About Fort Sumter


It’s April 12th, 1861: Abraham Lincoln has just won the 1860 Presidential election and Southern fears that slavery will be abolished have reached a peak. Extremist Southern Democrats known as “Fire Eaters” have triumphed the Ordinance of Secession. Confederate forces fire upon Fort Sumter, demanding that Union troops vacate the island. Over 4,000 mortar shells destroy the fort upon their refusal.

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 General

Meanwhile, genteel Charlestonians pack the city rooftops to observe the pyrotechnics. Danger aside, they row cheering into a boat-packed harbor, not knowing that their jubilation will turn to despair as the war wages on.

Union soldiers surrender Fort Sumter the following day. Though this first battle was largely bloodless, it began the deadliest conflict in American history.


The National Park Rangers at Fort Sumter are friendly and knowledgeable, available to answer all of your questions about the historic Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.

Fort Sumter evokes different emotions in each tour guest, American citizen or foreign visitor. The 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. Yet somehow, from its ashes arose a country stronger and more united today.

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.”

Forst Sumter canons

A visit to the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park will also provide unlimited photo opportunities for you, your group, or your family. Many tour guests agree that historic Charleston is most beautiful from the water, when dolphin are common and sunsets showcase all their splendor.

USS Yorktown and Fort Sumter Tour
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