A Weekend of Coastal Fortification in Charleston, SC

Charleston, South Carolina

***Though BecauseItzThere is mostly a hiking blog, from time to time we will showcase travel of other sorts here, especially when it related to the outdoors, nature and history.

As we’ve been hitting the mountains a lot lately, including two weeks of it in Europe, it was only a matter of time before Sylvia shouted “Enough” and began to demand the seacoast.

As it was her birthday, I could hardly deny her any longer. And so, we set up for the four plus hour journey south for a weekend at Charleston, South Carolina, for some ‘coastal fortification’ of the spirit.

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Sylvia demands the seacoast!

Charleston is our favorite city in the Carolinas, excepting Asheville. As a cultural and culinary center of the South, it ranks only behind New Orleans.

I love it because of the miles of miles of ocean, wetlands, bird habitats and civil war history. Sylvia loves the beaches and seemingly infinite amount of fine dining and fu-fu shops.

On our first day in Charleston, we visited a historic Civil War Fort. While we were out for a drive from our hotel on the Isle of Palms, Brian noticed signs for Sullivan’s Island and Fort Moultrie and, innocently, began driving in that direction. Only too late did Sylvia realize what his scheme was.

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Everyone loves a great fort! Well almost everyone.

“Why are we stopping here?” she cried in dismay as we pulled into the parking lot. Brian tried to console her that this was a ‘coastal area’ with fine views and walking trails, but she had already glimpsed the words “Historical Site.” Memories of past expeditions to Appomatox Courthouse, Arlington National Cemetery and the Bentonville Battleground came flooding back to her. “We’re just stopping for a short time,” Brian re-assured her.

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The Fort’s flag is at half mast to honor the victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre.
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Brian is able to trick Sylvia to enter the fort by promising that there is an Athleta outlet boutique behind this door.
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Once entrenched within a fort, defenders — and wandering husbands — can be hard to dislodge.

Actually, Fort Moultrie – whose name most Civil War buffs will recognize at once – is both a very scenic place AND a historic site. The fort actually predates the civil war by more than fifty years, with some sort of fortification standing on the island since colonial times. In fact, the original Fort Sullivan, fashioned from simple palmetto logs, is the inspiration for the states nickname and iconic palm tree flag. The fort also continued in use as a military site until World War II.

Fort Moultrie reminds me very much of the old forts of Boston Harbor I used to visit as a young man on Castle Island, Georges Island and Long Island.

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Brian is fascinated by historical sites like old coastal forts.
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Sylvia checks her watch and wonders how much more ‘fun’ she will be forced to endure.

Of course, Fort Moultrie is a distant second as the most famous fort in the Charleston Harbor defenses. On a nearby Island sits Fort Sumter, where the Civil War actually began.

At the historic park are large number of authentic civil war era cannons on display, many of which were actually used at the fort. Some of these guns are enormous…one can only imagine the damage that metal thrown by these monsters would have done to wooden hulled ships, let alone the human beings who crewed them.

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Note the railway-like tracks this gun swivels on, plus the long carriage to absorb the recall. Fascinating industrial age details.

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Note the gun’s original serial number and date of manufacture is still quite visible.
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Sylvia is just mortar-fied
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I am pretty certain the Second Amendment gives me a right to own one of these but Sylvia wouldn’t hear of it.

It’s very rare to find antique cannons like this, because most of them were melted down for scrap during the one of the two World Wars. It’s good to see that a few of these relics survived the wars. You can still see the inscriptions on the barrels on many of these pieces which indicate the year and place of manufacture. Most interesting perhaps are those made at the Tregedar Iron Works in Virginia…one of the Confederacy’s few iron works capable of making big guns.

The view from the Fort’s observation platform. Note Fort Sumter in the frame to the left.

Nearby are some more modern guns at first glance that I took to be World War II antiaircraft guns. Actually, closer inspection revealed them to be turn of the century coastal guns, purchased from England to defend the harbor during the Spanish American War. Somehow these relics likewise survived the wartime hunt for scrap metal.

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Though I was convinced it was a WWII era AA gun, in fact this is a late 1800’s/early 1900’s quick firing cannon designed to combat small ships like torpedo boats.
12-inch Mortars at the fort probably around 1900. Image from the National Park Service https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48464524

After looking over the fort and its silent weapons we walked down to the rocks at the waters edge to soak in the views. The weather was quite fine…sunny yet cool. As we sat on the rocks, the seasonal Monarch butterfly migration was going right by us, butterfly after butterfly being swept along by the steady wind.

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One of about a hundred monarch butterflies that passed us headed south while we were sitting on these rocks

Brian watched a pair of Ospreys hunting the shallows along the shore, swooping up and down along the rocks, then stooping to dive headfirst into the water in search of fish. Last time we visited Charleston, Brian saw a very fine mature bald eagle…We didn’t see one this time, but we did see plenty of other interesting shore birds.

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Adult Osprey

After a while we made our way back to the fort, explored its environs for a while longer, then set out on our way. Sylvia had a manicure appointment to go to. Even Sylvia grudgingly admitted she had a fine time at Fort Moultrie.

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Sylvia would later admit that her trip to Fort Moultrie was quite illuminating.

Later, Sylvia and I went back out to dinner at Sullivan’s island. We would explore the city of Charleston in detail the following day.

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Sunset over Isle of Palms

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Next Up: King Charles Town

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