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Events of 1793 Major Evans And Party Attacked

Throughout its course the year 1793 was to the settlement one of stirring events.

The number of killed or wounded is variously estimated at from fifty to seventy-five.

Almost daily during the summer months marauding parties of the enemy re-crossed the Tennessee River with scalps and horses which had been taken from the Tennessee and Kentucky settlements. One stands aghast at the awful carnage which was wrought. Early in January, on White's Creek, a man by the name of Gower was mortally wounded. Before death overtook him he succeeded in making his escape to Hickman's Station.

On the same day a party of Indians were pursued from Bledsoe's Station, where they had stolen the horses on which they escaped. In their flight they lost several guns and a quantity of plunder, all of which was captured by the whites.

Hugh Tenin had built a cabin on Red River, west of Clarksville. On January 16, while he was building a fence around his clearing, the savages shot him from ambush, captured his horse and fled.

Indians now thronged the banks of the Cumberland on the lookout for boat parties, which they usually attacked while ascending the river. The reason for this was twofold: First, because the crews were preoccupied with rowing and therefore less vigilant, and second, because the returning boats were always ladened with goods and provisions.

About the first of January, Major Evan Shelby, in company with others, had gone to Louisville, then known as the Falls of the Ohio, for a boat load of supplies. On January 18, while returning with a cargo of salt and other necessities, the boat was fired upon from the river bank by a party of Creeks. This was in Stewart County at a point opposite the present site of Dover. Major Shelby, James Harney and a Negro man belonging to Moses Shelby were killed. The savages plundered the boat and scattered and destroyed what they could not carry away. Then, dressed in the clothes of the dead and armed with the captured swords and rifles, they marched off in great state.

Some of this paraphernalia was found among them by Colonel Tits worth while searching for his daughter in 1795. Major Shelby was a brother of Gov. Isaac Shelby, of Kentucky, and a son of Gen. Evan Shelby, of North Carolina.

Having settled in the Cumberland some years previous, he had already filled many positions of honor and trust. His death was mourned as a public calamity.

Two days after the capture of the Shelby party, three boats belonging to French traders were fired upon while ascending the river. David Crow and a man named Gaskins were killed outright. Wells, Milliken and Priest were wounded. The latter died from the effects of a shot in the knee. Milliken recovered, but, as a result of the encounter, carried through life five bullets in various parts of his body.

Overall and Burnett were returning from Kentucky, having in charge nine packhorses loaded with "goods salt and whisky." On January 22, at a lonely place in the road, they were pounced upon by the enemy and slain. Overall had been a scout. Presumingly on this account the savages chopped him with their tomahawks, cutting the flesh from his bones. The horses with their burdens were captured.

An event of unusual importance this year was the death of Col. Isaac Bledsoe on the morning of April 1. Together with several Negro men he was going from his station to a neighboring clearing for the purpose of mending some burning log-heaps. The Indians, who were in waiting by the path, directed a deadly fire at Colonel Bledsoe, inflicting wounds from which he died almost instantly. They then deliberately scalped him and went on their way. The settlement was long in mourning on account of Colonel Bledsoe's tragic death. As previously recorded, his body was buried beside that of his brother, Anthony, on the hill south of his station at Bledsoe's Lick.

In 1908 a fitting monument to the memory of the Bledsoes was erected over their graves at Castalian Springs, Sumner County. It was provided by contributions from descendants of the two brothers. Those chief in promoting this enterprise were Col. Oscar F. Bledsoe, of Grenada, Miss., and Col. J. G. Cisco, of Nashville.

Capt. Sam Hays was killed near the home of John Donelson, Jr., west of the Hermitage.

Thomas Sharp Spencer and Robert Jones, in company with Mrs. Nathaniel Parker, formerly Mrs. Anthony Bledsoe, were passing on horseback from the Walnutfield Station to Greenfield. When about two miles from Gallatin, and near the corner of the farm now owned by Harris Brown, they came face to face with a party of Indians. The latter opened fire, and Jones fell dead from his horse. With raised tomahawks they rushed toward his companions, but recognizing Spencer, of whom they stood in mortal dread, called a halt. Ordering Mrs. Parker to turn her horse and run toward Gallatin, Spencer covered her retreat by dashing back and forth in front of the savages, pointing his gun as though he intended to shoot. This was kept up until she was beyond their reach. Then wheeling his own horse about Spencer followed his companion to a place of safety.


Monument to Cols. Anthony and Isaac Bledsoe,
Castalian Springs, Sumner County, Tennessee

Because of disasters to them usually attended on such occasions, the Indians had now grown wary of attacking the stations. They explained this fear by saying, ''White man keep heap big guns and much dogs." However, an attempt to capture Greenfield is yet to be recorded.

This fort recently equipped with lookout station and heavy stockade was regarded as one of the strongest in the settlement, but just at this time was poorly manned. It was situated on a lofty eminence, from which site one may look today over a landscape of surpassing beauty. There was about the fort a spacious clearing and surrounding this on every side was a cane brake from twelve to fifteen feet high.

During the afternoon of April 26, three Negro men were plowing in a field near the fort. One of these was Abraham, formerly body servant to Col. Anthony Bledsoe. They were guarded the while by an Irish sentry whose name was Jarvis.

About two hours before sundown, General William Hall, then a young man, went down from the fort to see how the work was progressing. While he stood talking to Abraham, the dogs which had been lying near where Jarvis was stationed, suddenly became excited and rushed toward the canebrake. Feeling sure that the Indians were close by, General Hall ordered the men to unhitch their horses, and they all returned to the house.

Shortly after daylight next morning while Mrs. Clendening and several of the women were out milking the cows, a drove of half wild cattle came rushing from the woods down the lane toward the fort. About the same time Jarvis came by with the Negro men on their way to the field. Mrs. Clendening begged them not to go, saying that she believed the Indians would be upon them in a short time, but Jarvis insisted that there was no danger. He said they had lost two hours of the previous afternoon, and must now go and finish their plowing. While Mrs. Clendening went in to arouse the men who were yet asleep in the fort, the firing of guns was heard. Jarvis and the Negroes, their horses abandoned, came running with all speed toward the station pursued by several bands of the enemy. General Hall sprang out of bed and partially dressing himself, seized his rifle and shot pouch and rushed bareheaded from his cabin. Outside he was joined by Mr. Wilson, a trusted soldier, who happened to be passing, and together they started to the aid of Jarvis and his men. Just then another party of about twenty Indians who were ambushed along the lane arose and fired a volley at Hall and Wilson. The latter jumped the fence and ran toward the savages, who, their guns empty, now turned and fled.

In the meantime Neely and James Hays had come out of the fort and were going to the aid of their comrades. Another squad of Indians came running through a wheat field and tried to intercept them. In doing so they came close to Hall and Wilson, but when they discovered the latter they fell flat in the wheat. Directly one of them wishing to see the lay of the land, poked his head above the tall grain. He received a bullet from General Hall's rifle, which caused his moccasin heels to describe a semicircle in the air, after which he landed face downward, dead.

The four white men now ran forward and gave battle to the force in pursuit of the field hands, and a fierce conflict ensued.

Jarvis and one of the Negroes called Prince were killed. A shot passed through General Hall's hair clipping out a lock, which Neely said was thrown a foot into the air. The fire from the Indians finally ceased, and the settlers started to the fort. Looking back they saw Old Abraham, who had killed one antagonist, coming on a run for his life with a strapping big Indian after him. Seeing that he was losing ground the Indian stopped and began in a deliberate manner to reload his rifle. Hays fired and shot him in the arm pit through and through, killing him instantly. The Indian force numbered about two hundred and sixty. In retreating they left four dead on the field, but carried away the wounded. The horses belonging to the field hands were captured.

Soon after they had departed a company of fifty men under Major George Winchester, having heard the firing, arrived at the fort. A council was held, but it was decided that pursuit should not be made, as it was thought probable that the savages would lie in wait and entrap them.

A few days later Old Abraham, who was a good soldier and marksman, was passing at nightfall from Bledsoe's Lick to Greenfield. When in the midst of a dense thicket about half way between, he came face to face with two well-known Cherokee chiefs, "Maddog" and "John Taylor," the latter a half-breed and a noted plunderer.

Old Abe leveled his gun and fired, killing ''Maddog." He then turned about and ran toward the Lick. Taylor carried away and buried the body of his comrade. This done he returned to his nation, and was never seen again in the settlement.

About the middle of June, James Steel and his daughter, Betsy, a beautiful girl seventeen years old, were killed and scalped near Greenfield. In company with Mr. Steel's son, and his brother, Robert, they were on their way to Morgan's fort at the mouth of Dry Fork.

When they left Greenfield, General Hall and several other members of the Light Horse Scouts, a local organization, offered to guard them over, but the elder Steel declined, saying that he feared no danger. When scarcely out of sight of the fort the firing of guns told of their peril. General Hall and his men mounted their horses and galloped down the road to the rescue, but the red hand of the Indian had done its bloody work. Steel had fallen under the first fire. The daughter, who was riding behind her father, was knocked off the horse, stabbed and scalped. She was yet alive when the scouts came up, but died while being carried back to the station'. Robert Steel and his nephew made their escape.

The noted scout and hunter, Jacob Castleman, together with his relatives, Joseph and Hans Castleman, were killed at their station near Nashville on July 1. Abraham Castleman, who had long chafed under the restrictions thrown by the War Department around the local militia, could now no longer be restrained. General Robertson, who in this instance, was not hard to persuade, granted him the desired permission to raise a company of volunteers for the purpose of retaliation.

Castleman promptly enlisted a band of fifteen, and started in swift pursuit toward the southeast. When they reached the Tennessee, beyond which, by order of Secretary Knox, all parties of like character were forbidden to go, they had killed no Indians, according to Castleman, ''worth naming." Here ten of the company turned back. The remainder, consisting of Castleman, Frederick Stull, Zackariah Maclin, Jack Camp, Eli Hammond, and Zeke Caruthers, determined to visit Caesar in his own house. Painting and otherwise disguising themselves as Indians, they crossed the river near Nickajack. They had not gone far when they came in sight of a band of fifty Creeks at dinner. The latter were seated on the ground, two and two, all painted black and evidently on their way to war.

So well-disguised were the settlers that they were allowed to come quite near, the Indians continuing their meal without the least alarm. Suddenly the invaders stopped, planted their feet, took deliberate aim, and fired. Each killed a man. "Betsy" was loaded with buckshot, and Castleman killed two. The Indians surprised and thrown into a panic by so sudden an attack fled in all directions, leaving the dead behind. Castleman and his dare devil band crossed the river and returned to Nashville, well pleased with the results of their expedition.

In December, James Robertson, Jr., son of General Robertson, and John Grimes were trapping for beaver on Caney Fork. A party of Cherokees came by, shot and scalped them, and threw their bodies into the river.

The following Middle Tennessee settlers were now prisoners in the various Indian nations: Mrs. Caffrey and child, Mrs. Williams and child, Mrs. Crockett and son, Mrs. Brown and Misses Thompson, Wilson, Titsworth and Scarlet, two boys and a little girl at Pocantala, a boy twelve years old at Big Tallassee, two boys and a girl at Oakfuskee. A lad fifteen years old, a man whom the Indians called John, a boy ten years old, and a young woman, age unknown; the latter at various villages among the southern tribes.

Some of these had been in captivity for years. Their only tidings of relatives and friends was their occasional recognition of bloody scalps and garments exhibited by the warriors on their return from murderous expeditions.

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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