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Fort Sumter
IUCN Category V (Protected Landscape/Seascape)
Fort Sumter is located in the United States
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Location in the United States
Fort Sumter is located in South Carolina
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Location in South Carolina
Location Charleston Harbor, Charleston, South Carolina
Area 234.74 acres (95.00 ha)
Authorized April 28, 1948 (1948-April-28)
Visitors 857,883
Website Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
Fort Sumter
Built 1811
NRHP reference No. 66000101
Added to NRHP October 15, 1966

Fort Sumter is an island fortification (fort) in Charleston, South Carolina. The Battle of Fort Sumter began the American Civil War. On April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on the fort. The Union garrison, under the command of Major Robert Anderson, surrendered the fort 34 hours later. Union forces tried to take the fort back several times during the Civil War. The fort was abandoned by Confederate forces when the Union Army, under the command of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, captured Charleston in February 1865.


On December 5, 1815, President James Madison presented his idea of using forts as coastal defenses to Congress. He thought it would be a good idea to be able to defend the shores of the United States if necessary. Congress agreed, and construction began on these forts in 1816. The system of forts was known as the "Third Coastal Defense System." One of the locations selected was in Charleston Harbor. In 1829, construction began on a shoal in the harbor about one mile west of Fort Moultrie. Over the next 16 years, a 2.5-acre artificial island was created using 99,000 tons of rock and stone. The fort was designed to hold 650 officers and soldiers with 135 guns mounted on three rows, one above the next. All the guns would point toward the harbor. The fort was named for Brigadier General Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero.

The fort was about 90% complete when work stopped after South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860. In the early hours of April 12, 1861, a mortar shell exploded over the fort, starting the Civil War. During the war, Fort Sumter remained in Confederate hands. From 1863 to 1865, Union forces attacked the fort. For 587 days, Confederate soldiers held onto the fort, although by 1865, the fort had been destroyed by Union bombardments, and the Confederate army was forced to abandon it.

In 1870, the work of clearing the rubble started. The rebuilding of the fort was directed by Union General Quincy A. Gillmore. He had commanded the Union guns during the siege of the fort in 1861. But in 1876, the work stopped, and the fort began to slowly deteriorate again. From 1876 to 1898, the fort served as a lighthouse.

In 1898, when the Spanish–American War started, Army engineers began rebuilding Fort Sumter again with a massive concrete battery (section of weapons) in the center of the fort. It mounted two 12-inch gun M1895 coastal guns. The construction was not completed until after the war. During World War I, the two-gun battery (called "Battery Huger") was manned by the U.S. Army. By World War II, the guns were out-of-date. They were finally removed in 1943. Later in World War II, it became an Anti-aircraft battery. In 1948, the National Park Service took possession of the fort.

Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort sumter (aerial view)
Fort Sumter National Monument

Today, the restored Fort Sumter, along with the Visitor's Center, Education Center (both in Charleston), and Fort Moultrie (in Sullivan) are popular tourist attractions. The fort is accessible only by special ferries that depart from Liberty Square. The ride to the island takes about 30 minutes. There is also a ferry service from Patriots Point which has parking for recreational and taller vehicles. The monument is open to visitors 362 days a year. The restored fort is one level instead of the former three levels. Several of the brick walls still have artillery projectiles stuck in the masonry. The park museum has interesting artifacts, including a scale model of the original fort and the original 33-star U.S. flag that flew during the first bombardment. Also on display is the original flag of the South Carolina militia (called the Palmetto Guard) who took possession of the fort after the Union surrender.

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Interesting Facts about Fort Sumter

  • The War of 1812 showed the need for Fort Sumter.
  • The fort was named after General Thomas Sumter, who served in the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War.
  • The construction at the fort was stalled for seven years because of questions about who owned the land upon which the fort was to be built.
  • Fort Sumter was not complete by the time the Civil War began.
  • There were no casualties in the 1861 attack on Fort Sumter.
  • A ceremonial cannon shot killed Private Daniel Hough of the 1st U.S. Artillery as the Union Flag was being lowered.
  • After the Union regained control of the fort on April 14, 1865, they raised their flag over the fort. This happened on the same day that Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theater and exactly four years after the flag was lowered in 1861.

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Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Fort Sumter para niños

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