March, 2011 – Charleston, South Carolina – Fort Sumter

Posted on November 17, 2011

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The first shots of the Civil War were fired here at Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, there was considerable fear and outrage throughout the slave-owning South over the new president’s stance on slavery and the question of state’s rights.

In an effort to protect their livelihood and way of life, representatives of the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas met at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861, with the intent of forming a new republic.

Four days later, eleven Southern states declared the establishment of the Confederate States of America, which the United States regarded as a treasonous action.  Obviously, there was going to be War.

The fighting started on April 12, 1861.

Confederate forces fired on U. S. troops occupying Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, one of several coastal fortifications built by the Federal government following the War of 1812.

After 34  hours of continuous shelling, the fort’s upper two levels were in ruins and the Federals, nearly out of ammunition and other supplies, surrendered.  The fort remained in Confederate hands until Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s advance into South Carolina finally forced the evacuation of Charleston, and Fort Sumter, on Feb. 17, 1865.

Today, only the first level of the fort remains, beautifully preserved by the National Parks Service.

We visited the Museum at the dock where the tour boat departs, then hopped aboard and traveled out to the island to visit his historic site.  Standing beside a cannon, staring out at the Charleston shoreline, you could almost hear the roar of battle.

But with a little imagination, you could just barely hear something else – faint laughter and the clink of ice cubes.

In Mary Chesnut’s famous Civil War diary, she describes seeing the citizens of Charleston sitting on their balconies drinking salutes to the start of hostilities.

If only they’d known how little there would be to celebrate in the coming years.

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