"Keeping possession of the backcountry is to up most importance, indeed the Success of the War in the Southern District depends totally upon it."
—Lord Cornwallis to Lt Colonel John Harris Cruger
August 5, 1780
Originally a geographical term, traders out of Charleston, South Carolina thought that this stopping place was 96 miles from the Cherokee town of Keowee in the Blue Ridge Foothills. After the power of the Cherokee was broken in 1761, settlers flooded into the country beyond the Saluda River and Ninety Six lay in the middle of this land boom.
The first land battle of the Revolutionary War fought south of New England took place at Ninety Six in 1775. The village was a Loyalist stronghold and was reinforced by the British in 1780. Continental Army Major Nathanael Greene led 1,000 troops in a siege against the 550 Loyalists in the village from May 22nd to June 18th of 1781. The 28-day siege, the longest of the entire war, centered on Star Fort, an earthen fortification. Major Greene's patriots were unsuccessful in taking the town despite their larger number of troops.
Greene's siege left the village a smoking ruin and departing Loyalists set fire to the few buildings still standing, including Star Fort. Within a few years, a new town began to arise near the site of the old one. Taking the name "Cambridge" in 1787, it flourished for awhile as a county seat and the home of an academy. The loss of the courthouse in 1800 started a decline from which the town never recovered. By mid-century, both old Ninety Six and newer Cambridge were little more than memories.
Today Ninety Six National Historic Site commemorates the lives of all the people who called this area home including Cherokee Indians, Europeans settlers, and soldiers of the Revolutionary War.