Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fort Moultrie, South Carolina

Ft Moultrie is not as well known as Ft Sumter but without the first the second one is not important. It was from Moultrie the first shots were fired at Sumter. It was the ‘rockets red glare’ that Moultrie put in the sky towards Ft Sumter that inspired our national anthem song.

The ride around to Sullivan’s Island made it clear how big Charleston Harbor is. We entered the Fort first by visiting the National Park Service Museum. After viewing this museum we found out how important Ft Moultrie was to Ft Sumter over the years.

The Fort was not even complete before it was attacked in June 1776 by nine British warships. It was constructed by rising two palmetto logs 16 feet apart and filling in the space with sand.  The spongy palmetto logs and yielding sand absorbed shots from the British artillery. Positioned on Sullivan’s Island it was unseen until ships had entered the harbor. In this position ships couldn’t fire on it until it was too late.

Over the years it was modified three major times. Moultrie II (MII) in 1794 was one of 16 forts of the new American Defense System (SDS). The Fort was built as a five sided structure with earth and timbers 17 feet high. It was neglected and was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804. Congress in its wisdom authorized funds for a second and stronger SDS and so Moultrie III was built. 

 Moultrie III (MII) was made of brick and stone. Moultrie changed little after that but with the addition of Ft Sumter and Castle Pinckney in the SDS it now completed a three Fort ring around Charleston Harbor.

They received their baptism of fire in December of 1860 with the succession of South Carolina from the Union. The new rifled cannon used during the Civil War demolished the brick-walled fortifications. In 1870 the Fort  was modified again using new cannons, magazines and a bombproof building by using thick concrete covered with earth. Over the years large weapons were placed elsewhere on Sullivan’s Island and the old fort became just a small part of the Fort Moultrie reservation. The Fort was last used in WWII to guard from enemy submarines entering Charleston Harbor. Over the years with modernization of high tech weapons and the need for a coast defense was no longer needed.

We entered though the Sally Port where you could see the thickness of the concert walls. Through this entrance you could turn right to the underground fortifications or straight into the Fort’s center court.  The heavy steel door would keep everything from entering, even hurricanes I thought. Walking the grounds we could see the different fort layouts, four-point, U-shaped and the pentagon-star shape. Large batteries faced the open waters of Charleston Harbor on three sides. The WWII submarine tower sat high on a hill inside with high tech equipment. Off to the side stood a signal light and semaphore flags. Below in the bunkers were offices, bomb shelter and a communication room. Against the south and western wall they had place some of the different cannons from the Civil War and the modification periods MII and MIII.

I stood on the battery’s highest point and tried to capture a picture of Ft Sumter far off in the bay.  It was more than a stone’s throw. It was impossible to see the city of Charleston. I was humbled and yet amazed to see how these forts were built without cranes. Each of the original cannons weighed more than 1500 pounds and was placed on the battery ridges using a block and tackle system.

In the front of Ft Moultrie was the grave of Osceola and a monument to the Patapsco American Natives who once lived here. The island that day was covered by clouds as we walked the beautiful white sand beach. Most of the houses on Sullivan’s Island are summer cottages raised on high water stilts. There were a few fishing boats but most of the commercial water docks were built for the novice fisherman. Then it was back across the bridge to the mainland…wait the draw bridge is up? A small sailing craft had requested a port opening to the sea. “Is he crazy” I said to Peggy because the rain was coming down pretty hard now as he turned back inland to a small pier. The bridge clanged back into place and the traffic started to slowly move. It was back across the large Charleston bridge home to the RV camp for the night.

Happy RV travels to the next nearest Fort,
George (with Peggy & Coco)


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