Decades of growing strife between North and South erupted in civil war on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.
South Carolina offers tourists and residents a great variety of year-round recreational activities. The scenic mountainous section in the northwest affords good camping and hiking in wilderness areas, and water sports are the major attraction at the many fine resorts that line the state's coast.
Inland swamps and coastal areas abound in wildlife, and fish are abundant in both saltwater and freshwater regions. In addition, thousands of tourists visit the state's numerous places of historic interest.
Seven units of the National Park System are located in South Carolina. In Fort Sumter National Monument is Fort Sumter, where the opening engagement of the American Civil War was fought in April 1861. Cowpens National Battlefield commemorates the Battle of Cowpens, which ended British control in South Carolina during the American Revolution.
Kings Mountain National Military Park preserves the site of an earlier important battle of the revolution, the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Ninety Six National Historic Site preserves a colonial trading village and seat of government. Fort Moultrie National Monument preserves the site where a squadron of British warships was repelled during the revolution; the fort was also among those bombarding Fort Sumter at the outset of the Civil War.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site preserves the simple 18th-century farm of a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. The last significant tract of virgin bottomland hardwoods in the southeastern United States is contained in the Congaree Swamp National Monument.
National and State Forests:
The federal government maintains two national forests in South Carolina. Sumter National Forest, the larger one, includes foothills and mountains in three separate sections in the northwestern part of the state. Francis Marion National Forest in southeastern South Carolina is named after the Revolutionary War general also known as "The Swamp Fox" for his campaigns in the region.
The state forests in South Carolina include Sand Hills State Forest, the largest, which adjoins the Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge, one of 11 in the state.
Cheraw State Park, in the Sandhills country of the northeast, is the oldest in the system and contains a championship golf course. Table Rock State Park, which lies in the Blue Ridge province, is a scenic area that includes Table Rock and other peaks, and dense forests. Nearby, also in a mountainous area, is Oconee State Park, which includes a lake. Poinsett State Park, in central South Carolina, contains many wooded trails. In Myrtle Beach State Park, on the northeastern coast, are found a wide, sandy beach, sand dunes, and forests. Off the southeastern coast is Hunting Island State Park, located on a barrier island.
Several units of the state park system are primarily of historic interest. General Thomas Sumter Historical Site, in Stateburg, includes the grave of Thomas Sumter, an American Revolutionary leader. Old Dorchester, near Summerville, is a historical state park on the site of the old town of Dorchester, which was settled in 1696 by colonists from Massachusetts. The settlement was abandoned after the Revolutionary War, and the site includes its ruins. In Lancaster is the Andrew Jackson Historical State Park, in the region in which the seventh United States president was born. Rivers Bridge State Park marks the site of a Civil War engagement.
Other Places to Visit:
Popular tourist attractions in South Carolina are the state's famous gardens. In the Charleston area are Magnolia Gardens, which are on a 17th-century plantation and are especially noted for displays of azaleas, magnolias, and camellias; Middleton Gardens, which date from the 1740s and are the oldest formal landscaped gardens in the United States; and Cypress Gardens, which contain a lake where bald cypress trees grow.
Other notable gardens include Edisto Gardens in Orangeburg, Kalmia Gardens in Hartsville, and Swan Lake in Sumter. In Brookgreen Gardens, near Marrells Inlet, more than 500 sculptures are displayed in a setting of native trees. The Botanical Garden complements a zoological park at Riverbanks, in Columbia.
There are numerous historic places of interest in the state, many of them in Charleston. The Heyward-Washington House, which dates from about 1770, was the home of Thomas Heyward, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Among the many other historic landmarks in Charleston are the Old Powder Magazine, which was built about 1713; the Old Exchange, which dates from 1771; Saint Michael's Episcopal Church, which was begun in 1752; and Saint Philip's Episcopal Church, which was completed in 1838. Columbia has a number of historic sites, including the Robert Mills House (1823), and the boyhood home (1872) of Woodrow Wilson, commemorating the 28th United States president. Clemson, a town in northwestern South Carolina, is the site of Fort Hill, which dates from 1803. It was the home of the American statesman John C. Calhoun. The Beaufort Historic District includes more than 170 buildings.