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City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 [Hardcover]

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Item description for City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 by Richard N. Cote...

At 9:51 PM on August 31, 1886, William Ashmead Courtenay, the much-respected mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, was relaxing aboard the Etruria, an elite Cunard luxury liner bound for New York from Liverpool. At that same moment, the most powerful earthquake ever to strike the East Coast rolled through South Carolina and devastated Charleston, killing over 150 people and damaging or destroying over 90% of the historic city's masonry buildings within sixty seconds. Within ten minutes, it had spread its terror throughout half the nation, causing panic and damage as far north as Toronto, east to Long Island, south to Cuba, and west to St. Louis. The nation was stunned. No one in Charleston, or anywhere on the East coast, ever thought such an unthinkable catastrophe of such magnitude could possibly strike east of the Mississippi. They were very, very wrong.

City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, is a riveting, heavily illustrated non-fiction book filled with gripping, first-hand accounts of the earthquake, drawn directly from newspapers, personal diaries, journals, and letters of the earthquake survivors. It will also follow the earthquake sleuths who descended upon Charleston to discover what caused the disaster. But above all, it identifies the noble and heartwarming acts of numerous unsung heroes, black and white, inspired and led by Charleston's extraordinary mayor, William A. Courtenay. Working together, they saved numerous lives, nursed the wounded, fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless and enabled Charleston to make a full recovery from the massive disaster within eighteen months.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   556
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 5.9" Height: 1.7"
Weight:   1.8 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 11, 2006
Publisher   Corinthian Books
ISBN  1929175450  
ISBN13  9781929175451  

Availability  0 units.

More About Richard N. Cote

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Cote studied political science and journalism at Butler University. After serving several years on the staff of the South Carolina Historical Society, he spent the 1980s and early 1990s exploring South Carolina's social history and exotic local microcultures.

Richard N. Cote currently resides in Mt. Pleasant, in the state of South Carolina. Richard N. Cote was born in 1945.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > 19th Century > General
2Books > Subjects > History > Americas > United States > General
3Books > Subjects > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Earth Sciences > Geophysics
4Books > Subjects > Science > Earth Sciences > Earthquakes & Volcanoes
5Books > Subjects > Science > Earth Sciences > Geophysics

Reviews - What do customers think about City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886?

Great Present - S.C. Lovers  Apr 5, 2007
Purchased this book for a gift to an ardent S.C. resident. But read it first. It is informative and detailed - lots of pictures. Also purchased "Red Neck Riviera" - it was great - 5 stars.
Part science, part history, all fascinating...  Jan 25, 2007
Charleston, South Carolina is my favorite city, so it's only natural that I enjoy books that deal with the Holy City. City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886 is a fascinating account of this little known event.

Most people know that Charleston has been plagued by hurricanes, fires and wars. But most are not aware that in 1886, the city suffered a devastating earthquake--the worst east of the Mississippi in US history. On a sultry summer evening on August 31st, Charleston and the surrounding areas were rocked by a major quake. Although seismic equipment was not available at the time, geologists have determined that it was probably between 7.3-7.6 on the Richter Scale. Dozens of people died and dozens more were injured. Two-thirds of Charleston's population (40,000 people) were left homeless. The quake also caused many fires and several fatal train wrecks. Overall, the quake "spread a dry tidal wave of destruction throughout 2.5 million square miles of land." Even towns 300 miles away suffered moderate damage. Soldiers who fought in the Civil War agreed that the quake was worse than "the horrors of war." The quake also took away the sense of security enjoyed by Charlestonians because of the many tremors and small quakes that occurred on a daily basis after August 31st. It wasn't until 20 years later that the quakes and tremors finally subsided. For months afterward, they were a daily occurrence.

Cote' provides us with a fascinating look at all aspects of the earthquake including the after effects, the search for ground zero, the rebuilding effort, fundraising, and the many individuals who performed heroic acts. Part of City of Heroes is a story of science. Every time more knowledge became available about earthquakes, scientists went back and restudied the Charleston quake. Many of their discoveries are fairly recent. But most of this book is a story of history, and Cote' provides us with interesting research. When Charleston mayor Courtenay realized the city would receive no federal or state financial aid, he appealed to the rest of the US for help. This triggered "an outpouring of warmth, sympathy, and financial support the likes of which had never been seen before in the South." But more surprisingly, the biggest contributors were from "the heart of the Union" whose "money flowed like water." Much of the money came from former soldiers. Also, when a week-long gala was held to celebrate the completion of rebuilding, the city was laid out in red, white and blue with tens of thousands of American flags. Not a single state flag was on display and only one Confederate flag. It is obvious that both North and South were anxious to put the Civil War behind them--something that generations today can't quite seem to do.

The earthquake is also responsible for the beautiful, historic Charleston that tourists flock to today. After suffering through the Civil War, a cyclone in 1885 and then the earthquake, Charlestonians were too poor to raze the city and rebuild. So they were forced to repair as best they could using earthquake bolts. This allowed thousands of historic buildings to be saved, and those same earthquake bolts can still be seen on almost all buildings that were in existence in 1886.

City of Heroes is Cote's fourth book, and his third with a "Charleston" theme. I think that he's at his best when writing about Charleston, and City of Heroes is his best book to date.
Charleston resident/earthquake fan  Dec 9, 2006
As a lifelong resident of Charleston SC I have heard of the earthquake since childhood but had found little information. Mr. Cote has put within reach of the everyday person facts that here-to-fore have been inaccessible. He documents the causes, effects, and long term results. Not only does he relate Charleston's history from her birth in 1670 as Charles Towne, but he emphasizes the strength of her people as they overcame epidemics of disease, devastating fires, British invasion and siege in 1781-82, bombardment and occupation by the Union Army in 1863-65, and the unleashed forces of nature in the forms of tornadoes, cyclones, and now her hardest hit -- the Great Earthquake of 1886. Genealogists will find this a useful tool as Mr. Cote records names of injured and killed as well as the ordinary people who became the heroes. He ends on a sober note explaining the devastation, destruction, and loss of life that will occur with the next big one. Those fault lines which erupted in 1886 are still being stressed, the plates are still moving, and the pressure will release when it builds to the point it can no longer be contained. He warns: be prepared, be educated, and above all don't be complacent. The book contains maps, diagrams, informative end notes and bibliography. This is an interesting read and a valuable addition to one's library.
a comprehensive look at disaster recovery that worked  Nov 23, 2006
In 1886, Charleston, SC got the smackdown. A major earthquake just plain flattened the place, with after-shocks to keep everyone good and nervous. This is the story. Dick Cote always does a good job of research, so that aspect of _City of Heroes_ didn't surprise me at all.

After the disaster came the recovery effort, and that part surprised me quite a bit. It seems that some places, when struck by disaster, just roll over and wave their arms and legs; they expect others to save them, that they need do nothing for themselves. Give me, help me, send me, take me, do it all for me, that's the battle cry. Charleston wasn't like that. It accepted a lot of donations from around the country, got to work, and rebuilt itself. It took charge. It neither had nor needed a FEMA. Civic spirit took the place of government dollars thrown at the problem, because in fact Charleston got few government dollars. The one entity most conspicuous by its non-participation was the Federal government.

Cote rounds the book out with a couple of long discussions (one from the period and one more recent) about the scientific aspects of the quake. Why would one happen in Charleston, seemingly far from subduction zones where such events are more or less expected? They wondered in 1886, and they now have a pretty good handle on it.

Last comes a section I particularly enjoyed: lessons learned. What does a place need to do once it's been knocked flat by Ma Nature? I find it impossible to disagree with his analysis. The results Charleston achieved speak for themselves: within a year the place was nearly back to normal. Evidently they wanted normality badly enough to recreate it for themselves, rather than just lay there screaming to be rescued/saved/paid/fed/etc.

Good for Charleston. I've never been there, but if its people are still like this, good for them. And good for Cote, to have assembled this impressive study on a little-known bit of U.S. history.
Detailing a Little-known Disaster   Sep 18, 2006
August 31, 1886, was a night of horror in Charleston and Summerville, South Carolina, when faults gave way, destroying buildings and impacting thousands of lives. Richard Côté, in City of Heroes, takes his readers through the terrifying darkness of that night with the sounds and destruction of the earthquake and fires; he then follows the relief and rebuilding efforts of the next months. With admirable fortitude the people of Charleston put their world back together. Without aid from the state and with unimaginably meager federal assistance, the city organized and financed initial relief and repairs with amazing speed and efficiency. The flood of totally private donations, especially those from northern states, left citizens feeling gratifyingly bound to the rest of the country. The author uses many photographs and primary sources, including Charleston's excellent newspaper, the News and Courier, to develop a timeline and to paint portraits of the men who led the city's recovery. The recovery approaches used in 1886 form the basis of Mr. Côté's Charleston Disaster Recovery Model. A particularly interesting aspect of the book is its discussion of the investigative team from the U.S. Geological Survey and their work and conclusions. The book is rigorously documented, highly objective, and readable. Could it happen again? One of the final chapters brings the reader up-to-date on scientific work in the area and provides both Internet and printed sources of earthquake-preparedness information--just in case.

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