Honoring Memorial Day the Revolutionary Way

Katherine RivardNPF Blog
Valley Forge National Historical Park  view in the fog
Valley Forge National Historical Park – Jeff Oates, Share the Experience

History buffs and high school students may recognize Saratoga National Historical Park as the site of the turning point of the American Revolution or Valley Forge National Historical Park as the site of George Washington and the Continental Army’s 1777-1778 winter encampment. Anything related to Boston and that memorable tea party may also come to mind when thinking about the Revolutionary War.

But how many would recall places such as Fort Moultrie and Guildford Courthouse as significant locations during our early national history?

As we remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, take time this Memorial Day holiday to commemorate the sacrifices made for a revolutionary idea. Explore some of these lesser-known, but profoundly significant, landmarks that witnessed the beginning of a new nation.

Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail 

235th Anniversary Ceremony of the 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain.
Civil War Trust/Lindsey Morrison via Flickr

Threats from the British resulted in local militiamen, with no regular American officer among them, pursuing Major Ferguson and his army of American Loyalists for two weeks along the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. Though the attack on the Loyalists lasted only one hour, this victory at Little Kings Mountain was a crucial win for the American troops.                                                                     

Visiting Today: Not all history lessons require period costumes and colonial buildings (though they can bring history to life in fascinating ways!). Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail stretches 330 miles through Virginia, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, following the route used by patriot militia during the King Mountain campaign of 1780. Today you can use the Commemorative Motor Route to follow the same campaign route via existing state highways that have been marked by the distinctive trail logo. If you prefer to stretch your legs, the trail also includes 87 miles of walkable pathway.

Ninety Six National Historic Site

Reenactors at Ninety Six National Historic Site

Charleston traders named this site Ninety Six in the first half of the 1700s, believing there were 96 miles from this point to Keowee, a Cherokee village. By the 1770s, the bustling backcountry town in what is now known as Ninety Six National Historic Site had a whopping 12 houses, in addition to taverns, shops, and a jail house. Then, in 1776, it served as the first battleground south of New England in the American Revolution. In 1781, it again played a crucial role in the war as the site of the longest siege (May 22-June 18, 1781).   

Visiting Today: See the grave of James Birmingham, the first patriot killed in the South during the Revolutionary War. Decide whether General Thaddeus Kosciusko, a Polish freedom fighter who fought for America and acted as Chief Engineer for the Continental Army, was a mastermind or impractical when designing the Kosciuszko Mine, the only mine used during the American Revolution. Learn the stories of local women, including Grace and Nancy Martin, sisters-in-law responsible for capturing a British dispatch rider and passing his message along to General Greene during the siege.

Morristown National Historical Park

Historic Wick House at Morristown National Historical Park
Vanessa Smiley, Share the Experience

Camping through the winter of 1779-80, the Continental Army at Morristown National Historical Park rested during what became infamously known as the worst winter of the Revolutionary War. The troops were plagued with starvation, unpaid due to lack of funding, and further burdened by wild inflation. While staying at Morristown, George Washington had several aides-de-campe, among them Alexander Hamilton. Here, Hamilton met his future wife, Elizabeth Schuyler, before ultimately leaving in 1781 due to a falling out with Washington.

Visiting Today: Tour Ford Mansion, a large Georgian-style home that served as George Washington’s headquarters from December 1779-June 1780. Learn about why living near the soldiers was not always easy at the Guerin House in Jockey Hollow, the small home of a sergeant in the Morris County militia. Hike some or all of the 27 designated miles of trail throughout the park, including Yellow Trail — 2.25 miles of trail that connect the key historic sites in Jockey Hollow.

Dig a little deeper into our fascinating history and you will find a wealth of other national parks and programs throughout the United States that are equally exciting. This Memorial Day, take a moment to learn more about the incredible men and women who have fought for and supported our nation throughout our history. From the soldiers that fought in the French and Indian War to the men and women who sacrificed their lives on Flight 93, Memorial Day is a time to revisit the stories of those who gave their lives for our freedom and remember the significance of their actions.  For more ideas on sites to visit from the American Revolution and all historic American wars and battles, click here.

Join us in protecting our many sites of remembrance across the National Park System by visiting nationalparks.org/remembrance.

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