Siege of Fort Ninety-Six, 22 May-19 June 1781

A British fort built in South Carolina during the American War of Independence by Lord Cornwallis in June 1780. Fort Ninety-Six was one of the strongest British positions in the interior of the state, but despite victories at Camden and Hobkirk’s Hill, the British proved unable hold on to the interior of South Carolina. By the summer of 1781 the new British commander in the state, Lord Francis Rawdon, had decided to withdraw from the interior to concentrate on holding Charleston on the coast. April had seen a series of British positions overwhelmed, while Fort Ninety-Six was isolated by a force under Andrew Pickens.

Francis Rawdon, Marquess of Hastings, 1754-1826
Francis Rawdon, Marquess of Hastings, 1754-1826
The fort was defended by 500 men commanded by Colonel John Cruger, a Troy from New York, who proved to be well capable of defending his post. Lord Rawdon had decided to abandon the fort, but before his orders could reach Cruger, the Americans arrived. Nathanael Greene with a force of 1000 men surrounded Fort Ninety-Six on 22 May. Reinforced by three new regiments newly arrived from Britain, Lord Rawdon was able to raise a force 2000 strong to relieve the fort, and marched back into the interior.

Presumably aware of Rawdon’s approach, Greene launched a strong attack on the fort on 18 June, but his forces were not strong enough to overwhelm the strong defences of Fort Ninety-Six, and two days later the approach of Rawdon forced him to abandon the siege. The tables were briefly turned as Rawdon briefly pursued Greene, but the summer heat soon discouraged Rawdon, who returned to the coast, from where he soon returned to England, his health shattered. The purpose of his expedition had been to rescue Cruger and his men, not to retain Fort Ninety-Six, and the fort was quickly abandoned. Despite the failure of the siege, Greene had succeeded in his campaign to force the British out of South Carolina. Rawdon’s successor, Lt. Colonel Alexander Stewart found his command reduced to Charleston, Savannah and a few minor posts on the coast.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 December 2004), Siege of Fort Ninety-Six, 22 May-19 June 1781,

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