Luxurious Surroundings and Kitchen Filth
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Luxurious Surroundings and Kitchen Filth

The Paul Hamilton House, known as "The Oaks" stands at 100 Laurens Street in Beaufort, just across the street from Tidalholm, although it faces away from its neighbors to capture the best view over the water.  Col. Paul Hamilton, grandson of the Paul Hamilton who served as Secretary of the Navy under President James Madison, built the house in 1855.  

Like Tidalholm, the house is built in the Italianate style. Its two-storied verandas extend across the front of the house and around both sides until they meet the wider back portion of the house. The back rooms feature bay windows that stretch from floor to ceiling.  Inside, unusual carved mantles extend on three sides of the chimney, echoing the design of the exterior.   

                                                      West Rear of the Hamilton House


When the Gideonites arrived, they selected this house for the twelve women who accompanied the group.  Here is the description recorded by Washington socialite Susan Walker:  

Tuesday, March 11, 1862:

Went with Mr. French escorted by the Provost Marshal in search of a house large enough to accommodate 12 ladies. Twelve women together! This is fearful. We found a splendid house near the water and therefore pronounced healthful  It must be thoroughly cleaned for the "chivalry" look not to corners and cupboards. They leave this to the poor despised "mudsie" of the north. Such a kitchen as supplied their luxurious tables would nowhere else be suffered. Bah! What filth—years only could have so matured it.  


                                         The Cookhouse at the back of the Hamilton House


Wednesday,  March 12, 1862: 

Here we are at last in possession of Hamilton's superb mansion. Slept last night at good Dr. Peck's but tonight must occupy the pleasant room assigned me in our new home. Unfurnished, of course, for every house has been stripped of furniture. I have a frame of rough boards to support my narrow straw-stuffed mattress. My table is a packing box, my candle-stick a potato, and a small wooden bench my only seat. I have a single piece of furniture—a marble-top mahoganywash-stand, which kind provost Belcher has brought, he says, "expressly for you." I expect to have wash-basin and pitcher some time. Having neither pillow case nor sheet, I split open a white peticoat and slipped myself between. Friends have sometimes called me fastidious, am I so?  

Thursday, March 13, 1862: 

My window east opens upon a little porch with mosaic floor. From this what a glorious sunrise over the river. Rosy Aurora tints sky and water. A magnificently spreading Live Oak fringed with long pendants of grey moss stands between me and the river promising charming shade when summer heat demands out-door breezes. My window north reveals orange trees and negro cabins and a pretty white henhouse made of lattice work and looking like a fanciful summer house. Window south opens upon a broad verandah exposed on two sides to the sea or river rather, but it is an arm of the sea and salt. A dressing room belongs to this room but is not spared for me. I have a fire-place and fire is required night and morning.   

Within a few weeks, the women Gideonites, too, moved to their assigned plantations to begin teaching and caring for the abandoned slaves.  The Hamilton, like its neighbor, became a Union Hospital # 1 until the end of the war. 

The northern teachers who remained in the Low Country at the end of the war must have been horrified to learn that the previous owner of the Hamilton House declared he would pay "a million dollars to keep his home from becoming a school for Negroes."  When he could not raise the full purchase amount within the three days allotted to him, the citizens of Beaufort banded together to purchase the home in his name.  It returned to being a private residence.