Fargot Password? / Help

LCA Main Blog


Finds in FamilySearch Freedmen's Bureau Records ~ Reel 21, Georgetown Medical Officer Rations Requests

A Rich Find for Georgetown Research

As you might imagine, we've spent the last two days poring over the films in the new collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872 on FamilySearch. This new collection is the digitized version of Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910).

We've made some pretty rich finds by browsing through the volumes, and the latest find is on Reel 21: a volume of rations requests filed by the Georgetown Medical Officer from November 1865 to March 1866. The 498-frame volume preserves individual rations requests for elderly, infirm and orphaned freed people in Georgetown, SC.

If your research is focused on Georgetown, be sure to read through this 498-frame volume on Reel 21!

Example ~ Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Below is an example of a rations request that is rich in genealogical information. Here, Acting Assistant Surgeon Henry F. Heriot requests rations for Roselle Mitchell (age 9), Gabriel Mitchell (age 4) and Phyllis Mitchell (infant), children of Sam Mitchell who died while serving in the USCT:1

Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell

Above: Rations Request for Children of Sam Mitchell, Georgetown, SC, ca. 1866. Source: South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at,, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

Service Record ~ Samuel Mitchell

Samuel Mitchell was 23 years old when he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops April 24, 1865 in Beaufort, SC. He was assigned to Company G, 104th USCT. June 13, 1865 he was promoted to Corporal. By June 25 he was sick in the Beaufort, SC camp hospital. In early August he was transferred to the David's Island Hospital in New York, where he remained a patient until October 3, when he was discharged for disability.2

References Cited

[1] South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872, Database Online at,, Accessed 29 Dec 2013.

[2] Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served the United States Colored Troops: 56th-138th USCT Infantry, 1864-1866, Database Online at Record for Samuel Mitchell, Co. G, 104th USCT., Accessed 29 Dec 2013.


Going In Depth ~ A Look at Some of the Richest Record Types in SC Freedmen's Bureau Records

Rations Lists (AKA Register of Destitutes): Lists of Elders By Plantation, Before 1870

Rations lists (sometimes labeled "Register of Destitutes," "Register of Those to Whom Rations Were Issued," etc.) are among the richest records in FamilySearch's newly-digitized collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

When General Rufus Saxton assumed responsibility for the operation of the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina, one of his immediate concerns was providing food, clothing and medical relief to thousands of freedmen and white refugees left destitute by the war. On many plantations, elderly and infirm freedmen and orphaned children were in immediate need of food relief. By mid-summer of 1865, Saxton had distributed more than 300,000 military rations in South Carolina to alleviate widespread hunger. Agents recorded the names and ages of those to whom rations were distributed. 1 As artifacts of the bureau's operations in South Carolina, rations lists are especially valuable as they preserve the names of ancestors who were age 50 and older on many plantations.

Rations Lists and the Information They Contain

The example below is from a rations list recorded in Moncks Corner, Berkeley District, SC. In this list, name, gender, age, race, plantation, city or district, infirmities and remarks were recorded for each person who received rations. 2

Rations List Moncks Corner 1866 NARA1910REEL89cropped

Above: Sample Page from Register of Destitutes for Moncks Corner, SC in 1867. Source: Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (NARA Record Group 105) M869, Reel 89

Rations lists are especially important resources for African American genealogy research for a number of reasons.

Rations Lists Provide Clues to Your Family's Location Before 1870

The information recorded in rations lists varied by Field Office location, but most included the place of residence for those who received rations. Some lists include the Field Office location only, while others list the plantation of residence for rations recipients. If you do not have pre-1870 records for your ancestor or have not located them in the 1870 US Census, rations lists can provide important leads for focusing your research on a specific location.

Rations Lists Sometimes Contain the Names of Ancestors Not Listed in the 1870 Census

Because of their advanced age in 1867, some of the elders in the example above may not have lived until 1870 and thus would not have been listed in the 1870 US Census. Indeed, this record may be the only surviving record that lists some of these ancestors by first and last name.

Rations Lists Can Help You Add Another Generation to Your Family Tree

If you find an elder in a rations list with the same surname and on the same plantation as one of your known ancestors, it is certainly worth investigating to determine if that elder belongs in your family tree. A good place to start investigating is in wills and estate inventories for the slaveholding family that owned the plantation, as family relationships were sometimes noted in probate documents.

Rations Lists Can Provide Clues to the Final Slaveholder and Plantation

If you find a known ancestor listed in a rations list where the plantation is noted, this may be a clue to help you discover that ancestor's final slaveholder. To investigate the possibility, you will need to learn the name of the owner of the plantation, then examine 1850 and 1860 US Census Slave Schedules to determine if the plantation owner is listed as a slaveholder. If the plantation owner is listed in the 1850 or 1860 US Census Slave Schedules, examine the schedule to see if an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender for your ancestor is listed.

If there is an enslaved person of the appropriate age and gender listed, that family should definitely be on your research radar as a possible final slaveholder for your ancestor. You can dig deeper by examining wills, estate inventories and bills of sale for the slaveholding family to see if your ancestor's first name is listed in any of those documents.

More Records Await!

Rations lists are just one example of the rich records that await in FamilySearch's newly-digitized collection South Carolina Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872. The rations list in this example lists the names and locations of hundreds of elders who were age 50 and above in 1867, on 112 plantations in the Moncks Corner, SC sub-district. Thanks to FamilySearch we now have free Internet access to rations lists from every sub-district in SC!

For advice on locating rations lists in the newly-digitized records, please see Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872.

References Cited

[1] United States Congress and National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. 2005 Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M1910.

[2] Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. 1867 "Register of Destitutes, Moncks Corner, South Carolina."Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872, NARA Record Group 105, Micropublication M869, Reel 89.

Related Reading

You can view the entire Moncks Corner rations list by following the link below:

Freedmen's Bureau Register of Destitutes (Rations Lists) by Plantation, Moncks Corner Sub-district, SC, 1867


Accessing and Navigating the New FamilySearch Collection "South Carolina, Freedmen's Bureau Records, 1865-1872"

FamilySearch Has Digitized Freedmen's Bureau Records for South Carolina

Social networks are abuzz today with the happy news that FamilySearch has digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This new collection of 118,737 images, which spans the years 1865-1872, is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina, and its digitization is perhaps the most significant event for South Carolina researchers this year.

Accessing and Navigating the Records

Below are steps for identifying the records within the new collection that are of interest for your research.

Step 1 ~ Determine Which Office or Subordinate Field Office Was Nearest to the Location(s) You Are Researching

Bvt. Maj. Gen. Rufus Saxton, who directed the “Port Royal Experiment,” was appointed Assistant Commissioner for South Carolina in 1865. By 1867, several sub-districts had been created with Sub-Assistant Commissioners responsible for operations in their assigned locations. Sub-districts contained one or more Field Offices. The records within M1910 are arranged by Field Office, so it's important to know which Field Offices were closest to your area of interest. Field Office locations in South Carolina were:
  • Abbeville courthouse (agent)
  • Aiken (subassistant commissioner–bureau district of Anderson)
  • Aiken (subassistant commissioner–Edgefield district)
  • Anderson courthouse (acting subassistant commissioner–Anderson district)
  • Barnwell (subassistant commissioner–Barnwell district)
  • Beaufort (contraband department)
  • Beaufort (hospital)
  • Beaufort (subassistant commissioner)
  • Berkley district
  • Camden (subassistant commissioner)
  • Charleston (health department superintendent)
  • Charleston (hospitals)
  • Charleston (subassistant commissioner–6th subdistrict)
  • Cheraw (agent)
  • Chester (subassistant commissioner)
  • Columbia (acting assistant commissioner–District of Columbia)
  • Columbia (hospital)
  • Combahee Ferry (agent)
  • Darlington (acting assistant commissioner)
  • Darlington (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Darlington (subassistant commissioner)
  • Fairfield district
  • General collecting agent (Columbia, SC)
  • Georgetown (hospital)
  • Georgetown (subassistant commissioner)
  • Grahamville (agent)
  • Greenville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Hilton Head
  • Horry district (erroneously catalogued as Honey district)
  • Hopkins Turnout (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Johns Island (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Kingstree (subassistant commissioner)
  • Lancaster
  • Laurensville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Legareville (acting assistant surgeon)
  • Lexington
  • Manning (agent)
  • Marion (subassistant commissioner)
  • McClellanville
  • Moncks Corner (subassistant commissioner)
  • Mount Pleasant (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Newberry (agent)
  • Orangeburg (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Orangeburg (hospital)
  • Rice Hope Plantation
  • Richland district
  • Ridgeville
  • Rockville
  • Spartanburg
  • St Paul's Parish
  • Summerville (hospital)
  • Summerville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Sumpter (acting subassistant commissioner)
  • Union district
  • Unionville (subassistant commissioner)
  • Walhalla
  • Williamsburg
  • York district

Step 2 ~ Use the Reel Guide (Descriptive Pamphlet) to Select Records You Wish to View

Once you have identified the Field Offices of interest to your research, you are ready to view the reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) to select the microfilm reels you wish to view.

The reel guide (descriptive pamphlet) for NARA M1910 provides an in-depth look at what each of the 106 microfilms contains.

The descriptive pamphlet is the first microfilm in the collection on FamilySearch. If you would like to keep the descriptive pamphlet open in another window, download it for offline use or search the guide, you can access it in pdf format here in our research library.

Below is an example of a page within the reel guide (please click on the image to view larger). At the top of the page is the information for reels 62 and 63, Berkeley District. The guide describes the contents of each reel and how the records are arranged, then follows detailed information about specific record types.

Reel Guide Screen Shot

The order the records are listed in is the order in which they appear on the microfilm.

Hint: Reading the reel guide thoroughly can enhance your research in a number of ways. The guide presents a detailed history of the operations and organization of the Freedmen's Bureau in various regions of South Carolina. Knowing the history of operations in your research area can help you pinpoint records of interest you might otherwise overlook.

A close reading of the reel guide can also alert you to records you may want to view that may not be apparent from perusing the record titles alone. By reading the reel guide closely, we stumbled upon a treasure - Reel 9 of the collection contains a 90-page ledger of Freedmen and planters who received rations in every sub-district in South Carolina. As the volume is within records titled "Medical Officer," we would not have discovered this volume by perusing record titles.

Step 3 ~ Accessing the Digitized Collection

After you have identified the reels of interest to you, you are ready to access the records and dive into your research! You can access the collection here on FamilySearch (link opens in a new window so you can keep this page open as well).

The collection is not yet indexed, but you can read each reel frame-by-frame anytime, right from home. We hope this quick guide will help you identify records of interest and navigate the new collection! Next, we will look specifically at different record types within this collection, and the information they contain. Happy ancestor hunting from the crew at Lowcountry Africana!


FamilySearch Digitizes Freedmen's Bureau Records for SC

3 Generations of Doctor Family in Letter to Freedmen's Bureau M1910 Reel 89 Taget 1

FamilySearch this week digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This new collection of 118,737 images is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina. The 106 rolls of microfilm span the date range of 1865 to 1872.

Freedmen's Bureau records are an invaluable resource for learning where your ancestors were prior to 1870 and can often provide clues for discovering an ancestor's final slaveholder. Among these records are labor contracts, rations lists, land warrants, military bounty claims, letters received and sent, applications for restoration of property to former slaveholders, transportation requests, hospital records and more.

When used in conjunction with the 1869 South Carolina state census, 1868 voter registrations and 1869 militia enrollments, these records can help you learn a lot about where ancestors were, and what they were doing, prior to 1870.

You can access this free collection here. We will be developing a series of blog posts about this new collection. Topics will include navigating the records, types of records and the information each contains, and how to use these records to corroborate family oral history and break through the 1870 brick wall.

The records are also a valuable source of primary documents for educators to use in the classroom.

We're very excited about this collection being digitized. It is not yet indexed but you can access all 106 rolls of microfilm from home. We look forward to exploring these records with you! If you find a treasure, please share it here in the comments. We would love to hear how your research in these records is going.

You can view the reel guide for this collection here in our research library. The guides provide an in-depth look at what each microfilm contains, to help you select which films you would like to view.

Happy Ancestor Hunting from the Crew at Lowcountry Africana!


Overcoming Three Obstacles to Recording Your Oral History Interview

You can now more smoothly record and share your ancestor’s story with the tools and advice shared here. With careful planning and the right tools, you can feel the satisfaction that comes with preserving your family history for future generations.

If you have tried before and felt that the technology that you used complicated the process or if you really did not know what to do with your file after production, you do not need to feel that way this time when you sit down this Thanksgiving to record. Using the following tips and strategies, you won’t be caught by these three obstacles that would otherwise cause you grief.

1.Figure Out Which Tools Suit You Best.

You do not really need expensive equipment. You probably are already holding the most convenient device to record the interview – your smart phone or iPhone. The following apps can be downloaded to your device:

Tape A Talk

Tape-a-Talk: I have used this app several times successfully. The sound quality was great each time. Even if you will not be with you the person that you want to interview this Thanksgiving, all you have to do is call them from your Android device after you begin your recording with Tape-a-Talk. Hang up, and stop the recording. It will be saved as an .mp3 file on your device. Oh, did I mention this app has a free version?

See “The Best Voice Recording App for Android.” Download it here. Also see the video: “How to use Tape-a-Talk” (YouTube).

Tape-a-Talk Screenshot by Robin Foster

Audio Memos

Audio Memos: If you have an iPhone, see “The Best Recording App for iPhone.” Download it here.

Audio Memos Screenshot by Robin Foster


StoryCorps: StoryCorps has partnered with SoundCloud making it possible for you to log in here using your Facebook account or your SoundCloud account where you can then record your interview right from your web browser using the SoundCloud app. You can then upload the interview to the Wall of Listening where you are invited to share your story. Be sure to have a photo of you and the person you interview to upload with your recording. Post the link to your interview on the National Day of Listening: Lowcountry Wall of Listening Facebook page too!

StoryCorps Screenshot by Robin Foster

Other Ways

If you conduct a long distance interview, use Skype to record it. Keep in mind that someone may have to help your interviewee set up the technology ahead of time. If this technology is a bit of a leap for you, you may consider using a digital recorder or a laptop and a HD webcam.

2. Sound Quality

Be sure you and your relative are positioned close enough for your voices to be picked up clearly. If either of you have a soft voice, you may consider using a separate microphone that is compatible with the device you will use to record.

Keep the microphone far enough away to prevent distorted sounds, and make sure it is kept still and does not brush against clothing or other objects. Record in a quiet place, but make sure your voices do not echo. Do a test run beforehand to make sure everything works properly and you are comfortable using the technology.

3. Sharing the File

You will not want your interview to just sit forever on your device. You will probably want to share it with others if you were given permission to do so. You may choose to share in more than one way. Video formats are best converted to .mp4 or .wav files (Windows Media Player). Sound files are most commonly .mp3. Here are a few ways to share:

  • - Save on CD
  • - Upload the interview to StoryCorps
  • - Share videos on YouTube or Vimeo (Sometimes videos need to be converted to .mp4 or .wav or other formats to share them. You can do this with Windows Movie Maker which comes automatically on a PC)
  • - Create a DVD (Photoshop Elements)
  • - Upload the file to Dropbox or Box, and e-mail a link to the file to family members

Now you have some planning before the big day. I hope these ideas help you to be ready for your Turkey Day interview! Please let us know how things went in the comment section below.


5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening

Simple Ways to Honor Those Who Have Touched Our Lives

Friday, November 29, 2013 is the sixth annual National Day of Listening.

Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

While your loved ones are gathered for the holidays, why not sit down with an elder and learn more about their lives and their memories of those who came before you?

In so many ways, listening to elders gives voice to ancestors. Elders hold the stories behind the documents we gather in our family history research - the stories of how our ancestors lived, the challenges they faced, the family traditions they passed along to us.

The National Day of Listening is a great time to gather and preserve the life stories of loved ones, but there are many ways to celebrate the holiday. Here are five suggestions for how you can participate in the National Day of Listening:

1. Interview a friend, loved one or community member

Interview a friend, loved one or community member about his or her life, and record and preserve the interview. Then you can share who you interviewed on Story Corps' Wall of Listening.

To record your own National Day of Listening Interview:

  • Find someone you would like to interview
  • Create your question list
  • Sit down to record your conversation

StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) interview guide with step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations, and sample questions that is available online.

You can record your interview using equipment that is readily available in most homes—from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper.

By participating in this year’s National Day of Listening, we hope you’ll find that taking the time out to interview someone about his or her life is the least expensive but most meaningful gift that you can give. And you will create wonderful memories to make the holiday season all the more special.

Don't have time for a full interview? You can ask a few questions of elders or other family members who are gathered for Thanksgiving. You may learn new details for breaking through brick walls in your family research.

2. Help Raise Awareness of the National Day of Listening

This year we've created a fab sign for you to share before the National Day of Listening, to help Story Corps raise awareness and encourage your friends to participate. You can grab the sign here and print it out. Don't have a color printer? No problem, you can grab the graphic in greyscale below, too:

Story Corps has chosen "Stories of Love and Gratitude" as this year's theme. You can help raise awareness of the National Day of Listening by snapping your picture with the sign, then sharing it on our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook.

Then don't forget to share it on your own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn page with this text: "The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide at"

Here are images you can grab that are the perfect size for sharing on Facebook and Google+:

Voila! You have helped Story Corps raise awareness of the National Day of Listening!

3.Participate in the Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook

We've created the Lowcountry Wall of Listening as a place to share who you will interview for the National Day of Listening, share pictures of your interview and discuss the experience. Come join the conversation!

4.Set aside an hour to record your OWN story
and preserve it for those who are yet to come. Have you ever wished an ancestor had left a journal or some recollections about their lives? You can make it easier for descendants to remember you by recording your own story. You can also bring out family photographs, flip them over and place a caption on the back - a simple way to preserve family treasures for future family historians.

5.Transcribe old family history interview tapes

Do you have tapes of family oral history interviews you conducted in the past, but have not yet transcribed? Bring them out, listen anew and start transcribing. You may find details that will reveal new avenues of research. Don't forget to share the transcriptions with family members as well.

Ways to Share and Preserve Your Interview

There are many ways to share and preserve your National Day of Listening interview:

  • Be sure to share a copy with the person you interviewed, so they can preserve their story for future generations of family members.
  • You can enter your name and the name of the person you interviewed on the Wall of Listening on the National Day of Listening website. When you fill in the Wall of Listening form, you can request a Certificate of Participation. You can also select to share your Wall of Listening entry on Facebook and Twitter.
  • You can share and preserve your interview on our Family Stories page, where you can share text, sound and video recordings.
  • Will you be blogging about your National Day of Listening interview? Send us the link to your blog entry and we'll share it on Facebook and Twitter!

However you choose to celebrate the National Day of Listening, we hope it is a wonderful opportunity to share a special experience with someone who has enriched your life. We look forward to hearing about your National Day of Listening experience!


Marshlands Plantation

Marshlands Plantation

Associated Owners and Documents

John Ball (1760-1817) [1]

References Cited

[1] Ball, Edward 1998 Slaves In the Family. New York: Ballantine Books, p. 264; "South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872," Database online at Fold 3 ( accessed 27 Mar 2013), Estate Inventory of John Ball, Book E (1802-1819) pp. 458-4677.


Join Lowcountry Africana ~ Unearthing Treasures: Tracing African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society

Benseman Bible

Please join Lowcountry Africana for a very special seminar at the South Carolina Historical Society, "Unearthing Treasures: Tracing Your African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society" on Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

What's special about this seminar is that seminar content will be customized to meet attendees' research interests and research experience. We will also work with registrants ahead of the seminar, to identify records at the South Carolina Historical Society that may be helpful for their research.

We will spend the morning learning how to decipher meaning from plantation journals, maps, plats and photographs. After lunch, the remainder of the seminar will be spent conducting hands-on archival research with assistance from seminar leaders and archivists.

We are excited to be able to offer such a quality research experience in a free seminar. We hope you will join us to explore the stellar collections at the South Carolina Historical Society!

The seminar is FREE. Lunch is $10. Space is limited to 30 participants so please reserve now! To register, please call Virginia Ellison at 843-723-3225 ext. 11.

Seminar Flyer With Logos

The Campbell Family Reunion: Connecting the Dots

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11

I was once told by a genealogist early on in this project that “you concentrate on saving the places, we will put the people there.”

Since the Slave Dwelling Project started in May 2010, unexpected liaisons have been formed. At the Bush Holly House in Greenwich, Connecticut, I spent the night in the slave dwelling with two descendants of slave owners and the descendant of a slave owner and one of his slaves. At Bacons Castle in Surry, Virginia two African American sisters, whose great - great aunt was enslaved there, spent the night and they are now interacting with the property because of the project. In the dwelling on the campus of Sweet Briar College, one of the participants was the granddaughter of the last person who stayed in the cabin.

Along the way, I have had the privilege to address many family reunions. The locations of those addresses were usually in a banquet room of a nice hotel. My address to the Campbell family reunion would be the same but first let me set the stage.

When the project was in its infancy, I attempted to stay in the slave dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC. The dilapidated condition of the dwelling dictated that sleeping in the dwelling was not an option, however, in an effort to remain true to the project, I slept on the porch of the big house which also needed to be restored. New owners Jacqueline and Jeremy Thomas who at the time of purchase were living in England vowed to restore the cabin. Being true to their word, I returned in April of this year to spend a night in the newly restored cabin. I was joined by two Richland County high school students and their history teacher; Prinny Anderson, descendant of President Thomas Jefferson; Terry James, fellow Civil War reenactor who sleeps in slave shackles; and Jeremy Thomas, owner.

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

While at work, I got a call from Michelle Dawson. Once we verified that I was the person that she was looking for, she explained that she was doing research on her family tree and had traced her enslaved ancestors to Laurelwood Plantation. Through my blogs written about Laurelwood, she had tracked me down. She explained the challenge she had finding the physical location of the property and upon finding it, locked gates denied her access. Her true emotion was felt through the phone when I agreed that I would come to Myrtle Beach to address her family reunion. I stated that I could not make any promises but I would try to get them access to the property. A call to Jeremy a few days later confirmed that not only could the family have access but he would be at the property to greet them when they arrived.

Read more

Slave Dwelling Project ~ 150th Battery Wagner Commemoration, Two Nights in Jail

150th Anniversary Commemoration, Assault on Battery Wagner

By Joseph McGill

"Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together."

Joseph McGillFounder, Slave Dwelling Project
  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17

For the followers of the Slave Dwelling Project, you have become accustomed to the blog that I write after every time that I spend the night in a slave dwelling. You may also be aware that I am a Civil War reenactor so making history relevant is what I love. Our reenactment group is Company I, 54th Massachusetts Reenactment Regiment. Historically, the group was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together.

The Assault on Battery Wagner occurred on July, 18, 1863. This was the battle portrayed in the 1989 award winning movie Glory featuring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington. Although other Black regiments preceded and followed the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, because of this movie, this group is best known. For the past 10 years, Company I has been going to Morris Island, SC, the site of that battle to commemorate the men who fought, died and were captured there. This year would be different. Since this was the sesquicentennial or the 150th anniversary of that battle, we had to do more and do more we did.

On Sunday, July14 members of the local Civil War reenactment group worshipped at Mt. Zion AME Church in Charleston, SC. It is documented that historically, men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry worshipped at this church. After the service, the members proceeded to the Friendly Society Cemetery to place a wreath on the grave of Lt. Steven Swails who was one of only three Black officers commissioned in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. This is important because at the onset of the war one could count the number of Black officers in the Union army and navy on one hand. After the Civil War, Lt Swails who was originally from Cooperstown, NY, stayed in South Carolina and became a State Senator, lawyer and the Mayor of my hometown of Kingstree, SC.

Fort Moultrie 1

On Monday night a small contingency of the local Civil War reenactment group gathered at the Seashore Farmers Lodge to view the movie Glory. The lodge was built about 1915 by local black farmers. Their organization provided insurance, advice, and burial assistance to members. The newly restored building fell into disrepair and was almost lost to demolition by neglect before concerned community organizers stepped in and saved it. Unfortunately, technical difficulties would not allow us to show the movie on a large screen. Fate would have it that only about five people showed up so we wound up showing the film on a computer screen which worked out just fine.

The next day we would find ourselves back at the Seashore Farmers Lodge for a day of living history. It was on this day, July 16, 1863 that that the 54th Massachusetts got its baptism of fire. The historical marker at the lodge states “During the Civil War (1861-1865) Sol Legare Island was the site of several camps, artillery positions and battles. On this date, one of America's first African American Army Regiments, organized in the North and led by Union General Alfred Terry; bravely gave their lives to win the freedom of enslaved Africans who were held in bondage here and on plantations throughout the south. 5,200 Federal Troops occupied this Island. The 54th waged a gallant battle but lost 14 men, 17 were wounded and 12 missing. It is with great pride and humble gratitude that we honor their unwavering courage and sacrifice for a moral cause. The lodge is located on the grounds of where Union forces camped before they engaged in the Battle of Sol Legare Island.” The day was filled with living history demonstrations and storytelling with a good mixture of community, state and national visitors.

Wednesday, July 17th would find us at Trident Technical College. By then, the Civil War reenactors from out of town began to show up. The guys from Company A in Boston were there. These were the guys who allowed me to fall in with them at the last two inaugural parades of President Barack Obama. The guys from Company B out of Washington, DC were there. Company K out of Atlanta showed up. Others representing Civil War United States Colored Troops (USCT) showed up from New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. The evening event had a sparse turnout and we got all of the activities in before the rain started. We then went to the world renown Gullah Cuisine Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant where the famous chef Charlotte Jenkins did not disappoint with a spread of baked chicken, collard greens, okra stew, rice, yams, bread pudding and a side salad. A formal introduction was given to the group by me with a question and answer period that followed. Bringing all of these groups together was a little contentious but nothing that could not be easily overcome. It was revealed that in the room we had a descendant of one of the drummers of the 54th, a descendant of William Carney the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the 54th, and several men who acted in the movie Glory.

54th Mass Company I Fort Moultrie

Thursday, July 18th found us at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC. The history of the fort spans the Revolutionary through World War II. It was from this fort on the night of December 26, 1860, under the cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson would spike the guns and proceed to Fort Sumter. He would hold his position at Fort Sumter until after a 34 hour battle which started on April 12, 1861. As typical with the National Park Service, the rules were strict but we gave the public a great show that included lectures, storytelling and musket firing demonstrations. Putting all the guys in one formation was not as problematic as I anticipated. We even had a contingency of Confederates who participated in the Fort Moultrie event.

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11

Above: 150th Commemoration, Photos by Herb Frazier

At 2:30 pm we began to board the boats that would take us over to Morris Island. The transport to the island was completed without a hitch although I was receiving calls for a seat on the boats up until the time we left the dock. The event on the island was carried out flawlessly. My only regrets were that high tide did not allow much beach to conduct the activities and we did not have enough time at the end of the program for people to reflect. We proceeded back to Fort Moultrie where we were fed and the activities continued. The evening culminated with a presentation by Lt. Governor Glen McConnell who is himself a Civil War reenactor. We ended the event by lighting luminaries that represented each man killed during the Assault on Battery Wagner.

Casualty List of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the Assault on Fort WagnercroppedAbove: List of USCT Soldiers Missing After the Assault on Battery Wagner. With Kind Permission of Fold3.

My Trip to South Carolina

By Kharson McKay, Age 11, Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT

"Everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history!"

Kharson McKay, Age 11Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT

Above: Kharson McKay (Left). Photo by Herb Frazier

My name is Kharson McKay. I am 11 years old from Austin, TX. I love the Civil War. When my dad Bob McKay told me I had been invited to participate in a civil war re-­‐ enactment, I was so excited to do it. My mom made me a costume (that apparently wasn’t very authentic) but it was still a great costume and I love it. Here’s the story of my trip to South Carolina. On Sunday, July 14 my dad and I drove 9 hours to my Sister’s house in New Orleans to pick up my 9 year old Nephew, Quinn McKay. We stayed for a while but we had to get back on the road. From there we drove to Olustee, FL to see the battlefield where my ancestor David Miles Moore, The drummer boy for the 54th Mass Company H. fought his final battle before he mustered out of the civil war in 1865.

It had closed just a minute before we got there at 5:01 so we went over the gate and took a couple of photos and videos and got out quick. After that we drove to Jacksonville, checked into a hotel right by the beach and swam in the ocean for a while. We tried swimming against the waves, but every time the tide came in it threw us back to the shore! Soon it got dark and we had to go back to the hotel. The next day we stayed for a while longer at the beach then had to get back on the road. We finally got to South Carolina and checked into our hotel. We heard there was a meeting at a university, and that got switched around but we finally got to the park where we saw everyone in uniform talking to each other and shaking hands. A few of the other re-­‐enactors greeted us and we met a lot of the local people. A couple of the men and women spoke about where they were from and how they got here, then they did an amazing living history skit.

Soon it started to rain and we all went to dinner at a restaurant with a great Gullah/Geechee buffet. Sitting down with our food we talked about the reenactment and information about what was going to happen the next day at Fort Moultrie. After 2 hours of eating and talking we all went home to get some rest for the big day. That day, Thursday, July 18th I took a shower, put on my uniform and walked out of the hotel to reenact one of the most important battles in the history of The Civil War. When we got to Fort Moultrie I was amazed by the Fort and the different costumes and gear people had! I wasn’t quite prepared, but the park visitors center let me borrow a drum and a couple of the men there helped me look more authentic.

After a few hours of gun checking, firing demonstrations, eating, and history talks, we all got on the boat to Morris Island. There, everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history! We knelt down into the sand and a lot of blinding pictures were taken of us. We got up again, played a marching cadence, and marched to a spot on the island were we all got into ranks and fired the guns. The drummer boys played Battle Hymn of The Republic. I couldn’t play the drums at all so I just played the bass part of it. The men fired their guns into the air and we all got back onto the boat. I will never forget that moment when I first felt the sand. Thank you Mr. McGill for inviting me on this wonderful trip. I had a lot of fun and I am thinking about doing this again. Thank you.

Fort Moultrie 8 Fort Moultrie Group Photo

Stay at Old Charleston Jail

By Joseph McGill
Encampment Old Jail 11

The Old Charleston Jail was built in 1802 using bricks that were made by enslaved people along with their carpentry and masonry skills. My desire to extend the Slave Dwelling Project to the Old Charleston Jail was based on the fact that after the battle that was portrayed in the movie Glory, some of the Black soldiers who were taken as prisoners were held there. The American College of the Building Arts now holds classes in the jail and allotted me 15 slots for people desiring to share the experience with me. When I revealed to the public that I was going to spend two nights in the Old Charleston Jail, I immediately started to get responses about ghosts. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do all within my powers to respect those that do.

I got to the jail at the appointed time of 6:00 pm to meet the tour guides who would be giving ghost tours in the jail. A prior meeting determined that we would interact only minimally with the tour groups. Nearly half of the people who signed up for the first night stay were no shows which at this point in the project did not surprise me but it turned out that nine Civil War reenactors, all males, would sleep in the jail that night. To my surprise, all of the reenactors were very anxious to interact with the tour groups. The tours started at our Civil War encampment where the visitors were presented with some story telling about how former slaves became Union soldiers. They then proceeded inside for their tour through the jail.

I tagged along on one of the ghost tours and enjoyed what I witnessed. Our drummer and youngest member of the Civil War reenactment group who was also scheduled to stay in the jail, went on one of the tours, as a result, we spent a great part of the night convincing him that everything would be fine inside the jail. 11:45 pm and the tours were over but for most of us who were to sleep in the jail, that time would have to come later. Some of the out of town reenactors wanted to hit some of the bars in town, while the rest of us just hung around outside engaging in conversation and enjoying adult beverages. Around 2:00 am we all found ourselves inside the jail to claim the spots where we would sleep. Despite all of the talk about ghosts, I found the night uneventful.

  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10

We would find ourselves back at the jail on Saturday, at 3:00 pm for a period of living history for the general public. I had anticipated a respectable contingency of Confederate reenactors so that we could give the visiting public a feel for how both sides operated during the Civil War, but only three Confederates showed and that number included one lady. That turned out to be a good thing because the crowd was very sparse but they were treated to interpretation and storytelling. At 7:00 pm we had to once again switch into a mode for receiving ghost tour groups. The routine was the same as the previous night. Eight people would stay in the jail that night, five men and three women. The crowds for the tours were just as robust as the previous night which was an indication to me that this is a lucrative industry. After the ghost tours were completed, we again found ourselves chatting outside and drinking a few adult beverages. On this night we did not occupy the building until 3:00 am. To my surprise when I woke up the next morning, two of the young ladies who spent the night had already left. I am still adamant about not believing in ghosts, the fact that my van would not start that morning because of a dead battery and the fact that the battery in my watch died when I was in the jail was pure coincidence.

In March of this year, I attended a panel discussion at a conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on ghost tours. It was concluded that one can obtain more African American history on a ghost tour than on a regular history tour. Personally, I have a problem with that. Participating in the event at the jail is bringing me around to seeing things differently. When we interacted with the tour groups, through our interpretation and storytelling they learned how men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry became prisoners at that jail, in other words, we hit them with some real history. To that end, I am willing to work with the American College of the Building Arts and the ghost tour company to address their groups in the same capacity in the future. There are times when you have to get in where you fit in. As for ghosts, I will spend several more nights in that jail if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

Related Reading

"My First Night In Jail," Part I, from the blog South Carolina Traveler

Pin It on Pinterest