"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

April 19, 2016

Beaufort, SC History Lesson


Today was our last day in Beaufort and we spent it being lazy and enjoying the park...again. We also took a walk and looked at some of the beautiful homes, one more time. There is a ton of history in this town so I thought I'd share a little with you. If you're not a fan of history you may want to skip this post.

Beaufort was established over 450 years ago. Long before the antebellum homes were built and the Union army invaded in 1861. French explore Jean Ribaut sailed into Port Royal Sound in 1514, the second deepest natural harbor on the east coat. Spanish, French and British explorers struggled to colonize the isolated seaside province and by 1711 the English formally chartered Beaufort.

Beaufort is located about half way between Savannah and Charleston and the Port Royal Sound area made the perfect place for the Union Navy. In November 1861 Union troops occupied Beaufort and it became one of the first communities in the Deep South to be held in Union hands. More than 12,000 Union infantry occupied Beaufort, Hilton Head and the surrounding Sea Islands. For this reason much of Beaufort was spared from physical destruction.

Slaves soon flocked to this new Union foothold — and to freedom. The influx of thousands of blacks provided challenges for the occupiers and opportunities for the ex-slaves. In what some consider a dry-run for Reconstruction, "The Port Royal Experiment" provided educational and other material help for the freedmen. Many of the ex-slaves were the first blacks to join the Union Army.

In addition to educational advancements, the city made some political ones as well. Robert Smalls, a native son and leading figure in post-war Beaufort would later become one of South Carolina's first elected African-Americans to the United States Congress and remained a prominent civic leader in the state and in Beaufort until his death in 1915.  

Some of Beaufort's prominent families returned to the area after the war, but most of the original antebellum power brokers never returned. Many of the homes were bought by ex-slaves and Union soldiers who had fallen in love with the area and returned to Beaufort to make it their permanent home. 

There are many ways to take in the history of Beaufort but the most popular seems to be by horse and carrage
Beaufort Arsenal was constructed in 1798 and was home to the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery. Their valiant history can be traced back to the Revolutionary War. The arsenal is now serves as a visitor center and museum. 
The Parish Church of St. Helena was established in 1712 and we found grave stones from as far back as the Revolutionary War. 
Just a few more pictures of "The Castle" one of my favorite house in Beaufort.
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