Saturday, December 31, 2011

Visiting Fort Sumter


This morning, the "Spirit of the Lowcountry" took us away from the shores of Charleston and over to historic Fort Sumter, best known as the site where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

A friend, who had lived in Charleston for many years, once described Fort Sumter as a "big rock" in the middle of Charleston Harbor. Needless to say, I was eager to find out for myself how accurate her description.

On the site, I learned that Fort Sumter  was built after the War of 1812. It was named for General Thomas Sumter, a hero of the Revolutionary War, as one of a series of fortifications along our nation's southern coast. When construction began in 1827, more than 70,000 tons of granite were imported from New England to build up a sand bar at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. 

The fort is a five-sided brick structure. Its walls are five feet thick and stand 50 feet over the low-tide mark. Though it was never filled to capacity, it was built to house 650 men and 135 guns.

When I walked into Fort Sumter, I had planned to spend a lot of time walking around, checking out the fort's museum and studying seriously the artifacts. But, it was not to be. 

My two-year-old grandson, Andrew, became immediately drawn to a couple of cannons situated right inside the entrance. So much so that he refused to wander away and around. 

"OK," I told the rest of my family. "I'll stay here and keep an eye on him. When he gets bored, we'll catch up with you." 

An hour later, I was still sitting there, and Andrew and a dozen other small children from the boat were still running back and forth between the two cannons and touching all parts within reach.

They were too young to understand exactly what they were playing with or the significance of where those cannons were situated. But, nonetheless, our trip to Fort Sumter proved to be a wonderful outing - an important footnote in my family's history.


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