Every war starts with a single shot. The bullet that began the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter.
The fort wasn’t yet finished or fully equipped when South Carolina seceded in 1860. But Major General Robert Anderson felt the pentagonal, Third System structure would be easier to defend than nearby Fort Moultrie, where his 1st U.S. Artillery was stationed.
On the day after Christmas, Anderson quietly moved 127 men to the new fort without informing his superiors. For three months, Anderson refused to evacuate Fort Sumter, despite demands from North and South. On April 12, 1861, the first Confederate shot crossed over the wall.
The siege lasted 34 hours. By some accounts, the residents of Charleston’s Battery watched the battle from their balconies, cheering on the Southern soldiers. On April 13, Anderson surrendered. The Civil War had begun.
Fort Sumter National Monument explores the tensions between the states that led up to that first fateful shot. Exhibits at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center on Concord Street describe the fort’s construction and layout, the battle, and the fort’s role during the war.
Situated on an island in Charleston harbor, Fort Sumter is accessible only by boat or a ferry from the Education Center. The fort offers exceptional views of the city.
Did You Know:
When the war ended, Major General Anderson was invited back to Fort Sumter to raise the U.S. flag for the first time in four years. You can see that flag at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center.