For a small Southern town, Ninety Six has some serious pedigree. Established in the early 18th century, the town figured prominently in the Anglo-Cherokee War and the southern campaigns of the American Revolutionary War.
Ninety Six National Historic Site recounts the lineage of this colorful hamlet, once a trading post offering cloth, beads, rum and gunpowder to settlers and Indians in the area.
After staving off two Cherokee attacks in the mid 1700s, the backcountry post became a hotbed for a British land boom. At least 100 pioneers settled here and built homes, a courthouse and a brick jail. When the Revolution started, most of the settlers stayed loyal to Great Britain. The village became a Loyalist stronghold and was fortified by the British in 1780.
Along with a stockade around the village, British forces built a star-shaped fort of massive earthen embankments. The Star Fort would become the target of a 28-day siege in 1781 led by Continental Army Gen. Nathaniel Greene and a thousand patriots. His plan was to build a tunnel through which his troops would blow up the garrison. Despite outnumbering the Red Coats almost two to one, the campaign proved unsuccessful.
Embankments of the fort and some 35 feet of the tunnel survived in the forest for more than 200 years. Today, the National Park Service operates a visitor center and small museum containing artifacts found at the site, as well as other period relics.
I recently visited Ninety Six and walked the one-mile interpretive loop trail that takes you to the remains of the Star Fort, the original site of Ninety Six, a reconstruction of the Stockade Fort and a two-story log house built in the late 1700s.
Two wooded trails off the paved pathway lead to Star Fort Pond and the site of the colonial trading post. I'll tell you more about those in an upcoming blog.
At the visitor center you can watch a 20-minute video about the battle and pick up a map of the walking tour. Interpretive signs along the way provide details of Greene's battle strategy and the construction of the British fortification.
You don't have to be a history buff to appreciate the hardships both sides endured in the war over American soil. Under the best of circumstances, life was a challenge.
If you're traveling to the Upstate, make a point to stop at Ninety Six and get a first-hand look at this historic site. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free. If you want to pack a lunch, a picnic area is available near the visitor parking.
To learn more about Ninety Six, click here or call the park office at (864) 543-4068.