand beach, a wonderful lagoon home to seahorses and barracuda, thousands of acres of marsh and tidal creek, a fishing pier and some of the state’s most desirable campsites.

Admire up-close loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, pelicans, dolphins and deer, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes and the rare coral snakes.

The loggerhead turtles nest on the island in the summer months.

Park daily admission is $4 adults, $1.5 children age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger. Lighthouse ticket is an additional $2.

Parris Island Museum near Beaufort

An extraordinary place honoring the US Marines history, life as a recruit, and military accomplishments.

WWII Japanese cannon prize of war

Here I am!

Admire hundreds of unusual weapons and enemy captures from legendary battles, laugh at the “good life as a recruit” posters and learn about the inspiring US Marines history.

Little ones can earn the “Junior Recruit” title by successfully completing the museum exploration challenge.

Admission is free and the museum is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM. If time permits take the island driving tour.

Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

This place has it all! A rich display of the Lowcountry heritage, an incredible saltmarsh ecosystem, world-class history walks and nature tours

Delicate beauty at Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head

and a brilliant Butterfly Pavilion.

Admission to the museum, outside grounds and the butterfly enclosure is free (guided tours range from $5 to $20 per person).

Coastal Discovery Museum is open year around Monday to Saturday from 9AM to 4:30 PM, Sunday 11AM to 3PM.

Here is an overview of the fun things you can do with kids outdoor.


Fort Pulaski National Park near Savannah

A memorable Civil War battle marked the end of masonry fortifications after the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski fell after 30 hours of cannon firings.

Magnificent Civil War reenactments

Fort Pulaski, an incredible Civil War battle and military marvel

Admission is free for kids under 16 and $3 for adults and is good for 6 days. The Fort Pulaski National Monument has a plethora of educational family activities.

Learn about the tragic story of the Immortal 600 Confederate officers, and mind-boggling military strategies and weapons deployed at the time.

Make sure to attend the live musket and cannon fire demonstrations that are held each weekend.

Walk the scenic 0.75 mile Overloook Trail to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1837. The lighthouse escaped untouched during the 30 hours attack on the Fort despite the fact it was positioned straight in the line of fire!

Life is beautiful in the historic Lowcountry!