Tennessee AHGP

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 fort.

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 the settlers.

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 night.

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 County.

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

 AHGP Tennessee

Tennessee History Stories, By T. C. Karns, B. F. Johnson Publishing Co., Atlanta, 1904.

 

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