Fodor's Expert Review Fort Sumter National Monument
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 across the way. After a 34-hour battle, Union forces surrendered and Confederate troops occupied Fort 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.
To reach the fort, take a private boat or one of the ferries that depart from Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant and downtown's Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, which includes exhibits on the antebellum period and the Civil War. There are seven trips daily to the Fort between mid-March and mid-August, fewer the rest of the year.