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It was here on April 12, 1861, that Confederate forces launched a 34-hour bombardment that started the Civil War, aka the “War Between the States.” Union forces eventually surrendered, and the rebels occupied federal ground that became a symbol of Southern resistance. Amazingly, Confederate troops held Sumter for nearly 4 years, although it was almost continually bombarded by the Yankees. When evacuation finally came, the fort was nothing but a heap of rubble. Park rangers are on hand to answer questions, and you can explore gun emplacements and visit a small museum filled with artifacts related to the siege. A complete tour of the fort takes about 2 hours. Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square (back in Downtown Charleston), displays information on the events leading up to the first shots at Fort Sumter. Most people take the tour of the fort offered by Fort Sumter Tours, 360 Concord St. ([tel] 800/789-3678 or 843/881-7337; www.fortsumtertours.com). You can board at either of two locations: Liberty Square, or Mount Pleasant’s Patriots Point. Sailing times change every month or so, but from March to Labor Day, there generally are three sailings per day from each location, beginning at 9:30 or 10:45am. Winter sailings are less frequent. Call for details. Each departure point offers ample parking, and the boats are clean, safe, and equipped with modern conveniences.