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Scotland, Scotland, United Kingdom
August 4, 2012
January 19, 2011
From journal A Young Couple Goes to Charleston
by Taylor Shelby
Charleston, South Carolina
March 11, 2005
In April 1861, President Lincoln sent a letter to the military commander in Charleston telling them that he was sending a ship to resupply his troops, who were down to their last rations. The day before the ship was scheduled to arrive, Confederate troops opened fire on the fort from all surrounding points. After a day and a half of merciless pounding from the Confederates, the battered, ill-supplied Union troops surrendered. The Confederate army managed to hold onto the Fort until 1865, when the city finally had to be evacuated. When the Union army took Ft. Sumter back, they found that it was little more than a pile of rubble.
Today, you can visit Ft. Sumter and see this important and endlessly fascinating site. Boats depart on multiple trips from both sides of the Cooper River. After taking an informative and pleasant boat trip, on which a recording tells you a little about the history of the important Charleston harbor and points out some of the other sites you pass on the way to the fort, you are given about an hour and a half at the fort.
The fort itself is in various states of disrepair. You can really see the pounding it took from the Union gunboats. There are many different cannons still at the site, so you get a good sense of the weaponry the soldiers were fighting with. There is also an excellent museum at the site that contains, among other things, the original flag that flew over the fort.
If you decide to take the boat from the Aquarium Wharf, there is a parking garage very close where I recommend parking. That departure point has a small museum about Charleston on the eve of the war and also has a neat little gift shop where you can stock up on unusual Civil War-related trinkets and books. Make sure to strike up a conversation with the volunteers who are working--they always have something interesting to say!
If you decided to leave from the Patriot's Point docks, you won't get to see the museum, but you will get free parking! That should certainly save you a few bucks.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $11 for seniors, and $6 for children 6-11. Kids under 6 are free. For more info, visit the Ft. Sumter website.
"Charleston: Where the Civil War Began and Someday it Will End!"
From journal Military History in Charleston
by Mary Dickinson
May 2, 2004
Federal forts had been constructed in the Charleston area to protect the city from invasion after the War Of 1812. Granite, mostly from New England, was used to build an island on a shoal in the harbor to construct a fort. It was named Fort Sumter. In December of 1860 the fort was still not finished. Major Anderson, in charge of Fort Moultrie, had orders to move his men to Fort Sumter if the situation in Charleston got too hostile. The major and his two companies, consisting of 85 officers and men, moved across the water to the safer fort the day after Christmas, 1860, because they were in eminent danger of attack.
The unfinished Fort Sumter was designed to hold 135 cannon. Only 15 had been mounted. The barracks were still in the construction stage. His men worked day and night to prepare for an attack. Other southern states seceded from the Union and, as the Confederacy took form, they viewed the situation at Fort Sumter as a hostile military maneuver by a foreign government.
On April 12, 1861, the new Confederate army, under General P G T Beauregard, commenced firing on Fort Sumter. Three days later, a fire broke out in the barracks near the powder room so Major Anderson had to surrender.
Today, two tour boats are allowed to land at Fort Sumter, one from Patriots Point in Mount Pleansant and the other from Liberty Square, next to the Aquarium in downtown Charleston. Parking in downtown Charleston is very expensive and free at Patriots Point. The fort was almost demolished during the war. Barracks were built on the parade ground inside the fort during WW II and are painted black.
While we were there a park ranger gave a really good talk about the Civil War and its effects on the south. He said, England, the south’s best customer for cotton and rice found a supply source elsewhere causing a break up of the plantation system with only a minor market after the war. Many of the former slaves stayed where they were and eventually owned their own homes as sharecroppers.
As part of the tour of the harbor, Ft Johnson, Castle Pinkney, the battery on the shore of Charleston, Ft Moultrie and much, much more were brought to our attention.
From journal Historic Charleston Harbor
January 28, 2006
From journal Charleston in High Summer
July 11, 2005
The trip takes a half-hour each way, and we are allowed 1 hour to visit the fort itself and the museum. You purchase your ticket at the information building and then pass through to the Spiritline Ship. In warm weather, as many as 385 people crowd aboard, but on an overcast day in January, it was closer to 50. There is an audio presentation on the way over, telling about the building of Fort Sumter and the events leading up to the confrontation. On the upper deck, seating is in plastic deck chairs, or you can stand at the bow and feel the breeze in your face. Below deck, there is a restaurant, but it wasn’t open. Coffee, soda, snacks, and hot dogs were available at the main deck snack bar.
.Once you land at the fort, you can take a tour with one of the rangers, which last about 15 minutes. I would say that ours lasted closer to 30. We learned about the building of the fort and the changes it has undergone over the years. At one time, the officers’ barracks, which no longer exist, were quite luxurious. Our ranger talked about the history of brick forts and why they are no longer used. The bricks that constructed this fort were all made by slave labor. Evidently, the United States was not above using slave-made products when it suited them to do so.
There is a museum inside the fort. One of their treasures is the flag that was flying over the fort when the shelling began. Another is the flag of South Carolina. Standing on the wall, you can see other islands and Charleston in the distance. If you would rather not take the guided part of the tour, you are free to tour on your own with a map that gives very good directions.
There is a very small gift shop, both at the fort and at the information center. It has the usual park department items. I was very surprised to find no T-shirts with Fort Sumter on them.
Keep in mind that it will be a lot cooler out on the water than it is in town, so dress accordingly. Also, seasickness could be an issue, as the water was rough. There are stairs involved in getting onto the walls of the fort, but I believe that even with limitations, the lower level would certainly be accessible.
From journal Charleston-Days Out
January 23, 2005
With the North’s withdrawal, the South held the fort until it was finally evacuated on February 17, 1865. During that time, the Fort experienced one of the largest sieges in modern warfare—46,000 shells, estimated at over 7 million pounds of metal, were fired at the fort. During this time, most of the walls were shattered and reduced to rubble.
The Army attempted to put Fort Sumter back together with improvements and additions. It served as a lighthouse station for 21 years, and during that time, the fort was back in disrepair. With the impending Spanish-American War, activity began again at Fort Sumter, including the construction of Battery Huger and installation of two long-range rifles. The fort was not used as a military establishment again until World War II. Afterwards, it became a tourist attraction and a national monument maintained by the National Park Service.
You get a feel for the history by taking a tour of the fort with a guide. A brochure will guide you through the different areas if you’d like to go on your own. At each of the sights, there are markers with lengthy descriptions. Fort Sumter today looks considerably different than it did when it was built. Not only are the walls and many of the rooms "a pile of rocks," as my friend described, but the battery’s size makes it the focus of the tour; and the battery wasn’t built until 1898.
The fort itself is large, and you will see such things as the barracks, cannons, casemates (gunrooms), brick walls, and various ruins. I was most struck by the huge flags flying. They include the U.S. flag, with 50 stars, 33 stars (1861), 33 stars (1865), First National Flag of the Confederacy (1861), South Carolina State Flag, and Second National Flag of the Confederacy (1863). Sadly, I found those to be the most interesting part of this tour.
There is a lot of information to absorb on this tour, so I recommend reading a little about the fort before going, although I’m not sure that would make the tour anymore interesting if you are not into forts, like I discovered while I was there! To get there, you take a 30-minute ferryboat ride where you can see the skyline of Charleston and part of the Battery. The ride itself is worth the price of admission, which is adults $12, seniors $11, $6 for ages 6-11, and free for 5 and under. The tour takes a little over 2 hours, start to finish. Call 843/881-7337 or visit Fort Sumter online.
From journal Charleston: The Big Little City of the South
by Nahali Croft
May 28, 2002
Confederate forces occupied the fort until 1865, successfully defying the Union's blockade and foiling Federal attempts to capture Charleston. Charleston remained a major port for the Confederacy throughout the Civil War because of the defence at Fort Sumter.
The fort still contains a few large cannons, and projectiles fired during the Civil War are still embedded in Fort Sumter's thick walls.
Park rangers give historical talks and answer questions after the visitors to the fort disembark from the ferry. Much of what the ranger said during the talks were the facts you learn in high school history classes. Nonetheless, many of the tourists who had taken the ferry acted like they were hearing this information for the first time. The ranger was also amazingly patient and composed when one tourist asked about the "Star-Spangled Banner." "No sir, that song was not written here. The battle you are thinking of happened during the War of 1812 at Fort McHenry in Baltimore," the ranger explained.
On the ferry ride back to Charleston, my mother spotted fins surfacing in the water next to us. Sure enough, these dolphins came to put on a show for the returning tourists.
Anyone interested in the Civil War needs to visit the spot where it all began. I appreciated being able to stand in the place that I had studied so many times in history classes.
From journal The Charms of Charleston
Montgomery City, Missouri
March 28, 2003
From journal Good 'Ol Southern Hospitality
Blacksburg, South Carolina
February 20, 2005
From journal The Old South is Alive and Well in Charleston