Discovered in an antiques store in Chattanooga, Tenn., by Historical Preservation Society board member Randolph Stewart more than a decade ago, the letter describes how Confederate troops drove Union soldiers back to their gunboats on the May River as most of the town was in flames.
The letter, which has been authenticated, is difficult to decipher but largely intact, Heyward House executive director Maureen Richards said.
The one exception is a hole where the signature was.
Historical Preservation Society president Jerry Reeves said he likes to think the hole is from a bullet fired by "those dastardly Yankees." He admits that it was more likely caused by a hungry mouse.
Richards, who arrived in period dress, presented a copy of the letter to council and asked for a town proclamation commemorating the June 4 burning of the town.
"We remember the burning," Richards said. "It's such an incredible, significant date in our history, and this letter is absolutely a part of that day."
Reeves offered excerpts from the letter.
"The enemy on yesterday made a raid on Bluffton," Reeves read. "I had just assumed command here and proceeded immediately with all my force to some place 8 miles distant. When I reached them I found the enemy in the town and by 2 a.m. it was in flames."
The original letter is owned by Reeves' daughter-in-law Corinne.
For the fifth year in a row, the society is marking the date with a Lowcountry boil and a bluegrass band. It has also invited reenactors from the 11th regiment of the South Carolina Infantry, Richards said.
Mayor Lisa Sulka promised to sign the proclamation.