Walk Where Battles Were Fought and Heroes Were Forged
The Ninety Six National Historic site is an area of unique historical significance. There is always curiosity as to the origin of the name Ninety Six. There are several legends surrounding how Ninety Six got its name but the most popular one is a romanticized legend revolves around an Indian maiden named Cateechee. It is told that she learned of an Indian attack and rode to warn her British boyfriend. As she traveled, she named the streams and found her boyfriend at a trading post near the 96th stream.
By the mid-1700’s, European colonists found this outpost a favorable place to settle. During Ninety Six’s early days, trouble with the Indians increased. In 1760, Cherokees twice attacked Fort Ninety Six, built for the settlers’ protection. Ninety Six village had reached its peak with a growing population, 12 houses, and a newly constructed courthouse and jail during this time. Throughout the war, this small trading post town of Ninety Six remained an important outpost for Loyalists. Here settlers struggled against the harsh backcountry to survive.
The Ninety Six National Historic Site was the site of the very first southern land battle of the Revolutionary War in November 1775 south of New England. Seeking to push the British out of their last stronghold in South Carolina, American Gen. Nathanael Greene attacked on May 22, 1781. Anticipating Greene’s arrival, Loyalists soldiers erected additional barriers atop the earthen walls of the fort and settled in for the longest field siege of the American Revolution. Greene’s soldiers stormed the fort on June 17, 1781, in a last ditch attempt to win the battle. The troops commanded by Gen. Greene were forced to evacuate and suffered heavy losses, and eventually withdrew. In a surprising move, the Loyalists abandoned the fort and burned the town down.
Many people ask if there are soldiers buried on the grounds. The short answer is “We don’t know” but every ranger has their own ideas! So far archeological digs haven’t revealed exactly where soldiers from either side are buried. We do have two known graveyards within the Park. Patriot James Mayson and his wife are buried along Highway 248 near the Daughters of the American Revolution monument. Along the Gouedy Trail, there is the grave of Robert Gouedy’s son, James Gouedy, and a graveyard of about 50 unknown people.
Another interesting fact is that several years ago, the National Park Service entered a cooperative agreement with the University of South Florida (USF) and the Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (AIST) to investigate the Kosciuszko Mine, an old mine built during the war. AIST provided baseline data and produced 3D digital records of the Kosciuszko Mine in an effort to uncover a bit of history. Hopefully, the project will help the National Park Service and the Ninety Six National Historic Site stabilize, protect, and preserve the Kosciuszko mine, the only existing military tunnel during the American Revolution. The 125-foot tunnel is 3-4 feet in height and was dug in the subsurface soil by Patriot soldiers from the American lines toward the British (Loyalist) who held Star Fort during the course of the 1781 siege of Ninety Six.
The 1,120 acre national park features remains of the star fort. Very little of it exists today but there is a replica of the fort. The eight point Star Fort walls were originally 14 feet in height. The Star Fort was one of the most difficult to construct. There are also a few trenches dug by the Patriots during the siege, a restored early 19th century log cabin and tavern and a replica of the split-rail stockade that once surrounded the village on the national park grounds.
Each April, the park hosts the Ninety Six Crossroads Event. The National Park Service policies do not allow battle reenactments but there are demonstrations of black-powder firing and reenactors camping on the site. Many living historians tell the story of the unique history and offer demonstrations of how daily life was for the settlers. Also, during the months of May through September, there are monthly living history days the 3rd Saturday of each month.
The visitor center offers audio tour rentals, and its small museum is a good starting point.
If you are traveling down Interstate 26 in South Carolina, take Exit 74. It is about 30 miles off the interstate until you arrive in the town of Ninety Six, South Carolina. Take Highway 248 in town and drive approximately 2 mils and there you will encounter history.
Hours and location:
Open Wednesdays – Sundays, 9am-4pm. Park grounds open dawn to dusk. Gates lock at 5 pm.
No charge for admission
1103 Hwy 248
Ninety Six, SC 29666
Visit sctravelold96.com/history-heritage/ for more information.