The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Sunday, April 14, 2019: On the road at 0910 hours heading up the Eastern Seaboard on Interstate 95. We then crossed the Savanah River two hours later which delivered us to the State of South Carolina. After a lunch and rest stop at their welcome station, we diverted a bit northwest on US-17 through Goose Creek and into Moncks Corner, SC.
Finding the military recreation facility of Short Stay, Kit and I pulled in just as the winds began to pick up which churned up Lake Moultrie.
Even with the strong winds, we were able to set up camp on a nice secluded site
Kit and I hunkered down for the afternoon until the wind abated and then strolled down to the lakefront where we enjoyed a nice sunset.
Monday April 15 through Sunday, April 21, 2019-Short Stay Military Recreation Area, Moncks Corner, SC: Woke to cool but sunny weather and following breakfast Kit and I took a walk about the campground and recreation facility.
Short Stay is a Joint Base Charleston facility operated for the benefit of for our military personnel and their families.
In addition to the campground, there is a convenience store, a marina, as well as rental cottages, lakeside condos, and two large assembly halls. The nice beach features a swim area and a separate beach for those who bring their personal watercraft.
However, on this preseason morning, there were only these two beachgoers that braved the elements to paddle about.
Based on their posture, I suspect the odd duck facing left is a democrat…and, the odd duck staring to the right is likely a Republican.
Since we spent a week camped at Short Stay, and since the western view across Lake Moultrie provided some very nice sunsets…
…and since I really enjoy photographing the sun as it dives toward the horizon…
…I captured photos most every evening which I intend to scatter throughout this issue.
Kit and I were stationed in Charleston back in the late 1960’s…in fact that was where our son Joe was born. In those days, we didn’t have the time, finances, or frankly interest in exploring this historic city…well, this week, that is to be rectified.
Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. With a population of 134,875 folks, it is known worldwide for its rich history, well preserved architecture, and southern hospitality.
As in many east coast cities, the downtown streets are very narrow.
Now, couple that with our fairly wide truck and it makes for some interesting maneuvering…at one point, I had to fold my mirrors in to clear the trees to the left.
Oh, and Charleston still maintains some cobblestone streets to add to its historic character…
… and it also helps verify your vehicles shock absorbers are functioning properly.
Within the confines of downtown Charleston lies the City Market.
Built in 1807 as a place for farmers to sell meat and produce, Charleston Market now functions as commercial retail space similar to Boston’s Quincy Market. Covering four narrow blocks near city center, the market caters to the tourist traffic and features crafts, souvenirs, food, and various street vendors pedaling traditional handmade items from natural materials…
…such as this young man with flowers made from palm leaves.
And handmade Sweetgrass Baskets one of which Kit selected to purchase…
…or prints of paintings depicting the area, such as this intown Charleston scene that I chose to buy.
And, what would a Bill and Kit daytrip be without us seeking out an unusual dining establishment…like Charleston’s Five Church Restaurant.
Housed in a repurposed church, this interesting eatery retains most of the architecture and ecclesiastical details both outside and in…
…including the vaulted ceiling and the iconic stained-glass windows both of which give the establishment a glimpse of my Sunday mornings as a child. If today’s church’s also featured a bar, I would probably attend more often.
On the massive ceiling, the owner had a local artist hand letter the entire book by Sun Tzu titled The Art of War.
An ancient Chinese tome from the 5th Century BC, the book details ways to win, not by armed conflict, but by outsmarting one’s enemy. Translated into many languages, and published worldwide, the philosophy of Sun Tzu is studied to this day. In fact, it has been reported that US Army General Norm Schwarzkopf and football coach Bill Belichick have both drawn inspiration from passages in The Art of War.
The lunch menu at 5Church consisted mainly of tavern style food…
… but the plates were plentiful and the food very tasty.
A great day was spent in an iconic and historic southern city, but it was time for us to head back to the campground. As we motored the 30 miles toward Moncks Corner, Kit and I agreed to schedule a return visit before leaving the area. And, as an added bonus to this fine day, we arrived just in time to enjoy another spectacular sunset!
In the town of Monks Corner, there lies an interesting museum of regional history.
Featuring exhibits of local historical figures, such as Francis Marion…known as The Swamp Fox.
Serving as a US Army Colonel during the Revolutionary War, he was credited with developing creative military tactics that later became known as Guerrilla Warfare.
There was also a large exhibit on the history of Moonshine in the area.
At one point during prohibition, the State of South Carolina decided to reap some benefit from the illegal liquor trade by passing a law requiring the bottling of booze in state supplied containers and sold only at state dispensaries.
Today, these South Carolina liquor bottles are highly collectable with some rare examples reaching $10,000.00 at auction.
In front of the museum is a replica of the CSS David.
Built for the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War, the David is a semisubmersible vessel featuring a long spar protruding from the bow with an explosive charge at the tip. In its first combat action, the CSS David slipped into occupied Charleston Harbor under cover of darkness and rammed the Navy ship USS New Ironsides. The explosion did little damage to the much larger warship, and the resulting plume of water from the blast rained down on the David extinguishing its coal fired boiler and causing the boat to lose propulsion. Little is known of the ultimate fate of the CSS David, but it can be partially credited for the later development of the PT boat of WWII fame.
Back at camp, it was cocktails and evening snacks as the sun dove into the placid waters of Lake Moultrie.
Since Kit loves cities, and I just sort of tolerate them, we frequently meander off toward our areas of interest…in this case, I wandered across the Cooper River via the Ravenel Bridge, a 13,200-foot cable-stayed bridge…
…to visit Patriots Point, a maritime complex featuring decommissioned Navy vessels now operated as museum relics, which is a bit disconcerting as I remember serving with a couple of these ships!?!?
One of which is the storied aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-10).
This Essex Class aircraft carrier was built during WWII and served for thirty years with a brief decommissioning prior to the Korean War.
Moored just astern of the Yorktown was the USS Clamagore, a Guppy Class diesel powered submarine that also served our nation for thirty years…primarily as a US Navy training ship.
Unfortunately, due to the high cost of maintaining a waterborne submarine and the lackluster interest in it by the public, it has been decided to tow this veteran to sea and scuttle her. However, she will continue to serve under the sea as an artificial reef helping marine life find shelter and habitat.
Over the years I have toured and written about many Navy museum ships, mostly submarines, aircraft carriers, and battleships, so therefore I only spent a brief time on the carrier and sub displayed here at Patriots Point. But having an opportunity to walk about a classic WWII era US Navy destroyer was the highlight of my visit to this museum complex.
Why, you may ask? Well, the USS Laffey (DD-724) is similar to the destroyers I served on during my 22-year Navy career. As the saying goes…“Haze Gray and Underway”, which was true as the destroyers I served on made many overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Asia, South Pacific, Northern Europe, the North Atlantic, Caribbean, and ports up and down both coasts of the United States.
The Laffey is a Sumner Class ship, and one of the last remaining all gun destroyers…in other words, these ships were well suited to shore bombardment since they had not been updated with guided missile systems.
The Laffey’s Main Battery is the venerable 5”/38 caliber gun, of which this destroyer has six.
As soon as I walked aboard, a flood of familiarity engulfed me as I was instantly transported back to age 18 running through the narrow passageways on the way to my assigned battle station during the myriad drills that occurred day and night.
My primary job on these Tin-can’s, was as a Sonar Technician.
Where we stood a four-hour watch searching the oceans depths for anything of military interest…primarily submerged submarines. However as in many of the smaller Navy warships, the crew had multiple other duties…member of the firefighting team, damage control team, gun mount crew, repel borders team, security detail, and other duties as the mission might dictate.
Two of my destroyers, the USS Robert H. McCard (DD-822) out of Charleston, and the USS Hamner (DD-718) from San Diego, deployed to the South China Sea and were assigned to the Gun Line off the coast of Vietnam.
Since the Tonkin Gulf was fairly shallow, and since the enemy submarine threat was virtually nonexistent, my division of Sonar folks were reassigned to other duties. Even though we were trained in the operation of the .50 Caliber Machine Guns, of which the ships possessed four, our primary assignment was as members of the Shore Bombardment Team. And in that capacity, the equipment I operated was available to view, in all its enigmatic glory, deep within the bowels of this museum ship.
The Mk-1 Able Gun Fire Control Computer was developed during WWII. This 3,000-pound electromechanical monster would make ballistic calculations for aiming and firing the 5”/54 guns.
There were twenty-four manual inputs into the Mk-1 which were manned by a team of operators clustered about the device…with todays digital electronics all these inputs, and many more, are automatically fed into the modern Naval Gun Fire System’s computers.
Inside each gun mount a team of 13 sailors, some of which were from my Sonar division, were manually loading 55-pound projectiles atop 28-pound powder cans before each gun firing.
Even being manually loaded, a well-qualified gun mount crew could only pickle off a round every 10 seconds or so…todays 5-inch mounts are unmanned and due to automation are capable of a 2 second rate of fire.
Navy Gun Destroyers were deployed to Vietnamese waters primarily for shore bombardment in support of USMC/USA ground operations. The relatively short 10-mile range of the 5”/38 caliber gun required the destroyer captain to hug the shoreline, or sail into bays or up the larger rivers. Although not heavily reported by the press, Navy Gun Destroyers were engaged in combat with Vietcong Shore Batteries. But fortunately the Vietcong guns had limited range of movement and all our coastal navigation charts noted the danger zones so the only counterbattery we experienced was when the ship approached these danger zones, which was rare.
While continuing to explore the old familiar spaces of the ship, I eventually made it up to the Signal Bridge…
…the highest manned deck on a destroyer. As you can see, we are still significantly below the flight deck of the Yorktown across the pier. When our ship would depart the gunline and cruise out to Yankee Station, we would come alongside the carrier to receive food, water, supplies, movies, and most importantly…mail. During those underway replenishments, we were about the same distance from the carrier as the photo above depicts. And while 100% of our focus was the underway replenishment evolution, the carrier was also engaged in launching and retrieving aircraft while also nursing another Destroyer on her port side.
I really enjoyed walking around this old war horse and meeting the volunteer docents, many of which were of my generation and served on similar ships…it was truly a nostalgic walk down memory lane.
While I toured the Navy ships of Patriots Point, Kit enjoyed walking about downtown Charleston…
…where she visited the historic Slave Mart.
Ryan’s Slave Mart was built in 1859 by city councilman Thomas Ryan. It is a 67-foot by 19-foot brick structure where newly arrived Africans were held until the next scheduled slave auction. The Slave Market was utilized until February 1865 when the Union Army occupied Charleston and freed the remaining Africans being held there.
More than half of all Africans brought to America entered through the Port of Charleston and nearly all the servants and workers in Charleston were indentured servants from Africa. During this era, the ownership of slaves was a mark of stature and class and frequently, even wealthy citizens of color, known as freemen, kept slaves.
Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed another interesting and educational day in this southern city we lived in so many years ago. And to top it off, as we returned to the campground…you guessed it, another sunset!
Another historic site near Charleston we had too long delayed visiting is Fort Sumpter, the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War.
Located in Charleston Harbor a visit requires a ferry ride from the town of Mount Pleasant.
Work on the Fort Sumpter was begun in 1829 and was still incomplete by the time South Carolina succeeded from the Union.
The newly formed Confederate Army fired on the Union fort as the citizens of Charleston strolled to the waterfront with picnic baskets in hand to enjoy the show. The Confederates eventually succeeded in taking the fort which remained in the hands of the south throughout most of the Civil War.
Under responsibility of the National Park Service, Fort Sumpter National Monument houses park rangers and interpretive guides who provide history lessons throughout the day.
This ranger was particularly entertaining as he told the history of Fort Sumpter and the soldiers that were stationed there.
At some point during the Civil War, the ground level of the fort was filled with beach sand as an added barrier to any Union soldiers that breeched the brick outer walls. This enhanced fortification was very effective as a few holes were blown into the fort and Union soldiers attempted to crawl through only to encounter the heavy wet sand. As this sand was excavated by the park service, many artifacts were uncovered including rows of cannons.
These newly discovered historic artifacts are undergoing preservation to ensure that they will not decay further.
Also discovered during the restoration were cannon projectiles imbedded in the fort walls.
These were left where found as a visual historical marker of the intensive battles that raged at Fort Sumpter during the Civil War.
While in the area, we decided to visit Fort Moultrie a short distance away. Also, under the auspices of The National Park Service, it is one of the few remaining examples of a once long string of coastal defense forts constructed along the Atlantic shore.
Built by the colonists shortly before the Revolutionary War, Fort Moultrie has the distinction of serving as a military fort for 171 years! A lot of the museum pieces are similar to displays we have seen at Fort Clinch in Florida, and the recently visited Fort Sumpter. However, as a strategically positioned fortress guarding the entrance of Charleston Harbor, Fort Moultrie was manned during WWII and the restored artifacts from that era were particularly interesting.
In addition to the more modern gun batteries, the fort also featured a US Navy observation platform with signal lamps, spotlights, and signal flag lockers.
Kit and I had an interesting and educational day exploring these two historic forts, but it was time to eat…so we sought out the highly recommended Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island for a meal and liquid refreshment.
History records that Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie, and when on furlough used to enjoy visiting the taverns in nearby Sullivan’s Island. In late 1827, Poe took inspiration from the area and penned the words to his classic novel The Gold Bug. His namesake restaurant features great tavern fare as well as photos and mementos of the great writer.
After a great meal, Kit and I returned to the campground where, yet another nice sunset was enjoyed!
Well, this ends our enjoyable stay in Coastal South Carolina where history abounds and the locals are extremely courteous, accommodating and friendly. And, where some of the prettiest sunsets can be enjoyed.
Kit’s Bit’s: I extremely enjoyed our visit to Charleston, SC. We lived in that area from August 1966 to April 1970. During that time, we had 2 small kids and Bill was away most of the time I was able to manage things on my own during those years but rarely able to get out beyond the necessities, such as Dr. appointments, grocery shopping etc. The City of Charleston was quite interesting, and, I hope to return sometime in the future.