Establishment of Mitchelville

The choice having been made to attack the Confederacy in the Deep South, a Union fleet of about 60 ships and 20,000 men under the direction of General T.W. Sherman arrived off the coast of Beaufort, S.C. on November 3, 1861. The attack on the Confederate forts began November 7, and by that afternoon the Confederate forces had retreated, leaving the Beaufort area to Union forces.

Within two days of the Union victory, Sea Island blacks descended on the outpost. A place was “selected near the Drayton Plantation for a Negro village.” By March of 1863, the town of Mitchelville was built and named in honor of Maj. Gen. O.M. Mitchel. The village was divided into districts for the election of councilmen, charged with establishing police and sanitary regulations and children between the ages of six and 15 years were required to attend school.

By 1865, about 1500 people lived in simply built houses. Each house had approximately a quarter of an acre for planting gardens. Some residents worked for the Union army, while others worked for wages.

Photographs taken around this time give us some idea of how people lived. But, for the most part, historical records have left us little information about their daily lives.

Post-Civil War Congress passed laws restoring land confiscated by the US government to the Southern landowners who had owned the land prior to the Civil War.

Land was also purchased by free Blacks who eventually lost most of their property to taxes. Photo courtesy of Chicora Foundation