Mitchelville, an historic site on Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina, is considered by many to be the first post-Civil War settlement for freed slaves with a government structure led by and administered by former slaves. The settlement was built under orders issued by Major General Ormsby Mitchel in 1862. It lasted almost twenty years as a separate town, disappearing in the 1880s. Mitchelville is an important Reconstruction Period historic site and is associated with other historic sites within the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park.

Mitchelville Map
From the Forgotten History

“In 2005, a diverse group of Hilton Head Island citizens took up the cause of preserving and promoting the heritage of Mitchelville. This first group kept the importance of the Mitchelville site to Hilton Head on the community’s agenda. In 2009, the group approached Mr. Thomas C. Barnwell and asked that he become chairman for a renewed effort to preserve what is left of the Mitchelville site and to interpret the heritage and commemorate the story. In 2010, the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park was officially organized with Barnwell as chairman. During the next couple of years, MPP created by-laws, developed an initial land architectural design of the site and obtained 501(c)3 status.” HMFP received a National Trust African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Grant in July 2020.

This list of links and materials was selected by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Manager of the Beaufort County Library’s (SC) special local history collection and archives unit, the Beaufort District Collection. Latest Revision: 20 July 2020; Original post: 1 August 2013.

ONLINE Resources:

In Freedom’s Shadow: The Reconstruction Legacy of Renty Franklin Greaves of Beaufort County, South Carolina,” by Giselle White-Perry, Prologue (Fall 2010), vol. 42, no. 3.

Mitchelville: The Hidden Town at Dawn of Freedom,” by Peter Jackson, BBC News Magazine, 29 February 2012.

“Mitchelville: One Town’s Blueprint for Reconstruction” by the American Battlefield Trust, added 20 July 2020.

Mitchelville” in Wikipedia

The Negroes,” a New South newspaper notice at the beginning of what became known as Mitchelville, New South, October 4, 1862, p. 3. [PDF 459]

The Gullah: Hilton Head, SC a YouTube video (2008) about this unique culture with Gullah Elder Emory S. Campbell

The New South was a weekly newspaper published by the Union postmaster, Joseph S. Sears, beginning  in March 1862.  The newspaper moved to Beaufort sometime in 1865 and ceased publication in 1867. The New South has been digitized by the University of South Carolina and is available online.  Researchers should bear in mind that articles about the Freedmen’s Village do not always contain the word “Mitchelville.”  Thus a careful reading of all 67 surviving issues of the New South newspaper is likely to result in a broader understanding of the contemporary circumstances of the village’s establishment.

“Think Like a Historian” by the History Workshop (2013?) This lesson plan designed for 3rd and 4th grade elementary students shows them how historians use historical documents from primary and secondary sources to explain and explore the past.

Think Like an Archaeologist” by the History Workshop (2013?) This lesson plan designed for 3rd and 4th grade elementary students introduces them to the science of archaeology using the investigation of the Mitchelville site as an example.

Think Like a Researcher” by the History Workshop (2013?) This lesson plan designed for 3rd and 4th grade elementary students “explores how researchers combine data from historical and archaeological resources to answer research questions about the history of Mitchelville.”

Of Freedom Unto All: An Archaeological Examination of the Port Royal Experiment by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation, Research Contribution 20, 1987. Available online as PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

The Lifestyle of Freedmen at Mitchelville, Hilton Head Island: Evidence of a Changing Pattern of Afro-American Archaeological Visibility by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation Research Contribution 21, 2001.  Available in the BDC and HHI as well as available online as PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

Indian and Freedmen Occupation at the Fish Haul Site (38BU805), Beaufort County, South Carolina, edited by Michael Trinkley, Chicora Foundation, Research Series 7, 1986.  Available in the BDC and also available online as PDF downloads in sections through Chicora Foundation.

Mitchelville: Experiment in Freedom by Chicora Foundation, 1995.  Available in hardcopy in the BDC and in HHI and also available online through SCIway.net website. Navigate through the online document through the headings in the left-hand column.

The Archaeological Manifestations of the “Port Royal Experiment” in Mitchelville, Hilton Head Island, [Beaufort County] South Carolina by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation, Research Contribution 14, [1987].   Available in the BDC and available online as a PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

Check Out These Materials from a SCLENDS Library:

Black Towns: Incorporated, Unincorporated, Annexed and Abandoned by Willie E. Box, Jr. (University Park, IL: Willie E. Box, Jr. and Associates, 2018).

Gullah Days: Hilton Head Islanders before the Bridge, 1861 – 1956 by Thomas Barnwell, Emory S. Campbell, Carolyn Grant and Christena Bledsoe (Durham, NC: Blair, 2020). This title is an e-book on Hoopla, the Library’s streaming service.

Hidden History of Hilton Head by Alice E. Sink.  History Press, 2010.

Mitchelville: Experiment in Freedom by Chicora Foundation, 1995.  Available in hardcopy in the BDC and in HHI and also available online through SCIway.net website. Navigate through the online document through the headings in the left-hand column.

Visit the Beaufort District Collection To See These Items:

SC MAP #618 Beaufort County Reconstruction Sites [Bluffton and Hilton Head]. Created by Beaufort County, [2003.]

SC MAP #750 Town of Hilton Head: Historic Mitchelville: 1864. Aerial map. Reproduction made by the Planning Department, Town of Hilton Head Island, 2009.

SC 305.8961 MCC 2012 Gullah culture: 1670 to 1950 by David B. McCoy, Spare Change Press, 2012.

SC 352.1508 BEA Beaufort County Legislative Delegation [DVD], August 31, 2009.

SC 975.7 TRI The Lifestyle of Freedmen at Mitchelville, Hilton Head Island: Evidence of a Changing Pattern of Afro-American Archaeological Visibility by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation Research Contribution 21, 2001.  Available as available online as PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

SC 975.704 BEA Beaufort during the Reconstruction Era, USCB Forum: [February 25, 2003] by Marge Yanker and others, The Partnership, 2003. [VHS]

975.704 TRI Of Freedom Unto All: An Archaeological Examination of the Port Royal Experiment by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation, Research Contribution 20, 1987. Available online as PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

SC 975.799 CHI Indian and Freedmen Occupation at the Fish Haul Site (38BU805), Beaufort County, South Carolina, edited by Michael Trinkley, Chicora Foundation, Research Series 7, 1986.  Also available online as PDF downloads in sections through Chicora Foundation.

REF 975.799 FOR The Forgotten History: A Photographic Essay on Civil War Hilton Head Island by Charles C. McCracken, 1993. 

SC 975.799 MIT Da Spirit of Freedom Lives in We: The Scrapbook of a Native Islander by Johnnie Patterson Mitchell, [1996].

SC 975.799 MIT Mitchelville: Experiment in Freedom by Chicora Foundation, 1995.  Available in hardcopy in the BDC and in HHI and also available online through SCIway.net website. Navigate through the online document through the headings in the left-hand column.

SC 975.799 TRI The Archaeological Manifestations of the “Port Royal Experiment” in Mitchelville, Hilton Head Island, [Beaufort County] South Carolina by Michael Trinkley.  Chicora Foundation, Research Contribution 14, [1987].   Available in the BDC and available online as a PDF download through Chicora Foundation.

SC 975.7997 ZEI ‘Dawn of Freedom:’ The Freemen’s Town of Hilton Head Island, SC by JoAnn L. Zeise ([Columbia, SC:] University of South Carolina, 2012).

Mitchelville [BDC Vertical File] contains many newspaper clippings, mostly as of this writing still available within the Island Packet newspaper online archives. The Mitchelville vertical file also contains: “Fort Mitchel defended Union’s island headquarters” by Gillian Flaccus, Island Packet, August 30, 1999, pp. 1A, 11A; “Memories of Mitchelville – Freedom Gained and Lost” by Lisa M. Collins, Beaufort Gazette, November 15, 1998, p. C1; and, “Beaufort County village of freed slaves recognized,” Carologue, Summer 1995, p. 7.

The Beaufort District Collection has microfilm of the locally based Civil War era newspapers, the New South, the Free South, and the Palmetto Herald.

Note: The Beaufort District Collection (BDC) exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of the South Carolina lowcountry wedged between the Combahee (pronounced “kum-bee”) and Savannah Rivers.

Contact the Beaufort District Collection at 843-255-6446 or e-mail bdc@bcgov.net for additional information about local history and archives relating to the people, places, and themes of the history, Gullah culture, and natural environment of Beaufort County, Jasper County and Hampton County, South Carolina.

Please check the Beaufort County Library (SC) system’s homepage for current hours of operation and locations.

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