A tour of Charleston harbor is the perfect way to take in the sights beyond the city proper. Whether you catch the ferry out to Fort Sumter or cruise around the harbor aboard a paddlewheel riverboat or a three-mast schooner, you will view an intriguing array of nautical and historical points of interest. Above is a panoramic view of the Holy City as seen from the harbor. Notice the number of church spires easily spotted even at this distance.
The USS Yorktown was towed into Charleston Harbor in June of 1975. Four months later—on the 200th anniversary of the U. S. Navy—the battleship was dedicated as a memorial. Built and commissioned during World War II, this mammoth aircraft carrier participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater and earned eleven battle stars as well as the Presidential Unit Citation. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Moored at Patriots Point, the Yorktown is open for daily tours.
Built in 1810, Castle Pinckney is a brick and mortar fortification that never actually saw military action; it briefly served as a prison for captured Union troops during the Civil War. Ownership has changed hands a number of times and restoration attempts have been made, but the location of the fort on a small island in the middle of the harbor makes access difficult. Castle Pinckney was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Located on Sullivan’s Island, Fort Moultrie was built to protect the city of Charleston. Union Major Robert Anderson moved his troops from this fort across the harbor to Fort Sumter in December 1860, precipitating events that would lead to the Civil War. Interestingly, the entire 171-year history of American seacoast defense (1776–1947) has been documented as related to Fort Moultrie—the only area of the National Park system to be able to make this claim.
Fort Sumter is best known for its pivotal role in the outbreak of the American Civil War when shots were fired upon Union forces garrisoned there on April 12, 1861. The fort is accessible via a half-hour ferry ride from Charleston several times daily. Since 1970 six flags have flown over the fort—the current U. S. flag as well as five flags which represent a timeline of the fort’s history during the Civil War period. They are the United States flags of 1861 and 1865, the Confederate States flags of 1861 and 1863, and the South Carolina state flag—adopted in 1861 and still current.
Tugboats and gigantic container barges like these pass through Charleston Harbor mere feet from smaller recreational watercraft every day.
Looking across Charleston Harbor from atop the ruins of Fort Sumter. In the distance on the left of the photo is Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge; in the center, three of the watercraft commonly seen in the Harbor—a sailboat, a barge, and the ferry that shuttles passengers back and forth between Charleston and the Fort.
The Battery in Charleston is a favorite tourist attraction—and with good reason. A wide promenade runs along the lower shore of the Charleston peninsula offering splendid views of grand antebellum homes standing shoulder to shoulder, Charleston Harbor and the meeting point of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and beautiful White Point Garden with its stately live oaks and plenitude of artillery and historical monuments. In the distance, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, James Island, and Fort Moultrie can be seen as well. The Battery itself is so-called because it originated as a fortified seawall, built in the 1700s using stone, bricks, and masonry. It has since been demolished and rebuilt, but is still known as The Battery. When federal troops closed in and forced the evacuation of Charleston, the Confederate military blew up all of their remaining munitions here on The Battery—to keep them out of the hands of the enemy. When a huge Blakely gun exploded and sent pieces of shrapnel flying through the air, one large fragment passed through the roof of the Thomas Roper House (below) and lodged in a rafter—where it remains to this day!
Thomas Roper House – The Battery, Charleston SC
It is said that Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard observed the bombardment of Fort Sumter from the piazza of the Edmondston-Alston House (below), another impressive mansion located on The Battery. Confederate General Robert E. Lee took refuge in that same residence in December 1861 when the hotel where he was staying was threatened by fire.
The Edmonston-Alston House – The Battery, Charleston SC
We toured the Edmondston-Alson House and were fascinated by its beauty and interesting history. Daily tours are offered. For more information, visit http://www.edmondstonalston.com/.
Waterfront Park – Charleston, South Carolina
The pineapple is a traditional Southern symbol of hospitality. This unique and beautiful fountain on Charleston’s waterfront is reflective of the Holy City’s renowned welcoming spirit.