Stockade Fort

Ninety Six National Historic Site

Ninety Six is a historic Revolutionary War site situated about an hour south of today's Greenville, SC. A small village on the edge of the frontier in the late 18th Century, Ninety Six was so-named due to the belief that it was about ninety six miles from the Cherokee town of Keowee (in reality it is closer to 70). A fairly important stop at the time for traders heading back to Charleston from the Indian lands to the north and west, Ninety Six's diminutive size belies the scale of historic events that would take place here in the late 1700's.

The town itself was established around 1751 and from the beginning was a very lively place to make a living. During the Indian Wars of the 1760's the small outpost was attacked on a number of occasions by the local Cherokee, though it was never captured. A decade of relative peace followed before, even in this remote backcountry outpost, the rumblings of Revolution began to be felt. Unlike areas to the north and along the coast the struggle here would not be between American and Redcoat, but rather it would be between Patriot and Loyalist, Americans alike. There was a sharp division in this region as to whether loyalties should be to the Crown or to a new independent nation. As such, the revolution took the for of a localized Civil War in the backcountry of the south. The first wave of battle swept over Ninety Six in November 1775, barely six months after the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill to the north. On the 19th of that month a band of 600 Patriots had fortified themselves at Ninety Six and were attacked by a much larger force of 1,900 Loyalists. The attacks proved fruitless and after a number of days of fighting the two sides called a truce and went their separate ways. Losses were light but none-the-less it was a historic moment. It was the first land engagement in the south and, as such, the first battle in the south to cause casualties in the Revolution.

For the next six years the residents of Ninety Six endured an uneasy peace before, once again, the Revolution found its way to their doorstep. In 1781 the British once again were determined to subdue the south and, thus, split the American colonies in two. The campaign was disastrous. The British suffered defeats at both Kings Mountain and Cowpens before finally defeating the Americans at Guilford Courthouse. The victory came at such a horrific cost, however, that the British followed up their victory with a withdrawal back to the coast. With the British on the retreat, it was time for the Americans to take the offensive. In their crosshairs was an important trading outpost on the edge of the frontier, Ninety Six.

The Loyalists in the area knew the attack was coming and made every preparation to meet it. Improvements on the old wooden stockade were made as well as the stockade around the town. The biggest project, however, was the construction of a new earthen "Star Fort", named so due to its shape which provided unlimited angles from which to fire upon the enemy. Surrounded by 15-foot deep trenches the fort presented a formidable obstacle to the arriving Patriots. A frontal assault was quickly deemed suicidal so the Patriots settled in for a siege. Over the next couple weeks the Patriots dug a series of trenches to gradually close on the fort to a point where it could be assaulted. Unfortunately for the Patriots, time was not on their side. A detachment of 2,000 British troops had been dispatched to relive the force in the fort, a number that would overwhelm the attackers. Therefore, a preemptive attack on the fort was made on June 18, 1781. Doomed from the start, the bloody battle lasted only an hour and resulted in over 50 Patriot casualties. Convinced that the fort could not be taken the Patriots withdrew after a siege lasting 28 days, the longest of the Revolution. Despite the victory, the Loyalists knew that they could not hold out forever at Ninety Six and abandoned and burned both the fort and the village a month later.

Today, the Historic Site is home to what remains of the original star fort and trenches, as well as a reconstructed replica of the 1775 stockade. There is nothing left of the original town but a pleasant, well-marked, one mile trail leads across the grounds and through the old town site giving a good overview to the visitor how places were arranged during the time period. Just like 250 years ago, Ninety Six turns out to be a much more interesting place than its size suggests!

Battle Statistics

Continental Army

Commanding Officer: Major General Nathanael Greene

Strength: 1,000

Casualties: 147 or 14.7% (57 killed, 70 wounded, 20 captured/missing)

Loyalist Army

Commanding Officer: Lieutenant Colonel John Cruger

Strength: 550

Casualties: 85 or 15.5% (27 killed, 58 wounded)


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