General Thomas Sumter
Fort Sumter was named for
the heroic General Thomas
Sumter, who commanded a
force of South Carolina militia
during the American
Fort Sumter National Monument - Charleston, South Carolina - Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina - Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina
Fort Sumter National Monument
The effects of four years of war are obvious within
the ruined walls of historic Fort Sumter.
(National Park Service Photo)
Where the Civil War began...
From a tiny island in Charleston Harbor, the
brick walls of Fort Sumter still stand defiantly
as a reminder of the brutal war that began
here in South Carolina.

Under construction since 1827, the fort was
still unfinished when Major Robert Anderson
led his small force of U.S. soldiers over from
Fort Moultrie on December 26, 1860. South
Carolina had declared its independence and
Anderson feared that his position at Fort
Moultrie was too exposed to attack.

Located in the middle of the harbor, Fort
Sumter would prove easier to defend if
attacked, but Anderson could not have
anticipated the massive bombardment
Southern troops would soon unleash against

While Anderson and his 127 men worked to
strengthen their defenses and mount
cannon, Confederate troops ringed the
harbor with cannon. Repeated requests that
the U.S. Government turn the fort over to
Southern authorities fell on deaf ears and by
early April, the critical moment was at hand.

On April 11, 1861, Brigadier General P.G.T.
Beauregard sent three of his aides out to Fort
Sumter to demand that Anderson surrender.
The major refused, but also pointed out that
he would soon be starved out since his
supplies were running low.

Previously authorized by the general to
decide whether military action should be
launched, Colonel James Chestnut and the
other two aides (Captain Stephen D. Lee and
Lieutenant A.R. Chisolm) left the fort and
traveled to nearby Fort Johnson, where they
gave the order to open fire.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, a mortar shell
from Fort Johnson rose high over the fort and
exploded. As the citizens of Charleston
crowded on rooftops to watch, the Southern
guns ringing the bay responded to the signal
and opened on Fort Sumter, one by one.

The Confederate cannon fired for 34 straight
hours, battering the walls and setting the
wooden parts of Fort Sumter on fire. Major
Anderson's men responded as best they
could, but the major limited his fire to prevent
his men from unnecessarily exposing
themselves to death and injury.

Anderson surrendered on April 13, 1861, as
the citizens of Charleston drank toasts and
celebrated the beginning of the long-awaited

Confederate troops immediately occupied
Fort Sumter and its defence became a matter
of pride to both South Carolina and the
Confederacy. Union authorities were equally
determined to take it back.

Union forces began to bombard Fort Sumter
in April of 1863, but for nearly two years the
Confederate garrison held out. The walls of
the fort were reduced to rubble, but the
Southern soldiers dug in and refused to give
up. Eventually unable to return even a single
cannon shot against their attackers, the
Confederates of Fort Sumter continued to
hold out. In fact, they never surrendered.

Fort Sumter was evacuated by its defenders
on February 17, 1865, as Sherman's army
marched north through South Carolina. The
Union army never had the pleasure of seeing
a white flag raised above the works, a goal it
had held throughout the war.
In a fascinating moment, now General
Robert Anderson returned to Fort Sumter on
April 12, 1865. As a crowd watched from
reviewing stands, he observed the raising of
the original garrison flag over the fort. The
event, perhaps more than any other besides
Lee's surrender to Grant, symbolized the end
of the war.

Despite the fact that it had been reduced to
rubble by four years of war, Fort Sumter
remained an important military installation in
Charleston Harbor for many years to come.

A clearing of the rubble and partial rebuilding
of the fort began in 1870, directed by General
Quincy A. Gillmore. He had commanded the
Federal guns that pounded it into rubble
during the war. New guns were mounted,
quarters established and other work took

After the work stopped in 1876, however, the
fort slowly began to deteriorate again. This
changed in 1898 as the Spanish-American
War loomed on the horizon. Army engineers
began construction of a massive concrete
battery in the center of Fort Sumter. Named
Battery Huger, the battery mounted two
12-inch rifles but was not completed until
after the war had ended.

The guns were antiquated by the time of
World War II and were removed in 1943. Five
years later Fort Sumter was transferred to the
National Park Service.

Now a national monument, it is open to the
public daily via ferry boats that depart Patriots
Point in Mount Pleasant and Aquarium Wharf
at Liberty Square in Charleston. The cost is
$17 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for
children (6-11).
Please click here to see the
current schedule and make reservations.

The fort itself features the original structure,
cannon, Battery Huger, a museum and
spectacular views of historic Charleston
Please click here to visit the official
National Park Service website for more
Cannon at Fort Sumter
Massive guns aims out from
Fort Sumter. Heavy cannon
defended the citadel during
the 1861 attack.
Fortress in Ruins
Although it is best known as
the place where the Civil War
began, Fort Sumter survived
years of bombardment by
Union troops but its garrison
never surrendered.
Fort Sumter Today
Fort Sumter can be seen from
points all around Charleston
Harbor. Before the Civil War,
the fort stood three tiers high.
Only the lowest tier survives
Custom Search
Copyright 2012 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Update: July 3, 2012
Civil War Forts in the South