Fort Sumter National Monument is one of the most visited historical sites in the United States. It’s no wonder why, considering Fort Sumter and the Civil War battles fought here helped shape our nation into what it is today. The National Monument actually consists of three different sites in Charleston: the original Fort Sumter structure, the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.
The first shots of the Civil War were fired from Fort Sumter in 1861, when Confederate artillery began shooting at a Union garrison. The fort was surrendered the very next day, but would still serve as an important location in Civil War history. Another battle was eventually fought at Sumter two years later, an unsuccessful expedition by the Union to finally capture the critical fort from the Confederates. All but reduced to rubble, Fort Sumter still remained in Confederate hands, even as it was finally abandoned during General Sherman’s march through South Carolina.
Today, Fort Sumter is open for public tours. The fort is located on an island in Charleston Harbor, and is only accessible by a short ferry ride. The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, located at 340 Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401, provides access to Fort Sumter itself. There are two departure points to reach Fort Sumter: Liberty Square and Patriots Point. Rates for Fort Sumter tours are subject to change, so you should visit Fort Sumter’s official website or call the Visitor Education Center at (843) 577-0242 to check prices prior to visiting. Your tour includes access to the museum, bookstore, and the top level of Fort Sumter, where you can catch the same view of Charleston Harbor that Civil War soldiers once saw.
It’s also worth checking out Fort Moultrie, a separate sea fort that is located on Sullivan’s Island at 1214 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482. The fort doesn’t carry the popular name of Fort Sumter, but was equally instrumental to America’s history. Originally built during the American Revolution, the fort was saved from British occupation by the end of the war. Moultrie was in continuous – although occasionally neglected – use for the U.S. military for 171 consecutive years. Fort Moultrie is the only location in the National Park System that can trace its history for the entire history of the American seacoast.
Visitors to Fort Moultrie will start on a journey that takes you back through time, from the fort’s minimal usage during World War II, all the way to its origins in the Revolution. You’ll find out how the Palmetto State got its name from Fort Moultrie, and find out the strategic reason why the fort was finally abandoned for military use in World War II.