A four-day commemoration of the start of the Civil War that will include a narrated cruise through Port Royal Sound and an encampment of Union and Confederate re-enactors on Hilton Head Island kicked off Thursday at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn.
Presented by the museum and the Lowcountry Civil War Round Table, along with a host of area historical groups, the event seeks to bring the start of the Civil War to life, 150 years later.
Jack Keller, a member of the Lowcountry Civil War Round Table who took in Thursday's events, said he has never seen a commemoration that could compare.
"And Civil War history has been a hobby of mine my whole life," he said.
More than 50 people wandered in and out of the museum Thursday for lectures on how the South -- and especially Beaufort County -- prepared for war. The lectures were presented by national Civil War expert James "Bud" Robertson, a Virginia Tech professor, and Parris Island Museum director Stephen Wise.
As the first shots of the Civil War were fired in November 1861, Union forces eyed Port Royal Sound as a place to refuel ships and stage a blockade of the Southern coast.
On Nov. 7, 1861, those warships forced Confederate troops out of Beaufort County.
Slaves soon fled to Hilton Head Island to seek protection from the Union occupiers and established the nation's first freedman's village at Mitchelville.
In the afternoon, a different kind of history was revealed. Native islanders who lived on Hilton Head before a bridge connected it to the mainland in 1956 shared their memories.
Ben Williams, a member of Mitchelville Preservation Project, said the native islanders' experiences are key to understanding the culture of the nation's first freedman's village.
"We can hear what Mitchelville may have been through their voices," Williams said.
Residents and visitors were invited to tour Fort Howell and old town Bluffton before a performance Thursday of "The Road Home," a period piece of thoughts, words and songs of the early years of the war.
Museum vice president of programs Natalie Hefter said about 100 four-day and one-day passes to the commemoration events have been sold. The proceeds from the tickets, which range in price from $100 to more than $300, will be used to pay for the cost of staging it, including bringing in national experts, she said.
As for free events, a living history encampment of Union and Confederate reenactors -- a first for Honey Horn -- is expected to draw many more, Hefter said.
"This morning seemed to get a lot of people hooked on coming back," she said.
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.