Clio Logo
Castle Pinckney is a "castle" style small masonry fort, built in 1810, on a tiny island in Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina. It assisted in the provision of coastal defenses during the War of 1812 and served as an artillery emplacement and prisoner of war camp during the Civil War.

  • Castle Pinckney
  • National Portrait Gallery portrait of Charles Pinckney by Henry Benbridge (1773)

Constructed in 1810, Castle Pinckney is a masonry fortification used by the U.S. Army in its coastal defense system for Charleston, South Carolina, during the War of 1812. The fortification was converted to use by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

Castle Pinckney is a "castle" style fortification which was constructed on a small island in Charleston Harbor known as Shute's Folly. Originally constructed in 1742, the structure was demolished by a hurricane and rebuilt using masonry just in time for the War of 1812. The fort exists in ruins today.

The fortification is named in honor of Major General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a Revolutionary War general from South Carolina, Minister to France and South Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Although born in South Carolina, Pinckney was educated in England. He received his legal education at Christ Church College in Oxford, studying under the British legal luminary Sir William Blackstone. After earning admission to the English Bar, Pinckney returned to practice law in his home colony until the Revolutionary War erupted. He fought with distinction in the defense of Charleston and at the 1778 siege of Savannah. In the Northern Theater he fought in the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. Pinckney was taken prisoner when Charleston fell to the British in 1780 and was held until 1782.  

After the war Pinckney returned to his legal practice and served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature. During the Constitutional Convention he was a vociferous advocate of a strong federal government and advanced an unpopular and soundly defeated proposal that Senators serve without pay. Pinckney reportedly refused appointments to lead the U.S. Army, become a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, serve as Secretary of State and Secretary of War. When he finally accepted a Presidential appointment as Minister to France, the revolutionary government refused to receive him as Minister.

Pinckney eventually returned to America when the country was preparing for a possible war with France. He accepted an appointment to command American forces in the south and served in that position until 1800 when the threat of war finally subsided and he became the 1800 Federalists' candidate for Vice President. Pinckney received his party's nomination for President in 1804 and 1808.  

Although poorly preserved, Castle Pinckney was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.  The Fort Sumter Ferry passes by the island on its trek to the fort, but does not stop.

"Castle Pinckney, SC," Explore Southern History, accessed Nov. 29, 2014 "Castle Pinckney," South Carolina Department of Archives and History, accessed Nov. 29, 2014, "Charles Cotesworth Pickney," U.S. Army Center of Military History, accessed Nov. 29, 2014,