Charleston and The Start of The American Civil War

We started our day early by taking a ferry to Fort Sumter, which is only accessible by boat. Of course, this was the sight Eitan was most excited about as it is where the civil war started and it is packed with military history.

The visitor center has a small museum, we did not arrive with enough time to fully visit the exhibit as we needed to ride the boat soon.

Ariela was very interested in history.

The boat is a nice ride and there is a good intro to the history of Fort Sumter while in there.

Ariela liked to lie on the floor, which had an opening to see the view.

The ride takes about 1 hour and has very pretty views of Charleston harbor and other sights.

Fort Sumter is an island fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina most famous for being the site of the first shots of the Civil War (1861-65). Originally constructed in 1829 as a coastal garrison, U.S. Major Robert Anderson occupied the unfinished fort in December 1860 following South Carolina’s secession from the Union, initiating a standoff with the state’s militia forces.

The first tour of the day has the honor of participating in the raising the flag ceremony led by the park rangers. As a full “newish” American, Eitan of course participated with Ariela on one hand and the flag on the other. It was a very nice experience.

After the flag ceremony, the ranger gives a more detailed history lesson. While we would have loved to hear it all, it was about 100° F with a 100% humidity outside, so not many people stayed for the full explanation (us included). Lucky us to be visiting during a heat wave.

When President Abraham Lincoln announced plans to resupply the fort, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, kicking off the Battle of Fort Sumter (and technically kicking off the civil war).

After a 34-hour exchange of artillery fire, Anderson and 86 soldiers surrendered the fort on April 13. Confederate troops then occupied Fort Sumter for nearly four years, resisting several bombardments by Union forces before abandoning the garrison prior to William T. Sherman’s capture of Charleston in February 1865.

After the Civil War, Fort Sumter was restored by the U.S. military and manned during the Spanish-American War (1898), World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45). It’s now a National Historic Site.

Due to the heat, we retreated to the small museum exhibit with mankind’s best invention: Air Conditioning.

The exhibit is fantastic and explains the history with great detail. Unfortunately, the tours are pretty badly planned and they only allow you to be at the fort for around 1 hour, so there is really no time to read most of these exhibits.

They had the original flag flown during the battle!

Ariela was very entertained with her new friend.

On the way back we were able to see the USS Yorktown. This ship was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy and also helped recover the astronauts and capsule of the Apollo 8.

Were also saw some dolphins which Eitan spotted.

After the fort, we had lunch at an amazing restaurant that was converted from a church. The restaurant had the whole “Art of War” book transcribed into the ceiling (not sure why). Food was pretty good too.

The next stop was the Slave Mart Museum. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take photos inside for some reason. It’s not like they have priceless works of art. Its just a few posters with information.

Possibly the only known building used as a slave auction site in South Carolina still in existence, the Old Slave Mart was once a part of a larger complex of buildings that consisted of a yard enclosed by a high brick wall, a four-story brick building known as a barracoon, a slave jail, a kitchen and a dead house.

The exhibit was interesting and quick. We learned how much a slave was worth depending on certain qualities like sex, strength, skills, etc…

Auctions of the enslaved ended in November 1863. The property changed hands many times and in 1808 a ban ended the country’s participation in the International Slave Trade which led to the creation of a domestic slave trading system. Charleston became one of the major enslaved collecting and selling centers.

In the seven decades between the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and the Civil War, more than one million American born slaves were to work the rapidly expanding cotton and sugar plantations in the lower South. In Charleston, enslaved African Americans were customarily sold in the open area north of the Old Exchange building at Broad and East Bay Streets. In 1856 a new City Ordinance prohibited the practice of public sales, which resulted in the opening of Ryan’s Auction Mart and a number of other sales rooms, yards or marts around this area.

We continued our visit in the beautiful historical city center.

We then walked south to visit the famous Rainbow Row. This is a series of 13 famous colorful houses. The name Rainbow Row was coined after the pastel colors they were painted as they were restored in the 1930s and 1940s

Common myths concerning Charleston include variants on the reasons for the paint colors. According to some tales, the houses were painted in the various colors such that the intoxicated sailors coming in from port could remember which houses they were to bunk in. In other versions, the colors of the buildings date from their use as stores; the colors were used so that owners could tell illiterate slaves which building to go to for shopping.

The next stop was the Battery. This is a fortified seawall at the southernmost tip of the peninsula, where the Cooper and Ashley rivers meet. With its scenic promenade and historic park, the Battery is easily among downtown Charleston’s most beloved landmarks.

This strategic point was very important to the early history of Charleston. In 1737 Broughton’s Battery (later known as Fort Wilkins) was built here. During the during the 1750s, a seawall was constructed using large boulders, stone, and masonry. Broughton’s Battery was decommissioned and demolished in 1789, but when a new wall and its promenade were completed in the 1820s, locals still referred to it as “The Battery.”

The centerpiece of the Battery is The White Point Garden, which received its name from the huge piles of sun-bleached oyster shells that originally covered the ground. White Point Garden boasts large, shady lie oaks and oyster-shell paths that lead visitors by statues, cannons, and memorials.


We took a sightseeing break to walk around the shops and restaurants.

Even a rug store where Ariela spent soo much time jumping on top of the piles of rugs (with the store owner’s permission)

We continue exploring our way

We finally reached the famous pineapple fountain.

Of course, Ariela jumped right in to cool down and walked150 thousand times around the fountain while we waited

Bonus fact of the day:

There were no casualties during the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter at the start of the American Civil War. The only Union deaths came during the evacuation: One soldier was killed and another mortally wounded in an accidental explosion during a planned 100-gun salute.

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