Visitation hits record level where Civil War began
One of America's most famous historic sites has again made history as a record 328,000 visitors took the tour boat last year to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor to see where the Civil War began.
Spurred, in part, by the observance of the 150th anniversary of the war, the trend continues this year.
Visitation at Fort Sumter was up another 11 percent during the first three months of this year as compared to the record-setting mark in 2011, says Dawn Davis, the chief ranger of the U.S. Park Service Fort Sumter National Monument which includes Sumter, Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island and the Charles Pinckney Historic Site in nearby Mount Pleasant.
Confederate guns surrounding Fort Sumter opened fired on the fort in April 1861 to plunge the nation into its bloodiest conflict.
When the 150th anniversary of the opening of the war was marked a year ago with somber music, a beam of light shining heavenward from the fort and cannon booming around the harbor, officials expected a spike in visitors. But Davis wasn't expecting this.
"It did indeed exceed my expectations. I expected it last April and even last May. But for it to continue, and continue all winter and the first three months of this year..."
She credits the increase not only to Civil War buffs visiting.
"I think it's other folks, as well. I've seen more interest with teachers and schools and children, in general, which is a good thing," she says. The Civil War Trust holds a teacher workshop in Charleston this summer where teachers from around the nation will have a chance to visit the fort.
Davis said Sumter generally draws around 200,000 visitors per year. The only year it surpassed 300,000 was in 2002, when visitation edged above that mark following the 9-11 terror attacks.
"A lot of people were staying closer to home and doing vacations to see places of historic significance," she says. "But after that, visitation dropped back down to the 200,000 range."
Details: Fort Sumter National Monument: www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm