The Doomed City of Charleston, S.C.


“All Said to be the Work of Negroes in Insurrection.”

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On the night of December 11th, 1861, a small fire started near Russell’s Planing Mill at the corner of Bay and Hassell Streets in Charleston, South Carolina. An abundance of fuel combined with dry conditions and strong winds resulted in a conflagration that would consume over 500 acres of the city, cause millions in damage, and threaten the life of rebel General Robert E. Lee. The exact cause has never been conclusively determined, but range from an accident with a cooking fire to deliberate arson by the Union Army via hot-air balloons.

This edition of The New York Herald, published on December 15th, provides some of the earliest reporting on the disaster. Much of the blame is placed on the local African-American population, with wild rumors of slave outbreaks occurring across the state fueling hopes to a northern audience for a quick end to the ongoing conflict.

The first page features a large woodcut map that shows ‘The Doomed City’ of Charleston, with the destroyed area darkened in black. Twenty-three locations of interest, mostly within the burned district, are numbered and identified immediately below. The accompanying typeset relates further the extent of the destruction; listing destroyed buildings amid a summary of the city and relating the text of telegraph dispatches. One of the latter concludes with the ominous and italicized statement of fact – ‘the fire was the work of an incendiary.’


Map Details

Publication Date: 1861

Author: E.S. Hall

Sheet Width (in): 15.5

Sheet Height (in): 22.25

Condition: A-

Condition Description: Eight pages, apparently complete, of the December 15, 1861 edition of The New York Herald. Each sheet is loose and lightly creased along an old vertical and horizontal fold line. Toning and faint spotting along the outer edges of each page. Very good condition overall.


1 in stock