South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

Fort Howell, Beaufort County (N. side of Beach City Rd. approximately 200’ SW of its intersection with Dillon Rd., Hilton Head Island)
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Southeast Rampart Southwest Bastion Moat, View from
SW Rampart
Moat, View from
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Southeast Rampart
from Traverse
Terreplein from
SE Rampart
West Rampart North Bastion Priest-Cap
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Fort Center
Looking West
South Parapet North Bastion
Looking East
Annotated 1864
Plan of Fort Howell

Fort Howell, a Civil War earthwork fortification constructed in 1864, is significant in military history for its role in the Federal occupation and defense of Hilton Head Island; for its association with United States Colored Troops and the role they played in the occupation and defense of the island, and particularly in the construction of this fort; and for its association with Mitchelville, the nearby freedmen’s village it was built to defend, a settlement which had been established on Hilton Head Island in 1862-63. The fort is also significant for its engineering, as a rare, sophisticated, and particularly intact example of a large semi-permanent field fortification, designed by Captain Charles R. Suter, Chief of Engineers, Department of the South, U.S. Army. The fort was constructed from late August or early September to late November 1864 by the 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry and the 144th New York Infantry. It was designed to be manned by artillerymen serving a variety of garrison, siege or “seacoast” artillery pieces. Intended to protect the approaches to the nearby freedmen’s village of Mitchelville, it was constructed on an open site just southwest of the settlement, likely on a recently-logged site or a fallow cotton field. The fort, an essentially pentagonal enclosure constructed of built-up earth, is quite discernible despite natural erosion and the growth of trees and other vegetation over a period of almost 150 years. Its construction is typical of earthen Civil War fortifications, but the size, sophistication of design, and physical integrity of this fort are all exceptional in the context of surviving Civil War fortifications in South Carolina. Most large earthwork structures and lines of earthworks in the state, whether constructed by Federal or Confederate troops and whether intended as temporary works or semi-permanent ones, have much less integrity than Fort Howell does. Listed in the National Register June 15, 2011.

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