Charleston and Fort Sumter

Charleston is a beautiful city. Savannah is a beautiful city. I think of them as sister cities and confuse them in my travel memories because of their similarities of harbor, bridges, architecture, and history.

The St. James Island Campground (the one with the lights) offered a shuttle to the Charleston Visitors Center that we utilized for our day in the big city. We had visited during our 2008 trip, but had not taken the Ft. Sumter tour–today was the day–beautiful sunlight, bright blue sky, mild temperatures, and calm water.

First Grits

But, first-things-first, breakfast. On the recommendation of the Visitors Center we found Virginia’s on King. Coincidentally it was located on King Street and served a great breakfast that included out first grits of the trip.

We walked off breakfast with a stroll to the Ft. Sumter National Monument building on the waterfront where we viewed an exhibit telling the history of the fort and then boarded a tour boat destined for what remains of the fort at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

Charleston Harbor Bridge

Our Boat

Charleston from the Harbor 1

Charleston from the Harbor 2

Charleston from the Harbor 3

Charleston from the Harbor 4

Approaching Fort Sumter

The first thought when approaching the fort is its small size. It was built on a sandbar by Union soldiers as part of the blockade of British ships. They sailed granite from Deer Isle, Maine and dumped it until they had formed an island on which a fort could be built.

Inside Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter Cannon

The five-foot thick walls were built of local, wood-fired red brick in three levels rising some 55 feet, surrounding a parade ground of just one acre. Each level bore many cannon which were aimed at specific harbor targets. The lowest level canon were aimed to fire large cannon balls which would skip across the water hitting their target ships at the the waterline. The first shot of the Civil War, fired from Ft. Johnson on the mainland, burst over the center of Ft. Sumter, setting off four years of war and inspiring some famous paintings. That siege resulted in the surrender of the fort to the Confederates. Later on, the Union retook and held the fort. The net effect of over 4 million pounds of iron landing on the fort over time was to reduce it to a single level just 25 feet high.

The Parade Field

Leaving Fort Sumter

We only had an hour to tour the fort, but it gave a sense of scale and reality to the stories we’d heard of Fort Sumter.

Upon our return to Charleston, we hired a pedicab to pedal us to The Marketplace, a several-block-long structure housing vendors, from food, to trinkets, to the wonderful sweetgrass baskets Charleston is famous for.

Te Marketplace

Charleston City Market

Charleston City Market Interior

Charleston City Market Interior 2

The entire marketplace building had been “renovated” since we visited in 2008, but they did a decent job without loosing all its funkiness.

Sweetgrass Basket Maker

A pedicab back to the Visitors Center to meet the shuttle at four, ended our much too short visit.

Now, on to Skidaway Island and Savannah.

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