Fort Sumter National Monument (Charleston Harbour)

fort sumter signWe have been working our way up to Fort Sumter National Monument as it is the starting point of the American Civil War between the Union and Confederate. We were all quite excited to spend some time here. Fort Sumter is on a small island in the middle of the Charleston harbour and is only accessible by boat, which leaves from either the Fort Sumter visitor centre or from Patriots Point, which was where we caught the boat.

Fort Sumter has a long and varied past. It was built as part of the coastal defence program that was initiated in the mid-1800’s to protect the United States from potential conflicts with the British, French & Spanish. Charleston was a high priority location due to the deepwater port and economic trade so there were actually 4 defence sites built in the harbour; Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson and Castle Pinckney.

On December 20, 1860 South Carolina voted to secede from the United States of America (click on the link for all the reasons why, they are fascinating). After that vote, the South Carolina Governor (confederates) decided to take all of the National fortifications, including the 4 sites in Charleston Harbour. At this time, the only fort that was actually “in service” Federally was Fort Moultrie, under the leadership of Major Anderson. Following the succession vote, he chose to move his men, under cover of darkness, out to Fort Sumter as he felt it was more defendable. At the time, the last stage of armament for Fort Sumter was not yet completed so, although there were very tall walls and a surrounding of water, there were no mounted cannons.

For the next 2 months, the Confederates demanded that the Union leave Fort Sumter and the Union refused. During that time, the garrison was busy trying to complete the armament of the Fort. When the Confederates finally attacked, only half of the cannons had been mounted and the Major Anderson surrender after 34 hours of battle. The Confederate Army was able to hold Fort Sumter for 4 years before it was taken back by the Union as part of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

Although a bit rushed, as you are only able to stay on Fort Sumter for 1 hour, we completed another Junior Ranger badge and the 2nd of our 3 forts towards our Civil War Historian badge.

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