KILGORE-L ArchivesArchiver > KILGORE > 2002-01 > 1010685948
Subject: [KILGORE] Fort Robinson/Fort Patrick Henry
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 2002 13:05:48 EST
Hi to all my cousins,
Recently one of our cousins asked about the dates of Fort Robinson and Fort
Patrick Henry on the Long Island of the Holston.
I am just now beginning to feel a little better from an illness that had me
in the hospital a couple of days. Although I have been reading the
discussions, I had not felt "up to snuff" enough to reply until now.
Here is a lengthy post on something written by a local historian Muriel
Spoden on Fort Robinson, Fort Patrick Henry and the Long Island of the
Holston. It gives the descriptions of the fort as well as some names of the
early settlers here in what is now Sullivan County, TN.
During the French and Indian War the Cherokees were
closely allied with the British, and Fort Loudoun, the first
British fort erected on Tennessee soil, was constructed by
South Carolina provincial troops to protect the Cherokees
from the French influence and to insure the Carolina Indian
By 1760, however, the amicable relations of the British
and the Cherokees strained to the breaking point due to a
series of Cherokee murders by white men. Powerful Cherokee
chiefs, Connecorte, Oconostota, Attacullaculla and Ostenaco
kept the peace and demanded punishment for these outrages.
When their attempts proved fruitless, the Cherokees sought
reprisals which reached extreme brutality. They massacred
the Fort Loudoun garrison during the winter of 1760 and
destroyed the fort. South Carolina appealed to Virginia for aid
in bringing the Cherokees to the peace table and Long Island
was chosen as the launching point for the campaign.
Colonel William Byrd III was the first commander of the
large expedition but resigned complaining that six hundred
men was insufficient for such a perilous operation. Colonel
Adam Stephen, a most competent man, was then assigned the
command. He immediately appointed Major Andrew Lewis to
supervise the construction of a wagon road from present-day
Chilhowie, Virginia to the Long Island of the Holston. On July
16, 1761, Mayor Lewis and three companies began cutting the
road through the primeval forest. This is the oldest road in
Tennessee and as a western frontier road was preceded only
by the road which General Braddock built to western
Pennsylvania in 1754 and 1755.
The Island Road was completed in September and
Stephen's militia soon marched down it to a spot opposite the
eastern end of the Long Island. Here they erected Fort
Robinson, the second British fort built on Tennessee soil. The
fort was "situated on a beautiful level, and was built up on a
large plan, with proper bastions, and walls thick enough to
stop the force of a small cannon shot. The gates were spiked
with large nails, so that the wood was all covered. Cannons
were mounted on its bastions and within the enclosure were
houses used for storing food and arms. The six hundred
Virginians in the fort were soon joined by four hundred North
Carolina troops under the command of Colonel Hugh Waddell.
This imposing force stood poised to march against the
Cherokees but the Indians wisely decided to treat for peace.
Four hundred Cherokees arrived at the Long Island where
they made camp in November, 1761. Chief Standing Turkey
sent a speech to the British in which the chief expressed his
sorrow for the war and vowed, "the Hatchett that has been so
long at War is now buried under the ground, never to be seen
by the English again." Thus hostilities with the Cherokees
ceased, and the Long Island of the Holston was witness to
peace for almost fifteen years.
After this Fort Robinson Treaty was concluded, Colonel
Waddells regiment returned to North Carolina and all but one
company of Virginia's regiment were mustered out of service.
Captain John McNeill's company stayed for a short time to
garrison the fort. The beauty and fertility of the Holston Valley
in this region induced some of the soldiers to remain and
build a small settlement. These early settlers were John
Sawyer, John Anderson, Robert Christian, William Anderson,
John McNair, Nathan Page and Gilbert Christian. During the
winter of 1761-2 they built cabins and made numerous
improvements on Reedy Creek about a mile above its
junction with the Holston River opposite the Long Island.
Early in 1762 they planted corn, and had they remained they
would have been the first permanent settlers on Tennessee
soil. By late summer of 1762, they discovered, much to their
disappointment, that their settlement was within Edmund
Pendleton's land grant and they were obliged to abandon their
claims and return to the Valley of Virginia.
Gilbert Christian, however, was determined to one day
return. He returned to explore the lower Holston region in the
autumn of 1762 and again in 1769.
>From ancient times the Long Island was a stopping place
on the Great Indian Warrior Path, the major pathway to the
Southwest, which later became the Great Stage Road. With the
restoration of peace on the frontier and the convenience of
the Island Road, the Long Island became a favorite spot for
trading with the Cherokees, especially since the Indians had
been reduced to a state of extreme distress by the late war
and were consequently in a poor bargaining position which
enabled the traders to gain handsome profits. The Long
Island was also a frequent stopping place for traders on their
way to the Cherokees Overhill Towns along the Little Tennessee
and Hiwasse rivers. The Long Island served as a "jumping off point"
for adventurers and settlers heading west and northwest.
During the French-Indian War lord Dunmore ordered the construction of
forts all along the frontier. Consequently, in 1773 and 1774, a
network of forts was erected or refurbished in the lower
Holston region. There were nine known forts in the western-
most settlements within the present-day boundaries of
Sullivan County which included the Long Island. Evan
Shelby's Fort was a large stockade built at the site of
present-day Bristol. Jacob Womack's Fort and the Little Fort
were on the Watauga Road at Shoate's Ford, now Bluff City,
King's Mill Fort, commanded by Gilbert Christian, was on the
North Fork of Reedy Creek beside Reedy Creek Road and it
served as a depot for supplies. Three forts on the Island Road
were Anthony Bledsoe's, near Sapling Grove, now Bristol,
Moses Looney's Fort and Eaton's Fort, about six miles east of
the Long Island. The forts closest to the long Island were
southwest of Eaton's Fort on the Plantations of Thomas
Ramsey and Bryce Russell. Sr .
The half-breed Mingo Indian, Chief logan brought terror to
the Reedy Creek settlement when his band of warriors sought
white blood indiscriminately. On September 24, 1774 he
massacred the John Roberts family while lieutenant
Christian, commander of nearby King's Mill Fort, was away.
As the news of the massacre spread, the families all along
the lower Holston fled to the forts, and urgent appeals were
sent for aid. Captains Daniel Boone, Daniel Smith, James
Thompson and William Cocke together with what men they
could collect were sent to defend the forts and scout the
forest for marauding Indians. On October 4, Colonel
Campbell ordered some of these rangers to operate from the
Long Island of the Holston. By August 1st, virtually all the
people in Fincastle County remained gathered in small forts
while their men marched in Captain Evan Shelby's company to
fight in the Battle of Point Pleasant.
By August 1, 1776 Colonel William Christian was making
preparations for the Cherokee Campaign against the Overhill
Towns. There was "no doubt of raising the number required"
for Christian's expedition because the frontiersmen, confident
with victory at Long Island Flats, "were greatly exasperated
against the Savages and anxious for Revenge." Captains
Evan Shelby and Thomas Madison, and Lieutenant James
McGavock were appointed to supply the arm with provisions.
Word arrived on August 9 that "two exceedingly fine
Companies of Riflemen at Watauga" were "willing to enter the
service of Virginia, either to range the Frontiers, or to go on
the Expedition." Colonel Preston wrote the Virginia Council
for permission to place these North Carolinians on the
payroll of the Virginia militia.
Before the expedition could be undertaken, a large fort,
formidable enough to protect the frontier, had to be erected.
Colonel Christian assigned Lieutenant Colonel William Russell
the command of the Fincastle Rangers, who were to erect the
fort at the Long Island. Russell gathered supplies, loaded
wagons with battle and construction gear, and led his men
over the Island Road to build Fort Patrick Henry. On arriving
at the Long Island, Colonel Russell selected an area in a field
by several springs opposite the eastern end of the Long Island
to erect the fort. The spot was, on or near the same location
that Fort Robinson had been built in 1761. On this site
the new imposing fort was constructed. Its bastions rose high
over the Holston River about 200 yards below the upper east
end of the Long Island, standing where the bank of the wide
river was very high and where the river channel was quite
deep. The stockade enclosing three acres of ground, about a
hundred yards square, had three sides of the fort enclosed,
the fourth side being the river bank, which was considered
"almost impregnable." The Walls had bastions at every
corner, and in the center of the enclosure stood log cabins for
military stores, and a home for the commander. Several small
springs broke out of the river bank by the fort, although the
river itself was their main source of water. Fort Patrick Henry,
named in honor of Virginia's first governor, was the largest
fort west of the mountains.
By September 5 Captain Joseph Martin of Pittsylvania
County, Virginia had marched his men to Eaton's Fort where
they camped until the erection of Fort Patrick Henry was
completed. On September 22, the fort was ready for Colonel
Russell's rangers, including a company from Black's Fort
(Abingdon, Virginia) to guard it while Colonel Christian
ordered the officers under his command to march their men
"with all possible dispatch" to the "Big Island on Holston
River in Fincastle Company, the Place of General Rendezvous,"
in preparation for the coming Cherokee campaign in the area of what is
now Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
I hope this helps clear up the dates and gives some information on the layout
of the area around what is now Kingsport, TN.
Until later, good hunting,
Jerry Penley in Kingsport, TN. www.Penjaccphoto.com