top of page

The Mitchelville Experience

by Meeting Dynamics Inc.

Customizable for your guests' needs.

Hilton Head Island plays an important part in the history of the Sea Island Gullah culture, which lives on to this day in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.


During the 1860s, over 35,000 Union soldiers were stationed on Hilton Head Island by orders of President Abraham Lincoln. From this strategic island between Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC, the Union Navy fanned out to blockade incoming merchant ship and arms from Europe bound for the Confederacy. At the end of the Civil War, Mitchelville was created here on Hilton Head Island as the first self-governed town where “freedmen” were given land and the opportunity to create their own self–governed town named after General Ormsby Mitchell who commanded Fort Howell during the Civil War and envisioned the creation of a town on the former Drayton Plantation and in close proximity to the military camps. 


Unlike other contraband camps, Mitchelville was developed as an actual town, with neatly arranged streets, one-quarter-acre lots, elected officials (some officials were appointed by the Union military, however), a church, various laws addressing such issues as community behavior and sanitation, taxes were collected, and a compulsory education law for children between the ages of six and fifteen was enforced—most likely the first such law in the South, and all began here on Hilton Head Island.

This historical culture of the Sea Islands Gullah is the West African-based system of traditions, customs, unique cuisines, farming, art forms and family life that have survived hundreds of years. The Unique Culture began with the enslaved West Africans who inhabited the Sea Islands of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida prior to and since the Civil War. Hilton Head has the distinction of having the first freedman’s town, called Mitchelville.

The entire coastal area from South Carolina to Florida is now known as the Gullah Geechee Corridor. Tour Guides all of Gullah heritage, who were born and raised on Hilton Head Island before the bridge connection to the mainland, share their expertise with tour participants to provide the most accurate and engaging cultural experience. The tour will include everything from Tabby ruins to the historical points in Hilton Head’s history. 

The Gullah people are known for preserving more of their African linguistic and cultural heritage than any other African-American community in the United States. The English-based Creole language contains many African loanwords and significant influences from African languages in grammar and sentence structure.  

Join us for a look at some of the most fascinating history of Hilton Head Island! 

Explore with a period-costumed Native Island docent:

(Bus Transportation and Tour Guide for 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.)  


• Mitchelville Park (being restored to its original town)

• Plantation Tabby Ruins

• First Freedom Village Historic Marker

• Ft. Mitchell- earthworks and strategic location

• Gullah Family Compounds- foods, medicine, and culture

• Old Debarkation Point- before the bridge

• Old One-room School House

• Honey Horn Plantation

Dine the Gullah-Geechee Way:

Unique Gullah Lunch served by “Gullah Geechee Caterers”

at the  Mitchelville Place.


The preparation of a Traditional Gullah meal: The settlers in the 1800s on Hilton Head raised vegetables in their own gardens, harvested oysters, shrimp and fish from the tidal creeks, and raised pigs, and chickens.  Making a “mess of greens” it was called… cooking a lot of greens, spices, water, and meat in a big black iron pot.

Lunch Menu:


• BBQ Chicken 

• Pulled Pork with Apple-Cinnamon Sauced BBQ Pork

• Jambalaya Rice 

• Gullah Potato Salad

• Tomato and Sweet Onions Salad

• Blackberry Dumplings

• Peach Cobbler with Fried bread & Sugar Cane syrup

• Ice Tea and Bottled Water



bottom of page