Fort Howell is typical of the earthen forts constructed during the Civil War by both Confederates and Union Armies. The change from earlier brick and stone masonry forts was the result of advances in weaponry that occurred as the Civil War approached. Rifled cannons came into use, and with their increased range, power, and accuracy over previous smoothbore cannons, they could easily breach the older style masonry fort walls, as seen in the photograph of Fort Pulaski below. The dirt walls of the Civil War earthen forts could better absorb incoming rifled artillery shells and protect the men and weapons inside the fort.
The preservation of Fort Howell is largely due to the Greenwood Development Corporation, which owned the property containing the fort. When archaeologists revealed the significance of the property, Greenwood deeded Fort Howell to the Hilton Head Island Land Trust in order to protect it in perpetuity. It had been all but forgotten in the history of the island, but its significance has been appreciated with recognition it has received since that time.