Visit the Remains of an 18th Century British Fortification at Ninety Six National Historic Site

By:Marie McAden


In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we’re turning the spotlight on South Carolina’s six national park sites.

Among them is Ninety Six National Historic Site, once home to a fortified settlement dating back to our country’s earliest days. The 18th century frontier town was twice attacked by Cherokee Indians and later by Patriot forces during the American Revolutionary War.

Significance of Park: It is believed Charleston traders named the colonial town Ninety Six, thinking it was the distance left to the Cherokee village of Keowee in the South Carolina foothills. Strategically located at the crossroads of 12 roads and paths, the backcountry settlement included a trading post, courthouse and jail.

Not long after the start of the Revolutionary War, Patriots attacked the village in the first land battle south of New England. To protect the Loyalist stronghold, the British fortified the town, constructing a massive earthen fort in the shape of a star. In 1781, Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene and 1,000 of his troops targeted the compound in an attempted siege that would prove to be the longest of the Revolutionary War.

Things to Do: At the Visitor Center, you can watch the 22-minute live-action film, “Crossroads of a Revolution,” and view artifacts and weaponry of the period, along with historic oil paintings of Revolutionary War leaders and the 1781 Battle for Star Fort. Before you leave, pick up a map of the one-mile Historic Interpretive Trail.

The self-guided walking tour takes you to the historic battlefield, past the reconstructed siege works and stockade fort, the town site of old Ninety Six, historic roads and the original 1781 Star Fort, one of the best preserved examples of an original 18th century fortification. Wayside signs describe the construction of the fort and Greene’s battle strategy to penetrate it.

If You Have More Time: Hike the Gouedy Trail, a 1.5-mile loop that offers visitors the chance to experience the terrain traveled by settlers, traders and Cherokee Indians on their way to the South Carolina backcountry. The wooded trail passes the site of a trading post established in the 1750s by Robert Gouedy.

A second trail, the 1.5-mile Cherokee Path, takes you to the 27-acre Star Fort Pond, open for fishing April 1 to Nov. 1. The trail follows part of the route used by trappers and traders traveling from Charleston to Cherokee villages in the foothills.

Special Events: Living History Saturday is a program that includes 18th century family activities. Check the park website for dates for Living History Saturday and other special events held throughout the year, including ranger-led tours of the grounds and historic structures.

The Details: Located at 1103 Hwy. 248 in the town of Ninety Six, the Ninety Six National Historic Site is open from dawn to dusk daily. However, if you visit on a Monday or Tuesday, you’ll have to park outside the front gate. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

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