“New Civil War Discoveries” By Joseph Mester

Drayton Hall has served as a place of learning for the young and old, student and professional for the last 37 years.  Consistently uncovering new details and disproving historical misconceptions, our staff has worked at telling this dynamic part of the American story.

In recent weeks, we’ve set our sights on revising and incorporating the latest scholarship and historiography into our standards-based educational programs, while also integrating the new 2011 social studies standards for South Carolina. With the help of a grant from the Post and Courier, the daily Charleston newspaper, work began on our American Civil War-focused programs.

A battery of the Palmetto Battalion, South Carolina Light Artillery, the same battalion James Drayton enlisted into on November 12, 1861. This photograph was identified during this project. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

After pouring over the new social studies standards, numerous secondary sources written by preeminent Civil War historians and scholars, and the primary documents of the mid-nineteenth century Drayton family, we were able to redraft our Drayton Hall Civil War curriculum to reflect the South Carolina standards and historical accuracy.  During the research phase, we also identified that, in fact, four Drayton’s of Drayton Hall served during the Civil War.  The three brothers, Thomas, James, and John Drayton, have long been known as supporters of the Confederacy.  Myth and rumor surround their nephew, Charles Henry Drayton (1847-1915), as an underage runaway enlisting in the Confederate military.  After finding conclusive documentation we now know for certain that Charles, actually, legitimately joined a unit of South Carolina cavalry at the age of 17, after the enlistment age was lowered in early 1864, and rose to the rank of corporal before the war’s end.

Discoveries such as this are happening all the time and it is through the lens of that ever unfolding Drayton Hall story that we present our programs to partner with and build upon classroom learning, while providing hands-on activities within a historic context.  In the coming weeks and months we will continue to work on improving our other acclaimed education programs for students and life-long learners. If you want to learn more about our place-based, standards-based educational programs for students and adults go to our website, www.draytonhall.org.

Joseph Mester is Project Assistant at Drayton Hall and works on both education and preservation projects. He is also a civil war enthusiast and all around history buff. You can reach him at joseph_mester@draytonhall.org.

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