The City of Beaufort is on Port Royal Island within Beaufort County. The county also includes the towns of Bluffton, Hilton Head, and Port Royal. The area’s indigenous people were American Indian tribes of the Cusabo group until waves of Europeans flocked to the area beginning with the Spanish in the 1500’s. Thousands of enslaved Africans were transported to the region to work indigo and cotton plantations, creating, but not sharing in the region’s wealth. Once freed from slavery early in the Civil War, blacks here were among the first to hear Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
POINTS OF INTEREST
City of Beaufort
Robert Smalls Monument
907 Craven Street
Born a slave in Beaufort, Smalls cleverly captured a Confederate ship during the Civil War and sailed it past Charleston to the Union Navy, earning freedom for himself and his family. Smalls went on to become captain of his own vessel and a state legislator.
In 1868 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. The man and his accomplishments are celebrated by a monument on the Tabernacle Baptist Church grounds (From Americans of African Heritage, Pepper Bird Publications).
713 Craven Street
The Arsenal was completed in 1798. It garrisoned an African American militia unit that included the heroic Captain Robert Smalls. After emancipation, it was the site of the first polling booths for newly freed African American slaves.
First African Baptist Church
601 New Street
This historical church was originally a prayer house and organized as a church in 1865. It is located in Beaufort’s historic district.
Beaufort National Cemetery
1601 Boundary Street
The cemetery was established in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln as the final resting place for soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War. The cemetery has remained open, and veterans continue to be buried here.
Grand Army Hall
706 New Castle Street
This hall was originally built in 1896 by the David Hunter Post No. 9 Department of Georgia and South Carolina Grand Army of the Republic and was restored after a fire in the mid 1980’s. The organization was formed after the Civil War for black war veterans who continued the traditional African American celebration of Decoration Day (later called Memorial Day) by honoring the efforts of the legendary South Carolina 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Colored Volunteers.