on January 28, 2006
It's farther out here than I expected: Charleston Harbor is large, and Fort Sumter sits at its very entrance, a half-hour boat ride from Liberty Square on the northeast side of central Charleston. Admission to the Fort is free, but the ride is $13. The visitor center at Liberty Square contains some excellent exhibits on the origins of the Civil War, as well as how the idea of liberty has evolved throughout American history. This center itself is worth an hour before leaving. The tour gives you about an hour at the fort and arrives back at the dock after a short but enjoyable tour of the harbor. It lasts a little over 2 hours in all. The fort was subjected to the bombardment that opened the Civil War, after the Union commander evacuated his troops to the island and refused to surrender. Eventually he capitulated, and the fort remained in Confederate hands for nearly the remainder of the war. A lone breach in Federal control of the coast, it was heavily bombarded by Union troops attempting to complete the blockade of the Confederacy. Despite heavy damage, Fort Sumter fell only when Sherman and his army arrived in February 1865 following the fall of Savannah.Some of the damage is still visible, but the structure is largely intact: the site remained important through the end of the 19th century as a link in the US coastline defense, and extensive rebuilding took place. Rangers lead tours through the facility and there's a museum housed inside the fort as well. An hour here is a little short, but not by much. Combined with the boat ride, it's a trip worth taking and provides a real contrast to the antebellum period represented in much of Charleston's historic houses.
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