Mitchelville was the first freed slave village in the United States. When the Union troops invaded and occupied the Island in 1861 after the Battle of Port Royal, African-Americans officially began their road towards freedom.
By the late afternoon of the Battle of Port Royal, the Confederate troops retreated, leaving the area to Union forces. With the help of Union General Ormsby Mitchel, the slaves left behind were granted freedom. Many chose to remain on the Island, living in military-like camps.
In 1862, General Mitchel allowed the emancipated slaves to build their own houses and establish their own community. The town was named “Mitchelville” in his honor.
Eventually having a population of about 1,500, Mitchelville developed its own laws, established a government, and declared that every child between the ages of six and 15 must attend school, becoming the South’s first compulsory school system.
After the war, Mitchelville was abandoned. All that remains today is a forested glen and a historical marker proclaiming the astonishing fact that the town even existed. You will find this historical marker on Beach City Road, beyond the Hilton Head Airport, along the fence that encloses Palmetto Hall Plantation.
Mitchelville was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Plans are now well underway to preserve a portion of this historic site as the Historic Mitchelville Freedom Park, a memorial commemorating the freedmen’s “experiment in freedom.”