Fort Sumter


By: Staff Editor, Charleston Harbor Tours
October 11, 2007

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, is a historical landmark that has withstood the test of time. The fort stands in the Charleston harbor, and, accessible by boat only, sees a diverse group of visitors all year round.

The fort, built after the War of 1812, is made of 70,000 tons of granite imported from New England in order to build up a defensive sand bar at the entrance to the beautiful Charleston Harbor. The five sided brick structure is up to 190 feet long, and boasts walls that are five feet thick.  It was originally designed to house 650 men and 135 guns, but was never quite filled to capacity.

Confederate gunfire first opened on the fort on April 12, 1861 at 4:30 in the morning, stunning those waiting within. This initiated the first battle of the Civil War, marking Fort Sumter’s place in history. The Union soldiers surrendered only 34 hours later, unable to withstand the force of the invasion.  For four years, Union forces tried to win back the famous fort that was named after General Thomas Sumter.  Finally General William T. Sherman’s troops forced the evacuation of the fort and retook control on February 17, 1865.

The brave soldiers that had been involved in the first battle of the Civil War were all given a Gillmore Medal in honor of their participation. The Fort Sumter flag became a patriotic symbol, and is still displayed in the museum on site. A total of 7 million pounds of artillery were shot at the fort throughout the course of history, wounding 267 and killing 52 Confederate soldiers. 

After the Civil War, the Fort was used as an unmanned lighthouse station. The Spanish American War prompted renewed interest in the fort because of its strategic placement, and a new installation was built called the "Battery Huger", named after the honorable Revolutionary War general Isaac Huger. This installation still stands today.

The Sumter Fort became a national monument in 1948, and has since been a popular place to visit in the Charleston area. 


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