Fort Howell

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Fort Howell (1864-1865) - A Union U.S. Civil War Fort established in 1864 on Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina. Named Fort Howell by GO No. 139, 26 Sep 1864, Department of the South, after Brigadier General Joshua Blackwood Howell, who had just died on 14 Sep 1864. Howell died of injuries received after a horse he had just mounted reared up and fell back on him. Fort Howell was abandoned as a fortification in 1865.

Fort Howell Earthworks Interior.


Built between August and November 1864. Constructed under the supervision of the Chief Engineer, Captain Charles R. Suter, (Cullum 1970), by the men of the 32nd U.S. Colored Infantry Volunteers.

Colonel Baird Interpretive Station

The fort was constructed to protect the first freedmen's village known as Mitchelville from Confederate raiding parties. Mitchelville had been established to house the freed slaves that flocked to Hilton Head Island after it fell to the Union invasion. The population of Mitchelville grew to some 1500 people in the last years of the war.

The fort was well constructed with 23-foot high earthen parapets and emplacements for up to 27 guns (16 garrison guns, aka “seacoast” or "siege guns", and 11 field guns). The trace of the fort was in the shape of an enclosed pentagon with a single entrance over a moat with a drawbridge. Two full bastions protected four of the five sides and covered the three road approaches to Mitchelville. Four 5-foot by 8-foot interior magazines protected by earth mounds, could house powder and shot for up to 27 guns.

The fort was abandoned as a fortification in 1865 at the end of the war and the military post on Hilton Head was officially abandoned on 14 Jan 1868.

Fort Howell Plan from Park Sign.

Current Status

Fort Howell Marker Side 1.
Fort Howell Marker Side 2.

Now open to the public as a property of the Hilton Head Island Land Trust who has provided interpretation of the fort remains. The brush has been cleared away and there is now a trail that traverses the five sides of the fort. The earthworks are still well defined but worn and the interior is populated with trees.

Location: Beach City Road, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.23316 Long: -80.69345

See Also:



Visited: 7 Mar 2018

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