Fort Sumter National Monument

The American Civil War was sparked in large part by the firing of the first shot from Fort Sumter, a historic fort located on an island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort, which was built after the War of 1812, was designed to protect the harbor’s approach.

When Confederate forces insisted that Fort Sumter be surrendered in April 1861, tensions between the North and the South finally erupted. Union troops, led by Major Robert Anderson, defied orders and were subjected to a 34-hour artillery barrage from the Confederacy. The Civil War officially began on April 13, 1861, when bullets were fired at Fort Sumter.

The Union soldiers eventually capitulated to the unrelenting attack, and the fort was taken over by the Confederate army. Both the North and the South were enraged by the surrender of Fort Sumter, and the ensuing conflict would last for years.

Despite Union efforts to retake Charleston, Fort Sumter remained in Confederate hands until 1865, when Union forces headed by General William T. Sherman retook it. Recapturing the fort was a turning point in the war that contributed to the final capitulation of the Confederacy.

The National Park Service is now responsible for maintaining Fort Sumter as a National Monument. A ferry takes visitors to the island, where they can examine the restored fortifications and hear about the events that occurred there during the Civil War.

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