An Atonement at Fort Sumter

Brian was mighty happy to visit Fort Sumter at last. Bob Janiskee photo.



re┬Ědemp┬Ětion (r-dmpshn) n. atonement for guilt.

Know all by these presents that, at precisely twenty minutes past four on the afternoon of Sunday, the twenty-seventh day of February in the year of our Lord two thousand and eleven, Professor Brian Janiskee of San Bernardino, California, finally set foot on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

No trumpets blared, no sirens sounded, no fireworks sizzled and boomed. But if you had listened carefully, you would have heard the great sigh of relief that escaped my lips. You might have seen my shoulders rise, too, as though relieved of a very great weight.

Has there been a sweeter redemption this side of heaven?

Brian is a Civil War buff, and he's wanted to see Fort Sumter for as long as he can remember. When he visited me at my South Carolina home about 25 years ago, he practically begged me to take him there. I promised I would, of course, but the deed proved easier said than done.

Oh, I got Brian to Charleston alright. I even got him on a boat that pushed away from the dock, motored out into the harbor, and headed in the direction of Fort Sumter. The thing is, that particular boat didn't stop at Fort Sumter. As Traveler readers of long standing may recall, I had managed to get us aboard a harbor tour boat instead of the Fort Sumter shuttle. Duh!!

Brian paid me another visit this year, and this time the Fort Sumter trip went off without a hitch. While in Charleston we even took the Confederate submarine H.L Hunley tour and enjoyed a seafood dinner at Hyman's.

Second chances are wonderful things, and should never be taken too lightly.

Comments

Being an ex-submariner, seeing the CSS Hunley was an incredible experience. My wife and daughter enjoyed it too.

I was excited about taking my wife and daughter to see Fort Sumter when we went to Charleston in 2006. Unfortunately, the time we spent in Charleston was the same time they experienced record low temperatures for that time of year. The ferry ride was a little chilly. After we landed and the ranger told us we were on our own, my wife and daughter quickly went through the fort and saw whatever was along the path to the museum. Well the heat inside the museum. The wife and I are hoping to give Charleston another try in the next few years. We had a great time while we were there, and the frigid trip to Sumter gave us a great memory to discuss over the last 5 years.

When we went to Charleston in 2006, we first stopped at Andersonville.

A Charleston native, I've visited Fort Sumter exactly once -- about 15 years ago when the local visitor's bureau offered discounted "tourist in your own town" tickets to all the local historical attractions. It's unfortunate locals tend to take these great places for granted, but to me, the fort was a regular feature of the Charleston Harbor on my daily commute from James Island to downtown Charleston. Fort Sumter is a special case for casual visitors, I think. I used to visit Fort Moultrie, which is along the beach at the south end of Sullivan's Island, frequently because it has a great stretch of beach and it's accessible by car or bike. But because visiting Fort Sumter requires an expensive boat trip, it requires a great commitment of time and is often relegated to very special occasions or put off indefinitely.

Now that I live in Colorado, returning to Fort Sumter has been relegated to the "put off indefinitely" category. Maybe if they serve she crab soup on the boat ride over there, it'll provide inspiration to visit the fort the next time I'm in Charleston!

What a joyous occasion. It certainly calls for happy celebrations, and gig smiles of acknowledgement. The event is always bigger than man.

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