Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel (20 July 1809 - 30 October 1862)

Institutions throughout the world are posting digital collections drawn from their archives to share their unique materials more widely. Sometimes though, digital collections posted by other institutions - for their own reasons - also contain historical materials relevant to the history, culture, and environment of the former Beaufort District (which is my bailiwick). Those are the types of digital collections that I try to share with Connections readers from time to time. Here's an example from the Becker Archive at Boston College that I found while researching another topic:

The Becker Collection contains the hitherto unexhibited and undocumented drawings by Joseph Becker and his colleagues, nineteenth-century artists who worked as artist-reporters for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper observing, drawing, and sending back for publication images of the Civil War. Mid-19th century technology didn't allow the publication of photographic images in printed newspapers. The role of these roving artists-reporters was critically important in forming public opinion during the Civil War era.

Q: What did the drawings "say" about Beaufort?
A: A search for locations inside "South Carolina" resulted in 50 hits with about a dozen images directly relevant to Civil War era Beaufort District. I choose to highlight "The House where Major General Mitchel Died" because it occurred 148 years ago today.

The Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper issue of Nov. 29, 1862 had this to say about Mitchel's death in "Sketches in Beaufort, S. C."

The melancholy death of that fine soldier and true patriot, Gen. Mitchel, has given renewed interest to Beaufort, and we consequently engrave some sketches of that once happy but still beautiful city. The Baptist Church is a more imposing edifice than the Episcopal, but it lacks that fine old church look which gives to some of the Southern places of worship so great a charm. Upon the occupation by our troops of the city the minister fled to Charleston, and the church has been closed since.

The Episcopal Church is open every Sunday for divine worship, and here Dr. Strickland performed the funeral ceremnoies over Gen. Mitchel's body, which is buried in the ground to the rear of the church. There is in the burial-ground a very old tomb, which our Artist has sketched, but he was unable to decipher the name of the person who remains it covered.

The post office is also open, and here on every arrival from the North may be seen crowds of homesick and loving soldeirs coming for news of all they hold dear. The public library is also open, but the collection of books is very poor. The jail is also open for the receipt of offenders. So is the market where everything can be had at high prices. When our soldiers entered the arsenal they were not surprised to find the rebels had left nothing except a few old defective muskets. Mr. Branwell's house is now occupied by some officers as quarters. Little, however, of its once handsome furniture remains most of it having been destroyed in the two days' aturnalia which, like an interregnum, divided the slave and free regimes.

At the last date Beaufort was suffering from a visitation of yellow fever, but the cold weather would soon stop its ravages."

The BDC includes a solid collection of 19th century prints first published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and Harper's Weekly. A few of the prints are listed in the SC LENDS catalog. We have a title inventory of captions available inside the Research Room.

PS: Although the article says that Gen. Mitchel was buried in the St. Helena Churchyard, his name is not listed in the Old Churchyard Cemetery of St. Helena's Episcopal Church, Beaufort, South Carolina. The Find-a-Grave website says that he is now buried in Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, complete with a photograph of his tombstone. It was not a particularly unusual practice for the Civil War dead to be relocated to rest eternally closer to kith and kin.

(The drawing at the lead of this entry is from the online Becker Collection owned by Boston College.)

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.