Fort Sumter
April 1861

THE BATTLE: Six days after South Carolina declared its secession on Dec. 20, 1860, 127 Union troops rowed across Charleston Harbor, abandoning the indefensible Fort Moultrie in favor of Fort Sumter, where they settled in for a long siege. They waited there for more than four months, neither side wanting to fire the first volley. By April 11, 1861, the garrison’s supplies were nearly exhausted. As a small fleet of Union vessels gathered off Charleston Bar, bearing relief supplies and troops, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard called one last time for the garrison’s surrender. Maj. Robert Anderson declined, and early the next morning, Confederate batteries began a 34-hour barrage. No one was killed. The Rebels even allowed the Union troops to salute the Stars and Stripes before evacuating the fort. It was a bloodless beginning to four years of turmoil.

THE PADDLE: Let’s get one thing straight: No matter what you are, Yankee or Rebel, latte-liberal or redneck, it’s Chaalstn, not Charleston. And Chaalstn was designed—not by man, but by Mother Nature—for paddling. As significant as Fort Sumter was to the Civil War, it’s not the only paddling destination in the Charleston area. Add to it Folly Island, Morris Island, below, a historic lighthouse and the Folly River, and you’re in for 15-30 miles of one of the Southeast’s best tours. Re-creating the Union’s moonlit escape from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter can be a particularly nostalgic paddle. If solemn is your mood, consider the route of a teenaged slave, who, on March 11, 1861, paddled a canoe from Charleston’s waterfront to Fort Sumter, seeking asylum. Maj. Anderson sent him back the next day. No one knows his ultimate fate.

Read on: Bull Run