Fort Sumter, South Carolina
Fort Sumter, South Carolina | Photo Credit: Flickr - Rennett Stowe

This iconic fort is most notably known for its role as being the site of the first shots fired that sparked the Civil War. Fort Sumter was built around 1829, and served as a strategic military post for nearly 120 years. Today it serves as a popular attraction for visitors to learn about America’s past.


The Third System of U.S. Fortifications ordered the construction of several forts in the United States. Fort Sumter happened to be one of these forts ordered to be created. The name “Sumter” came from Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War General who was honored for his heroic strides in the war.

Taking a vacant sandbar and turning it into a fortress was no easy feat. The fort took several years to construct. The five-sided fort has walls that are 5-feet thick. This important fort was built to withstand cannon fire.

Two battles occurred at Fort Sumter during the Civil War. The first one, actually started the Civil War. This battle broke out on April 12, 1861 over rebel control over the Union controlled fort. The Union surrendered nearly 24 hours later after their supplies had been cut off.

The second Civil War battle at Fort Sumter took place on September 8, 1863 when the Union tried to reclaim control of the fort. It was another failed attempt. The Confederates occupied Fort Sumter until General Sherman led his men through the area in early 1865.

When the Civil War ended in April of 1865, a huge celebration was held at Fort Sumter. This event happened to be on the same day that Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.

The Union worked to restore the fort for several years following the war. It also served as a unmanned lighthouse station for years. Today the fort is preserved as a National Historical Park and open for tours.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina
Fort Sumter, South Carolina | Photo Credit: Flickr – John Hilliard

How to Visit

Accessible by boat only, ferries take visitors across the channel from either Charleston or Mount Pleasant. For more information about hours, ferry times and admission, please visit the official website here.

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