The 1st S.C. Volunteers, who were also known as the 1st S.C. Colored Troops, were officially mustered the same day they were granted their freedom — when the Emancipation Proclamation was read in Beaufort, S.C., Jan. 1, 1863. Until that day, they were “contraband,” to be considered spoils of the war between the Union and the Confederacy. With an exhibit that follows the soldiers from slavery to Civil War to Reconstruction, we tell their story.
Though technically still slaves until that point, the men had been fighting for the Union since November 1862. But It took a visit from native Beaufortonian Robert Smalls to convince President Abraham Lincoln — in part by his own, heroic example — that slaves could make good soldiers. Evidence suggests that this visit, coupled with the self-evident fact that slaves here already were fighting, might have hastened the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The exhibit to honor their part in Beaufort’s history will run from September through December, along with these events:
Thursday, Sept. 5: Exhibit opening gala at museum, with food, music and libations. The event will feature Select Quartets of the Junior Symphony Orchestra Ami Rabinowitz & David Laughlin. Times are 6 to 9 p.m. at the museum in Beaufort City Hall on Boundary Street. Tickets for museum members are $25; tickets for non-members are $35. Both tickets and memberships will be available at the door.
Friday, Sept. 13: “The Interruption of Thomas Darrow.” Tim Johnston of Short Story America will read his story about a Union soldier who is on duty for the execution of the co-conspirators in the assassination of President Lincoln.
Friday, Sept. 20: “Glory.” Joseph McGill, historian and 54th Massachusetts re-enactor, will present the movie at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts.
Saturday, Sept. 21: Encampment of 1st S.C. Volunteers, led by Joseph McGill, at Naval Heritage Park in Port Royal.
Also during September is the Beaufort Public Library’s “Reading the Civil War” series of events and Artworks’ presentation of Natalie Daise in “Becoming Harriet Tubman,” Sept. 6-8, 2013. Other related events are planned throughout Beaufort County.