Monday, February 5, 2018

Get your history kicks in Ninety Six

When thinking National Parks, South Carolina probably isn’t the first state to come to mind. But did you know that there are ten sites managed by the National Park Service in the state? Along with Congaree National Park there are also National Monuments, Military Parks and Historic Sites, that preserve the cultural, historical and natural wonders in the region. One of those is Ninety Six National Historic Site, a testament to the events of the 18th century in South Carolina.

This log house dates to the 1700s and was moved here from Greenwood

One explanation for how the town of Ninety Six got its name is that Charleston traders thought that the crossroads of trails was 96 miles south of the Cherokee town of Keowee. Traders traveled the Cherokee Path looking to sell their goods, and Ninety Six became a stopover point when Robert Gouedy opened a trading post in 1751. You’ll learn this (and more) at the Visitor Center, a great place to start your visit to the historic site. Grab a map and Junior Ranger programs for the kids, watch the short video, and then head out on the one-mile walking tour of the Park.

Historic route of the Island Ford Road

The American Revolution’s first major land battle in the South occurred at Ninety Six on November 19, 1775. 1,900 loyalists attacked 600 patriots, several days of fighting ending in a truce. However tensions were not eased, and in June 1781 Gen. Nathanael Greene attempted to take the Ninety Six fort by siege. The walking tour will first lead you to the siege trenches and star fort of this military event.

A birds-eye view of the star fort remains

Although the attack failed, loyalists eventually abandoned the fort, burning the buildings in retreat. Today all that is left of the fort are the earthen mounds that represent the formerly 14-ft high walls.

The earthen mounds visible in the background

There was no water available in the fort, so a communications trench had been dug to connect the star fort with the town of Ninety Six and the stockade fort. The walking tour parallels this trench and eventually enters what was the town on the historic route of the Island Ford Road, the trail that led to the ford on the Saluda River 7 miles north. Continuing south is the historic route of Charleston Road, leading to to Gouedy’s Trading Post and eventually Charleston. Less than 1,000 feet further is the intersection with the historic route of Cherokee Path.

The walking trail cuts west from the town of Ninety Six site, paralleling the historic route of Whitehall Road and the communications trench to the reconstruction of the 1781 Holmes’ fort where loyalists built a stockade around James Holmes’ home to guard the town’s water supply. Across from the reconstruction is the memorial to James Birmingham, the first South Carolinian to lose his life in the Revolutionary War.

In the reconstructed stockade fort

Continuing on the loop you’ll pass a picnic area, then Logan Log House, before finding yourself back at the Visitor Center. The walking tour is only the first of many outdoor opportunities at Ninety Six; in addition to the special events that take place at the Logan House and the ranger-led tours, there are also multiple hiking trails, equestrian trails, and the 26-acre Star Fort Pond which is seasonally open for fishing.

Crossing Spring Branch, with the stockade fort in the background

From the plight of the Cherokee to life of white settlers in the colonial South, Ninety Six became a footnote in history through its role in the American Revolution. While we definitely have more interesting Parks in terms of terrain here in the Upstate, Ninety Six National Historic Site is completely something else – it is history, right here in our backyard.

If you're interested in the other South Carolina National Park Service managed sites...

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