on August 4, 2012
Charleston is a beautiful, historic city and one of it's major historical attractions is Fort Sumter.Fort Sumter was one of a series of coastal fortifications built by the US after the war of 1812. It was begun in 1829 and named after a Revolutionary War patriot from South Carolina, Thomas Sumter.The first engagement of the American Civil War took place at Fort Sumter on April 12 and 13, 1861.After South Carolina seceded from the Union, defending all four Federal forts in the Charleston area was thought to be untenable, and so all the Union forces would be stationed on just one, Fort Sumter. Soon after, Confederates took over the three abandoned forts (Moultrie, Castle Prickney and Johnson) and requested Maj. Robert Anderson of Sumter to surrender. After some months had gone by, the Confederates attacked and after 34 hours of fighting, won over the fort. For the remainder of the war, despite suffering a 22 month siege, the fort would stay a Rebel stronghold.From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates at Fort Sumter withstood almost continual shelling by Union forces. During this time, most of the fort was reduced to rubble but remarkably, the Confederate forces lost only 52 men killed and 267 wounded.Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948.'Fort Sumter Tours' is authorized by the National Park Service and provide the only commercial boat transportation to Fort Sumter.There are two locations from which you can depart: Liberty Square in downtown Charleston, or in Mt. Pleasant at the Patriots Point Maritime Museum. We boarded at liberty Square.The cruise lasts a little over 2 hours and consists of approximately 1 hour at Fort Sumter with a cruise around Charleston's historic harbour.We had skipped lunch to make the sailing time but were not unduly worried as the ferry served snacks. What they didn't mention in the pamphlet was that these snacks consisted of potato chips, m&m's and....THERE WAS NO AND! That was it. Anyway we eventually set off on our cruise, happy but hungry.The cruise to the island lasted about 35-40 minutes each way - guess what - that was the tour of the harbour! It was enjoyable enough though, to see the city from a different perspective whilst cooling down under the effects of the welcome sea-breeze.When you arrive for your tour of the Fort, National Park Service historians explain the history of Fort Sumter and the role it played in the War between the States. The talk goes on a bit and as we only had 1 hour to see the whole island, and the tour is self-guided, we wandered off fairly quickly.The fort is quite imposing, standing solitary in the sea with old battle flags flying high. It is still impressive even though it is in ruins these days. There is a lot to do and see in your allotted hour at Sumter. You can explore the ruins of the barracks and battlements, and actually learn a lot by just looking and reading the little plaques that are liberally placed around the site. You are also issued with a guide sheet that has plans and reconstructions of the fort along with explanations for it all.A museum is in the middle of the fort and it is very well laid out and extremely informative. It tells the story of the fort with displays and models, and definitely puts everything that you see around the fort into some sort of order. The battered remains of the Union flag that flew during the Confederate attack is on display and that is quite evocative.There is also a gift shop - but no food or beverages for sale anywhere, which is what we needed far more.I enjoyed the visit to the fort but I felt the time allowed on the island was just not long enough. We probably did see everything there was to see but all the while we felt rushed. An extra 20-30 minutes would almost certainly made a huge difference.So would some food possibilities.I would recommend a visit to Fort Sumter because of it's historical significance. It is not nearly the best or most interesting civil war site to visit but, as the first shots of the war were fired here, it is a must for anyone with an interest in that conflict.
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