Fort Sumter - History and Facts | History Hit

Fort Sumter

Sullivan s Island, South Carolina, United States

Fort Sumter was the site where the American Civil War officially began on 12 April 1861.

Antara Bate

21 Jul 2021
Image Credit: George A.Kenna/

About Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter in South Carolina was originally built in the nineteenth century as part of the “Third System” plan to defend the coasts of America following the War of 1812 against the British. In fact, it would go on to become the site of the ignition of the American Civil War.

Fort Sumter history

Confederate forces fired the first shots of the Civil War upon Federal troops at Fort Sumter and the fort would continue to serve as the focal point in Charleston throughout the Civil War.

Build Up to the War
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln as the President of the United States in 1860, southern states began seceding from the Union, declaring a separate Confederate States of America. Whilst there were many reasons for the build up to this north-south conflict, the main issue was Lincoln’s opposition to slavery and in particular to legislation such as the Federal Fugitive Slave Act.

South Carolina declared its secession on 20 December 1860. Despite this, Fort Sumter was originally held by the Union under the command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson had moved his forces from the nearby Fort Moultrie to the previously sparsely defended Fort Sumter six days after the secession. This was seen as a hostile act by the Confederates.

The Siege
Tensions mounted over this move, resulting in a siege of Fort Sumter by the Confederates against the Union. Supplies at Fort Sumter began running low and, despite negotiations, an agreement failed to be reached.

The War Begins
On the morning of 12 April 1861, the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumter, signalling the start of the American Civil War. Following 34 hours of bombardment, the Union surrendered Fort Sumter. They would not recapture it for a further four years.

Fort Sumter today

Today, Fort Sumter is open to the public as part of the National Parks network. Visitors can hear a ten minute ranger talk about the site before embarking on a self-guided tour.

Getting to Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter is located in Charleston Harbor and is only accessible by the concession-operated tour boat. These ferries leave from two locations: Liberty Square Visitor Education Center in downtown Charleston and Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant.

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