Visitors to Charleston find so many aspects of historical significance at every turn around the city, and one of these is the city burial grounds. I often have the chance to take guests on walking tours into some of the fabled graveyards, and there are many names they recognize that played a large role in American history. Over at my family’s church, St. Mary of the Annunciation, there are numerous stones in French, as the congregation was greatly influenced by French immigrants in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. One family name there is De Grasse, and the graves of Amelie Rosalie Maxime deGrasses, and her sister Melanie Veronique Maxime deGrasse, daughters of Admiral Francois Joseph Paul de Grasse, who greatly helped Americans win their independence. His victory over the British while commanding the French fleet at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, allowed George Washington to achieve his great victory at Yorktown and end the war. The admiral’s daughters grew up in Saint Domingue in the West Indies, and migrated to Charleston in the 1790’s.
2021 represents the 205th year of La Societe Francaise de Beinfaisance (The French Charitable Society) here in Charleston, SC. This group that was formed to offer assistance to French immigrants such as my family, still provides humanitarian aid to those in need. We have an unusual French heritage in Charleston that encompassed three waves of immigration – French Huguenots in the late 1600’s, French Acadians in the 1750’s, and French Catholics in the 1790’s and early 1800’s.
The big Civil War cannon at White Point Garden are authentic guns that were actually used in combat, but they weren’t used at that location. These cannon were all military surplus that was moved to the garden in the late 1800’s to commemorate the defense of Charleston. I often lead walking tours that go past White Point Garden, and I point out to visitors that these great guns that caused so much destruction long ago have been silent for more than a century, but still lead to occasional injury when someone climbs on the cannon and falls off.