Pioneers of the Old Southwest
Constance Skinner

Part 3 out of 4

legend has reported her truly, "Bonnie Kate Sherrill" was a
beauty. Through a porthole Sevier saw her running towards the
shut gates, dodging and darting, her brown hair blowing from the
wind of her race for life--and offering far too rich a prize to
the yelling fiends who dashed after her. Sevier coolly shot the
foremost of her pursuers, then sprang upon the wall, caught up
Bonnie Kate, and tossed her inside to safety. And legend says
further that when, after Sevier's brief widowerhood, she became
his wife, four years later, Bonnie Kate was wont to say that she
would be willing to run another such race any day to have another
such introduction!

There were no casualties within the fort and, after three hours,
the foe withdrew, leaving several of their warriors slain.

In the excursions against the Indians which followed this opening
of hostilities Sevier won his first fame as an "Indian
fighter"--the fame later crystallized in the phrase "thirty-five
battles, thirty-five victories." His method was to take a very
small company of the hardiest and swiftest horsemen--men who
could keep their seat and endurance, and horses that could keep
their feet and their speed, on any steep of the mountains no
matter how tangled and rough the going might be--swoop down upon
war camp, or town, and go through it with rifle and hatchet and
fire, then dash homeward at the same pace before the enemy had
begun to consider whether to follow him or not. In all his
"thirty-five battles" it is said he lost not more than fifty men.

The Cherokees made peace in 1777, after about a year of almost
continuous warfare, the treaty being concluded on their side by
the old chiefs who had never countenanced the war. Dragging Canoe
refused to take part, but he was rendered innocuous for the time
being by the destruction of several of the Chickamaugan villages.
James Robertson now went to Chota as Indian agent for North
Carolina. So fast was population growing, owing to the opening of
a wagon road into Burke County, North Carolina, that Washington
County was divided. John Sevier became Colonel of Washington and
Isaac Shelby Colonel of the newly erected Sullivan County.
Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee, was laid out as the
county seat of Washington; and in the same year (1778) Sevier
moved to the bank of the Nolichucky River, so-called after the
Indian name of this dashing sparkling stream, meaning rapid or
precipitous. Thus the nickname given John Sevier by his devotees
had a dual application. He was well called Nolichucky Jack.

When Virginia annulled Richard Henderson's immense purchase but
allowed him a large tract on the Cumberland, she by no means
discouraged that intrepid pioneer. Henderson's tenure of Kentucky
had been brief, but not unprofitable in experience. He had
learned that colonies must be treated with less commercial
pressure and with more regard to individual liberty, if they were
to be held loyal either to a King beyond the water or to an
uncrowned leader nearer at hand. He had been making his plans for
colonization of that portion of the Transylvania purchase which
lay within the bounds of North Carolina along the Cumberland and
choosing his men to lay the foundations of his projected
settlement in what was then a wholly uninhabited country; and he
had decided on generous terms, such as ten dollars a thousand
acres for land, the certificate of purchase to entitle the holder
to further proceedings in the land office without extra fees.
To head an enterprise of such danger and hardship Henderson
required a man of more than mere courage; a man of resource, of
stability, of proven powers, one whom other men would follow and
obey with confidence. So it was that James Robertson was chosen
to lead the first white settlers into middle Tennessee. He set
out in February, 1779, accompanied by his brother, Mark
Robertson, several other white men, and a negro, to select a site
for settlement and to plant corn. Meanwhile another small party
led by Gaspar Mansker had arrived. As the boundary line between
Virginia and North Carolina had not been run to this point,
Robertson believed that the site he had chosen lay within
Virginia and was in the disposal of General Clark. To protect the
settlers, therefore, he journeyed into the Illinois country to
purchase cabin rights from Clark, but there he was evidently
convinced that the site on the Cumberland would be found to lie
within North Carolina. He returned to Watauga to lead a party of
settlers into the new territory, towards which they set out in
October. After crossing the mountain chain through Cumberland
Gap, the party followed Boone's road--the Warriors' Path--for
some distance and then made their own trail southwestward through
the wilderness to the bluffs on the Cumberland, where they built
cabins to house them against one of the coldest winters ever
experienced in that county. So were laid the first foundations of
the present city of Nashville, at first named Nashborough by
Robertson.* On the way, Robertson had fallen in with a party of
men and families bound for Kentucky and had persuaded them to
accompany his little band to the Cumberland. Robertson's own wife
and children, as well as the families of his party, had been left
to follow in the second expedition, which was to be made by water
under the command of Captain John Donelson.

* In honor of General Francis Nash, of North Carolina, who was
mortally wounded at Germantown, 1777.

The little fleet of boats containing the settlers, their
families, and all their household goods, was to start from Fort
Patrick Henry, near Long Island in the Holston River, to float
down into the Tennessee and along the 652 miles of that widely
wandering stream to the Ohio, and then to proceed up the Ohio to
the mouth of the Cumberland and up the Cumberland until
Robertson's station should appear--a journey, as it turned out,
of some nine hundred miles through unknown country and on waters
at any rate for the greater part never before navigated by white

"Journal of a voyage, intended by God's permission, in the good
boat Adventure" is the title of the log book in which Captain
Donelson entered the events of the four months' journey. Only a
few pages endured to be put into print: but those few tell a tale
of hazard and courage that seems complete. Could a lengthier
narrative, even if enriched with literary art and fancy, bring
before us more vividly than do the simple entries of Donelson's
log the spirit of the men and the women who won the West? If so
little personal detail is recorded of the pioneer men of that day
that we must deduce what they were from what they did, what do we
know of their unfailing comrades, the pioneer women? Only that
they were there and that they shared in every test of courage and
endurance, save the march of troops and the hunt. Donelson's
"Journal" therefore has a special value, because in its terse
account of Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Peyton it depicts unforgettably
the quality of pioneer womanhood.*

* This Journal is printed in Ramsey's "Annals of Tennessee."

"December 22nd, 1779. Took our departure from the fort and fell
down the river to the mouth of Reedy Creek where we were stopped
by the fall of water and most excessive hard frost."

Perhaps part of the "Journal" was lost, or perhaps the "excessive
hard frost" of that severe winter, when it is said even droves of
wild game perished, prevented the boats, from going on, for the
next entry is dated the 27th of February. On this date the
Adventure and two other boats grounded and lay on the shoals all
that afternoon and the succeeding night "in much distress."

"March 2nd. Rain about half the day.... Mr. Henry's boat being
driven on the point of an island by the force of the current was
sunk, the whole cargo much damaged and the crew's lives much
endangered, which occasioned the whole fleet to put on shore and
go to their assistance....

"Monday 6th. Got under way before sunrise; the morning proving
very foggy, many of the fleet were much bogged--about 10 o'clock
lay by for them; when collected, proceeded down. Camped on the
north shore, where Captain Hutching's negro man died, being much
frosted in his feet and legs, of which he died.

"Tuesday, 7th. Got under way very early; the day proving very
windy, a S.S.W., and the river being wide occasioned a high sea,
insomuch that some of the smaller crafts were in danger;
therefore came to at the uppermost Chiccamauga town, which was
then evacuated, where we lay by that afternoon and camped that
night. The wife of Ephraim Peyton was here delivered of a child.
Mr. Peyton has gone through by land with Captain Robertson.

"Wednesday 8th...proceed down to an Indian village which was
inhabited...they insisted on us to come ashore, called us
brothers, and showed other signs of friendship.... And here
we must regret the unfortunate death of young Mr. Payne, on board
Captain Blakemore's boat, who was mortally wounded by reason of
the boat running too near the northern shore opposite the town,
where some of the enemy lay concealed; and the more tragical
misfortune of poor Stuart, his family and friends, to the number
of twenty-eight persons. This man had embarked with us for the
Western country, but his family being diseased with the small
pox, it was agreed upon between him and the company that he
should keep at some distance in the rear, for fear of the
infection spreading, and he was warned each night when the
encampment should take place by the sound of a horn.... The
Indians having now collected to a considerable number, observing
his helpless situation singled off from the rest of the fleet,
intercepted him and killed and took prisoners the whole crew...;
their cries were distinctly heard...".

After describing a running fight with Indians stationed on the
bluffs on both shores where the river narrowed to half its width
and boiled through a canyon, the entry for the day concludes:
"Jennings's boat is missing."

"Friday 10th. This morning about 4 o'clock we were surprised by
the cries of "help poor Jennings" at some distance in the rear.
He had discovered us by our fires and came up in the most
wretched condition. He states that as soon as the Indians
discovered his situation [his boat had run on a rock] they turned
their whole attention to him and kept up a most galling fire at
his boat. He ordered his wife, a son nearly grown, a young man
who accompanies them and his negro man and woman, to throw all
his goods into the river to lighten their boat for the purpose of
getting her off; himself returning their fire as well as he
could, being a good soldier and an excellent marksman. But before
they had accomplished their object, his son, the young man and
the negro, jumped out of the boat and left.... Mrs. Jennings,
however, and the negro woman, succeeded in unloading the boat,
but chiefly by the exertions of Mrs. Jennings who got out of the
boat and shoved her off, but was near falling a victim to her own
intrepidity on account of the boat starting so suddenly as soon
as loosened from the rock. Upon examination he appears to have
made a wonderful escape for his boat is pierced in numberless
places with bullets. It is to be remarked that Mrs. Peyton, who
was the night before delivered of an infant, which was
unfortunately killed upon the hurry and confusion consequent upon
such a disaster, assisted them, being frequently exposed to wet
and cold.... Their clothes were very much cut with bullets,
especially Mrs. Jennings's."

Of the three men who deserted, while the women stood by under
fire, the negro was drowned and Jennings's son and the other
young man were captured by the Chickamaugans. The latter was
burned at the stake. Young Jennings was to have shared the same
fate; but a trader in the village, learning that the boy was
known to John Sevier, ransomed him by a large payment of goods,
as a return for an act of kindness Sevier had once done to him.

"Sunday 12th.... After running until about 10 o'clock came in
sight of the Muscle Shoals. Halted on the northern shore at the
appearance of the shoals, in order to search for the signs
Captain James Robertson was to make for us at that place...that
it was practicable for us to go across by land...we can
find none--from which we conclude that it would not be prudent to
make the attempt and are determined, knowing ourselves in such
imminent danger, to pursue our journey down the river....
When we approached them [the Shoals] they had a dreadful
appearance.... The water being high made a terrible roaring,
which could be heard at some distance, among the driftwood heaped
frightfully upon the points of the islands, the current running
in every. possible direction. Here we did not know how soon we
should be dashed to pieces and all our troubles ended at once...
Our boats frequently dragged on the bottom and appeared
constantly in danger of striking. They warped as much as in a
rough sea. But by the hand of Providence we are now preserved
from this danger also. I know not the length of this wonderful
shoal; it had been represented to me to be twenty-five or thirty
miles. If so, we must have descended very rapidly, as indeed we
did, for we passed it in about three hours."

On the twentieth the little fleet arrived at the mouth of the
Tennessee and the voyagers landed on the bank of the Ohio.

"Our situation here is truly disagreeable. The river is very high
and the current rapid, our boats not constructed for the purpose
of stemming a rapid stream, our provisions exhausted, the crews
almost worn down with hunger and fatigue, and know not what
distance we have to go or what time it will take us to our place
of destination. The scene is rendered still more melancholy as
several boats will not attempt to ascend the rapid current. Some
intend to descend the Mississippi to Natchez; others are bound
for the Illinois--among the rest my son-in-law and daughter. We
now part, perhaps to meet no more, for I am determined to pursue
my course, happen what will.

"Tuesday 21st. Set out and on this day labored very hard and got
but little way.... Passed the two following days as the
former, suffering much from hunger and fatigue.

"Friday 24th. About three o'clock came to the mouth of a river
which I thought was the Cumberland. Some of the company declared
it could not be--it was so much smaller than was expected....
We determined however to make the trial, pushed up some distance
and encamped for the night.

"Saturday 25th. Today we are much encouraged; the river grows
wider;...we are now convinced it is the Cumberland....

"Sunday 26th...procured some buffalo meat; though poor it was

"Friday 31st...met with Colonel Richard Henderson, who is
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....

"Monday, April 24th. This day we arrived at our journey's end at
the Big Salt Lick, where we have the pleasure of finding Captain
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 entrusted to our care, and who, sometime since,
perhaps, despaired of ever meeting again...."

Past the camps of the Chickamaugans--who were retreating farther
and farther down the twisting flood, seeking a last standing
ground in the giant caves by the Tennessee--these white voyagers
had steered their pirogues. Near Robertson's station, where they
landed after having traversed the triangle of the three great
rivers which enclose the larger part of western Tennessee, stood
a crumbling trading house marking the defeat of a Frenchman who
had, one time, sailed in from the Ohio to establish an outpost of
his nation there. At a little distance were the ruins of a rude
fort cast up by the Cherokees in the days when the redoubtable
Chickasaws had driven them from the pleasant shores of the
western waters. Under the towering forest growth lay vast burial
mounds and the sunken foundations of walled towns, telling of a
departed race which had once flashed its rude paddles and had its
dream of permanence along the courses of these great waterways.
Now another tribe had come to dream that dream anew. Already its
primitive keels had traced the opening lines of its history on
the face of the immemorial rivers.

Chapter IX. King's Mountain

About the time when James Robertson went from Watauga to fling
out the frontier line three hundred miles farther westward, the
British took Savannah. In 1780 they took Charleston and Augusta,
and overran Georgia. Augusta was the point where the old trading
path forked north and west, and it was the key to the Back
Country and the overhill domain. In Georgia and the Back Country
of South Carolina there were many Tories ready to rally to the
King's standard whenever a King's officer should carry it through
their midst. A large number of these Tories were Scotch, chiefly
from the Highlands. In fact, as we have seen, Scotch blood
predominated among the racial streams in the Back Country from
Georgia to Pennsylvania. Now, to insure a triumphant march
northward for Cornwallis and his royal troops, these sons of
Scotland must be gathered together, the loyal encouraged and
those of rebellious tendencies converted, and they must be
drilled and turned to account. This task, if it were to be
accomplished successfully, must be entrusted to an offcer with
positive qualifications, one who would command respect, whose
personal address would attract men and disarm opposition, and
especially one who could go as a Scot among his own clan.
Cornwallis found his man in Major. Patrick Ferguson.

Ferguson was a Highlander, a son of Lord Pitfour of Aberdeen, and
thirty-six years of age. He was of short stature for a
Highlander--about five feet eight--lean and dark, with straight
black hair. He had a serious unhandsome countenance which, at
casual glance, might not arrest attention; but when he spoke he
became magnetic, by reason of the intelligence and innate force
that gleamed in his eyes and the convincing sincerity of his
manner. He was admired and respected by his brother officers and
by the commanders under whom he had served, and he was loved by
his men.

He had seen his first service in the Seven Years' War, having
joined the British army in Flanders at the age of fifteen; and he
had early distinguished himself for courage and coolness. In
1768, as a captain of infantry, he quelled an insurrection of the
natives on the island of St. Vincent in the West Indies. Later,
at Woolwich, he took up the scientific study of his profession of
arms. He not only became a crack shot, but he invented a new type
of rifle which he could load at the breach without ramrod and so
quickly as to fire seven times in a minute. Generals and
statesmen attended his exhibitions of shooting; and even the King
rode over at the head of his guards to watch Ferguson rapidly
loading and firing.

In America under Cornwallis, Ferguson had the reputation of being
the best shot in the army; and it was soon said that, in his
quickness at loading and firing, he excelled the most expert
American frontiersman. Eyewitnesses have left their testimony
that, seeing a bird alight on a bough or rail, he would drop his
bridle rein, draw his pistol, toss it in the air, catch and aim
it as it fell, and shoot the bird's head off. He was given
command of a corps of picked riflemen; and in the Battle of the
Brandywine in 1777 he rendered services which won acclaim from
the whole army. For the honor of that day's service to his King,
Ferguson paid what from him, with his passion for the rifle, must
have been the dearest price that could have been demanded. His
right arm was shattered, and for the remaining three years of his
short life it hung useless at his side. Yet he took up swordplay
and attained a remarkable degree of skill as a left-handed

Such was Ferguson, the soldier. What of the man? For he has been
pictured as a wolf and a fiend and a coward by early chroniclers,
who evidently felt that they were adding to the virtue of those
who fought in defense of liberty by representing all their foes
as personally odious. We can read his quality of manhood in a few
lines of the letter he sent to his kinsman, the noted Dr. Adam
Ferguson, about an incident that occurred at Chads Ford. As he
was lying with his men in the woods, in front of Knyphausen's
army, so he relates, he saw two American officers ride out. He
describes their dress minutely. One was in hussar uniform. The
other was in a dark green and blue uniform with a high cocked hat
and was mounted on a bay horse:

"I ordered three good shots to steal near to and fire at them;
but the idea disgusting me, I recalled the order. The hussar in
retiring made a circuit, but the other passed within a hundred
yards of us, upon which I advanced from the wood towards him.
Upon my calling he stopped; but after looking at me he proceeded.
I again drew his attention and made signs to him to stop;
levelling my piece at him; but he slowly cantered away. As I was
within that distance, at which, in the quickest firing, I could
have lodged half a dozen balls in or about him before he was out
of my reach, I had only to determine. But it was not pleasant to
fire at the back of an unoffending individual who was acquitting
himself very coolly of his duty--so I let him alone. The day
after, I had been telling this story to some wounded officers,
who lay in the same room with me, when one of the surgeons who
had been dressing the wounded rebel officers came in and told us
that they had been informing him that General Washington was all
the morning with the light troops, and only attended by a French
officer in hussar dress, he himself dressed and mounted in every
point as above described. I AM NOT SORRY THAT I DID NOT KNOW AT

*Doubt that the officer in question was Washington was expressed
by James Fenimore Cooper. Cooper stated that Major De Lancey, his
father-in-law, was binding Ferguson's arm at the time when the
two officers were seen and Ferguson recalled the order to fire,
and that De Lancey said he believed the officer was Count
Pulaski. But, as Ferguson, according to his own account, "leveled
his piece" at the officer, his arm evidently was not wounded
until later in the day. The probability is that Ferguson's
version, written in a private letter to his relative, is correct
as to the facts, whatever may be conjectured as to the identity
of the officer. See Draper's King's "Mountain and its Heroes,"
pp. 52-54.

Ferguson had his code towards the foe's women also. On one
occasion when he was assisting in an action carried out by
Hessians and Dragoons, he learned that some American women had
been shamefully maltreated. He went in a white fury to the
colonel in command, and demanded that the men who had so
disgraced their uniforms instantly be put to death.

In rallying the loyalists of the Back Country of Georgia and the
Carolinas, Ferguson was very successful. He was presently in
command of a thousand or more men, including small detachments of
loyalists from New York and New Jersey, under American-born
officers such as De Peyster and Allaire. There were good honest
men among the loyalists and there were also rough and vicious men
out for spoils--which was true as well of the Whigs or Patriots
from the same counties. Among the rough element were Tory
banditti from the overmountain region. It is to be gathered from
Ferguson's records that he did not think any too highly of some
of his new recruits, but he set to work with all energy to make
them useful.

The American Patriots hastily prepared to oppose him. Colonel
Charles McDowell of Burke County, North Carolina, with a small
force of militia was just south of the line at a point on the
Broad River when he heard that Ferguson was sweeping on
northward. In haste he sent a call for help across the mountains
to Sevier and Shelby. Sevier had his hands full at Watauga, but
he dispatched two hundred of his troops; and Isaac Shelby, with a
similar force from Sullivan County crossed the mountains to
McDowell's assistance. These "overmountain men" or "backwater
men," as they were called east of the hills, were trained in
Sevier's method of Indian warfare--the secret approach through
the dark, the swift dash, and the swifter flight. "Fight strong
and run away fast" was the Indian motto, as their women had often
been heard to call it after the red men as they ran yelling to
fall on the whites. The frontiersmen had adapted the motto to fit
their case, as they had also made their own the Indian tactics of
ambuscade and surprise attacks at dawn. To sleep, or ride if
needs must, by night, and to fight by day and make off, was to
them a reasonable soldier's life.

But Ferguson was a night marauder. The terror of his name, which
grew among the Whigs of the Back Country until the wildest
legends about his ferocity were current, was due chiefly to a
habit he had of pouncing on his foes in the middle of the night
and pulling them out of bed to give fight or die. It was
generally both fight and die, for these dark adventures of his
were particularly successful. Ferguson knew no neutrals or
conscientious objectors; any man who would not carry arms for the
King was a traitor, and his life and goods were forfeit. A report
of his reads: "The attack being made at night, no quarter could
be given." Hence his wolfish fame. "Werewolf " would have been a
fit name for him for, though he was a wolf at night, in the
daylight he was a man and, as we have seen, a chivalrous one.

In the guerrilla fighting that went on for a brief time between
the overmountain men and various detachments of Ferguson's
forces, sometimes one side, sometimes the other, won the heat.
But the field remained open. Neither side could claim the
mastery. In a minor engagement fought at Musgrove's Mill on the
Enoree, Shelby's command came off victor and was about to pursue
the enemy towards Ninety-Six when a messenger from McDowell
galloped madly into camp with word of General Gates's crushing
defeat at Camden. This was a warning for Shelby's guerrillas to
flee as birds to their mountains, or Ferguson would cut them off
from the north and wedge them in between his own force and the
victorious Cornwallis. McDowell's men, also on the run for
safety, joined them. For forty-eight hours without food or rest
they rode a race with Ferguson, who kept hard on their trail
until they disappeared into the mystery of the winding mountain
paths they alone knew.

Ferguson reached the gap where they had swerved into the towering
hills only half an hour after their horses' hoofs had pounded
across it. Here he turned back. His troops were exhausted from
the all-night ride and, in any case, there were not enough of
them to enable him to cross the mountains and give the Watauga
men battle on their own ground with a fair promise of victory. So
keeping east of the hills but still close to them, Ferguson
turned into Burke County, North Carolina. He sat him down in
Gilbert Town (present Lincolnton, Lincoln County) at the foot of
the Blue Ridge and indited a letter to the "Back Water Men,"
telling them that if they did not lay down their arms and return
to their rightful allegiance, he would come over their hills and
raze their settlements and hang their leaders. He paroled a
kinsman of Shelby's, whom he had taken prisoner in the chase, and
sent him home with the letter. Then he set about his usual
business of gathering up Tories and making soldiers of them, and
of hunting down rebels.

One of the "rebels" was a certain Captain Lytle. When Ferguson
drew up at Lytle's door, Lytle had already made his escape; but
Mrs. Lytle was there. She was a very handsome woman and she had
dressed herself in her best to receive Ferguson, who was reported
a gallant as well as a wolf. After a few spirited passages
between the lady in the doorway and the officer on the white
horse before it, the latter advised Mrs. Lytle to use her
influence to bring her husband back to his duty. She became grave
then and answered that her husband would never turn traitor to
his country. Ferguson frowned at the word "traitor," but
presently he said: "Madam, I admire you as the handsomest woman I
have seen in North Carolina. I even half way admire your zeal in
a bad cause. But take my word for it, the rebellion has had its
day and is now virtually put down. Give my regards to Captain
Lytle and tell him to come in. He wiil not be asked to compromise
his honor. His verbal pledge not again to take up arms against
the King is all that will be asked of him."*

* Draper,"King's Mountain and its Heroes," pp. 151-53.

This was another phase of the character of the one-armed
Highlander whose final challenge to the backwater men was now
being considered in every log cabin beyond the hills. A man who
would not shoot an enemy in the back, who was ready to put the
same faith in another soldier's honor which he knew was due to
his own, yet in battle a wolfish fighter who leaped through the
dark to give no quarter and to take none--he was fit challenger
to those other mountaineers who also had a chivalry of their own,
albeit they too were wolves of war.

When Shelby on the Holston received Ferguson's pungent letter, he
flung himself on his horse and rode posthaste to Watauga to
consult, with Sevier. He found the bank of the Nolichucky teeming
with merrymakers. Nolichucky ,Jack was giving an immense barbecue
and a horse race. Without letting the festival crowd have an
inkling of the serious nature of Shelby's errand, the two men
drew apart to confer. It is said to have been Sevier's idea that
they should muster the forces of the western country and go in
search of Ferguson ere the latter should be able to get
sufficient reinforcements to cross the mountains. Sevier, like
Ferguson, always preferred to seek his foe, knowing well the
advantage of the offensive. Messengers were sent to Colonel
William Campbell of the Virginia settlements on the Clinch,
asking his aid. Campbell at first refused, thinking it better to
fortify the positions they held and let Ferguson come and put the
mountains between himself and Cornwallis. On receipt of a second
message, however, he concurred. The call to arms was heard up and
down the valleys, and the frontiersmen poured into Watauga. The
overhill men were augmented by McDowell's troops from Burke
County, who had dashed over the mountains a few weeks before in
their escape from Ferguson.

At daybreak on the 26th of September they mustered at the
Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga, over a thousand strong. It was a
different picture they made from that other great gathering at
the same spot when Henderson had made his purchase in money of
the Dark and Bloody Ground, and Sevier and Robertson had bought
for the Wataugans this strip of Tennessee. There were no Indians
in this picture. Dragging Canoe, who had uttered his bloody
prophecy, had by these very men been driven far south into the
caves of the Tennessee River. But the Indian prophecy still hung
over them, and in this day with a heavier menace. Not with money,
now, were they to seal their purchase of the free land by the
western waters. There had been no women in that other picture,
only the white men who were going forward to open the way and the
red men who were retreating. But in this picture there were
women--wives and children, mothers, sisters, and sweethearts. All
the women of the settlement were there at this daybreak muster to
cheer on their way the men who were going out to battle that they
might keep the way of liberty open not for men only but for women
and children also. And the battle to which the men were now going
forth must be fought against Back Country men of their own stripe
under a leader who, in other circumstances, might well have been
one of themselves--a primitive spirit of hardy mountain stock,
who, having once taken his stand, would not barter and would not

"With the Sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" cried their pastor,
the Reverend Samuel Doak, with upraised hands, as the
mountaineers swung into their saddles. And it is said that all
the women took up his words and cried again and again, "With the
sword of the Lord and of our Gideons!" To the shouts of their
women, as bugles on the wind of dawn, the buckskin-shirted army
dashed out upon the mountain trail.

The warriors' equipment included rifles and ammunition,
tomahawks, knives, shot pouches, a knapsack, and a blanket for
each man. Their uniforms were leggings, breeches, and long loose
shirts of gayly fringed deerskin, or of the linsey-woolsey spun
by their women. Their hunting shirts were bound in at the waist
by bright-colored linsey sashes tied behind in a bow. They wore
moccasins for footgear, and on their heads high fur or deerskin
caps trimmed with colored bands of raveled cloth. Around their
necks hung their powderhorns ornamented with their own rude

On the first day they drove along with them a number of beeves
but, finding that the cattle impeded the march, they left them
behind on the mountain side. Their provisions thereafter were
wild game and the small supply each man carried of mixed corn
meal and maple sugar. For drink, they had the hill streams.

They passed upward between Roan and Yellow mountains to the top
of the range. Here, on the bald summit, where the loose snow lay
to their ankles, they halted for drill and rifle practice. When
Sevier called up his men, he discovered that two were missing. He
suspected at once that they had slipped away to carry warning to
Ferguson, for Watauga was known to be infested with Tories. Two
problems now confronted the mountaineers. They must increase the
speed of their march, so that Ferguson should not have time to
get reinforcements from Cornwallis; and they must make that extra
speed by another trail than they had intended taking so that they
themselves could not be intercepted before they had picked up the
Back Country militia under Colonels Cleveland, Hampbright,
Chronicle, and Williams, who were moving to join them. We are not
told who took the lead when they left the known trail, but we may
suppose it was Sevier and his Wataugans, for the making of new
warpaths and wild riding were two of the things which
distinguished Nolichucky Jack's leadership. Down the steep side
of the mountain, finding their way as they plunged, went the
overhill men. They crossed the Blue Ridge at Gillespie's Gap and
pushed on to Quaker Meadows, where Colonel Cleveland with 350 men
swung into their column. Along their route, the Back Country
Patriots with their rifles came out from the little hamlets and
the farms and joined them.

They now had an army of perhaps fifteen hundred men but no
commanding officer. Thus far, on the march, the four colonels had
conferred together and agreed as to procedure; or, in reality,
the influence of Sevier and Shelby, who had planned the
enterprise and who seem always to have acted in unison, had
swayed the others. It would be, however, manifestly improper to
go into battle without a real general. Something must be done.
McDowell volunteered to carry a letter explaining their need to
General Gates, who had escaped with some of his staff into North
Carolina and was not far off. It then occurred to Sevier and
Shelby, evidently for the first time, that Gates, on receiving
such a request, might well ask why the Governor of North
Carolina, as the military head of the State, had not provided a
commander. The truth is that Sevier and Shelby had been so busy
drumming up the militia and planning their campaign that they had
found no time to consult the Governor. Moreover, the means
whereby the expedition had been financed might not have appealed
to the chief executive. After finding it impossible to raise
sufficient funds on his personal credit, Sevier had appropriated
the entry money in the government land office to the business in
hand--with the good will of the entry taker, who was a patriotic
man, although, as he had pointed out, he could not, OFFICIALLY,
hand over the money. Things being as they were, no doubt
Nolichucky Jack felt that an interview with the Governor had
better be deferred until after the capture of Ferguson. Hence the
tenor of this communication to General Gates:

"As we have at this time called out our militia without any
orders from the Executive of our different States and with the
view of expelling the Enemy out of this part of the Country, we
think such a body of men worthy of your attention and would
request you to send a General Officer immediately to take the
command.... All our Troops being Militia and but little
acquainted with discipline, we could wish him to be a Gentleman
of address, and able to keep up a proper discipline WITHOUT

For some unknown reason--unless it might be the wording of this
letter!--no officer was sent in reply. Shelby then suggested
that, since all the officers but Campbell were North Carolinians
and, therefore, no one of them could be promoted without arousing
the jealousy of the others, Campbell, as the only Virginian, was
the appropriate choice. The sweet reasonableness of selecting a
commander from such a motive appealed to all, and Campbell became
a general in fact if not in name! Shelby's principal aim,
however, had been to get rid of McDowell, who, as their senior,
would naturally expect to command and whom he considered "too far
advanced in life and too inactive" for such an enterprise. At
this time McDowell must have been nearly thirty-nine; and Shelby,
who was just thirty, wisely refused to risk the campaign under a
general who was in his dotage!

News of the frontiersmen's approach, with their augmented force,
now numbering between sixteen and eighteen hundred, had reached
Ferguson by the two Tories who had deserted from Sevier's troops.
Ferguson thereupon had made all haste out of Gilbert Town and was
marching southward to get in touch with Cornwallis. His force was
much reduced, as some of his men were in pursuit of Elijah Clarke
towards Augusta and a number of his other Tories were on
furlough. As he passed through the Back Country he posted a
notice calling on the loyalists to join him. If the overmountain
men felt that they were out on a wolf hunt, Ferguson's
proclamation shows what the wolf thought of his hunters.

"To the Inhabitants of North Carolina.

"Gentlemen: Unless you wish to be eat up by an innundation of
barbarians, who have begun by murdering an unarmed son before the
aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their
shocking cruelties and irregularities give the best proof of
their cowardice and want of discipline: I say if you wish to be
pinioned, robbed and murdered, and see your wives and daughters
in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind--in short if you
wish to deserve to live and bear the name of men, grasp your arms
in a moment and run to camp.

"The Back Water men have crossed the mountains: McDowell,
Hampton, Shelby, and Cleveland are at their head, so that you
know what you have to depend upon. If you choose to be degraded
forever and ever by a set of mongrels, say so at once, and let
your women turn their backs upon you, and look out for real men
to protect them.

"Pat. Ferguson, Major 71st Regiment."*

* Draper, "King's Mountain and its Heroes," p. 204.

Ferguson's force has been estimated at about eleven hundred men,
but it is likely that this estimate does not take the absentees
into consideration. In the diary of Lieutenant Allaire, one of
his officers, the number is given as only eight hundred. Because
of the state of his army, chroniclers have found Ferguson's
movements, after leaving Gilbert Town, difficult to explain. It
has been pointed out that he could easily have escaped, for he
had plenty of time, and Charlotte, Cornwallis's headquarters, was
only sixty miles distant. We have seen something of Ferguson's
quality, however, and we may simply take it that he did not want
to escape. He had been planning to cross the high hills--to him,
the Highlander, no barrier but a challenge--to fight these men.
Now that they had taken the initiative he would not show them his
back. He craved the battle. So he sent out runners to the main
army and rode on along the eastern base of the mountains, seeking
a favorable site to go into camp and wait for Cornwallis's aid.
On the 6th of October he reached the southern end of the King's
Mountain ridge, in South Carolina, about half a mile south of the
northern boundary. Here a rocky, semi-isolated spur juts out from
the ridge, its summit--a table-land about six hundred yards long
and one hundred and twenty wide at its northern end--rising not
more than sixty feet above the surrounding country. On the summit
Ferguson pitched his camp.

The hill was a natural fortress, its sides forested, its bald top
protected by rocks and bowlders. All the approaches led through
dense forest. An enemy force, passing through the immediate,
wooded territory, might easily fail to discover a small army
nesting sixty feet above the shrouding leafage. Word was
evidently brought to Ferguson here, telling him the now augmented
number of his foe, for he dispatched another emissary to
Cornwallis with a letter stating the number of his own troops and
urging full and immediate assistance.

Meanwhile the frontiersmen had halted at the Cowpens. There they
feasted royally off roasted cattle and corn belonging to the
loyalist who owned the Cowpens. It is said that they mowed his
fifty acres of corn in an hour. And here one of their spies, in
the assumed role of a Tory, learned Ferguson's plans, his
approximate force, his route, and his system of communication
with Cornwallis. The officers now held council and determined to
take a detachment of the hardiest and fleetest horsemen and sweep
down on the enemy before aid could reach him. About nine o'clock
that evening, according to Shelby's report, 910 mounted men set
off at full speed, leaving the main body of horse and foot to
follow after at their best pace.

Rain poured down on them all that night as they rode. At daybreak
they crossed the Broad at Cherokee Ford and dashed on in the
drenching rain all the forenoon. They kept their firearms and
powder dry by wrapping them in their knapsacks, blankets, and
hunting shirts. The downpour had so churned up the soil that many
of the horses mired, but they were pulled out and whipped forward
again. The wild horsemen made no halt for food or rest. Within
two miles of King's Mountain they captured Ferguson's messenger
with the letter that told of his desperate situation. They asked
this man how they should know Ferguson. He told them that
Ferguson was in full uniform but wore a checkered shirt or dust
cloak over it. This was not the only messenger of Ferguson's who
failed to carry through. The men he had sent out previously had
been followed and, to escape capture or death, they had been
obliged to lie in hiding, so that they did not reach Cornwallis
until the day of the battle.

At three o'clock on the afternoon of the 7th of October, the
overmountain men were in the forest at the base of the hill. The
rain had ceased and the sun was shining. They dismounted and
tethered their steaming horses. Orders were given that every man
was to "throw the priming out of his pan, pick his touchhole,
prime anew, examine bullets and see that everything was in
readiness for battle." The plan of battle agreed on was to
surround the hill, hold the enemy on the top and, themselves
screened by the trees, keep pouring in their fire. There was a
good chance that most of the answering fire would go over their

As Shelby's men crossed a gap in the woods, the outposts on the
hill discovered their presence and sounded the alarm. Ferguson
sprang to horse, blowing his silver whistle to call his men to
attack. His riflemen poured fire into Shelby's contingent, but
meanwhile the frontiersmen on the other sides were creeping up,
and presently a circle of fire burst upon the hill. With fixed
bayonets, some of Ferguson's men charged down the face of the
slope, against the advancing foe, only to be shot in the back as
they charged. Still time and time again they charged; the
overhill men reeled and retreated; but always their comrades took
toll with their rifles; Ferguson's men, preparing for a mounted
charge, were shot even as they swung to their saddles. Ferguson,
with his customary indifference to danger, rode up and down in
front of his line blowing his whistle to encourage his men.
"Huzza, brave boys! The day is our own!" Thus he was heard to
shout above the triumphant war whoops of the circling foe,
surging higher and higher about the hill.

But there were others in his band who knew the fight was lost.
The overmountain men saw two white handkerchiefs, axed to
bayonets, raised above the rocks; and then they saw Ferguson dash
by and slash them down with his sword. Two horses were shot under
Ferguson in the latter part of the action; but he mounted a third
and rode again into the thick of the fray. Suddenly the cry
spread among the attacking troops that the British officer,
Tarleton, had come to Ferguson's rescue; and the mountaineers
began to give way. But it was only the galloping horses of their
own comrades; Tarleton had not come. Nolichucky Jack spurred out
in front of his men and rode along the line. Fired by his courage
they sounded the war whoop again and renewed the attack with

"These are the same yelling devils that were at Musgrove's Mill,"
said Captain De Peyster to Ferguson.

Now Shelby and Sevier, leading his Wataugans, had reached the
summit. The firing circle pressed in. The buckskin-shirted
warriors leaped the rocky barriers, swinging their tomahawks and
long knives. Again the white handkerchiefs fluttered. Ferguson
saw that the morale of his troops was shattered.

"Surrender," De Peyster, his second in command, begged of him.

"Surrender to those damned banditti? Never!"

Ferguson turned his horse's head downhill and charged into the
Wataugans, hacking right and left with his sword till it was
broken at the hilt. A dozen rifles were leveled at him. An iron
muzzle pushed at his breast, but the powder flashed in the pan.
He swerved and struck at the rifleman with his broken hilt. But
the other guns aimed at him spoke; and Ferguson's body jerked
from the saddle pierced by eight bullets. Men seized the bridle
of the frenzied horse, plunging on with his dead master dragging
from the stirrup.

The battle had lasted less than an hour. After Ferguson fell, De
Peyster advanced with a white flag and surrendered his sword to
Campbell. Other white flags waved along the hilltop. But the
killing did not yet cease. It is said that many of the
mountaineers did not know the significance of the white flag.
Sevier's sixteen-year-old son, having heard that his father had
fallen, kept on furiously loading and firing until presently he
saw Sevier ride in among the troops and command them to stop
shooting men who had surrendered and thrown down their arms.

The victors made a bonfire of the enemy's baggage wagons and
supplies. Then they killed some of his beeves and cooked them;
they had had neither food nor sleep for eighteen hours. They dug
shallow trenches for the dead and scattered the loose earth over
them. Ferguson's body, stripped of its uniform and boots and
wrapped in a beef hide, was thrown into one of these ditches by
the men detailed to the burial work, while the officers divided
his personal effects among themselves.

The triumphant army turned homeward as the dusk descended. The
uninjured prisoners and the wounded who were able to walk were
marched off carrying their empty firearms. The badly wounded were
left lying where they had fallen.

At Bickerstaff's Old Fields in Rutherford County the frontiersmen
halted; and here they selected thirty of their prisoners to be
hanged. They swung them aloft, by torchlight, three at a time,
until nine had gone to their last account. Then Sevier
interposed; and, with Shelby's added authority, saved the other
twenty-one. Among those who thus weighted the gallows tree were
some of the Tory brigands from Watauga; but not all the victims
were of this character. Some of the troops would have wreaked
vengeance on the two Tories from Sevier's command who had
betrayed their army plans to Ferguson; but Sevier claimed them as
under his jurisdiction and refused consent. Nolichucky Jack dealt
humanely by his foes. To the coarse and brutish Cleveland, now
astride of Ferguson's horse and wearing his sash, and to the
three hundred who followed him, may no doubt be laid the worst
excesses of the battle's afterpiece.

Victors and vanquished drove on in the dark, close to the great
flank of hills. From where King's Mountain, strewn with dead and
dying, reared its black shape like some rudely hewn tomb of a
primordial age when titans strove together, perhaps to the ears
of the marching men came faintly through the night's stillness
the howl of a wolf and the answering chorus of the pack. For the
wolves came down to King's Mountain from all the surrounding
hills, following the scent of blood, and made their lair where
the Werewolf had fallen. The scene of the mountaineers' victory,
which marked the turn of the tide for the Revolution, became for
years the chief resort of wolf hunters from both the Carolinas.

The importance of the overmountain men's victory lay in what it
achieved for the cause of Independence. King's Mountain was the
prelude to Cornwallis's defeat. It heartened the Southern
Patriots, until then cast down by Gates's disaster. To the
British the death of Ferguson was an irreparable loss because of
its depressing effect on the Back Country Tories. Ding's
Mountain, indeed, broke the Tory spirit. Seven days after the
battle General Nathanael Greene succeeded to the command of the
Southern Patriot army which Gates had led to defeat. Greene's
genius met the rising tide of the Patriots' courage and hope and
took it at the flood. His strategy, in dividing his army and
thereby compelling the division of Cornwallis's force, led to
Daniel Morgan's victory at the Cowpens, in the Back Country of
South Carolina, on January 17, 1781--another frontiersmen's
triumph. Though the British won the next engagement between
Greene and Cornwallis--the battle of Guilford Court House in the
North Carolina Back Country, on the 15th of March--Greene
madethem pay so dearly for their victory that Tarleton called it
"the pledge of ultimate defeat"; and, three days later,
Cornwallis was retreating towards Wilmington. In a sense, then,
King's Mountain was the pivot of the war's revolving stage, which
swung the British from their succession of victories towards the
surrender at Yorktown.

Shelby, Campbell, and Cleveland escorted the prisoners to
Virginia. Sevier, with his men, rode home to Watauga. When the
prisoners had been delivered to the authorities in Virginia, the
Holston men also turned homeward through the hills. Their route
lay down through the Clinch and Holston valleys to the settlement
at the base of the mountains. Sevier and his Wataugans had gone
by Gillespie's Gap, over the pathway that hung like a narrow
ribbon about the breast of Roan Mountain, lifting its crest in
dignified isolation sixty-three hundred feet above the levels.
The "Unakas" was the name the Cherokees had given to those white
men who first invaded their hills; and the Unakas is the name
that white men at last gave to the mountain.

Great companies of men were to come over the mountain paths on
their way to the Mississippi country and beyond; and with them,
as we know, were to go many of these mountain men, to pass away
with their customs in the transformations that come with
progress. But there were others who clung to these hills. They
were of several stocks--English, Scotch, Highlanders, Ulstermen,
who mingled by marriage and sometimes took their mates from among
the handsome maids of the Cherokees. They spread from the Unakas
of Tennessee into the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky; and they
have remained to this day what they were then, a primitive folk
of strong and fiery men and brave women living as their
forefathers of Watauga and Holston lived. In the log cabins in
those mountains today are heard the same ballads, sung still to
the dulcimer, that entertained the earliest settlers. The women
still turn the old-fashioned spinning wheels. The code of the men
is still the code learned perhaps from the Gaels--the code of the
oath and the feud and the open door to the stranger. Or were
these, the ethical tenets of almost all uncorrupted primitive
tribes, transmitted from the Indian strain and association? Their
young people marry at boy and girl ages, as the pioneers did, and
their wedding festivities are the same as those which made
rejoicing at the first marriage in Watauga. Their common speech
today contains words that have been obsolete in England for a
hundred years.

Thrice have the mountain men come down again from their
fastnesses to war for America since the day of King's Mountain
and thrice they have acquitted themselves so that their deeds are
noted in history. A souvenir of their part in the War of 1812 at
the Battle of the Thames is kept in one of the favorite names for
mountain girls--"Lake Erie." In the Civil War many volunteers
from the free, non-slaveholding mountain regions of Kentucky and
Tennessee joined the Union Army, and it is said that they
exceeded all others in stature and physical development. And in
our own day their sons again came down from the mountains to
carry the torch of Liberty overseas, and to show the white stars
in their flag side by side with the ancient cross in the flag of
England against which their forefathers fought.

Chapter X. Sevier, The Statemaker

After King's Mountain, Sevier reached home just in time to fend
off a Cherokee attack on Watauga. Again warning had come to the
settlements that the Indians were about to descend upon them.
Sevier set out at once to meet the red invaders. Learning from
his scouts that the Indians were near he went into ambush with
his troops disposed in the figure of a half-moon, the favorite
Indian formation. He then sent out a small body of men to fire on
the Indians and make a scampering retreat, to lure the enemy on.
The maneuver was so well planned and the ground so well chosen
that the Indian war party would probably have been annihilated
but for the delay of an officer at one horn of the half-moon in
bringing his troops into play. Through the gap thus made the
Indians escaped, with a loss of seventeen of their number. The
delinquent officer was Jonathan Tipton, younger brother of
Colonel John Tipton, of whom we shall hear later. It is possible
that from this event dates the Tiptons' feud with Sevier, which
supplies one of the breeziest pages in the story of early

Not content with putting the marauders to flight, Sevier pressed
on after them, burned several of the upper towns, and took
prisoner a number of women and children, thus putting the red
warriors to the depth of shame, for the Indians never deserted
their women in battle. The chiefs at once sued for peace. But
they had made peace often before. Sevier drove down upon the
Hiwassee towns, meanwhile proclaiming that those among the tribe
who were friendly might send their families to the white
settlement, where they would be fed and cared for until a sound
peace should be assured. He also threatened to continue to make
war until his enemies were wiped out, their town sites a heap of
blackened ruins, and their whole country in possession of the
whites, unless they bound themselves to an enduring peace.

Having compelled the submission of the Otari and Hiwassee towns,
yet finding that depredations still continued, Sevier determined
to invade the group of towns hidden in the mountain fastnesses
near the headwaters of the Little Tennessee where, deeming
themselves inaccessible except by their own trail, the Cherokees
freely plotted mischief and sent out raiding parties. These hill
towns lay in the high gorges of the Great Smoky Mountains, 150
miles distant. No one in Watauga had ever been in them except
Thomas, the trader, who, however, had reached them from the
eastern side of the mountains. With no knowledge of the Indians'
path and without a guide, yet nothing daunted, Sevier, late in
the summer of 1781 headed his force into the mountains. So steep
were some of the slopes they scaled that the men were obliged to
dismount and help their horses up. Unexpectedly to themselves
perhaps, as well as to the Indians, they descended one morning on
a group of villages and destroyed them. Before the fleeing
savages could rally, the mountaineers had plunged up the steeps
again. Sevier then turned southward into Georgia and inflicted a
severe castigation on the tribes along the Coosa River.

When, after thirty days of warfare and mad riding, Sevier arrived
at his Bonnie Kate's door on the Nolichucky, he found a messenger
from General Greene calling on him for immediate assistance to
cut off Cornwallis from his expected retreat through North
Carolina. Again he set out, and with two hundred men crossed the
mountains and made all speed to Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County,
where he learned that Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown on
October 19, 1781. Under Greene's orders he turned south to the
Santee to assist a fellow scion of the Huguenots, General Francis
Marion, in the pursuit of Stuart's Britishers. Having driven
Stuart into Charleston, Sevier and his active Wataugans returned
home, now perhaps looking forward to a rest, which they had
surely earned. Once more, however, they were hailed with alarming
news. Dragging Canoe had come to life again and was emerging from
the caves of the Tennessee with a substantial force of
Chickamaugan warriors. Again the Wataugans, augmented by a
detachment from Sullivan County, galloped forth, met the red
warriors, chastised them heavily, put them to rout, burned their
dwellings and provender, and drove them back into their hiding
places. For some time after this, the Indians dipped not into the
black paint pots of war but were content to streak their humbled
countenances with the vermilion of beauty and innocence.

It should be chronicled that Sevier, assisted possibly by other
Wataugans, eventually returned to the State of North Carolina the
money which he had forcibly borrowed to finance the King's
Mountain expedition; and that neither he nor Shelby received any
pay for their services, nor asked it. Before Shelby left the
Holston in 1782 and moved to Kentucky, of which State he was to
become the first Governor, the Assembly of North Carolina passed
a resolution of gratitude to the overmountain men in general, and
to Sevier and Shelby in particular, for their "very generous and
patriotic services" with which the "General Assembly of this
State are feelingly impressed." The resolution concluded by
urging the recipients of the Assembly's acknowledgments to
"continue" in their noble course. In view of what followed, this
resolution is interesting!

For some time the overhill pioneers had been growing dissatisfied
with the treatment they were receiving from the State, which on
the plea of poverty had refused to establish a Superior Court for
them and to appoint a prosecutor. As a result, crime was on the
increase, and the law-abiding were deprived of the proper legal
means to check the lawless. In 1784 when the western soldiers'
claims began to reach the Assembly, there to be scrutinized by
unkindly eyes, the dissatisfaction increased. The breasts of the
mountain men--the men who had made that spectacular ride to bring
Ferguson to his end--were kindled with hot indignation when they
heard that they had been publicly assailed as grasping persons
who seized on every pretense to "fabricate demands against the
Government." Nor were those fiery breasts cooled by further
plaints to the effect that the "industry and property" of those
east of the hills were "becoming the funds appropriated to
discharge the debts" of the Westerners. They might with justice
have asked what the industry and property of the Easterners were
worth on that day when the overhill men drilled in the snows on
the high peak of Yellow Mountain and looked down on Burke County
overrun by Ferguson's Tories, and beyond, to Charlotte, where lay

The North Carolina Assembly did not confine itself to impolite
remarks. It proceeded to get rid of what it deemed western
rapacity by ceding the whole overmountain territory to the United
States, with the proviso that Congress must accept the gift
within twelve months. And after passing the Cession Act, North
Carolina closed the land office in the undesired domain and
nullified all entries made after May 25, 1784. The Cession Act
also enabled the State to evade its obligations to the Cherokees
in the matter of an expensive consignment of goods to pay for new

This clever stroke of the Assembly's brought about immediate
consequences in the region beyond the hills. The Cherokees, who
knew nothing about the Assembly's system of political economy but
who found their own provokingly upset by the non-arrival of the
promised goods, began again to darken the mixture in their paint
pots; and they dug up the war hatchet, never indeed so deeply
patted down under the dust that it could not be unearthed by a
stub of the toe. Needless to say, it was not the thrifty and
distant Easterners who felt their anger, but the nearby

As for the white overhill dwellers, the last straw had been laid
on their backs; and it felt like a hickory log. No sooner had the
Assembly adjourned than the men of Washington, Sullivan, and
Greene counties, which comprised the settled portion of what is
now east Tennessee, elected delegates to convene for the purpose
of discussing the formation of a new State. They could assert
that they were not acting illegally, for in her first
constitution North Carolina had made provision for a State beyond
the mountains. And necessity compelled them to take steps for
their protection. Some of them, and Sevier was of the number,
doubted if Congress would accept the costly gift; and the
majority realized that during the twelve months which were
allowed for the decision they would have no protection from
either North Carolina or Congress and would not be able to
command their own resources.

In August, 1784, the delegates met at Jonesborough and passed
preliminary resolutions; and then adjourned to meet later in the
year. The news was soon disseminated through North Carolina and
the Assembly convened in October and hastily repealed the Cession
Act, voted to establish the District of Washington out of the
four counties, and sent word of the altered policy to Sevier,
with a commission for himself as Brigadier General. From the
steps of the improvised convention hall, before which the
delegates had gathered, Sevier read the Assembly's message and
advised his neighbors to proceed no further, since North Carolina
had of her own accord redressed all their grievances. But for
once Nolichucky Jack's followers refused to follow. The adventure
too greatly appealed. Obliged to choose between North Carolina
and his own people, Sevier's hesitation was short. The State of
Frankland, or Land of the Free, was formed; and Nolichucky Jack
was elevated to the office of Governor--with a yearly salary of
two hundred mink skins.

Perhaps John Tipton had hoped to head the new State, for he had
been one of its prime movers and was a delegate to this
convention. But when the man whom he hated--apparently for no
reason except that other men loved him--assented to the people's
will and was appointed to the highest post within their gift,
Tipton withdrew, disavowing all connection with Frankland and
affirming his loyalty to North Carolina. From this time on, the
feud was an open one.

That brief and now forgotten State, Frankland, the Land of the
Free, which bequeathed its name as an appellation for America,
was founded as Watauga had been founded--to meet the practical
needs and aspirations of its people. It will be remembered that
one of the things written by Sevier into the only Watauga
document extant was that they desired to become "in every way the
best members of society." Frankland's aims, as recorded, included
the intent to "improve agriculture, perfect manufacturing,
ENCOURAGE LITERATURE and every thing truly laudable."

The constitution of Frankland, agreed to on the 14th of November,
1785, appeals to us today rather by its spirit than by its
practical provisions. "This State shall be called the
Commonwealth of Frankland and shall be governed by a General
Assembly of the representatives of the freemen of the same, a
Governor and Council, and proper courts of justice.... The
supreme legislative power shall be vested in a single House of
Representatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Frankland.
The House of Representatives of the freemen of the State shall
consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virtue."

In these exalted desires of the primitive men who held by their
rifles and hatchets the land by the western waters, we see the
influence of the Reverend Samuel Doak, their pastor, who founded
the first church and the first school beyond the great hills.
Early in the life of Watauga he had come thither from Princeton,
a zealous and broadminded young man, and a sturdy one, too, for
he came on foot driving before him a mule laden with books.
Legend credits another minister, the Reverend Samuel Houston,
with suggesting the name of Frankland, after he had opened the
Convention with prayer. It is not surprising to learn that this
glorified constitution was presently put aside in favor of one
modeled on that of North Carolina.

Sevier persuaded the more radical members of the community to
abandon their extreme views and to adopt the laws of North
Carolina. However lawless his acts as Governor of a bolting
colony may appear, Sevier was essentially a constructive force.
His purposes were right, and small motives are not discernible in
his record. He might reasonably urge that the Franklanders had
only followed the example of North Carolina and the other
American States in seceding from the parent body, and for similar
causes, for the State's system of taxation had long borne heavily
on the overhill men.

The whole transmontane populace welcomed Frankland with
enthusiasm. Major Arthur Campbell, of the Virginian settlements,
on the Holston, was eager to join. Sevier and his Assembly took
the necessary steps to receive the overhill Virginians, provided
that the transfer of allegiance could be made with Virginia's
consent. Meanwhile he replied in a dignified manner to the pained
and menacing expostulations of North Carolina's Governor. North
Carolina was bidden to remember the epithets her assemblymen had
hurled at the Westerners, which they themselves had by no means
forgotten. And was it any wonder that they now doubted the love
the parent State professed to feel for them? As for the puerile
threat of blood, had their quality really so soon become
obliterated from the memory of North Carolina? At this sort of
writing, Sevier, who always pulsed hot with emotion and who had a
pretty knack in turning a phrase, was more than a match for the
Governor of North Carolina, whose prerogatives he had usurped.

The overmountain men no longer needed to complain bitterly of the
lack of legal machinery to keep them "the best members of
society." They now had courts to spare. Frankland had its courts,
its judges, its legislative body, its land office--in fact, a
full governmental equipment. North Carolina also performed all
the natural functions of political organism, within the western
territory. Sevier appointed one David Campbell a judge. Campbell
held court in Jonesborough. Ten miles away, in Buffalo, Colonel
John Tipton presided for North Carolina. It happened frequently
that officers and attendants of the rival law courts met, as they
pursued, their duties, and whenever they met they fought. The
post of sheriff--or sheriffs, for of course there were two--was
filled by the biggest and heaviest man and the hardest hitter in
the ranks of the warring factions. A favorite game was raiding
each other's courts and carrying off the records. Frankland sent
William Cocke, later the first senator from Tennessee, to
Congress with a memorial, asking Congress to accept the territory
North Carolina had offered and to receive it into the Union as a
separate State. Congress ignored the plea. It began to appear
that North Carolina would be victor in the end; and so there were
defections among the Franklanders. Sevier wrote to Benjamin
Franklin asking his aid in establishing the status of Frankland;
and, with a graceful flourish of his ready pen, changed the new
State's name to Franklin by way of reinforcing his arguments. But
the old philosopher, more expert than Sevier in diplomatic
calligraphy, only acknowledged the compliment and advised the
State of Franklin to make peace with North Carolina.

Sevier then appealed for aid and recognition to the Governor of
Georgia, who had previously appointed him Brigadier General of
militia. But the Governor of Georgia also avoided giving the
recognition requested, though he earnestly besought Sevier to
come down and settle the Creeks for him. There were others who
sent pleas to Sevier, the warrior, to save them from the savages.
One of the writers who addressed him did not fear to say "Your
Excellency," nor to accord Nolichucky Jack the whole dignity of
the purple in appealing to him as the only man possessing the
will and the power to prevent the isolated settlements on the
Cumberland from being wiped out. That writer was his old friend,
James Robertson.

In 1787, while Sevier was on the frontier of Greene County,
defending it from Indians, the legal forces of North Carolina
swooped down on his estate and took possession of his negroes. It
was Tipton who represented the law; and Tipton carried off the
Governor's slaves to his own estate. When Nolichucky Jack came
home and found that his enemy had stripped him, he was in a
towering rage. With a body of his troops and one small cannon, he
marched to Tipton's house and besieged it, threatening a
bombardment. He did not, however, fire into the dwelling, though
he placed some shots about it and in the extreme corners. This
opera bouffe siege endured for several days, until Tipton was
reinforced by some of his own clique. Then Tipton sallied forth
and attacked the besiegers, who hastily scattered rather than
engage in a sanguinary fight with their neighbors. Tipton
captured Sevier's two elder sons and was only strained from
hanging them on being informed that two of his own sons were at
that moment in Sevier's hands.

In March, 1788, the State of Franklin went into eclipse. Sevier
was overthrown by the authorities of North Carolina. Most of the
officials who had served under him were soothed by being
reappointed to their old positions. Tipton's star was now in the
ascendant, for his enemy was to be made the vicarious sacrifice
for the sins of all whom he had "led astray." Presently David
Campbell, still graciously permitted to preside over the Superior
Court, received from the Governor of North Carolina the following

"Sir: It has been represented to the Executive that John Sevier,
who style's himself Captain-General of the State of Franklin, has
been guilty of high treason in levying troops to oppose the laws
and government of the State.... You will issue your warrant to
apprehend the said John Sevier, and in case he cannot be
sufficiently secured for trial in the District of Washington,
order him to be committed to the public gaol."

The judge's authority was to be exercised after he had examined
the "affidavits of credible persons." Campbell's judicial opinion
seems to have been that any affidavit against "the said John
Sevier" could not be made by a "credible person." He refused to
issue the warrant. Tipton's friend, Spencer, who had been North
Carolina's judge of the Superior Court in the West and who was
sharing that honor now with Campbell, issued the warrant and sent
Tipton to make the arrest.

Sevier was at the Widow Brown's inn with some of his men when
Tipton at last came up with him. It was early morning. Tipton and
his posse were about to enter when the portly and dauntless
widow, surmising their errand, drew her chair into the doorway,
plumped herself down in it, and refused to budge for all the
writs in North Carolina. Tipton blustered and the widow rocked.
The altercation awakened Sevier. He dressed hurriedly and came
down. As soon as he presented himself on the porch, Tipton
thrust his pistol against his body, evidently with intent to fire
if Sevier made signs of resistance. Sevier's furious followers
were not disposed to let him be taken without a fight, but he
admonished them to respect the law, and requested that they would
inform Bonnie Kate of his predicament. Then, debonair as ever,
with perhaps a tinge of contempt at the corners of his mouth, he
held out his wrists for the manacles which Tipton insisted on
fastening upon them.

It was not likely that any jail in the western country could hold
Nolichucky Jack overnight. Tipton feared a riot; and it was
decided to send the prisoner for incarceration and trial to
Morgantown in North Carolina, just over the hills.

Tipton did not accompany the guards he sent with Sevier. It was
stated and commonly believed that he had given instructions of
which the honorable men among his friends were ignorant. When the
party entered the mountains, two of the guards were to lag behind
with the prisoner, till the others were out of sight on the
twisting trail. Then one of the two was to kill Sevier and assert
that he had done it because Sevier had attempted to escape. It
fell out almost as planned, except that the other guard warned
Sevier of the fate in store for him and gave him a chance to
flee. In plunging down the mountain, Sevier's horse was entangled
in a thicket. The would-be murderer overtook him and fired; but
here again fate had interposed for her favorite. The ball had
dropped out of the assassin's pistol. So Sevier reached
Morgantown in safety and was deposited in care of the sheriff,
who was doubtless cautioned to take a good look at the prisoner
and know him for a dangerous and a daring man.

There is a story to the effect that, when Sevier was arraigned in
the courthouse at Morgantown and presently dashed through the
door and away on a racer that had been brought up by some of his
friends, among those who witnessed the proceedings was a young
Ulster Scot named Andrew Jackson; and that on this occasion these
two men, later to become foes, first saw each other. Jackson may
have been in Morgantown at the time, though this is disputed; but
the rest of the tale is pure legend invented by some one whose
love of the spectacular led him far from the facts. The facts are
less theatrical but much more dramatic. Sevier was not arraigned
at all, for no court was sitting in Morgantown at the time.* The
sheriff to whom he was delivered did not need to look twice at
him to know him for a daring man. He had served with him at
King's Mountain. He struck off his handcuffs and set him at
liberty at once. Perhaps he also notified General Charles
McDowell at his home in Quaker Meadows of the presence of a
distinguished guest in Burke County, for McDowell and his brother
Joseph, another officer of militia, quickly appeared and went on
Sevier's bond. Nolichucky Jack was presently holding a court of
his own in the tavern, with North Carolina's men at arms--as many
as were within call--drinking his health. So his sons and a
company of his Wataugans found him, when they rode into
Morgantown to give evidence in his behalf--with their rifles.
Since none now disputed the way with him, Sevier turned homeward
with his cavalcade, McDowell and his men accompanying him as far
as the pass in the hills.

* Statement by John Sevier, Junior, in the Draper MSS., quoted by
Turner, "Life of General John Sevier," p. 182.

No further attempt was made to try John Sevier for treason,
either west or east of the mountains. In November, however, the
Assembly passed the Pardon Act, and thereby granted absolution to
every one who had been associated with the State of Franklin,
EXCEPT JOHN SEVIER. In a clause said to have been introduced by
Tipton, now a senator, or suggested by him, John Sevier was
debarred forever from "the enjoyment of any office of profit or
honor or trust in the State of North Carolina."

The overhill men in Greene County took due note of the Assembly's
fiat and at the next election sent Sevier to the North Carolina
Senate. Nolichucky Jack, whose demeanor was never so decorous as
when the illconsidered actions of those in authority had made him
appear to have circumvented the law, considerately waited outside
until the House had lifted the ban--which it did perforce and by
a large majority, despite Tipton's opposition--and then took his
seat on the senatorial bench beside his enemy. The records show
that he was reinstated as Brigadier General of the Western
Counties and also appointed at the head of the Committee on
Indian Affairs.

Not only in the region about Watauga did the pioneers of
Tennessee endure the throes of danger and strife during these
years. The little settlements on the Cumberland, which were
scattered over a short distance of about twenty-five or thirty
miles and had a frontier line of two hundred miles, were terribly
afflicted. Their nearest white neighbors among the Kentucky
settlers were one hundred and fifty miles away; and through the
cruelest years these could render no aid--could not, indeed, hold
their own stations. The Kentuckians, as we have seen, were
bottled up in Harrodsburg and Boonesborough; and, while the
northern Indians led by Girty and Dequindre darkened the Bloody
Ground anew, the Cumberlanders were making a desperate stand
against the Chickasaws and the Creeks. So terrible was their
situation that panic took hold on them, and they would have fled
but for the influence of Robertson. He may have put the question
to them in the biblical words, "Whither shall I flee?" For they
were surrounded, and those who did attempt to escape were
"weighed on the path and made light." Robertson knew that their
only chance of survival was to stand their ground. The greater
risks he was willing to take in person, for it was he who made
trips to Boonesborough and Harrodsburg for a share of the powder
and lead which John Sevier was sending into Kentucky from time to
time. In the stress of conflict Robertson bore his full share of
grief, for his two elder sons and his brother fell. He himself
was often near to death. One day he was cut off in the fields and
was shot in the foot as he ran, yet he managed to reach shelter.
There is a story that, in an attack during one of his absences,
the Indians forced the outer gate of the fort and Mrs. Robertson
went out of her cabin, firing, and let loose a band of the savage
dogs which the settlers kept for their protection, and so drove
out the invaders.

The Chickasaws were loyal to the treaty they had made with the
British in the early days of James Adair's association with them.
They were friends to England's friends and foes to her foes.
While they resented the new settlements made on land they
considered theirs, they signed a peace with Robertson at the
conclusion of the War of Independence. They kept their word with
him as they had kept it with the British. Furthermore, their
chief, Opimingo or the Mountain Leader, gave Robertson his
assistance against the Creeks and the Choctaws and, in so far as
he understood its workings, informed him of the new Spanish and
French conspiracy, which we now come to consider. So once again
the Chickasaws were servants of destiny to the English-speaking
race, for again they drove the wedge of their honor into an
Indian solidarity welded with European gold.

Since it was generally believed at that date that the tribes were
instigated to war by the British and supplied by them with their
ammunition, savage inroads were expected to cease with the
signing of peace. But Indian warfare not only continued; it
increased. In the last two years of the Revolution, when the
British were driven from the Back Country of the Carolinas and
could no longer reach the tribes with consignments of firearms
and powder, it should have been evident that the Indians had
other sources of supply and other allies, for they lacked nothing
which could aid them in their efforts to exterminate the settlers
of Tennessee.

Neither France nor Spain wished to see an English-speaking
republic based on ideals of democracy successfully established in
America. Though in the Revolutionary War, France was a close ally
of the Americans and Spain something more than a nominal one, the
secret diplomacy of the courts of the Bourbon cousins ill matched
with their open professions. Both cousins hated England. The
American colonies, smarting under injustice, had offered a field
for their revenge. But hatred of England was not the only reason
why activities had been set afoot to increase the discord which
should finally separate the colonies from Great Britain and leave
the destiny of the colonies to be decided by the House of
Bourbon. Spain saw in the Americans, with their English modes of
thought, a menace to her authority in her own colonies on both
the northern and southern continents. This menace would not be
stilled but augmented if the colonies should be established as a
republic. Such an example might be too readily followed. Though
France had, by a secret treaty in 1762, made over to Spain the
province of Louisiana, she was not unmindful of the Bourbon
motto, "He who attacks the Crown of one attacks the other." And
she saw her chance to deal a crippling blow at England's prestige
and commerce.

In 1764, the French Minister, Choiseul, had sent a secret agent,
named Pontleroy, to America to assist in making trouble and to
watch for any signs that might be turned to the advantage of les
duex couronnes. Evidently Pontleroy's reports were encouraging
for, in 1768, Johann Kalb--the same Kalb who fell at Camden in
1780--arrived in Philadelphia to enlarge the good work. He was
not only, like several of the foreign officers in the War of
Independence, a spy for his Government, but he was also the
special emissary of one Comte de Broglie who, after the colonies
had broken with the mother country, was to put himself at the
head of American affairs. This Broglie had been for years one of
Louis XV's chief agents in subterranean diplomacy, and it is not
to be supposed that he was going to attempt the stupendous task
of controlling America's destiny without substantial backing.
Spain had been advised meanwhile to rule her new Louisiana
territory with great liberality--in fact, to let it shine as a
republic before the yearning eyes of the oppressed Americans, so
that the English colonists would arise and cast off their
fetters. Once the colonies had freed themselves from England's
protecting arm, it would be a simple matter for the Bourbons to
gather them in like so many little lost chicks from a rainy yard.
The intrigants of autocratic systems have never been able to
understand that the urge of the spirit of independence in men is
not primarily to break shackles but to STAND ALONE and that the
breaking of bonds is incidental to the true demonstration of
freedom. The Bourbons and their agents were no more nor less
blind to the great principle stirring the hearts of men in their
day than were the Prussianized hosts over a hundred years later
who, having themselves no acquaintance with the law of liberty,
could not foresee that half a world would rise in arms to
maintain that law.

When the War of Independence had ended, the French Minister,
Vergennes, and the Spanish Minister, Floridablanca, secretly
worked in unison to prevent England's recognition of the new
republic; and Floridablanca in 1782 even offered to assist
England if she would make further efforts to subdue her "rebel
subjects." Both Latin powers had their own axes to grind, and
America was to tend the grindstone. France looked for recovery of
her old prestige in Europe and expected to supersede England in
commerce. She would do this, in the beginning, chiefly through
control of America and of America's commerce. Vergennes therefore
sought not only to dictate the final terms of peace but also to
say what the American commissioners should and should not demand.
Of the latter gentlemen he said that they possessed "caracteres
peu maniables!" In writing to Luzerne, the French Ambassador in
Philadelphia, on October 14, 1782, Vergennes said: "it behooves
us to leave them [the American commissioners] to their illusions,
to do everything that can make them fancy that we share them, and
undertake only to defeat any attempts to which those illusions
might carry them if our cooperation is required." Among these
"illusions" were America's desires in regard to the fisheries and
to the western territory. Concerning the West, Vergennes had
written to Luzerne, as early as July 18, 1780: "At the moment
when the revolution broke out, the limits of the Thirteen States
did not reach the River [Mississippi] and it would be absurd for
them to claim the rights of England, a power whose rule they had
abjured." By the secret treaty with Spain, furthermore, France
had agreed to continue the war until Gibraltar should be taken,
and--if the British should be driven from Newfoundland--to share
the fisheries only with Spain, and to support Spain in demanding
that the Thirteen States renounce all territory west of the
Alleghanies. The American States must by no means achieve a
genuine independence but must feel the need of sureties, allies,
and protection.*

* See John Jay, "On the Peace Negotiations of 1782-1788 as
Illustrated by the Secret Correspondence of France and England,"
New York, 1888.

So intent was Vergennes on these aims that he sent a secret
emissary to England to further them there. This act of his
perhaps gave the first inkling to the English statesmen* that
American and French desires were not identical and hastened
England's recognition of American independence and her agreement
to American demands in regard to the western territory. When, to
his amazement, Vergennes learned that England had acceded to all
America's demands, he said that England had "bought the peace"
rather than made it. The policy of Vergennes in regard to America
was not unjustly pronounced by a later French statesman "A VILE

* "Your Lordship was well founded in your suspicion that the
granting of independence to America as a previous measure is a
point which the French have by no means at heart and perhaps are
entirely averse from." Letter from Fitzherbert to Grantham,
September 3, 1782.

Through England's unexpected action, then, the Bourbon cousins
had forever lost their opportunity to dominate the young but
spent and war-weakened Republic, or to use America as a catspaw
to snatch English commerce for France. It was plain, too, that
any frank move of the sort would range the English alongside of
their American kinsmen. Since American Independence was an
accomplished fact and therefore could no longer be prevented, the
present object of the Bourbon cousins was to restrict it. The
Appalachian Mountains should be the western limits of the new
nation. Therefore the settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee must
be broken up, or the settlers must be induced to secede from the
Union and raise the Spanish banner. The latter alternative was
held to be preferable. To bring it about the same methods were to
be continued which had been used prior to and during the
war--namely, the use of agents provocateurs to corrupt the
ignorant and incite the lawless, the instigation of Indian
massacres to daunt the brave, and the distribution of gold to buy
the avaricious.

As her final and supreme means of coercion, Spain refused to
America the right of navigation on the Mississippi and so
deprived the Westerners of a market for their produce. The
Northern States, having no immediate use for the Mississippi,
were willing to placate Spain by acknowledging her monopoly of
the great waterway. But Virginia and North Carolina were
determined that America should not, by congressional enactment,
surrender her "natural right"; and they cited the proposed
legislation as their reason for refusing to ratify the
Constitution. "The act which abandons it [the right of
navigation] is an act of separation between the eastern and
western country," Jefferson realized at last. "An act of
separation"--that point had long been very clear to the Latin
sachems of the Mississippi Valley!

Bounded as they were on one side by the precipitous mountains and
on the other by the southward flow of the Mississippi and its
tributary, the Ohio, the trappers and growers of corn in Kentucky
and western Tennessee regarded New Orleans as their logical
market, as the wide waters were their natural route. If market
and route were to be closed to them, their commercial advancement
was something less than a dream.

In 1785, Don Estevan Miro, a gentleman of artful and winning
address, became Governor of Louisiana and fountainhead of the
propaganda. He wrote benign and brotherly epistles to James
Robertson of the Cumberland and to His Excellency of Franklin,
suggesting that to be of service to them was his dearest aim in
life; and at the same time he kept the southern Indians
continually on the warpath. When Robertson wrote to him of the
Creek and Cherokee depredations, with a hint that the Spanish
might have some responsibility in the matter, Miro replied by
offering the Cumberlander a safe home on Spanish territory with
freedom of religion and no taxes. He disclaimed stirring up the
Indians. He had, in fact, advised Mr McGillivray, chief of the
Creeks, to make peace. He would try again what he could do with
Mr. McGillivray. As to the Cherokees, they resided in a very
distant territory and he was not acquainted with them; he might
have added that he did not need to be: his friend McGillivray was
the potent personality among the Southern tribes.

In Alexander McGillivray, Miro found a weapon fashioned to his
hand. If the Creek chieftain's figure might stand as the symbol
of treachery, it is none the less one of the most picturesque and
pathetic in our early annals. McGillivray, it will be remembered,
was the son of Adair's friend Lachlan McGillivray, the trader,
and a Creek woman whose sire had been a French officer. A
brilliant and beautiful youth, he had given his father a pride in
him which is generally denied to the fathers of sons with Indian
blood in them. The Highland trader had spared nothing in his
son's education and had placed him, after his school days, in the
business office of the large trading establishment of which he
himself was a member. At about the age of seventeen Alexander had
become a chieftain in his mother's nation; and doubtless it is he
who appears shortly afterwards in the Colonial Records as the
White Leader whose influence is seen to have been at work for
friendship between the colonists and the tribes. When the
Revolutionary War broke out, Lachlan McGillivray, like many of
the old traders who had served British interests so long and so
faithfully, held to the British cause. Georgia confiscated all
his property and Lachlan fled to Scotland. For this, his son
hated the people of Georgia with a perfect hatred. He remembered
how often his father's courage alone had stood between those same
people and the warlike Creeks. He could recall the few days in
1760 when Lachlan and his fellow trader, Galphin, at the risk of
their lives had braved the Creek warriors--already painted for
war and on the march--and so had saved the settlements of the
Back Country from extermination. He looked upon the men of
Georgia as an Indian regards those who forget either a blood gift
or a blood vengeance. And he embraced the whole American nation
in his hatred for their sakes.

In 1776 Alexander McGillivray was in his early thirties-the exact
date of his birth is uncertain.* He had, we are told, the tall,
sturdy, but spare physique of the Gael, with a countenance of
Indian color though not of Indian cast. His overhanging brows
made more striking his very large and luminous dark eyes. He bore
himself with great dignity; his voice was soft, his manner
gentle. He might have been supposed to be some Latin courtier but
for the barbaric display of his dress and his ornaments. He
possessed extraordinary personal magnetism, and his power
extended beyond the Creek nation to the Choctaws and Chickasaws
and the Southern Cherokees. He had long been wooed by the
Louisiana authorities, but there is no evidence that he had made
alliance with them prior to the Revolution.

* Probably about 1741 or 1742. Some writers give 1739 and others
1746. His father landed in Charleston, Pickett ("History of
Alabama") says, in 1735, and was then only sixteen.

Early in the war he joined the British, received a colonel's
commission, and led his formidable Creeks against the people of
Georgia. When the British were driven from the Back Countries,
McGillivray, in his British uniform, went on with the war. When
the British made peace, McGillivray exchanged his British uniform
for a Spanish one and went on with the war. In later days, when
he had forced Congress to pay him for his father's confiscated
property and had made peace, he wore the uniform of an American
Brigadier General; but he did not keep the peace, never having
intended to keep it. It was not until he had seen the Spanish
plots collapse and had realized that the Americans were to
dominate the land, that the White Leader ceased from war and
urged the youths of his tribe to adopt American civilization.

Spent from hate and wasted with dissipation, he retired at last
to the spot where Lachlan had set up his first Creek home. Here
he lived his few remaining days in a house which he built on the
site of the old ruined cabin about which still stood the little
grove of apple trees his father had planted. He died at the age
of fifty of a fever contracted while he was on a business errand
in Pensacola. Among those who visited him in his last years, one
has left this description of him: "Dissipation has sapped a
constitution originally delicate and feeble. He possesses an
atticism of diction aided by a liberal education, a great fund of
wit and humor meliorated by a perfect good nature and
politeness." Set beside that kindly picture this rough etching by
James Robertson: "The biggest devil among them [the Spaniards] is
the half Spaniard, half Frenchman, half Scotchman and altogether
Creek scoundrel, McGillivray."

How indefatigably McGillivray did his work we know from the
bloody annals of the years which followed the British-American
peace, when the men of the Cumberland and of Franklin were on the
defensive continually. How cleverly Mire played his personal role
we discover in the letters addressed to him by Sevier and
Robertson. These letters show that, as far as words go at any
rate, the founders of Tennessee were willing to negotiate with
Spain. In a letter dated September 12, 1788, Sevier offered
himself and his tottering State of Franklin to the Spanish King.
This offer may have been made to gain a respite, or it may have
been genuine. The situation in the Tennessee settlements was
truly desperate, for neither North Carolina nor Congress
apparently cared in the least what befell them or how soon. North
Carolina indeed was in an anomalous position, as she had not yet
ratified the Federal Constitution. If Franklin went out of
existence and the territory which it included became again part
of North Carolina, Sevier knew that a large part of the newly
settled country would, under North Carolina's treaties, revert to
the Indians. That meant ruin to large numbers of those who had
put their faith in his star, or else it meant renewed conflict
either with the Indians or with the parent State. The
probabilities aria that Sevier hoped to play the Spaniards
against the Easterners who, even while denying the Westerners'
contention that the mountains were a "natural" barrier between
them, were making of them a barrier of indifference. It would
seem so, because, although this was the very aim of all Miro's
activities so that, had he been assured of the sincerity of the
offer, he must have grasped at it, yet nothing definite was done.
And Sevier was presently informing Shelby, now in Kentucky, that
there was a Spanish plot afoot to seize the western country.

Miro had other agents besides McGillivray--who, by the way, was
costing Spain, for his own services and those of four tribes
aggregating over six thousand warriors, a sum of fifty-five
thousand dollars a year. McGillivray did very well as
superintendent of massacres; but the Spaniard required a
different type of man, an American who enjoyed his country's
trust, to bring the larger plan to fruition. Miro found that man
in General James Wilkinson, lately of the Continental Army and
now a resident of Kentucky, which territory Wilkinson undertook
to deliver to Spain, for a price. In 1787 Wilkinson secretly took
the oath of allegiance to Spain and is listed in the files of the
Spanish secret service, appropriately, as "Number Thirteen." He
was indeed the thirteenth at table, the Judas at the feast.
Somewhat under middle height, Wilkinson was handsome, graceful,
and remarkably magnetic. Of a good, if rather impoverished,
Maryland family, he was well educated and widely read for the
times. With a brilliant and versatile intellectuality and ready
gifts as a speaker, he swayed men easily. He was a bold soldier
and was endowed with physical courage, though when engaged in
personal contests he seldom exerted it--preferring the red tongue
of slander or the hired assassin's shot from behind cover. His
record fails to disclose one commendable trait. He was
inordinately avaricious, but love of money was not his whole
motive force: he had a spirit so jealous and malignant that he
hated to the death another man's good. He seemed to divine
instantly wherein other men were weak and to understand the
speediest and best means of suborning them to his own
interests--or of destroying them.

Wilkinson was able to lure a number of Kentuckians into the
separatist movement. George Rogers Clark seriously disturbed the
arch plotter by seizing a Spanish trader's store wherewith to pay
his soldiers, whom Virginia had omitted to recompense. This act
aroused the suspicions of the Spanish, either as to Number
Thirteen's perfect loyalty or as to his ability to deliver the
western country. In 1786, when Clark led two thousand men against
the Ohio Indians in his last and his only unsuccessful campaign,
Wilkinson had already settled himself near the Falls (Louisville)
and had looked about for mischief which he might do for profit.
Whether his influence had anything to do with what amounted
virtually to a mutiny among Clark's forces is not ascertainable;
but, for a disinterested onlooker, he was overswift to spread the
news of Clark's debacle and to declare gleefully that Clark's sun
of military glory had now forever set. It is also known that he
later served other generals treacherously in Indian expeditions
and that he intrigued with Mad Anthony Wayne's Kentucky troops
against their commander.

Spain did not wish to see the Indians crushed; and Wilkinson
himself both hated and feared any other officer's prestige. How
long he had been in foreign pay we can only conjecture, for,
several years before he transplanted his activities to Kentucky,
he had been one of a cabal against Washington. Not only his
ambitions but his nature must inevitably have brought him to the
death-battle with George Rogers Clark. As a military leader, Clark
had genius, and soldiering was his passion. In nature, he was
open, frank, and bold to make foes if he scorned a man's way as
ignoble or dishonest. Wilkinson suavely set about scheming for
Clark's ruin. His communication or memorial to the Virginia
Assembly--signed by himself and a number of his friends
--villifying Clark, ended Clark's chances for the commission in
the Continental Army which he craved. It was Wilkinson who made
public an incriminating letter which had Clark's signature
attached and which Clark said he had never seen. It is to be
supposed that Number Thirteen was responsible also for the
malevolent anonymous letter accusing Clark of drunkenness and
scheming which, so strangely, found its way into the Calendar of
State Papers of Virginia.* As a result, Clark was censured by
Virginia. Thereupon he petitioned for a Court of Inquiry, but
this was not granted. Wilkinson had to get rid of Clark; for if
Clark, with his military gifts and his power over men, had been
elevated to a position of command under the smile of the
Government, there would have been small opportunity for James W
Wilkinson to lead the Kentuckians and to gather in Spanish gold.
So the machinations of one of the vilest traitors who ever sold
his country were employed to bring about the stultification and
hence the downfall of a great servant.

* See Thomas M. Greene's "The Spanish Conspiracy," p. 78,
footnote. It is possible that Wilkinson's intrigues provide data
for a new biography of Clark which may recast in some measure the
accepted view of Clark at this period.

Wilkinson's chief aids were the Irishmen, O'Fallon, Nolan, and
Powers. Through Nolan, he also vended Spanish secrets. He sold,
indeed, whatever and whomever he could get his price for. So
clever was he that he escaped detection, though he was obliged to
remove some suspicions. He succeeded Wayne as commander of the
regular army in 1796. He was one of the commissioners to receive
Louisiana when the Purchase was arranged in 1803. He was still on
the Spanish pay roll at that time. Wilkinson's true record came
to light only when the Spanish archives were opened to

There were British agents also in the Old Southwest, for the
dissatisfaction of the Western men inspired in Englishmen the
hope of recovering the Mississippi Basin. Lord Dorchester,
Governor of Canada, wrote to the British Government that he had
been approached by important Westerners; but he received advice
from England to move slowly. For complicity in the British
schemes, William Blount, who was first territorial Governor of
Tennessee and later a senator from that State, was expelled from
the Senate.

Surely there was never a more elaborate network of plots that
came to nothing! The concession to Americans in 1796 of the right
of navigation on the Mississippi brought an end to the scheming.

In the same year Tennessee was admitted to the Union, and John
Sevier was elected Governor Sevier's popularity was
undiminished, though there were at this time some sixty thousand
souls in Tennessee, many of whom were late comers who had not
known him in his heyday. His old power to win men to him must
have been as strong as ever, for it is recorded that he had only
to enter a political meeting--no matter whose--for the crowd to
cheer him and shout for him to "give them a talk."

This adulation of Sevier still annoyed a few men who had
ambitions of their own. Among these was Andrew Jackson, who had
come to Jonesborough in 1788, just after the collapse of the
State of Franklin. He was twenty-one at that time, and he is said
to have entered Jonesborough riding a fine racer and leading
another, with a pack of hunting dogs baying or nosing along after
him. A court record dated May 12, 1788, avers that "Andrew
Jackson, Esq. came into Court and produced a licence as an
Attorney With A Certificate sufficiently Attested of his Taking
the Oath Necessary to said office and Was admitted to Practiss as
an Attorney in the County Courts." Jackson made no history in old
Watauga during that year. Next year he moved to Nashville, and
one year later, when the Superior Court was established (1790),
he became prosecuting attorney.

The feud between Jackson and Sevier began about the time that
Tennessee entered the Union. Jackson, then twenty-nine, was
defeated for the post of Major General of the Militia through the
influence which Sevier exercised against him, and it seems that
Jackson never forgave this opposition to his ambitions. By the
close of Sevier's third term, however, in 1802, when Archibald
Roane became Governor, the post of Major General was again vacant.
Both Sevier and Jackson offered themselves for it, and Jackson
was elected by the deciding vote of the Governor, the military
vote having resulted in a tie. A strong current of influence had
now set in against Sevier and involved charges against his honor.
His old enemy Tipton was still active. The basis of the charges
was a file of papers from the entry-taker's office which a friend
of Tipton's had laid before the Governor; with an affidavit to
the effect that the papers were fraudulent. Both the Governor and
Jackson believed the charges. When we consider what system or
lack of system of land laws and land entries obtained in Watauga
and such: primitive communities--when a patch of corn sealed a
right and claims were made by notching trees with tomahawks--we
may imagine that a file from the land office might appear easily
enough to smirch a landholder's integrity. The scandal was, of
course, used in an attempt to ruin Sevier's candidacy for a
fourth term as Governor and to make certain Roane's reflection.
To this end Jackson bent all his energies but without success.
Nolichucky Jack was elected, for the fourth time, as Governor of

Not long after his inauguration, Sevier met Jackson in Knoxville,
where Jackson was holding court. The charges against Sevier were
then being made the subject of legislative investigation
instituted by Tipton, and Jackson had published a letter in the
Knoxville "Gazette" supporting them. At the sight of Jackson,
Sevier flew into a rage, and a fiery altercation ensued. The two
men were only restrained from leaping on each other by the
intervention of friends. The next day Jackson sent Sevier a
challenge which Sevier accepted, but with the stipulation that
the duel take place outside the State. Jackson insisted on
fighting in Knoxville, where the insult had been offered. Sevier
refused. "I have some respect," he wrote, "for the laws of the
State over which I have the honor to preside, although you, a
judge, appear to have none." No duel followed; but, after some
further billets-doux, Jackson published Sevier as "a base coward
and poltroon. He will basely insult but has not the courage to
repair the wound." Again they met, by accident, and Jackson
rushed upon Sevier with his cane. Sevier dismounted and drew his
pistol but made no move to fire. Jackson, thereupon, also drew
his weapon. Once more friends interfered. It is presumable that
neither really desired the duel. By killing Nolichucky Jack,
Jackson would have ended his own career in Tennessee--if Sevier's
tribe of sons had not, by a swifter means, ended it for him. At
this date Jackson was thirty-six. Sevier was fifty-eight; and he
had seventeen children.

The charges against Sevier, though pressed with all the force
that his enemies could bring to bear, came to nothing. He
remained the Governor of Tennessee for another six years--the
three terms in eight years allowed by the constitution. In 1811
he was sent to Congress for the second time, as he had
represented the Territory there twenty years earlier. He was
returned again in 1813. At the conclusion of his term in 1815 he
went into the Creek country as commissioner to determine the
Creek boundaries, and here, far from his Bonnie Kate and his
tribe, he died of fever at the age of seventy. His body was
buried with full military honors at Tuckabatchee, one of the
Creek towns. In 1889, Sevier's remains were removed to Knoxville
and a high marble spire was raised above them.

His Indian enemies forgave the chastisement he had inflicted on
them and honored him. In times of peace they would come to him
frequently for advice. And in his latter days, the chiefs would
make state visits to his home on the Nolichucky River. "John
Sevier is a good man"--so declared the Cherokee, Old Tassel,
making himself the spokesman of history. Sevier had survived his
old friend, co-founder with him of Watauga, by one year. James
Robertson had died in 1814 at the age of seventy-two, among the
Chickasaws, and his body, like that of his fellow pioneer, was
buried in an Indian town and lay there until 1825, when it was
removed to Nashville.

What of the red tribes who had fought these great pioneers for
the wide land of the Old Southwest and who in the end had
received their dust and treasured it with honor in the little
soil remaining to them? Always the new boundary lines drew closer
in, and the red men's foothold narrowed before the pushing tread
of the whites. The day came soon when there was no longer room
for them in the land of their fathers. But far off across the
great river there was a land the white men did not covet yet.
Thither at last the tribes--Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and
Creek--took their way. With wives and children, maids and youths,
the old and the young, with all their goods, their cattle and
horses, in the company of a regiment of American troops,
they--like the white men who had superseded them--turned
westward. In their faces also was the red color of the west, but
not newly there. From the beginning of their race, Destiny had
painted them with the hue of the brief hour of the dying sun.

Chapter XI. Boone's Last Days

One spring day in 1799, there might have been observed a great
stir through the valley of the Kanawha. With the dawn, men were
ahorse, and women, too. Wagons crowded with human freight wheeled
over the rough country, and boats, large and small, were afloat
on the streams which pour into the Great Kanawha and at length
mingle with the Ohio at Point Pleasant, where the battle was
fought which opened the gates of Kentucky.

Some of the travelers poured into the little settlement at the


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