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The Conquest of the Old Southwest: The Romantic Story of the Early Pioneers into Virginia, The Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky 1740-1790

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all their powers "for the defense of American liberty, and for
the support of her just rights and privileges, not in any
precipitous, riotous or tumultuous manner, but when regularly
called forth by the unanimous voice of our countrymen." Dunmore's
War is epochal, in that it procured for the nonce a state of
peace with the Indians, which made possible the advance of Judge
Henderson over the Transylvania Trail in 1775, and, through his
establishment of the Transylvania Fort at Boonesborough, the
ultimate acquisition by the American Confederation of the
imperial domain of the trans-Alleghany.

CHAPTER XIV. Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company

I happened to fall in company, and have a great deal of
conversation with one of the most singular and extraordinary
persons and excentric geniuses in America, and perhaps in the
world. His name is Richard Henderson.--J. F. D. Smyth: A Tour in
the United States of America.

Early in 1774, chastened by his own disastrous failure the
preceding autumn, Boone advised Judge Henderson that the time was
auspicious for opening negotiations with the Cherokees for
purchasing the trans-Alleghany region." In organizing a company
for this purpose, Henderson chose men of action and resource,
leaders in the colony, ready for any hazard of life and fortune
in this gigantic scheme of colonization and promotion. The new
men included, in addition to the partners in the organization
known as Richard Henderson and Company, were Colonel John
Luttrell, destined to win laurels in the Revolution, and William
Johnston, a native of Scotland, the leading merchant of

Meeting in Hillsborough on August 27, 1774, these men organized
the new company under the name of the Louisa Company. In the
articles then drawn up they agreed to "rent or purchase" a tract
of land from the Indian owners of the soil for the express
purpose of "settling the country." Each partner obligated himself
to "furnish his Quota of Expenses necessary towards procuring the
grant." In full anticipation of the grave dangers to be
encountered, they solemnly bound themselves, as "equal sharers in
the property," to "support each other with our lives and
fortunes." Negotiations with the Indians were begun at once.
Accompanied by Colonel Nathaniel Hart and guided by the
experienced Indian-trader, Thomas Price, Judge Henderson visited
the Cherokee chieftains at the Otari towns. After elaborate
consultations, the latter deputed the old chieftain,
Atta-kulla-kulla, a young buck, and a squaw, "to attend the said
Henderson and Hart to North Carolina, and there examine the Goods
and Merchandize which had been by them offered as the
Consideration of the purchase." The goods purchased at Cross
Creek (now Fayetteville, North Carolina), in which the Louisa
Company "had embarked a large amount," met the entire approval of
the Indians--the squaw in particular shrewdly examining the goods
in the interest of the women of the tribe.

On January 6, 1775, the company was again enlarged, and given the
name of the Transylvania Company-the three new partners being
David Hart, brother to Thomas and Nathaniel, Leonard Henley
Bullock, a prominent citizen of Granville, and James Hogg, of
Hillsborough, a native Scotchman and one of the most influential
men in the colony. In the elaborate agreement drawn up reference
is explicitly made to the contingency of "settling and voting as
a proprietor and giving Rules and Regulations for the Inhabitants
etc." Hillsborough was the actual starting-point for the westward
movement, the first emigrants, traveling thence to the Sycamore
Shoals of the Watauga. In speaking of the departure of the
settlers, the first movement of extended and permanent westward
migration, an eye-witness quaintly says: "At this place
[Hillsborough] I saw the first party of emigrant families that
moved to Kentucky under the auspices of Judge Henderson. They
marched out of the town with considerable solemnity, and to many
their destination seemed as remote as if it had been to the South
Sea Islands." Meanwhile, the "Proposals for the encouragement of
settling the lands etc.," issued on Christmas Day, 1774, were
quickly spread broadcast through the colony and along the
border." It was the greatest sensation North Carolina had known
since Alamance; and Archibald Neilson, deputy-auditor and naval
officer of the colony, inquired with quizzical anxiety: "Pray, is
Dick Henderson out of his head?" The most liberal terms,
proffered by one quite in possession of his head, were embodied
in these proposals. Land at twenty shillings per hundred acres
was offered to each emigrant settling within the territory and
raising a crop of corn before September 1, 1775, the emigrant
being permitted to take up as much as five hundred acres for him
self and two hundred and fifty acres for each tithable person
under him. In these "Proposals" there was no indication that the
low terms at which the lands were offered would be maintained
after September 1, 1775. In a letter to Governor Dunmore
(January, 1775), Colonel William Preston, county surveyor of
Fincastle County, Virginia, says "The low price he [Henderson]
proposes to sell at, together with some further encouragement he
offers, will I am apprehensive induce a great many families to
remove from this County (Fincastle) & Carolina and settle there."
Joseph Martin, states his son, "was appointed entry-Taker and
agent for the Powell Valley portion" of the Transylvania Purchase
on January 20, 1775; and "he (Joseph Martin) and others went on
in the early part of the year 1775 and made their stand at the
very spot where he had made corn several years before. In
speaking of the startling design, unmasked by Henderson, of
establishing an independent government, Colonel Preston writes to
George Washington of the contemplated "large Purchase by one Col.
Henderson of North Carolina from the Cherokees . . . . I hear
that Henderson talks with great Freedom & Indecency of the
Governor of Virginia, sets the Government at Defiance & says if
he once had five hundred good Fellows settled in that Country he
would not Value Virginia."

Early in 1775 runners were sent off to the Cherokee towns to
summon the Indians to the treaty ground at the Sycamore Shoals of
the Watauga; and Boone, after his return from a hunt in Kentucky
in January, was summoned by Judge Henderson to aid in the
negotiations preliminary to the actual treaty. The dominating
figure in the remarkable assemblage at the treaty ground,
consisting of twelve hundred Indians and several hundred whites,
was Richard Henderson, "comely in person, of a benign and social
disposition," with countenance betokening the man of strenuous
action" noble forehead, prominent nose, projecting chin, firm-set
jaw, with kindness and openness of expression." Gathered about
him, picturesque in garb and striking in appearance, were many of
the buckskin-clad leaders of the border--James Robertson, John
Sevier, Isaac Shelby, William Bailey Smith, and their
compeers--as well as his Carolina friends John Williams, Thomas
and Nathaniel Hart, Nathaniel Henderson, Jesse Benton,and
Valentine Searcy.

Little was accomplished on the first day of the treaty (March
14th); but on the next day, the Cherokees offered to sell the
section bargained for by Donelson acting as agent for Virginia in
1771. Although the Indians pointed out that Virginia had never
paid the promised compensation of five hundred pounds and had
therefore forfeited her rights, Henderson flatly refused to
entertain the idea of purchasing territory to which Virginia had
the prior claim. Angered by Henderson's refusal, The Dragging
Canoe, leaping into the circle of the seated savages, made an
impassioned speech touched with the romantic imagination peculiar
to the American Indian. With pathetic eloquence he dwelt upon the
insatiable land-greed of the white men, and predicted the
extinction of his race if they committed the insensate folly of
selling their beloved hunting-grounds. Roused to a high pitch of
oratorical fervor, the savage with uplifted arm fiercely exhorted
his people to resist further encroachments at all hazards--and
left the treaty ground. This incident brought the conference to a
startling and abrupt conclusion. On the following day, however,
the savages proved more tractable,agreeing to sell the land as
far as the Cumberland River. In order to secure the additional
territory watered by the tributaries of the Cumberland, Henderson
agreed to pay an additional sum of two thousand pounds. Upon this
day there originated the ominous phrase descriptive of Kentucky
when The Dragging Canoe, dramatically pointing toward the west,
declared that a DARK Cloud hung over that land, which was known

On the last day, March 17th, the negotiations were opened with
the signing of the "Great Grant." The area purchased, some twenty
millions of acres, included almost all the present state of
Kentucky, and an immense tract in Tennessee, comprising all the
territory watered by the Cumberland River and all its
tributaries. For "two thousand weight of leather in goods"
Henderson purchased "the lands lying down Holston and between the
Watauga lease, Colonel Donelson's line and Powell's Mountain" as
a pathway to Kentucky -the deed for which was known as the "Path
Deed." By special arrangement, Carter's Valley in this tract went
to Carter and Lucas; two days later, for two thousand pounds,
Charles Robertson on behalf of the Watauga Association purchased
a large tract in the valleys of the Holston, Watauga, and New
Rivers; and eight days later Jacob Brown purchased two large
areas, including the Nolichucky Valley. This historic treaty,
which heralds the opening of the West, was conducted with
absolute justice and fairness by Judge Henderson and his
associates. No liquor was permitted at the treaty ground; and
Thomas Price, the ablest of the Cherokee traders, deposed that
"he at that time understood the Cherokee language, so as to
comprehend everything which was said and to know that what was
observed on either side was fairly and truly translated; that the
Cherokees perfectly understood, what Lands were the subject of
the Treaty . . . ." The amount paid by the Transylvania Company
for the imperial domain was ten thousand pounds sterling, in
money and in goods.

Although Daniel Boone doubtless assisted in the proceedings prior
to the negotiation of the treaty, his name nowhere appears in the
voluminous records of the conference. Indeed, he was not then
present; for a fortnight before the conclusion of the treaty he
was commissioned by Judge Henderson to form a party of competent
woodmen to blaze a passage through the wilderness. On March l0th
this party of thirty ax-men, under the leadership of Boone,
started from the rendezvous, the Long Island of Holston, to
engage in the arduous labor of cutting out the Transylvania

Henderson, the empire-builder, now faced with courage and
resolution the hazardous task of occupying the purchased
territory and establishing an independent government. No mere
financial promoter of a vast speculative enterprise, he was one
of the heroic figures of the Old Southwest; and it was his
dauntless courage, his unwavering resolve to go forward in the
face of all dangers, which carried through the armed "trek" to a
successful conclusion. At Martin's Station, where Henderson and
his party tarried to build a house in which to store their
wagons, as the road could be cleared no further, they were joined
by another party, of five adventurers from Prince William County,
Virginia." In Henderson's party were some forty men and boys,
with forty packhorses and a small amount of powder, lead, salt,
and garden-seeds. The warning freely given by Joseph Martin of
the perils of the path was soon confirmed, as appears from the
following entry in Henderson's diary:

"Friday the 7th. [April] About Brake of Day began to snow. About
11 O'Clock received a letter from Mr. Luttrells camp that were
five persons killd on the road to the Cantuckie by Indians. Capt.
[Nathaniel] Hart, uppon the receipt of this News Retreated back
with his Company, & determined to Settle in the Valley to make
Corn for the Cantucky people. The same Day Received a Letter from
Dan. Boone, that his Company was fired uppon by Indians, Kill'd
Two of his men--tho he kept the ground & saved the Baggage &c."

The following historic letter, which reveals alike the dogged
resolution of Boone and his reliance upon Henderson and his
company in this black hour of disaster, addressed "Colonel
Richard Henderson--these with care," is eloquent in its

"Dear Colonel: After my compliments to you, I shall acquaint you
of our misfortunes. On March the 25 a party of Indians fired on
my Company about half an hour before day, and killed Mr. Twitty
and his negro, and wounded Mr. Walker very deeply, but I hope he
will recover.

"On March the 28 as we were hunting for provisions, we found
Samuel Tate's son, who gave us an account that the Indians fired
on their camp on the 27th day. My brother and I went down and
found two men killed and sculped, Thomas McDowell and Jeremiah
McFeters. I have sent a man down to all the lower companies in
order to gather them all at the mouth of Otter Creek.

"My advice to you, Sir, is to come or send as soon as possible.
Your company is desired greatly, for the people are very uneasy,
but are willing to stay and venture their lives with you. and now
is the time to flusterate their [the Indians'] intentions, and
keep the country, whilst we are in it. If we give way to them
now, it will ever be the case. This day we start from the battle
ground, for the mouth of Otter Creek, where we shall immediately
erect a Fort, which will be done before you can come or send,
then we can send ten men to meet you, if you send for them.

"I am, Sir, your most obedient
Omble Sarvent
Daniel Boone.

"N.B. We stood on the ground and guarded our baggage till day,
and lost nothing. We have about fifteen miles to Cantuck
[Kentucky River] at Otter Creek."

This dread intelligence caused the hearts of strong men to quail
and induced some to turn back, but Henderson, the jurist-pioneer,
was made of sterner stuff. At once (April 8th) he despatched an
urgent letter in hot haste to the proprietors of Transylvania,
enclosing Boone's letter, informing them of Boone's plight and
urging them to send him immediately a large quantity of powder
and lead, as he had been compelled to abandon his supply of
saltpeter at Martin's Station. "We are all in high spirits," he
assures the proprietors, "and on thorns to fly to Boone's
assistance, and join him in defense of so fine and valuable a

Laconically eloquent is this simple entry in his diary: "Saturday
the 8th. Started abt. 10 oClock Crossed Cumberland Gap about 4
miles met about 40 persons Returning from the Cantucky, on Acct.
of the Late Murders by the Indians could prevail on one only to
return. Memo Several Virginians who were with us return'd."

There is no more crucial moment in early Western history than
this, in which we see the towering form of Henderson, clad in the
picturesque garb of the pioneer, with outstretched arm resolutely
pointing forward to the "dark and bloody ground," and in
impassioned but futile eloquence pleading with the pale and
panic-stricken fugitives to turn about, to join his company, and
to face once more the mortal dangers of pioneer conquest.
Significant indeed are the lines:

Some to endure, and many to fail,
Some to conquer, and many to quail,
Toiling over the Wilderness Trail.

The spirit of the pioneer knight-errant inspires Henderson's
words: "In this situation, some few, of genuine courage and
undaunted resolution, served to inspire the rest; by the help of
whose example, assisted by a little pride and some ostentation,
we made a shift to march on with all the appearance of gallantry,
and, cavalier like, treated every insinuation of danger with the
utmost contempt."

Fearing that Boone, who did not even know that Henderson's
cavalcade was on the road, would be unable to hold out, Henderson
realized the imperative necessity for sending him a message of
encouragement. The bold young Virginian, William Cocke,
volunteered to brave alone the dangers of the murder-haunted
trail to undertake a ride more truly memorable and hazardous than
that of Revere. "This offer, extraordinary as it was, we could by
no means refuse," remarks Henderson, who shed tears of gratitude
as he proffered his sincere thanks and wrung the brave
messenger's hand. Equipped with "a good Queen Anne's musket,
plenty of ammunition, a tomahawk, a large cuttoe knife [French,
couteau], a Dutch blanket, and no small quantity of jerked beef,"
Cocke on April l0th rode off "to the Cantuckey to Inform Capt
Boone that we were on the road." The fearful apprehensions felt
for Cocke's safety were later relieved, when along the road were
discovered his letters in forming Henderson of his arrival and of
his having been joined on the way by Page Portwood of Rowan. On
his arrival at Otter Creek, Cocke found Boone and his men, and on
relating his adventures, "came in for his share of applause."
Boone at once despatched the master woodman, Michael Stoner, with
pack-horses to assist Henderson's party, which he met on April
18th at their encampment "in the Eye of the Rich Land." Along
with "Excellent Beef in plenty," Stoner brought the story of
Boone's determined stand and an account of the erection of a rude
little fortification which they had hurriedly thrown up to resist
attack. With laconic significance Henderson pays the following
tribute to Boone which deserves to be perpetuated in national
annals: "It was owing to Boone's confidence in us, and the
people's in him, that a stand was ever attempted in order to wait
for our coming."

In the course of their journey over the mountains and through the
wilderness, the pioneers forgot the trials of the trail in the
face of the surpassing beauties of the country. The Cumberlands
were covered with rich undergrowth of the red and white
rhododendron, the delicate laurel, the mountain ivy, the
flameazalea, the spicewood, and the cane; while the white stars
of the dogwood and the carmine blossoms of the red-bud, strewn
across the verdant background of the forest, gleamed in the eager
air of spring. "To enter uppon a detail of the Beuty & Goodness
of our Country," writes Nathaniel Henderson, "would be a task too
arduous . . . . Let it suffice to tell you it far exceeds any
country I ever saw or herd off. I am conscious its out of the
power of any man to make you clearly sensible of the great Beuty
and Richness of Kentucky." Young Felix Walker, endowed with more
vivid powers of description, says with a touch of native

"Perhaps no Adventurer Since the days of donquicksotte or before
ever felt So Cheerful & Ilated in prospect, every heart abounded
with Joy & excitement . . . & exclusive of the Novelties of the
Journey the advantages & accumalations arising on the Settlement
of a new Country was a dazzling object with many of our Company .
. . . As the Cain ceased, we began to discover the pleasing &
Rapturous appearance of the plains of Kentucky, a New Sky &
Strange Earth to be presented to our view . . . . So Rich a Soil
we had never Saw before, Covered with Clover in full Bloom. the
Woods alive abounding in wild Game, turkeys so numerous that it
might be said there appeared but one flock Universally Scattered
in the woods . . . it appeared that Nature in the profusion of
her Bounties, had Spread a feast for all that lives, both for the
Animal & Rational World, a Sight so delightful to our View and
grateful to our feelings almost Induced us, in Immitation of
Columbus in Transport to Kiss the Soil of Kentucky, as he haild &
Saluted the sand on his first setting his foot on the Shores of

On the journey Henderson was joined in Powell's Valley by
Benjamin Logan, afterward so famous in Kentucky annals, and a
companion, William Galaspy. At the Crab Orchard they left
Henderson's party; and turning their course westward finally
pitched camp in the present Lincoln County, where Logan
subsequently built a fort. On Sunday, April 16th, on Scaggs's
Creek, Henderson records: "About 12 oClock Met James McAfee with
18 other persons Returning from Cantucky." They advised Henderson
of the "troublesomeness and danger" of the Indians, says Robert
McAfee junior: "but Henderson assured them that he had purchased
the whole country from the Indians, that it belonged to him, and
he had named it Transylvania . . . . Robt, Samuel, and William
McAfee and 3 others were inclined to return, but James opposed
it, alleging that Henderson had no right to the land, and that
Virginia had previously bought it. The former (6) returned with
Henderson to Boonesborough." Among those who had joined
Henderson's party was Abraham Hanks from Virginia, the maternal
grandfather of Abraham Lincoln; but alarmed by the stories
brought by Stewart and his party of fugitives, Hanks and Drake,
as recorded by William Calk on that day (April 13th), turned

At last the founder of Kentucky with his little band reached the
destined goal of their arduous journeyings. Henderson's record on
his birthday runs: "Thursday the 20th [April] Arrived at Fort
Boone on the Mouth of Oter Creek Cantuckey River where we were
Saluted by a running fire of about 25 Guns; all that was then at
Fort . . . . The men appeared in high spirits & much rejoiced in
our arrival." It is a coincidence of historic interest that just
one day after the embattled farmers at Lexington and Concord
"fired the shots heard round the world," the echoing shots of
Boone and his sturdy backwoodsmen rang out to announce the
arrival of the proprietor of Transylvania and the birth of the
American West.

CHAPTER XV. Transylvania--A wilderness Commonwealth

You are about a work of the utmost importance to the well-being
of this country in general, in which the interest and security of
each and every individual are inseparably connected .... Our
peculiar circumstances in this remote country, surrounded on all
sides with difficulties, and equally subject to one common
danger, which threatens our common overthrow, must, I think, in
their effects, secure to us an union of interests, and,
consequently, that harmony in opinion, so essential to the
forming good, wise and wholesome laws.--Judge Richard Henderson:
Address to the Legislature of Transylvania, May 23, 1775.

The independent spirit displayed by the Transylvania Company, and
Henderson's procedure in open defiance of the royal governors of
both North Carolina and Virginia, naturally aroused grave alarm
throughout these colonies and South Carolina. "This in my
Opinion," says Preston in a letter to George Washington (January
31, 1775), "will soon become a serious Affair, & highly deserves
the Attention of the Government. For it is certain that a vast
Number of People are preparing to go out and settle on this
Purchase; and if once they get fixed there, it will be next to
impossible to remove them or reduce them to Obedience; as they
are so far from the Seat of Government. Indeed it may be the
Cherokees will support them." Governor Martin of North Carolina,
already deeply disturbed in anticipation of the coming
revolutionary cataclysm, thundered in what was generally regarded
as a forcible-feeble proclamation (February 19, 1775) against
"Richard Henderson and his Confederates" in their "daring, unjust
and unwarrantable proceedings." In a letter to Dartmouth he
denounces "Henderson the famous invader" and dubs the
Transylvania Company "an infamous Company of land Pyrates."

Officials who were themselves eager for land naturally opposed
Henderson's plans. Lord Dunmore, who in 1774, as we have seen,
was heavily interested in the Wabash Land Company engineered by
William Murray, took the ground that the Wabash purchase was
valid under the Camden-Yorke decision. This is so stated in the
records of the Illinois Company. Likewise under Murray's control.
But although the "Ouabache Company," of which Dunmore was a
leading member, was initiated as early as May 16, 1774, the
purchase of the territory was not formally effected until October
18, 1775--too late to benefit Dunmore, then deeply embroiled in
the preliminaries to the Revolution. Under the cover of his
agent's name, it is believed, Dunmore, with his "passion for land
and fees," illegally entered tracts aggregating thousands of
acres of land surveyed by the royal surveyors in the summer of
1774 for Dr. John Connolly. Early in this same year, Patrick
Henry, who, as already pointed out, had entered large tracts in
Kentucky in violation of Virginia's treaty obligations with the
Cherokees, united with William Byrd 3d, John Page, Ralph Wormley,
Samuel Overton, and William Christian, in the effort to purchase
from the Cherokees a tract of land west of Donelson's line, being
firmly persuaded of the validity of the Camden-Yorke opinion.
Their agent, William Kenedy, considerably later in the year, went
on a mission to the Cherokee towns, and upon his return reported
that the Indians might be induced to sell. When it became known
that Judge Henderson had organized the Transylvania Company and
anticipated Patrick Henry and his associates, Colonel Arthur
Campbell, as he himself states, applied to several of the
partners of the Transylvania Company on behalf of Patrick Henry,
requesting that Henry be taken in as a partner. It was afterward
stated, as commonly understood among the Transylvania
proprietors, that both Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson desired
to become members of the company; but that Colonel Richard
Henderson was instrumental in preventing their admission "lest
they should supplant the Colonel [Henderson] as the guiding
spirit of the company."

Fully informed by Preston's elaborate communication on the
gravity of the situation, Dunmore acted energetically, though
tardily, to prevent the execution of Henderson's designs. On
March 21st Dunmore sent flying through the back country a
proclamation, demanding the immediate relinquishment of the
territory by "one Richard Henderson and other disorderly persons,
his associates," and "in case of refusal, and of violently
detaining such possession, that he or they be immediately fined
and imprisoned. This proclamation, says a peppery old chronicler,
may well rank with the one excepting those arch traitors and
rebels, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, from the mercy of the
British monarch. In view of Dunmore's confidence in the validity
of the Camden-Yorke decision, it is noteworthy that no mention of
the royal proclamation of 1763 occurs in his broadside; and that
he bases his objection to the Transylvania purchase upon the
king's instructions that all vacant lands "within this colony" be
laid off in tracts, from one hundred to one thousand acres in
extent, and sold at public auction. This proclamation which was
enclosed, oddly enough, in a letter of official instructions to
Preston warning him not to survey any lands "beyond the line run
by Colonel Donaldson," proved utterly ineffective. At the same
time, Dunmore despatched a pointed letter to Oconostota,
Atta-kulla-kulla, Judge's Friend, and other Cherokee chieftains,
notifying them that the sale of the great tract of land below the
Kentucky was illegal and threatening them with the king's
displeasure if they did not repudiate the sale.

News of the plans which Henderson had already matured for
establishing an independent colony in the trans-Alleghany
wilderness, now ran like wild-fire through Virginia. In a letter
to George Washington (April 9, 1775), Preston ruefully says:
"Henderson I hear has made the Purchase & got a Conveyance of the
great and Valluable Country below the Kentucky from the
Cherokees. He and about 300 adventurers are gone out to take
Possession, who it is said intends to set up an independent
Government & form a Code of Laws for themselves. How this may be
I cant say, but I am affraid the steps taken by the Government
have been too late. Before the Purchase was made had the Governor
interfered it is believed the Indians would not have sold."

Meanwhile Judge Henderson, with strenuous energy, had begun to
erect a large stockaded fort according to plans of his own.
Captain James Harrod with forty-two men was stationed at the
settlement he had made the preceding year, having arrived there
before the McAfees started back to Virginia; and there were small
groups of settlers at Boiling Spring, six miles southeast of
Harrods settlement, and at St. Asaph's, a mile west of the
present Stanford. A representative government for Transylvania
was then planned. When the frank and gallant Floyd arrived at the
Transylvania Fort on May 3d, he "expressed great satisfaction,"
says Judge Henderson, "on being informed of the plan we proposed
for Legislation & sayd he must most heartily concur in that &
every other measure we should adopt for the well Govern'g or good
of the Community in Gen'l." In reference to a conversation with
Captain James Harrod and Colonel Thomas Slaughter of Virginia,
Henderson notes in his diary (May 8th): "Our plan of Legislation,
the evils pointed out--the remedies to be applyed &c &c &c were
Acceeded to without Hesitation. The plann was plain & Simple-
-'twas nothing novel in its essence a thousand years ago it was
in use, and found by every year's experience since to be
unexceptionable. We were in four distinct settlem'ts. Members or
delegates from every place by free choice of Individuals they
first having entered into writings solemnly binding themselves to
obey and carry into Execution Such Laws as representatives should
from time to time make, Concurred with, by A Majority of the
Proprietors present in the Country."

In reply to inquiries of the settlers, Judge Henderson gave as
his reason for this assembling of a Transylvania Legislature that
"all power was derived from the people." Six days before the
prophetic arrival of the news of the Battle of Lexington and
eight days before the revolutionary committee of Mecklenburg
County, North Carolina, promulgated their memorable Resolves
establishing laws for independent government, the pioneers
assembled on the green beneath the mighty plane-tree at the
Transylvania Fort. In his wise and statesmanlike address to this
picturesque convention of free Americans (May 23, 1775), an
address which Felix Walker described as being "considered equal
to any of like kind ever delivered to any deliberate body in that
day and time," Judge Henderson used these memorable words:

"You, perhaps, are fixing the palladium, or placing the first
corner stone of an edifice, the height and magnificence of whose
superstructure . . . can only become great in proportion to the
excellence of its foundation . . . . If any doubt remain amongst
you with respect to the force or efficiency of whatever laws you
now, or hereafter make, be pleased to consider that ALL POWER IS

An early writer, in speaking of the full blooded democracy of
these "advanced" sentiments, quaintly comments: "If Jeremy
Bentham had been in existence of manhood, he would have sent his
compliments to the President of Transylvania." This, the first
representative body of American freemen which ever convened west
of the Alleghanies, is surely the most unique colonial government
ever set up on this continent. The proceedings of this backwoods
legislature--the democratic leader ship of the principal
proprietor; the prudence exhibited in the laws for protecting
game, breeding horses, etc.; the tolerance shown in the granting
of full religious liberty--all display the acumen and practical
wisdom of these pioneer law-givers. As the result of Henderson's
tactfulness, the proprietary form of government, thoroughly
democratized in tone, was complacently accepted by the backwoods
men. From one who, though still under royal rule, vehemently
asserted that the source of all political power was the people,
and that "laws derive force and efficiency from our mutual
consent," Western democracy thus born in the wilderness was
"taking its first political lesson." In their answer to
Henderson's assertion of freedom from alien authority the
pioneers unhesitatingly declared: "That we have an absolute
right, as a political body, without giving umbrage to Great
Britain, or any of the colonies, to form rules for the government
of our little society, cannot be doubted by any sensible mind and
being without the jurisdiction of, and not answerable to any of
his Majesty's courts, the constituting tribunals of justice shall
be a matter of our first contemplation . . . ." In the
establishment of a constitution for the new colony, Henderson
with paternalistic wisdom induced the people to adopt a legal
code based on the laws of England. Out of a sense of
self-protection he reserved for the proprietors only one
prerogative not granted them by the people, the right of veto. He
clearly realized that if this power were given up, the delegates
to any convention that might be held after the first would be
able to assume the claims and rights of the proprietors.

A land-office was formally opened, deeds were issued, and a store
was established which supplied the colonists with powder, lead,
salt, osnaburgs, blankets, and other chief necessities of pioneer
existence. Writing to his brother Jonathan from Leestown, the
bold young George Rogers Clark, soon to plot the downfall of
Transylvania, enthusiastically says (July 6, 1775): "A richer and
more Beautifull Cuntry than this I believe has never been seen in
America yet. Col. Henderson is hear and Claims all ye Country
below Kentucke. If his Claim Should be good, land may be got
Reasonable Enough and as good as any in ye World." Those who
settled on the south side of Kentucky River acknowledged the
validity of the Transylvania purchase; and Clark in his Memoir
says: "the Proprietors at first took great pains to Ingratiate
themselves in the fav'r of the people."

In regard to the designs of Lord Dunmore, who, as noted above,
had illegally entered the Connolly grant on the Ohio and sought
to outlaw Henderson, and of Colonel William Byrd 3d, who, after
being balked in Patrick Henry's plan to anticipate the
Transylvania Company in effecting a purchase from the Cherokees,
was supposed to have tried to persuade the Cherokees to repudiate
the "Great Treaty," Henderson defiantly says: "Whether Lord
Dunmore and Colonel Byrd have interfered with the Indians or not,
Richard Henderson is equally ignorant and indifferent. The utmost
result of their efforts can only serve to convince them of the
futility of their schemes and possibly frighten some few
faint-hearted persons, naturally prone to reverence great names
and fancy everything must shrink at the magic of a splendid

Prompted by Henderson's desire to petition the Continental
Congress then in session for recognition as the fourteenth
colony, the Transylvania legislature met again on the first
Thursday in September and elected Richard Henderson and John
Williams, among others, as delegates to the gathering at
Philadelphia. Shortly afterward the Proprietors of Transylvania
held a meeting at Oxford, North Carolina (September 25, 1775),
elected Williams as the agent of the colony, and directed him to
proceed to Boonesborough there to reside until April, 1776. James
Hogg, of Hillsborough, chosen as Delegate to represent the Colony
in the Continental Congress, was despatched to Philadelphia,
bearing with him an elaborate memorial prepared by the President,
Judge Henderson, petitioning the Congress "to take the infant
Colony of Transylvania into their protection."

Almost immediately upon his arrival in Philadelphia, James Hogg
was presented to "the famous Samuel and John Adams." The latter
warned Hogg, in view of the efforts then making toward
reconciliation between the colonies and the king, that "the
taking under our protection a body of people who have acted in
defiance of the King's proclamation, will be looked on as a
confirmation of that independent spirit with which we are daily
reproached." Jefferson said that if his advice were followed, all
the use the Virginians should make of their charter would be "to
prevent any arbitrary or oppressive government to be established
within the boundaries of it"; and that it was his wish "to see a
free government established at the back of theirs [Virginia's]
properly united with them." He would not consent, however, that
Congress should acknowledge the colony of Transylvania, until it
had the approbation of the Virginia Convention. The quit-rents
imposed by the company were denounced in Congress as a mark of
vassalage; and many advised a law against the employment of
negroes in the colony. "They even threatened us with their
opposition," says Hogg, with precise veracity, "if we do not act
upon liberal principles when we have it so much in our power to
render ourselves immortal."

CHAPTER XVI. The Repulse of the Red Men

To this short war may be properly attributed all the kind
feelings and fidelity to treaty stipulations manifested by the
Cherokees ever afterwards. General Rutherford instilled into the
Indians so great a fear of the whites, that never afterwards were
they disposed to engage in any cruelty, or destroy any of the
property of our frontier men.--David L. Swain: The Indian War of

During the summer of 1775 the proprietors of Transylvania were
confronted with two stupendous tasks--that of winning the favor
and support of the frontiersmen and that of rallying the rapidly
dwindling forces in Kentucky in defense of the settlements.
Recognizing the difficulty of including Martin's Station, because
of its remoteness, with the government provided for Transylvania,
Judge Henderson prepared a plan of government for the group of
settlers located in Powell's Valley. In a letter to Martin (July
30th), in regard to the recent energetic defense of the settlers
at that point against the Indians, Henderson says: "Your spirited
conduct gives me much pleasure . . . . Keep your men in heart if
gloom which had been occasioned by the almost complete desertion
of the stations at Harrodsburg, the Boiling Spring, and the
Transylvania Fort or Boonesborough was dispelled with the return
of Boone, accompanied by some thirty persons, on September 8th,
and of Richard Callaway with a considerable party on September
26th. The crisis was now passed; and the colony began for the
first time really to flourish. The people on the south side of
the Kentucky River universally accepted proprietary rule for the
time being. But the seeds of dissension were soon to be sown
among those who settled north of the river, as well as among men
of the stamp of James Harrod, who, having preceded Henderson in
the establishment of a settlement in Kentucky, naturally resented
holding lands under the Transylvania Company.

The great liberality of this organization toward incoming
settlers had resulted in immense quantities of land being taken
up through their land-office. The ranging, hunting, and
road-building were paid for by the company; and the entire
settlement was furnished with powder, lead, and supplies, wholly
on credit, for this and the succeeding year. "Five hundred and
sixty thousand acres of land are now entered," reports Floyd on
December 1st, "and most of the people waiting to have it run
out." After Dunmore, having lost his hold upon the situation,
escaped to the protection of a British vessel, the Fowey, Colonel
Preston continued to prevent surveys for officers' grants within
the Transylvania territory; and his original hostility to Judge
Henderson gave place to friendship and support. On December 1st,
Colonel John Williams, resident agent of the Transylvania
Company, announced at Boonesborough the long-contemplated and
widely advertised advance in price of the lands, from twenty to
fifty shillings per hundred acres, with surveying fees of four
dollars for tracts not exceeding six hundred and forty acres. At
a meeting of the Transylvania legislature, convened on December
21st, John Floyd was chosen surveyor general of the colony,
Nathaniel Henderson was placed in charge of the Entering Office,
and Richard Harrison given the post of secretary. At this meeting
of the legislature, the first open expression of discontent was
voiced in the "Harrodsburg Remonstrance," questioning the
validity of the proprietors' title, and protesting against any
increase in the price of lands, as well as the taking up by the
proprietors and a few other gentlemen of the best lands at the
Falls of the Ohio. Every effort was made to accommodate the
remonstrants, who were led by Abraham Hite. Office fees were
abolished, and the payment of quit-rents was deferred until
January 1, 1780. Despite these efforts at accommodation, grave
doubts were implanted by this Harrodsburg Remonstrance in the
minds of the people; and much discussion and discontent ensued.

By midsummer, 1775, George Rogers Clark, a remarkably
enterprising and independent young pioneer, was "engrossing all
the land he could" in Kentucky. Upon his return to Virginia, as
he relates, he "found there was various oppinions Respecting
Henderson claim. many thought it good, others douted whether or
not Virginia coud with propriety have any pretentions to the
cuntrey." Jefferson displayed a liberal attitude toward the
claims of the Transylvania proprietors; and Patrick Henry openly
stated that, in his opinion, "their claim would stand good." But
many others, of the stamp of George Mason and George Washington,
vigorously asserted Virginia's charter rights over the Western
territory." This sharp difference of opinion excited in Clark's
mind the bold conception of seizing the leadership of the country
and making terms with Virginia under threat of secession. With
the design of effecting some final disposition in regard to the
title of the Transylvania proprietors, Judge Henderson and
Colonel Williams set off from Boonesborough about May 1st,
intending first to appeal to the Virginia Convention and
ultimately to lay their claims before the Continental Congress.
"Since they have gone," reports Floyd to Preston, "I am told most
of the men about Harrodsburg have re-assumed their former
resolution of not complying with any of the office rules
whatever. Jack Jones, it is said, is at the head of the party &
flourishes away prodigiously." John Gabriel Jones was the mere
figurehead in the revolt. The real leader, the brains of the
conspiracy, was the unscrupulous George Rogers Clark. At Clark's
instance, an eight-day election was held at Harrodsburg (June
7-15), at which time a petition to the Virginia Convention was
drawn up; and Clark and Jones were elected delegates. Clark's
plan, the scheme of a bold revolutionist, was to treat with
Virginia for terms; and if they were not satisfactory, to revolt
and, as he says, "Establish an Independent Government" . . .
"giving away great part of the Lands and disposing of the
Remainder." In a second petition, prepared by the self-styled
"Committee of West Fincastle" (June 20th), it was alleged that
"if these pretended Proprietors have leave to continue to act in
their arbitrary manner out the controul of this colony [Virginia]
the end must be evident to every well wisher to American

The contest which now ensued between Richard Henderson and George
Rogers Clark, waged upon the floor of the convention and behind
the scenes, resulted in a conclusion that was inevitable at a
moment in American history marked by the signing of the
Declaration of Independence. Virginia, under the leader ship of
her new governor, Patrick Henry, put an end to the proprietary
rule of the Transylvania Company. On December 7th such part of
Transylvania as lay within the chartered limits of Virginia was
erected by the legislature of that colony into the County of
Kentucky. The proprietary form of government with its "marks of
vassalage," although liberalized with the spirit of democracy,
was unendurable to the independent and lawless pioneers, already
intoxicated with the spirit of freedom swept in on the first
fresh breezes of the Revolution. Yet it is not to be doubted that
the Transylvania Company, through the courage and moral influence
of its leaders, made a permanent contribution to the colonization
of the West, which, in providential timeliness and effective
execution, is without parallel in our early annals.

While events were thus shaping themselves in Kentucky--events
which made possible Clark's spectacular and meteoric campaign in
the Northwest and ultimately resulted in the establishment of the
Mississippi instead of the Alleghanies as the western boundary of
the Confederation--the pioneers of Watauga were sagaciously
laying strong the foundations of permanent occupation. In
September, 1775, North Carolina, through her Provincial Congress,
provided for the appointment in each district of a Committee of
Safety, to consist of a president and twelve other members.
Following the lead thus set, the Watauga settlers assumed for
their country the name of "Washington District"; and proceeded by
unanimous vote of the people to choose a committee of thirteen,
which included James Robertson and John Sevier. This district was
organized "shortly after October, 1775, according to Felix
Walker; and the first step taken after the election of the
committee was the organization of a court, consisting of five
members. Felix Walker was elected clerk of the court thus
organized, and held the position for about four years. James
Robertson and John Sevier, it is believed, were also members of
this court. To James Robertson who, with the assistance of his
colleagues, devised this primitive type of frontier rule--a true
commission form of government, on the "Watauga Plan"--is justly
due distinctive recognition for this notable inauguration of the
independent democracy of the Old Southwest. The Watauga
settlement was animated by a spirit of deepest loyalty to the
American cause. In a memorable petition these hardy settlers
requested the Provincial Council of North Carolina not to regard
them as a "lawless mob," but to "annex" them to North Carolina
without delay. "This committee (willing to become a party in the
present unhappy contest)", states the petition, which must have
been drafted about July 15, 1776, "resolved (which is now on our
records), to adhere strictly to the rules and orders of the
Continental Congress, and in open committee acknowledged
themselves indebted to the united colonies their full proportion
of the Continental expense."

While these disputes as to the government of the new communities
were in progress an additional danger threatened the pioneers.
For a whole year the British had been plying the various Indian
tribes from the lakes to the gulf with presents, supplies, and
ammunition. In the Northwest bounties had actually been offered
for American scalps. During the spring of 1776 plans were
concerted, chiefly through Stuart and Cameron, British agents
among the Southern Indians, for uniting the Loyalists and the
Indians in a crushing attack upon the Tennessee settlements and
the back country of North Carolina. Already the frontier of South
Carolina had passed through the horrors of Indian uprising; and
warning of the approaching invasion had been mercifully sent the
Holston settlers by Atta-kulla-kulla's niece, Nancy Ward, the
"Pocahontas of the West"--doubtless through the influence of her
daughter, who loved Joseph Martin. The settlers, flocking for
refuge into their small stockaded forts, waited in readiness for
the dreaded Indian attacks, which were made by two forces
totaling some seven hundred warriors.

On July 20th, warned in advance of the approach of the Indians,
the borderers, one hundred and seventy in all, marched in two
columns from the rude breastwork, hastily thrown up at Eaton's
Station, to meet the Indians, double their own number, led by The
Dragging Canoe. The scouts surprised one party of Indians,
hastily poured in a deadly fire, and rushed upon them with such
impetuous fury that they fled precipitately. Withdrawing now
toward their breastwork, in anticipation of encountering there a
larger force, the backwoodsmen suddenly found themselves attacked
in their rear and in grave danger of being surrounded. Extending
their own line under the direction of Captain James Shelby, the
frontiersmen steadily met the bold attack of the Indians, who,
mistaking the rapid extension of the line for a movement to
retreat, incautiously made a headlong onslaught upon the whites,
giving the war-whoop and shouting: "The Unakas are running!" In
the ensuing hot conflict at close quarters, in some places hand
to hand, the Indians were utterly routed--The Dragging Canoe
being shot down, many warriors wounded, and thirteen left dead
upon the field.

On the day after Thompson, Cocke, Shelby, Campbell, Madison, and
their men were thus winning the battle of the Long Island
"flats," Robertson, Sevier, and their little band of forty-two
men were engaged in repelling an attack, begun at sunrise, upon
the Watauga fort near the Sycamore Shoals. This attack, which was
led by Old Abraham, proved abortive; but as the result of the
loose investment of the log fortress, maintained by the Indians
for several weeks, a few rash venturers from the fort were killed
or captured, notably a young boy who was carried to one of the
Indian towns and burned at the stake, and the wife of the pioneer
settler, William Been, who was rescued from a like fate by the
intercession of the humane and noble Nancy Ward. It was during
this siege, according to constant tradition, that a frontier
lass, active and graceful as a young doe, was pursued to the very
stockade by the fleet-footed savages. Seeing her plight, an
athletic young officer mounted the stockade at a single leap,
shot down the foremost of the pursuers, and leaning over, seized
the maiden by the hands and lifted her over the stockade. The
maiden who sank breathless into the arms of the young officer,
John Sevier, was "Bonnie Kate Sherrill"--who, after the fashion
of true romance, afterward became the wife of her gallant

While the Tennessee settlements were undergoing the trials of
siege and attack, the settlers on the frontiers of Rowan were
falling beneath the tomahawk of the merciless savage. In the
first and second weeks of July large forces of Indians penetrated
to the outlying settlements; and in two days thirty-seven persons
were killed along the Catawba River. On July 13th, the bluff old
soldier of Rowan, General Griffith Rutherford, reported to the
council of North Carolina that "three of our Captains are killed
and one wounded"; and that he was setting out that day with what
men he could muster to relieve Colonel McDowell, ten men, and one
hundred and twenty women and children, who were "besieged in some
kind of a fort." Aroused to extraordinary exertions by these
daring and deadly blows, the governments of North Carolina, South
Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia instituted a joint campaign
against the Cherokees. It was believed that, by delivering a
series of crushing blows to the Indians and so conclusively
demonstrating the overwhelming superiority of the whites, the
state governments in the Old Southwest would convince the savages
of the futility, of any attempt ever again to oppose them

Within less than a week after sending his despatches to the
council Rutherford set forth at the head of twenty-five hundred
men to protect the frontiers of North Carolina and to overwhelm
the foe. Leading the South Carolina army of more than eighteen
hundred men, Colonel Andrew Williamson directed his attack
against the lower Cherokee towns; while Colonel Samuel Jack led
two hundred Georgians against the Indian towns at the heads of
the Chattahoochee and Tugaloo Rivers. Assembling a force of some
sixteen hundred Virginians, Colonel William Christian
rendezvoused in August at the Long Island of Holston, where his
force was strengthened by between three and four hundred North
Carolinians under Colonels Joseph Williams and Love, and Major
Winston. The various expeditions met with little effective
opposition on the whole, succeeding everywhere in their design of
utterly laying waste the towns of the Cherokees. One serious
engagement occurred when the Indians resolutely challenged
Rutherford's advance at the gap of the Nantahala Mountains.
Indian women--heroic Amazons disguised in war-paint and armed
with the weapons of warriors and the courage of despair--fought
side by side with the Indian braves in the effort to arrest
Rutherford's progress and compass his defeat. More than forty
frontiersmen fell beneath the deadly shots of this truly Spartan
band before the final repulse of the savages.

The most picturesque figures in this overwhelmingly successful
campaign were the bluff old Indian-fighter, Griffith Rutherford,
wearing "a tow hunting shirt, dyed black, and trimmed with white
fringe" as a uniform; Captain Benjamin Cleveland, a rude paladin
of gigantic size, strength, and courage; Lieutenant William
Lenoir (Le Noir), the gallant and recklessly brave French
Huguenot, later to win a general's rank in the Revolution; and
that militant man of God, the Reverend James Hall, graduate of
Nassau Hall, stalwart and manly, who carried a rifle on his
shoulder and, in the intervals between the slaughter of the
savages, preached the gospel to the vindictive and bloodthirsty
backwoodsmen. Such preaching was sorely needed on that campaign--
when the whites, maddened beyond the bounds of self-control by
the recent ghastly murders, gladly availed themselves of the
South Carolina bounty offered for fresh Indian scalps. At times
they exultantly displayed the reeking patches of hair above the
gates of their stockades; at others, with many a bloody oath,
they compelled their commanders either to sell the Indian
captives into slavery or else see them scalped on the spot.
Twenty years afterward Benjamin Hawkins relates that among Indian
refugees in extreme western Georgia the children had been so
terrorized by their parents' recitals of the atrocities of the
enraged borderers in the campaign of 1776, that they ran
screaming from the face of a white man.

CHAPTER XVII. The Colonization of the Cumberland

March 31, 1760. Set out this day, and after running some
distance, met with Col. Richard Henderson, who was running the
line between Virginia and North Carolina. At this meeting we were
much rejoiced. He gave us every information we wished, and
further informed us that he had purchased a quantity of corn in
Kentucky, to be shipped at the Falls of Ohio, for the use of the
Cumberland settlement. We are now without bread, and are
compelled to hunt the buffalo to preserve life.--John Donelson:
Journal of a Voyage, intended by God's permission, in the good
boat Adventure, from Fort Patrick Henry, on Holston River, to the
French Salt Springs on Cumberland River.

To the settlements in Tennessee and Kentucky, which they had
seized and occupied, the pioneers held on with a tenacious grip
which never relaxed. From these strongholds, won through sullen
and desperate strokes, they pushed deeper into the wilderness,
once again to meet with undimmed courage the bitter onslaughts of
their resentful foes. The crushing of the Cherokees in 1776
relieved the pressure upon the Tennessee settlers, enabling them
to strengthen their hold and prepare effectively for future
eventualities; the possession of the gateway to Kentucky kept
free the passage for Western settlement; Watauga and its
defenders continued to offer a formidable barrier to British
invasion of the East from Kentucky and the Northwest during the
Revolution; while these Tennessee frontiersmen were destined soon
to set forth again to invade a new wilderness and at frightful
cost to colonize the Cumberland.

The little chain of stockades along the farflung frontier of
Kentucky was tenaciously held by the bravest of the race, grimly
resolved that this chain must not break. The Revolution
precipitated against this chain wave after wave of formidable
Indian foes from the Northwest under British leadership. At the
very time when Grifth Rutherford set out for the relief of
McDowell's Fort, a marauding Indian band captured by stealth near
the Transylvania Fort, known as Boone's Fort (Boonesborough),
Elizabeth and Frances Callaway, and Jemima Boone, the daughters
of Richard Callaway and Daniel Boone, and rapidly marched them
away toward the Shawanoe towns on the Ohio. A relief party, in
two divisions, headed respectively by the young girls' fathers,
and composed among others of the lovers of the three girls,
Samuel Henderson, John Holder, and Flanders Callaway, pursued
them with almost incredible swiftness. Guided by broken twigs and
bits of cloth surreptitiously dropped by Elizabeth Callaway, they
finally overtook the unsuspecting savages, killed two of them,
and rescued the three maidens unharmed. This romantic
episode--which gave Fenimore Cooper the theme for the most
memorable scene in one of his Leatherstocking Tales had an even
more romantic sequel in the subsequent marriage of the three
pairs of lovers.

This bold foray, so shrewdly executed and even more sagaciously
foiled, was a true precursor of the dread happenings of the
coming neighborhood of the stations; and relief was felt when the
Transylvania Fort, the great stockade planned by Judge Henderson,
was completed by the pioneers (July, 1776). Glad tidings arrived
only a few days later when the Declaration of Independence, read
aloud from the Virginia Gazette, was greeted with wild huzzas by
the patriotic backwoodsmen. During the ensuing months occasional
invasions were made by savage bands; but it was not until April
24, 1777, that Henderson's "big fort" received its first attack,
being invested by a company of some seventy-five savages. The
twenty-two riflemen in the fort drove off the painted warriors,
but not before Michael Stoner, Daniel Boone, and several others
were severely wounded. As he lay helpless upon the ground, his
ankle shattered by a bullet, Boone was lifted by Simon Kenton and
borne away upon his shoulders to the haven of the stockade amid a
veritable shower of balls. The stoical and taciturn Boone clasped
Kenton's hand and gave him the accolade of the wilderness in the
brief but heartfelt utterance; "You are a fine fellow." On July
4th of this same year the fort was again subjected to siege, when
two hundred gaudily painted savages surrounded it for two days.
But owing to the vigilance and superb markmanship of the
defenders, as well as to the lack of cannon by the besieging
force, the Indians reluctantly abandoned the siege, after leaving
a number dead upon the field. Soon afterward the arrival of two
strong bodies of prime riflemen, who had been hastily summoned
from the frontiers of North Carolina and Virginia, once again
made firm the bulwark of white supremacy in the West.

Kentucky's terrible year, 1778, opened with a severe disaster to
the white settlers--when Boone with thirty men, while engaged in
making salt at the "Lower Salt Spring," was captured in February
by more than a hundred Indians, sent by Governor Hamilton of
Detroit to drive the white settlers from "Kentucke." Boone
remained in captivity until early summer, when, learning that his
Indian captors were planning an attack in force upon the
Transylvania Fort, he succeeded in effecting his escape. After a
break-neck journey of one hundred and sixty miles, during which
he ate but one meal, Boone finally arrived at the big fort on
June 20th. The settlers were thus given ample time for
preparation, as the long siege did not begin until September 7th.
The fort was invested by a powerful force flying the English
flag--four hundred and forty-four savages gaudy in the vermilion
and ochre of their war-paint, and eleven Frenchmen, the whole
being commanded by the French-Canadian, Captain Dagniaux de
Quindre, and the great Indian Chief, Black-fish who had adopted
Boone as a son. In the effort to gain his end de Quindre resorted
to a dishonorable stratagem, by which he hoped to outwit the
settlers and capture the fort with but slight loss. "They formed
a scheme to deceive us," says Boone, "declaring it was their
orders, from Governor Hamilton, to take us captives, and not to
destroy us; but if nine of us would come out and treat with them,
they would immediately withdraw their forces from our walls, and
return home peacably." Transparent as the stratagem was, Boone
incautiously agreed to a conference with the enemy; Callaway
alone took the precaution to guard against Indian duplicity.
After a long talk, the Indians proposed to Boone, Callaway, and
the seven or eight pioneers who accompanied them that they shake
hands in token of peace and friendship. As picturesquely
described by Daniel Trabue:

"The Indians sayed two Indians must shake hands with one white
man to make a Double or sure peace at this time the Indians had
hold of the white men's hands and held them. Col. Calloway
objected to this but the other Indians laid hold or tryed to lay
hold of the other hand but Colonel Calloway was the first that
jerked away from them but the Indians seized the men two Indians
holt of one man or it was mostly the case and did their best to
hold them but while the man and Indians was a scuffling the men
from the Fort agreeable to Col. Calloway's order fired on them
they had a dreadful skuffel but our men all got in the fort safe
and the fire continued on both sides."

During the siege Callaway, the leader of the pioneers, made a
wooden cannon wrapped with wagon tires, which on being fired at a
group of Indians "made them scamper perdidiously." The secret
effort of the Indians to tunnel a way underground into the fort,
being discovered by the defenders, was frustrated by a
countermine. Unable to outwit, outfight, or outmaneuver the
resourceful Callaway, de Quindre finally withdrew on September
16th, closing the longest and severest attack that any of the
fortified stations of Kentucky had ever been called upon to

The successful defense of the Transylvania Fort, made by these
indomitable backwoodsmen who were lost sight of by the
Continental Congress and left to fight alone their battles in the
forests, was of national significance in its results. Had the
Transylvania Fort fallen, the northern Indians in overwhelming
numbers, directed by Hamilton and led by British officers, might
well have swept Kentucky free of defenders and fallen with
devastating force upon the exposed settlements along the western
frontiers of North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, This
defense of Boonesborough, therefore, is deserving of
commemoration in the annals of the Revolution, along with
Lexington and Bunker's Hill. Coupled with Clark's meteoric
campaign in the Northwest and the subsequent struggles in the
defense of Kentucky, it may be regarded as an event basically
responsible for the retention of the trans-Alleghany region by
the United States. The bitter struggles, desperate sieges, and
bloody reprisals of these dark years came to a close with the
expeditions of Clark and Logan in November, 1782, which
appropriately concluded the Revolution in the West by putting a
definite end to all prospect of formidable invasion of Kentucky.

In November, 1777, "Washington District," the delegates of which
had been received in the preceding year by the Provincial
Congress of North Carolina, was formed by the North Carolina
General Assembly into Washington County; and to it were assigned
the boundaries of the whole of the present state of Tennessee.
While this immense territory was thus being definitely included
within the bounds of North Carolina, Judge Henderson on behalf of
the Transylvania Company was making a vigorous effort to secure
the reestablishment of its rights from the Virginia Assembly. By
order of the Virginia legislature, an exhaustive investigation of
the claims of the Transylvania Company was therefore made,
hearings being held at various points in the back country. On
July 18, 1777, Judge Henderson presented to the peace
commissioners for North Carolina and Virginia at the Long Island
treaty ground an elaborate memorial in behalf of the Transylvania
Company, which the commissioners unanimously refused to consider,
as not coming under their jurisdiction. Finally, after a full and
impartial discussion before the Virginia House of Delegates, that
body declared the Transylvania purchase void. But in
consideration of "the very great expense [incurred by the
company] in making the said purchase, and in settling the said
lands, by which the commonwealth is likely to receive great
advantage, by increasing its inhabitants, and establishing a
barrier against the Indians," the House of Delegates granted
Richard Henderson and Company two hundred thousand acres of land
situated between the Ohio and Green rivers, where the town of
Henderson, Kentucky, now stands. With this bursting of the
Transylvania bubble and the vanishing of the golden dreams of
Henderson and his associates for establishing the fourteenth
American colony in the heart of the trans-Alleghany, a first
romantic chapter in the history of Westward expansion comes to a

But another and more feasible project immediately succeeded.
Undiscouraged by Virginia's confiscation of Transylvania, and
disregarding North Carolina's action in extending her boundaries
over the trans-Alleghany region lying within her chartered
limits, Henderson, in whom the genius of the colonizer and the
ambition of the speculative capitalist were found in striking
conjunction, was now inspired to repeat, along broader and more
solidly practical lines, the revolutionary experiment of
Transylvania. It was not his purpose, however, to found an
independent colony; for he believed that millions of acres in the
Transylvania purchase lay within the bounds of North Carolina,
and he wished to open for colonization, settlement, and the sale
of lands, the vast wilderness of the valley of the Cumberland
supposed to lie within those confines. But so universal was the
prevailing uncertainty in regard to boundaries that it was
necessary to prolong the North Carolina-Virginia line in order to
determine whether or not the Great French Lick, the ideal
location for settlement, lay within the chartered limits of North

Judge Henderson's comprehensive plans for the promotion of an
extensive colonization of the Cumberland region soon began to
take form in vigorous action. Just as in his Transylvania project
Henderson had chosen Daniel Boone, the ablest of the North
Carolina pioneers, to spy out the land and select sites for
future location, so now he chose as leader of the new colonizing
party the ablest of the Tennessee pioneers, James Robertson.
Although he was the acknowledged leader of the Watauga settlement
and held the responsible position of Indian agent for North
Carolina, Robertson was induced by Henderson's liberal offers to
leave his comparatively peaceful home and to venture his life in
this desperate hazard of new fortunes. The advance party of eight
white men and one negro, under Robertson's leadership, set forth
from the Holston settlement on February 6, 1779, to make a
preliminary exploration and to plant corn "that bread might be
prepared for the main body of emigrants in the fall." After
erecting a few cabins for dwellings and posts of defense,
Robertson plunged alone into the wilderness and made the long
journey to Post St. Vincent in the Illinois, in order to consult
with George Rogers Clark, who had entered for himself in the
Virginia Land Office several thousand acres of land at the French
Lick. After perfecting arrangements with Clark for securing
"cabin rights" should the land prove to lie in Virginia,
Robertson returned to Watauga to take command of the migration.

Toward the end of the year two parties set out, one by land, the
other by water, for the wonderful new country on the Cumberland
of which Boone and Scaggs and Mansker had brought back such
glowing descriptions. During the autumn Judge Henderson and other
commissioners from North Carolina, in conjunction with
commissioners from Virginia, had been running out the boundary
line between the two states. On the very day--Christmas,
1779--that Judge Henderson reached the site of the Transylvania
Fort, now called Boonesborough, the swarm of colonists from the
parent hive at Watauga, under Robertson's leadership, reached the
French Lick and on New Year's Day, 1780, crossed the river on the
ice to the present site of Nashville.

The journal of the other party, which, as has been aptly said,
reads like a chapter from one of Captain Mayne Reid's fascinating
novels of adventure, was written by Colonel John Donelson, the
father-in-law of Andrew Jackson. Setting out from Fort Patrick
Henry on Holston River, December 22, 1779, with a flotilla
consisting of about thirty flatboats, dugouts, and canoes, they
encountered few difficulties until they began to run the gauntlet
of the Chickamauga towns on the Tennessee. Here they were
furiously attacked by the Indians, terrible in their red and
black war-paint; and a well-filled boat lagging in the rear, with
smallpox on board, was driven to shore by the Indians. The
occupants were massacred; but the Indians at once contracted the
disease and died by the hundreds. This luckless sacrifice of
"poor Stuart, his family and friends," while a ghastly price to
pay, undoubtedly procured for the Cumberland settlements
comparative immunity from Indian forays until the new-comers had
firmly established themselves in their wilderness stronghold.
Eloquent of the granite endurance and courageous spirit of the
typical American pioneer in its thankfulness for sanctuary, for
reunion of families and friends, and for the humble shelter of a
log cabin, is the last entry in Donelson's diary (April 24,

"This day we arrived at our journey's end at the Big Salt Lick,
where we have the pleasure of finding Capt. Robertson and his
company. It is a source of satisfaction to us to be enabled to
restore to him and others their families and friends, who were
intrusted to our care, and who, some time since, perhaps,
despaired of ever meeting again. Though our prospects at present
are dreary, we have found a few log cabins which have been built
on a cedar bluff above the Lick by Capt. Robertson and his

In the midst of the famine during this terrible period of the
"hard winter," Judge Henderson was sorely concerned for the fate
of the new colony which he had projected, and immediately
proceeded to purchase at huge cost a large stock of corn. On
March 5, 1780, this corn, which had been raised by Captain
Nathaniel Hart, was "sent from Boonesborough in perogues
[pettiaugers or flatboats] under the command of William Bailey
Smith . . . . This corn was taken down the Kentucky River, and
over the Falls of Ohio, to the mouth of the Cumberland, and
thence up that river to the fort at the French Lick. It is
believed have been the only bread which the settlers had until it
was raised there in 1781." There is genuine impressiveness in
this heroic triumphing over the obstacles of obdurate nature and
this paternalistic provision for the exposed Cumberland
settlement--the purchase by Judge Henderson, the shipment by
Captain Hart, and the transportation by Colonel Smith, in an
awful winter of bitter cold and obstructed navigation, of this
indispensable quantity of corn purchased for sixty thousand
dollars in depreciated currency.

Upon his arrival at the French Lick, shortly after the middle of
April, Judge Henderson at once proceeded to organize a government
for the little community. On May 1st articles of association were
drawn up; and important additions thereto were made on May 13th,
when the settlers signed the complete series. The original
document, still preserved, was drafted by Judge Henderson, being
written throughout in his own handwriting; and his name heads the
list of two hundred and fifty and more signatures. The
"Cumberland Compact," as this paper is called, is fundamentally a
mutual contract between the copartners of the Transylvania
Company and the settlers upon the lands claimed by the company.
It represents the collective will of the community; and on
account of the careful provisions safeguarding the rights of each
party to the contract it may be called a bill of rights. The
organization of this pure democracy was sound and
admirable--another notable early example of the commission form
of government. The most remarkable feature of this backwoods
constitution marks Judge Henderson as a pioneer in the use of the
political device so prominent to-day, one hundred and forty years
later--the "recall of judges." In the following striking clause
this innovation in government was recognized thus early in
American history as the most effective means of securing and
safeguarding justice in a democracy:

"As often as the people in general are dissatisfied with the
doings of the Judges or Triers so to be chosen, they may call a
new selection in any of the said stations, and elect bothers in
their stead, having due respect to the number now agreed to be
elected at each station, which persons so to be chosen shall have
the same power with those in whose room or place they shall or
may be chosen to act."

A land-office was now opened, the entry-taker being appointed by
Judge Henderson, in accordance with. the compact; and the lands,
for costs of entry, etc., were registered for the nominal fee of
ten dollars per thousand acres. But as the Transylvania Company
was never able to secure a "satisfactory and indisputable title,"
the clause resulted in perpetual nonpayment. In 1783, following
the lead of Virginia in the case of Transylvania, North Carolina
declared the Transylvania Company's purchase void, but granted
the company in compensation a tract of one hundred and ninety
thousand acres in Powell's Valley. As compensation, the grants of
North Carolina and Virginia were quite inadequate, considering
the value of the service in behalf of permanent western
colonization rendered by the Transylvania company.

James Robertson was chosen as presiding officer of the court of
twelve commissioners, and was also elected commander-in-chief of
the military forces of the eight little associated settlements on
the Cumberland. Here for the next two years the self-reliant
settlers under Robertson's wise and able leadership successfully
repelled the Indians in their guerrilla warfare, firmly
entrenched themselves in their forest-girt stronghold, and
vindicated their claim to the territory by right of occupation
and conquest. Here sprang up in later times a great and populous
city--named, strangely enough, neither for Henderson, the
founder, nor for Robertson and Donelson, the leaders of the two
colonizing parties, but for one having no association with its
history or origins, the gallant North Carolinian, General Francis
Nash, who was killed at the Battle of Germantown.

CHAPTER XVIII. King's Mountain

With the utmost satisfaction I can acquaint you with the sudden
and favorable turn of our public affairs. A few days ago
destruction hung over our heads. Cornwallis with at least 1500
British and Tories waited at Charlotte for the reinforcement of
1000 from Broad River, which reinforcement has been entirely cut
off, 130 killed and the remainder captured. Cornwallis
immediately retreated, and is now on his way toward Charleston,
with part of our army in his rear . . . .--Elizabeth Maxwell
Steel: Salisbury, October 25, 1780.

So thoroughly had the Cherokees been subdued by the devastations
of the campaign of 1776 that for several years thereafter they
were unable to organize for a new campaign against the
backwoodsmen along the frontiers of North Carolina and Tennessee.
During these years the Holston settlers principally busied
themselves in making their position secure, as well as in setting
their house in order by severely punishing the lawless Tory
element among them. In 1779 the Chickamaugas, with whom The
Dragging Canoe and his irreconcilable followers among the
Cherokees had joined hands after the campaign of 1776, grew so
bold in their bloody forays upon small exposed settlements that
North Carolina and Virginia in conjunction despatched a strong
expedition against them. Embarking on April l0th at the mouth of
Big Creek near the present Rogersville, Tennessee, three hundred
and fifty men led by Colonel Evan Shelby descended the Tennessee
to the fastnesses of the Chickamaugas. Meeting with no resistance
from the astonished Indians, who fled to the shelter of the
densely wooded hills, they laid waste the Indian towns and
destroyed the immense stores of goods collected by the British
agents for distribution among the red men. The Chickamaugas were
completely quelled; and during the period of great stress through
which the Tennessee frontiersmen were soon to pass, the Cherokees
were restrained through the wise diplomacy of Joseph Martin,
Superintendent of Indian affairs for Virginia.

The great British offensive against the Southern colonies, which
were regarded as the vulnerable point in the American
Confederacy, was fully launched upon the fall of Charleston in
May, l780. Cornwallis established his headquarters at Camden; and
one of his lieutenants, the persuasive and brilliant Ferguson,
soon rallied thousands of Loyalists in South Carolina to the
British standard. When Cornwallis inaugurated his campaign for
cutting Washington wholly off from the Southern colonies by
invading North Carolina, the men upon the western waters realized
that the time had come to rise, in defense of their state and in
protection of their homes. Two hundred Tennessee riflemen from
Sullivan County, under Colonel Isaac Shelby, were engaged in
minor operations in South Carolina conducted by Colonel Charles
McDowell; and conspicuous among these engagements was the affair
at Musgrove's Mill on August 18th when three hundred horsemen led
by Colonel James Williams, a native of Granville County, North
Carolina, Colonel Isaac Shelby, and Lieutenant-Colonel Clark of
Georgia repulsed with heavy loss a British force of between four
and five hundred.

These minor successes availed nothing in face of the disastrous
defeat of Gates by Cornwallis at Camden on August 16th and the
humiliating blow to Sumter at Rocky Mount on the following day.
Ferguson hotly pursued the frontiersmen, who then retreated over
the mountains; and from his camp at Gilbert Town he despatched a
threatening message to the Western leaders, declaring that if
they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms and
take protection under his standard, he would march his army over
the mountains and lay their country waste with fire and sword.
Stung to action, Shelby hastily rode off to consult with Sevier
at his log castle near Jonesboro; and together they matured a
plan to arouse the mountain men and attack Ferguson by surprise.
In the event of failure, these wilderness free-lances planned to
leave the country and find a home with the Spaniards in

At the original place of rendezvous, the Sycamore Shoals of the
Watauga, the overmountain men gathered on September 25th. There
an eloquent sermon was preached to them by that fiery man of God,
the Reverend Samuel Doak, who concluded his discourse with a
stirring invocation to the sword of the Lord and of Gideon--a
sentiment greeted with the loud applause of the militant
frontiersmen. Here and at various places along the march they
were joined by detachments of border fighters summoned to join
the expedition--Colonel William Campbell, who with some
reluctance had abandoned his own plans in response to Shelby's
urgent and repeated message, in command of four hundred hardy
frontiersmen from Washington County, Virginia; Colonel Benjamin
Cleveland, with the wild fighters of Wilkes known as "Cleveland's
Bulldogs"; Colonel Andrew Hampton, with the stalwart riflemen of
Rutherford; Major Joseph Winston, the cousin of Patrick Henry,
with the flower of the citizenry of Surry; the McDowells, Charles
and Joseph, with the bold borderers of Burke; Colonels Lacy and
Hill, with well-trained soldiers of South Carolina; and
Brigadier-General James Williams, leading the intrepid Rowan

Before breaking camp at Quaker Meadows, the leading officers in
conference chose Colonel William Campbell as temporary officer of
the day, until they could secure a general officer from
headquarters as commander-in-chief. The object of the
mountaineers and big-game hunters was, in their own terms, to
pursue Ferguson, to run him down, and to capture him. In
pursuance of this plan, the leaders on arriving at the ford of
Green River chose out a force of six hundred men, with the best
mounts and equipment; and at daybreak on October 6th this force
of picked mounted riflemen, followed by some fifty "foot-cavalry"
eager to join in the pursuit, pushed rapidly on to the Cowpens.
Here a second selection took place; and Colonel Campbell, was
again elected commander of the detachment, now numbering some
nine hundred and ten horsemen and eighty odd footmen, which
dashed rapidly on in pursuit of Ferguson.

The British commander had been apprised of the coming of the
over-mountain men. Scorning to make a forced march and attempt to
effect a junction with Cornwallis at Charlotte, Ferguson chose to
make a stand and dispose once for all of the barbarian horde whom
he denounced as mongrels and the dregs of mankind. After
despatching to Cornwallis a message asking for aid, Ferguson took
up his camp on King's Mountain, just south of the North Carolina
border line, in the present York County, South Carolina. Here,
after his pickets had been captured in silence, he was surprised
by his opponents. At three o'clock in the afternoon of October
7th the mountain hunters treed their game upon the heights.

The battle which ensued presents an extraordinary contrast in the
character of the combatants and the nature of the strategy and
tactics. Each party ran true to form--Ferguson repeating
Braddock's suicidal policy of opposing bayonet charges to the
deadly fusillade of riflemen, who in Indian fashion were
carefully posted behind trees and every shelter afforded by the
natural inequalities of the ground. In the army of the Carolina
and Virginia frontiersmen, composed of independent detachments
recruited from many sources and solicitous for their own
individual credit, each command was directed in the battle by its
own leader. Campbell--like Cleveland, Winston, Williams, Lacey,
Shelby, McDowell, Sevier, and Hambright--personally led his own
division; but the nature of the fighting and the peculiarity of
the terrain made it impossible for him, though the chosen
commander of the expedition, actually to play that role in the
battle. The plan agreed upon in advance by the frontier leaders
was simple enough--to surround and capture Ferguson's camp on the
high plateau. The more experienced Indian fighters, Sevier and
Shelby, unquestionably suggested the general scheme which in any
case would doubtless have been employed by the frontiersmen; it
was to give the British "Indian play"--namely to take cover
everywhere and to fire from natural shelter. Cleveland, a
Hercules in strength and courage who had fought the Indians and
recognized the wisdom of Indian tactics, ordered his men, as did
some of the other leaders, to give way before a bayonet charge,
but to return to the attack after the charge had spent its force.

"My brave fellows," said Cleveland, "every man must consider
himself an officer, and act from his own judgment. Fire as quick
as you can, and stand your ground as long as you can. When you
can do no better, get behind trees, or retreat; but I beg you not
to run quite off. If we are repulsed, let us make a point of
returning and renewing the fight; perhaps we may have better luck
in the second attempt than in the first."

The plateau upon which Ferguson was encamped was the top of an
eminence some six hundred yards long and about two hundred and
fifty yards from one base across to the other; and its shape was
that of an Indian paddle, varying from one hundred and twenty
yards at the blade to sixty yards at the handle in width.
Outcropping boulders upon the outer edge of the plateau afforded
some slight shelter for Ferguson's force; but, unsuspicious of
attack, Ferguson had made no abatis to protect his camp from the
assault to which it was so vulnerable because of the protection
of the timber surrounding it on all sides. As to the disposition
of the attacking force, the center to the northeast was occupied
by Cleveland with his "Bulldogs," Hambright with his South Fork
Boys from the Catawba (now Lincoln County, North Carolina), and
Winston with his Surry riflemen; to the south were the divisions
of Joseph McDowell, Sevier, and Campbell; while Lacey's South
Carolinians, the Rowan levies under Williams, and the Watauga
borderers under Shelby were stationed upon the north side.
Ferguson's forces consisted of Provincial Rangers, one hundred
and fifty strong, and other well-drilled Loyalists, between eight
and nine hundred in number; but his strength was seriously
weakened by the absence of a foraging party of between one and
two hundred who had gone off on the morning the battle occurred.
Shelby's men, before getting into position, received a hot fire,
the opening shots of the engagement. This inspired Campbell, who
now threw off his coat, to shout encouraging orders to his men
posted on the side of the mountain opposite to Shelby's force.
When Campbell's Virginians uttered a series of piercing shouts,
the British officer, De Peyster, second in command, remarked to
his chief: "These things are ominous--these are the damned
yelling boys."

The battle, which lasted some minutes short of an hour, was waged
with terrific ferocity. The Loyalist militia, whenever possible,
fired from the shelter of the rocks; while the Provincial Corps,
with fixed bayonets, steadily charged the frontiersmen, who fired
at close range and then rapidly withdrew to the very base of the
mountain. After each bayonet charge the Provincials coolly
withdrew to the summit, under the accumulating fire of the
returning mountaineers, who quickly gathered in their rear. Owing
to their elevated location, the British, although using the
rapid-fire breech-loading rifle invented by Ferguson himself,
found their vision deflected, and continually fired high, thus
suffering from nature's handicap, refraction. The militia, using
sharpened butcher-knives which Ferguson had taught them to
utilize as bayonets, charged against the mountaineers; but their
fire, in answer to the deadly fusillade of the expert squirrel-
shooters, was belated, owing to the fact that they could not fire
while the crudely improvised bayonets remained inserted in their
pieces. The Americans, continually firing upward, found ready
marks for their aim in the clearly delineated outlines of their
adversaries, and felt the fierce exultation which animates the
hunter who has tracked to its lair and surrounded wild game at

The leaders of the various divisions of the mountaineers bore
themselves with impetuous bravery, recklessly rushing between the
lines of fire and with native eloquence, interspersed with
profanity, rallying their individual commands again and again to
the attack. The valiant Campbell scaled the rugged heights,
loudly encouraging his men to the ascent. Cleveland, resolutely
facing the foe, urged on is Bulldogs with the inspiriting words:
"Come, boys; let's try 'em again. We'll have better luck next
time." No sooner did Shelby's men reach the bottom of the hill,
in retreating before a charge, than their commander, fiery and
strenuous, ardently shouted: "Now boys, quickly reload your
rifles, and let's advance upon them, and give them another hell
of a fire." The most deadly charge, led by De Peyster himself,
fell upon Hambright's South Fork boys; and one of their gallant
officers, Major Chronicle, waving his military hat, was mortally
wounded, the command, "Face to the hill!", dying on his lips.
These veteran soldiers, unlike the mountaineers, firmly met the
shock of the charge, and a number of their men were shot down or
transfixed; but the remainder, reserving their fire until the
charging column was only a few feet away, poured in a deadly
volley before retiring. The gallant William Lenoir, whose
reckless bravery made him a conspicuous target for the enemy,
received several wounds and emerged from the battle with his hair
and clothes torn by balls. The ranking American officer,
Brigadier General James Williams, was mortally wounded while "on
the very top of the mountain, in the thickest of the fight"; and
as he momentarily revived, his first words were: "For God's sake,
boys, don't give up the hill." Hambright, sorely wounded, his
boot overflowing with blood and his hat riddled with three bullet
holes, declined to dismount, but pressed gallantly forward,
exclaiming in his "Pennsylvania Dutch": "Huzza, my prave poys,
fight on a few minutes more, and the pattle will be over!" On the
British side, Ferguson was supremely valorous, rapidly dashing
from one point to another, rallying his men, oblivious to all
danger. Wherever the shrill note of his silver whistle sounded,
there the fighting was hottest and the British resistance the
most stubborn. His officers fought with the characteristic
steadiness of the British soldier; and again and again his men
charged headlong against the wavering and fiery circle of the

Ferguson's boast that "he was on King's Mountain, that he was
king of the Mountain, and God Almighty could not drive him from
it" was doubtless prompted, less by a belief in the
impregnability of his position, than by a desperate desire to
inspire confidence in his men. His location was admirably chosen
for defense against attack by troops employing regulation
tactics; but, never dreaming of the possibility of sudden
investment, Ferguson had erected no fortifications for his
encampment. His frenzied efforts on the battlefield seem like a
mad rush against fate; for the place was indefensible against the
peculiar tactics of the frontiersmen. While the mountain flamed
like a volcano and resounded with the thunder of the guns, a
steady stricture was in progress. The lines were drawn tighter
and tighter around the trapped and frantically struggling army;
and at last the fall of their commander, riddled with bullets,
proved the tragic futility of further resistance. The game was
caught and bagged to a man. When Winston, with his fox-hunters of
Surry, dashed recklessly through the woods, says a chronicler of
the battle, and the last to come into position,

Flow'd in, and settling, circled all the lists,


From all the circle of the hills death sleeted in upon the

The battle was decisive in its effect--shattering the plans of
Cornwallis, which till then appeared certain of success. The
victory put a full stop to the invasion of North Carolina, which
was then well under way. Cornwallis abandoned his carefully
prepared campaign and immediately left the state. After
ruthlessly hanging nine prisoners, an action which had an
effectively deterrent effect upon future Tory murders and
depredations, the patriot force quietly disbanded. The brilliant
initiative of the buckskin-clad borderers, the strenuous energy
of their pursuit, the perfection of their surprise--all
reinforced by the employment of ideal tactics for meeting the
given situation--were the controlling factors in this
overwhelming victory of the Revolution. The pioneers of the Old
Southwest--the independent and aggressive yeomanry of North
Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina--had risen in their might.
Without the aid or authority of blundering state governments,
they had created an army of frontiersmen, Indian-fighters, and
big-game hunters which had found no parallel or equal on the
continent since the Battle of the Great Kanawha.

CHAPTER XIX. The State of Franklin

Designs of a more dangerous nature and deeper die seem to glare
in the western revolt .... I have thought proper to issue this
manifesto, hereby warning all persons concerned in the said
revolt . . . that the honour of this State has been particularly
wounded, by seizing that by violence which, in time, no doubt,
would have been obtained by consent, when the terms of separation
would have been explained or stipulated, to the mutual
sat'isfaction of the mother and new State . . . . Let your
proposals be consistent with the honour of the State to accede
to, which by your allegiance as good citizens, you cannot violate
and I make no doubt but her generosity, in time, will meet your
wishes.--Governor Alexander Martin: Manifesto against the State
of Franklin, April 25, 1785.

To the shrewd diplomacy of Joseph Martin, who held the Cherokees
in check during the period of the King's Mountain campaign, the
settlers in the valleys of the Watauga and the Holston owed their
temporary immunity from Indian attack. But no sooner did Sevier
and his over-mountain men return from the battle-field of King's
Mountain than they were called upon to join in an expedition
against the Cherokees, who had again gone on the war-path at the
instigation of the British. After Sevier with his command had
defeated a small party of Indians at Boyd's Creek in December,
the entire force of seven hundred riflemen, under the command of
Colonel Arthur Campbell, with Major Joseph Martin as subordinate,
penetrated to the heart of the Indian country, burned Echota,
Chilhowee, Settiquo, Hiawassee, and seven other principal
villages, and destroyed an immense amount of property and
supplies. In March, suspecting that the arch-conspirators against
the white settlers were the Cherokees at the head waters of the
Little Tennessee, Sevier led one hundred and fifty horsemen
through the devious mountain defiles and struck the Indians a
swift and unexpected blow at Tuckasegee, near the present
Webster, North Carolina. In this extraordinarily daring raid, one
of his most brilliant feats of arms, Sevier lost only one man
killed and one wounded; while upon the enemy he inflicted the
loss of thirty killed, took many more prisoners, burned six
Indian towns, and captured many horses and supplies. Once his
deadly work was done, Sevier with his bold cavaliers silently
plunged again into the forest whence he had so suddenly emerged,
and returned in triumph to the settlements.

Disheartened though the Indians were to see the smoke of their
burning towns, they sullenly remained averse to peace; and they
did not keep the treaty made at Long Island in July, 1781. The
Indians suffered from very real grievances at the hands of the
lawless white settlers who persisted in encroaching upon the
Indian lands. When the Indian ravages were resumed, Sevier and
Anderson, the latter from Sullivan County, led a punitive
expedition of two hundred riflemen against the Creeks and the
Chickamaugas; and employing the customary tactics of laying waste
the Indian towns, administered stern and salutary chastisement to
the copper-colored marauders.

During this same period the settlers on the Cumberland were
displaying a grim fortitude and stoical endurance in the face of
Indian attack forever memorable in the history of the Old
Southwest. On the night of January 15, 1781, the settlers at
Freeland's Station, after a desperate resistance, succeeded in
beating off the savages who attacked in force. At Nashborough on
April 2d, twenty of the settlers were lured from the stockade by
the artful wiles of the savages; and it was only after serious
loss that they finally won their way back to the protection of
the fort. Indeed, their return was due to the fierce dogs of the
settlers, which were released at the most critical moment, and
attacked the astounded Indians with such ferocity that the
diversion thus created enabled the settlers to escape from the
deadly trap. During the next two years the history of the
Cumberland settlements is but the gruesome recital of murder
after murder of the whites, a few at a time, by the lurking
Indian foe. Robertson's dominant influence alone prevented the
abandonment of the sorely harassed little stations. The arrival
of the North Carolina commissioners for the purpose of laying off
bounty lands and settlers' preemptions, and the treaty of peace
concluded at the French Lick on November 5 and 6, 1783, gave
permanence and stability to the Cumberland settlements. The
lasting friendship of the Chickasaws was won; but the Creeks for
some time continued to harass the Tennessee pioneers. The
frontiersmen's most formidable foe, the Cherokees, stoically,
heroically fighting the whites in the field, and smallpox,
syphilis, and drunkenness at home, at last abandoned the unequal
battle. The treaty at Hopewell on November 28, 1785, marks the
end of an era--the Spartan yet hopeless resistance of the
intrepid red men to the relentless and frequently unwarranted
expropriation by the whites of the ancient and immemorial domain
of the savage.

The skill in self-government of the isolated people beyond the
mountains, and the ability they had already demonstrated in the
organization of "associations," received a strong stimulus on
June 2, 1784, when the legislature of North Carolina ceded to the
Congress of the United States the title which that state
possessed to the land west of the Alleghanies. Among the terms of
the Cession Act were these conditions: that the ceded territory
should be formed into a separate state or states; and that if
Congress should not accept the lands thus ceded and give due
notice within two years, the act should be of no force and the
lands should revert to North Carolina. No sooner did this news
reach the Western settlers than they began to mature plans for
the organization of a government during the intervening twelve
months. Their exposed condition on the frontiers, still harassed
by the Indians, and North Carolina's delay in sending goods
promised the Indians by a former treaty, both promoted Indian
hostility; and these facts, combined with their remote location
beyond the mountains, rendering them almost inaccessible to
communication with North Carolina--all rendered the decision of
the settlers almost inevitable. Moreover, the allurements of high
office and the dazzling dreams of ambition were additional
motives sufficiently human in themselves to give driving power to
the movement toward independence.

At a convention assembled at Jonesborough on August 23, 1784,
delegates from the counties of Washington, Sullivan, and Greene
characteristically decided to organize an "Association." They
solemnly declared by resolution: "We have a just and undeniable
right to petition to Congress to accept the session made by North
Carolina, and for that body to countenance us for forming
ourselves into a separate government, and to frame either a
permanent or temporary constitution, agreeably to a resolve of
Congress . . . ." Meanwhile, Governor Martin, largely as the
result of the prudent advice of North Carolina's representative
in Congress, Dr. Hugh Williamson, was brought to the conclusion
that North Carolina, in the passage of the cession act, had acted
precipitately. This important step had been taken without the
full consideration of the people of the state. Among the various
arguments advanced by Williamson was the impressive contention
that, in accordance with the procedure in the case of other
states, the whole expense of the huge Indian expeditions in 1776
and the heavy militia aids to South Carolina and Georgia should
be credited to North Carolina as partial fulfilment of her
continental obligations before the cession should be irrevocably
made to the Federal government. Williamson's arguments proved
convincing; and it was thus primarily for economic reasons of far
reaching national importance that the assembly of North Carolina
(October 22 to November 25, 1784) repealed the cession act made
the preceding spring.

Before the news of the repeal of the cession act could reach the
western waters, a second convention met at Jonesborough on
December 17th. Sentiment at this time was much divided, for a
number of the people, expecting the repeal of the cession act,
genuinely desired a continued allegiance to North Carolina. Of
these may well have been John Sevier, who afterward declared to
Joseph Martin that he had been "Draged into the Franklin measures
by a large number of the people of this country." The principal
act of this convention was the adoption of a temporary
constitution for six months and the provision for a convention to
be held within one year, at the expiration of which time this
constitution should be altered, or adopted as the permanent
constitution of the new state. The scholars on the western
waters, desiring to commemorate their aspirations for freedom,
chose as the name of the projected new state: "Frankland"--the
Land of the Free. The name finally chosen, however, perhaps for
reasons of policy, was "Franklin," in honor of Benjamin Franklin.
Meanwhile, in order to meet the pressing needs for a stable
government along the Tennessee frontier, the North Carolina
assembly, which repealed the cession act, created out of the four
western counties the District of Washington, with John Haywood as
presiding judge and David Campbell as associate, and conferred
upon John Sevier the rank of brigadier general of the new
district. The first week in December Governor Martin sent to
Sevier his military commission; and replying to Joseph Martin's
query (December 31, 1784, prompted by Governor Martin) as to
whether, in view of the repeal of the cession act, he intended to
persist in revolt or await developments, Sevier gave it out
broadcast that "we shall pursue no further measures as to a new

Owing to the remoteness of the Tennessee settlements and the
difficulty of appreciating through correspondence the atmosphere
of sentiment in Franklin, Governor Martin realized the necessity
of sending a personal representative to discover the true state
of affairs in the disaffected region beyond the mountains. For
the post of ambassador to the new government, Governor Martin
selected a man distinguished for mentality and diplomatic skill,
a pioneer of Tennessee and Kentucky, Judge Richard Henderson's
brother, Colonel Samuel Henderson. Despite Sevier's disavowal of
any further intention to establish a new state, the governor gave
Colonel Henderson elaborate written instructions, the purport of
which was to learn all that he could about the political
complexion of the Tennessee frontiersmen, the sense of the
people, and the agitation for a separate commonwealth. Moreover,
in the hope of placating the leading chieftains of the Cherokees,
who had bitterly protested against the continued aggressions and
encroachments upon their lands by the lawless borderers, he
instructed Colonel Henderson also to learn the temper and
dispositions of the Indians, and to investigate the case of
Colonel James Hubbardt who was charged with the murder of Untoola
of Settiquo, a chief of the Cherokees.

When Colonel Henderson arrived at Jonesborough, he found the
third Franklin legislature in session, and to this body he
presented Governor Martin's letter of February 27, 1785. In
response to the governor's request for an "account of the late
proceedings of the people in the western country," an extended
reply was drafted by the new legislature; and this letter,
conveyed to Governor Martin by Colonel Henderson, in setting
forth in detail the reasons for the secession, made the following
significant statement: "We humbly thank North Carolina for every
sentiment of regard she has for us, but are sorry to observe,
that as it is founded upon principles of interest, as is aparent
from the tenor of your letter, we are doubtful, when the cause
ceases which is the basis of that affection, we shall lose your
esteem." At the same time (March 22nd), Sevier, who had just been
chosen Governor of the State of Franklin, transmitted to Governor
Martin by Colonel Henderson a long letter, not hitherto published
in any history of the period, in which he outspokenly says:

"It gives me great pain to think there should arise any Disputes
between us and North Carolina, & I flatter myself when North
Carolina states the matter in a fair light she will be fully
convinced that necessity and self preservation have Compelled Us
to the measures we Have taken, and could the people have
discovered that No. Carolina would Have protected and Govern'd
them, They would have remained where they were; but they
perceived a neglect and Coolness, and the Language of Many of
your most leading members Convinced them they were Altogether

Following the issuance of vigorous manifestos by Martin (April
25th) and Sevier (May 15th), the burden of the problem fell upon
Richard Caswell, who in June succeeded Martin as Governor of
North Carolina.

Meantime the legislature of the over-mountain men had given the
name of Franklin to the new state, although for some time it
continued to be called by many Frankland, and its adherents
Franks. The legislature had also established an academy named
after Governor Martin, and had appointed (March 12th) William
Cocke as a delegate to the Continental Congress, urging its
acceptance of the cession. In the Memorial from the Franklin
legislature to the Continental Congress, dealing in some detail
with North Carolina's failure to send the Cherokees some goods
promised them for lands acquired by treaty, it is alleged:

"She [North Carolina] immediately stoped the goods she had
promised to give the Indians for the said land which so
exasperated them that they begun to commit hostalities on our
frontiers in this situation we were induced to a declaration of
Independence not doubting we should be excused by Congress . . .
as North Carolina seemed quite regardless of our interest and the
Indians daily murdering our friends and relations without
distinction of age or sex."

Sympathizing with the precarious situation of the settlers, as
well as desiring the cession, Congress urged North Carolina to
amend the repealing act and execute a conveyance of the western
territory to the Union.

Among the noteworthy features of the Franklin movement was the
constitution prepared by a committee, headed by the Reverend
Samuel Houston of Washington County, and presented at the meeting
of the Franklin legislature, Greeneville, November 14, 1785. This
eccentric constitution was based in considerable part upon the
North Carolina model; but it was "rejected in the lump" and the
constitution of North Carolina, almost unchanged, was adopted.
Under this Houston constitution, the name "Frankland" was chosen
for the new state. The legislature was to consist of but a single
house. In a section excluding from the legislature "ministers of
the gospel, attorneys at law, and doctors of physics," those were
declared ineligible for office who were of immoral character or
guilty of "such flagrant enormities as drunkenness, gaming,
profane swearing, lewdness, Sabbath-breaking and such like," or
who should deny the existence of God, of heaven, and of hell, the
inspiration of the Scriptures, or the existence of the Trinity.
Full religious liberty and the rights of conscience were
assured--but strict orthodoxy was a condition for eligibility to
office. No one should be chosen to office who was "not a scholar
to do the business." This remarkable document, which provided for
many other curious innovations in government, was the work of
pioneer doctrinaires--Houston, Campbell, Cocke, and Tipton--and
deserves study as a bizarre reflection of the spirit and genius
of the western frontiersmen.

The liberal policy of Martin, followed by the no less
conciliatory attitude of his successor, Caswell, for the time
proved wholly abortive. However, Martin's appointment of Evan
Shelby in Sevier's place as brigadier, and of Jonathan Tipton as
colonel of his county, produced disaffection among the Franks;
and the influence of Joseph Martin against the new government was
a powerful obstacle to its success. At first the two sets of
military, civil, and judicial officers were able to work amicably
together; and a working-basis drawn up by Shelby and Sevier,
although afterward repudiated by the Franklin legislature,
smoothed over some of the rapidly accumulating difficulties. The
persistent and quiet assertion of authority by North Carolina,
without any overt act of violence against the officers of
Franklin state, revealed great diplomatic skill in Governors
Martin and Caswell. It was doubtless the considerate policy of
the latter, coupled with the defection from Sevier's cause of men
of the stamp of Houston and Tipton, after the blundering and
cavalier rejection of their singular constitution, which
undermined the foundations of Franklin. Sevier himself later
wrote with considerable bitterness: "I have been faithfull, and
my own breast acquits myself that I have acted no part but what
has been Consistent with honor and justice, tempered with
Clemency and mercy. How far our pretended patriots have supported
me as their pretended chiefe magistrate, I leave the world at
large to Judge." Arthur Campbell's plans for the formation of a
greater Franklin, through the union of the people on the western
waters of Virginia with those of North Carolina, came to nought
when Virginia in the autumn of 1785 with stern decisiveness
passed an act making it high treason to erect an independent
government within her limits unless authorized by the assembly.
Sevier, however, became more fixed in his determination to
establish a free state, writing to Governor Caswell: "We shall
continue to act independent and would rather suffer death, in all
its various and frightful shapes, than conform to anything that
is disgraceful." North Carolina, now proceeding with vigor
(November, 1786), fully reassumed its sovereignty and
jurisdiction over the mountain counties, but passed an act of
pardon and oblivion, and in many ways adopted moderate and
conciliatory measures.

Driven to extremities, Cocke and Sevier in turn appealed for aid
and advice to Benjamin Franklin, in whose honor the new state had
been named. In response to Cocke, Franklin wrote (August 12,
1786): "I think you are perfectly right in resolving to submit
them [the Points in Dispute] to the Decision of Congress and to
abide by their Determination." Franklin's views change in the
interim; for when, almost a year later, Sevier asks him for
counsel, Franklin has come to the conclusion that the wisest move
for Sevier was not to appeal to Congress, but to endeavor to
effect some satisfactory compromise with North Carolina (June 30,

"There are only two Things that Humanity induces me to wish you
may succeed in: The Accomodating your Misunderstanding with the
Government of North Carolina, by amicable Means; and the Avoiding
an Indian war, by preventing Encroaching on their Lands . . . .
The Inconvenience to your People attending so remote a Seat of
Government, and the difficulty to that Government in ruling well
so remote a People, would I think be powerful Inducements with
it, to accede to any fair & reasonable Proposition it may receive
from you towards an Accommodation."

Despite Sevier's frenzied efforts to achieve independence--his
treaty with the Indians, his sensational plan to incorporate the
Cherokees into the new state, his constancy to an ideal of revolt
against others in face of the reality of revolt against himself,
his struggle, equivocal and half-hearted, with the North Carolina
authorities under Tipton--despite all these heroic efforts, the
star of Franklin swiftly declined. The vigorous measures pursued
by General Joseph Martin, and his effective influence focussed
upon a movement already honey-combed with disaffection, finally
turned the scale. To the Franklin leaders he sent the urgent
message: "Nothing will do but a submission to the laws of North
Carolina." Early in April, 1788, Martin wrote to Governor
Randolph of Virginia: "I returned last evening from Green Co.
Washington destrict, North Carolina, after a tower through that
Co'ntry, and am happy to inform your Excellency that the late
unhappy dispute between the State of North Carolina, and the
pretended State of Franklin is subsided." Ever brave, constant,
and loyal to the interest of the pioneers, Sevier had originally
been drawn into the movement against his best judgment. Caught in
the unique trap, created by the passage of the cession act and
the sudden volte-face of its repeal, he struggled desperately to
extricate himself. Alone of all the leaders, the governor of
ill-starred Franklin remained recalcitrant.

CHAPTER XX. The Lure of Spain--The Haven of Statehood

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