|Marker is unveiled at Fort Howell entrance (town of Hilton Head Island)|
“This is a great day for Hilton Head Island because it shines a light on a piece of our past that needed to be explained more in depth and needed to be spotlighted properly,” Mayor Alan Perry said in prepared remarks for Wednesday’s ceremony at the well-preserved site.
Much of coastal South Carolina fells into Union hands relatively early in the war and the Federal army needed to create camps for tens of thousands of newly freed families.
While a previous sign at the well-preserved Fort Howell declared the earthen fortification's purpose and for whom it was named, the new marker lists the 32nd USCT and the 144th New York infantry as its builders in the latter half of 1864.
The army wanted to thwart any Confederate raids on Mitchelville. A large military encampment called Camp Baird was built near the fort.The town worked with the Hilton Head Island Land Trust, which owns and maintains the site, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History to create the new marker.
George Banino, president of the land trust’s board, told the Picket the marker was changed in response to comments, especially the Gullah community, about telling the human story.
“As the location of the U.S. headquarters for the Union's Department of the South from six months after the start of the war until a year after the end of the war, Hilton Head Island has an important history to tell,” Banino said.
|Bridge at entrance crosses remains of moat (Wikipedia photo)|
Perry said the new marker "conveys a single cohesive narrative of our history."
|New marker at left replaced one at right. (Town of Hilton Head and Mike Sroud, HMdb.org)|
More than 180,000 men served in the USCT, about 10% of all Federal soldiers. More than 40,000 died of combat, illness and disease.
The post is named for Union Brig. Gen. Joshua B. Howell, who died in September 1864 after falling from his horse in Virginia.
|Plan for the five-sided Fort Howell (National Archives)|
|Rendering of what the fort, surroundings may have looked like|
(Mary Ann Browning Ford for Hilton Head Island Land Trust)
“A large portion of the vegetation has been removed to enable visitors to view the structure of the fort, although enough vegetation has been retained to provide protection from continued erosion,” he said.
|Exterior wall of fort across from moat (Hilton Head Island Land Trust)|
The town says Fort Howell is a key site on the National Park Service's Network to Freedom, which encompasses the Underground Railroad and the Civil War Discovery Trail.