Fort Sumter

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Fort Sumter (1842-1947) - A Third System masonry fort begun in 1829 and unfinished when the U.S. Civil War began in 1861. Located in Charleston Harbor, Charleston County, South Carolina. Attacked by Confederate forces on 12 Apr 1861, marking the beginning of the U.S. Civil War. Named after General Thomas Sumter, Revolutionary War Hero. Fort Sumter became a National Historic Monument in 1948.

Fort Sumter circa 1861.
Fort Sumter 1861 in Confederate Hands.
Fort Sumter External View 2010.

Third System (1816-1867)

Part of the Harbor Defense of Charleston. Established as one of the forts protecting the entrance to Charleston Harbor along with Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney.

The land for Fort Sumter was procured on 21 Dec 1836 by the resolution of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Construction on the Third System masonry fort begun in 1829.

Fort Sumter was built upon a sandbar in Charleston Harbor. Seventy thousand tons of New England granite were imported to build the base of the structure. The fort itself was a five-sided brick structure, 50' high and 170' by 190', with walls 5' thick. It was designed to house 650 men and 135 guns in three tiers of gun emplacements, it was never filled to capacity with guns or men.

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

Fort Sumter 1864 ruins

The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on 12 Apr 1861 marked the first battle and the real beginning of the U.S. Civil War. The shelling of the fort continued for 34 hours. The fort commander, Maj. Robert Anderson, surrendered on 13 Apr 1861 and the fort remained in Confederate hands until 22 Feb 1865.

During the war, the fort suffered considerable damage from Union bombardments and it is estimated that 3,500 tons of shells were rained down on the fort just between Apr 1863 and Feb 1865. At the end of the war, only one wall remained standing with the others just jagged piles of rubble.

After the U.S. Civil War Fort Sumter was reconstructed but reduced to a two-tier structure. The first tier was restored with 100-pounder Parrott rifles. The fort was unmanned in the years between 1876 and 1897.

Endicott Period (1890-1910)

Fort Sumter 1900 Fifty Man Barracks

Construction of the 12" Battery Huger began in 1897 and was transferred for service on 15 Jun 1899. This was the only Endicott Period gun battery built on Fort Sumter. The battery was constructed across the center of the parade. Battery Huger was a bit unusual because it had two different carriages for the 12" guns, one was a Barbette carriage and the other was a disappearing carriage.

Post construction was very limited on Fort Sumter during the Endicott Period. The post operated on a detachment basis as a sub-post of Fort Moultrie. The most substantial building on the post was a fifty-man barracks constructed in 1900. That barracks were torn down and replaced by a six-man detachment barracks in 1914. There was also a caretakers cottage/NCO quarters on the post.

Fort Sumter Endicott Period Battery (edit list)
Click on Battery links below
No. Caliber Type Mount Service Years Battery Cost Notes
Battery Huger 1
1897-1898-1899-1943 $ 97,200
Source: CDSG

World War I (1917-1918)

The post was manned during World War I by a small garrison. To support the small garrison, two sets of temporary WWI barracks were constructed on what was left of the parade. The two barracks included officer's quarters, officer and enlisted mess, a kitchen, and latrines. The 1921 plan still shows the temporary buildings. The temporary buildings were removed later in the 1920s.

Also shown on the 1921 plan is a trestle walkway leading out to a single 60" searchlight over the water.

Fort Sumter Plan 1921 Showing Temporary World War I Barracks
Fort Sumter Aerial View Showing Temporary World War I Barracks

World War II (1941-1945)

During World War II, two 90mm AMTB guns were placed in Battery AMTB - Fort Sumter for motor torpedo boat defense and anti-aircraft defense. Battery AMTB - Fort Sumter was the only active battery on the island after Battery Huger was deactivated in 1943. Only the two fixed guns of the AMTB battery were emplaced, the two mobile guns remained in storage at Fort Moultrie. Two 60" searchlights were installed on steel towers to support the AMTB battery.

Just as in World War I, two temporary barracks were built to support a small garrison at Fort Sumter along with a separate mess hall and latrine.

Fort Sumter World War II Battery (edit list)
Click on Battery links below
No. Caliber Type Mount Service Years Battery Cost Notes
Battery AMTB - Fort Sumter 2
Fixed Pedestal M3
Mobile M1A1
1943-1943-1943-1946 $ 13,471
Source: CDSG
Fort Sumter Plan 1945 Showing Temporary WWII Barracks & Mess.

Fort Sumter Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1860-12-26 1861-04-01 Major Anderson, Robert 406 Forced to surrender to Confederates
at the start of the U.S. Civil War
Transferred his command from Fort Moultrie
1863-09-04 1864-05  Lt. Col. Elliott, Stephen N/A Confederate commander.
1864-05 1864-07-20  Capt. Mitchel, John C. N/A Confederate commander. Killed in the third bombardment of the fort.
1864-07-20 1865-02-17  Capt. Huguenin, Thomas A. N/A Last Confederate commander. He evacuated the fort but did not surrender it.
Dates are formatted in yyyy-mm-dd to sort correctly.
The Cullum Number is the graduation order from the United States Military Academy by year and class rank and links to a page for the officer on the website version of the Cullum Register. Listings without a Cullum Number indicate that the person was not a graduate of the United States Military Academy.

Current Status

Fort Sumter became Fort Sumter National Historic Monument in 1948. The Fort can be reached by a 30-minute boat ride from Charleston, South Carolina. Many mounted and unmounted pre Endicott Period guns and many interpretive displays. Must see.

Location: Charleston Harbor, Charleston County, South Carolina.

Maps & Images

Lat: 32.75234 Long: -79.87465

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Visited: 23 Jan 2010

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