Charming and gracious, Charleston provides a window to our past. This well-preserved city manages to combine southern appeal and enormous opportunities to tour our nation’s history. In addition to getting a historic overview from the best Charleston carriage tour, a cruise to Fort Sumter is a great idea. You’ll find the best-informed tour guides at Charleston Carriage Works and expert National Park Service ranger guides at Fort Sumter.
The American Civil War Chapter
There is no substitute for a first-hand look at some of the nation’s key Civil War sites, preserved, maintained and interpreted by the National Park Service so that we might better understand an important chapter in American history.
Recall the words of Ken Burns, historian and director of the award-winning public television series, “The Civil War.” His observation is, “The Civil War was the greatest event in American history, where, paradoxically, in order to become one, we had to tear ourselves in two.”
What Happened Here in 1861
Fort Sumter National Monument, “Where the American Civil War Began,” sheds light on the circumstances that lead up to the first shot fired. Due to the strategic position of the fort overlooking the entrance to Charleston Harbor, the stakes were high. In the spring of 1861, a showdown occurred between Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and Union Maj. Robert Anderson, previously associated as student and instructor at West Point Academy.
President Lincoln was the newly elected Commander-in-Chief when South Carolina seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. As six more states followed suit and the Confederacy took shape, many federal installations in the South were taken over by state governments. At Fort Sumter, where the U.S. flag continued to fly, negotiations continued. Lincoln decided to resupply the fort but not reinforce it, unless resistance was met.
When negotiations failed, Confederate artillery opened fire on the Federal fort, which the Union evacuated 34 hours later. Although no lives were lost, the Union forces had been vastly outnumbered. Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to arms to suppress the rebellion of the southern states, however, four more states seceded and the Civil War erupted.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, April 12-13, 1861.
Currier & Ives hand-colored lithograph, Library of Congress
Fort Sumter played a continuing role throughout the four bloody years of the Civil War, as the Union attempted to re-gain its control.
The forts of Charleston (Source: Wikipedia)
How to Visit Fort Sumter by Boat
Fort Sumter Tours operates U.S. Coast Guard approved boat transportation as the authorized concessioner of Fort Sumter National Monument. Departures are from Patriots Square near the South Carolina Aquarium and from Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant. A 30-minute narrated cruise provides spectacular views of the Battery, Charleston Harbor, the Cooper River Bridge and the aircraft Carrier Yorktown. Along the way, you’ll absorb some background information before you’re greeted by National Park Service Rangers who will show you around for an hour or so before you return by boat. To engage youngsters, a junior ranger information booklet, badge and certificate has been prepared by the park service. To avoid disappointment, the National Park Service highly recommends purchasing the boat tickets in advance of your visit.
How to Tour Charleston in a Horse-Drawn Carriage
It’s also a good idea to book ahead for your fun and fact-filled tour aboard Charleston Carriage Works. Your driver is a City of Charleston Licensed Tour Guide with extensive knowledge of over 300 years of Charleston’s history, so ask any questions you like. The only ones who know Charleston’s quaint, cobbled streets better are also guiding your tour: they’re our gorgeous Percheron horses. We’re looking forward to meeting you and showing you around on our lovely Charleston carriage ride and tour.