Charleston’s military history spans more than 350 years and much of it is easy to reach

Charleston is awash in military history.

From the very first landing of European settlers in 1670 to the U.S. effort to support allies during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, military elements are part of the fabric of the Lowcountry.

Around the region and downtown there are reachable historic sites of all kinds and all periods.

Pick your interests: the original English landing site at Charles Towne Landing (now a state park), the American Revolution, the Civil War, both World Wars and up to modern times where the Pentagon’s presence is featured through vital work at secure Joint Base Charleston.

A special area of interest that the state is gearing up for is South Carolina’s Sestercentennial (250 years) celebration of the 1775-81 war for independence from England.

The city of Charleston fell to British forces on May 12, 1780. A remnant of the battle can still be seen in the slab of shell-spackled rock in Marion Square that was once a piece of a tabby fort there.

The so-called “Horn Work” was a walled-off, moated, 8-acre bulwark that held 18 of the Americans’ largest guns behind a gate wide enough that Gen. William Moultrie rode through at a full gallop.

For more information on the American Revolution remembrance in South Carolina, go to

Here are some of the area’s other military highlights from current and past centuries worth a visit:

The Citadel

Also known as the Military College of South Carolina, the school was established in 1842 originally off Marion Square downtown. That older building has since been converted to a hotel. The fortress-appearing campus was moved across town in 1922 to the banks of the Ashley River and has since graduated many prominent alumni who have gone on to serve the nation, including in the military and politics.

The school grounds are open for touring year-round. Especially popular are the Friday afternoon parades by the gray-clad Corps of Cadets when school is in session.

For more information, visit

Fort Sumter

If you want to visit where the Civil War began, Fort Sumter at the mouth of Charleston Harbor is accessible by tour company boats.

The island fortress was home to federal forces targeted by Confederate guns fired from around Charleston Harbor, launching four years of bloody fighting on April 12, 1861. The site is operated by the National Park Service, and tour boats leave throughout the day.

Inside the fort are guns left over from the fighting plus history lessons of what the fort looked like before the bombing and then as a Confederate outpost during the war.

The NPS visitor center at Liberty Square on the Cooper River side of Charleston is a good starting point. Nearby, the International African American Museum plans to open in 2023. Also close to the site is Gadsden’s Wharf, which was the nation’s largest docking terminal during the slave trade.

For more information, go to

Fort Moultrie/Pinckney Farm

If you don’t favor a boat ride in the harbor, the National Park Service operates two related sites in the area, both in the Mount Pleasant/East Cooper/Sullivan’s Island part of the region.

The present-day site of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island is where, during the Revolutionary War, American troops were able to keep the invading British fleet at bay. It was at this site that federal troops abandoned their post in December 1861 for the safety of Fort Sumter.

Today, the current brick-supported fort is an easy walk and is a mix of old and 20th century defensive upgrades. Seminole Indian leader Osceola is buried near the gate.

A few miles away in Mount Pleasant is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. Pinckney was a principal author and signer of the U.S. Constitution, and the remnant of his property is part of the story of what life was like on a Lowcountry plantation, including for enslaved African Americans.

For more information, go to and

The H.L. Hunley submarine

If you want to see the world’s first successful attack submarine, the Confederate sub H.L. Hunley is on display at the Clemson University-run Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston.

The nearly 40-foot vessel sank the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Sullivan’s Island on Feb. 17, 1864, by ramming an explosive black powder charge into its side. The Confederate sub then mysteriously disappeared until 2000, when the Hunley and the remains of its eight crewmen were recovered 4 miles offshore.

The sub museum is open to tours while conservation of the vessel continues right in front of visitors. Tours, however, are limited to weekends.

For more information, go to

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

If you want to experience the sounds, smells and echoes of the ships that defended America in the 20th century, Patriots Point on Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant is a superior experience.

Billed as South Carolina’s largest museum, the focal point is the Yorktown, a World War II-era aircraft carrier named for another carrier lost at the Battle of Midway. On board the vessel is the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum, which includes several well-curated exhibits that take you through various areas of the ship.

Patriots Point also features the floating destroyer Laffey, survivor of vicious Pacific Theater kamikaze attacks, and on shore is the Vietnam Experience Exhibit of a U.S. outpost from the era. In all, the museum features 28 historic aircraft.

For more information, go to

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