Fort Moultrie is the name of a series of forts on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, built to protect the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The first fort, built of palmetto logs, inspired the flag and motto (Palmetto State) of South Carolina.
It was not yet complete and unnamed when when Adm. Sir Peter Parker and nine British warships attacked it on June 28, 1776, near the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. Legend has it that the soft palmetto logs did not crack under bombardment but rather absorbed the shot; in any case, Charleston was saved from capture, and the fort was named for the commander in the battle, William Moultrie.
As tensions hightened after Great Britain and France declared war in 1793, the United States embarked on a systematic fortification of important harbors. A new Fort Moultrie, one of 20 new forts along the Atlantic coast, was completed over the decayed original fort in 1798. Destroyed by a hurricane in 1804, it was replaced by a brick fort by 1809.
Between 1809 and 1860 Fort Moultrie changed little; the parapet was altered and the armament modernized, but newly created Fort Sumter became the main component of Charleston's defense. Of the four forts around Charleston harbor, Moultrie, Sumter, Johnson, and Castle Pinckney, it was Moultrie's defenders who chose to fight against the Confederacy; they retreated to the stronger Fort Sumter when in December 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union. Three and a half months later, Confederate troops shelled Fort Sumter into submission and the Civil War began. In April 1863, Federal ironclads and shore batteries began a 20-month bombardment of Forts Sumter and Moultrie; the Confederates held the forts and the harbor until February 1865, when the army evacuated the city. By then, Fort Sumter was a pile of rubble, and Fort Moultrie had been pounded below a sand hill, which subsequently protected it against Federal bombardment. Rifled cannon had proved their superiority to brickwork fortifications, but not to the endurance of the Confederate artillerymen who manned the forts throughout.
Fort Moultrie was modernized in the 1870s, with huge rifled cannon and deep concrete bunkers; further modernization in the 1880s turned all of Sullivans Island into a military complex, of which the old fort was just a part.
The fort evolved with the times through World War II and beyond, but in recent years has been turned over to the National Park Service. The fort is now constructed as a tour backwards in time through the fort's defenses, from World War II back to the palmetto log fort of William Moultrie. It has been designated the Fort Moultrie National Monument.