About Fort Sumter The Fort Sumter Experience – Then and Now

Then – The History of Fort Sumter

It’s April 12, 1861, and Abraham Lincoln has won the 1860 presidential election. Fears that slavery will be abolished have reached a peak in the South. Extremist Southern Democrats have passed the Ordinance of Secession in Charleston. After the demand that Union troops vacate the island was ignored, at 4 am fire upon Fort Sumter. Over 4,000 mortar shells strike the fort before the battle concludes. Maj. Robert Anderson surrenders.

The scene is intense.

“The roaring and crackling of the flames, the dense masses of whirling smoke, the bursting of the enemy’s shells were exploding in the burning rooms. The sound of masonry falling in every direction made the Fort a pandemonium.”

Abner Doubleday

Union soldiers evacuate Fort Sumter the following day. Though this first battle was bloodless, it launched the deadliest conflict in American history. The roots of that conflict are buried deep within the stories of the development of the United States. Fort Sumter would continue to serve as the focal point in Charleston throughout the Civil War.

Now – Your Self-Guided Tour

On the ferry ride to Fort Sumter, you will hear interesting and important historical facts to prepare you for your visit. Once on the fort, National Park Service rangers offer an optional 10-minute orientation on the history of the fort and how you can best maximize your visit. Enjoy the museum filled with historical artifacts and detailed information on the construction and history of the fort. Stroll the grounds, see the historic cannons and wayside markers, while experiencing the incredible views of the city from the top of the fort.

Fort Sumter evokes different emotions in each tour guest, American citizen, or foreign visitor. This national park represents the beginning of the deadliest and most divisive conflict in American history, a civil war that pitted countryman against countryman and brother against brother.

As Ken Burns, director of the award-winning PBS series, “The Civil War,” defines it:

“The Civil War was the greatest event in American history, where, paradoxically, in order to become one, we had to tear ourselves in two.”

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