Leading the Way to Independence

It’s the Ides of March! Aside from being the date Julius Caesar learned who his true friends weren’t, this is also the day South Carolina became the first of the 13 colonies to declare independence from Great Britain and set up its own government, in 1776.

South Carolina set up its first government under John Rutledge, and on February 5, 1778 it became the first state to ratify the Constitution as an entity. In 1780, however, South Carolinians loyal to the crown helped British troops recapture the state. After the Americans won the Battle of Cowpens in January 1781, the British grip on the state became tenuous, and they evacuated their troops (accompanied by thousands of Loyalists and many slaves seeking freedom in England) in 1782.

In 1860, South Carolina had another first: it was the first state to officially secede from the Union, ahead of the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the war began when Confederates began shelling Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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