01 March 2017

The Civil War in Beaufort District (SC) History, 1861 - 1865

The history of the Civil War in Beaufort District South Carolina is far different than the history of the Civil War elsewhere in the nation. Secession was nursed to maturity in Beaufort District. Port Royal Sound was among the first Southern harbors to fall into Union hands. The "Port Royal Experiment" was fashioned here during the long Federal occupation.

(Courtesy of the Civil War Trust)

Serious talk of separating the Southern states from the Federal government began under the boughs of the Secession Oak in Bluffton in 1844. Robert Barnwell Rhett, the United States Congressman fro this area known for his extreme views, was invited to a homecoming dinner in Bluffton on July 31, 1844. It is said that 500 people showed up to hear his speech: "If you value your rights you must resist."

The Federal forces saw their first significant vicotry of the Civil War at the Battle of Port Royal Sound on November 7, 1861, "the Day the Big Gun Shoot." Because the white residents had evacuated Beaufort and the Union needed buildings for headquarters and hospitals, the town was spared the torch. The Union held Port Royal Island, St. Helena Island, Lady's Island, and Hilton Head Island for the rest of the Civil War period.

(Beaufort District Collection)

The Beaufort District Courthouse (located in Gillisonville since 1848) operated until the final days of the war in South Carolina. The courthouse burned down in early 1865, destroying most of Beaufort District's early records. The mainland of Beaufort District remained primarily under Confederate control from 1861 to 1865 though several military engagements occurred in the area: Battle of Port Royal Sound, November 7, 1861; Battle of Port Royal Ferry, December 31, 1861 - January 1, 1862; Battle of Pocotaligo, October 22, 1862; Combahee River Raid, June 2, 1863 during which Harriet Tubman, "the Moses of her people" and local native son hero Robert Smalls played major roles; the burning of Bluffton on June 4, 1863, and the Battle of Honey Hill, November 30, 1864. 

“Soldiers on Review, South Carolina,” [1864]. Shows black troops at attention, white officers aligned in front. (Beaufort District Collection)                                                          

Approximately 200,000 men of color would serve in the Union Army or Union Navy during the Civil War. Some of the men were free black men from Northern states; some were former enslaved men from the states which seceded from the United States of America. Because the area around Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds was occupied by the Federal government so early in the Civil War, three of the four regiments of United States Colored Troops (USCT) soldiers raised in South Carolina were organized here in Beaufort District.

The abandonment of the enslaved and the arrival of Union troops followed shortly thereafter by abolitionist missionaries, doctors, nurses and teachers had a profound effect on the subsequent course of American history as Beaufort District became the testing ground for educating the freedmen at Penn School and plantation schools, extending civil rights to African-Americans, leading to the establishment of one of the first villages under black leadership at Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island.

(Beaufort District Collection)

Here are some reading suggestions and links to get you started exploring the unique Civil War era history of Beaufort District:

Suggested Books

Rebellion, Reconstruction, and Redemption, 1861 - 1893 by Stephen R. Wise and Lawrence S. Rowland with Gerhard Spieler; foreword by Alexander Moore, 2015. This title is volume 2 of the History of Beaufort County South Carolina, 1996 - 2015.

Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment by Willie Lee Rose, 1964.

The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina during the Civil War by Jeff Fulgham, 2012.

The Battle of Port Royal by Michael Coker, 2009.

Department of the South: Hilton Head Island in the Civil War by Robert Carse, 1961.

Suggested Materials about Important People in Beaufort District's Civil War History

Clara Barton

Black Soldiers and Sailors during the Civil War

Stephen Elliott (Brigadier General, Confederate States of America)

Charlotte Forten

Rachel C. Mather

Missionary Teachers to the Freedmen

Robert Barnwell Rhett

Robert Smalls

Laura Towne

Harriet Tubman

Suggested Materials about Important Places in Beaufort District's Civil War History


Penn School

Suggested Materials about Important Events in Beaufort District's Civil War History

Battle of Port Royal Sound 1861

Battle of Port Royal Ferry 1862

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863

Harriet Tubman and the Combahee River Raid 1863

Burning of Bluffton 1863

Battle of Honey Hill 1864

And don't forget that we have Civil War / Reconstruction related events on Saturday.Please note: The lecture "Beaufort in the Civil War" is completely, utterly, and thoroughly full. Bring your confirmation e-mail from the Beaufort History Museum website with you. Registration is closed.

25 February 2017

The Civil War comes to Beaufort ... Again

The Reconstruction Living History Encampment is soon upon us. We kick off the festivities with a lecture in the Beaufort Branch Library on Friday March 3rd. 

2.27.2017 - "Beaufort in the Civil War" lecture has reached capacity. Registration is now closed.

News Flash! News Flash!  Two historians for the price of one! Dr. Larry Rowland will be joining Dr. Wise in the lecture phase of the BHM/BCL Local History series program "Beaufort in the Civil War" on Friday, March 3rd at 2:00 pm. They are also bringing copies of their masterwork: The 3 volumes of The History of Beaufort County South Carolina, 1514 - 2006 to sell and autograph. 

I do so hope that you've already reserved your seat since there were only a few left as I was writing this post. Register on the Beaufort History Museum website "Events" tab: https://beauforthistorymuseum.wildapricot.org/event-2443137 Please note: the session will be closed when all the available seats are registered. 

I like that folks actually check out the Library system newsletter and even send me questions from time to time about our program offerings. Here's one I received recently: 
> I saw this program on the library newsletter. Can you tell me more about it, such as the time and length?
> Thanks, Library Customer

Dear Library Customer, 

Thank you for asking.

Dave Smoot, in real life the Parris Island Museum Tech, used to run a living history museum in Virginia. His passion is Civil War era medical practices. He portrays a Union surgeon this time. He'll be available from 9 am until 4:30 pm to answer visitor questions about those practices - based on medical manuals of the period. It's more of a drop-in show-and-tell than a traditional Library program where the speaker talks for 45 minutes about the topic of the day.

Take in the Encampment across the street and then wander over to see Dave or vice versa. Both will be open on an on-going basis - though we'll be packing up with Dave at 4:30p.

Does this answer your question?


>Yes it does. That sounds like a nice program, and I think my wife and I will stop by to see both.

A reminder: The Library's Civil War Medicine program is free for all ages though Dr. Smoot recommends that younger children may find the subject matter a bit too advanced for enjoyment. The Encampment is free of charge though the Beaufort History Museum is pleased to accept free will donations. If you want to see the exhibits in the Museum itself, there is an admission fee. Details: www.beauforthistorymuseum.com 843-379-3079

20 February 2017

World War I Programs

The so-called "War to End all Wars" began in 1914. For three years, President Woodrow Wilson did his best to follow George Washington's advice about avoiding foreign entanglements. Wilson was re-elected in 1916 with the slogan, "He kept us out of war." By 1917 keeping out was no longer possible. Aggressive and deadly forces would endanger America and propel us into the conflict. When all else fails, "Send in the Marines". Here are a few upcoming free local opportunities to learn more about World War I:  

Event Name: “Battle of Belleau Woods”
Short Description of Event: Steve Price - in full WWI uniform - will discuss the battle in which the Marines earned the title of Devil Dog “Teufel Hunden” from the German Army. This event is sponsored by the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society and the Historic Port Royal Foundation.
Time and Date of Event: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Location of Event: Union Church, 1004 11th Street, Port Royal, SC 29935
Price of Event: Free; All Ages
Contact info:  Caroline Fermin Ed.pihms@gmail.com  or Jim Crower jcrower@yahoo.com Website:   http://www.mcrdpimuseum.com/

Event Name: “Send in the Marines”                                                                                     
Short Description of Event: Dave Smoot explains the role Parris Island played in preparing to go “Hang the Kaiser” as the United States enters World War I.
Time and Date of Event: Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 1:00 PM
Location of Event: BDC@ Beaufort Branch, 1st floor, 311 Scott Street, Beaufort, SC 29902
Price of Event: Free; Ages 12 – Adults
Contact info: Grace Cordial, 843-255-6468

Event Name: “The Marines in World War I”
Short Description of Event: Author Mike Miller will discuss the role played by the USMC during the Great War. This event is sponsored by the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society and the Historic Port Royal Foundation.
Time and Date of Event: Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 6:00 PM
Location of Event: Union Church, 1004 11th Street, Port Royal, SC 29935
Price of Event: Free; All Ages
Contact info:  Caroline Fermin Ed.pihms@gmail.com  or Jim Crower jcrower@yahoo.com Website:   http://www.mcrdpimuseum.com/

And, of course, the Parris Island Museum has exhibit cases full of World War I artifacts on display. The Museum is open daily to the public, 10 am to 4:30 pm. Admission Is Free.