General Robert E. Lee was sent to Charleston in early November 1861 to oversee the design and construction of defenses for the South Carolina coast and the cities of Charleston and Savannah. Lee and his engineers analyzed the multiple possible attack points on Charleston and determined that the Federal army had three likely choices:
1. Land on James Island along the Stono River, proceed across the island to capture Fort Johnson. From that vantage point, force the surrender of Fort Sumter and place Charleston under direct threat from batteries erected along the James Island northern shore.
2. Land on Folly Island and cross Morris Island to attack Fort Sumter. After the capitulation of Fort Sumter, the Federal Navy could move to the inner harbor to force the surrender of Charleston.
3. Land at Bull’s Bay, cross into Mount Pleasant, attack Sullivan’s Island from the rear and establish batteries to fire across the harbor into Charleston.
Lee designed a defensive solution for each attack point. To address the approach from Bull’s Bay, he ordered the construction of a long continuous defensive line in Christ Church Parish starting at Butler’s Creek at Boone Hall Plantation, extending east to Hamlin Sound. The Christ Church Lines are illustrated here on a modern street map.
The Christ Church Lines were constructed using slave labor from area plantations. On December 16, 1861, Lee reported to Secretary of War J. P. Benjamin in Richmond that, “[the] branch through Christ Church Parish to the sound, are in good state of progress, . . . The works have been mostly constructed by labor furnished by the planters. I hope they will be completed this week.” On Christmas Day, Brigadier General Roswell Ripley reported that “the lines on Christ Church will be done in the course of three days, and will be quite strong; Lieutenant Blake has carried them quite down to the inland navigation, covering the landing.” Two companies of the 23rd South Carolina Infantry (also known as Hatch’s Coast Rangers) were assigned to the lines to act as lookouts.
There were several redans constructed in the line for forward infantry positions or in which field artillery could be placed. The following model is a redan in the Christ Church Lines just north of Rifle Range Road.
On the outside of the Christ Church Lines, the trees were cleared for 1 1/2 miles to provide for good lanes of fire. The felled trees were placed with the braches facing outward to create an abatis, a barricade intended to serve as an obstacle for the enemy.