The Battle of Port Royal Sound was one of the earliest naval operations of the Civil War. On November 7, 1861, a massive U. S. Naval fleet and U. S. Army expeditionary force sailed into Port Royal Sound and captured Fort Walker on Hilton Head and Fort Beauregard on Bay Point/St. Helena Island, SC. Beaufort became the first southern town to fall into Union hands. The Federal occupation changed the course of Beaufort District history thenceforth. Below are some suggested links and library materials about this significant Civil War naval and military engagement.
Compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Beaufort District Collection Manager, Beaufort County Library. The Beaufort District Collection is the special local history collection and archives unit of the Beaufort County Library (SC). Creation date: 11 September 2008; Latest update: 7 November 2017; URLs accessed 7 November 2017.
“Rehearsal for Reconstruction,” by Michael Shapiro, New York Times Opinionator blog, Nov. 6, 2011, is found at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/rehearsal-for-reconstruction/
“Battle of Port Royal” by History Net is found at http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-port-royal.htm
The Heritage Library Foundation on Hilton Head Island has posted a short online article about Fort Walker at http://www.heritagelib.org/articles/fort-walker
“Battle of Port Royal, SC” by Mike Stroud is online at http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc13/portroyal1.htm
“The Attack on Fort Walker and Fort Beauregard,” images from Harper’s Weekly, November 30, 1861 is found at http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1861/november/attack-fort-walker-beauregard.htm
Text and image of the historical marker at Fort Walker http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=16519
Interior of Fort Beauregard, St. Phillips Island, South Carolina Date by W. T. Crane, Graphite on paper, no date. The Boston College University Libraries has posted a digital image of the original drawing at http://dcollections.bc.edu/R/?func=dbin-jump-full&object_id=23676&local_base=GEN01
Bay Point, South Carolina. Fort Beauregard, 1861 by Timothy O’Sullivan is an image posted by the Library of Congress at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/cwp2003004675/PP/
An article about “Fort Welles” (formerly called Fort Walker) is found at http://fortwiki.com/Fort_Welles
“Map of Portions of seacoast of South Carolina & Georgia, in possession of the United States, Dec. 12, 1861”is available online through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency Photo Library at http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05193.htm Note: Click on the “High Resolution Photo Available” in order to study and zoom in on the map. The map is from The National Archives Coast and Geodetic Survey archive.
Other maps in this series available online from NOAA are:
Plans and Views of Rebel Defences coast of South Carolina. Drawn by E. Willenbucher. Views include Fort Walker, Hilton Head Island; Fort on Botany Bay Island; Fort on Sams Point, Coosaw River; Fort on Bay Point, South Edison River; Fort Beauregard – Bay Point; Fort on Otter Island Point – St. Helena Sound and Fort on Fenwick’s Island http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05197.htm
View of Fort Walker – Hilton Head Island from cgs05197 “Plans and Views of Rebel Defences coast of South Carolina” http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05198.htm
Published view of Fort Walker – Hilton Head Island, S.C. from cgs05212. Published view of Fort Walker – Hilton Head Island, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05199.htm
Plan and view of Fort Beauregard – Bay Point, S.C. from cgs05197 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05200.htm
Published plan and view of Fort “Beauregard” – Bay Point, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05201.htm
Blowup plan and view of Fort on Otter Island Point – St. Helena Sound, S.C. from cgs05197 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05204.htm
Plan and view of Fort Otter Island Point – St. Helena Sound, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05205.htm
View of Fort on Sams’ Point, Coosaw River, S.C. from cgs05197 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05206.htm
View of Fort on Sam’s Point, Coosaw River, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05207.htm
Blowup ground plan and view of Fort on Bay Point – South Edison River, S.C. from cgs05197. http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05210.htm
Smoother version blowup ground plan and view of Fort on Bay Point – South Edison River, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05211.htm
Blowup view of Fort on Fenwick’s Island, S.C. from cgs05197 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05208.htm
Smoother version blowup ground plan and view of Fort on Bay Point – South Edison River, S.C. from cgs05212 http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05209.htm
Smoother version of “Plans and Views of Rebel Defences coast of South Carolina.” See cgs05197 for the original copy. http://www.photolib.noaa.gov/htmls/cgs05212.htm
Check out these materials from a SCLENDS Library:
The Battle of Port Royal by Michael D. Coker. (Civil War Sesquicentennial Series), 2009.
The Civil War in South Carolina: Selections from the South Carolina Historical Magazine edited by Lawrence S. Rowland and Stephen G. Hoffius, 2011.
Civil War Tours of the Low Country: Beaufort, Hilton Head and Bluffton, South Carolina by David D’Arcy, 2008.
The Complete Civil War Journal and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson edited by Christopher Looby, 2000.
Department of the South: Hilton Head Island in the Civil War by Robert Carse, 1961.
Eve of Emancipation: The Union Occupation of Beaufort and the Sea Islands by Ginnie Kozak, 1996.
The Forgotten History: A photographic essay on Civil War Hilton Head Island edited by Charles C. McCracken and Faith M. McCracken, 1993.
Hilton Head Island [DVD]: a television history: 10,000 years ago to present day by Palmetto Pictures in association with the Southeastern Ecological Institute. [2006?], c1996.
The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, volume 1: 1514 – 1861 by Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore, and George R. Rogers, Jr., 1996.
The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, volume 2: Rebellion, Reconstruction and Redemption, 1861 – 1893 by Stephen R. Wise and Lawrence S. Rowland, with Gerhard Spieler, 2015.
A History of the 15th South Carolina Infantry, 1861 – 1865 by James B. Clary, 2007.
Lee in the Lowcountry: Defending Charleston & Savannah, 1861-1862 by Daniel J. Crooks, Jr. (Civil War Sesquicentennial Series), 2008.
No Prouder Fate: The Story of the 11th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry by Neil Baxley, 2005, 2009.
Port Royal Under Six Flags: The story of the Sea Islands by Katharine M. Jones, 1960.
A Scratch with the Rebels: a Pennsylvania Roundhead and a South Carolina Cavalier by Carolyn Poling Schriber, .
Touring the Carolinas’ Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson, 1996.
Come to the Beaufort District Collection to see these items:
973.7 HIG The Complete Civil War Journal and Selected Letters of Thomas Wentworth Higginson edited by Christopher Looby, 2000. Note: See the index for “Port Royal, South Carolina,” “Port Royal Expedition,” and perhaps “Port Royal Experiment.” The Port Royal Experiment refers to the presence of missionary teachers in the area who were trying to improve the lot of the local newly freed slaves.
973.7 JOH Touring the Carolinas’ Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson, 1996. Note: ”The Sea Islands Tour,” a driving tour of approximately 105 miles, is found on pp. -295.
SC 973.7 LAM Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy edited by James M. McPherson and Patricia R. McPherson, 1997. Note: Lamson discusses the Union capture of Port Royal Sound in his letters on pages 36 and 40 -52.
SC 973.7 WAR War Letters, 1862-1865 of John Chipman Gray and John Codman Ropes, 1927. Note: Letter of June 27, 1863, p. 138, has the author agreeing with Emil Schalk that holding Port Royal was “perfect folly.” Schalk wrote Campaigns of 1862 and 1863, Illustrating the Principles of Strategy in 1863.
SC 973.73 BOL Soldiers, Sailors, Slaves and Ships: The Civil War Photographs of Henry P. Moore edited by W. Jeffrey Bolster and Hilary Anderson,1999. Note: The photographs show daily life of the soldiers stationed on the Sea Islands and includes some photographs taken aboard ships docked in the Port Royal Sound.
973.73 CAR Department of the South: Hilton Head Island in the Civil War by Robert Carse, 1961. Note: During the Civil War era, “Port Royal” referred to Hilton Head, as well as all the Union occupied area around the Port Royal Sound. This title is the place one should start to understand the scope of the Union undertaking and Union installation in lowcountry South Carolina.
973.731 KOZ Eve of Emancipation: The Union Occupation of Beaufort and the Sea Islands by Ginnie Kozak, 1996.
SC 973.731 VIE The Port Royal Expedition, 1861: The First Union Victory of the Civil War by Egbert L. Viele, 1885. Note: This item is fragile. Photocopying is strictly prohibited.
SC 973.75 AMM The Atlantic Coast (The Navy in the Civil War) by Daniel Ammen, 1883. Note: See Vol. 2, Chapter 2, “The Port Royal Expedition,” pp. 13-45.
SC 973.75 ORV In South Carolina Waters, 1861-1865 by Maxwell Clayton Orvin, 1961. Note: See particularly pp. 27-29 for a listing of ships involved in the “Battle of Port Royal Sound.”
SC 973.75 UNI Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865 (3 volumes) by the United States Navy, 1961. Note: See pp. 28-41 of part 1-3 for the events of October, November, and December 1861.
973.75 WIS Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War by Stephen R. Wise, 1988. Note: The value of Port Royal harbor is mentioned on pp. 17 and 219.
973.7757 CIV The Civil War in South Carolina: Selections from the South Carolina Historical Magazine edited by Lawrence S. Rowland and Stephen G. Hoffius, 2011. Note: If you read only one book about the Civil War as it transpired in South Carolina , I recommend that this is the book you read. The editors did yeoman’s work scouring the 112 volumes of the for representative articles. Beaufort District’s unique history during the Civil War and Reconstruction eras is featured in the Sea Islands section.
973.7757 CLA A History of the 15th South Carolina Infantry, 1861 – 1865 by James B. Clary, 2007. Note: This volume is a very fine unit history of the 15 th SC Infantry, CSA. The biographical data compiled about the individual members of the unit is impressive.
973.7757 CRO Lee in the Lowcountry: Defending Charleston & Savannah, 1861-1862 by Daniel J. Crooks, Jr. (Civil War Sesquicentennial Series), 2008. Note: General Lee bought Traveler, his war horse, in Pocotaligo while stationed in Beaufort District.
973.7757 SCH A Scratch with the Rebels: a Pennsylvania Roundhead and a South Carolina Cavalier by Carolyn Poling Schriber. .
SC 973.7757 SEI VOL.1 South Carolina’s Military Organizations During the War Between the States by Robert S. Seigler. Volume 1: The Lowcountry and Pee Dee, 2008.
973.77579 COK The Battle of Port Royal by Michael D. Coker. (Civil War Sesquicentennial Series), 2009. Note: Start with this short book with illustrations for an overview of the battle’s timeline, significant personnel, and summary.
973.77579 DAR Civil War Tours of the Low Country: Beaufort, Hilton Head and Bluffton, South Carolina by David D’Arcy, 2008.
SC 973.782 LU War Letters of William Thompson Lusk, 1911. Note: Letters written from Port Royal and “The Port Royal Expedition under the command of General Thos. W. Sherman, started from Hampton Roads, Oct. 29, 1861” begins on p. 89. Other sections are entitled: “Naval Engagement at Port Royal under the command of Commodore Saml. F. Dupont, Nov. 7, 1861,” “The Occupation of Beaufort, Dec. 9, 1861,” and “Action at Port Royal Ferry, Jan. 1, 1862.” Note: This item is fragile. Photocopying is strictly prohibited.
SC 975.704 BEA 2003 Beaufort during the Reconstruction Era [VHS] USCB Forum: [February 23, 2003] by the Sea Islands Reconstruction Heritage Partnership, 2003.
SC 975.799 BAR Beaufort and the Civil War, 1861-1865: including the first settlement of the Port Royal area 1562 by John H. Bartlett, 1993. Note: The first fourteen pages of this booklet cover the Battle of Port Royal Sound.
REF 975.799 FOR The Forgotten History: A photographic essay on Civil War Hilton Head Island edited by Charles C. McCracken and Faith M. McCracken, 1993. Note: Photographs tell the story of the large federal installation on Hilton Head Island during the Civil War years.
975.799 HIL Hilton Head Island [DVD]: a television history: 10,000 years ago to present day by Palmetto Pictures in association with the Southeastern Ecological Institute, [2006?], c1996. Note: Episode 3: The Gullahs in Slavery and Freedom follows the trade of slaves from Africa to coastal South Carolina. It looks at the effects of the Battle of Port Royal on slaves and examines the formation and development of Gullah culture in the Sea Islands.
975.799 JON Port Royal Under Six Flags: The story of the Sea Islands by Katharine M. Jones, 1960. Note: See “Part X: The Port Royal Expedition,” pp. 209-234.
SC 975.799 NOR Two Weeks at Port Royal by Charles Nordhoff, 1863.
SC 975.799 ROW v. 1 The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, volume 1: 1514 – 1861 by Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore, and George R. Rogers, Jr., 1996. Note: This three volume series is the definitive history.
SC 975.799 ROW v. 2 The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, volume 2: Rebellion, Reconstruction and Redemption, 1861 – 1893 by Stephen R. Wise and Lawrence S. Rowland, with Gerhard Spieler, 2015. Note: Wise’s expertise is on Civil War operations. His treatment of the Battle of Port Royal is masterful.
SC 975.6 MOR The Civil War in the Carolinas by Dan L. Morrill, 2002. (BDC)
Illustrations and Maps
SC PRINT #6 Expedition to Port Royal.–government buildings erected on Hilton Head, S. C., by the Federal Forces under General Sherman, 1861-2. / from a sketch by our special artist with General Sherman’s command. [1862?] “Our illustration of the Government buildings erected on Hilton Head, S.C., embrace the following points of interest: Commissary’s Quarters, built by the Confederates; Post Sutler’s, built by the Confederates; Camp of the Eighth Maine regiment; butcher’s yard; Camp of the Third New Hampshire regiment; Camp of the Forty-eighth New York regiment; Provost Marshal Major Beard’s quarters and Provost Marshal’s guard; General Viele’s headquarters; General Sherman’s headquarters; Captain Pothouse’s (Assistant Adjutant-general) headquarters; lodging house, built by the Confederates; bakery; unfinished building; Captain Saxton’s office, and other Government offices, formerly Generals Drayton and Wright’s headquarters.”
SC PRINT #9A; SC PRINT #9B Exterior view of fortifications erected by the Federal troops at Hilton Head, Port Royal Harbor, S. C.: The Soldier in our Civil War :  from a sketch by W. T. Crane. “Exterior view” scene depicts Union encampment with soldiers drilling, making trenches, canons and supply carts. “Interior view” shows Union troops carrying, stacking, and loading canon balls.
SC PRINT #21 Port Royal Expedition: The morning detail of the Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers going to work on the Hilton Head Fortification: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper : Jan. 25, 1862.
SC PRINT #32 The Southern Expedition : view from the interior of Fort Welles, late Fort Walker, Hilton Head Island, looking inland, showing the defenses from the land side : Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper : Dec. 21, 1861from a sketch by our special artist.
SC PRINT #33 The Great Naval Expedition: view of the interior of Fort Walker, Port Royal Harbor, S. C. during the bombardment by the vessels of the National fleet, November 7: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper : Nov. 30, 1861 from a sketch by our special artist taken on the spot.
SC PRINT #46 Expedition to Port Royal.–government buildings erected on Hilton Head, S. C., by the Federal Forces under General Sherman, 1861-2 from a sketch by our special artist with General Sherman’s command. This item is a 1/2 page, with just this illustration cut out from what appears to be a Civil War newspaper.
SC PRINT #62 The Great Naval Expedition–The landing of the U. S. troops at Fort Walker, Port Royal Harbor, S. C., after its evacuation by the Rebel forces on the afternoon of November 7: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper : Nov. 30, 1861 from a sketch by our special artist taken on the spot.
SC PRINT #67A; SC PRINT #67AB Scene in the parlor of Mr. Barnwell’s house at Beaufort, South Carolina: Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization : January 18, 1862 sketched by our special artist. The top half of the page is the line engraving “Port Royal Ferry, scene of the Battle of First January, 1862” (with an accompanying article on the reverse side) and the lower half comprised of the title image, showing freed blacks whooping it up inside the abandoned house of their [probable] former owner/master.
SC PRINT #88 General Stevens’ Brigade taking possession of Beaufort, S. C., on the evening of December 5, 1861: The Civil War in the United States, 1861? “The beautiful rural town of Beaufort, S. C., came into possession of the Union authorities as a result of the battle of Port Royal. It had been occupied as the headquarters of General Thomas F. Drayton, commander of the army of defence [sic] on Port Royal Sound. The place had been abandoned by all the white inhabitants save one man, who sat in the post-office when the Union troops appeared on the scene. To him was delivered the message of Commodore Du Pont announcing that the life and property of the people would be respected. General Stevens’ brigade assumed the duties of police to maintain order. It comprised the following regiments: Eighth Michigan, Seventy-ninth New York Highlanders, Fiftieth and One Hundredth Pennsylvania. The last named was known as the ‘Roundhead’ regiment.”
SC PRINT #92 Die Expedition nach Port Royal. — Seabrook Lantung am Scull Creek auf Hilton Head Inlet, S. C.: Frank Leslie’s Illuftrirte Zeitung = [The Port Royal Expedition: Seabrook Landing at Skull Creek on Hilton Head Island, SC: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper ], [1862?]
SC PRINT #94 Retreat of the Confederate garrison, commanded by General Drayton, from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the bombardment by the Federal fleet, on the afternoon of November 7th, 1861. Text below caption title at bottom of page: “After gallantly enduring the fire of our invincible navy, under Commander Dupont, for about four hours, in the course of which the destroying circle of our ships was getting nearer and nearer to the devoted forts, General Drayton gave orders for the retirement of his men. The retreat soon ripened into a flight, and a flight which eclipsed even that of Bull Run. The chivalry of South Carolina, which, according to Governor Pickens’s account, is born insensible to fear, in flying from Fort Walker to Scull Creek–which separates Hilton Head from the Mainland, on which Bluffton stands–threw everything away. The exact path of their flight was encumbered with accoutrements, arms of every description, knapsacks–in a word, everything that could facilitate a flying soldier’s speed had been thrown away as worthless.” Reverse pages with caption titles: p. 103: “Effect of the gunboat shells on the Confederates in the woods, Port Royal, S. C., January 1st, 1862.”; “Death of the Confederate General Zollicoffer, in the battle of Mill Spring, KY., January 19th, 1862.” and Page 106: “Battle of Pittsburg Landing–burning the dead horses near the peach orchard.”; “Gathering Confederate oats–an incident in the March of General Prentiss’s Division from Ironton to Cape Girardeau.”
SC MAP #345 Plan of the naval battle, Port Royal Harbor, 1861 by G. Woolworth Colton. Includes Ft. Walker (Hilton Head Island), U.S. gun boats, Broad River, “line of attack”, ship channel to Beaufort, transports, Joiner’s Bank, Station Creek, Ft. Beauregard (St. Philips Island), Cole’s Cape, and Rebel gun boats.
Beaufort County Historical Society Papers
The Beaufort County Historical Society has placed some of the papers presented during its meetings for the public to use in the Beaufort District Collection, Beaufort County Library. The papers are present in one or more formats. Copies of some of the papers are held in typescript folders, on 16mm microfilm, and/or as hardbound copies.
975.799 BAR The Battles of Beaufort by Nathaniel Berners Barnwell. Presented to the Beaufort County Historical Society, January 23, 1945. Note: See pp. 9-17 concerning the “second” Battle of Beaufort, aka The Battle of Port Royal Sound.
BCHS #4. Beaufort in the Civil War by Howard E. Danner. Presented to the Beaufort County Historical Society, June 30, 1960. Note: Contents of this paper include plates of the battle and some photographs of the town made around the time of the occupation. Unfortunately, hard copies of this paper no longer exist and the microfilm is rather difficult to read. Photocopies made from the microfilm tend to be blurred.
BCHS #68. Port Royal Military History by Stephen R. Wise. Presented to the Beaufort County Historical Society, January 27, 1987. Note: The paper details all military activity on Port Royal starting with the settlement of the Spanish in 1526, including brief information regarding the Battle of Port Royal during the Civil War.
BDC Research Room Permanent Vertical Files
- Beaufort Volunteer Artillery
- Port Royal, Battle of, 1861
- Port Royal—History
Please check the Beaufort County Library (SC) system’s homepage for current hours of operation and locations.