Fort Mitchel

South cannon, Fort Mitchel

South cannon, Fort Mitchel

38BU1167 | Hilton Head Plantation


In 1862 this earthwork fort was laid out on a bluff overlooking Skull Creek. This was part of a system of fortifications stretching across Hilton Head from Fort Sherman to Skull Creek. After the October 30, 1862 death of Major General Ormesby McKnight Mitchel, the fort was officially named in his honor. Mitchel had arrived on Hilton Head on September 22, 1862 as Commander of the Department of the South, Hilton Head.

  • South Carolina Institute of A & A original listing

 "The ill fated general died of yellow fever within six weeks." (of arriving on the island)

  • Holmgren, Virginia C., Hilton Head, A Sea Island Chronicle, p. 102

"John Fort who was in charge of the Fort Mitchel project, showed me around...General Thomas W. Sherman....set about to build a series of earthworks around the northwest corner of the island. He was very concerned that the Confederates would send frequent raiding parties or actually attack the island across Skull Creek from the mainland. Fort Mitchel was one of these, strategically located in such a way that cannon shells could be fired across Skull Creek towards Pinckney Island and out towards Port Royal Sound. It was designed by Captain Quincy Gillmore. (People have often called it Fort Gillmore.) Gillmore used what was called a lunette design, with traverses, or earth mounds, around the cannons. The mounds are situated so they could absorb direct hits and thus localize the effects of any shelling from the water.

It appears that Gillmore's plan called for five or six cannons. Actually, Fort Mitchel saw no action....and in 1864 the cannons were removed and used elsewhere....Work was slow and the fort was not completed until 1862. Quincy Gilmore later returned to Hilton Head as chief of staff, after leading a successful attack on the Confederates' Fort Pulaski."

  • The Island Packet, April 26, 1973; Mary Jane Field


In 1862 a 5.3 acre earthen fort was laid out on a bluff overlooking Skull Creek by former Captain Quincy A. Gillmore as part of a complicated system of fortifications stretching across the island from Fort Sherman on Coggins Point Plantation to Skull Creek. For his successful part in the capture of Fort Pulaski on April 11, 1862, Gillmore, “a quick speaking, quick moving” dark haired, beaded veteran of the Corps of Engineers, was promoted to brigadier general and later to major general. Fort Gilmore, on former Talbird, then Seabrook property, was named for him, despite the inconsistency of the spelling. It was quickly renamed Fort Mitchel.

  • Peeples, An Index to Hilton Head Island Names (Before the Contemporary Development), p.16.

.Ft. Mitchel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in June, 2017. Click here to see the final application.