In 1861, the port of Charleston prospered. Keeping the city open to trade was crucial for Confederate survival. Confederate forts in Charleston Harbor -- including Fort Sumter -- protected Charleston throughout the war despite Union blockade, warship attack, and two years of bombardment and siege.
Despite military conflict in the harbor, relative peace prevailed in the city until 1863, when Union forces captured nearby Morris Island and began shelling Charleston. This was a deliberate bombardment of civilians; the North hated Charleston for leading the sessionist movement and firing the first shots of the war. The Union bombardment, along with a devastating fire in 1861 and other fires set by evacuating Southern forces in February 1865, destroyed much of the lower city.