Even the most neophyte of historians of the American Civil War are cognizant of the role that Fort Sumter played in that conflict. Construction of the fort began in 1829, in response to the War of 1812. Built as a sea fort to protect Charleston harbor, it was named after the American Revolutionary War hero, General Thomas Sumter. Construction had not been completed when, on April 12, 1861, following years of tension between the North and the South, Confederate forces fired on the fort just four months after South Carolina voted to secede from the United States. Considered to be THE ACT that initiated the Civil War, the bombardment lasted for thirty-four hours. A number of Union attempts to resupply the fort failed prior to its eventual surrender on April 13th. Union forces tried unsuccessfully for nearly four years to take Fort Sumter back, including a failed September 8, 1863 battle. While the Confederates never officially surrendered the fort, they were forced to abandon it because of General Sherman’s advance through Charleston. On April 14, 1865, the former Union commander of Fort Sumter, Robert Anderson (then a Major, now a Major-General) took possession of it just hours prior to President Lincoln’s assassination. Following the Civil War, the U.S. Army worked to restore the ruined fort, but it never again saw battle. Between 1876 and 1897 it served as an unmanned lighthouse. Today, Fort Sumter is a National Historic Site and plays host to nearly one million visitors per year.
This 10-inch mortar, discovered during 1959 excavations, is the type used to fire on the fort in 1861 from Fort Johnson across the harbor. After taking the fort, the Confederates mounted a number of these inside the fort to defend against Union forces .