Fort Sumter, named after a South Carolina Revolutionary War hero, was designed as part of a defensive system for Charleston Harbor. Plans were drawn in 1827, and construction began two years later. Located on a man-made island of sea shells and granite from northern quarries, it was a pentagonal structure, fifty feet high, with walls eight to twelve feet thick.
As of Lincoln's election, the fort remained uncompleted and without readied armament. A crew of workmen directed by an army engineer was engaged in completing the fort under a recent congressional appropriation act. After occupying the fort on Decemb er 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson set troops and workmen to the task of strengthening his position.