Historic Markers Across South Carolina

The Battle of Port Royal/William Fitzhugh and Black Sailors in the Union Navy

Marker ID:  
Location: 226 Beach City Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC
County: Beaufort
Coordinates: N 32° 14.199    W 080° 41.216
  32.23665    -80.68693333


The Battle of Port Royal

On November 7, 1861, at the Battle of Port Royal Union forces attacked Confederates at Fort Walker on Hilton Head island and Fort Beauregard at Bay Point. The Union deployed the largest amphibious fleet ever assembled off American shores. The Confederates were quickly defeated. Hilton Head Island became headquarters for the U.S. Department of the South for the remainder of the Civil War.

Nov. 8, 1861
To The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that yesterday I attacked the batteries of Forts Walker and Beauregard, and succeeded in silencing them after an engagement of four hours' duration, and driving away the squadron of rebel steamers under Commander Tatnall.
Captain S.F. Dupont, Flag-Officer Commanding

William Fitzhugh and Black Sailors in the Union Navy

Union sailor William H. Fitzhugh, recorded as a "first-class boy" in navy records, was one of the first casualties at Fortress Monroe in Virginia. He was wounded while onboard the Pawnee and died the next day. He was buried with full military honors along with other fallen sailors.

Free and formerly enslaved black men served with distinction in the Union Navy. They made up about fifteen percent of the enlisted men by the close of the Civil War in 1865. Many joined the Union Navy on Hilton Head Island. Their knowledge of local waterways was especially useful to the military.

(top left) Captain S.F. Dupont, c.1860. Harper’s Weekly, Nov. 9, 1861.

(top right)Port Royal and Beaufort. Image courtesy of the Civil War Gazette.

(bottom left) Unknown black sailor in the Union Navy, c. 1865. Image courtesy of the U.S. National Achieves and Records Administration.

Erected by the Mitchelville Preservation Project and Concerned Individuals and Organizations.

Photo maybe found on HMDB.ORG.