In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, Confederate troops fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, the last Union stronghold in the Charleston Harbor. Now, 150 years later, the fort is one of several federal facilities that would be shuttered this weekend if Congress can't agree on a budget compromise to keep the government running.
"We remain hopeful that there will not be a government shutdown," says U.S. Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff. "However, as President Obama stated, in the unfortunate event there is a shutdown, the National Park System will be closed."
Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and the National Park Service's visitors center at Liberty Square are expected to play key roles in this weekend's commemorations. The forts will be hosting solider drills and equipment demonstrations. The visitors center and adjacent square are expected to host several lectures produced by the National Park Service over the next two weeks, including our favorite, "Taverns and Public Houses in Charleston on the Eve of the Civil War." Fort Sumter cruise tours would likely also be impacted. Special cruise packages are being offered this weekend, including a dinner cruise to the fort site.
Possibly the most significant display impacted would be the "From Unity to Divided Nation" light display. The park is expected to begin shinning a single beam of light into the air at dusk on Saturday. The light would be split into two lights in the early morning on April 12 at the moment the first shot was fired and the lights will go out as a shell is fired over the harbor two hours later. According to organizers, the display will "set the tone of the Sesquicentennial Observance." If the shutdown occurs, it may be a tone of darkness and silence.