Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

[mool-tree]
Fort Moultrie, on Sullivans Island at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, S.C.; originally called Fort Sullivan. Constructed by Col. William Moultrie, the fort was renamed for him after he repulsed a British naval attack in June, 1776, in one of the most decisive battles of the American Revolution. During the Seminole War, Osceola, a chief, and 200 Seminoles were imprisoned in the fort; Osceola's tomb is there. During the Civil War, Confederates held the fort until the evacuation of Charleston in 1865. It was Charleston's chief harbor defense until 1947, when it was abandoned. Fort Moultrie is part of Fort Sumter National Monument (see National Parks and Monuments, table).
Moultrie, Fort: see Fort Moultrie.

Fort Moultrie is the name of a series of forts on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, built to protect the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The first fort, built of palmetto logs, inspired the flag and nickname (Palmetto State) of South Carolina.

History

The fort was unnamed and not yet complete when Admiral Sir Peter Parker and nine British warships attacked it on June 28, 1776, near the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.The soft palmetto logs did not crack under bombardment but rather absorbed the shot; there were even reports of cannon balls actually bouncing off of the walls of the structure. In any case, Charleston was saved from capture, and the fort was named for the commander in the battle, William Moultrie, and the locals, to this day celebrate 'Carolina Day' to commemorate the bravery of the defenders of the fort, the 2nd South Carolina Regiment. The fort was eventually captured by the British in the siege of Charleston. (See the southern theatre in the article titled American Revolution for more information).

As tensions heightened after Great Britain and France declared war in 1793, the United States embarked on a systematic fortification of important harbors. A new Fort Moultrie, one of twenty new forts along the Atlantic coast, was completed over the decayed original fort in 1798. Destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, it was replaced by a brick fort by 1809. In The Seminole Indian chief, Osceola, was detained here in late 1837 with some fellow Seminole prisoners. Osceola died of Malaria in January 1838 and was buried at Fort Moultrie, his grave still maintained as part of the current national monument.

Between 1809 and 1860 Fort Moultrie changed little; the parapet was altered and the armament modernized, but newly created Fort Sumter became the main component of Charleston's defense. Of the four forts around Charleston harbor, Moultrie, Sumter, Johnson, and Castle Pinckney, it was Moultrie's defenders who chose not to surrender to the Confederacy. On December 26 1860 Major Robert Anderson removed his garrison at Fort Moultrie to the stronger Fort Sumter. Three and a half months later, Confederate troops shelled Fort Sumter into submission and the American Civil War began. In April 1863, Federal ironclads and shore batteries began a twenty-month bombardment of Forts Sumter and Moultrie; the Confederates held the forts and the harbor until February 1865, when the army evacuated the city. By then, Fort Sumter was a pile of rubble, and Fort Moultrie had been pounded below a sand hill, which subsequently protected it against Federal bombardment. Rifled cannon had proved their superiority to brickwork fortifications, but not to the endurance of the Confederate artillerymen who manned the forts throughout.

Fort Moultrie was modernized in the 1870s, with huge rifled cannon and deep concrete bunkers; further modernization in the 1880s turned all of Sullivan's Island into a military complex, of which the old fort was just a part.

The fort evolved with the times through World War II and beyond, but in recent years has been turned over to the National Park Service. The fort is now constructed as a tour backwards in time through the fort's defenses, from World War II back to the palmetto log fort of William Moultrie. It has been designated the Fort Moultrie National Monument, a unit of Fort Sumter National Monument.

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