Fort Moultrie

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For the Florida Second Seminole War fort originally named Fort Moultrie, see Fort Peyton.
Fort Moultrie
Part of Fort Sumter National Monument
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, U.S.
Fort Moultrie National Monument.JPG
Fort Moultrie in December 2006. The United States flag is at half-staff because of Gerald R. Ford's death.
Fort Moultrie1.3.jpg
Fort Moultrie in 1861.
Coordinates 32°45′33.81″N 79°51′28.05″W / 32.7593917°N 79.8577917°W / 32.7593917; -79.8577917Coordinates: 32°45′33.81″N 79°51′28.05″W / 32.7593917°N 79.8577917°W / 32.7593917; -79.8577917
Site information
Owner National Park Service
Open to
the public
Site history
Built 1776 (1776)
In use 1776–1947
Battles/wars Battle of Sullivan's Island
Confederate Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island looking east into Charleston Harbor
Fort Moultrie Visitor Center
Entrance to Fort Moultrie
Cannon displayed at Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie is a series of citadels 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 of South Carolina, "The Palmetto State". It is named for the commander in the Battle of Sullivan's Island, General William Moultrie.

Fort Moultrie is the only area of the National Park System where the entire 171-year history of American seacoast defense (1776–1947) can be traced.


American Revolution[edit]

South Carolina patriots began to build a fort to guard Charleston, South Carolina, harbor in 1776. British Admiral Sir Peter Parker with nine British warships attacked the fort—still unnamed and incomplete—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; cannonballs reportedly even bounced off the walls of the structure. William Moultrie, commander of the 2nd South Carolina Regiment, and his four hundred men fought a day-long battle that ended with the heavily damaged British ships being driven from the area. This victory galvanized the Patriots' cause for independence.[1] The fort hence took its name Fort Moultrie in his honor. Charleston locals celebrate "Carolina Day" to commemorate the bravery of the defenders of the fort.

During this battle, Moultrie flew a flag of his own design, authorized by the colonial government. It was later called the Moultrie flag or Liberty flag and became iconic to the Revolution in the South.

The British eventually captured Fort Moultrie as part of the Siege of Charleston in spring 1780. Nevertheless, the colonists won the war, and British troops departed in 1782, at which time the flag was presented in Charleston, by General Nathanael Greene, commander of the southern Regulars.

Early federal period[edit]

Great Britain and France began another war in 1793, heightening tensions. The United States of America thence embarked on a systematic fortification of important harbors. Atop the decayed original Fort Moultrie, the Army completed a new fort in 1798; the Army also built nineteen other new forts along the Atlantic coast. After years of neglect the Antigua–Charleston hurricane destroyed Fort Moultrie in 1804, and a brick fort, the third and last such structure, replaced it in 1809. It had five hundred men in the garrison.[1]

Fort Moultrie's main design did not change much over the next five decades. The Army altered the parapet and modernized the armament, but defense of Charleston centered increasingly around newly created Fort Sumter. By the time of the American Civil War, Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, Fort Johnson, and Castle Pinckney surrounded and defended Charleston.

Fort Moultrie began to record meteorological observations in the early 1820s.

For fifty years the Army detained Seminole Indian fighter Osceola and some fellow Seminole prisoners at Fort Moultrie late 1837. Osceola died of malaria in January 1838; the Army buried his corpse at the front gate of Fort Moultrie and thereafter maintained his grave.

Civil War[edit]

In the months leading up to the Civil War John L. Gardner was in command at Fort Moultrie. With secession growing more imminent, Gardner had made several requests to Secretary of War John B. Floyd for more troops to garrison and defend the undermanned fortress. Each time his requests were ignored, as Floyd (who joined the Confederacy) was planning to hand the forts in Charleston Harbor over to the secessionists.

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. Unlike their counterparts at the other forts, defenders of Fort Moultrie chose not to surrender to the South Carolina forces. On December 26, 1860, Union Major Robert Anderson moved his garrison from Fort Moultrie to the stronger Fort Sumter. On February 8, 1861, South Carolina joined other seceded Deep Southern states to form the Confederate States of America. In April 1861, Confederate troops shelled Fort Sumter into submission and the American Civil War began.

In April 1863, Federal ironclads and shore batteries began a bombardment of Fort Moultrie and the other forts around Charleston harbor. Over the ensuing twenty months, Union bombardment reduced Fort Sumter to a rubble pile and pounded Fort Moultrie below a sand hill, which protected it against further bombardment. The Rifled cannon proved its superiority to brickwork fortifications but not to the endurance of the Confederate artillerymen who continued to man Fort Moultrie. In February 1865, the Confederate Army finally abandoned the rubble of Fort Moultrie and evacuated the city of Charleston.

Postbellum period[edit]

The Army modernized Fort Moultrie in the 1870s with huge rifled cannon and deep concrete bunkers. Further modernization in the 1880s turned all of Sullivan's Island surrounding the old fort into a military complex. The upgrades to the fort included nine named concrete gun batteries. Three of which were built into the old fort structure, while five others were built south facing the harbor entrance. Off the main reservation the Massive Battery Capron stood covering the harbor and entrance. Later this battery was commissioned to be split into two batteries.[2]

The fort evolved with the times and was used through and beyond World War II. Fort Moultrie's final changes occurred in 1942 because the current guns were obsolete and were scrapped.[3] Two more updated batteries were made to match the modern enemy ships, but were never armed. On August 15, 1947, the Army lowered Fort Moultrie's flag for the last time and ended 171 years of service. After the war, due to changes in military technology, including submarines and nuclear weapons, seacoast defense of the United States ceased to be a viable strategy.


Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District
Fort Moultrie National Monument - 7.jpeg
The former torpedo storage building at Fort Moultrie; today it serves as office space for the park.
Location Middle St. and Thompson Ave., bet. Stations 14 and 16.5, Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Area 5.3 acres (2.1 ha)
Governing body State
MPS Sullivan's Island, South Island MPS
NRHP Reference # 07000925[4]
Added to NRHP September 6, 2007

In 1960, the Department of Defense transferred Fort Moultrie to the National Park Service. NPS manages the historic fort as a unit of Fort Sumter National Monument.[5] NPS has interpreted the fort as a tour backward in time from its defenses from World War II to the original palmetto log fort constructed by William Moultrie.

The National Register of Historic Places listed Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District on September 6, 2007.[6][7] In 2016, the "America the Beautiful" quarter for South Carolina will feature "Fort Moultrie (Fort Sumter National Monument)."

Moultrie is honored with his statue in The Battery section of downtown Charleston.

See also[edit]


  • Detzer, David (2002). Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War.
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 400. ISBN 9780156007412.
     , Book (par view)
  • Lossing, Benson John (1874). The Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War in the United States of America, Volume 1.
    Hartford: Thomas Belknap. p. 640.
     , E'book
  • Moore, Frank (1889). The Civil War in Song and Story, 1860–1865.
    New York: P. F. Collier. p. 560.
     , E'book
  • Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John (1888). Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume 2.
    D. Appleton and Company, New York.
     , E'book


  1. ^ a b Fort Moultrie brochure, United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Staff (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  5. ^ National Park Service. "Fort Sumter National Monument Draft GMP/EA" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-06-25.  "The National Park Service accepted jurisdiction of Fort Moultrie in 1960 under authority of the Historic Sites Act of 1935 Pub.L. 74–292.", p.9.
  6. ^ Schneider, David B. (March 6, 2007). "Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 
  7. ^ "Fort Moultrie Quartermaster and Support Facilities Historic District, Charleston County (Sullivan's Island)". National Register Properties in South Carolina. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Retrieved 10 June 2012. 

External links[edit]