Fort Sumter National Monument


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Fort Sumter was built after the war of 1812 to protect Charleston Harbor. The construction began in 1829 but wasn’t yet finished when South Carolina seceded from the union in December of 1860. In April of 1861, Confederate forces fired on the Union soldiers occupying the fort, forcing their surrender in the first battle of the American Civil War.


The fort is on a man-made island in the middle of the harbor and so is only accessible by boat.  The NPS concessionaire offers a few 2.5 hour tours a day. It takes about 30 minutes each way to get there, leaving a little more than an hour to explore the fort and the museum housed there.


We were staying with cousins in their beach house nearby, so we decided to make the trip into Charleston to visit the fort. We arrived at the visitors center just in time to pick up our reserved tickets for the last tour and rushed onto the boat. We enjoyed the ride out to the island.


Once there, we perused the museum and helped the kids fill out their junior ranger booklets. They had more fun climbing on the cannons than anything else.


Once back in Charleston, we went inside the visitors center again for the swearing-in of our junior rangers. There are more museum exhibits in this facility, but the kids were done with history lessons for the day.


There is another fort, Fort Moultrie, which is a part of the Fort Sumter National Monument. It is older, dating back to the Revolutionary War, and is located on Sullivan Island. This island can be reached by car, but since we’d spent a full afternoon immersed in Civil War history, we did not visit this part of the park. Maybe next time 🙂


Location: 340 Concord Street, Liberty Square, Charleston, South Carolina

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 4/28/1948

Date of my visit: April 2, 2010


Gettysburg National Military Park


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania commemorates the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. It is considered a turning point in the war, with the Union forces repelling Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. Over the course of 3 days of fierce fighting in July of 1863, about fifty thousand soldiers died…the costliest battle ever in American history.DSC01685

Five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln dedicated a National Cemetary at the site and delivered the famous Gettysburg Address, reminding everyone of the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and urging unity in the hopes that,

“these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Did you know that when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, he was suffering from a mild case of smallpox?!

We visited Gettysburg on Labor Day Weekend in 2011. We started out at the Visitor Center where we perused the museum, watched a short film and viewed the interesting Cyclorama Painting. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklet for my daughter to earn her badge.

The Eternal Light Peace Memorial dedicated on July 3, 1938, commemorating the 1913 Gettysburg reunion for the 50th anniversary of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. The natural gas flame is visible from 20 miles away.

We then took a two-hour bus tour around the battlefield and memorials. Tours are conducted by licensed battlefield guides…they have to take a course and pass an exam in order to conduct tours on the NPS site. Our guide narrated throughout the bus ride and we had several stops where we could get out, stretch our legs and take photos. There are over 1300 monuments, memorials and plaques here, comprising one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the world.


Our favorite was the Castle at Little Roundtop because we could go inside and climb the stairs to an observation deck. This memorial is for a New York regiment in honor of Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth who was the first Union soldier killed during the war. It was here that there were some volunteers performing a living history. This union soldier spent some time talking to my daughter and helped her with her junior ranger packet.


Location: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325

Designation: National Military Park

Date designation declared: Declared a National Park in 1895, decades prior to creation of the NPS

Date of my visit: 9/3/2011

Our junior ranger being ‘sworn in’