Ghost City Tours

The Ghosts of Fort Sumter

One of the most historic sites in Charleston, Fort Sumter is also rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in the city

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You may remember Fort Sumter from middle school history, as the place where the Civil War began. The decades of tension between the northern states and southern states came to ahead at the fort on the 12th of April in the year 1861.

It was on this date, that Confederate soldiers attacked the Federal Fort of Sumter in the Charleston Harbor, capturing it within 34 hours. Over the next four years, there were many more battles as Union forces never gave up hope of recapturing the fort.

Fort Sumter’s importance to both sides, caused a constant stream of battles. The prominence of the fort would continue through the duration of the war, and the scars from the era would be felt for generations long after.

The History of Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter was named in honor of the Patriot and icon of the American Revolution, Thomas Sumter. The fort was constructed shortly after the War of 1812, as part of a fortification process along the Southern Atlantic United States. This was a necessary step in protecting the harbors of the coast from would be attackers.

While construction commenced on the fort in the year of 1829, the fort still was not finished when the Confederate artillery attack the structure in 1861. Perhaps, one of the reasons why the rebels were able to take control of Sumter.

The Secession

After South Carolina seceded from the Union on the 26th of December in 1860, tension in the state was finally about to explode. US Army Major Robert Anderson left Fort Moultrie in secret, taking the guns and men with him to Fort Sumter, believing Sumter gave the Union a better chance against the South Carolina Militia.

However, as already mentioned Sumter was still under construction at the time Major Anderson relocated his men to the fort. There was also a shortage of cannons and other artillery (the result of cuts to military funding by President Buchanan).

Over the next few months there were calls by South Carolina Governor Pickens, and Confederate Brigadier Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard for then President Buchanan to surrender and evacuate Fort Sumter, but these requests were discarded.

On March 4th, 1861, Abraham Lincoln began his presidency, and upon gaining the knowledge of the dire situation that Anderson and his men were in at Fort Sumter, Lincoln order Gustavus V. Fox to lead a fleet in an aid mission into Charleston Harbor.

The Battle Begins

The first of the ships carrying aid, arrived on the 11th of April. Knowing this, Beauregard sent men to demand the Union surrender the fort, but once again Anderson refused. There were a few more brief discussions, but ultimately peace was never an option.

The following day (April 12th) at 4:30 in the morning the Confederates attacked the fort with the bombardment lasting for 34 hours.

The Union waited two hours into the battle before finally firing their first shot, which they ended up missing on the account that the did not used their highest mounted guns situated on the top tier of the fort. The Union was also forced to use their ammo methodically and sparingly as they could not match the Confederates shot for shot.

On the 13th of April, the Union faced the reality that they had no choice but to surrender the fort and evacuate.

Each side experienced casualties during the battle. One confederate soldier died as the result of a cannon being misfired. On the Union side two soldiers were killed, one during battle and another during a 100 shot salute, which was cut short to 50, as the soldier was killed on the 47th shot.

The Union Returns

Nearly two years later, on the 7th of April in the year 1863, the Union attempted to regain control of Fort Sumter and the Charleston Harbor. However, in the two year following the first battle, the Confederates went to great length to ensure the fort would be able to sustain impending sieges. Thus, the Union’s attack would prove to be unsuccessful.

Once again the Union soldiers were simply unable to match the Confederate’s artillery. During the battle, the Union’s USS Keokuk was badly damaged and sunk the following day. After the battle, the Confederates worked in the dark of night (to elude Union soldiers) as they recovered the ship’s guns. Which were soon brought back to Fort Sumter, for added defence.

To further strengthen the fort, hundreds of slaves were also forced to upgrade protection standards. As the Confederates knew there was yet another battle on the horizon. During this endeavor and throughout the Confederate’s occupation of Sumter, a large but unconfirmed number of slaves died from extreme working conditions.

The Union Strikes Again

Following the failure of their siege, Major General Gilmore, and Rear Admiral Dahlgren begin planning their next attacked, which they had goaled for the 8th and 9th of September of 1863. However, the willingness on the parts of Gilmore and Dahlgren to work together was reductive at best.

The most notable sign of their poor leadership, occurred when Dahlgren refused to defer command of his sailors and marines to the Army, and opted to send out his flotillas before the army’s flotilla was able to join them. Due to Dahlgren’s impatience, the navy was easily defeated, before the Army could even arrive to provide much needed backup.

During this poorly executed assault, only the Union experienced death, 8 men were killed, with 19 wounded and another 105 captured.

Despite the Union’s lack of success in trying to capture Fort Sumter, there would be several more attempts and more blood spilt in the years to follow.

Finally on February 17th in 1865, upon hearing news that General William T. Sherman and his men were working their way through South Carolina, the Confederates voluntarily evacuated Fort Sumter, and abandoned the City of Charleston altogether.

In the Following Years

With the war over and the fort in ruins, the Army began the process of restoring Sumter. The fort would later go on to serve as a lighthouse until the year of 1897, when the brewing Spanish-American War (in 1898), revived interest in the fort. And, thus, Sumter was renovated with new installations, and artillery.

68 years later (in 1966) Fort Sumter was named to the list of National Register of Historic Places. To visit Fort Sumter today, you must travel by boat or via a ferry ride. Whilst, at the Fort Sumter’s museum, you’ll find information about the critical role it clearly played during the Civil War.

The Ghosts of Fort Sumter

Today, Fort Sumter is a popular tourist attraction, drawing students on school field trips, Civil War buffs and other curious visitors. All in fact curious in seeing the sight of the first battle of the Civil War. But, at Fort Sumter there is more than just tales of history. Some say, that at the Fort there are ghosts. Ghost of fallen soldiers, and departed slaves.

The Story of Daniel Hough

One of these lost souls who is rumored to haunt Fort Sumter is the Union soldier who was killed on the 47th shot of the 100 gun salute. The Soldier’s name was Daniel Hough.

Daniel was born in Tipperary, Ireland during the year of 1825. It is believed that he enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1849, not long after he immigrated to America. He was eventually stationed at Fort Sumter in April of the year 1861 shortly before the war was destined to begin.

The morning of the first battle of the Civil War, Hough saw action, serving as an artillerist. The Confederates out shot the Union soldiers with reportedly more than 3,000 rounds. After the 34 hour deluge of bullets and cannonballs, Major Anderson surrendered the fort.

The Union soldiers were permitted a 100 gun salute before they were to evacuate Sumter. However, on the 47th round, there was a misfire which cost Daniel Hough his life.

Major General Abner Doubleday who was present at the time of Hough’s death, spoke of what he had witnessed, “It happened that some flakes of fire had entered the muzzle of one of the guns after it was sponged. Of course, when the gunner attempted to ram the cartridge down it exploded prematurely, killing Private Daniel Hough instantly, and setting fire to a pile of cartridges underneath, which also exploded, seriously wounding five men. Fifty guns were fired in the salute.”

That day Hough was buried at the fort, and with that final act, the Union Army left the grounds of Fort Sumter.

The Ghost of Daniel Hough

Reports of people witnessing the ghost of Daniel Hough begin popping up shortly after the Confederates took control of Sumter. Rebel soldiers would claim to see a Union Soldier walking around the fort.

Even to this day visitors have claim to have seen a ghostly Union dressed soldiers. Others have even claim to seen smoke and smell the scent of gunpowder while in the ghost’s presence.

Daniel Hough legacy also has grown over the years to include a story about the very flag he was saluting upon being shot. Some believe that a faded section on the flag holds an image of a man’s face, of Daniel Hough’s face. This flag is located the Fort Sumter Museum. Check it out for yourself, the face in the flag just may even wink at you.

Ghostly Encounters

One person who visited Fort Sumter in the spring of 2015, did so during the evening hours. The visitor claimed to have seen a ghostly figure rise out from the shadows to salute the flag. The visitor believing this shadowy image to be the lost soul of Daniel Hough, quickly snapped a few photos as proof of the ghost’s existence. Unfortunately, all of the photos taken were blurred by white splotches.

Later in 2015, another individual named Delaney, claims to have also seen a ghost saluting the flag whilst visiting Fort Sumter. The only difference in this account is that Delaney claims not to have seen just one spirit, but two. Delaney says the two spirit manifested seemingly out of nowhere.

Paranormal Occurrence on Mother’s Day

A woman went to Fort Sumter with her family, a good year prior to the previously mentioned accounts, on Mother’s Day of 2014 (I guess they never heard of flowers and breakfast in bed).

When they arrived at the fort they were allowed about an hour to walk the grounds and explore the area. And, so the woman and her family walked every inch of the fort, taking in the sights and reflecting on the historical significance of Fort Sumter.

Once, it was time for the family to head back to the boat (which carried them to the fort), the women’s mother began to feel an extremely heavy pressure upon her chest. The sensation her mother was experiencing, intensified as they reached the highest point of Sumter.

Then suddenly the woman’s brother also begin to feel the pressure on his chest. Shortly after that occurrence the women and her family all suddenly caught the aroma of gunpowder in the air.

Visiting Fort Sumter

Visiting Fort Sumter is one of those things that has to be done, even if you are only briefly staying in the City of Charleston. Take a moment, and include a visit to Fort Sumter in your travel plans. Brave the high winds like the soldiers of the fort did in the early-mid 1860s.

After all, it’s not everyday one gets the chance to visit the fort where the American Civil War began, a battle which led to the seemingly unavoidable war. A war in which more than 600,000 people were killed, a war that turned American against American, brother against brother.

To stand at the center of the fort, to feel the ground beneath your very feet, to know you are at the very location where the Civil War officially started (on April 12, 1861) is a sobering experience. Whether you believe in ghosts are not, in that moment you will swear that you are surrounded by all of the lost souls of the soldiers who fought at Fort Sumter.

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