When lighthouse aficionados think of South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, the lighthouse that would first come to mind for most is the famous Morris Island Lighthouse, while a few might think of the modern Charleston Lighthouse. The Civil War buffs would immediately say the Fort Sumter Lighthouse, where the Civil War (War Between the States) started. But probably no one would jump up and say Castle Pinckney Lighthouse, which, for some reason, is one of the lesser written about or researched lighthouses in the United States.
My interest was piqued again after I heard from Tena Totaro in reply to one of my many queries that I had posted on several web sites asking for information and photographs of the lighthouse keepers who served there. Tena had sent me a photograph of her great grandfather, Capt. James W. Whiteley, who was a lighthouse keeper at Castle Pinckney.
A lighthouse was first established in 1855 at Castle Pinckney, which is a round brick masonry fort named in honor of Charles Coteworth Pinckney, a Revolutionary War General and a delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention.
Castle Pinckney’s role in history was significant as the site of one of the first overt acts of the Civil War when members of the South Carolina militia seized the fort three months before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.
After the Civil War the fort saw some activity, and in 1880 a short-lived or temporary tower was built at the site. In 1890 another tower was built that remained in service until 1917 when it was deactivated. However, good quality close up photos of the towers continue to remain elusive.
Because of its prime location, the government also built a Lighthouse Buoy Depot at the site, which was eventually abandoned in 1917 in favor of a new location in Charleston, South Carolina. Reports indicate that the last lighthouse tower to stand at Castle Pinckney was demolished in 1938.
If anyone can help locate photographs of the lighthouses that once stood at Castle Pinckney and the other lighthouse keepers who once served there, please contact us via e-mail to Editor@LighthouseDigest.com or by mail to P.O. Box 250, East Machias, ME 04630.
This story appeared in the
May/Jun 2011 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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