The shadow of George Washington still looms in grand fashion over historic Charleston. The first Washington presence in the city was actually George’s cousin William, who came to South Carolina to fight the British during the Revolution. William was crucial to the victory here, and fell in love with Charlestonian Jane Elliott, who he married and lived here happily after the war. George made his visit here in May of 1791, on his tour of Southern states after his election. Charleston adored George, but George was less impressed with Charleston’s streets, and mentioned in his diary that the thoroughfares here were “like sand”. Washington was feted at the Old Exchange, where he was seated between local ladies known for their whit and good looks, and apparently the father of our country held his own with charm and intelligence to match his military record.
Today, we have Washington Square, aka Washington Park, which the statue in the picture dominates. We also have a Washington Street near the waterfront, and the Village of Washington, a post-Revolutionary suburb near Hampton Park. One of Charleston’s most fabled organizations is the Washington Light Infantry, a military unit established in 1807, which has fought with distinction both for and against the United States, and whose towering obelisk is the central focus of Washington Square.
On President’s day here in Charleston, we tend to favor the great George, a fellow-Southerner who won our respect and our hearts, as well as helping win our liberty.