One weekend in late March my fiancée had a wedding shower in her hometown of Saluda, and I was left with nothing to do since it was a "girls only" event. Immediately, my mind wandered to the nearby town of Ninety Six, which had, until that day, existed only as words on the page of a history book or roadside sign.
Excited to head out for a little adventure, I fired up my old Jeep and made my way onto the Greenwood Highway, Route 178.
Ninety Six should have been called "Seventy," but folks back in the 1700s had to estimate the number of miles from the trading post to the Cherokee settlement of Keowee, which was just north of where Clemson is today. Ninety Six wears its inaccurate moniker with pride, though, and it has all the character of any small town in the Palmetto State.
Yet, there is one thing that sets it apart, and that is the role it played in the American Revolution. Ninety Six was witness to the first land battle south of New England in 1775, and the longest siege of the entire war occurred in 1781 at the star fort Loyalists used to defend the town.
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In the summer of 1781, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene, marched into the South Carolina backcountry from North Carolina with more than 1,000 patriots. He was soon joined by Lt. Col. Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee III and Gen. Andrew Pickens, who arrived together from the siege of Augusta. The star fort was strategically significant because Greene was trying to push the British, and their Loyalist counterparts, out of the colony after defeating Gen. Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina just months before.
The commander of the garrison, Col. Cruger, was a New Yorker in charge of 550 Loyalists. He fortified his position with a ring of felled trees, and waited for the siege trenches to approach his position. The siege at Ninety Six lasted from May 22 until June 18, 1781, and ended after an unsuccessful assault on the steep walls of the star fort by a group of men called the Forlorn Hope.
The old barriers were covered in grass when I visited that day, but I could imagine them as dirt defenses with felled trees around them. My heart beat faster just walking along the section where the last assault occurred.
I highly recommend a day trip to the Ninety Six National Historic Site. It is just two miles south of town.