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Fort Sumter National Monument

Photos and article by Kathleen Walls American Roads Travel Magazine

Fort Sumter 2.jpg (4121587 bytes)

Fort Sumter

When you say “Charleston” most people will automatically think “Civil War” and “Fort Sumter.” It was here that the conflagration turning brother against brother exploded into the most bloody warfare American soil has ever known. At the crack of dawn on April 12, 1861, Confederate General Pierre Beauregard, in command of 50 cannons and in direct order from President Jefferson Davis, opened fire on his former West Point Instructor and friend, Major Robert Anderson, commander of Union forces at Fort Sumter. On April 14th, the Stars and Bars was raised over the battered fort. The war for Southern Independence had officially begun.

The Confederates held the fort for exactly four years. On April 14,1865, Now Major General Anderson raised Old Glory over the battered fort. Grant put the 54th Massachusetts (Colored) Regiment, who had suffered many casualties in the attack on Fort Wagner (one of the batteries) in September of 1863, in charge of the fort. Many visitors have reported seeing apparitions of some of these African-American soldiers. Others have reported sounds of battle from the fort and the site where the former battery wharf once stood.

Another spirit reputed to roam the old fort is Daniel Hough, who was killed when his gun misfired as he was a member of the honor guard firing as the U.S. flag was lowered at Fort Sumter after Col. Anderson surrendered the fort. Hough’s burial at the fort was one of the last Union actions before their soldiers were evacuated. To balance this, visitors also report seeing the ghost of a Confederate soldier there also.

Sumter is a powerful reminder of our National’s history and the ironies of war.

As I looked out over Charleston Harbor, the captain explained the history of many of the structures I could see from the water.

One of the lesser known facts of the War Between the States occurred on a little island called Shute’s Folly Island in Charleston Harbor. Castle Pinckney was one of the forts designed to protect Charleston. It was built of brick and mortar shortly before the war of 1812. On December 27, 1860, just a week after South Carolina seceded from the Union, the Union force there was forced to retreat to Fort Sumter. It is not known whether Castle Pinckney ever actually fired a shot but it was the first Union fort to surrender to the Confederacy.

In the beginning of the war, Castle Pinckney was used as a Confederate prison. It was later returned to defensive service.

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One East Battery

One East Battery is a magnificent home visible from the harbor. It was built between 1858 and 1861. It is divided into condominiums today and the top floor unit sold just after Hurricane Hugo for 3.6 Million.

In February 1865, it had a front row seat to the battle. While the Confederates were evacuating the city, a large gun at the nearby Battery blew up, severely damaging the home.  During the evacuation, a guest at the house was Mary Boykin Chestnut author of A Diary from Dixie, which gave a southern woman's perspective of the events and people of the Civil War.

The history of the house involves one other famous person related to the Civil War. In 1926, it was purchased by Mrs. Robert E. Lee, III, wife of the grandson of General Robert E. Lee.

Charleston was under siege over 500 days: the longest siege in North American history.

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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