The Cherokee were English allies in the French and
The relationship dated back decades, as they were first visited
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
for hunting and farming. At the same time it made them
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
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
Reconstructed Cherokee Building
Then, in February 1757, tension began with the
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
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
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 fort included several cannon and some mortars.
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.
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.
This bastion included a blacksmith.
The fort included buildings devoted to trade with the Cherokee
Copyright 2016 by John Hamill
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