South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

Fort Johnson/Powder Magazine, Charleston County (James Island)
S1081771004701 S1081771004702
Right Oblique Left Oblique

Fort Johnson is significant both militarily and politically, especially as the site of the first raising of the South Carolina flag in 1775 and as the site of the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter in 1861. Of the fort itself, only considerably eroded Confederate earthworks remain, although other elements of the fort’s foundations are discernable from ground swells and rubble. Fort Johnson was one of the first defensive works constructed to protect the harbor or Charleston against naval attack. The initial fortification was constructed by the British during the years 1704-08 for defense against the French fleet during Queen Anne’s War. The fort was named for Sir Nathaniel Johnson, Proprietary Governor of the Carolinas from 1703 to 1709. There was continual reconstruction of the fort from 1704 to 1865, due primarily to damage incurred by storms and to ever-changing military situations. Although the fort itself is in ruins, the powder magazine, erected in 1765, is intact. The powder magazine was buried until 1961; this fact probably saved the building from destruction (the magazine was buried during the Civil War by Confederate soldiers). The building is 27 feet long and 20 feet wide, constructed of brick in Flemish bond, and was originally whitewashed. The front and rear gables are high, with one-dimensional linear extension at their bases on the roofline; the roof is covered with a cement-like coating to prevent it from taking fire. While the exterior is original, the interior is barrel vaulted, probably by the Confederate forces during the early 1860s, to enable the roof to withstand the pressure of the earth when the building was buried. Listed in the National Register September 14, 1972.

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