On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces bombarded Fort Sumter and the Civil War began. The Federal garrison surrendered the next day and evacuated on the 14th, leaving the fort in Confederate hands. Throughout the Civil War Fort Sumter was the center of conflict as Union forces struggled to regain the fort and control of Charleston Harbor.
Fort Sumter was subjected to a Union blockade, attacks by ironclad warships, and a twenty-two month siege, one of the longest in U.S. Military History. Heavy shelling by Union land batteries (1863-65) reduced most of the fort to a mound of rubble by the war's end.
In 1861 construction of Fort Sumter was nearly complete. An imposing, three-tiered structure with brick walls fifty feet high and five feet thick, the fort was designed to support 135 guns and a garrison of 650 men. The pentagon-shaped fort was described as one of the "most spectacular harbor defense structures to come out of any era of military architecture."