Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

Infobox Protected area
name = Fort Sumter National Monument
iucn_category = V

caption =
locator_x = 235
locator_y = 120
location = Charleston County, South Carolina, USA
nearest_city = Charleston, South Carolina
lat_degrees = 32
lat_minutes = 45
lat_seconds = 8
lat_direction = N
long_degrees =79
long_minutes = 52
long_seconds = 29
long_direction = W
area = 199 acres (0.80 km²)
established = April 28, 1948
visitation_num = 319,147
visitation_year = 2000
governing_body = National Park Service

Fort Sumter, a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston harbor, South Carolina, was named after General Thomas Sumter. The fort is best known as the site where the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.


Fort Sumter was built after the War of 1812 as one of a series of fortifications on the southern U.S. coast. Construction began in 1827, and the structure was still unfinished in 1860, when the conflict began. Seventy thousand tons of granite were imported from New England to build up a sand bar in the entrance to Charleston harbor, which the site dominates; The fort was a five-sided brick structure, 170 to convert|190|ft|m long, with walls five feet thick, standing convert|50|ft|m over the low tide mark. It was designed to house 650 men and 135 guns in three tiers of gun emplacements, although it was never filled near its full capacities.

On December 26, 1860, five days after South Carolina declared its secession, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated his two companies (127 men, 13 of them musicians) of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter without official authorization or obedience to orders from Washington [Official Record Series 1- Volume 1- Chapter 1- page 117] [Official Records Series 1 - Volume 1- Chapter 1- Page 103] [Robert Anderson to Rev. R. B. Duane, December 30, 1860] [Robert Anderson to Robert N. Gourdin, December 27, 1860.] . He thought that providing a stronger defense would delay a Rebel attack. The Fort was not yet complete at the time and fewer than half of the cannons that should have been there were available due to military downsizing by James Buchanan. Over the next few months, repeated calls for the United States evacuation of Fort Sumter [Official Records Series 1 - Volume 1- Chapter 1- Page 13] from the government of South Carolina and later Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard were ignored. United States attempts to resupply and reinforce the garrison were repulsed on January 9, 1861 when the first shots of the war prevented the steamer Star of the West, a ship hired by the United States to transport troops and supplies to Fort Sumter, from completing the task. After realizing that Anderson's command would run out of food by April 15, 1861, , sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities.

A special military decoration, known as the Gillmore Medal, was later issued to all Union service members who had performed duty in Fort Sumter during the opening battle of the American Civil War.

The Fort Sumter Flag became a popular patriotic symbol after Maj. Anderson returned North with it. The flag is still displayed in the fort's museum.

Union Siege of Fort Sumter

Union efforts to retake Charleston Harbor began on April 7, 1863, when Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont commander of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron led the ironclad frigate "New Ironsides", the tower ironclad "Keokuk", and the monitors "Weehawken", "Passaic". "Montauk", "Patapsco", "Nantucket", "Catskill", and "Nahant" in an attack against the harbor’s defenses. The attack was unsuccessful, the "New Ironsides" never effectively engaged, and the ironclads fired only 154 rounds, while receiving 2,209 from the Confederate defenders Harv |Wise|1994| p=30. Due to damage received in the attack, the "Keokuk" sank the next day, convert|1400|yd off the southern tip of Morris Island. Over the next month, working at night to avoid the attention of the Federal squadron, the Confederates salvaged the "Keokuk’s" two XI-inch Dahlgren guns Harv |Ripley|1984| pp=93–6. One of the Dahlgren guns was placed in Fort Sumter.

The Confederates, in the mean time, were strengthening Fort Sumter. A workforce of just under 500 slaves, under the supervision of Confederate army engineers, were filling casemates with sand, protecting the gorge wall with sandbags, and building new traverse [ Traverses] , Civil War Fortifications dictionary.] , [ blindages] , and [ bombproofs] . Some of Fort Sumter’s artillery had been removed, but 40 pieces still were mounted. Fort Sumter’s guns that weighed the most were mounted on the barbette, the fort’s highest level, where they had wide angles of fire and could fire down on approaching ships. The barbette was also more exposed to enemy gunfire than the casemates in the two lower levels of the fort.

Armament Fort Sumter, August 17, 1863

After the devastating bombardment, both General Quincy A. Gillmore and Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, now commanding the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, determined to launch a boat assault on Fort Sumter for the night of September 8–9, 1863. Cooperation between the Army and Navy were poor, Dahlgren refusing to place his sailors and marines under the command of an army officer. So two flotillas set out towards Fort Sumter that night. The army flotilla was detained off Morris Island by the low tide. By the time they could proceed, the navy assault had already been defeated and the army flotilla returned to shore.

The Navy’s assault involved 400 sailors and marines in 25 boats. The operation was a fiasco from beginning to end. Poor reconnaissance, planning and communication all characterized the operation. Commander Thomas H. Stevens, commanding the monitor "Patapsco", was placed in charge of the assault. When Commander Stevens protested that he “knew nothing of [the assault’s] organization “ and “made some remonstrances on this grounds and others.” Dahlgren replied “There is nothing but a corporal’s guard [about 6–10 men] in the fort, and all we have to do is go and take possession.” Harv |Stevens|1902| p=633. This underestimation of the Confederate forces on Dahlgren’s part may explain why he was hostile to a joint operation wishing to reserve the credit for the victory to the Navy. Less than half of the boats landed. Most of the boats that did land landed on the right flank or right gorge angle, rather than on the gorge where there was a passable [ breach] . The Union sailors and marines who did land could not scale the wall. The Confederates fired upon the landing party and as well as throwing hand grenades and masonry. The men in the boats that had not landed fired muskets and revolvers blindly at the fort, endangering the landing party more than the garrison. The landing party took shelter in shell holes in the wall of the fort. In response to a signal rocket fired by the garrison, Fort Johnson and the Confederate gunboat "Chicora" opened fire upon the boats and landing party. The boats that could withdraw withdrew, and the landing party surrendered. The Union casualties were 8 killed, 19 wounded, and 105 captured (including 15 of the wounded). The Confederates did not suffer any casualties in the assault.

After the unsuccessful boat assault, the bombardment recommenced and proceeded with varying degree of intensity, doing more damage to Fort Sumter until the end of the war. The garrison continued to suffer casualties. The Confederates continued to salvage guns and other material from the ruins and harassed the Union batteries on Morris Island with sharpshooters. The Confederates mounted four convert|10|in|mm|sing=on columbiads, one convert|8|in|mm|sing=on columbiad rifled, and two rifled 42-pounders, in the left face, bottom tier casemates. These guns did not fire in anger. Fort Sumter did not fall until General William T. Sherman’s advance through South Carolina finally forced the Confederates to evacuate Charleston on February 17, 1865. The Federal government formally took possession of Fort Sumter on February 22, 1865 with a gala flag raising ceremony

After the war

When the Civil War ended, Fort Sumter was in ruins. The U.S. Army worked to restore it as a useful military installation. The damaged walls were re-leveled to a lower height and partially rebuilt. The third tier of gun emplacements was removed. Eleven of the original first-tier gun rooms were restored with 100-pounder Parrott rifles.

From 1876 to 1897, Fort Sumter was used only as an unmanned lighthouse station. The start of the Spanish-American War prompted renewed interest in its military use and reconstruction commenced on the facilities that had further eroded over time. A new massive concrete blockhouse-style installation was built in 1898 inside the original walls. Named "Battery Huger" in honor of Revolutionary War General Isaac Huger, it never saw combat.

During World War I, a small garrison manned the two twelve-inch (305 mm) rifles at Battery Huger. Until World War II, the fort was unused except as a tourist destination; two 90 mm antiaircraft guns were then installed. Fort Sumter became a U.S. National Monument in 1948.

Today, administered by the U.S. National Park Service, Fort Sumter is a popular tourist attraction, reached by a thirty-minute boat ride from Charleston.




last =Detzer
first =David R.
year =2001
title =Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War
place =New York
publisher =Harcourt

cite journal
last =Elliott
first =Stephen, Jr.
title =Detailed report, September 12, 1863
journal =Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I.
volume =14
pages =637–9
publisher = Government Printing Office
location =Washington, D.C.
year =1902
url =
accessdate =2007-11-18

last =Ripley
first =Warren
year =1984
title =Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War
place =Charleston, S.C.
publisher =The Battery Press

cite journal
last =Scott
first =Robert N.
title =Return of Casualties in the Confederate forces at Fort Sumter, August 12 – December 11 (1863)
journal =The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I.
volume =XXVIII
issue =Part I
pages =650
publisher = Government Printing Office
location =Washington, D.C.
year =1890
url =
accessdate =2007-11-05

cite journal
last =Stevens
first =Thomas H..
title =Delayed report, September 28, 1865
journal =Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I.
volume =14
pages =633
publisher = Government Printing Office
location =Washington, D.C.
year =1902
url =
accessdate =2007-11-18

cite journal
last =Turner
first =John W.
title =Reports
journal =The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I.
volume =XXVIII
issue =Part I
pages =212–25
publisher = Government Printing Office
location =Washington, D.C.
year =1890
url =
accessdate =2007-11-05

last =Wise
first =Stephen R.
year =1994
title =Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863
place =Columbia, S.C.
publisher =University of South Carolina Press

External links

* [ National Park Service's Official Website for Fort Sumter]
* [ Historic Charleston's Religious and Community Buildings, a National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" Travel Itinerary]
* [ Timeline and narrative of the battle of Fort Sumter]
* [ Major Robert Anderson's telegram announcing the surrender of Fort Sumter] — Image of original telegram
* [ Battle of Fort Sumter] — Historical Preservation Site
* [ Crisis at Fort Sumter] — Multimedia teaching tool from Tulane University including text from historical documents
* [ Charleston, SC Insider's Guide] — Short article about Ft. Sumter for travelers
* [ Extensive collection of photos and drawings from The Library of Congress]
* [ The Civil War Field Fortifications Website]
* [ Charleston SC Real Estate] — Webcam provides live streaming video of Fort Sumter

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fort Sumter — National Monument Luftaufnahme von Fort Sumter …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Fort sumter — Le fort avant la bataille Maquette de Fort Sumter en 1861 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fort Sumter — [sum′tər] n. [after Gen T. Sumter, 1734 1832] fort in Charleston harbor, S.C., where Confederate troops fired the first shots of the Civil War (April 12, 1861) …   English World dictionary

  • Fort Sumter — military installation in South Carolina, U.S., begun in 1827, named for U.S. Revolutionary War officer and Congressman Thomas Sumter (1734 1832), “The Carolina Gamecock.” The family name is attested from 1206, from O.Fr. sometier driver of a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Fort Sumter — era una de las guarniciones de la bahía de Charleston (Carolina del Sur). El 10 de abril de 1861, el General de Brigada Beauregard, en nombre de las fuerzas confederadas de Charleston solicitó la rendición de la guarnición unionista del fuerte.… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Fort Sumter — Monument national du Fort Sumter Présentation Propriétaire National Park Service Protection Monument national (1948) National Register of Historic Places …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Fort Sumter — Monumento nacional (Fort Sumter National Monument) Categoría UICN V (Paisajes terrestres/marinos protegidos) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Fort Sumter — a fort in SE South Carolina, in the harbor of Charleston: its bombardment by the Confederates opened the Civil War on April 12, 1861. * * * Fort Sumter [Fort Sumter] the US ↑fort on a small island in the harbour of ↑Charleston, ↑South Carolina,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Fort Sumter — Fort Sum′ter n. amh. geg a fort in SE South Carolina, in the harbor of Charleston: its bombardment by the Confederates opened the Civil War on April 12, 1861 …   From formal English to slang

  • Fort Sumter — a fort in SE South Carolina, in the harbor of Charleston: its bombardment by the Confederates opened the Civil War on April 12, 1861. * * * …   Universalium