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South Carolina

Experience the Deep History of Charleston at Fort Sumter

Charleston, South Carolina is known for not only its stunning antebellum architecture, sprawling plantations and gorgeous waterfront, but Charleston is also known for its rich and interesting history, reaching back to Civil War times. In fact, the first shots of the Civil War were fired off in Charleston in 1861, a year after Lincoln’s inauguration, kickstarting what is now known as the deadliest war in the history of the U.S.

Fort Sumter marks the place where these first shots were fired many years ago. Fort Sumter is a man-made island, built in 1829 through an initiative by the U.S. Congress to protect the Charleston Harbor. At the time, the fort was occupied by Union troops. Confederate troops, looking to secede, began firing on April 12, 1861 to demand that Union troops leave. After a day of war, the Union troops left the fort in surrender.

Today, Fort Sumter is preserved as a national monument, attracting visitors from around the world to take in this historic scene where the Civil War began. The Fort Sumter National Monument not only serves as a reminder of the divided past, but serves as a celebration of the mended and unified present we now know.

The Fort Sumter National Monument is a must-see when visiting Charleston. Because the fort is located on an island, the park and monument is accessible only by boat. Fort Sumter Tours is the authorized concessioner by the National Parks Service that provides in-depth tours and ferry rides over to the island for an up-close and personal view of the fort. The entire tour is a little over 2 hours, with a 30 minute ferry ride to the island.

In addition to walking through the Fort, you will get a behind the scenes look at the events that lead up to that historic day at Fort Sumter as well as receive the opportunity to see USS Yorktown, a U.S. naval ship that served during WWII. The ferries take off from two spots-- one in downtown Charleston at Liberty Square and the other pick up is at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant. There are currently two ferry tour times, taking off from Liberty Square, at 11 am and 2:30 pm every day as well as a 1:00 pm tour taking off from Patriots Point.

The tour will provide you with in-depth information into the history of the Civil War and the attack on Fort Sumter. In addition to learning about the history, the ferry ride gives you the perfect opportunity to spot dolphins along the way! Tour guides and National Park Rangers at the Fort will answer any questions you may have and bring this amazing piece of history to life. Click here for ticket prices. Prices and tour times subject to change.

The tour also includes time to browse the gift shop or enjoy a snack at the concession stand. For more information on the tour itinerary and pricing to visit Fort Sumter, click here.


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