Date: May 22, 2006
For the past six years the National Park Service has led the nation in celebrating the Revolutionary War. With the theme “The American Revolution 225th Anniversary, Lighting Freedom’s Flame”, many Revolutionary War parks have hosted special events. On the weekend of May 20th and 21st, Ninety Six National Historic Site (NHS) hosted a celebration to commemorate the famous 28-day siege in May and June of 1781. Although the siege and subsequent final assault on June 18, 1781 failed to dislodge the Loyalists from the Star Fort, they soon after retreated to their stronghold in Charlestown, South Carolina. Within four months the British forces would surrender to General Washington and the American allies at Yorktown, the final major battle of the American Revolution.
Among the best preserved of the American Revolutionary War sites, Ninety Six NHS contains the original earthen walls of the Loyalists’ Star Fort. The site also preserves the only remaining mine from the Revolutionary War, built with the intent of tunneling under the fort to unleash an explosion and create an opening in the forts’ defenses. The mine and siege trenches were dug under the direction of the Polish military engineer Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, who was one of the first Europeans to volunteer to aid the American revolutionary cause in 1776.
Visitors from throughout the region enjoyed a wide variety of activities at the park over the weekend. About 175 reenactors were encamped at the site portraying British and American soldiers. Military camp life demonstrations, musket and artillery firing, and living history demonstrations were part of the activities. Music of the 1700’s, portrayals of siege leaders, ranger led walks, and other period events gave the scene a vibrancy. On Saturday a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony took place, led by the Sons, Daughters and Children of the American Revolution and park rangers. This event, along with a key note address by park superintendent Tim Stone, added a poignant and somber moment to the special celebration. Over the course of the weekend about 3,000 visitors attended the event, including many families with children.
The weather proved favorable throughout the weekend, but as the event was concluding on Sunday afternoon a severe thunderstorm brought heavy rain and gusting winds up to 50 mph. Several trees were felled along with many heavy limbs and branches. Many of the reenactor tents were blown over in the “micro burst” but fortunately no one was injured. The only collateral damage occurred to a rental outhouse. In the storm’s aftermath park staff spent the next several days in the cleanup of downed limbs and damaged trees.
National Park Service staff from nearby Revolutionary War parks including Cowpens National Battlefield, Kings Mountain National Military Park, and Moores Creek National Battlefield assisted with the weekend’s activities. In addition, over thirty volunteers including local Boy Scouts helped with visitor parking, first-aid stations and visitor services