| |

December Road Trip: Reconstruction Era NHP

When we planned to visit family in Florida for the December holidays, it only made sense (at lease for me), to add a few stops along the way. Since we needed to stop over anyway to break up the drive, we might as well include a few visits to some NPS sights. While we certainly could have done more, we only targeted two parks for this leg of the trip. The first one was the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park.

The first stop on our way to Hilton Head was in Beaufort, SC, which is on Port Royal, one of South Carolina’s Sea Islands. It is a lovely small town with a quaint little waterfront area. We arrived downtown after a rather long drive, so we looked for the first parking lot and found a community lot a block away from the Reconstruction Era NHP visitor center. You have to pay for parking through an app, which I frankly had a little trouble navigating.

Fun Fact: The Reconstruction Era Visitor Center is in the Old Beaufort Fire station building which was built in 1912. It stopped being used in the 90’s and was donated to the NPS by a local family. There isn’t any significance to reconstruction with the building outside of the proximity to Beaufort and the other sights.

brick building with three arches and round centerpiece in courtyard
Reconstruction Era Visitor Center

The visitor center was small but loaded with information and exhibits. The Park Ranger was extremely helpful and very eager to talk about the park. I got the feeling that he was getting a little lonely 😊 since it was a little slow. he even came outside and took our family photo!

My daughter was also pleased they had a water bottle style she liked, which she used through the rest of our vacation.

The exhibits illustrated the uniqueness of Beaufort. How the Union liberated the islands from the confederates after only seven months into the war, and how residents and volunteers helped transform the sea islands way of life. It also exhibited the difficult narrative of disenfranchisement after the 15th amendment and the ending of reconstruction through the Jim Crow years.

The Park Ranger helped us understand how the Union could hold a foothold in South Carolina all through the war. Apparently, the Confederates were more concerned with keeping the rail line between Savannah and Charleston open, and any incursion into the Sea islands would be very hard to accomplish. The Union, on the other hand, was more focused on implementing the Anaconda strategy, of cutting off the South’s supplies. Securing one of the few deep ports on the east coast was a higher priority.

I was frankly fuzzy on this time in our shared history, and it was educational to see the ups and downs of this moving history from the civil war to today.

The Visitor Center is just the starting point for the park. There is an interpretive site at Camp Saxton, which held the first US Army regiment of South Carolina in the fall of 1862. This party on US Nancy property. The Penn Center, on St. Helena, is a community center built by the freed people of the Sea Islands. It also holds a church and a museum. Unfortunately, we did not have time in our travels to venture to these sites but do take a trip if you have the ability.

Reconstruction Era NHP Stamp

Unit: Reconstruction Era NHP

Path to 424#: 056

Region: Southeast

Month/Year: Dec 2023

Instagram Icon Black
Threads Icon Black

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *