Road Trip Radio Report: Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie in Charleston, SC; 19/20 February 2023

On Sunday and Monday, I took an overnight road trip up to Charleston, SC to visit the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. On Sunday afternoon, I took the tour boat out to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, then stayed overnight in Mount Pleasant and visited Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island before heading back to Savannah. Since it was a three-day weekend for the President’s Day Federal Holiday, there wasn’t a lot of MilCom to be heard but there was still some good listening to be had.

The Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park offers a terrific look into the history of coastal defenses from 1776 through 1947. Between the first fort on the site of Fort Moultrie built during the Revolutionary War in 1776 through the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post at Fort Moultrie, several eras of Charleston’s coastal defenses can be seen. Fort Sumter is a huge piece of history, as it saw the first shots of the Civil War fired in April 1861.

Amateur Radio

It was, to be honest, a disappointing trip Amateur Radio-wise. While in the Charleston area, I heard little activity on 2 Meters and 70cm, and none whatsoever on the Charleston PRN DMR repeaters.

145.1300- (PL 88.5) - Beaufort
145.4100- (PL 123.0) - Seabrook Island
146.7900- (PL 123.0) - Charleston (USS Yorktown)
147.1050+ (PL 123.0) - Charleston
441.5750+ (PL 123.0) - Charleston


President’s Day, a Federal Holiday, was on Monday, so Joint Base Charleston wasn’t as busy as it would normally be. On Sunday afternoon, I heard two flights of what sounded like fighters: BAYOU 01 and BAT 51, but I didn’t hear them identify their type and I never saw them, so I have no idea who or what they were. There were also several REACH flights in/out of Charleston over the two days as well as a Boeing 787 test flight.

MCAS Beaufort
123.700 - Beaufort Approach/Departure
125.125 - Beaufort Approach/Departure

Charleston IAP/Joint Base Charleston
126.000 - Charleston IAP/JB Charleston Tower
119.300 - Charleston TRACON
120.700 - Charleston TRACON
306.925 - Charleston TRACON
349.400 - Joint Base Charleston "PALMETTO Ops"
123.325 - Boeing Charleston Ops

USAF 57C P25 TRS (NSA Charleston site)
 TG 751 - Joint Base Charleston FD Dispatch; enc/unenc
 TG 752 - JB Charleston FD Tac 1?; enc
 TG 834 - 437th/315th AW; enc
 TG 860 - Joint Base Charleston SP 1; enc/unenc
 TG 862 - Joint Base Charleston SP 3; enc/unenc
 TG 884 - Joint Base Charleston/NSA Charleston Unknown; enc
 TG 885 - Joint Base Charleston/NSA Charleston Unknown; enc
 TG 920 - Naval Nuclear Power Training Center; unenc
 TG 950 - Joint Base Charleston Unknown (FD?); enc/unenc

Jacksonville ARTCC
124.075 - Jax Center Summerville High
126.125 - Jax Center Statesboro High
127.875 - Jax Center Aiken High
132.425 - Jax Center Hunter Ultra High
132.925 - Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low
133.625 - Jax Center Georgetown Ultra High
134.375 - Jax Center Charleston Low
281.550 - Jax Center Summerville High
317.550 - Jax Center Charleston Low
319.200 - Jax Center Aiken High
363.200 - Jax Center Allendale/Savannah Low
370.950 - Jax Center Georgetown Ultra High

Public Safety

As always, the fire departments and EMS around Charleston were busy. Charleston County, the municipalities in Charleston County and the surrounding counties all use the Palmetto 800 P25 TRS for their public safety communications. Charleston County and Berkeley County use automated dispatch systems, son on their dispatch channels you’ll hear a computerized female voice instead of human dispatchers. Dispatchers take over on the tactical and incident channels when units respond to calls. The South Carolina Forestry Commission still uses VHF repeaters and I heard two of their repeaters active during the trip.

159.2325 (DCS 131) - SC Forestry Huger
159.2475 (DCS 115) - SC Forestry Okatie

Palmetto 800
 TG 5 - SC Air 1
 TG 11 - SC Regional Government 6
 TG 704 - Beaufort County FD Dispatch 1
 TG 516 - Beaufort County FD Admin
 TG 550 - Hilton Head Island Fire/Rescue Dispatch (Beaufort Co)
 TG 552 - Hilton Head Island Fire/Resuce Tac 1 (Beaufort Co)
 TG 6541 - Jasper County FD Dispatch
 TG 6542 - Jasper County FD Tac 1
 TG 6543 - Jasper County FD Tac 2
 TG 1040 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Dispatch
 TG 1045 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Incident 4
 TG 1078 - Berkeley County FD/EMS Ops
 TG 1142 - Berkeley County Special Event 3
 TG 1398 - Goose Creek FD Dispatch (Berkeley Co)
 TG 1399 - Goose Creek FD Fireground 1 (Berkeley Co)
 TG 1413 - Hanahan FD Dispatch (Berkeley Co)
 TG 2051 - Charleston County FD/EMS Dispatch
 TG 2057 - Charleston County FD Incident 4
 TG 1628 - Charleston County FD Incident 7
 TG 2066 - Charleston County FDs Ops A
 TG 2030 - Charleston FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1567 - Awnedaw FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1721 - Mt Pleasant FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1771 - St Paul FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 1805 - North Charleston FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 2049 - James Island/St Johns FD Ops (Charleston Co)
 TG 2053 - Charleston County EMS Dispatch
 TG 2050 - Charleston County EMS Ops
 TG 4165 - Dorchester County FD Dispatch
 TG 4166 - Dorchester County FD Incident 1
 TG 4140 - Dorchester County FD Incident 3
 TG 4365 - Summerville FD Dispatch (Dorchester Co)
 TG 4360 - Summerville FD Ops 1 (Dorchester Co)
 TG 32065 - Hampton County FD Dispatch
 TG 51704 - MedTrans SC Roam (Medevac Helicopters)

Charleston Port and Railroad Communications

Since there wasn’t a lot of MilCom to listen to, I did some Port and Railroad listening on this trip and discovered something that I didn’t see in RadioReference in the process. RadioReference lists 159.855 with a PL tone of 192.800 for Charleston Pilots, but when I listened to it this weekend, 159.855 was a DMR repeater, no analog use was noted. It’s quite a strong repeater and has good coverage; it’s also very active and interesting to listen to if you’re interested in scanning port activity in Charleston.

171.2375 ($293) - CG 127, Sector Charleston; enc

159.8550 (DMR SL1, CC1, TG 200) - Charleston Pilots
156.7000 - Marine VHF Ch 14; Charleston Pilots
156.6500 - Marine VHF Ch 13; Charleston Harbor Navigation Safety
156.3500 - Marine VHF Ch 7; Tugboats (Charleston)
156.9000 - Marine VHF Ch 18; Tugboats (Charleston)
156.4500 - Marine VHF Ch 9; Drawbridges (Charleston area)

161.3700 - AAR 84, CSX AD Dispatch (some stations with PL 250.3)

161.2500 - AAR 76, Norfolk Southern 7 Mile Yard (Charleston)

160.3200 (DCS 205) - AAR 14, Charleston Port Utilities Commission RR

160.9800 - AAR 58, East Cooper and Berkeley Railroad Road/Yard (Charleston)
On Sunday afternoon, I had a picnic lunch out of the back of KF4LMT Mobile before catching the tour boat out to Fort Sumter; that’s when I discovered that the 159.855 Charleston Pilots repeater is DMR now instead of analog as listed on RadioReference

Fort Sumter

On Sunday afternoon, I caught a Spirit Line tour boat from Patriot’s Point out to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. It’s a nice cruise that takes you past the USS Yorktown (CV-10) and Castle Pickney to the fort for a Range talk from Park Service Rangers with time to explore in and around the fort before returning to Patriot’s Point.

The Spirit of Charleston, here with the USS Laffey (DD-724) and the USS Yorktown (CV-10) in the background, took a full load of passengers out to Fort Sumter on Sunday afternoon

Fort Sumter is a brick fort located on an artificial island in the Charleston, SC harbor. It was a product of the War of 1812, with construction beginning in the 1820s, although it still wasn’t finished when the Civil War began in 1861. Its purpose was to protect Charleston and its port from invaders in conjunction with the land forts Fort Moultrie, Fort Wagner, and Fort Gregg. Fort Sumter, had it been finished, would have been a massive fort: five sides 170-190 feet long with 50-foot-thick walls rising 50 ft in three stories over low tide. It would been capable of holding 650 men and 135 guns. The island it is built on started out as a sandbar, with 70,000 tons of granite brought down from New England and laid on the sandbar to raise it up.

The remains of Fort Sumter as seen from the tour boat pier. The brick fort is what’s left of Fort Sumter following the Civil War, the black structure inside is the Spanish-American War era Battery Huger
The remains of Fort Sumter as seen from the adjacent sand bar. The brick fort is what’s left of Fort Sumter following the Civil War, the black structure inside is the Spanish-American War era Battery Huger
Looking at Sullivans Island from Fort Sumter; the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse can be seen on the right side of the photo and Fort Moultrie is somewhat visible if you know what to look for on the left side of the photo.

Fort Sumter was involved in two battles during the Civil War. The first, in April 1861, saw the first shots fired in the war when Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard shelled the fort after Union forces under the command of Major Robert Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island to Fort Sumter because they were unable to defend Fort Moultrie from its land side. Beauregard demanded the surrender of the Union forces on 11 April 1861 and when they didn’t comply, the Confederates began bombarding Fort Sumter until it surrendered on 13 April 1861. On the 13th, with most of the wooden buildings within the fort burning and running low on ammunition, Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter to the Confederates; it would remain in Confederate hands, albeit badly damaged after a failed Union attempt to retake it until Union Forces under General Sherman forced the Confederates to evacuate the fort in February 1865.

These guns in Fort Sumter were used by Confederate forces during the Civil War, the first one is a banded 42 Pounder which the Confederates rifled for improved range and accuracy.

In April 1863, Union forces attempted to retake Fort Sumter. Several attempts were made between April and September, but due to poor coordination between the Navy and the Army. Throughout those months, much of Fort Sumter was reduced to rubble, leaving it in ruins. On 17 February, the Confederates abandoned Charleston and on 22 February Union forces took the fort back. After the war, the fort’s walls were rebuilt to a lower level and eleven 100 Pounder Parrott Rifles were placed on the remaining first tier.

Remains of one of Fort Sumter’s Powder Magazines left after the Union bombardments of 1863-1865
Union Parrott Rifle bolt sill lodged in Fort Sumter’s interior wall
Two of the eleven 100 Pounder Parrott Rifles that were placed in Fort Sumter’s remaining first tier after the Civil War

Between 1876 and 1897, Fort Sumter served as an unmanned lighthouse. Due to the Spanish-American War, a concrete battery equipped with two 12-inch guns was built within Fort Sumter’s walls and named Battery Huger after South Carolinian and Revolutionary War General Isaac Huger. Battery Huger remained through World War I and World War II and was deactivated in 1947. In 1948, Fort Sumter, including Battery Huger, was turned over to the National Park Service and it became a National Monument.

Battery Huger inside of Fort Sumter’s walls
The pedestal for one of Battery Huger’s 12-inch guns
Battery Huger’s Battery Commander’s Station

Fort Moultrie

There has been a fortification at the site of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island since 1776. On 28 June 1776, 9 British warships attacked what was then known as Fort Sullivan, which was incomplete and constructed of palmetto logs and sand. The rounds from the British ships were absorbed by the palmetto logs and sand, doing little damage. On the other hand, Patriot forces under the command of then Col. Willliam Moultrie did inflict damage on the British ships, causing them to give up their attempt to capture Charleston (although they would return with a larger and more powerful force in 1780 and succeed). Following that action, the fort was renamed Fort Moultrie. The current brick fort was first built in the early 1800s and added to and modified throughout its history. During the Civil War, much of Fort Moultrie that rose above the sand hills was destroyed by Union bombardment while the Confederates occupied it. Fort Moultrie was repaired after the Civil War and further modified in the late 1890s as part of a system of coastal defenses. It would serve as part of that system through World War I and the beginning of World War II. Most of Fort Moultrie’s guns were removed in 1942 and a Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP) was built inside of the fort’s walls to coordinate the Army’s and the Navy’s defenses of the Port of Charleston. Fort Moultrie was deactivated in August 1947 and in 1960 it was turned over to the National Park Service. Along with Fort Sumter, the Coast Guard Sullivan’s Island Station, and the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, it became part of the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.

Fort Moultrie; the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post can be seen on the hill on the right
The grave of General William Moultrie at Fort Moultrie
Smoothbore cannon used at Fort Moultrie between 1809 and 1860
8″ Columbiad Cannon that was rifled and banded by the Confederates while they occupied Fort Moultrie during the Civil War
15″ Rodman Smoothbore cannon used at Fort Moultrie from the 1870s to the 1890s
In the 1890s, Fort Moultrie was modified by building batteries such as Battery Bingham (left) and Battery McCorkle (right)
Battery Bingham was equipped with 4.72-inch Armstrong Rapid Fire guns
Battery McCorkle was equipped with 3-inch M1898 guns
The Harbor Entrance Control Post built inside Fort Moultrie during World War II
The radio room inside the Harbor Entrance Control Post
Fort Sumter as seen from Fort Moultrie
Battery Jasper, adjacent to Fort Moultrie, was equipped with 4 10-inch M1888 guns
Battery Jasper, adjacent to Fort Moultrie, was equipped with 4 10-inch M1888 guns
Shells for Battery Jasper’s 10-inch guns were lifted from the magazines below to the guns above using lift systems like these; the shells were moved around the magazine using the rail system on the ceiling.
When the sheels reached the top of the Battery, they were removed from the lift here, transferred to carts and pushed to the guns.
One of Battery Jasper’s 10-inch gun emplacements
The historic Coast Guard Lifesaving Station and Quarters on Sullivan’s Island, built around 1895, it’s part of the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
Charleston Light, also known as Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, is a unique triangular lighthouse built on Sullivan’s Island in the early 1960s and first lit in 1962.

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