J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Exploring the Tunnel at Ninety Six

This spring archeologists, local firefighters, and National Park Service staff started to explore a tunnel dug during a siege in South Carolina in 1781. This is apparently the only tunnel created during a Revolutionary War siege to survive, and in fact it survived in good shape.

The History Blog reported this story, based on local television coverage:
The 125-foot tunnel was designed by Polish humanist, engineer and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko during the 1781 siege of the earthen Star Fort in the town of Ninety Six, South Carolina. The plan was for the tunnel to extend underneath the Star Fort so that it could be mined from below and blown up. British reinforcements arrived before the tunnel was finished, which is why it, unlike its more successful brethren, managed to survive the war.

The earthworks of Star Fort are still in existence and the entire site is now a National Park. The Park service and experts from the University of South Florida sent Greenwood firefighter Russel Cline down into the tunnel with breathing equipment since they had no idea what kind of air quality he would encounter. He found that it was remarkably good, considering the three-and-a-half foot high tunnel is more than 230 years old. The video records that the vaulted tunnel is lined with brick and mortar which at first glance, at least, still impressively sound, a testament to Kosciuszko’s skill and attention to detail.
That detail would have been obliterated if Kosciuszko had been able to complete his plan and set off explosives under the fort. But the Loyalists at Ninety Six held out long enough for reinforcements to approach, driving the Continentals away.

[Image above courtesy of FOX Carolina.]

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