Road Trip 4 - Ft. Sumter

The tour boat approaches Ft. Sumter

NOTE: This spring and summer were very busy, as well as very eventful for me. I got way behind with posting on the Dog Blog. I am going to try to catch up, and as I do I will post events in chronological order. Some of them were a while ago but I will write what I remember.

When I first called Mickey and suggested a visit so we could catch a Rush concert, we talked about other stuff to do. Mickey suggested going to Ft. Sumter. He wanted to see it but no one in his family was at all interested in taking the tour. It takes a bit of time and effort since it is located on an island in the middle of Charleston Harbor. I thought it was a great idea. I like military history in general. Plus I had just finished reading "Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston 1863", a book which I bought on my last trip to Charleston. It was about the Union attempt to capture Charleston during the Civil War (duh!). Ft. Sumter featured prominently in the book because it was a key location in the Confederate defense of the harbor. It also had background on the siege and capture of the fort by the Confederates in 1861, which featured the first shots fired in the Civil War.

Wearing my irrisistable Adopt-a-Dog tshirt

After reading the book, Sandy and I had watched the movie "Glory" which was about the famous but futile attempt by the 54th Massachusettes infantry regiment to take Battery Wagner during the campaign. Having just learned so much of the history, I was anxious to visit the place where these events had occured. I'm a military history buff, but I had never visited a Civil War battlefield or monument before, although I had been to the Alamo way back in 2009 when I visited Mickey while he was stationed at Ft. Hood.

Even though we got in late the night before, we made an early start. Ft. Sumter is in the middle of Charleston Harbor, reachable only by boat. There were only three tour boats a day, the first leaving at 10:45 am. We wanted to get there well before the departure time to make sure we got a spot on the boat - otherwise we would have to wait three hours for the next tour. And to reach Patriot Point where we would catch the shuttle, we had to drive into Charleston and then cross the massive Ravenal Bridge across the Cooper River. It was a long trip from where Mickey lived in Summerville.

The inside of the fort, our boat, and the Ravenal Bridge

We got there in plenty of time and got our tickets for the tour. But after spending time in the gift shop, and then having trouble figuring out where we had to line up ahead of time for the boat, we let about 200 school kids on an excursion get in line ahead of us. We were a little worried that we wouldn't make in on board and would be bumped to the next tour. Fortunately when the boat arrived it turned out to have lots of space and we were able to board, no problem.

As we approached Ft. Sumter, we lined up by the rail to get pictures. When we finally docked we were already standing in line to get off (we had learned our lesson earlier). We wanted to get off before those 200 school kids swarmed the fort. Suddenly I felt hands rubbing along my back. I was just about to swat them away and yell at Mickey to quit fooling around when it registered on my brain that I was looking at the back of Mickey's head. He was standing right in front of me. The hands kept rubbing all along my back. Ok. This was weird. I looked around slowly, not sure what to expect. An annoying little kid? A clumsy pickpocket? A southern belle who couldn't keep her hands off me?

Mickey points out a shell still lodged in the wall

It was a little old lady. She was smoothing out my tshirt. I was wearing an "Adopt-a-Dog" tshirt from the Humane Society that Sandy had bought for me on her last trip to Hawaii with Shannon. It had lots of cartoon pictures of dogs, all with names listed above them. The lady was straightening out my tshirt so she could see all of the dogs and read their names.

"I really like your tshirt" she said.

I almost replied "Yes, I can certainly tell" but instead settled for "Thanks. I like it too." Let the record show that at least this one time I passed up making a smart ass reply.

The fort isn't very big so it didn't take us long to walk around it. At the start of the Civil War the walls were three stories high, but as a result of the long Union bombardment only the first level of the wall remains. In a few places, original Civil War shells are still lodged in the walls. There are also a few Civil War vintage cannon scattered around the fort. Before our self-guided tour we listened to a ranger talk. Even though I knew a lot of the history, he had some good stories. Finally we walked around the outside of the fort and looked toward Morris Island (what's left of it - a lot of the island has washed away since the Civil War battles) where Battery Wagner was located.

Then we had some time to kill till the boat went back. They had a tiny gift shop, so we went in there. I was able to find both a Ft. Sumter tshirt and a baseball cap that I liked, so I was happy. Plus it was a hot day and the gift shop was the only place that was air conditioned. So even though they only had one style of tshirt and cap, I had to spend a long time deciding if I was going to get them or not. When we finally did get on the boat there was a nice cool breeze blowing over the water on the way back so it was a pleasant trip.

We pass the USS Yorktown CV-10

On the way back we also got an excellent view of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown CV-10. It was the second USS Yorktown to serve in WWII. The first, CV-5, was sunk at the battle of Midway). The Yorktown also served with distinction in Vietnam and was finally decommisioned in 1970. Since then it has been moored at Patriots Point as a floating museum. As we sailed right next to it to reach our dock, it sure looked like a big boat!

Just before we docked, they announced over the PA system that there had been an accident on the Ravenal Bridge. It involved an oil tanker truck and caused the bridge to be closed to all traffic. We looked over and sure enough, we couldn't see any traffic on the bridge. That was how we were supposed to get back to Charleston. We had to go a long way around. At least because of the announcement we knew to take another route. We didn't get snarled in the traffic jam caused by the bridge closure. The accident and oil spill were bad. The bridge didn't reopen until late that night.

We had lunch at US Navy Fleet Landing Restaurant

We had a late lunch at the US Navy Fleet Landing Restaurant, right on the water in Charleston. It was next to the pier that we had visited the last time I had been in South Carolina. That was a cold, gray day while this was a hot, sunny day. It made a big difference. The view of Charleston Harbor was very pretty. We were right across from Patriot Point, less than half a mile. We could see the Yorktown clearly. We could also see the Ravenal Bridge, still with no cars on it. With the bridge closed it had taken us a long time and we had gone quite a distance to get to a point just a half mile away. So near and yet so far, indeed. In the long run it worked out for the best. It was actually a good thing that we got there later. Even though it was mid afternoon the place was packed, but it had emptied out enough from the lunch crowd that we could at least get in. We had a beer at the bar while we waited for our table. It was worth it though. Lunch was excellent.