Cheraw citizens were in the forefront of the South Carolina secession movement. The first call for secession in a public meeting came from Chesterfield Courthouse on Nov. 19, 1860, several days before a called meeting in Abbeville. John A. Inglis and Henry McIver of Cheraw were among the delegates eventually elected to what became the Secession Convention. Inglis introduced the resolution that “the state of South Carolina should forthwith secede from the Federal Union”, and he was named chairman of the committee that wrote the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession.
From the very beginning of the war, Cheraw became a place of refuge and storehouse for valuables for those fleeing the sea islands and coastal cities. The vestry records of St. David’s Parish record some of their life. Towards the end of the war, families were reduced to living in boxcars along the railroad sidings near the old Church. Unluckily for all concerned, they had moved into harm’s way. More of Sherman’s army passed through Cheraw than any other town in South Carolina.
In late February 1865 Confederate General William J. Hardee brought a force of more than 10,000 men to Cheraw with tons of powder and many cannon. Here they had a grand military review which impressed the new “kid soldiers,” and here they fled with great rapidity on the arrival of the Union Army on March 3rd, leaving the powder and cannon behind, and burning the Great Pee Dee Bridge as they went. Hardee’s retreat was covered by the Gunboat Pee Dee. Shortly thereafter the Pee Dee was scuttled at Mars Bluff to prevent its capture, and this was the gunboat’s only engagement.
Sherman himself and almost his entire army stayed in Cheraw for several days.One soldier wrote that Cheraw was “a pleasant town and an old one with the southern aristocratic bearing”. Other Yankee soldiers referred to Cheraw as a “treasure house,” because of all the valuables found stored here from around the state. The Union soldiers celebrated Lincoln’s 2nd inauguration here, drinking captured wine, firing cannon and looting.
Sherman, forced to wait for the arrival of pontoon bridges, used his days in Cheraw to get better control over his men. The Union Army would be leaving the “despicable” South Carolina and moving into North Carolina where their misbehavior might have political consequences. Sherman also feared that any burning might spread and injure his own troops.
An accidental explosion of captured Confederate powder in a ravine at the river hill totally razed the Cheraw business district and damaged plaster, windows and shutters for miles around, but no private dwellings or public buildings were lost in Cheraw during Sherman’s stay. Outlying plantations and the county seat were destroyed, however, making it, even now, difficult to exactly date some properties.
Cheraw has more than 50 antebellum buildings, and because Sherman and his troops were here for three days, a number of them were used for officers’ quarters or have stories associated with them. There was house to house fighting all the way down Market and Kershaw Streets – mini balls are still sometimes found– and all the churches were used as hospitals by either or both armies. This brochure outlines only the most notable sites and can be used in conjunction with the green “Guide to the Cheraw Historic District”, whose numbers are noted next to the sites.
Old St. David’s Church, c. 1770 (1)
(East end of Church Street)
Used as a hospital by both armies, St. David’s also survived use by both armies during the American Revolution. There are marked Confederate graves in the cemetery and unmarked Union and Confederate ones. All of Sherman’s troops marched by this site to cross the pontoon bridges at the end of Church Street.
Confederate Monument, c. 1867
Erected in St. David’s Cemetery by the women of Cheraw, this is the oldest Confederate Monument in the US. The inscription is taken from Stonewall Jackson’s last words. “We have crossed over the riverx”.
East end of Church Street
The park was the site of Cheraw’s first ferries, bridges and steamboat landing. It was the site of the skirmish for the Pee Dee River bridge, gunboat Pee Dee engagement, and the ravine holding gunpowder whose accidental explosion killed several Union soldiers and destroyed Cheraw’s business district.
Cheraw Town Hall , c. 1858
Town Green Market Street
The Town Hall and Opera House served as a Confederate hospital, one of many in Cheraw. Gen. Hardee was forced to abandon the hospitals when he retreated. (24)
Cheraw Lyceum, c.1820
Town Green Market Street
The Lyceum served both Union and Confederate quartermasters, and was also the telegraph office. The Lyceum’s library was stolen by Union soldiers whose path into North Carolina could be traced by abandoned books. This was later the occupation army headquarters during reconstruction. Now Cheraw’s museum, the Lyceum contains several exhibits pertaining to the Confederate War in Cheraw. (26)
Ingram’s Pee Dee River Artifacts Room
Market Street (Wall) North side of the Green
Hobby diver Miller Ingram has a wonderful collection of Civil War ordnance found in the river in his law office. Open during business hours.
Inglis-McIver Law Office, c.1830
Town Green Market Street
One of the sole survivors of the explosion that destroyed the business district in 1865, this building was moved to the Town Green in 1940. It was the two room office of John Inglis who introduced the resolution that South Carolina secede and chaired the Ordinance committee and his law partner, Ordinance signer Henry McIver. (25)
The Merchants Bank (now 1st Citizens)
232 Market Street
The Merchants Bank was one of the official gold depositories for the Confederate States of America, and was one of the last banks to honor Confederate currency. The vault is still intact. (27)
The Inglis House around 1800
226 Third Street
This was the in town home of John Inglis. Inglis’ plantation was destroyed completely. Because there was a $10,000 price tag on his head, Inglis fled into North Carolina with his 16 year old daughter, leaving his wife to try to protect her invalid mother. She succeeded in saving their home. (33)
The Teacherage, c. 1780
230 Third Street
This is thought to be the oldest house still standing in Cheraw. For most of the 19th century this was home to the Malloy family who sent six sons to war. All of these boys returned, although one later died of his wounds. The magnolia trees in this yard were planted in honor of these boys; the house survived an attempt to burn it. (22)
143 McIver Street, c. 1790
The home of Henry McIver, signer of the Ordinance of Secession, and captain in the Confederate Calvary, was the personal headquarters for Gen. William T. Sherman for several days in March of 1865. (15)
Enfield , c. 1815
145 McIver Street
The personal headquarters of Sherman’s second in command, Gen. O.O. Howard in March , 1865. (16)
The Matheson House, c. 1810
612 Kershaw Street
The official Union Army headquarters were located in and around this house. Accounts written by a family member describe the soldiers dancing to a music box taken from the house next door and the destruction of a carriage on the property. (7)
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, c. 1840
602 Market Street
Saber marks on the outside columns and a burn mark on the floor inside bear testimony to Sherman's occupation of Cheraw. The interior furnishing were destroyed, not to be replaced until the turn of the century. The current pews came from the Duke of Westphalia’s private chapel. (41)
The Christopher Pegeus House, c. 1825
320 Market Street
The Union Army used the raised basement of this home as a guard house during their time here. ((34)
Boxwood Hall, c. 1822
317 Market Street
A cannon ball hit the porch of this house. A ham hidden in the attic left a grease spot on a ceiling that is still difficult to keep paint on. (33)
First Presbyterian Church, c. 1832
Union soldiers made the pulpit area into a bandstand and danced in the interior. The Confederates had used the church as a hospital. (28)
Other places in Chesterfield County include the monument marking the first secession meeting on the grounds of the Old Courthouse on Main Street. The Robert Mills Courthouse on this site was burned by the Union Army. Next door is the John Craig House, c. 1798, Sherman's personal headquarters. The Austin-Craig House, C. 1858, already put to the torch, was saved when a slave reported that it belonged to a Yankee. Fire marks are visible in this, one of the rare homes in Chesterfield to escape destruction. Nearby Mt. Croghan was almost completely destroyed, never to really fully recover.
© Sarah Spruill The Cheraw Visitors Bureau 5/2000)