One of America’s most famous historic sites has again made history as a record 328,000 visitors took the tour boat last year to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor to see where the Civil War began.
Spurred in part by the observance of the 150th anniversary of the war, the trend continues this year.
Visits to Fort Sumter were up another 11 percent during the first three months of this year compared to the record-setting mark in 2011, said Dawn Davis, the chief ranger of the U.S. Park Service Fort Sumter National Monument, which includes Sumter, Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island and the Charles Pinckney Historic Site in nearby Mount Pleasant.
Confederate guns surrounding Fort Sumter opened fired on the fort in April 1861 to plunge the nation into its bloodiest conflict.
When the 150th anniversary of the opening of the war was marked a year ago with somber music, a beam of light shining heavenward from the fort and cannon booming around the harbor, officials expected a spike in visitors. But Davis wasn’t expecting this.
“It did indeed exceed my expectations. I expected it last April and even last May. But for it to continue and continue all winter and the first three months of this year…”
It’s not just Civil War buffs who are visiting, she said.
“I think it’s other folks as well. I’ve seen more interest with teachers and schools and children in general, which is a good thing,” she said. The Civil War Trust holds a teachers’ workshop in Charleston this summer, when teachers from around the nation will have a chance to visit the fort.
Davis said Sumter generally draws around 200,000 visitors a year. The only year it surpassed 300,000 was in 2002, when visitation edged above that mark following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Durell Goode of Atlanta, a disabled veteran, said on Friday he has wanted to come to the fort and also planned to see the Morris Island Lighthouse, near where the African-American 54th Massachusetts Union regiment attacked Confederate Battery Wagner on Charleston Harbor as commemorated in the 1989 movie “Glory.”