Fort Moultrie takes center stage

This aerial view shows a portion of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island. The fort is named for William Moultrie, hero of the Revolutionary War battle on June 28, 1776.

After years of playing second fiddle to the ever-popular Fort Sumter, South Carolina's landmark Fort Moultrie finally is getting its own turn at stardom.

The colonial-era Sullivan's Island fort will represent the state in the U.S. Mint's new "America the Beautiful" quarter series, which will feature 56 national parks and landmarks.

The series, much like the previous set, which included one coin for each state, begins next year, with sites appearing on quarters issued in the order that they became national parks. Among the first parks recognized: Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon.

Fort Moultrie quarters will hit the market in 2016.

Officials of the landmark were quite obviously pleased that the state's Revolutionary War history is getting the nod.

"Fort Moultrie is an icon of the state," said Bob Dodson, park superintendent for Fort Sumter National Monument. "The state flag's design comes from the battle of Fort Moultrie."

The first fort on the site was still under construction when British warships attacked in June of 1776. The Palmetto Guards, with a palmetto tree on their flag, forced the ships to retreat after a nine-hour battle. The fort was eventually named in honor of its commander, Col. William Moultrie.

A victim of neglect, the first fort fell into disrepair. It was replaced in 1798, but that fort was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804. The current brick fort was completed in 1809.

The America the Beautiful Quarters Program announced its picks for the series Wednesday, about a year after Congress passed the law establishing the series.

"These new quarters will honor some of our most revered, treasured and beautiful national sites, majestic and historic places throughout the United States and its territories that truly make us 'America the Beautiful,' " said Ed Moy, director of the U.S. Mint.

The sites were approved by the secretary of the treasury based on the recommendations of the governors of each state. Gov. Mark Sanford, a Sullivan's Island resident, suggested Fort Moultrie as South Carolina's entry.

"Fort Moultrie stands as an enduring testament to this larger notion of perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds," Sanford said Wednesday. "The U.S. Mint's decision to stamp the fort's image on the quarter speaks to its role in providing young America with its first victory, and in many ways, indeed hope to press on."

Dodson hopes the recognition Fort Moultrie receives will help draw more visitors to the site in the coming years. But he is most happy to see the fort get its due, both because the Park Service has tried to raise the profile and cachet of the site's Revolutionary-era importance and because it has long been overshadowed by Fort Sumter, which will be in the news often during the Civil War sesquicentennial.

"I think it is exciting because it's Fort Sumter that usually gets all the attention," Dodson said.