South Carolina Beaufort County Port Royal
is a sleepy little town located just south of the City of Beaufort
. Today's quiet pace, however, belies a tumultuous past. The Spanish established a fort at nearby Parris Island
during the 1520s – one of the first in North America. That settlement, Santa Elena, did not survive, but in 1562, a group of French Huguenots arrived and established another settlement on top of the original one. Called Charlesfort
, it too suffered an ill fate, and for the next two centuries, the area was fought over by the Spanish, the French, the English, and the Native Americans. In 1861, Port Royal was one of the first cities in the Confederacy to fall to Union forces.
Prior to the Civil War
, Port Royal was awash in Sea Island cotton, making planters here very wealthy. When Union forces overran the area, white families fled, leaving their homes and slaves behind. The United States Government then enlisted the aid of teachers and missionaries from the North to help former slaves
establish new lives as freedmen. These programs, including Mitchellville
on Hilton Head Island
and the Penn School
on St. Helena Island
, were known collectively as the Port Royal Experiment.
These days, Port Royal is best known for its seafood. Docks at Battery Creek
are home to a fleet of trawlers, and guests travel from miles around to sample some of South Carolina's finest dining.
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