Recently some friends of mine, six IT guys with whom I've had the awesome privilege of working at McCrady Training Center in Columbia, came to Charleston for a visit, and to tour Fort Sumter. We met at Patriot's Point to catch the ferry over, which departed for the Fort at about 10:30. The weather was clear and sunny with a definite March chill in the air. The majority of our party went to the lower deck which is enclosed, thus a bit warmer. However, wanting to see the view more clearly and get some pictures, I finally opted for the upper deck. It was a little chilly, but being dressed appropriately, it was quite tolerable. I was able to get a few pictures of the Charleston harbor and the Ravenel Bridge. Through the intercom of the boat, the tour narration had begun. Even though this is not my first time on this tour, I hear interesting historic facts of which I do not recall hearing before.
We pass Castle Pinckney within minutes of departure. I had to wonder why I recall nothing ever being said about this apparent historic military structure in the narration. I did a little research on my own and discovered that it was built sometime before Fort Sumter and actually utilized during the Revolutionary War, at which time it was a log structure. During the Civil War, for the most part, it was used only as a supply point for the other military installations in the area. It was fortified and ready for combat, and for a short time was utilized as a prisoner of war camp during the civil war.
As a group, the seven of us opted for the self-guided tour. We started out all together and gradually went our own way, randomly regrouping from time to time. It's been at least a couple of years since I last toured this fort. One of the things that really stood out to me this time was the parrot cannons inside the casement. I guess because of Television and movies, I had assumed that the cannon's barrel was extended through the portal through which it fired and would recoil back after each shot. After a closer observation, I discovered, that is not at all the way this procedure took place. There are wheels on the cannon's mount with which the cannon may be moved in an arc from side to side for aiming. Not exactly aiming; more like point,hope, and shoot. The cannon's mount is actually anchored to the wall in front of it; so there was no recoil - but this also means that the cannon's barrel never protruded through the wall. Instead, the blast, flash, and the noise was all going on inside the casement area. As I stood there surveying the artifact before me, I tried to imagine what it must have been like; the deafening sound of the blast accompanied by the blinding flash and stifling smoke. While at the same time the walls were quaking from the constant shelling coming from forts and strongholds within Charleston which were originally intended to be this fort's allies.
By the time we got back to Patriot's Point, it was time for lunch. Shem Creek Bar and Grill is where we headed. The food was great! as was the service. If you've never tried an oyster shooter, try one here; they're the best!
All in all, this was a great day of fun and fellowship with old friends. Many thanks to CW2 Billy Douglas for getting the guys down here as well as to SSG Andrew Williams for making all of the arrangements ahead of time. We definitely need to do something like this again.