Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day 5: Fort Sumter and Charleston

We left North Carolina a bit later than we should have, and as such were keeping an eye on the clock to make sure we could catch the last ferry out to Fort Sumter, which left from the Patriots Point Maritime Museum. I would've loved to spend more time at that museum, as it housed the USS Yorktown, a beautiful World War II aircraft carrier, but alas, we only stared longingly at it from port while we waited for the ferry.
The USS Yorktown, at dock in the Cooper River, as seen from the ferry.
The ferry boat itself was surprisingly packed with people heading out to Fort Sumter, and there was historical narration that told us about the history of Charleston, pointing out things to see to the left and to the right. When it came time to learn about Fort Sumter – at least the post-Civil War part – every passenger's concentration was completely lost when a pod of dolphins began to play in the wake of the ferry.
Fort Sumter on the approach.
Our perfect weather record broke just as the ferry came in to dock and the skies opened up. They hurried us in to the walls of the fort for a safety talk – no climbing on things or sticking arms down the cannons – and then turned us loose. The rain was coming down in absolute buckets, and in our short sprint across the courtyard to the museum space we got quite wet.
The view out the harbor during one of the few lighter moments of the storm.
The museum was decent, not great, and quite outdated. It had some extraordinary artifacts, however, including the palmetto flag that was flown over Sumter after it was taken by the Confederacy, and Major Anderson's United States flag, the same one he lowered after surrendering and raised again when the war was over. There was an attempt to explain the fort's history after the Civil War, which included a deeply confusing video that looked more like an installation than anything informative; we watched a few minutes of a World War II-garbed soldier looking sulky and pensive as he wandered up and down the beaches near what I believe was Fort Moultrie. No sound – not even background noise – and no captioning.
Anderson's flag that was lowered when Fort Sumter surrendered, and then raised again at the end of the war.
The rain didn't really ever let up, but it did ease from time to time, enough for us to poke around the other areas of the fort. There wasn't much there, and the Spanish-American War era battery standing squat across the old parade ground did not help. It was interesting overall, but not a highlight.
Inside the fort walls - really the only bit you could do much walking around in. Even that started to flood!
A good view of the Huger Battery, an ugly black squat building. You can also see how the water had started to pool in the courtyard just from our storm.
That night, we wandered about Charleston a bit, which was a charming city, with friendly people. I'm always interested when I visit a new region and see clear and distinct architecture – and Charleston definitely had that, with its stately houses that looked, to my eye, to be turned sideways. The next morning, we drove around Battery Park and saw the beautiful mansions there.
Museum of the Confederacy, definitely on my list for the next time I visit - already closed by the time we made it to downtown.
A very pretty example of the "sideways" style of houses - note that the door leads to the porch, not directly into the house. I'll have to find a good history of Charleston to learn more about this.
Charleston City Market
Battery mansion

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