Fort Sumter, Charleston
Where the American Civil War Began; decades of growing strife between North and South erupted in civil war on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.
Sullivan's Island has long served as Charleston Harbor's first line of defense against disease or foreign invasion. Quarantine stations checked every person that came into the harbor, including enslaved Africans. Later a palmetto log fort was built by Colonel Moultrie and the Second South Carolina Infantry. This fort came to be known as Fort Moultrie, and was replaced and modified as technology and warfare changed through the mid-twentieth century.
The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square sits on the site of Gadsden's Wharf, where hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were brought into the United States. Today the site interprets the causes and catalysis of the Civil War and the results of that war on the nation.
This was a must see for one of our group of six adults, but all of us elected to go in spite of the trip using half of our only full day in Charleston. None of us regretted the choice. Although private boaters can visit the fort, the rest of us can only see it by booking passage on the NPS concessionaire tour boat, which costs $17 for adults and $15 for seniors, 62 and older. Children age 6 and older cost $10. Boats leave from Liberty Square and Patriot's Point. The tour lasts 2 hours 15 min. and includes a 35 minute narrated boat ride over the harbor, an hour at the fort and a narrated 35 minute boat ride back. There is plenty of outdoor and indoor seating on the boat, and the narration is done in segments so it doesn't dominate the whole boat ride. The info going out focuses on history surrounding the fort and the civil war. Returning you get to hear more about the harbor and the city. There is an interesting ranger lecture about the fort and it's history when you arrive as well. At the fort we could explore the ruins that have been excavated, go up top for a panoramic view and spend time in the museum for more history, photos and artifacts. There is also a gift shop and public bathrooms. it was very windy the day we went, in early February, but not especially cold out of the wind. This is a pivotal historical site in American history and well worth the time we took to learn and see what was there. Liberty Square also had an extensive visitor's center type display area to spend time with while waiting for the boat or after returning from the trip and is right next to the Charleston Aquarium, which would make a great companion activity.
probably the most historically significant event in charleston is the confederate attack on fort sumter. fort sumter was built after the war of 1812 to protect charleston from attack. it was one of a series of forts on the southern coast that was built with slave labor. on april 12 th 1861 general p.g.t. beauregard CSA ordered the shelling of the union forces at fort sumter. it is rumored that edmund ruffin fired the first shot at fort sumter, this act began the civil war. on april 13 th 1861 major anderson surrendered fort sumter to the confederates. union forces bombarded fort sumter for four years and the confederate forces finally surrendered to general william t. sherman on february 17 th 1865. fort sumter is a must see sight for anyone interested in american history.
pictured is an unexploded shell embedded in the north wall of fort sumter. over seven million pounds of artillery were shot at fort sumter during the civil war. remarkably only 52 solders were killed and only 267 were wounded during the four year seige.
The beginning of the Civil WAr took place here. Right after secession of South CArolina, they gave the Union troops two days to move off the island that protected the harbor. The Union soldiers did not, and then for two days, artillery blasted the fort until surrender was enacted.
Construction on Fort Sumter began in 1827 and continued until the start of the Civil War. In December of 1860 South Carolina seceded from the nation, and the Union troops across the bay at Fort Moultrie under command of Major Robert Anderson joined those at Fort Sumter providing the fort built for 600 soldiers a weak defense of just 80 men. Until the Civil War began, there were various negotiations and machinations attempted to convince the garrison at Fort Sumter to surrender the land. On April 12, 1861, the battle began early in the morning with a Confederate bombardment. The Union forces responded hours later with their first shot fired by Abner Doubleday, who would later became a general and would be dubiously credited with inventing the game of baseball. After 34 hours the men at Fort Sumter were out of ammunition and were forced to surrender. Only a few men on either side were wounded in the bombardment, and the only casualty actually occurred after the surrender when a cannon exploded during a salute to the American flag by the Union forces. The fort remained in Confederate hands until the end of the war, when the-General Robert Anderson returned to raise the American flag over the fort that he fought valiantly to defend.
Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan's Island, was involved in one of the first battles of the American Revolution, when it was attacked by British forces on June 28, 1776. The fort could not be taken, but it fell later during the Siege of Charleston in 1780. After American Independence a new Fort Moultrie was completed in 1798. The existing fort was completed in 1809 after he previous fort was ruined by a hurricane. During the Indian Wars Seminole leader Osceola died here and his grave is in the fort. Fort Moultrie was heavily damaged by Union naval bombardment during the Civil War, but was again rebuilt and modernized over time. Today the fort is part of the larger Fort Moultrie National Monument.
The first Castle Pinkney was constructed between 1797 and 1804 before being destroyed by a hurricane the same year it was completed. The present structure was built in 1810 just a mile from the docks of downtown Charleston. Shortly after it was built it was made obsolete by Forts Moultrie and Sumter at the mouth of the harbor. During the Civil War, this was the first Federal military position to fall to the South. Later the Confederate army used Castle Pinkney as a prisoner camp. Castle Pinkney was a national monument from 1924 to 1951, but today is a deteriorating structure on the National Register of Historic Places.
The only way to reach the National Monument is the Boat.
There are 2 departing points :
- Liberty Square (near the Aquarium) : 9:30 AM, noon, 2:40 PM
- Patriots Point : 10:45AM, 1:30PM, 4:00PM
The journey needs 30 min and the stay in Fort lasts 1H.
A park ranger tells the story of the Fort (20 min). Then, you can see the Fort (which is completly different from its initial building) and a very interesting small museum (with air conditioning so you are not obliged to go to the giftshop to enjoy the cool air).
Price : 14$ (senior : 12.50$, children 6 and more : 8$)
This fort sits on a man made island guarding the entrance to Charleston Harbor. This fort played a pivotal role in American history. On April 12, 1862 the newly formed Confederate States of America began an artillery bombardment and eventually captured this fort, which began the US civil war.
The fort is accessed by a special tour boat that leaves twice daily from Liberty Square (next to the Aquarium). Cost is $12.
No visit to Charleston would be complete without a visit to Ft. Sumter. Federals occupying this fort in Charleston's Harbor were fired upon in 1861 starting the Civil War. The Fort was reduced over the course of the war from four stories to two.
After the war, several improvements were made over time to the fort before it was finally turned over to the park service. A visit to the Fort will cover the complete history of the fort from the construction of the island to it's last defensive duties.
One of many twists of fate in the Civil War: Colonel Anderson who was defending the fort was taught artillery at West Point by P.G.T. Beauregard who led the assault on Sumter for the Confederates.
My husband and I toured Fort Sumter in mid-October. We rode the ferry over to the island and enjoyed the view along the way. The park ranger gives an informational talk about the history of the island and there is ample time to go view the ruins and get lots of photos. There is a museum with some artifacts displayed and also a small gift shop where you could purchase a souvenir.
Sitting quietly out in the middle of Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter is one of the most important and well known historic sites in the entire United States. Every school child learns the drill: the Civil War began when Fort Sumter was fired upon by the Confederates. Of course, the actual story is much more complicated than that. But the fact remains that Fort Sumter is an immensely important spoke in the US History wheel. Probably second only to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Visiting the fort is a very interesting experience, even if you're not into history. It begins with a scenic cruise across Charleston harbor. There are nice views of the many historic buildings there. You get to spend about an hour exploring the fort. I must say, I was very suprised walking into the fort grounds. I was expecting crumbled walls and the like. They were there. But what I wasn't expecting was this huge black concrete bunker right in the middle of the fort. It is Battery Huger, and was built as a response to the Spanish-American War of 1898. It's an eyesore, but historic in it's own right.
I found that it was easy to tour the fort in the allotted time. It's a rather small fort. There are basically two sections. When you first enter the fort from your boat, you are in the lower level, which is the best preserved section from the Civil War. Climbing over Battery Huger brings you to the rear of the fort, which is up at a higher level earthwork. There are nice views from here of Sullivan's and Morris Island.
There are numerous forts in the area, but none are as well known as Fort Sumter. This was the location where the first shot of the civil war was fired. Boat tours leave two or three times a day for the island and you're required to take one if you want to tour the fort. The tours are run by the National Park Service and take a couple of hours, including travel time to and from the fort. You get to spend an hour on the fort and have the option of taking a guided tour with a ranger or exploring on your own.
For more information, feel free to visit my Fort Sumter page.
Here is where the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression, as some call it) began on April 12, 1861. The Federal garrison here was bombarded by rebel forces from the Battery until forced to surrender.
We try to visit some local activities when we go to Charleston to see our son. Last spring, we did Ft Sumter.
Importance: The first engagement of the Civil War took place at Fort Sumter on April 12 and 13, 1861. After 34 hours of fighting, the Union surrendered the fort to the Confederates. From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates at Fort Sumter withstood a 22 month siege by Union forces. During this time, most of the fort was reduced to brick rubble
The concession tour boats leave from Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant and the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, located adjacent to Liberty Square at the corner of Concord and Calhoun Streets in Charleston (next to the aquarium). There is a free museum there at the wharf.
Daily, except January 1 and December 25. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April through Labor Day, and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. March and September through November.
Concession Fee for Boat Ride
$6.00 (Child 6-11)
Children under 6 free.
This is a concession fee for the boat ride to Fort Sumter and is subject to change
I have additional pictures of the Fort itself and the boat trip out and back on my Ft. Sumter page
A short ferry ride to where The Civil War started. The tour of the fort includes the history of how the war came to be. Each guide has their guess of who fired the first shot. If you're a history buff, this is a must see.