The settlement of Ninety Six got its unusual name from traders in the 1700s because they mistakenly believed it be 96 miles from the Cherokee village of Keowee in the upper South Carolina foothills. During Ninety Six’s early days, there was considerable trouble with local Indians. In 1760, Cherokees twice attacked the fort that protected the settlement at Ninety Six. By the the time of the American Revolution, the village at Ninety Six had 12 houses and a newly constructed courthouse and jail. Ninety Six was the site of a famous siege during the Revolution. From May 22 to June 18, 1781, Major General Nathanael Greene with 1,000 patriot troops staged the longest (yet unsuccessful) siege of the Revolutionary War against 550 loyalists who were defending Ninety Six. The historic site sponsors an historic reenactment event, called Revolutionary War Days, every year. Participants dress in period attire and depict military and camp life activities. They also demonstrate 18th century skills such as bayonet competition and tomahawk throwing competition.
In 1871, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (known to legions of high school English students as Mark Twain) relocated from Buffalo, New York, to Hartford, Connecticut, to be near his publisher, Elisha Bliss, whose American Publishing Company was located in Connecticut’s capital. Twain, with his wife Olivia and infant son Langdon, first rented a house on Forest Street in Nook Farm, on the western side of Hartford. In 1873, the family had a house built in a Nook Farm neighborhood that included Harriet Beecher Stowe. (Stowe’s restored home is located across the lawn from the Twain House and is also open to the public as a museum.) Twain published Life on The Mississippi (1883), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) during the period when the family lived in this home. In 1891, they moved to Europe. The Mark Twain House opened as a museum in the 1960s under the auspices of the Mark Twain Memorial, a private, non-profit organization that still owns and operates the museum. The house contains many pieces of Clemens family furniture, including Twain’s Venetian bed and his billiard table.
Links: Mark Twain House
The boyhood home of Ernie Pyle (1900-1945) is maintained as a state historic site dedicated to his life and work. Ernie Pyle was a distinguished newspaper journalist who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1944 for his WW II battlefront reporting. During the war years, his assignments took him to all the major American battlefronts. Pyle had a gift for personalizing the GI experience, and his reports were avidly sought after and read on the homefront. Ernie Pyle was killed while on assignment on the Pacific island of IeShima during the waning days of WW II. He is buried at the Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery (National Cemetery of The Pacific), Honolulu, Hawaii. Today, Pyle’s boyhood home features a museum, video theater, exhibits and a research library dedicated to his work.
Jim Hart, author of many posts on travelthepast, wrote these words before the 9/11 attach:
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about three public events in my lifetime: the Kennedy assassination, the Challenger explosion, and the Oklahoma City bombing. (The fact that I was at my job in a federal building when I heard about Oklahoma City did, as they say, remarkably concentrate the mind.) Oklahoma City National Memorial is on the former site of the Murrah Federal Building, which was destroyed on April 19, 1995, in the worst terrorist act on American soil. The monument includes the Gates of Time (monumental twin gates framing the moment of destruction, 9:02 AM), a reflecting pool, and Rescuers’ Orchard with the “Survivor Tree” (a 70-year old Elm tree that survived the bombing).
I visited this site twice in 2002 on a business trip to Oklahoma City. I was so moved I returned a few months later with my wife and children on a family vacation. So many of our national monuments and historic sites are places where lives have been lost. Maybe we turn them into “sacred spaces” so that we can remember that in every generation we need to work toward peace not only in the world but here in our own country.
In November 1864, John Wilkes Booth appeared with his brothers Edwin and Junius Brutus Booth in a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Junius, playing the role of Cassius, had these lines: “How many ages hence / Shall this our lofty scene be acted over / In states unborn and accents yet unknown!” John Wilkes found the stage to play the role, as he thought, of tyrannicide at Ford’s Theater in Washington six months later. Ford’s Theater National Historic Site includes the theater, where Booth shot Lincoln in the presidential box, and Petersen’s Boarding House across the street, where Lincoln died the next morning. Ford’s was closed as a theater from the night of the assassination until 1968. Since then, the theater has been restored and reopened as a venue for live productions.
After the secession of the southern states in late 1860 and early 1861, the federal government retained possession of several forts in the territories of the seceded states. The new president, Abraham Lincoln, considered retaining possession of these forts to be a concrete way to assert continuing federal sovereignty over the states that had declared their secession. The forts also became the issue that led to the actual outbreak of war. Unwilling to tolerate the challenge, forces of the new Confederacy opened fire against Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861. After 34 hours of fighting, the Union garrison surrendered the fort. From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates themselves withstood a 22 month siege by Union forces at Fort Sumter. During that siege, most of the fort was reduced to brick rubble. Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948, and has been reconstructed to its 1861 appearance.
Fort Pulaski guarded the barrier islands off the Georgia coast and the entrance to Savannah harbor at the beginning of the Civil War. In April of 1862, Union troops attacked the fort and successfully employed experimental rifled cannon to breach the fort’s southeast angle and force its surrender. The fall of Fort Pulaski halted export of cotton from Savannah. After the taking of Fort Pulaski, Union Major General David Hunter, an ardent abolitionist, ordered the release of area slaves and recruited many of them into the Union army as the First South Carolina Colored Regiment. The park includes 5,623 acres of scenic marsh and uplands that support a variety of animal life, including white-tailed deer, alligators, and raccoons and migratory birds.
There is no better way to understand Appomattox than with the words of U. S. Grant: “What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassable face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.” Ulysses S. Grant Memoirs
We often forget that the English, and even the French, were relative latecomers to the New World and even to North America. You can be reminded of that at Castillo de San Marcos, which was built 1672-1695 to guard St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the continental United States. The castle, a fine example of early modern European fortification engineering, also protected the sea route for treasure ships carrying the gold and silver of the New World to Spain. During the 18th century the fort changed hands between the Spanish and British before passing into American hands when the United States purchased Florida from Spain in 1821.