Old Fort Loudon, Tennessee
Old Fort Loudon is noted in Tennessee
history. It was the first structure erected by English people
within the State. It stood on a bluff on the south bank of the
Little Tennessee River only half a mile above the mouth of the
Tellico. Fading lines of earthwork and some crumbling stones are
still to be seen on the old site. Inside of the lines is an old
well which gave water to the fort. These are now the only
remains of this first out-post which our forefathers planted in
the wilderness of Tennessee.
In 1756 the Earl of Loudon was governor
of Virginia, by appointment of the king of England. He had
command of the military forces, and thought the building of a
fort necessary to protect his frontier and control the Indians,
who were in danger of being won over to the support of the
French in the great struggle then going on. So he sent Andrew
Lewis to build a fort in the heart of the Cherokee nation. It
was named Fort Loudon after the Virginia governor who ordered it
to be built.
For a time after the fort was built, the
Indians were quite friendly. Reports were carried back to the
old colonies that the new land was very fertile and the climate
delightful. This brought a crowd of settlers from Virginia and
North Carolina, and quite a village sprang up around the new
You must not think of this fort as
having high walls of stone like the castles of Europe. It was,
on the contrary, quite a crude affair. A line of earthworks was
thrown up around four or five acres of ground. Upon the top of
this, heavy timbers were set on end to form a wall perhaps ten
or twelve feet high. At suitable places along this stockade
cannon were planted. Inside the stockade cabins were built for
As has been stated, the Indians were
friendly at first. In fact, the fort had been built by their
consent. After a while, as the settlers kept coming in and the
number of armed men increased, the savages became jealous. It is
probable also that the French had something to do with making
them unfriendly to the English, and their encounter with the
Virginians in returning from the capture of Fort Du Quesne
doubtless made them even more hostile. Before two years had
passed the Indians began to be very sulky. They were not so
ready to bring corn and venison to the people in the fort. The
old warriors had a gram look, and the settlers around the fort
thought it best to sleep inside the walls at night. Matters
finally settled down to a regular siege.
Fort Loudon was so very far from the old
settlements that no help could be had from that source. As has
been indicated, it was alone in the heart of the wilderness, and
was the only English post west of the Great Smoky Mountains.
There were no roads, and, of course, nobody ever traveled that
way. It was therefore difficult to carry news of the sad plight
of the fort and the great need for help to the settlements in
Virginia and North Carolina. Messengers were sent out, but
before they got far the Indians killed them, or captured them
and brought them back. The savages watched so closely that it
was difficult to leave the fort without being seen, even at
Matters went from bad to worse until
1760, when the food in the fort was nearly all gone. For a whole
month the people had little to eat but the flesh of their horses
and dogs. They would have fared still worse had it not been for
some friendly Indian women. These women stole in by a secret
passage at night with a small supply of beans. Nancy Ward, who
was always the friend of the white race, no doubt had much to do
with this kind deed.
At length the people in the fort began
to despair. The savages had become so hostile that an attack
might be made at any time. Little hope of relief from home was
left. They were slowly dying of starvation. Each day as the sun
rose over the Blue Mountains their fate seemed to grow darker
and more hopeless.
Finally a council was held, and it was
agreed that they could do no more than give up the fort and
trust themselves to the mercy of the Indians. Captain Stuart was
sent to Chota to ask for terms. This town was about five miles
up the river from the fort. It was the capital, and contained
the council house in which the Indians decided all great
questions. Captain Stuart had many friends among the Indians,
and it was supposed that he could make the best terms.
In due time Captain Stuart returned with
the treaty. By the terms of this treaty the people of the fort
were allowed to go back free to their friends in Virginia or the
Carolinas. They could take their guns and other things necessary
for the journey, and Indian hunters were to go along and kill
such game as was needed on the march. The sick were to be cared
for in the Indian towns. The fort, with its cannon, extra guns,
powder, and ball, was to be turned over to the Indians.
To the poor, half-starved people these
terms seemed very liberal, and they inarched out happy in the
belief that their troubles would soon be over. Although the
treaty had been signed by two chiefs only, the whites did not
expect any treachery on the part of the Indians.
Rejoicing over their good fortune, the
settlers decided to go to Fort Prince George, in the Carolinas.
The first day's march was directed towards the Great Smoky
Mountains, and the party encamped for the night near a little
Indian town on the Tellico plains. This spot is now in Monroe
The next morning about daylight a large
body of Indians fell upon them and slaughtered men, women, and
children. But few escaped. Two or three hundred were slain. It
is said that the Indians afterwards made a fence of their bones.
This was the end of Old Fort Loudon and of the first attempt to
make an English settlement in Tennessee. Visit
Tennessee History Stories, By T. C.
Karns, B. F. Johnson Publishing Co., Atlanta, 1904.