Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fort Sumter Family Field Trip

When I first envisioned this sabbatical year, I thought of today's trip.  Not Fort Sumter exactly, but I imagined the opportunity to travel to an actual landmark as we studied the event in our home school history class.

As a veteran teacher, the prospect of frequent field trips has always been the main appeal of home schooling my children.  Our previous years' jaunts were always determined by the school's calendar, not the curriculum.  Sadly, due to slashed budgets, increased liability risks and overstressed teachers, school field trips have become a rarity.

This year I am in charge of our school's agenda.  Currently, we are studying the American Civil War.  We are in South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. Obviously, we had to take a family field trip to Fort Sumter where it all began.

Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter National Park lies in the Charleston Harbor about a 35 minute ferry ride from the Aquarium Wharf.  Costing a very reasonable $17 for adults and $10 for children, tickets include the museum at the Wharf, round trip ferry ride, Fort entrance including the site museum and a park ranger guided tour.  The entire trip took around two and a half hours and was the perfect history lesson.

Kids ready for the hunt!
Upon purchasing our tickets, an extremely helpful park ranger engaged our kids in an honorary ranger scavenger hunt.  The hunt was free and included two pages of critical information about Fort Sumter and the Civil War, two brochures about the Fort and the Civil War and a detailed map of the man-made island.  Our kids were thrilled to have a mission and began searching for answers inside the beautiful wharf-side Fort Sumter Museum while we waited to board our ferry.

Thanks to pristine January weather, we sat up top and enjoyed the seventy degree day on our way out to the Fort.  Though I have visited Charleston before, I had never observed her beauty from the water.  What a glorious southern lady!

The recorded narration played during the ferry ride gave the kids many facts about the Civil War specifically that first battle.  They were feverishly filling in answers until the ferry pulled into port.

As we passed through the Sally Port (a fort entrance), a park ranger greeted us with all the essential info about the battles of the fort.


On April 12, 1861, Confederate General Beauregard ordered Union General Anderson, his former friend, to surrender the fort.  At Anderson's refusal, Beauregard ordered the cannons be fired upon the fort.  After 34 hours, with no lives lost, General Anderson surrendered after the officer's quarters caught fire.  Beauregard, ever gallant, allowed his friend Anderson to fire a one hundred cannon salute at the surrender ceremony while lowering the U.S. flag.  Unfortunately, Private Daniel Howe lost his life when a cannon misfired and was the first casualty of the Civil War. 

Fort Sumter remained in Confederate hands until February 1865 and was the location for the longest siege of the war.  For over two years, the Union forces bombarded the fort destroying the top two stories.  The Confederates survived by creating tunnels in the rubble utilizing the first type of trench/tunnel warfare primarily used in World War I.  With Sherman en route from Savannah, the Rebels evacuated Fort Sumter and Charleston, drawing Sherman to Columbia and saving Charleston from his devastation.

One positive effect of this year has been the transformation of our kids into being self-motivated learners.  Greg and I watched them move about the Fort looking for answers to their questions.  I loved seeing Emma waiting patiently for her turn to speak to a park ranger.  Anabel proudly told me that one ranger wouldn't tell her an answer, but showed her where she could find it... and she did!  Wyatt, ever the leader, would find an answer and then, point his sisters in the right direction.

When we returned to the wharf side museum, the park rangers very seriously graded the kids' work and took the time to correct the one or two they missed.  Their deligence paid off and each kid was awarded a Fort Sumter Park Ranger badge and given a sign to hang up in the museum with her or his name on it.

I highly recommend family field trips!  Everyone learns something while visiting a piece of our history together.  Next trip: Savannah's Fort Pulaski, another Civil War historic site.

1 comment:

  1. Seems Like I remember them telling us some really early baseball games were played there?


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