Fort Sumter

Charleston, South Carolina



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Fort Sumter is located on an island in the Charleston Harbor in Charleston, South Carolina. A ferry leaves from the Liberty Square Visitor Center at the end of Calhoun Street.

Fort Sumter was established as a National Monument in 1948. It is maintained and operated by the National Park Service.

Fort Sumter is best known as the location where the first shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861 at 4:30 AM. It was named after General Thomas Sumter. Construction on the fort began in 1829, and it was still unfinished in 1860 when it was first used. The fort was designed to house 650 men and 135 cannons. The brick walls are five feet thick.

In December 1860, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson moved his two companies, eighty-five men total, from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. Construction on the fort was not finished, and less than half of the cannons were available for use. Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard called for their surrender for several months, but Major Anderson ignored them. On April 12, 1861 the Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter. Shots were fired for thirty-six straight hours. On April 13 Major Anderson surrendered, and the fort was evacuated. No soldiers were killed in the battle.

In April 1863 the Union Army made plans to recapture Fort Sumter from the Confederates. Rear Admiral Samuel F. Du Pont was the first person ordered to reclaim the fort. On April 7, 1863 nine of his ships exchanged fire with Confederate batteries. Five ships were disabled, but Fort Sumter was barely damaged. Rear Admiral Du Pont was then replaced by Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren. His plan was to combine land and sea attacks. Along with troops under Brigadeir General Quincy A.Gilmore, the Union was able to seize Morris Island. From there, Union troops were able to fire cannons at Fort Sumter.

On August 17, 1863 massive attacks began on Fort Sumter. Within a week, the brick walls of Fort Sumter were in ruins. However, the Confederates would not surrender. They worked hard to make repairs. Confederate companies at nearby Fort Moultrie returned fire.

The Union military attempted to capture Fort Sumter unsuccessfully for several more months. The fort was under fire until February 1865, when Major General William T. Sherman's troops advancing from Savannah forced the Confederate soldiers to evacuate the fort.

Over the course of the Civil War, approximately seven million pounds of artillery were fired at Fort Sumter.

After the Civil War, parts of Fort Sumter were rebuilt. During World War I Battery Isaac Huger was constructed, and a small garrison manned two twelve-inch rifles there. It then stood empty until World War II, when two 90-mm antiaircraft guns were installed. Today it is only used as a park.

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