The Civil War in South Carolina

To mark the150th anniversary of the Civil War the State Museum is excited to open a new, permanent exhibit on the war in South Carolina. The exhibit invites you to discover and explore the Civil War experiences of the people of South Carolina.
Based on new archaeological evidence, the State Museum will unveil updates to its H.L. Hunley exhibition with an interactive, touch-screen kiosk!

While we renovate and expand our Civil War exhibition area, be sure to visit our current Civil War exhibitions:

The Coming of the Civil War

The road to war was long, but not inevitable. This section of the exhibit examines the disagreements between South Carolina and the federal government and the political turmoil leading up to the war. It also documents the arguments made by pro-slavery and abolition proponents.

Artifacts include a silk scarf imprinted with President Andrew Jackson’s proclamation condemning South Carolina’s 1832 Nullification Ordinance. In addition, visitors can see one of only 200 copies of the Ordinance of Secession and the first edition of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Also on display is a c.1860 palmetto tree flag highlighting the growing rift between South Carolina and the federal government.

Soldiers of the Palmetto State

South Carolina sent about 60,000 military-aged men to fight for the Confederacy, more than were recorded on the 1860 census. Soldiers of the Palmetto State illustrates the daily lives of the men who went to fight, many of whom had never been more than a few miles from home. Soldiers endured long stretches of monotony, punctuated by the terror of battle. Soldiers also had to contend with homesickness, disease, and lack of supplies.

The exhibition features authentic uniforms - one believed to be from Hampton’s Legion - as well as weapons, swords, and other accouterments. Visitors can read letters written by solders describing their lives in the army and the problems they faced. A video display demonstrates the loading and firing of the Enfield rifled musket, a common rifle used in the war. Other artifacts document soldier’s downtime, such as a fiddle, a game board, and a deck of cards.


Naval Warfare and Failed Attempts to Take Charleston

The South Carolina coast was full of activity during the Civil War. The Battle of Port Royal put the sea islands of Beaufort County into Union control early in the war. Charleston was under constant threat of Northern invasion from both land and sea. As the Federal blockade of the coast tightened, some South Carolinians conspired to break its grip. Others seized their freedom by fleeing to the Union lines to escape slavery.

This exhibition includes artifacts, photographs and illustrations, animated maps, and models of a variety of ships. Cannon and ordnance are on display along with examples of innovations in maritime technology. The exhibit also documents the dramatic changes in the lives of the slaves of Port Royal following Union occupation, and the formation of the first regiment of African-American soldiers during the Civil War.


View the Museum's collection of stereoscopic images from the Civil War