We've had nearly 150 years now to get shut of the typical Yankeefied version of the Union capture of Hilton Head Island in November 1861. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen, the history of any war being written by the victors.
Port Royal Sound, commonly adjudged "the finest natural harbor on the East Coast," was simply too wide to be defended by the artillery of 1861. The results were a foregone conclusion. The Yankee flagship, Wabash, for instance, mounted more guns than both Confederate forts combined. Though Fort Beauregard on Bay Point made a good show, shells fell into Hilton Head's Fort Walker at the rate of 90 a minute, and resistance, according to commanding officer Thomas Fenwick Drayton quickly became merely "a point of honor."
But the victory looked good in the Yankee newspapers. Propagandists called this captured ground "the Department of the South," as if it were somehow more than only half of Beaufort County. And during the next four years, 50,000 Yankee sailors, soldiers and Marines spilled an ocean of blood unsuccessfully trying to capture Charleston and Savannah. And fewer than 5,000 Confederates kept them from cutting the vital rail line connecting those two cities. Gen. William Sherman had to march all the way from Tennessee to accomplish that.
The real legacy of the first Yankee invasion was the distribution of land among the Gullah. And that, tragically, is now threatened by the second.
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