1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Port Royal (South Carolina)

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PORT ROYAL, an island in Beaufort county, South Carolina, U.S.A., at the head of Port Royal Sound, about 16 m. from the Atlantic coast, and about 50 m. S.W. of Charleston. It is about 13 m. long (north and south) by about 7 m. wide. The surface is generally flat, and there is much marshland in its southern part, and along its north-eastern shore. The principal settlement is Beaufort, a port of entry, and the county-seat of Beaufort county, on the Beaufort river (here navigable for vessels drawing 18 ft.), about 11 m. from its mouth, and about 15 m. from the ocean. Pop. (1900) 4110 (3220 negroes); (1910) 2486. It is served by the Charleston & Western Carolina railway, has inland water communication with Savannah, Georgia, and its harbour, Port Royal Sound (between Bay Point on the north-east and Hilton Head on the south-west), is one of the largest and best on the coast of South Carolina. Beaufort's beautiful situation and delightful climate make it a winter resort. In the vicinity Sea Island cotton, rice, potatoes and other vegetables are raised — the truck industry having become very important; and there are groves of yellow pine and cypress. Large quantities of phosphate rock were formerly shipped from here. Among the manufactures are cotton goods, canned oysters, lumber and fertilizer. About 5 m. south of Beaufort is the town of Port Royal (pop. in 1910, 363), a terminus of the Charleston & Western Carolina railway. On the Beaufort River (eastern) shore of Paris Island, about 6 m. north of Bay Point, is a United States naval station, with a dry dock and repair shop.

Jean Ribaut (1520-1565), leading an expedition sent out by Admiral Gaspard de Coligny (1517-1572) to found a Huguenot colony in New France, sailed into the harbour, which he named Port Royal, on the 27th of May 1562, took possession of the region in the name of Charles IX., and established the first settlement (Fort Charles), probably on Paris Island. In June he sailed for France, leaving 26 volunteers under Captain Albert de la Pierria. Soon afterward the garrison killed Pierria (probably because of the severity of his discipline), and put to sea in an insufficiently equipped vessel, from which, after much suffering, they were rescued by an English ship, and taken to England. In 1670, a company under Colonel William Sayle (d. 1671) landed on Port Royal Island, but probably because this site exposed them to Spanish attacks, proceeded along the coast and founded the original Charles Town (see Charleston). In 1683, several families, chiefly Scotch, led by Henry Erskine, third Lord Cardross (1650-1693), established on the island a settlement named Stuart's Town (probably in honour of Cardross's family); but three years later most of the settlers were murdered by Spaniards from Florida and the remainder fled to Charleston. In 1710, after the lords proprietors had issued directions for “the building of a town to be called Beaufort Town,” in honour of Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort (1629-1700), the first permanent settlement was established on the island. The town was incorporated in 1803. In January 1779 about 200 British soldiers occupied the island by order of Colonel Augustine Prevost, but they were dislodged (Feb. 3) by about 300 Americans, mostly militiamen, under General William Moultrie. At the beginning of the Civil War the Confederates erected Fort Walker on Hilton Head, and Fort Beauregard on Bay Point. Captain (afterwards Admiral) Samuel F. Du Pont and General Thomas W. Sherman organized an expedition against these fortifications, which were reduced by a naval bombardment and were evacuated by the Confederates under General Thomas F. Drayton (d. 1891) on the 7th of November 1861. During the remainder of the war Port Royal Harbour was used as a coaling, repair and supply station by the Federal blockading squadron. Early in 1862 Port Royal Island and the neighbouring region became the scene of the so-called “Port Royal Experiment” — the successful effort of a group of northern people, chiefly from Boston, New York and Philadelphia, among whom Edward S. Philbrick (d. 1889) of Massachusetts was conspicuous, to take charge of the cotton plantations, deserted upon the occupation of the island by Union troops, and to employ the negroes under a system of paid labour. The volunteers organized as the Educational Commission for Freedmen (afterward the New England Freedmen's Aid Society), and the government granted them transportation, subsistence and quarters, and paid them small salaries.

See Edward McCrady's History of South Carolina (New York, 1897-1901); and, for an account of the Port Royal Experiment, Letters from Port Royal (Boston, 1906), edited by Elizabeth W. Pearson.