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but all accustomed to contests with wild beasts; and by instinct and training they mortally hated Indians. Seeing the line of savages drawn up between the fort and their masters, they promptly sallied out and made a most furious onset upon their astonished foes. Taking advantage of this most opportune diversion, the whites ran through the lines and got into the fort, the Indians being completely occupied in defending themselves from the dogs. Five of the whites were killed, and they carried two wounded men into the fort. Another man, when almost in safety, was shot, and fell with a broken thigh; but he had reloaded his gun as he ran, and he killed his assailant as the latter ran up to scalp him. The people from the fort then, by firing their rifles, kept his foes at bay until he could be rescued; and he soon recovered from his hurt. Yet another man was overtaken almost under the walls, the Indian punching him in the shoulder with the gun as he pulled the trigger; but the gun snapped, and a hunter ran out of the fort and shot the Indian.
The gates were closed, and the whites all ready; so the Indians abandoned their effort and drew off. They had taken five scalps and a number of horses; but they had failed in their main object, and the whites had taken two scalps, besides killing and wounding others of the red men, who were carried off by their comrades.
After the failure of this attempt the Indians did not, for some years, make any formidable attack on any of the larger stations. Though the most dan
of all foes on their own ground, their extreme caution, and dislike of suffering punishment prevented them from ever making really determined efforts to carry a fort openly by storm; moreover, these stockades were really very defensible against men unprovided with artillery, and there is no reason for supposing that any troops could have carried them by fair charging, without suffering altogether disproportionate loss. The red tribes acted in relation to the Cumberland settlements exactly as they had previously done toward those on the Kentucky and Watauga. They harassed the settlers from the outset; but they did not wake up to the necessity for a formidable and combined campaign against them until it was too late for such a campaign to succeed. If, at the first, any one of these communities had been forced to withstand the shock of such Indian armies as were afterward brought against it, it would, of necessity, have been abandoned.
Throughout '81 and '82 the Cumberland settlers were worried beyond description by a succession of small war parties.
In the first of these years they raised no corn; in the second they made a few crops on fields they had cleared in 1780. No man's life was safe for an hour, whether he hunted, looked up strayed stock, went to the spring for water, or tilled the fields. If two men were together, one always watched while the other worked, ate, or drank; and they sat down back to back, or, if there were several, in a ring, facing outward, like a covey of quail. The Indians were especially fond of steal
ing the horses; the whites pursued them in bands, and occasionally pitched battles were fought, with loss on both sides, and apparently as often resulting in the favor of one party as of the other. The most expert Indian fighters naturally became the leaders, being made colonels and captains of the local militia. The position and influence of the officers depended largely on their individual prowess; they were the actual, not titular, leaders of their men. Old Kasper Mansker, one of the most successful, may be taken as a type of the rest. He was ultimately made a colonel, and shared in many expeditions; but he always acted as his own scout, and never would let any of his men ride ahead or abreast of him, preferring to trust to his own eyes and ears and knowledge of forest warfare. The hunters, who were especially exposed to danger, were also the men who inflicted most loss on the Indians, and though many more of the settlers than of their foes were slain, yet the tables were often turned on the latter, even by those who seemed their helpless victims. Thus, once, two lads were watching at a deer lick, when some Indians came to it; each of the boys chose his man, fired, and then fled homeward; coming back with some men they found they had killed two Indians, whose scalps they took.
The eagerness of the Indians to get scalps caused them frequently to scalp their victims before life was extinct; and, as a result, there were numerous instances in which the scalped unfortunate, whether man, woman, or child, was rescued and recovered,
living many years.
One of these instances is worth giving in the quaint language of the old Tennessee historian, Haywood:
“In the spring of the year 1782 a party of Indians fired upon three persons at French Lick, and broke the arms of John Tucker and Joseph Hendricks, and shot down David Hood, whom they scalped and stamped, as he said, and followed the others toward the fort; the people of the fort came out and repulsed them and saved the wounded men. Supposing the Indians gone, Hood got up softly, wounded and scalped as he was, and began to walk toward the fort on the bluff, when, to his mortification, he saw, standing upon the bank of the creek, a number of Indians, the same who had wounded him before, making sport of his misfortune and mistake. They then fell upon him again, and having given him, in several places, new wounds that were apparently mortal, then left him. He fell into a brush heap in the mow, and next morning was tracked and found by his blood, and was placed as a dead man in one of the outhouses, and was left alone; after some time he recovered, and lived many years.
Many of the settlers were killed, many others left for Kentucky, Illinois, or Natchez, or returned to their old homes among the Alleghanies; and in 1782 the inhabitants, who had steadily dwindled in numbers, became so discouraged that they again mooted the question of abandoning the Cumberland district
in a body. Only Robertson's great influence prevented this being done; but by word and example he finally persuaded them to remain. The following spring brought the news of peace with Great Britain. A large inflow of new settlers began with the new year, and though the Indian hostilities still continued, the Cumberland country throve apace, and by the end of 1783 the old stations had been rebuilt and many new ones founded. Some of the settlers began to live out on their clearings. Rude little corn-mills and “hominy pounders” were built beside some of the streams. The piles of furs and hides that had accumulated in the stockades were sent back to the coast country on pack-horses. After this year there was never any danger that the settlements would be abandoned.
During the two years of petty but disastrous Indian warfare that followed the attack on Freelands, the harassed and diminishing settlers had been so absorbed in the contest with the outside foe that they had done little toward keeping up their own internal government. When 1783 opened new settlers began to flock in, the Indian hostilities abated, and commissioners arrived from North Carolina under a strong guard, with the purpose of settling the claim of the various settlers3 and laying off the bounty lands promised to the Continental troops. *
Haywood. Six hundred and forty acres were allowed by pre-emption claim to each family settled before June 1, 1780; after that date they had to make proper entries in the courts. The salt-licks were to be held as public property. 4 Isaac Shelby was one of these commissioners.