Fort Loudoun

    The Cherokee were English allies in the French and Indian War.  The relationship dated back decades, as they were first visited by Virginians in 1673, and the first Anglo fur trader took up residence in Cherokee country in 1711.  The fur trade was lucrative for the settlers and for Europeans, and for the Indians it brought in items useful for hunting and farming.  At the same time it made them dependent and reduced the number of animals available for food.  The alliance with the English helped ensure this trade, peace with the settlers, and military assistance and deterrence against neighboring tribes.  In the 1730s, Cherokee officials even toured England and met the king.  But in 1746, the English learned that French agents based from Fort Toulouse in Alabama were trying to gain influence and an alliance with the Cherokee.  In response, the governor of South Carolina suggested to the Cherokee that a fort be built in the "Overhill' lands beyond the Smoky Mountains to promote trade and protect the Indians.  The Cherokee initially rejected this but accepted the next year.  The project, however, was delayed.  While the South Carolina plans were delayed, Virginia acted.  Major Andrew Lewis constructed a fort, but neither of the Carolina colonies would help man it, so it was abandoned, and the Cherokees destroyed it.

    In May 1756, South Carolina sent an expedition from Charleston under Captain Raymond Demere, and it arrived on site in September.  An engineer, John DeBrahm, was tasked with the design.  Objecting to the advance party's site, DeBrahm had the fort built on the side of a ridge - near present day Vonore, Tennessee.  DeBrahm and Demere had continuing disagreements on the fort's design, with Demere believing that DeBrahm's design was too complex for a frontier fort as it included outworks.  The disagreements were significant enough that DeBrahm moved to a Cherokee village a mile and a half away.  DeBrahm was a 'unique individual', and he seems to have helped turn the Cherokee against the soldiers, telling them, among other things, that the King had intended to give them free clothes but that the traders had taken them for themselves.  Then, on Christmas Day, 1757, DeBrahm abandoned his duties and left for Charleston.  Demere continued construction using his own ideas, eliminating the outworks and erecting a 15 foot tall palisade.

Reconstructed Cherokee Building

    Then, in February 1757, tension began with the Cherokee.  Chief Old Hop expressed dissatisfaction with the traders, saying that they were not following treaties.  In August 1757, Raymond Demere was relieved by his brother Paul, and the construction troops were disbanded.  The soldiers had begun farming the 700 acres that had been granted by the Cherokee, and missionaries began working in the area.  French agents based at Fort Toulouse continued to try to turn the Cherokee, and there was friction with the Anglos.  Cherokee warriors had joined Forbes' expedition to Fort Duquesne, but they were dissatisfied, thinking the English arrogant and gaining little from the journey.  Returning through Virginia, some Cherokee took horses from settlers, and angry settlers resorted to violence.  Cherokee took revenge in early 1759, attacking settlers on the frontier.  In response, the governor of South Carolina restricted trade and cut off arms transactions.  A delegation of Cherokee journeyed to Charleston but their suggestion of mutual forgiveness was rejected and on their return to Cherokee country, they were taken prisoner at Fort Prince George, SC.  The governor demanded from Attakullakulla, an influential Cherokee from the Overhill region, that those who had attacked the colonists be turned over.  Attakullakulla pointed out that the perpetrators were not from the Overhill region, so it would be difficult.  An agreement was made that the Cherokee would kick out French sympathizers and French agents, and in exchange, trade would be restarted.  Only a few perpetrators were turned over, and more importantly, raids continued, with Fort Prince George surrounded in early February 1760 and a skirmish at Fort Dobbs later in the month.

     At Fort Loudoun in late 1759, some Cherokee tried to disperse the garrison's cattle - the first sign of hostility.  In early 1760, the Cherokee were still reasonably friendly, but food supplies at the fort were getting lower - then Chief Old Hop died, and those Cherokee in favor of war took control.  The Cherokee began firing on the fort on March 20th.  On June 2nd, the Cherokee feigned a lifting of the siege, and two soldiers who left the fort were soon killed.

     Meanwhile, plans to relieve the fort had been made.  The same day as the two soldiers were killed at Fort Loudoun, a relief column clashed with the Cherokee on the way to Fort Prince George.  After failed negotiations, the column continued into Cherokee country in late June, burning villages and destroying crops, but knowing that the relief of Fort Loudoun was impractical, they returned to Charleston.  In May 1760, a relief column started from Virginia, but this column also failed.

     With food running out, men began deserting Fort Loudoun on August 4th and 5th, and the remaining men threatened to desert.  On August 6th, the officers met and agreed to ask for surrender terms.  Two days later, the surrendered men began the march toward Charleston.  The first day they made 15 miles to Cane Creek.  That night, their Cherokee escort disappeared, and the next morning, Cherokee warriors were seen surrounding the soldiers.  A fight ensued, and after about 20 soldiers were killed, including Captain Demere, the remaining soldiers were imprisoned and taken to Cherokee villages.  Some were killed and others were ransomed.  The reason for the Cherokee attack is not known, but it could have been that the soldiers did not fulfill the agreement to turn over the fort's supply of gunpowder, or it could have been retaliation for the previous killing of Cherokee hostages.

     An Anglo reprisal was in order, and in 1761, another expedition left Charleston, and another expedition left Virginia, but the war petered out in November.

     An archaeological study of the site of the fort was made before an artificial lake was completed.  The knowledge gained led to the reconstruction of the fort on earth fill overlooking the lake.  It is a wonderful site to visit.


The fort was built on a ridge with one side significantly higher than the other.  The sizes of the bastions varied widely.  We'll enter the uppermost bastion on the left of the photo.

The fort included several cannon and some mortars.


Northwestern Bastion

This is the view from the upper, northwest bastion of the fort.  The palisade was not vertical - it angles outward.  At right is the magazine, protected by stone.

Northern Side

Barracks are terraced along the slope.

Eastern Gate - Inside

Eastern Gate - Exterior

Locusts were planted in the ditch around the fort.  The thorns served a barrier similar to barbed wire.

Southeastern Bastion

This bastion included a blacksmith.

The fort included buildings devoted to trade with the Cherokee

Southern Gate


Copyright 2016 by John Hamill

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