What happened in the days leading up to the surrender of Charleston, and the death of Lizzie Skipper

When the capital of South Carolina fell to Sherman, southern fears were realized

William Henry Suder was transporting soldiers to safety when his engine exploded days before the end of the Civil War

When Willie and John were left without parents in the devastated southern city at the end of the war, they became inmates of the famous institution

Charleston was photographed by the Union Navy in April 1865, creating an awesome record of a city in ruins.

The Orphan House Civil
War Inmates (Part 2)

Agnes K. Irving was hired in 1844 to introduce higher education to the curriculum. It was at first fought by existing staff. These were orphans, inmates who were not like other citizens. They needed to be reminded of their low place in society. But Irving prevailed, and later would become principal of the orphanage, replacing matrons and stewards with superintendents.

“The children were educated thoroughly, the greatest care being taken for their complete understanding of the subjects studied until they reached the limit of studies prescribed by the institution,” wrote Suder. “Upon reaching that limit or upon someone being desirous of adopting them, the inmates were allowed to leave the institution.”

By 1870, William’s younger brother, John, appears to have been adopted - or as the Registry of Boys recorded it - was indentured to M. H. West, who took John to Columbia. William completed his education at sixteen and arranged a job in the city, but it didn’t last long. He couldn’t shake the need to find his brother and be sure he was doing well.

“Having made my decision, I threw all my inward feelings to the wind and kept my purpose concealed - to work my way up-country,” recalled Suder. “It was on a mid-summer night in 1877 that I took my leave. Stealing quietly from the house, I took a course directly for the railroad yard [behind the Citadel, a block northeast].”

William walked the tracks to Summerville, where he met an engineer who remembered his father, so he befriended the boy. Suder hitched a train ride to Columbia where he was introduced to his father’s sister, Martha. She married Charles Kirk and raised a family in the state’s capital.  Here the railroad men helped him out and gave him a few provisions for his journey.

One of the men offered William a ride on his wagon to the home where John’s adopted family lived.  On the way they passed a familiar-looking boy walking along the road.  It was John.  William stayed with the family for a few days, reminiscing with his brother.  Now knowing that John was comfortable, William moved on.

Later John’s adopted family moved to Connecticut where he stayed and raised his own family, while William married his wife in Dutch Fork, just outside Columbia, and moved to Sumter County, South Carolina.

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In the front courtyard of the Orphan House is a statue of William Pitt which grateful citizens erected when the “Stamp Act” was repealed.  The gate to the Charleston Orphan House in April 1865 is seen after the surrender of the city to Union forces. Inmates were evacuated to Columbia years earlier to avoid the bombardment. Damage to the building can be seen in the broken windows and damaged lamps on the wall. A year later brothers William Hugh and John Henry Suder would enter these gates and be admitted to the institution.


In the tower of the Charleston Orphan House hung a 6,350 pound bell cast in 1858 in West Troy, New York. Farther north of the city, the bell now sits in front of the Youth Development Center - the descendent of the original Charleston Orphan House.


Atop the tower stood a 14 foot wooden statue of Charity guarding a child. When the building was torn down in 1952, the bell and statue of Charity fell five stories.  The remaining pieces of fallen Charity were reclaimed and later displayed in the Charleston Museum a few blocks away.



© 2014, Bill Draper. All Rights Reserved.