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On This Day In History: October 1, 1776 - Dragging Canoe

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  • Neshoba
    October 1, 1776: 1800 Virginians arrive in the overhill towns, and demand Dragging Canoe and Alexander Cameron. The two men were leaders of the Cherokees in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2001
      October 1, 1776: 1800 Virginians arrive in the "overhill" towns, and demand
      Dragging Canoe and Alexander Cameron. The two men were leaders of the
      Cherokees in anti-United States activities during the Revolutionary War. The
      Cherokees refuse to give them up. The Virginians will burn several towns.

      From Phil Konstantin's website, http://members.tripod.com/~PHILKON/


      Words Spoken - Dragging Canoe

      "Whole Indian Nations have melted away like snowballs in the sun more the
      white man's advance. They leave scarcely a name of our people except those
      wrongly recorded by their destroyers. Where are the Delewares? They have
      been reduced to a mere shadow of their former greatness. We had hoped that
      the white men would not be willing to travel beyond the mountains. Now that
      hope is gone.

      They have passed the mountains, and have settled upon Tsalagi Cherokee)
      land. They wish to have that usurpation sanctioned by treaty. When that is
      gained, the same encroaching spirit will lead them upon other land of the
      Tsalagi (Cherokees). New cessions will be asked. Finally the whole country,
      which the Tsalagi (Cherokees) and their fathers have so long occupied, will
      be demanded, and the remnant of the Ani Yvwiya, The Real People, once so
      great and formidable, will be compelled to seek refuge in some distant
      wilderness. There they will be permitted to stay only a short while, until
      they again behold the advancing banners of the same greedy host. Not being
      able to point out any further retreat for the miserable Tsalagi (Cherokees),
      the extinction of the whole race will be proclaimed. Should we not therefore
      run all risks, and incur all consequences, rather than to submit to further
      loss of our country?

      Such treaties may be alright for men who are too old to hunt or fight. As
      for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will hold our land."


      An account of those times, from the perspective of the life of a settler:


      By David W. Templin

      John Denton was born 17 June 1759 in Dunsmore County,
      Virginia. He was a son of Abraham and Mourning (Hogg) Denton.
      About 1775 John Denton moved with his family to the Watauga
      settlements, where he resided during the period of the
      Revolution. He moved a short distance south to the Nolichucky
      settlements about 1780, and then into what is now Cocke
      County, Tennessee about 1791.

      During the earlier part of the Revolution, the inhabitants of
      the Watauga and Nolichucky settlements were driven back to the
      older and safer settlements in Virginia by the Cherokee
      Indians at the urging of British agents among the Indians.

      The settlers of the Watauga and Nolichucky settlements were
      warned of the impending onslaught of the Cherokees by four
      traders from the Cherokee Nation. It appears that the traders
      who carried the warning were Isaac Thomas, William Falling,
      Jarret Williams and probably John Bryan(t). The warning was
      given to these traders by Nancy Ward, who helped them to
      escape from the Indian towns on the Little Tennessee and
      Tellico Rivers in present Monroe County, Tennessee. This was
      a three-pronged invasion by the,Indians with the main force
      led by the implacable foe of the settlers, the war chief of
      the Cherokees, Dragging Canoe. It was his intention to fall
      upon the settlers near the Long Island of Holston in what is
      now Sullivan County, and then carry the battle to the lower
      Virginia settlements. Thanks to the warning, conveyed to them
      by the traders and Nancy Ward, militia of the region had
      gathered. On 20 July 1776 at Island Flats near Long Island of
      Holston, the frontier militia under command of Captain James
      Thompson, who lived on the island, met and defeated the
      Indians. The militia was apparently composed of five
      companies commanded by Captains John Campbell, James Shelby,
      William Buchanan, William Cocke, and Thomas Madison in
      addition to that of James Thompson who was in overall command.
      Dragging Canoe's party was composed of about 170-200 warriors.

      A second force of Indians, under command of The
      Raven, raided the settlements in Carter Valley in present day
      Hawkins County. Settlers there had been warned of the
      holocaust and had fled their homes, with the men going to the
      nearest fort, and the women and children back to what i@ now
      Wythe County, Virginia. Finding little to deter them, the
      Indians made inroads into the settlements on the Clinch River,
      and in the neighborhood of The Wolf Hills (present day
      Abingdon), Virginia. The tide of Indian invasion rolled up to
      the Seven Mile Ford of the Holston. This took place in the
      late summer and early fall of 1776, And in early 1777 the
      Indians returned and raided Poor Valley.

      A third party of Indians, under command of Old Abram of
      Chilhowee, raided Fort Caswell on the Watauga 21 July 1776,
      but was beaten back. Although unable to accomplish any
      objectives of their invasion, the Indians remained for some
      time around the Nolichucky settlements.

      It appears that John Denton was not involved in any of the
      battles of July 1776 against the Indians. Probably he had
      accompanied the women and children back to the Virginia
      settlements. John Denton volunteered in a company of infantry
      commanded by Captain James Young at Riddles Fort of Holston
      River in Virginia. While on the march to join the army being
      assembled to march against the Cherokees on Little Tennessee
      River, Captain Young was killed, about 20 miles below Riddles
      Port. Lieutenant William Young commanded until they reached
      Long Island of the Holston where the company was placed under
      command of Captain James Shelby and Major Evan Shelby, in the
      army being assembled under command of Colonel William
      Christian. This army left the Long Island about 1 Oct 1776,
      and the first day marched six miles up Horse Creek, past the
      divide-with Lick Creek, and camped at Double Springs. Here
      they were joined by Watauga and Nolichucky troops under
      Captains James Robertson and John Sevier. The companies of
      James Robertson, John Sevier, James Thompson, Daniel Smith,
      and Gilbert Christian were formed into a battalion under Major
      Evan Shelby. The army of Colonel William Christian was made
      up of about 1800 men and marched 6 Oct 1776 from the Double
      Spring camp toward the Indian towns. They went down Lick
      Creek, in present Greene County, to its junction with
      Nolichucky River. During the night while the army was camped
      here Ellis Hardin, a trader at the Cherokee towns, came into
      camp with information that the Indians were waiting on the
      south side of the French Broad to contest the crossing of the
      river. From the camp at the mouth of Lick Creek the army
      marched across the Nolichucky and up Long Creek to its head,
      then down Dumplin Creek to the French Broad River. The army's
      march was evidently along the Great War Path of the Indians,
      and the ford across the French Broad was near Buckingham

      Before the army reached the ford they were met by Fallin, a
      trader who had a white flag, but this was disregarded by
      Colonel Christian. The Cherokee Nation was divided. One
      faction, led by Chief Dragging Canoe who had been wounded at
      the Battle of Island Flats 20 July 1776, wanted to abandon the
      towns along the Little Tennessee and withdraw further down the
      Holston (now Tennessee). The elders and other of the tribe
      wanted to remain in the beloved towns along the Little
      Tennessee. This faction prevailed, and the Cherokees sent
      Nathaniel Gist to seek peace from Colonel Christian. Later,
      Dragging Canoe, with many young Cherokees and some Creeks,
      would prevail and make many vicious raids against the settlers
      from the Chicamauga towns in the vicinity of the present day
      Chattanooga, Tennessee.

      Colonel Christian, having been told the Indians were prepared
      to contest the fording of French Broad at Buckingham Island,
      attempted a ruse. He had his men light a fire and pitch tents
      for each mess, as if the army meant to remain in camp on the
      north side of the French Broad River for several days. At
      8:00 P.M. he took 1100 men, marched about four miles below
      Buckingham Island and crossed the river at the ford discovered
      there by some scouts from John Sevier's company. It was the
      intention of Colonel Christian to attack the Indians drawn up
      to oppose the crossing of the river from behind before
      sunrise. To Christian's surprise there was no Indian force
      there. It is possible the crossing of the French Broad was
      made the night of 15 Oct 1776, Colonel Christian had stated in
      a report from the Bouble Spring camp 6 Oct 1776 that it was
      his intention to cross French Broad October 15. Christian
      allowed the men to remain in camp that day to dry their
      equipment and clothes which had gotten wet at the crossing
      made at the lower ford. While in camp on the south bank of
      French Broad, in what is now Sevier County, the scouts and
      traders from the Cherokee towns came in and reported that many
      of the Indian warriors had taken their families and fled south
      to the Hiwassee River, in present day McMinn, Meigs, and
      Bradley Counties.

      After spending the day following the crossing of French Broad
      in camp, the army resumed the march to the towns of the
      Overhill Cherokees along the Little Tennessee River, probably
      on 16 or 17 Oct 1776. From the fording of the French Broad to
      Toqua Ford on Little Tennessee the march led the army up the
      valley of Boyds Creek, in present day Sevier County, and down
      Ellejoy Creek from its source in Sevier County to where it
      runs into Little River in present day Blount County. The army
      passed the present site of Maryville, Tennessee, and on
      Friday, 18 Oct 1776, crossed the Little Tennessee River near
      Toqua, probably at Tomotley Ford. The night of 18 Oct 1776
      was spent at Tomotley a site of a Cherokee village downriver
      from Toqua. No opposition was found and next day the forces
      of Colonel Christian marched downriver, on the south side of
      Little Tennessee passing through Tuskegee, then past the site
      of old Fort Loudon which was destroyed by the Cherokees in
      1760, to the Great Island Town (Mialaquo). Colonel Christian
      made his headquarters at Great Island Town near the present
      Vonore, Monroe County, Tennessee. The army camped near the
      Indian towns about six weeks and probably returned to their
      homes about 1 December 1776.

      The Nolichucky and Watauga settlements were the scene of more
      turmoil in 1777. May 7, 1777 the General Assembly of North
      Carolina provided that four companies of rangers or scouts,
      composed of to men each, should be raised among the people
      settled west of the mountains. One of these companies was
      commanded by James Stuart, and apparently was based, or was
      responsible for the present area of Unicoi County. John
      Denton was a member of a company of 40 rangers commanded by
      Captain Thomas Price and Lieutenant Jarrett Williams. It
      appears that Captain Price's company ranged through Greene and
      Hawkins Counties, and was on duty six months, probably being
      released in late 1777. It was the duty of these companies to
      keep the Indians in check.

      John Denton took part in another campaign which appears to be
      that of the winter of 1780. Monday, 25 Sep 1780 the riflemen
      of the Watauga and Nolichucky settlements gathered at Sycamore
      Shoals at the foot of Yellow Mountain near Elizabethtown in
      present Carter County. Their purpose was to meet and defeat
      the British under Colonel Patrick Ferguson. On Saturday, 7
      Oct 1780, the riflemen of Watauga, Nolichucky, Southwest
      Virginia, and western North Carolina along with some South
      Carolina and Georgia patriots met the British of Ferguson and
      defeated them at Kings Mountain in South Carolina. The men of
      Watauga and Nolichucky were commanded by John Sevier. There
      is no indication that John Denton was among the riflemen at
      Kings Mountain, but he was among those who were called to meet
      the threat of the Cherokee almost as soon as the victors of
      Kings Mountain returned to their homes "west of the blue

      As soon as he could do so after the victory at Kings Mountain,
      Colonel John Sevier detached the company of Captain George
      Russell make a forced march to their homes. Nancy Ward had
      sent the traders from the Cherokee towns to warn the settlers
      that a large force of Indians had been instigated by the
      British to march against the settlements on Watauga and
      Nolichucky. Almost as soon as Sevier returned home he called
      for a force to meet the impending invasion.

      Among those called or volunteered was John Denton. He
      volunteered in a company which elected Joseph Bullen Captain
      and himself as First Lieutenant. The army rendexvoused at
      Swan Pond on Lick Creek, marched down Long Creek in present
      day Jefferson County, to the ford of the French Broad near
      Buckingham Island where they crossed the rive@and marched on
      to meet the Indians. In his application for a pension John
      Denton states that the battle was fought at Cedar Springs in
      Blount County. John Denton states that he pursued and killed
      an Indian, taking a gun with "Georgis Rex" inscribed on the
      barrel and a new British tomahawk from the man. This was the
      engagement which has come down to us as the Battle of Boyds
      Creek and it was fought Saturday 16 Dec 1780. According to
      John Denton the contingent commanded by Colonel Sevier was
      composed of 270 men. Very soon after the battle Colonel
      Sevier received a message from Colonel Arthur Campbell of
      Southwest Virginia stating that he would arrive within a week,
      and asking Sevier to wait for his arrival before marching on
      to the towns of the Indians. Sevier fell back to the ford of
      the French Broad near Buckingham Island, but Colonel Campbell
      did no arrive until Friday 22 Dec 1780, and provisions were
      running short. Colonel Campbell and Major Martin from
      Sullivan County arrived with 300-400 additional men, and the
      march was resumed to the Little Tennessee River where a
      crossing was made at Tomotley Ford Sunday 24 Dec 1780. Chota
      was reached on Monday 25 Dec 1780 and a large store of
      supplies was found. Resistance was slight and Thursday 28
      December the villages of Chota, Tellico and Tuskegee were
      burned and the army moved to Kaitee on Tellico River.
      Hiwassee was also found to be abandoned and Monday 1 Jan 1780
      the army turned homeward.

      In 1782 John Denton married Mary Moore, a daughter of James
      Moore and Martha Denton Moore, who was the second wife of
      Colonel John Tipton. John Denton appears to have remained in
      the Nolichucky settlements until about 1790 when he moved@
      what later became Cocke County. He obtained two grants from
      the state of Tennessee for land on Cosby Creek. About 1812-15
      he moved to Overton County, Tennessee where he lived until
      about 1820-25 when he moved to Monroe County, Tennessee,
      perhaps to land which he had first seen while on the Indian
      campaigns in 1776 and 1780. Little is known of the later life
      of John Denton. He died 5 July 1842, in Monroe County, and
      may be buried in Hopewell Cemetery. He was granted a pension
      for his service during the Revolution as was his widow Mary in

      Copied from The Smokey Mountain Historical Society Newsletter
      This article scanned by Cliff Manis <cmanis@...>
      with the permission of Mr. Larry Fox, President of Society.
      By Mr. David H. Templin, Blount County, Maryville, Tennessee
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