Charleston, South Carolina, is the center of many important events in America’s history. In fact, it is this rich history that attracts millions of visitors to the city each year. Not only was Charleston important during the colonial era, but its importance continued throughout the American Revolution and most notably, during the American Civil War. The Confederate Museum in Charleston commemorates those who fought for the South and the historical significance of Charleston during the Civil War.
Housed in what is referred to locally as the City Market, the Confederate Museum in Charleston allows visitors to learn about the Confederacy and its wartime artifacts. Read on below to learn more about this unique attraction.
Founding of the Museum
In 1861, when the American Civil War broke out, young men flocked to Charleston to join the Confederate Army and defend the South. The city was a hotspot of activity during the war, and Charleston is actually where the first shots were fired during the conflict. Although the Confederacy lost the war, their contribution is still incredibly historically significant. In 1894, the Charleston Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy was formed and they began collecting artifacts from Confederate veterans. In 1899, Charleston held a reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, who believed that there should be a permanent Confederate museum. This group worked with the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Confederate Museum opened in 1899.
Where Civil War History Comes to Life
Up until the Civil War, the City Market was just that—a public gathering place where local farmers and plantations came to sell their produce and beef, and where locals gathered and socialized with one another. The site where the building sits was even used for this purpose in the 1690s, long before the current Greek Revivalist structure was built in 1841.
The City Market remained much the same from the time the first market buildings were built in the 1790s until 1861, during which time the current City Market building first began to serve as a recruiting center for young Confederate soldiers.
In 1899, over thirty years after the subsequent defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War, the Charleston chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy asked for local Confederate veterans to bring their wartime possessions to donate to the establishment of the Confederate Museum, building on their efforts to collect artifacts during the war.
Today, the Confederate Museum is not only home to artifacts from the Civil War and Confederate veterans, but also to a research library and the city’s market thrives once again. Here, vendors sell souvenirs of all types, including jewelry and sweetgrass baskets made in the Gullah tradition—an ancestry that has deep roots in Charleston.
Charleston’s Confederate Museum is open on Tuesday through Saturday all year long, from 11:00am until 3:30pm. Admission is priced at $3.00 for children ages six to twelve years old and $5.00 for adults. Children ages five and under are free. Admission is cash only, so plan ahead and stop by the ATM prior to your visit. Group tours are available, and the museum is handicap accessible.
Nearby, you’ll encounter Charleston attractions like the pleasant Riley Waterfront Park, the solemn Old Slave Mart Museum, the artistic French Quarter, and the picturesque Rainbow Row. Dine at restaurants close by like Husk or Magnolias.
The site of the Confederate Museum is known as Market Hall. This area was originally occupied by a Masonic Hall, which was destroyed in a fire in 1838. In its place, Market Hall was built in 1841, modeled after the Temple of the Wingless Victory in Athens, Greece. Materials were shipped from as far away as Italy to build this stunning Greek replica. The Market Hall marked the entrance of six blocks of covered market space where primarily foodstuffs were sold. In 1899, the building was repurposed for use as the Confederate Museum.
About the Museum
Inside the museum, you will find a reference library, as well as exhibits filled with artifacts from the Civil War. View cannons, uniforms, swords, flags, and more that were owned or used by the Confederate Army. Many visitors enjoy this area not only for the museum, but also to visit the marketplace beneath Market Hall. Here, you can shop a variety of goods, from antiques to produce, and walk through small shops and local restaurants.
The Confederate Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11am to 3:30pm. Admission is only accepted in cash. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12, and free for children 5 and under. Group tours are available and the museum is wheelchair accessible.
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