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Ninety Six

Siege of Ninety Six

South Carolina  |  May 22 - Jun 19, 1781

The town of Ninety Six, so named because it was 96 miles from the nearest Cherokee village, was once a main crossroads of western South Carolina.  In the 1700s, twelve roads passed through the town--more than passed through Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1863.

War came quickly to Ninety Six.  In November 1775, Whig and Loyalist militia clashed in a three day battle for control of the town that culminated in an uneasy truce.  This, the first engagement outside of New England, brought a national character to the burgeoning revolution.

Tensions simmered through the 1770s while the British Army continued to focus on the war in New England.  Failing to subdue those colonies, open conflict returned to Ninety Six when the British implemented the Southern Strategy of 1778.  A savage civil war broke out in the Carolinas as the British poured troops into the region.  Despite bloody battles and constant terror, years passed with neither side gaining the upper hand.  In March 1781, Lord Cornwallis moved the main British force into Virginia.  American General Nathanael Greene responded by launching a new campaign to retake the Carolinas.

Like heat lighting, Greene captured a number of lightly-held British forts throughout the month of April.  British remnants concentrated at Ninety Six and at Charleston.  Greene moved on Ninety Six first, expecting to meet determined resistance.

Ninety Six was protected by the formidable Star Fort and the smaller Stockade Fort.  Its garrison was made up almost entirely of loyalist colonists.  Greene's soldiers laid siege to the town, cutting trenches that zig-zagged towards the British positions.

Greene's siege lasted from May 22-June 18, one of the longest sieges of the Revolution.  The loyalists managed to maintain control of the Spring Branch water supply, however, thus averting a major crisis.  Meanwhile, Greene divided his force and sent "Light Horse" Harry Lee to capture Augusta, South Carolina, which they did, returning on June 8.

Soon after, Greene received word that British troops were marching from Charleston to relieve Ninety Six.  With one last chance to make good on his siege, Greene launched an all-out assault on June 18.

The fighting was bloody.  American storming parties tore apart loyalist sandbags and captured both forts with supporting fire from snipers in a tower on the American lines.  The stubborn redcoats rallied, however, and retook the forts with bayonets and clubbed muskets.  Greene broke off the attack and withdrew, ending the siege.  The loyalists eventually withdrew as well, burning the town behind them.

The Americans suffered 147 casualties; the British 85.  Although Greene had failed to take Ninety Six, he had begun his campaign boldly.  His continued operations in the Carolinas would prove essential to overall American victory in the war.

All battles of the Southern Theater 1780 - 1783 Campaign

Rev War  |  Battle
Charleston
South Carolina  |  Mar 29 - May 12, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 5,764
American: 5,506
British: 258
Rev War  |  Battle
Monck's Corner
South Carolina  |  Apr 14, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 102
American: 99
British: 3
Rev War  |  Battle
Lenud's Ferry
Berkeley, SC  |  May 6, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 41
American: 41
Rev War  |  Battle
Waxhaws
South Carolina  |  May 29, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 333
American: 316
British: 17
Rev War  |  Battle
Williamson's Plantation
South Carolina  |  Jul 12, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 96
American: 1
British: 95
Rev War  |  Battle
Rocky Mount
South Carolina  |  Jul 30, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 32
American: 12
British: 20
Rev War  |  Battle
Hanging Rock
South Carolina  |  Aug 6, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 253
American: 53
British: 200
Rev War  |  Battle
Camden
South Carolina  |  Aug 16, 1780
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 2,224
American: 1,900
British: 324
Rev War  |  Battle
Musgrove's Mill
South Carolina  |  Aug 18, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 149
American: 16
British: 133
Rev War  |  Battle
Kings Mountain
South Carolina  |  Oct 7, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,211
American: 90
British: 1,121
Rev War  |  Battle
Blackstocks Farm
Union, SC  |  Nov 20, 1780
Result: American Victory
American: 7
British: 192
Rev War  |  Battle
Rugeley's Mill
South Carolina  |  Dec 4, 1780
Result: American Victory
Rev War  |  Battle
Hammond's Store
South Carolina  |  Dec 30, 1780
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 150
British: 150
Rev War  |  Battle
Cowpens
South Carolina  |  Jan 17, 1781
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,017
American: 149
British: 868
Rev War  |  Battle
Pyle's Defeat
North Carolina  |  Feb 25, 1781
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 344
American: 1
British: 343
Rev War  |  Battle
Guilford Court House
North Carolina  |  Mar 15, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,842
American: 1,310
British: 532
Rev War  |  Battle
Siege of Fort Watson
South Carolina  |  Apr 15 - 23, 1781
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 116
American: 2
British: 114
Rev War  |  Battle
Hobkirk's Hill
South Carolina  |  Apr 25, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 532
American: 271
British: 261
Rev War  |  Battle
Ninety Six
South Carolina  |  May 22 - Jun 19, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 232
American: 147
British: 85
Rev War  |  Battle
Battle of Parker's Ferry
Colleton, SC  |  Aug 30, 1781
Result: American Victory
Est. Casualties: 209
American: 4
British: 205
Rev War  |  Battle
Eutaw Springs
South Carolina  |  Sep 8, 1781
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,461
American: 579
British: 882
Rev War  |  Battle
Dills Bluff
South Carolina  |  Nov 14, 1782
Result: British Victory
Est. Casualties: 15
American: 10
British: 5

Related Battles

Ninety Six, SC | May 22, 1781
Result: British Victory
Commanders
Estimated Casualties
232
American
147
British
85

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