May 22-June 18, 1781
"Our success is very doubtful."General Nathanael Greene
May 23, 1781
General Greene entrusted Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko with the task of creating siegeworks — a system of trenches — that would allow his men to approach and capture the Star Fort. The Continental Army engineer, a 35 year-old native of Poland, had received his military education in Warsaw and Paris. The Revolutionary War trench lines before you provide a picture of how Kosciuszko conducted the siege against the Star Fort according to traditional rules of warfare in the 1700s.
A series of parallels or earthen tranches were dug, providing cover for troops and allowing them to move artillery close to their target. Angled approach trenches connecting the parallels, forming a "Z" pattern leading up to the fort. The trenches you see here are partially reconstructed. Archaeological investigations revealed their original locations, but they have not been fully excavated.
The Star Fort posed a formidable challenge to Greene's troops. Its eight-pointed design allowed soldiers inside to direct their gaze — and their guns — in many angles and over a wide area. Standing here in 1781, you would have noticed a wide ditch encircling the perimeter of the fort and glimpsed dirt walls thick enough — perhaps 10 to 15 feet wide — to stop musket and cannon balls. The walls rose 14 feet high from the bottom of the ditch. You might have flinched at the menacing rings of abatis — sharpened tree branches — around the fort, which were intended to hinder the enemy's approach.