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Chapter 8
Welcome to Charleston

A City of Many Surprises

Frank Leslie's illustrated Newspaper

Images 1, 2

The illustration on the right of people strolling down the Charleston Battery first appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper in September 1880. (Click the link below to learn more about this new technology) It was the inspiration for the image on the left where Mr. Rhett, the butler, appears to be tossing the Witte Christmas tree into the harbor. *

Today we have the internet to give us up-to-the minute coverage of world events, but back in the 1890’s most newspapers were covered in text with very few images (drawings). In 1855, Frank Leslie, whose real name was Henry Carter established the first successful pictorial newspaper in the United States. The weekly publication included highly sensationalized depictions of events happening all over the country. The drama of the Civil War guernteed it would become highly successful. By 1873 the newspaper was a massive and prosperous business, employing more than 300 people, including 70 illustrators, as part of a publishing empire which by then spanned seven publications. By 1897, circulation had grown to about 65,000 copies.

* Note: All those verticle straight black lines in the far background on the right side of Frank Leslie's illustration are the masts of sailing ships!  Charleston Harbor was a very busy place! 

Historic Battery

Images 3,4,5,6

The Charleston Battery is located at the southern tip of the peninsula outside the city's original fortified walls. In the 1700s, Fort Broughton and Fort Wilkins occupied that tidal land. In 1838, the original fortified seawall was extended to enclose the entire peninsula. A park was built to replace the old military encampments, now called White Point Garden. Later, during the Civil War, artillery was placed in the park.

The name White Point refers to the mound of bleached oyster shells that formed at the tip of the peninsula. There were so many shells on the point that they were crushed and used to cover the streets and sidewalks.

Much of the western side of the Charleston Peninsula is a landfill. Maps of the city show a progressive increase in residential development due to the filling of the marsh areas (mud flats) with trash and debris to raise the flood plain and build homes. Unfortunately, the same areas that were once marshlands still flood during high tide or after unusual amounts of rainfall.,contains,south%20battery%20of%20charleston&tab=South_Carolina_Historical_Society_Only&search_scope=South_Carolina_Historical_Society_Only&vid=01PASCAL_COFC:SCHS&facet=rtype,include,images&offset=0

The Real Mr. Rhett 

images 7,8,9

Mr. Rhett, the Witte family butler, is a pun based on the character Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind.

This year is the 85th anniversary of the movie, starring Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. Most people would agree that the images from this film have become the iconic images of the Confederate South for most Americans. So when I read Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The Real Rhett Butler & Other Revelations by Dr. E. Lee Spence of Sullivan’s Island my jaw dropped at the irony of his discovery. Rhett Butler from Gone With the Wind, was in real life Mr. George Alfred Trenholm, who once owned the Witte house. 

Dr. Spence presents evidence that the identity of the real “Rhett Butler" was a Charlestonian named George Alfred Trenholm. He was Secretary of the Treasury for the Confederacy, and according to Spence, Trenholm was a blockade runner who amassed a fortune during the Civil War before he was arrested and thrown in jail. The irony of this story is that Trenholm was the former owner of the Witte house. His real butler was a former slave that everyone called Daddy Jim. After Mr. Witte bought the home from Mr. Trenholm, he asked Daddy Jim, and his wife to live on the property.

About Tippy 

Image 10

According to Laura Witte Waring's recollections, the Witte family had several dogs over the years, and one of them was a mixed Newfoundland and Saint Bernard named Tippycanoe. Originally bred by Irish and English fishermen who came to the Island of Newfoundland off the east coast of Canada in the 1800s, dogs like Tippy were used as working dogs. They excel at water rescue because of their muscular build, thick double coat, and webbed paws. Their huge lung capacity allows them to swim for hours. On average, they weigh about 150 pounds. One famous Newfoundland, named Seaman, accompanied American explorers Lewis and Clark on their expedition from the Mississippi to the Pacific. In 1815, an unnamed Newfoundland jumped into the sea and kept Napoleon Bonaparte afloat during his famous escape from exile on the island of Elba. In the early 20th century, a Newfoundland saved 92 people who were wrecked off the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland during a blizzard. The dog retrieved a rope thrown out into the turbulent waters by those on deck and carried the rope to shore to people waiting on the beach. A breeches buoy was attached to the rope, and all those aboard the ship were able to get across to the shore, including an infant in a mailbag.,Water%20Dog%20and%20Great%20Pyrenees.https://

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