Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, right outside of Charleston, was built in 1776 as a defense of the Charleston Harbor during the Revolutionary War. The fort was incomplete when it was first attacked by nine warships in June of 1776. The battle lasted for nine hours, but the ships were forced to back out and Charleston was spared from British occupation at the time. It was after this battle that the fort was named Fort Moultrie, in honor of the commander, William Moultrie. The fort was abandoned after the war, but rebuilt when France and England went to war in 1793 as a safeguard. This fortification was one of 20 forts that were built as art of the First American System of nationwide forts along the coast. By 1804, the second Fort Moultrie was finally destroyed by a hurricane after years of neglect. A third Fort Moultrie was built in 1809 after the Second American System was authorized by Congress to rebuilt fortifications along the coast.
By the time the Civil War broke out, Fort Sumter, Fort Johnson and Castle Pinckney had also been built to guard the Charleston Harbor. Fort Moultrie also had a modernized armament, but when the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union in December of 1860, Fort Moultrie was abandoned in order to strengthen Fort Sumter, and four months later, war broke out at Fort Sumter. Civil War battles reached Fort Moultrie in the spring of 1863. Fort Sumter was reduced to rubble and the brick walls of Fort Moultrie had been demolished by cannon balls. In the cellar, you can see a hole through brick where the fort took a direct hit from Union artillery.
During the next decade, Fort Moultrie was improved with new cannons, magazines and bombproofs. When World War I broke out, the fort was equipped with breech-loading disappearing rifles, which could be pivoted to reload behind the protection of concrete. To protect against U-boats, underwater mines were placed in the harbor that could be detonated electrically from Fort Moultrie.
Fort Moultrie faced it’s fourth war with the outbreak of World War II. Harbor defense became more of a challenge because of updated technology, and the Harbor Entrance Control Post at Fort Moultrie coordinated all of the harbor defenses in the Charleston area. Anti-aircraft guns were added to the fort. Mines were once again laid in the harbor to protect against submarine attacks. In August of 1947, the flag at Fort Moultrie was lowered for the last time after 171 years of service.
Today, when you visit Fort Moultrie, which is now operated as part of Fort Sumter National Monument by the National Park Service, much of the fort is as it was during World War II. You can visit the underground harbor command area. Several of the rooms are furnished and you can view them through glass.