South Carolina: The Palmetto State
Geography and Industry
South Carolina is one of the most stereotypically “southern” of southern states. In the Palmetto State, “barbecue” is a noun as well as a verb, the weather is hot, cotton is grown all over, and plantations still dot the landscape.
The southern part of the state is covered in cypress swamps, and the northeastern part of the state has wonderful white-sand beaches, which are a year-round tourist attraction. Places such as Myrtle Beach, the Sea Islands, and the Grand Strand draw people from all over the world. So does the beautiful city of Charleston in the south, with its historic old homes, and the Fort Sumter National Monument marking where the Civil War began.
The Blue Ridge Mountains run through the northwestern part of the state, making it more rugged than the other two sections, which are coastal areas. Lots of vegetables (especially many kinds of squash) are grown in the northwestern hills of the state.
Indigo (a plant that produces the blue dye of the same name) and rice have been cash crops in the Palmetto State for centuries. South Carolina is also a leader in the textile industry. This is because so much cotton is grown in the state, and because there are fast-flowing rivers such as the Edisto, Pee Dee, Santee, and Savannah that are great sources of power for cotton mills. If you're wearing a cotton shirt with a label that says Made in the U.S.A., it's pretty likely that it was made in South Carolina.
ALL ABOUT South Carolina
LARGEST CITY: Columbia
POPULATION: 4,012,012 (2000 Census)
STATE BIRD: Carolina Wren
STATE TREE: Palmetto
STATE FLOWER: Carolina Jessamine
STATE MOTTO: “Dum Spiro Spero (While I Breathe, I Hope)”
STATEHOOD: May 23, 1788
POSTAL ABBREVIATION: SC
Before the coming of the Europeans, South Carolina was home to such powerful Native American tribes as the Catawba in the north, the Yamasee along the coast in the south, and the Cherokee in the mountainous northwest.
The first Europeans in what is now South Carolina were the members of a Spanish exploring expedition led by Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón. They occupied a site somewhere on the South Carolina coast during the year 1526. But they soon abandoned it.
By 1562, the Spanish mission system had worked its way up from Florida, and had gotten as far as what is now Charleston. The Spanish abandoned their missions in the Charleston area when the English began to colonize what they first called the Carolinas in the 1660s. This colony eventually split into two separate colonies: North and South Carolina.
The people who colonized South Carolina came from other parts of Europe besides England. There were Scots and Irish settlers, and French settlers as well. These French settlers were religious refugees called Huguenots (pronounced “HYOO-guh-nots”). While most of the people of France were Catholics, the Huguenots were Protestants, and were treated unfairly because of it. This was why many of them chose to come to the New World, where they could worship in their own way, without being bullied.
WORDS TO KNOW
A cash crop is a crop that is grown strictly for the purpose of obtaining money as opposed to a crop meant to feed the farmer's family or livestock.
Slavery and Secession in South Carolina
In the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, slavery became even more important in South Carolina than it had been before the United States won its independence. This was due partly because of Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin. Cotton became very important to South Carolina, and its textile industry boomed. That meant more cotton had to be grown. The fastest way to do that was to get more slaves, and put them to work planting and picking cotton, which led to acquiring more slaves and planting more land with cotton, and so on.
This made South Carolina politicians and property owners resist other peoples' attempts to free the slaves and to get rid of plantation life completely. In the minds of these South Carolinians, slavery stopped being a “necessary evil,” and became a positive force for southern society.
South Carolina politicians wanted to see the South's way of life protected, and for them, that meant no limits on slavery in America. During a speech he gave in June of 1858, Abraham Lincoln declared, “[a] house divided against itself cannot stand. I do not believe this government can endure permanently half-slave and half-free.” In 1860, Lincoln was elected president and South Carolina's leaders were so worried that he would abolish slavery throughout the country that they voted to leave the Union. They ordered the state's militia to seize federal forts and armories within South Carolina's borders.
One such federal fort was Fort Sumter, which protected the Charleston harbor. When rebel gunners fired their cannons at the fort in an effort to get its commander to surrender, the Civil War began. The date was April 12, 1861.
As it turned out, there was very little fighting in South Carolina during the four-year struggle that followed. Aside from the Union navy occupying the Sea Islands as part of a blockade of all southern ports, South Carolina saw no major military activity within its borders until the very end of the war.
A NEW WAY TO FIGHT
During the first years of the revolution, South Carolina did not see much action aside from hit-and-run raids by rebel units on British forces. The leaders of these rebel units became famous for their ingenuity and daring. Men such as Francis Marion (so crafty that he was nicknamed the Swamp Fox) and Thomas Sumter with their cunning, Indian-style tactics, helped change the way wars were fought.