HISTORY:  Fort Moultrie

Etching of colonists at Fort Moultrie in 1776.

Editor’s Note:  With 241st anniversary of Carolina Day coming up on June 28, we thought this historical tidbit was particularly relevant.

S.C. Encyclopedia  |  Fort Moultrie  was the site of the June 28, 1776, American victory in the Revolutionary War. Fort Moultrie I, the Revolutionary War–era fort, was replaced in 1798 by Fort Moultrie II, which was followed in 1809 by Fort Moultrie III, which served as a military post until 1947.

Fort Moultrie I was located on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston harbor. Construction began in February 1776 on the then-unnamed palmetto log and sand fort. A square fort with corner bastions, its walls were five hundred feet long, more than ten feet high, and sixteen feet apart, with the space between filled with sand. On June 28, 1776, Colonel William Moultrie commanded the half-completed fort, which mounted thirty-one cannons and a garrison of more than four hundred soldiers. In the nine-and-one-half-hour battle, nine British warships with almost three hundred cannons were defeated. After the victory, the fort was completed and named in Moultrie’s honor. After the war the fort was not garrisoned and fell into disrepair.

Completed in 1798, the second fort was a five-sided brick, timber, and earthen structure with walls seventeen feet high and sixteen mounted cannons. Built near the site of the 1776 fortification, Fort Moultrie II was almost destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.

The third Fort Moultrie was completed in 1809 on the site of the 1798 fort. It had five fifteen-feet-high brick walls and originally mounted forty cannons. When South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, Fort Moultrie III was commanded by Major Robert Anderson, who transferred his command to Fort Sumter on the night of December 26. South Carolina troops moved into Fort Moultrie the next day, and on April 12, 1861, it played a major role in the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Though heavily damaged by Union bombardments during the Civil War, Fort Moultrie played a key role in the Confederate defense of Charleston harbor. After the war, the fort was repaired but not garrisoned, and by 1887 it was once more in need of major repairs. In 1897 the fort was again garrisoned. After the Spanish-American War in 1898 concrete batteries were built and other improvements were made inside the fort. The army also purchased land on Sullivan’s Island to construct more batteries and other structures, establishing the Fort Moultrie Reservation. During World War I as many as three thousand army personnel lived on the reservation. After the war it served as a U.S. Army National Guard and Civilian Conservation Corps training facility.

During World War II the garrison was increased and its defenses improved. While no combat occurred, German U-boats mined the harbor entrance in September 1942. In 1944 an army-navy command post was constructed inside Fort Moultrie to provide a single location to direct the artillery defending the harbor and control the shipping. The Fort Moultrie Reservation was deactivated in 1947 and its buildings sold to private individuals or given to the state of South Carolina. In 1960 Fort Moultrie was transferred by the state to Fort Sumter National Monument, a unit of the National Park Service.

— Excerpted from an entry by Richard W. Hatcher III.  This entry hasn’t been updated since 2006.  To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.) 

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