Early Maps of the Charleston Harbor

Charleston’s maritime history started early, and we are very lucky to have so many maps of the Charleston Harbor. With its settlement in 1670, maps were critical for the safe maneuverings of the various vessels. With almost three and a half centuries of maritime development, the harbor has been used as a trading port, the center of blockade running and a highway to ports all over the Atlantic.

Early on, the English and the French drew numerous maps of our southeastern coastline. Interestingly enough, very few maps were drawn by mapmakers who actually stepped foot here in the New World. They were often copied from maps that had been drawn by explorers and were usually written in a different language than English.

Starting with the newly discovered 1686 “Map of Charles Towne” by John Boyd and the 1671 “Plat of Charles Town” the harbor has changed many times over the centuries. The five channels that merge to form the harbor and the old fortresses that line its banks, like Castle Pinckney, Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and batteries Wagner and Marshall, make for interesting details on the numerous maps that have been drawn over time.