Skip links

Facts About Fort Sumter For Kids

Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter. Named after General Thomas Sumter, Revolutionary War hero, Fort Sumter was built following the War of 1812, as one of a series of fortifications on the southern U.S. coast.

  • Seventy thousand tons of granite were imported from New England to build up a sand bar in the entrance to Charleston Harbor, which the site dominates.
  • On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina declared its secession, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated companies E and H of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter on his own initiative, without orders from Washington.
  • He thought that providing a stronger defense would delay an attack by South Carolina militia.
  • Over the next few months repeated calls for evacuation of Fort Sumter from the government of South Carolina and then from Confederate Brigadier General P.G. T. Beauregard were ignored.
  • After realizing that Anderson’s command would run out of food by April 15, 1861, President Lincoln ordered a fleet of ships, under the command of Gustavus V. Fox, to attempt entry into Charleston Harbor and supply Fort Sumter.
  • Anderson declined, and the aides returned to report to Beauregard.
  • There, Chesnut ordered the fort to open fire on Fort Sumter.
  • Edmund Ruffin, noted Virginian agronomist and secessionist, claimed that he fired the first shot on Fort Sumter.
  • The shot was ineffective, in part because Major Anderson did not use the guns mounted on the highest tier, the barbette tier, where the gun detachments would be more exposed to Confederate fire.
  • The Union fired slowly to conserve ammunition.
  • One Union soldier died and another was mortally wounded during the 47th shot of a 100 shot salute, allowed by the Confederacy.
  • Accounts, such as in the famous diary of Mary Chesnut, describe Charleston residents along what is now known as The Battery, sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities.
  • Due to damage received in the attack, the Keokuk sank the next day, 1,400 yards (1,300 m) off the southern tip of Morris Island.
  • By the time they could proceed, the navy assault had already been defeated and the army flotilla returned to shore.
  • The Navy’s assault involved 400 sailors and marines in 25 boats.
  • The men in the boats that had not landed fired muskets and revolvers blindly at the fort, endangering the landing party more than the garrison.
  • The Federal government formally took possession of Fort Sumter on February 22, 1865 with a flag raising ceremony.
  • One Union soldier was killed and another Union soldier was mortally wounded during the surrender ceremony.