Saturday, July 19, 2014
At the end of June, 1978, Fort Moultrie buried the remains of the man for whom the fort was named. In a pomp and circumstance ceremony, Maj. Gen. William Moultrie was reburied on Sullivan’s Island.
Gov. James B. Edwards eulogized Moultrie as a great statesman, patriot and military leader.
Moultrie was the commanding officer who led the patriot soldiers to victory over the British in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island on June 28, 1776.
The service was attended by more than 100 of Moultrie’s descendants.
Moultrie’s remains had previously been buried in an unmarked grave at Windsor Hill Plantation. His remains were found and positively identified just the year prior in 1977.
On Valentine’s Day, 1979, the Moultrie News had a front-page spread on a new addition to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. Four days prior, Battery Jasper, a concrete emplacement constructed adjacent to the fort, opened to the public. The structure, completed in 1898, was part of Charleston’s harbor defense system and housed four 10-inch breech-loading rifles on carriages.
The guns remained in service until their removal during WWII. Following the war, coastal defense became obsolete.
In August of 1947, the entire Fort Moultrie reservation was deactivated.
The lower section of gun position No. 1, including the powder magazine, shell rooms, store rooms and a part of the original ammunition hoist, was opened to the public. But the top battery was riddled with several safety hazards which would not be fixed until spring of 1979.
Speaking of Fort Moultrie, just who was Osceola?
Well, he was an adopted Seminole, but was born a Tallassee which was a sub-tribe of the great Creek nation.
His father, possibly his stepfather, was a white trader named Powell.
His mother was one-fourth white.
She was the granddaughter of James McQueen who spent 95 of his 128 years among the Creeks, the Moultrie News reported in an article titled “Osceola myths dissolved.”
Osceola’s white man’s named was William Powell.
His Native American name was properly pronounced Ah-si-ola. It meant, “A man who could guzzle much black drink.” The black drink was a hallucinogenic that came from a root concoction in the swamps of Florida. The drink was part of a ritual of all Seminole warriors. “So by this chief’s name, he must have been a champion inebriate,” reported the paper.
The Seminoles were not aborigines from Florida, rather they were renegades who split from the Creeks in the early 1700s.
The Seminole War lasted for seven years (until 1840). At the beginning of that long war, Osceola was a war captain. He was finally, in October 1837, captured from under a white-flag truce. He and a party of Native-American captives arrived at Fort Moultrie on New Year’s Day in 1838. Among this group were two of his wives and two of his children.
Accounts say he was given the run of Sullivan’s Island and housed in enlisted men’s barracks.
On Jan. 30, 1838, Osceola died of what was probably tonsillitis (He also had malaria).
The fort-based doctor at the time of his death, Dr. Weedon, kept Osceola’s head after he buried him. The good doctor was said to have been the brother of Gen. Thompson, whom Osceola killed. The head was destroyed in a New York museum fire in 1886.
As for the remaining few Native Americans at Fort Moultrie, they were sent by water to New Orleans in March.
This account was written by Jim Hayes, author of “James and Related Sea Islands.”
He also wrote a piece for the Moultrie News about Fort Sumter being used as a prison. In 1859, it was used as such for a short while when a U.S. Navy vessel captured a slave ship off the coast and housed them there.
Fort Sumter served two purposes at the time: to keep the slaves together so they could all be sent back to Africa as well as keep the angry mobs away from them. In those days, there had already been talk about seceding from the Union for more than 10 years.
“The local folks wanted to auction these Negroes off and put the receipts into public coffers, so the federal government acted quickly by sending them back to Africa,” Hayes wrote.