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Cannons on display at Fort Sumter National Monument in South Carolina

South Carolina

Discover the History of South Carolina at Fort Sumter

By: Christi Womack

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  • States:
    South Carolina

Fort Sumter National Monument, located in Charleston Harbor, is best known for the role it played in the American Civil War.

In fact, the first shot of the war was fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, but this historic site represents much more than just the beginning of one of the USA’s most tragic wars.

Ferry Ride Through Charleston Harbor

The trip to Fort Sumter, which is on an island off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, begins with a 30-minute ferry ride. Access the ferry in Mount Pleasant at Patriots Point or near the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center on the Liberty Square waterfront. The education center prepares visitors for Fort Sumter tours with exhibits covering events leading up to the bombardment of the fort, which sparked the Civil War. In addition to a narrator sharing more information and history about the fort, the ferry ride provides a breathtaking view of Charleston’s iconic Battery. You may even get to see dolphins playing in the harbor.

Aerial view of Fort Sumter overlooking the Charleston Harbor

Aerial view of Fort Sumter overlooking the Charleston Harbor
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Touring the Fort’s Remains

After arriving at Fort Sumter, you will have the opportunity to see and learn about the fort, its history and the events leading up to the war. The fort is named after Gen. Thomas Sumter, a famous Revolutionary War hero, and it was originally built in reaction to the War of 1812. During that time, no one had any inclination the fort would be used to protect and defend Americans from other Americans. There also is a museum that offers visitors a glimpse into South Carolina’s rich history. The displays take you through the engineering and strategy behind the construction of the fort and help you imagine what it would have been like to be there during the war.

Park ranger leading a ceremony about the U.S. flag at Fort Sumter National Monument

Park ranger leading a ceremony about the U.S. flag at Fort Sumter National Monument
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Getting There

Fly in to Charleston International Airport (CFHS), where rental cars, buses, shuttles and ride services are available. It is a 15-minute drive to downtown Charleston.