Way Back Wednesday: Fort Moultrie

Way Back Wednesday

Sullivan’s Island, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it is time to explore the history that surrounds the Lowcountry. This week, we head to Fort Moultrie.

Located on Sullivan’s Island, Fort Moultrie was the site of Charleston’s famous Revolutionary War palmetto-log fort.

The National Parks service explains that the first fort built on Sullivan’s Island was attacked before its completion; the Royal Navy attacked it on June 28, 1776. “After a nine-hour battle, the ships were forced to retire. Charlestown was saved from British occupation, and the fort was named in honor of its commander, Colonel William Moultrie. In May 1780 the British finally captured Charlestown, including Fort Moultrie, finally evacuating the city in December 1782 as the Revolution entered its final year.”

After the Revolutionary War, a second Fort Moultrie, one of twenty new forts along the Atlantic coast, was completed in 1798 but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.

By 1807 many of the other First System fortifications were in need of extensive repair. Congress responded by authorizing funds for a Second System, which included a third Fort Moultrie. By 1809 a new brick fort stood on Sullivan’s Island.

Library of Congress: Photograph shows the an interior view of Fort Moultrie after the surrender of Fort Sumter. Soldiers stand amidst the artillery.

Fort Sumter was built on a shoal opposite Fort Moultrie when America strengthened its seacoast defenses after the War of 1812.

According to the Historical Marker Database, “Charleston Harbor’s main ship channel—the only deep water access to the port—passes directly in front of the fort. Ships entering the harbor had to pass close under the fire of Fort Moultrie’s guns. From the time of the American Revolution through World War II, the fort’s position on the south end of Sullivan’s Island was the key to defending Charleston.”

In light of developing weapons technology, new batteries of concrete and steel were constructed in Fort Moultrie in the late 1800’s. Larger weapons were emplaced elsewhere on Sullivan’s Island, and the old fort became just a small part of the Fort Moultrie Military Reservation that covered much of the island. As technology changed, harbor defense became more complex.

The National Parks Service explains, “The world wars brought new threats of submarine and aerial attack and required new means of defense at Moultrie. Yet these armaments also became obsolete as nuclear weapons and guided missiles altered the entire concept of national defense.”

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