Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day, Part Four - Fort Sumter, South Carolina

Continuing our special Memorial Day series, there are few places in American that hold a history as signficiant as Fort Sumter.

The focal point of a national monument, the battered fortress is located on a small island in Charleston Harbor. Tour boats travel out to the fort from both the Charleston waterfront and nearby Patriot Point Military Museum daily.

During the winter of 1860-1861, the eyes of America and the world were focused on Fort Sumter. South Carolina declared her independence from the Union in December of 1860 and Major Robert Anderson quickly moved his small garrison of U.S. troops from their more exposed position at nearby Fort Moultrie to the isolated fortress in the harbor. State officials demanded that Anderson surrender the fort, but he declined and put his men to work making rapid improvements to Fort Sumter.

Tension grew over the coming months. Other Southern states seceeded and joined with South Carolina in forming the Confederate States of America. General P.G.T. Beauregard was sent to command Southern forces gathering around Charleston Harbor.

The final demand for the surrender of Fort Sumter came on April 11, 1861. Anderson once again refused. The next morning at 4:30 a.m., a mortar shell soared high into the air and exploded over the fort. One by one other Confederate guns joined the action. The first battle of the Civil War had begun.

Fort Sumter surrendered one day later. Not a single man on either side was lost in the battle. Over the next four years, however, hundreds of thousands of Americans would die in the most costly war in American history.

To learn more about Fort Sumter National Monument, please visit

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