Fort Sumter is one of the main historic attractions in the Charleston area because this location played such a vital role in the Civil War. History buffs who plan a trip to Charleston, S.C. will definitely want to put this excursion on the top of their list of things to do. During your tour of the fort, you’ll get to hear details about how the fort was manned and taken over by Confederate troops only to be won back by the Union later in the war. You can also witness authentic cannons from the time period and explore what remains of the fort’s defenses. To make your trip even easier, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about visiting Fort Sumter.
History of Fort Sumter
After the War of 1812, Fort Sumter was constructed as a way to protect the area’s harbor, but construction didn’t begin until 1829 and it still wasn’t completed by the time the first shots of the Civil War rang out from the shores of Charleston in 1861. The Union soldiers made many attempts to resupply the people stationed at Fort Sumter, but cadets from the Charleston Citadel began firing at the ship delivering resources, attempting to cut the Union soldiers off from much-needed items. This is where the Civil War begins.
After announcing the secession from the Union, Confederate soldiers continually demanded that the fort be surrendered, but Union soldiers prevailed. That is, until April 12, 1861, when the Confederate troops decided to force the Union out by attacking the fort for a full 34 hours, at which point the Union finally surrendered the fort. Almost exactly two years later, the Union troops returned to take back Fort Sumter, but after many attempts, the fort was never surrendered. In February 1865, the Union soldiers were able to claim the ruined fort as they forced the Confederates out, but the location was never officially surrendered.
Visitor’s Information on Fort Sumter
The only way to visit Fort Sumter is via ferry ride. You can sign up for a tour and hop on the ferry at two separate locations:
Liberty Square in Downtown Charleston, 340 Concord St.
Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, 40 Patriot’s Point
Each tour lasts about two hours with a 30-minute ferry ride to and from the fort. During the boat ride, you’ll be able to take in gorgeous views of Charleston from the water and listen to more information on the fort’s history. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a National Park Ranger, who will give you some basic information about the land. Then, you’ll have about an hour to explore the property on your own, spotting areas of extensive damage and original cannons used during the war. Park Rangers will be available to answer any and all questions you may have.
Why You Should Visit Fort Sumter
Enjoy a Gorgeous Ferry Ride
The ferry ride itself is worth making the trip out to Fort Sumter. From the water, you’ll be able to look back towards the peninsula and get a comprehensive view of some of the mansions that line the battery as well as an unparalleled view of the city skyline, which is sprinkled with beautiful church steeples (hence the nickname the Holy City). You’ll also witness the iconic Arthur Ravenel Bridge from the water as you pass other ships in the harbor.
Learn More About the Area’s Role in the Civil War
Although we tried to compile a short history of Fort Sumter’s role in the Civil War, there is much more information to be learned. If you’re the kind of person who loves history, you’ll definitely want to see this site for yourself and hear what the National Park Rangers have to say. You can also uncover details about the fort’s construction and other events outside of its historic part in the war.
Participate in Other Things to Do Near the Fort
There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation in Charleston. Because of the area’s gorgeous weather, there are so many excursions and tours you can take while enjoying the city’s natural landscape. Whether you’re taking the Fort Sumter ferry from the downtown location or the Patriot’s Point area, you’ll find other great things to do nearby. Next to the downtown Concord Street launch point, you’ll notice the South Carolina Aquarium. After your tour, make time to stop in and watch the otters glide and play through the water or walk through the aviary section. Don’t forget to snap a picture on the outdoor deck area as this is one of the best views of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in the entire city.
If you’re planning to catch the ferry from the Mount Pleasant side, you’ll have tons of great things to explore after the tour. Patriot’s Point is home to the USS Yorktown, a former aircraft carrier that has been converted into a large museum with dozens of historic planes inside. You can explore the interior of the carrier including where the crew used to eat and sleep and then walk around the hangar deck. If you want to spend a few hours here, you can also opt to tour the USS Clamagore submarine and the Vietnam Experience.
Charleston is one of the best places to visit in the Southeast for anyone with an interest in history as the city has tons of information to uncover. Find a vacation rental in Charleston, S.C. that is close to everything you want to explore, so you can spend more time familiarizing yourself with the city. Be sure to embark on a tour of Fort Sumter as it’s one of the most popular (and important) historical sites to visit. But, after your tour, be sure to make time to also experience the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point or pop into the downtown aquarium. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable trip to Charleston.
About the Author:
Traci Magnus is a realtor for Dunes Properties located in Charleston, SC. She was born and raised on the Charleston coast and attended the College of Charleston before obtaining her real estate license. When she’s not working, you can find her writing, spending time with her husband Glenn and son Max or wandering the historic streets downtown.