Set on a man-made island in Charleston's harbor, this is the hallowed spot where the Civil War began. On April 12, 1861, the first shot of the war was fired at the fort from Fort Johnson (now defunct) across the way. After a 34-hour battle, Union forces surrendered and Confederate troops occupied Sumter, which became a symbol of Southern resistance. The Confederacy managed to hold it, despite almost continual bombardment, from August 1863 to February of 1865. When it was finally evacuated, the fort was a heap of rubble. Today, the National Park Service oversees it, and rangers give interpretive talks and conduct guided tours. To reach the fort, you have to take a ferry or a private boat; ferries depart from the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, downtown, and from Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. There are six trips daily between mid-March and mid-August. The schedule is abbreviated the rest of the year, so call ahead for details. For those using a GPS to find the boat departure points for Fort Sumter, remember to use the address for Patriots Point and the Visitor Education Center, not the mailing address for the fort.
Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center. Next to the South Carolina Aquarium, the visitor center contains exhibits on the antebellum period and the causes of the Civil War. This is a departure point for ferries headed to Fort Sumter. 340 Concord St., Upper King, Charleston, 29401. 843/577–0242. www.nps.gov/fosu. Free. Daily 8:30–5.
Mar 31, 2009
This is now pretty much a ruin, with several cannons on site, some of the original brick outside wall intact, and an ugly black interior addition from the late 19th century. The visitor's center and the fort have some historic background on the fort before, during, and after the Civil War -- there are historic flags at the latter museum area. Good ranger tour given at the fort. Boat shuttle trips out and back are infrequent and a visit takes a good
couple hours. A bleak, if picturesque spot, that's perhaps more interesting for what happened here (very significant) than what you actually see.