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Fort Sumter - A Charleston Historic Icon

Posted on 30 Mar 2013
Category: Tours, Parks, Historic Sites, Family Entertainment
Author: Steve Vail

chs-from-ferry Fort Sumter - Catching the Ferry

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.

Castle-Pinckney-2 Fort Sumter - Castle Pinkney

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.

Fort-Sumter-Welcome-sign Fort Sumter - The Tour

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 Fort-Sumter-Parrot-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.

Fort Sumter - History and Preservation

After the civil war, came the Spanish American war at which time the US Army built a new building, Battery Huger, within the confines of what was left of the post Civil War Fort Sumter. The US Army continued to utilize the structure as an active military installation through the end of World War II. Between the end of the Civil War and World War II, little was done to preserve Fort Sumter's History or its historic artifacts. This is probably Fort-Sumter-Shel-in-wall because at the time of the Spanish-American War, the civil war was fairly recent history; so the historic significance and remnants of the civil war had little to no value. While some may consider it a shame that any modernization ever took place thus mitigating historic authenticity, I consider all of it history and quite honestly I would like to know more about the soldiers who occupied the fort during the Spanish-American War, WW I, and WW II, as well as their plans and preparations in case of an attack from abroad. Fort-Sumter-Casements There is an immense amount of history here. Fort Sumter was an active military installation from 1829 through 1943 and utilized by U.S. forces through three wars. I will not even pretend that I could cover that much history in this article. Instead, my primary goal is to entice my readers to want more. A great deal of history concerning Fort Sumter can be found via several websites and encyclopedias. However, my encouragement to anyone wishing to learn more about this treasured National Monument is to do as so many others have done, visit Fort Sumter in person.

Fort Sumter -- Tour Concluded


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.

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