What could possibly go wrong? Laura Town and her life-long friend Ellen
Murray joined the Port Royal Experiment in 1862 to test their abolitionist
ideals against the realities of slaves abandoned by their owners in the Low
Country of South Carolina. They hoped to find a place they could call home, as
well as an outlet for their talents as schoolteacher and doctor. It seemed
like a good idea at the time, until . . .
experienced the climate—violent storms spawned over the Atlantic,
searing heat, tainted by swamp gasses, cockroaches, bedbugs, swarming
mosquitoes,and “no-see-ums” that left nasty bites in their wake.
Until they met the slaves themselves—full of fear and
resentment of white people caused by centuries of cruelty, slaves who had never
seen the outside world, slaves whose superstitions included breath-sucking
night hags, evil graybeards living in local trees, and unfree spirits rolling
down the roads at night in balls of fire.
Until the dedication of the missionaries found itself tested
by lack of food, furniture, medicine, and the bare necessities of life. Until the unity of the abolitionist effort
fell apart under the strains of religious differences and unrecognized
And until the combination of battle wounds and a raging smallpox
epidemic made death their constant companion. Could these two independent women
survive the Civil War and achieve their goal of turning slaves into citizens?