As some of you know, I live in Charleston, SC. Today was the official release of the Fort Moultrie Quarter in the America the Beautiful series. I decided to go, since it was nearby. It was an absolutely beautiful day, and a fun time. When you first enter Fort Moultrie, the fort walls make an imposing presence. They loom over you, and make you reconsider an assault on this fort. These brick walls were built in the early 1800's, using a mix of freedman and slave labour. This part of the fort was built in 1808, and was used during the War of 1812 to protect Charleston. Fort Moultrie is unique in that it was used continuously from the 1770's through WWII. Various modifications were made to the fort during each period, but you can trace the entire history of American coastal defense through this magnificent fort. In the large panorama below, history traces from right to left. In the center of this picture, on the far side of the fort, you see a bunch of yellow buildings. These were part of the 1808 construction. The large open field in the center was the parade ground, and the building you see is the powder magazine. Moving left, you see a newer section of the fort. These large guns were used during the War of Northern Aggression to bombard Fort Sumter, which you can see across the harbor. The Confederates used Fort Moultrie, and several other fortifications around the harbor, to fire the first shots on the Federals in Fort Sumter - and thus started the Recent Unpleasantness. Moving further to the right, you can see some 20th century guns that were used during WWI and WWII to protect Charleston from any potential German threats. The panorama picture is taken from a watchtower on the south side of the fort which provided a good view of the entire harbor and sea (built during the 20th century) Throughout the fort are a bunch of hillocks. Inside these hills are the powder magazines. Obviously, a large quantity of powder presented a significant danger if any shots were to get near it. So they put the magazines underground, protected by large mounds of earth. You can go down into these magazines - they maze around under the fort itself. Although the fort was definitely a formidable instrument of war, and was tested in battle multiple times, today it is a beautiful park. If any of you are in Charleston, I highly recommend you make the trip to Forts Moultrie and Sumter. So, after I walked around the fort for a bit (I've been there many times before - it is a standard part of every Charleston kid's field trip itinerary), I made my way to the field in front of the fort. This field is most likely the location of the very first iteration of the fort, which no longer survives (more on the significance of that fort later). On the field, a stage and chairs had been set up for the quarter release ceremony. There was a tent off to the side where a local bank was getting ready to sell the new quarters, after the ceremony. When I got to the field, there was already a line at the tent (about 1.5 hours before they were going to release them). Silly people. While we were waiting for the ceremony to start, representatives from the LowCountry Coin Club were walking around talking to people. They passed out wooden nickels advertising the club, and their winter coin show (in February). I thought this was really cool, and hope that a few more people will attend the (usually quite small) show because of this. In the audience were quite a few local collectors, as well as a good contingent of interested people who might be curious to try this collecting thing out. The ceremony started with a presentation of the colors by a contingency from The Citadel, a military college in town. A 4th grader who had won an essay contest (with the theme "Why I want to lead the Pledge of Allegiance) led the Pledge of Allegiance, and then a local singer performed a very operatic version of America the Beautiful (fitting, given the subject of the ceremony). The head park ranger at Fort Moultrie spoke, and the mayor of Sullivan's Island spoke (Sullivan's Island is the location of Fort Moultrie, just north of Charleston). The state's Senators and Congressmen sent delegates to read statements (which was super tacky, and pointless, but whatever). Finally, a representative of the US mint said a few words about the design and the America the Beautiful program. She presented the Park Rangers with the first coins minted (they were apparently minted in February). Finally, it was time to release the coin. The park rangers held bags of coins, and poured them into a sweetgrass basket to great fanfare and applause. There were hundreds of schoolkids present, and after the ceremony the park rangers went around and gave every kid a quarter from the basket. Very coincidentally, at exactly the same time as the rangers were pouring the coins into the basket, a C-17 from our local Air Force base flew overhead. It was a perfect incidental and unplanned touch! Right after the quarter was presented, local re-enactors firing reproductions of Revolutionary muskets fired a salute. By this time, the line to buy the new quarters had grown to several hundred people. Luckily, it was a simple cash exchange - $10 for a roll, you had to buy rolls, and you could buy up to 10. The rules were simple, so the line moved quite quickly (even though the line was hundreds long, I probably only waited 15-20 minutes). I got a few rolls of the coin, and I was happy. Whenever I go to Sullivan's Island, I have to go to Poe's Tavern. Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie in the 1820's, and he wrote a few of his stories here. Poe's Tavern is a delicious restaurant, and again, if you ever come to Charleston, I recommend it (I'm not biased by the name or anything, of course (my surname is Poe)) Anyways, at long last, we come to the coin itself. In early 1776, tensions were starting to rise between the colonies and Britain. Charleston realized that we needed a strong defense of our harbor to repel any British invasion, and so we authorized the construction of a fort on Sullivan's Island (it guards the north side of the entrance to the harbor). Fort Sumter is on an island on the southern side of the harbor. Because war was imminent, the fort was somewhat hastily constructed from available materials - which in this case happened to be the logs of the abundant palmetto tree. When the British actually attacked in June of 1776, the fort wasn't even completed yet. However, because the palmetto trees were so soft, the cannonballs of the British actually just sank into the logs or bounced off and didn't really damage the fort itself. American guns were able to repel the British navy (the greatest navy in the world at the time, without a doubt). William Moultrie commanded the defence of the fort (hence the name of the fort), and his flag flew over the defenders (you can see his flag on the coin below). At one point, British fire severed the flagpole and knocked the flag into a ditch in front of the fort. Sergeant William Jasper braved the danger, retrieved the flag, and mounted it again on the defences. He defied the British navy and dared them, a symbol of the fighting spirit of the Revolution. This scene, of William Jasper restoring the flag in the face of the British navy, is now memorialized on this quarter - an iconic scene from an important battle in our history. Jasper was lifted up as a hero of the Revolution - if your state has a "Jasper" county, as many do, it is in his honor. The British ships were badly damaged after their attack, and were forced to retreat. Because of this victory, South Carolina is now known as the Palmetto State. The Moultrie flag was adapted by adding a palmetto tree, and is now the state flag of South Carolina. This battle in June 1776 helped catalyze the colonies into signing the declaration of independence, and is one of the most important battles in the Southern theater during the Revolutionary war.