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Explore the History of the Civil War at These 10 SC Sites

Chrysti Shain Chrysti Shain
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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From the place where the Civil War began to battlefields, cemeteries and a history-making submarine, South Carolina has a wealth of sites to discover about the War between the States. Here are 10 not to miss, along with what you need to know when planning your trip.

Fort Sumter

Where: Charleston harbor, accessible only by boat. Ferries leave Liberty Square and Patriots Point every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and Jan. 1. More boats run in the warmer months. Check website for schedule.

History: It's a perfect outing for kids: A boat trip to an island with a fort filled with secret rooms and lined with more than 20 cannons. For parents, it‘s a chance to sneak in a little education and history on a half-day trip. Fort Sumter, the island in Charleston Harbor where the first shots of the Civil War were fired, offers the opportunity to combine both. Leave yourself about a half-hour to take in the new visitor education center, which offers an overview of the history of Charleston and Fort Sumter. It‘s a good way to get a feel for what you are about to experience. Rangers are available and eager to answer any questions you have about Fort Sumter and the Civil War, and kids can soak up the facts about the state's history by looking at the visual exhibits, including old uniforms, newspapers and other artifacts. Part of the experience of Fort Sumter is getting there, which is a fun ferry ride with great views of Charleston. Once at the fort, explore the museum and exhibits inside and the great, massive cannons outside. Check out passageways and imagine what life was like for the men stationed there 150 years ago.

If you visit: The site is administered by the National Park Service and accessible only by boat. Rangers are available for tours and to answer questions. Bring a water bottle, sunscreen and insect repellent during warmer months.

Fort Moultrie

Where: 1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, near Charleston

History: This fort has a rich history, located on this oceanfront site guarding Charleston Harbor since the Revolutionary War. Union forces left Fort Moultrie after South Carolina seceded in December 1860 and moved to Fort Sumter. A few months later, Confederates occupying Fort Moultrie joined in the bombardment of Fort Sumter that opened the Civil War.

If you visit: The site is administered by the Fort Sumter National Monument. It offers self-guided tours. Don't miss the "Bench by the Road," placed behind Fort Moultrie by the Toni Morrison Society to mark the waterway that brought almost half of all enslaved Africans to America.

The Hunley

Where: The Warren Lasch Conservation Center, 1250 Supply Street, North Charleston (In the former US Navy base north of Charleston)

History: On Feb. 17, 1864, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley slipped into Charleston Harbor, its crew hand-cranking the vessel toward Union ships blockading the port. Later that night, the Hunley rammed the USS Housatonic with a torpedo, sinking the huge Union ship. The Hunley then disappeared, not to be seen for more than 130 years, when it was discovered and raised.

If you visit: Visitors to the Conservation Center see exhibits and films describing the history of the submarine and its recovery. Objects recovered from the wreck include the $20 gold piece carried by Lt. George Dixon, commander of the Hunley. Tours are available on Saturdays and Sundays, and it's best to get tickets in advance.

Charleston Museum

Where: 360 Meeting Street, Charleston (across from the main Charleston Visitor Center)

History: Founded in the 1700s, this museum features exhibits covering a wide variety of Charleston and Lowcountry history, including a fascinating look at how the city of Charleston survived the Civil War.

If you go: Don't miss the Civil War swords and weapons.

Magnolia Cemetery

Where: 70 Cunningham Avenue, Charleston

History: This 1850 cemetery is the location of the graves of more than 2,200 Civil War veterans, 14 signers of the Ordinance of Secession, and 84 Confederate soldiers moved here from the Gettysburg, Pa., battlefield. The cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you visit: A map is available at the office during business hours.

Civil War Walking Tours

Where: Charleston Visitor Center, 375 Meeting Street, Charleston

If you visit: Choose from a variety of Civil War-oriented guided walking tours in Charleston. The experts at the visitor center can help you choose the best one for your group.

Parris Island Museum

Where: Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Route 21/802 a short drive from Beaufort

History: The local history wing here offers an overview of the Civil War history of the entire Port Royal Sound area. Exhibits highlight the November 1861 battle, Union occupation and the rich African-American wartime experience.

If you visit: Pick up a driving tour map of the base, which includes a stop at the far southern tip of the island where visitors get a view of the site of the naval battle. Also: You must pass security at the depot gate. Be sure to have your driver's license, registration and insurance card.

Battle of Rivers Bridge State Historic Site

Where: 325 State Park Road, Ehrhardt

History: The battle here marked the first and last major Confederate resistance in South Carolina. Confederates at the swampy Salkehatchie River held off Union Gen. William T. Sherman's advance into South Carolina for two days, Feb. 2-3, 1865. Part of the state park here commemorates the battle and features a trail that circles Confederate earthworks just above the river.

If you visit: Free guided tours of the battlefield the first Saturday of each month and by appointment. The park is located 7 miles southwest of Ehrhardt and 13 miles east of Allendale off Route 641. Follow the signs to the battlefield area.

South Carolina State House

Where: 1101 Gervais Street, Columbia.

History: This state's capital building was under construction (begun in 1855) when Union Gen. William T. Sherman's troops arrived. Sherman's artillery caused some damage to the new building. Six bronze stars mark the spots where shells struck the building Feb. 16, 1865.

If you visit: Tours offer a wealth of information and are given Monday-Saturday, year-round except for holidays. The tour office also has a scavenger hunt for kids that gets top reviews.

South Carolina Confederate Relic Room & Military Museum and South Carolina State Museum

Where: 301 Gervais Street, Columbia

History: Each museum offers Civil War material and exhibits. The Relic Room has an extensive Civil War collection, along with artifacts from each military conflict involving the state.

If you visit: Leave time to go through both museums, which are housed in a historic mill in Columbia's Vista district.

Chrysti Shain
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.