South Carolina’s First Recorded LODD

South Carolina’s First Recorded LODD

In an article researched and written in the last couple of weeks by Susan Duncan, Office Manager at S. C. State Fire, is an account of the City of Columbia’s first “Line of Duty Death” which occurred on December 14, 1868. A very young 21 year-old “Danny” Carrington served as a volunteer with the Independent Steam Fire Engine Company and was killed by a falling wall while fighting a fire in the three-story Gregg’s Hall.  This LODD is the earliest recorded firefighter’s death in the City’s history.

 

This young man’s death prompted the question by Ms. Duncan and this writer just who was South Carolina’s first fire department “Line of Duty Death”?  While chronicling our state’s fire service history in my book, “A Legacy That Lives On”, I remembered from my research that a fireman in Charleston was killed just a few years earlier during the bombardment of that city by Union troops during the Civil War.

 

More research by Ms. Duncan and myself revealed a connection with this death that played a role in the eventual founding of the South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association.  As our membership knows, our Association was founded by Charleston’s celebrated Fire Chief Louis Behrens and others in 1905.  However, earlier events in the life of Chief Behrens provide an interesting framework from which to begin this account of South Carolina’s first LODD.

 

In his book, “The Defense of Charleston Harbor…1863-1865”, by John Johnson, the author records a report submitted by Major Henry Bryan, the Assistant Inspector General of the Confederate Army dated January 6, 1864.  Major Bryan communicates to his superiors about the bombardment of Charleston by union forces.  He tells of a fire “originating from the explosion of a shell” on December 25, 1863, where five deaths resulted from the shelling on the peninsula.  Among those wounded or killed was a Mr. John Doscher, a fireman with the German Fire Company of the city.  He was injured on December 25, 1863 and died within a little less than two weeks from his injuries.  This death of John Doscher is the first “Line of Duty Death” found by our research of a South Carolina firefighter dying in the line of duty.

 

But, wait…this story has even further impact on our fire service if the reader considers the early life of Chief Louis Behrens who was born on July 21, 1860, just three months after the firing on Fort Sumter which commenced the Civil War.  In his mid-teens, Chief Behrens made it known to his parents that he wanted to join a fire company with the Charleston Fire Department.  However, his father was adamant that young Louis “should learn the cabinet maker’s trade”, according to newspaper accounts.  Nonetheless, Louis secretly joined the Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 on June 10, 1876, against his father’s wishes.

 

An interesting article published at the time of Chief Behren’s death in 1932 states that “an uncle of the Chief, John Doscher, had been a member of a volunteer fire company, and had died while fighting a fire caused by the shells of the enemy besieging Charleston during the War Between the States, and this was the cause of his father’s prejudice.”  The article goes on by saying “for a long time, Chief Behrens was compelled to hide from his family the bright red fire uniform which he owned.”  Also, “two years after joining the volunteer fire department, Chief Behrens transferred to the German Steam Engine Company”, the very company his uncle volunteered and in whose service he died eighteen years earlier.

 

Fireman John Doscher gave his life while helping others by fighting those terrible fires in Charleston on Christmas Day in 1863.  At this writing, Fireman Doscher is believed to be our state’s first “Line of Duty Death” and whose life helped to shape our “founding father”, Chief Louis Behrens, into a dynamic visionary leader who later facilitated the creation of our South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association.

 

So, you now have the rest of the story.  As we have entered into the Christmas Season, let’s not ignore the real reason for Christmas..the birth of Christ who came to earth and sacrificed His life to give mankind meaning and hope.  Furthermore, I wish to encourage the reader to remember the sacrifices our emergency responders make each day who follow the example of our Lord by devoting themselves to giving meaning and hope to others…even the ultimate sacrifice. 

On behalf of the Executive Committee and staff, we wish you a Merry Christmas and offer prayers for a wonderful New Year…stay safe out there!

 

 

 

 

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