Book Review: Two Charlestonians at War: The Civil War Odysseys of a Lowcountry Aristocrat and a Black Abolitionist


by Barbara L. Bellows

Baton RougeL LSU Press, 2018. Pp. xiv, 332. Illus., maps, notes, index. $38.00. ISBN: 0807169099

Two Very Different Charlestonians in the Civil War

Prof. Bellows, formerly of Middlebury College, who is the author of several works on the history of Charleston, gives us a life and times of two Charlestonians born within a mile of each other, of vastly different backgrounds. One, Thomas Pinckney, was from an aristocratic, slave holding family, while the other, Joseph H. Barquet, was freeborn Africa-American artisan who fled North and became a notable abolitionist. Both men volunteered for service in the Civil War, one on each side, and would encounter each other during it.

Bellows uses a clever approach, telling their backgrounds and wartime experiences – Pinckney as a captain in the 4th South Carolina Cavalry and Barquet as a sergeant in the famed 54th Massachusetts – in alternating chapters, which allows us to follow their lives in parallel. As she tells us about their lives, Bellows also gives us an account of the defense of Charleston, the famous attempt to storm Fort Wagner led by the 54th Massachusetts, in which both men fought, the later capture of the fort, and on to the occupation of Charleston and end of the war.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these two men, is that they actually knew of other from prewar days, yet had never met until after the capture of Fort Wagner, when Pinckney found himself under guard by Barquet. Bellows’ account of how the two met and their interactions is both interesting and well told.

As she tells their story, Bellows also offers many insights into contemporary life, including racial and class relations, as well as military service, and the treatment of prisoners of war.

In all, Two Charlestonians at War is a very useful read for anyone interested in the Civil War.


Note: Two Charlestonians at War is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close