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closer view of the fort
Fort Sumter National Monument
Closest available address
340 Concord Street Charleston, SC 29401
The main visitor center is open 8:30am-5:00pm. Boat tour times vary seasonally.
Best time to visit
Fort Sumter National Monument features a historic island fort made famous in the US Civil War. Access is by a public ferry or private boat. There is a museum in the fort itself as well as a museum at the main visitor center in Charleston. The Fort Sumter of today is dominated by a large concrete battery installed during the Spanish American War in 1898.
Construction of Fort Sumter began in 1829 on a sandbar which was transformed into a small island via tons of rock. Although unfinished at the start of the Civil War, the fort was still formidable with three story masonry walls and 60 cannon. After South Carolina seceded from the Union, a local US commander relocated his unit to Fort Sumter as it was more defensible than his prior post. When demands to evacuate were not heeded, Confederate forces bombarded the fort into submission and began the Civil War. The fort was repeatedly but unsuccessfully assaulted by the Union during the war and became a large pile of rubble. Following the conflict, Fort Sumter was partially rebuilt but not actively used. After serving minor defensive roles in World War I and II, it became a park in 1948.
There were good views of Charleston as well as an occasional dolphin encounter on the 30 minute ferry to the fort. The boat though was crowded. Depending on the ferry schedule, you will have either 1 hour at the fort or about 3.5 hours if you come back on a later boat. While 1 hour is too little time, 3.5 hours is way too much. Going with the 1 hour option meant having to hustle to see both the fort and the fort's museum; it’s doable but you may have to just skim the museum. A 10 minute ranger orientation talk on the island was uninteresting and can be skipped. Note to save some time for the museum at the main visitor center. Those displays provided good background on events leading up to the Civil War. While Fort Sumter was a potent symbol of resistance and rebellion, military and history buffs likely will find the range of fortifications and batteries at nearby Fort Moultrie to be of greater interest. The ferry ride itself was moderately enjoyable for the views of Charleston and being out on the water on a nice day.
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Gar the Bold
4/11/2014 3:59:02 PM
Makes me want to visit!
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