Fish Hall Plantation, Barkers Field, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Barker FieldOdd you might think to see an historic marker along side a small community baseball diamond. Must admit as we pulled the car off the road, so did I. I wondered what the story behind Barkers Field was.
Thomas Fenwick Drayton historical markerA close up of the sign indicates a Confederate Brigadier General named Thomas Fenwick Drayton fought the Battle of Port Royal in this area. The Battle of Port Royal was a decisive battle during The Civil War. 18 Union Warships bombarded the Confederates at Fort Walker. Under the leadership of General Thomas Sherman 13,000 Union soldiers landed on the beach and established an important blockade. This battle was one of the earliest amphibious operations of the war. General Drayton's brother Captain Percival Drayton remained loyal to The United States and fought on the side of the Union forces. He commanded one of those war ships, The Pocahontas. Brother against brother, families pitted against each other made this war so very personal. I can't imagine the heartache within a family; but know throughout history there are many examples of this.
Fish Hall Plantation Historical MarkerSlightly to the right of the ball diamond along side the road is this fenced area with the above sign. This area had been a large 500 acre Plantation. The land originally given to Col. John Barnwell after The Revolutionary War. Historical research indicates early census's show's cotton was probably the primary crop grown here, as very little livestock appeared on the census. A description of the primary house said it was lordly. I've not seen a picture of it, but one count indicates early pictures of the main house agreed with the description. This was a prosperous plantation which owned 52 slaves according to the 1860 census. Thomas Fenwick Drayton married Emma Catherine Pope, the daughter of the plantations owner. Another account reported General Drayton owned 102 slaves. Perhaps he added his slaves to those already on the plantation after he and Emma married? Perhaps, as often happens there are a few discrepancies in the actual numbers.
Tabby Ruins of slaves quartersThis is one of two structures I saw, showing very little left of this once grand plantation. This is the tabby remains of a slaves' cabin, believed to be a fireplace. There's a 2nd one a short distance from this, perhaps 30 feet or so. Given what was learned from other tabby ruins, (Baynard Ruins) I assume it to be a 2nd fireplace. Seems common that 2 slave families were forced to share these cramped quarters.

In some of my research it seemed there is evidence of a building, or parts there off from this plantation still in existence; but as it's behind a gated community here on the Island it's not accessible to the general public. I found this most irritating. There were several items I found, that I believe have markers and structures to see; but the public is not permitted to see them unless on a school tour or a paid scheduled tour. In some cases it seemed the tours are only once in a blue moon; not really a company or on going; but an individual that would schedule it. Hilton Head has the reputation of being snooty, a playground for the rich and famous. While much has been protected environmentally, I personally was put off that only those living behind these gated communities or only those playing golf there for the day had access. (We attempted to see what was left of Fort Walker and were turned away at the gate of one such gated community).

The sign indicates graves were moved from this area to Drayton Cemetery. Apparently at some point the family didn't want slaves graves near their home so set aside land for a cemetery. I read one report that said this wasn't very successful, another indicated the graves were in fact moved. However, I've not yet been able to determine who is buried there. That is to say, are there unmarked burials, or are there headstones in this cemetery? Is there even a sign indicating it's a cemetery? (I've seen a few cases where if you didn't know, you really wouldn't know by looking). I've not found evidence of the burials beyond the statement graves were moved there. If I ever get back to Hilton Head, I'd like to follow up and actually find the cemetery. The Union forces established a Freeman's Village here, the only one known to have been established by The Union forces. When The Union forces came ashore that November day in 1861, many of the slaves joined forces.
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Comments

  1. we were also in Hilton Head just a month ago! nice place!

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  2. That sure is a lot of history and to think they are now playing baseball there - sure seems odd. And yeah, it's not right that history is accessible to the general public.

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  3. Can you imagine not having a headstone or a marker? That is a shame.

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  4. Its hard to believe that it wasnt all that long ago that slavery was a way of life for so many people.

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  5. I have to say that Hilton Head is a beautiful place but if you get a chance, keep going south down the coast and see some of the GA towns. You won't be sorry.

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  6. I agree Hilton Head is a beautiful place!

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