The Forgotten History:
A Photographic Essay on Civil War Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is a thriving region on the South Carolina coast where today it is home to modern residential communities and beautiful resorts. However, few people realize at an earlier time on the island, Hilton Head was home to a Civil War military garrison and civilian boom town of more than 40,000 soldiers, residents and entrepreneurs. To remind residents and visitors of this exciting chapter in the island's history, Charles and Faith McCracken edited and published The Forgotten History: A Photographic Essay on Civil War Hilton Head Island.
The garrison served as the headquarters for the Union Department of the South. From this strategic vantage point, the Union Army and Navy would administer the South Atlantic Blockade throughout the war.
The island was seized on November 7, 1861, by a Union fleet of 77 warships, the largest naval expedition ever to be assembled by the United States to that date. The racetrack formation of the invading ships earned the bombardment of the defending Confederate forts the nickname “Circle of Fire.”
As the town grew it became known as Port Royal. Adjacent to Port Royal was Mitchellville, home to thousands of free slaves. Today Mitchellville is heralded as one of our nation’s first self-governing African American municipalities.
Complementing the text are two photographic essays by 19th century photographers, Samuel A. Cooley and Henry P. Moore. The first collection of images by Cooley records dozens of buildings, such as, forts, boat houses, officer’s quarters, stables, barracks, prisons and mercantile shops. The second collection of images by Moore presents detailed portraits of soldiers and regiments stationed on the island. Together the two essays remind us that the Civil War provided one of the first opportunities for extensive photojournalism. The albumen paper prints, tin types and daguerreotypes produced through this fledgling art form, which was barely twenty years old, brought images of the war into America’s drawing rooms.
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