Historic Fort Moultrie, Charleston almost free things to do with kids

On my return visit to Fort Moultrie I spent more time soaking in the remarkable stories behind the lime colored stucco walls. From the heroic Revolutionary War battle to the African trade slave tragedy and the World War II sonar defenses.

Admission to the park is free for children under 16 ($3 for adults). Here are the highlights (data provided by the Visitors Center exhibits):

The 1776 Battle Exhibit

The palmetto log fort was garrisoned by 413 provincial officers and troops under the command of Colonel William Moultrie. Most had no experience with the fort’s

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

Inside Fort Moultrie National Park

armament of twenty six old French and British large bore guns.

The British moved slowly allowing the Americans to prepare the fort and build defenses around Charleston.

Redcoats troops were to attack the fort while the naval vessel were to bombard them.

2,500 soldiers lead by General Henry Clinton landed on present day Isle of Palms believing he could ford the inlet between the two islands. This intelligence proved disastrously untrue since most channels were too deep to cross.

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

1776 cannon ball from the battle of Fort Moultrie

On June 28, around 11:30AM, the seven British warships squadron launched a terrific bombardment, described by one of the Clinton’s soldiers as “an eternal sheet of flame”.

Expecting to quickly drive the patriots from their guns, the British were amazed to see the spongy palmetto ramparts absorb the hits without splintering.

Around noon the three frigates, Actaeon, Syren, and Sphinx, left the line and moved behind the fort in an attempt to bombard the fort from the rear. However, all ran aground in a submerged sandbar.

The Sphynx and the Syren got off but the Actaeon remained stuck. The captain destroyed the vessel rather to have it fall into the patriots hands.

Running low on powder Moultrie ordered his men to only shot at ten minutes intervals through brief clouds smoke openings. Once re-supplied the patriots return the heaviest fire onto the flagship Bristol and Experiment warships. Both suffered severe casualties.

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

The narrow stucco and molasses blended walls

Admiral Parker was wounded and deeply embarrassed when his breeches fell down baring his behind…hence the famous “we beat the pants off them” saying.

Realizing he could not ford the inlet from Long island, Clinton tried to ferry his men across in flat-bottom boats.
This proved to be a huge mistake, as the narrow channels forced the Redcoats to proceed in single file directly into the fire into the patriots guns on Sullivan’s Island.

Soon after the battle the fort on Sullivan’s Island was named after Colonel William Moultrie and the palmetto tree was adopted as the state’s symbol.

Ironically, 4 years later, the British captured the now complete Fort Moultrie without firing a single shot!

The West Africa Slavery Exhibit

Rice and slavery formed the basis of the South Carolina’s wealth. Enslaved workers cleared cypress swamps and built dikes and canals by hand using their homeland rice growing skills.

18th century African Slave Drawing

18th century African Slave Drawing

By 1708 Africans made the majority of the colony’s population and for over 100 years Charleston became the main point of entry for ~240,000 West African slaves.

To prevent the spread of diseases many of the Middle Passage survivors were quarantined aboard ships or in pestilence houses on Sullivan’s Island and James Island.

Le Amistad – In July 1839, 53 enslaved Africans revolted on board Le Amistad leading to a US Supreme Court ruling that set the Africans free. The captives were smuggled to the Americas from Africa after the international slave trade was outlawed. The Africans revolted off the coast of Cuba and their case was heard in a New England court.

Echo – Abolished in 1808 the Atlantic slave trade continued illegally. In 1858 the slave ship Echo so her captain and crew could stand trial for trading in captive Africans. The ship was headed to Cuba when it was captured in the Caribbean. The federal government resettled the remaining 271 Africans in Monrovia, Liberia. The captain and crew were acquitted.

Queen Nzinga of Angola ruled the land that became present day Angola.

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

The amazing Queen Nzinga of Angola

She fought the Portuguese for many years, gaining fame as an exceptional state woman and warrior. She died at 80 in 1663. Modern day resistance, styled after Queen Nzinga’s military tactics, lead to Angola’s independence in 1975.

Olaudah Equiano“The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. This filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror.”

Olaudah Equiano was captured as a child in Nigeria and brought to America. He bought his freedom, became a seamen and joined the abolition movement in London. His self-published memoir made him wealthy and helped advance the anti-slavery cause.

The World War II Exhibit

HECP Room – Here sat the officer in charge of HECP – HDCP. His primary duty was to take immediate action against any suspected enemy treat or activity within the defense sector. Charleston harbor was also monitored from this room.

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

Fort Moultrie Radio Room

The Radio Room – The radio information network of the Charleston Harbor Defense provided direct communication line between HECP – HDCP and all elements of the harbor defense system.

It was constantly manned by 2 men, one Army and one Navy, who would respond to all sightings of enemy vessels and distress signals coming from ships.

Duty officer and Operations Room served as the operations center of the Charleston Harbor defense.

Relive 3 centuries of legendary moments at the historic Fort Moultrie National Park!


Soul searching travel into Fort Moultrie mysteries and Sullivan’s Island sorrows

Would I know where to kneel and dig?
Who first covered the fort’s walls with molasses and lime?
What treasures still lie beneath my feet?
– from “Molasses” by Ed Madden

A trip to Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island is filled with emotions, mysteries and soul searching questions. The fort is most famous for the Patriots bravery and ingenuity during the Revolutionary War that lead to a historic victory, the state flag and its marquee Palmetto symbol.

But there is more behind the old stucco fortifications. If only the walls could talk…

Inside Fort Moultrie

Inside Fort Moultrie

There are closed tunnels, locked gates and hidden passages that lead nowhere. Who built them and why?

What about the unusual colors “the color of onion and okra”, “the chalk wash”. Apparently the interior brick walls and buildings were painted yellow to protect the soft brick from the elements. The sulfur on the inside walls comes from molasses, used to thicken the mix of water and lime!

The Middle Passage and the houses of pain and sorrow
The pest houses are gone now, but the fact remains: 40% of all Africans brought to North America from 1700 to 1775 first arrived on Sullivan’s Island.

Few historical monuments and markers pay (and are planned to pay) tribute to the millions of enslaved Africans:

Bench by the Road 2008 Ceremony - Photo by Tony Morrison Society

Bench by the Road Ceremony - Photo by Tony Morrison Society http://www.tonimorrisonsociety.org

Bench by The Road – a 6-foot-long structure with a small bronze plaque mounted on its back. The bench was revealed last summer during the Fifth Biennial on Sullivan’s Island in a ceremony lead by Toni Morrison, the 1st African American Nobel Prize for Literature winner and main catalyst of the project.

• A marker erected in 1999 that says tens of thousands of African captives arrived on Sullivan’s Island’s shores between 1700 and 1775.

• Future planned exhibit “Passages” connects the West Coast of Africa with Lowcountry Gullah-Geechee culture.

• Future commemorative markers of the four Pest Houses where slaves were quarantined and kept in abominable conditions. The houses were demolished at the end of the 18th century so residents could better enjoy their island.

Fort Moultrie Park Entrance

Fort Moultrie Park Entrance

Admission to Fort Moultrie is FREE. The fort is open 9AM – 5PM year around except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Check out these awesome photos that several visitors posted on Flickr.

More area attractions

Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor where the Civil War started. Free admission, must pay for ferry to get there

• USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier in Mount Pleasant. “The Fighting Lady” is home to dozens incredible war jets, a submarine, a flight simulator and more.

• Charles Towne Landing, the birthplace of Charleston and South Carolina, is an incredible park featuring a historic trail, Horry plantation ruins and the Animal Forest Zoo.

Isle of Palms Beach Photos: Happy Family Vacation, Peace, Fun and Romance (Charleston free things to do)

“Serenity Now!” Leave your worries behind and come free your mind, body and spirit at peaceful Isle of Palms beach.

Female Runner

You can walk barefoot, walk your dog, lose yourself gazing at the blue ocean waters, swim, run, bicycle, collect shells, surf, run a kite, play volleyball, or just take a well-deserved nap…the possibilities for fun are endless and best of all it’s FREE! Now that’s something worth shouting about!

Tips to know before you go

1. Love at the beach Park for free at the Isle of Palms County Park and walk the half mile to the beach. There is a super-cool playground for kids to have fun and burn a lot of energy (the mini zip line is a winner); also there are restrooms, showers and changing rooms.

2. If you don’t want to walk, there is metered parking available downtown between 10 and 14th streets. You need to pay during beach season from mid-March to early October. However after 6:00 PM parking is free! You can also park on the streets or a special designated parking lot. See more info about beach access and parking here.

3. Once you’re done with the beach, if you want to rinse the sand off skip the showers by the restrooms; they are always crowded and it gets mushy on the ground pretty quickly. I always used the shower by the volleyball court one block down.

4. Best places to hunt for shells is as far away as possible from downtown.

Isle of Palms Conch Prints

If you parked at the Isle of Palms County Park go to your left once you get to the beach and pass all the residential buildings. Now you’re in for a treat: intact conks, crab, clams and horse-shoe shells…well formed sand-dollars…maybe a baby shark or even coins. Bird watchers enthusiasts go to the southern end of the island (shorter walk).

5. Boys and girls get a great kick with the little body surf boards. They don’t need to go far into the water so you can keep a close eye on them as they have fun. There are several shops on the island to rent beach equipment. Of course you can use the regular surf boards as well.
Surfers getting ready

6. There are several places to eat on the island, including 2 restaurants featuring incredible ocean views (that’s reflected in the price). My favorite thing to do is get ice-cream from the little shop close to the restroom area. It’s cheap, cool and is a good enough bribe to keep my 3 years old in check.

7. If you plan to bicycle or come with the stroller be mindful of the tide calendar (published daily in the newspaper or given at the hotel). The water can get very high eating into most of the beach.

8. Walking the dog Dogs are welcome year-round but must be on leash except early morning from 5 to 8 AM. This is not that much enforced I’ve seen plenty cutie pooches running around freely.

9. For more educational activities take the short drive to nearby Fort Moultrie (free admission), the historic park where the state’s Palmetto Tree symbol was born and legend has it we coined the phrase “We beat the pants off them

10. Check this post for a detailed list of activities (grouped by price) you can do with the kids in and around Charleston.

Directions to Isle of Palms Beach:

Bicycling at the beach

From Hwy 17 N in Mt. Pleasant take the IOP connector (turn right at Bank of America) all the way till the end. Here is the Google Map.
Once you’re in town you can turn left to get to the Isle of Palms County Park, Marina and the road leading towards Wild Dunes golf resort. You can turn right to reach “downtown”, metered parking and most of the shops and restaurants. There are about 50 public beach access points on Isle of Palms.

Folly Beach is another great beach to visit, on the other side of Charleston. Very romantic and less commercial it’s a popular gateway for singles, weddings and people with dogs.

However if you’re planning to spend the week then camp out at Edisto Island State Park, the South Carolina kid friendly jungle! Take the night beach walks to spot Carolina’s most famous reptile the loggerhead turtles nesting and hatching along the shores. Discover the thousands years old Spanish Mound and visit the Interpretive Center for an awesome live show on native marine wildlife.

Have fun at the Isle of Palms beach!

Historic Fort Sumter in Photos (what to do with kids in Charleston)

Historic Fort Sumter – the start of the Civil War – is a must see family destination when you visit Charleston South Carolina. If time permits visit the Charleston Aquarium (at Liberty Square, same place as the Sumter ferry dock station) or the Yorktown Battleship (at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, the other ferry boat boarding for Fort Sumter).

Read more about Fort Sumter on my previous post:

Happy vacation travel in historic South Carolina!

Fort Sumter: Family Day Trip in South Carolina History

Located in the middle of the Charleston Harbor, Fort Sumter marks the start of “The War Between the States” (as it is called here since was nothing “civil” about it), when Confederate artillery opened fire April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.

Fort Sumter entrance signSeven millions of pounds of metal were furiously shot at it without success. Amazingly, the Confederate losses only counted 52 killed and 267 wounded. The fort suffered major destruction with the right flank wall and the gorge wall all but vanished. For the next 100 years it remains a garrison but with limited military significance.

In 1948 Fort Sumter was transferred to the National Park Service and became a national monument and a popular family attraction.

Things to know before you go
1. Fort Sumter is open year round except for New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. The fort is open 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM from April 1st to Labor Day, at other times call (843)-883-3123. Entrance to Fort Sumter is free, however you must pay for the ferry ride to get there. For more info see: Fort Sumter accessibility and visit hours.

Bridge to Fort Sumter Charleston2. You can access Fort Sumter by ferry or privately operated boats. The concessioned ferry leaves from two locations: Liberty Square (340 Concord Street in Charleston), and Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum (40 Patriots Point Road in Mount Pleasant). Tours usually depart every 2 hours and the ride takes about 30 minutes. The ferry has a snack bar and restrooms. For ticket info call 1-800-789-3678.

3. If you depart from Liberty Square make sure to visit the Charleston Aquarium; if you depart from Patriots Point, reserve 2 hours to explore the wonderful USS Yorktown aircraft carrier with its dozens of war planes, the submarine and the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum.

4. You can’t get to Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie. Pets are not permitted at Fort Sumter or on the ferry. Pets accompanying private boaters must remain on the boat, and must not be left unattended.

Big Canons at Fort Sumter Charleston5. During the ferry ride you can capture amazing photos of the Charleston’s Harbor and Ravenel bridge, so make sure you bring your camera and plenty of batteries along.

6. Kids have fun checking out the big canons spread throughout the fort and chasing each other through the maze of tunnels.

Fort Sumter little beach

7. If traveling by ferry you will have about 1 hour to wonder around. Save yourself some hustle and bustle and conveniently get loose from the “family group” by sunbathing on the grass near the flags; you will enjoy breathtaking ocean views and can quietly soak in all the history around you.

See more family day of fun at Fort Sumter on this slideshow

Enjoy your vacation in South Carolina!

Charleston free things to do “We beat the pants off them” at Fort Moultrie

A short drive from Charleston, Fort Moultrie is most famous for its ingenous palmetto tree wall defense against the British cannon balls, during the June 28, 1776 Revolutionary War battle.

Palmetto Tree at Fort Moultrie in Charleston SC

Besides birthing the state flag symbol, another history nugget is that at Fort Moultrie the “We beat the pants off them” aphorism was also coined. Legend has it that Admiral Sir Peter Parker, was hit by a careful placed gun shot by the Patriots that had “hind parts of his breeches shot away, which laid his posterior bare” .

Check out the underground museum featuring the fort’s sonar monitoring and communication center during Word War II. Gotta chuckle at the wall posters propaganda calling for citizens money…yep back then “we, the people” had a voice on that kind of funding. From the fort outside grounds you’ll get the best view of the Ravenel bridge, now Charleston’s most famous landmark. Not far from the fort is the entrance to the pedestrian friendly bridge over-pass, a must do outdoor activity while in town.

Kids will have a blast checking the cannons or just running through the fort’s tunnels maze. If that doesn’t tire them down there is great playground and picnic park nearby on Isle of Palms.

Fort Sumter is another must see family destination while in Charleston. You can only reach it by boat. For information, photos and travel tips see my post on Fort Sumter

1214 Middle Street on Sullivan’s Island
For directions and more info: www.nps.gov/fomo/