Ninety Six: Strategic Backcountry Outpost and Microcosm of the American Revolutionary War
Abstract: Though scarcely known today, in the mid-eighteenth century, Ninety Six, South Carolina was a thriving community, built close to the convergence of the Cherokee Path, a key route from the Cherokee lands to Charleston, and the Island Ford Road, which led to the Saluda River and points further southeast. The strategic location of Ninety Six made it a crucial stopover for traders and travelers—it was a location known widely throughout the South during the late colonial period. Today, only a National Park Service Visitor Center and outbuildings occupy the site, and yet, had it developed apace with Charlotte, North Carolina, a site of similar size and situation in the 1760s, Ninety Six, too, could have become a power-house of the New South. The critical strategic nature of Ninety Six led to its destruction by the British in early July 1781, though Loyalist troops had successfully defended the town against the longest field siege of the Revolutionary War less than a month beforehand. This paper establishes the strategic significance of Ninety Six to the British effort to retake the Carolina backcountry, traces its rise to become both a trading center and a center of justice for the backwoods settlers, and examines why Ninety Six and its surrounding area was a Loyalist stronghold. It also studies both the strengths and shortcomings of General Nathanael Greene and his military engineer, Count Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s approach to the Patriot siege of Ninety Figure. It analyzes why the commander of Ninety Six, British Provincial Army Lieutenant Colonel John Harris Cruger, was much more successful than either Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln at Charleston or Cornwallis at Yorktown in defeating the siege tactics thrown against him.