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Events of 1789 Col. John Sevier Elected To Congress

By the settlers the year 1789 was regarded as one of comparative peace. Colonel Putnam, in his historical account of this period, boasts of the fact that during the year only thirty persons were killed a few scalped and wounded and one-half of the horses stolen. It is estimated that from the establishment of the settlement up to this time about one thousand horses had been captured and carried away. General Robertson and his brother Elijah had lost ninety-three, and their immediate neighbors seventy-five. North Carolina was now divided into four Congressional districts. Three of these were within the original boundaries of that State, while the fourth was known as the Washington District, and comprised the whole of the territory now included in Tennessee. In March an election was held in the Washington District for the purpose of choosing a representative to Congress. Col. John Sevier, of Watauga, was the only candidate, and by unanimous vote became the first in Tennessee to hold that office.

On January 20 the Indians killed Captain Hunter and wounded Hugh F. Bell in front of Johnson's Station, near Nashville. A party of whites overtook them after an hour's ride, whereupon the savages turned upon their pursuers, shot Major Kirkpatrick and wounded John Foster and William Brown.

Hugh Webb and Henry Ramsey, the latter one of Colonel Robertson's trusted scouts, were returning from Kentucky, where they had gone for a supply of ammunition and salt. While following the trail between Morgan's Station and Greenfield, in Sumner County, they were waylaid and shot through and through. In February John Helin was at work a short distance from Johnathan Robertson's station, six miles below Nashville. A band of horse thieves came by, shot Helin, stole a drove of horses from a neighboring field and hurried off south toward the Creek nation. A party known as Captain Murry's company gave chase. In this company among others were Thomas Cox, Robert Evans, Jacob Castleman, Luke Anderson and William Pillow. It will be remembered that Castleman, Anderson and Pillow were with Captain Shannon on the expedition to the Tennessee River during which the chief Big Foot was killed. They crossed Duck River, in Maury County, five miles below Columbia. Continuing their pursuit day and night they overtook the Indians on the bank of the Tennessee in North Alabama. The savages, thinking themselves beyond danger, were taken unawares, having been betrayed by the smoke from their camp fires.


Gov. John Sevier

While yet undiscovered, Captain Murry and his men were able to completely surround them, leaving the river as their only avenue of escape. The scouts stationed on the hillside above opened fire, killing one of their number, whereupon, finding their flight hedged about on every side, some of them jumped into the river. The latter were shot by some of the troops, who, suspecting this movement, had taken position within range. Several of the savages made an effort to conceal themselves along the bank, but were found out and killed. The entire band, consisting of eleven warriors, was destroyed. There were with them several squaws, who were taken prisoners but later released.

During the month of June Colonel Robertson, with a squad of hands, was at work in a field half a mile from his house. A watchman had been stationed in the edge of the woods to keep a lookout for the enemy. About 11 o'clock in the forenoon he heard suspicious noises in a thicket nearby and gave the alarm. Colonel Robertson started toward the fence, but before reaching it was shot through the foot. Other shots were fired, but none took effect.

An order was issued for immediate pursuit of the foe. Realizing that because of his wound he was unable to lead the chase, Colonel Robertson is said to have exclaimed, ''Oh, if I only had Old Captain Rains and Billie here!" meaning Capt. John Rains and Colonel Robertson's brother, William Robertson, both of whom were temporarily absent from the settlement.

The sixty men who volunteered to go were placed under command of Lieut. Col. Elijah Robertson. Andrew Jackson, then a young lawyer recently emigrated from North Carolina to the Cumberland settlement, was one of the party. At the last moment Lieutenant Robertson was detained and command of the expedition fell to the lot of Sampson Williams. Meeting at the residence of Colonel Robertson early next morning the march was begun. They followed the trail of the enemy through McCutcheon's trace up West Harpeth to the highlands along Duck River. Here they discovered that they were losing ground and concluded that so large a force could not overtake the retreating foe. Accordingly Captain Williams selected twenty of the bravest men among them Andrew Jackson and with these pushed forward as rapidly as possible. At length, because of the rugged condition of the country across which the trace led, the horses were left in charge of two of the men and the rest proceeded on foot. They followed up the river all the afternoon and at sundown crossed with the trail and came down on the other side until the darkness and thick cane forced them into camp for the night. On the march again by the coming dawn they were soon surprised to find that they had halted the night before just over a narrow ridge from where the Indians were camped. The Indians were about thirty in number. When the pursuing party came in sight some of them were astir preparing the morning meal, while others lay stretched upon the ground asleep. Captain Williams ordered a charge, and though yet at least fifty or sixty yards away the troops opened fire upon the camp, killing one and wounding six. The Indians were taken completely by surprise, and carrying with them the wounded, fled in all haste across the river without returning a shot. In their flight they left in camp sixteen guns, nineteen shot pouches and all their baggage, consisting of blankets, moccasins, bearskins and camp utensils. The whites did not pursue them further, but gathering up the booty, returned to their horses and thence back to Nashville.

The success of this raid was marred to some extent by reason of the haste of Captain Williams and his men in firing upon the enemy at long range. A few more moments of quiet approach would have made the shots doubly effective. But whatever may be said of the failure of this raid, it at least gave to Andrew Jackson an inspiration in Indian fighting which served his country to good purpose at a later period. Ever after this pursuit Jackson and Captain Williams were fast friends, and in the years of association which followed spent many leisure hours together recounting their experiences on the occasion of the events above mentioned.

Late in the fall Gen. James Winchester was out with a scouting party on Smith's Fork, in DeKalb County. A fresh trail of the enemy was discovered and pursuit was made along a buffalo path down the creek. The Indians discovered that they were being followed, and accordingly selected their battleground. The path along which pursuit was being made led through an open forest to a crossing of the stream. Immediately on the other side of this stream was a heavy canebrake. Joseph Muckelrath and John Hickerson, General Winchester's spies, were a little way in advance of the pursuing party. Just as they crossed the ford and entered the cane the Indians, who were lying in ambush, fired upon them, killing Hickerson. Muckelrath escaped injury. General Winchester and his men, hearing the shots, hurried on to the rescue of their comrades. In the battle which ensued Frank Heany was wounded. The Indians, having much the advantage in position, Winchester thought best to retreat, hoping thereby to draw them out of the cane. However, his strategy did not succeed, as the enemy refused to follow. There were in the pursuing party two Dutchmen by the name of Harpool, both brave soldiers. John, the elder brother, was a man of unusual intelligence and prudence, but Martin, the younger of the two, was possessed of a temperament which may very properly be described as foolhardy. Just at this stage of the contest the Indians were hidden in the cane under a second bank of the stream. From this position they kept up an incessant fire at the Harpools on the banks above, though the latter were unable to locate them. Finally John told his brother to go down and drive the "rascals" up while he killed them. Acting on this suggestion Martin raised a loud whoop and went bounding down through the cane toward the savages, making as much noise as a regiment. Terrified by this demonstration the Indians sought safety in flight, leaving to the whites a clear field. They afterwards reproached the settlers for having what they termed a ''fool warrior" on this expedition. Ever thereafter Martin Harpool was known in the settlement as the "fool warrior." It was in this skirmish that Capt. James McCann killed "Moon," the hare-lipped Indian chief who is believed to have wounded and scalped Charles Morgan near Bledsoe's Lick two years before.


Gen. Jas. Winchester

In the settlement of Middle Tennessee Gen. James Winchester, who was a native of Maryland, rendered most excellent service. A Captain in the Revolutionary army, he shared for more than five years its struggles and privations. At the close of the war he came to the Cumberland country and settled on Bledsoe's Creek, in what is now the First Civil District of Sumner County. Here in 1801-2 he built on a cliff overlooking Bledsoe's Creek his fine old residence, Cragfont, which still stands. It is now the property of Mr. W. H. B. Satterwhite, a prominent farmer and stock-raiser of Sumner County. Cragfont was built of native sandstone by skillful workmen brought for that purpose from Baltimore, it is yet in good state of preservation.

The military services of General Winchester were invaluable to the early settlers, directing the scouts and spies and frequently pursuing the Indians in person, showing himself at all times a true and prudent officer. He was a member of the advisory council during the session of the Territorial Legislature in 1794 and later, a member of the State Senate. In the war of 1812 between the United States and England he received a General's commission and was ordered to take command of one wing of the army of the northwest. At the unfortunate battle of the River Raisin he was taken prisoner by the British and carried to Quebec, where he remained in captivity during the following winter.

At the close of the war of 1812, General Winchester returned to the quiet walks of private life, and in all his later dealings, as merchant and farmer, enjoyed the utmost respect and confidence of his fellow men. He reared a large and worthy family, one of whom, George W. Winchester, afterwards represented Sumner County in the State Legislature. He was father-in-law to the late Col. Alfred R. Wynne, whose daughters, the Misses Wynne, still reside in the house built by their father at Castalian Springs in the early part of the last century.

General Winchester died and was buried at Cragfont in 1826. There his remains now rest in the family burying-ground.

Early History of Middle Tennessee

Early History of Middle Tennessee, BY Edward Albright, Copyright, 1908, Brandon Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee, 1909

 

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