The Star Fort
Ninety Six National Historic Site
The Star Fort
When you walk out to the Historic battlefield, you're walking on hallowed ground. The siege trenches are partially reconstructed, but the Star Fort is original.
Construction of the Star Fort started in December 1780 and finished in early 1781. It was built by Loyalist soldiers (loyal to the King of England) & slaves from nearby farms and plantations. It wasn't a very popular design because it was hard to build, and couldn't hold many troops, but Loyalist engineer Lt. Henry Haldane decided that an eight-point star fort would be better for the site than a tradition square fort. The star shape allowed musket and cannon fire in all directions.
The Start Fort had a gun battery which was located near the bottom center point in the picture. The long mound of dirt in the center of the picture is called a Traverse and was built during the Patriot siege of Star Fort (May 22- June 18, 1781). It was to be used as a second line of defense in case the Patriots breeched the Star Fort walls.
The Start Fort was an earthen fort. As you see it today is how it looked in 1781. The Star Fort walls were originally about 14 feet high with sand bags around the top giving it a height of about 17 feet during the battle. The walls are a little weatherworn in places, but are original. No major reconstruction has been done to the fort.
The site of the Patriot attack or Battle for Start Fort is near the bottom 2 left points on the the picture. Read below for more on the Battle for Star Fort.
Please keep off the Star Fort walls. We hope that Star Fort will be around for your children, grandchildren, and future generations to enjoy!
Robert Wilson oil painting, 1977
The Struggle for the Star
June 18, 1781
● Noon: A cannon shot signaled the start of the attack. 50 Patriots (Rebels) called the Forlorn Hope (because of their dangerous mission) rushed forward from the 3rd parallel toward the Loyalist held Star Fort.
● Patriots carried axes to cut down the abatis (sharpened felled trees to the right of the American Flag) & fraise (pointed sticks around the Star). They also carried grappling hooks to tear down sandbags at the top of the Star’s walls. (Notice the Patriot near the center of the painting)
● Patriots also fired from the 30 foot Maham Tower (at the very left of the painting).
● As the Forlorn Hope rushed the Star Fort, 60 Loyalists attacked surrounding the Patriots in hand-to-hand fighting.
● Assault lasted 45 minutes before General Greene called it off.
● Out of the 50 men of the Forlorn Hope, 30 were killed and never made it back to Patriot lines.
The Artist spent over 500 hours researching and working on the painting. The Artist himself is the man with a gray beard and no coat at the bottom of the painting & his son is in the blue Patriot coat defending his father against Loyalist attack.