"To the Inhabitants of North Carolina.
"Gentlemen: Unless you wish to be eat up by an innundation of barbarians, who have begun by murdering an unarmed son before the aged father, and afterwards lopped off his arms, and who by their shocking cruelties and irregularities give the best proof of their cowardice and want of discipline: I say if you wish to be pinioned, robbed and murdered, and see your wives and daughters in four days, abused by the dregs of mankind—in short if you wish to deserve to live and bear the name of men, grasp your arms in a moment and run to camp.
"The Back Water men have crossed the mountains: McDowell, Hampton, Shelby, and Cleveland are at their head, so that you know what you have to depend upon. If you choose to be degraded forever and ever by a set of mongrels, say so at once, and let your women turn their backs upon you, and look out for real men to protect them.
"Pat. Ferguson, Major 71st Regiment." *
* Draper, "King's Mountain and its Heroes," p. 204.
Ferguson's force has been estimated at about eleven hundred men, but it is likely that this estimate does not take the absentees into consideration. In the diary of Lieutenant Allaire, one of his officers, the number is given as only eight hundred. Because of the state of his army, chroniclers have found Ferguson's movements, after leaving Gilbert Town, difficult to explain. It has been pointed out that he could easily have escaped, for he had plenty of time, and Charlotte, Cornwallis's headquarters, was only sixty miles distant. We have seen something of Ferguson's quality, however, and we may simply take it that he did not want to escape. He had been planning to cross the high hills—to him, the Highlander, no barrier but a challenge—to fight these men. Now that they had taken the initiative he would not show them his back. He craved the battle. So he sent out runners to the main army and rode on along the eastern base of the mountains, seeking a favorable site to go into camp and wait for Cornwallis's aid. On the 6th of October he reached the southern end of the King's Mountain ridge, in South Carolina, about half a mile south of the northern boundary. Here a rocky, semi-isolated spur juts out from the ridge, its summit—a table-land about six hundred yards long and one hundred and twenty wide at its northern end—rising not more than sixty feet above the surrounding country. On the summit Ferguson pitched his camp.
The hill was a natural fortress, its sides forested, its bald top protected by rocks and bowlders. All the approaches led through dense forest. An enemy force, passing through the immediate, wooded territory, might easily fail to discover a small army nesting sixty feet above the shrouding leafage. Word was evidently brought to Ferguson here, telling him the now augmented number of his foe, for he dispatched another emissary to Cornwallis with a letter stating the number of his own troops and urging full and immediate assistance.
Meanwhile the frontiersmen had halted at the Cowpens. There they feasted royally off roasted cattle and corn belonging to the loyalist who owned the Cowpens. It is said that they mowed his fifty acres of corn in an hour. And here one of their spies, in the assumed role of a Tory, learned Ferguson's plans, his approximate force, his route, and his system of communication with Cornwallis. The officers now held council and determined to take a detachment of the hardiest and fleetest horsemen and sweep down on the enemy before aid could reach him. About nine o'clock that evening, according to Shelby's report, 910 mounted men set off at full speed, leaving the main body of horse and foot to follow after at their best pace.
Rain poured down on them all that night as they rode. At daybreak they crossed the Broad at Cherokee Ford and dashed on in the drenching rain all the forenoon. They kept their firearms and powder dry by wrapping them in their knapsacks, blankets, and hunting shirts. The downpour had so churned up the soil that many of the horses mired, but they were pulled out and whipped forward again. The wild horsemen made no halt for food or rest. Within two miles of King's Mountain they captured Ferguson's messenger with the letter that told of his desperate situation. They asked this man how they should know Ferguson. He told them that Ferguson was in full uniform but wore a checkered shirt or dust cloak over it. This was not the only messenger of Ferguson's who failed to carry through. The men he had sent out previously had been followed and, to escape capture or death, they had been obliged to lie in hiding, so that they did not reach Cornwallis until the day of the battle.
At three o'clock on the afternoon of the 7th of October, the overmountain men were in the forest at the base of the hill. The rain had ceased and the sun was shining. They dismounted and tethered their steaming horses. Orders were given that every man was to "throw the priming out of his pan, pick his touchhole, prime anew, examine bullets and see that everything was in readiness for battle." The plan of battle agreed on was to surround the hill, hold the enemy on the top and, themselves screened by the trees, keep pouring in their fire. There was a good chance that most of the answering fire would go over their heads.
As Shelby's men crossed a gap in the woods, the outposts on the hill discovered their presence and sounded the alarm. Ferguson sprang to horse, blowing his silver whistle to call his men to attack. His riflemen poured fire into Shelby's contingent, but meanwhile the frontiersmen on the other sides were creeping up, and presently a circle of fire burst upon the hill. With fixed bayonets, some of Ferguson's men charged down the face of the slope, against the advancing foe, only to be shot in the back as they charged. Still time and time again they charged; the overhill men reeled and retreated; but always their comrades took toll with their rifles; Ferguson's men, preparing for a mounted charge, were shot even as they swung to their saddles. Ferguson, with his customary indifference to danger, rode up and down in front of his line blowing his whistle to encourage his men. "Huzza, brave boys! The day is our own!" Thus he was heard to shout above the triumphant war whoops of the circling foe, surging higher and higher about the hill.
But there were others in his band who knew the fight was lost. The overmountain men saw two white handkerchiefs, axed to bayonets, raised above the rocks; and then they saw Ferguson dash by and slash them down with his sword. Two horses were shot under Ferguson in the latter part of the action; but he mounted a third and rode again into the thick of the fray. Suddenly the cry spread among the attacking troops that the British officer, Tarleton, had come to Ferguson's rescue; and the mountaineers began to give way. But it was only the galloping horses of their own comrades; Tarleton had not come. Nolichucky Jack spurred out in front of his men and rode along the line. Fired by his courage they sounded the war whoop again and renewed the attack with fury.
"These are the same yelling devils that were at Musgrove's Mill," said Captain De Peyster to Ferguson.
Now Shelby and Sevier, leading his Wataugans, had reached the summit. The firing circle pressed in. The buckskin-shirted warriors leaped the rocky barriers, swinging their tomahawks and long knives. Again the white handkerchiefs fluttered. Ferguson saw that the morale of his troops was shattered.
"Surrender," De Peyster, his second in command, begged of him.
"Surrender to those damned banditti? Never!"
Ferguson turned his horse's head downhill and charged into the Wataugans, hacking right and left with his sword till it was broken at the hilt. A dozen rifles were leveled at him. An iron muzzle pushed at his breast, but the powder flashed in the pan. He swerved and struck at the rifleman with his broken hilt. But the other guns aimed at him spoke; and Ferguson's body jerked from the saddle pierced by eight bullets. Men seized the bridle of the frenzied horse, plunging on with his dead master dragging from the stirrup.
The battle had lasted less than an hour. After Ferguson fell, De Peyster advanced with a white flag and surrendered his sword to Campbell. Other white flags waved along the hilltop. But the killing did not yet cease. It is said that many of the mountaineers did not know the significance of the white flag. Sevier's sixteen-year-old son, having heard that his father had fallen, kept on furiously loading and firing until presently he saw Sevier ride in among the troops and command them to stop shooting men who had surrendered and thrown down their arms.
The victors made a bonfire of the enemy's baggage wagons and supplies. Then they killed some of his beeves and cooked them; they had had neither food nor sleep for eighteen hours. They dug shallow trenches for the dead and scattered the loose earth over them. Ferguson's body, stripped of its uniform and boots and wrapped in a beef hide, was thrown into one of these ditches by the men detailed to the burial work, while the officers divided his personal effects among themselves.
The triumphant army turned homeward as the dusk descended. The uninjured prisoners and the wounded who were able to walk were marched off carrying their empty firearms. The badly wounded were left lying where they had fallen.
At Bickerstaff's Old Fields in Rutherford County the frontiersmen halted; and here they selected thirty of their prisoners to be hanged. They swung them aloft, by torchlight, three at a time, until nine had gone to their last account. Then Sevier interposed; and, with Shelby's added authority, saved the other twenty-one. Among those who thus weighted the gallows tree were some of the Tory brigands from Watauga; but not all the victims were of this character. Some of the troops would have wreaked vengeance on the two Tories from Sevier's command who had betrayed their army plans to Ferguson; but Sevier claimed them as under his jurisdiction and refused consent. Nolichucky Jack dealt humanely by his foes. To the coarse and brutish Cleveland, now astride of Ferguson's horse and wearing his sash, and to the three hundred who followed him, may no doubt be laid the worst excesses of the battle's afterpiece.
Victors and vanquished drove on in the dark, close to the great flank of hills. From where King's Mountain, strewn with dead and dying, reared its black shape like some rudely hewn tomb of a primordial age when titans strove together, perhaps to the ears of the marching men came faintly through the night's stillness the howl of a wolf and the answering chorus of the pack. For the wolves came down to King's Mountain from all the surrounding hills, following the scent of blood, and made their lair where the Werewolf had fallen. The scene of the mountaineers' victory, which marked the turn of the tide for the Revolution, became for years the chief resort of wolf hunters from both the Carolinas.
The importance of the overmountain men's victory lay in what it achieved for the cause of Independence. King's Mountain was the prelude to Cornwallis's defeat. It heartened the Southern Patriots, until then cast down by Gates's disaster. To the British the death of Ferguson was an irreparable loss because of its depressing effect on the Back Country Tories. Ding's Mountain, indeed, broke the Tory spirit. Seven days after the battle General Nathanael Greene succeeded to the command of the Southern Patriot army which Gates had led to defeat. Greene's genius met the rising tide of the Patriots' courage and hope and took it at the flood. His strategy, in dividing his army and thereby compelling the division of Cornwallis's force, led to Daniel Morgan's victory at the Cowpens, in the Back Country of South Carolina, on January 17, 1781—another frontiersmen's triumph. Though the British won the next engagement between Greene and Cornwallis—the battle of Guilford Court House in the North Carolina Back Country, on the 15th of March—Greene made them pay so dearly for their victory that Tarleton called it "the pledge of ultimate defeat"; and, three days later, Cornwallis was retreating towards Wilmington. In a sense, then, King's Mountain was the pivot of the war's revolving stage, which swung the British from their succession of victories towards the surrender at Yorktown.
Shelby, Campbell, and Cleveland escorted the prisoners to Virginia. Sevier, with his men, rode home to Watauga. When the prisoners had been delivered to the authorities in Virginia, the Holston men also turned homeward through the hills. Their route lay down through the Clinch and Holston valleys to the settlement at the base of the mountains. Sevier and his Wataugans had gone by Gillespie's Gap, over the pathway that hung like a narrow ribbon about the breast of Roan Mountain, lifting its crest in dignified isolation sixty-three hundred feet above the levels. The "Unakas" was the name the Cherokees had given to those white men who first invaded their hills; and the Unakas is the name that white men at last gave to the mountain.
Great companies of men were to come over the mountain paths on their way to the Mississippi country and beyond; and with them, as we know, were to go many of these mountain men, to pass away with their customs in the transformations that come with progress. But there were others who clung to these hills. They were of several stocks—English, Scotch, Highlanders, Ulstermen, who mingled by marriage and sometimes took their mates from among the handsome maids of the Cherokees. They spread from the Unakas of Tennessee into the Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky; and they have remained to this day what they were then, a primitive folk of strong and fiery men and brave women living as their forefathers of Watauga and Holston lived. In the log cabins in those mountains today are heard the same ballads, sung still to the dulcimer, that entertained the earliest settlers. The women still turn the old-fashioned spinning wheels. The code of the men is still the code learned perhaps from the Gaels—the code of the oath and the feud and the open door to the stranger. Or were these, the ethical tenets of almost all uncorrupted primitive tribes, transmitted from the Indian strain and association? Their young people marry at boy and girl ages, as the pioneers did, and their wedding festivities are the same as those which made rejoicing at the first marriage in Watauga. Their common speech today contains words that have been obsolete in England for a hundred years.
Thrice have the mountain men come down again from their fastnesses to war for America since the day of King's Mountain and thrice they have acquitted themselves so that their deeds are noted in history. A souvenir of their part in the War of 1812 at the Battle of the Thames is kept in one of the favorite names for mountain girls—"Lake Erie." In the Civil War many volunteers from the free, non-slaveholding mountain regions of Kentucky and Tennessee joined the Union Army, and it is said that they exceeded all others in stature and physical development. And in our own day their sons again came down from the mountains to carry the torch of Liberty overseas, and to show the white stars in their flag side by side with the ancient cross in the flag of England against which their forefathers fought.
Chapter X. Sevier, The Statemaker
After King's Mountain, Sevier reached home just in time to fend off a Cherokee attack on Watauga. Again warning had come to the settlements that the Indians were about to descend upon them. Sevier set out at once to meet the red invaders. Learning from his scouts that the Indians were near he went into ambush with his troops disposed in the figure of a half-moon, the favorite Indian formation. He then sent out a small body of men to fire on the Indians and make a scampering retreat, to lure the enemy on. The maneuver was so well planned and the ground so well chosen that the Indian war party would probably have been annihilated but for the delay of an officer at one horn of the half-moon in bringing his troops into play. Through the gap thus made the Indians escaped, with a loss of seventeen of their number. The delinquent officer was Jonathan Tipton, younger brother of Colonel John Tipton, of whom we shall hear later. It is possible that from this event dates the Tiptons' feud with Sevier, which supplies one of the breeziest pages in the story of early Tennessee.
Not content with putting the marauders to flight, Sevier pressed on after them, burned several of the upper towns, and took prisoner a number of women and children, thus putting the red warriors to the depth of shame, for the Indians never deserted their women in battle. The chiefs at once sued for peace. But they had made peace often before. Sevier drove down upon the Hiwassee towns, meanwhile proclaiming that those among the tribe who were friendly might send their families to the white settlement, where they would be fed and cared for until a sound peace should be assured. He also threatened to continue to make war until his enemies were wiped out, their town sites a heap of blackened ruins, and their whole country in possession of the whites, unless they bound themselves to an enduring peace.
Having compelled the submission of the Otari and Hiwassee towns, yet finding that depredations still continued, Sevier determined to invade the group of towns hidden in the mountain fastnesses near the headwaters of the Little Tennessee where, deeming themselves inaccessible except by their own trail, the Cherokees freely plotted mischief and sent out raiding parties. These hill towns lay in the high gorges of the Great Smoky Mountains, 150 miles distant. No one in Watauga had ever been in them except Thomas, the trader, who, however, had reached them from the eastern side of the mountains. With no knowledge of the Indians' path and without a guide, yet nothing daunted, Sevier, late in the summer of 1781 headed his force into the mountains. So steep were some of the slopes they scaled that the men were obliged to dismount and help their horses up. Unexpectedly to themselves perhaps, as well as to the Indians, they descended one morning on a group of villages and destroyed them. Before the fleeing savages could rally, the mountaineers had plunged up the steeps again. Sevier then turned southward into Georgia and inflicted a severe castigation on the tribes along the Coosa River.
When, after thirty days of warfare and mad riding, Sevier arrived at his Bonnie Kate's door on the Nolichucky, he found a messenger from General Greene calling on him for immediate assistance to cut off Cornwallis from his expected retreat through North Carolina. Again he set out, and with two hundred men crossed the mountains and made all speed to Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County, where he learned that Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Under Greene's orders he turned south to the Santee to assist a fellow scion of the Huguenots, General Francis Marion, in the pursuit of Stuart's Britishers. Having driven Stuart into Charleston, Sevier and his active Wataugans returned home, now perhaps looking forward to a rest, which they had surely earned. Once more, however, they were hailed with alarming news. Dragging Canoe had come to life again and was emerging from the caves of the Tennessee with a substantial force of Chickamaugan warriors. Again the Wataugans, augmented by a detachment from Sullivan County, galloped forth, met the red warriors, chastised them heavily, put them to rout, burned their dwellings and provender, and drove them back into their hiding places. For some time after this, the Indians dipped not into the black paint pots of war but were content to streak their humbled countenances with the vermilion of beauty and innocence.
It should be chronicled that Sevier, assisted possibly by other Wataugans, eventually returned to the State of North Carolina the money which he had forcibly borrowed to finance the King's Mountain expedition; and that neither he nor Shelby received any pay for their services, nor asked it. Before Shelby left the Holston in 1782 and moved to Kentucky, of which State he was to become the first Governor, the Assembly of North Carolina passed a resolution of gratitude to the overmountain men in general, and to Sevier and Shelby in particular, for their "very generous and patriotic services" with which the "General Assembly of this State are feelingly impressed." The resolution concluded by urging the recipients of the Assembly's acknowledgments to "continue" in their noble course. In view of what followed, this resolution is interesting!
For some time the overhill pioneers had been growing dissatisfied with the treatment they were receiving from the State, which on the plea of poverty had refused to establish a Superior Court for them and to appoint a prosecutor. As a result, crime was on the increase, and the law-abiding were deprived of the proper legal means to check the lawless. In 1784 when the western soldiers' claims began to reach the Assembly, there to be scrutinized by unkindly eyes, the dissatisfaction increased. The breasts of the mountain men—the men who had made that spectacular ride to bring Ferguson to his end—were kindled with hot indignation when they heard that they had been publicly assailed as grasping persons who seized on every pretense to "fabricate demands against the Government." Nor were those fiery breasts cooled by further plaints to the effect that the "industry and property" of those east of the hills were "becoming the funds appropriated to discharge the debts" of the Westerners. They might with justice have asked what the industry and property of the Easterners were worth on that day when the overhill men drilled in the snows on the high peak of Yellow Mountain and looked down on Burke County overrun by Ferguson's Tories, and beyond, to Charlotte, where lay Cornwallis.
The North Carolina Assembly did not confine itself to impolite remarks. It proceeded to get rid of what it deemed western rapacity by ceding the whole overmountain territory to the United States, with the proviso that Congress must accept the gift within twelve months. And after passing the Cession Act, North Carolina closed the land office in the undesired domain and nullified all entries made after May 25, 1784. The Cession Act also enabled the State to evade its obligations to the Cherokees in the matter of an expensive consignment of goods to pay for new lands.
This clever stroke of the Assembly's brought about immediate consequences in the region beyond the hills. The Cherokees, who knew nothing about the Assembly's system of political economy but who found their own provokingly upset by the non-arrival of the promised goods, began again to darken the mixture in their paint pots; and they dug up the war hatchet, never indeed so deeply patted down under the dust that it could not be unearthed by a stub of the toe. Needless to say, it was not the thrifty and distant Easterners who felt their anger, but the nearby settlements.
As for the white overhill dwellers, the last straw had been laid on their backs; and it felt like a hickory log. No sooner had the Assembly adjourned than the men of Washington, Sullivan, and Greene counties, which comprised the settled portion of what is now east Tennessee, elected delegates to convene for the purpose of discussing the formation of a new State. They could assert that they were not acting illegally, for in her first constitution North Carolina had made provision for a State beyond the mountains. And necessity compelled them to take steps for their protection. Some of them, and Sevier was of the number, doubted if Congress would accept the costly gift; and the majority realized that during the twelve months which were allowed for the decision they would have no protection from either North Carolina or Congress and would not be able to command their own resources.
In August, 1784, the delegates met at Jonesborough and passed preliminary resolutions; and then adjourned to meet later in the year. The news was soon disseminated through North Carolina and the Assembly convened in October and hastily repealed the Cession Act, voted to establish the District of Washington out of the four counties, and sent word of the altered policy to Sevier, with a commission for himself as Brigadier General. From the steps of the improvised convention hall, before which the delegates had gathered, Sevier read the Assembly's message and advised his neighbors to proceed no further, since North Carolina had of her own accord redressed all their grievances. But for once Nolichucky Jack's followers refused to follow. The adventure too greatly appealed. Obliged to choose between North Carolina and his own people, Sevier's hesitation was short. The State of Frankland, or Land of the Free, was formed; and Nolichucky Jack was elevated to the office of Governor—with a yearly salary of two hundred mink skins.
Perhaps John Tipton had hoped to head the new State, for he had been one of its prime movers and was a delegate to this convention. But when the man whom he hated—apparently for no reason except that other men loved him—assented to the people's will and was appointed to the highest post within their gift, Tipton withdrew, disavowing all connection with Frankland and affirming his loyalty to North Carolina. From this time on, the feud was an open one.
That brief and now forgotten State, Frankland, the Land of the Free, which bequeathed its name as an appellation for America, was founded as Watauga had been founded—to meet the practical needs and aspirations of its people. It will be remembered that one of the things written by Sevier into the only Watauga document extant was that they desired to become "in every way the best members of society." Frankland's aims, as recorded, included the intent to "improve agriculture, perfect manufacturing, ENCOURAGE LITERATURE and every thing truly laudable."
The constitution of Frankland, agreed to on the 14th of November, 1785, appeals to us today rather by its spirit than by its practical provisions. "This State shall be called the Commonwealth of Frankland and shall be governed by a General Assembly of the representatives of the freemen of the same, a Governor and Council, and proper courts of justice.... The supreme legislative power shall be vested in a single House of Representatives of the freemen of the commonwealth of Frankland. The House of Representatives of the freemen of the State shall consist of persons most noted for wisdom and virtue."
In these exalted desires of the primitive men who held by their rifles and hatchets the land by the western waters, we see the influence of the Reverend Samuel Doak, their pastor, who founded the first church and the first school beyond the great hills. Early in the life of Watauga he had come thither from Princeton, a zealous and broadminded young man, and a sturdy one, too, for he came on foot driving before him a mule laden with books. Legend credits another minister, the Reverend Samuel Houston, with suggesting the name of Frankland, after he had opened the Convention with prayer. It is not surprising to learn that this glorified constitution was presently put aside in favor of one modeled on that of North Carolina.
Sevier persuaded the more radical members of the community to abandon their extreme views and to adopt the laws of North Carolina. However lawless his acts as Governor of a bolting colony may appear, Sevier was essentially a constructive force. His purposes were right, and small motives are not discernible in his record. He might reasonably urge that the Franklanders had only followed the example of North Carolina and the other American States in seceding from the parent body, and for similar causes, for the State's system of taxation had long borne heavily on the overhill men.
The whole transmontane populace welcomed Frankland with enthusiasm. Major Arthur Campbell, of the Virginian settlements, on the Holston, was eager to join. Sevier and his Assembly took the necessary steps to receive the overhill Virginians, provided that the transfer of allegiance could be made with Virginia's consent. Meanwhile he replied in a dignified manner to the pained and menacing expostulations of North Carolina's Governor. North Carolina was bidden to remember the epithets her assemblymen had hurled at the Westerners, which they themselves had by no means forgotten. And was it any wonder that they now doubted the love the parent State professed to feel for them? As for the puerile threat of blood, had their quality really so soon become obliterated from the memory of North Carolina? At this sort of writing, Sevier, who always pulsed hot with emotion and who had a pretty knack in turning a phrase, was more than a match for the Governor of North Carolina, whose prerogatives he had usurped.
The overmountain men no longer needed to complain bitterly of the lack of legal machinery to keep them "the best members of society." They now had courts to spare. Frankland had its courts, its judges, its legislative body, its land office—in fact, a full governmental equipment. North Carolina also performed all the natural functions of political organism, within the western territory. Sevier appointed one David Campbell a judge. Campbell held court in Jonesborough. Ten miles away, in Buffalo, Colonel John Tipton presided for North Carolina. It happened frequently that officers and attendants of the rival law courts met, as they pursued, their duties, and whenever they met they fought. The post of sheriff—or sheriffs, for of course there were two—was filled by the biggest and heaviest man and the hardest hitter in the ranks of the warring factions. A favorite game was raiding each other's courts and carrying off the records. Frankland sent William Cocke, later the first senator from Tennessee, to Congress with a memorial, asking Congress to accept the territory North Carolina had offered and to receive it into the Union as a separate State. Congress ignored the plea. It began to appear that North Carolina would be victor in the end; and so there were defections among the Franklanders. Sevier wrote to Benjamin Franklin asking his aid in establishing the status of Frankland; and, with a graceful flourish of his ready pen, changed the new State's name to Franklin by way of reinforcing his arguments. But the old philosopher, more expert than Sevier in diplomatic calligraphy, only acknowledged the compliment and advised the State of Franklin to make peace with North Carolina.
Sevier then appealed for aid and recognition to the Governor of Georgia, who had previously appointed him Brigadier General of militia. But the Governor of Georgia also avoided giving the recognition requested, though he earnestly besought Sevier to come down and settle the Creeks for him. There were others who sent pleas to Sevier, the warrior, to save them from the savages. One of the writers who addressed him did not fear to say "Your Excellency," nor to accord Nolichucky Jack the whole dignity of the purple in appealing to him as the only man possessing the will and the power to prevent the isolated settlements on the Cumberland from being wiped out. That writer was his old friend, James Robertson.
In 1787, while Sevier was on the frontier of Greene County, defending it from Indians, the legal forces of North Carolina swooped down on his estate and took possession of his negroes. It was Tipton who represented the law; and Tipton carried off the Governor's slaves to his own estate. When Nolichucky Jack came home and found that his enemy had stripped him, he was in a towering rage. With a body of his troops and one small cannon, he marched to Tipton's house and besieged it, threatening a bombardment. He did not, however, fire into the dwelling, though he placed some shots about it and in the extreme corners. This opera bouffe siege endured for several days, until Tipton was reinforced by some of his own clique. Then Tipton sallied forth and attacked the besiegers, who hastily scattered rather than engage in a sanguinary fight with their neighbors. Tipton captured Sevier's two elder sons and was only strained from hanging them on being informed that two of his own sons were at that moment in Sevier's hands.
In March, 1788, the State of Franklin went into eclipse. Sevier was overthrown by the authorities of North Carolina. Most of the officials who had served under him were soothed by being reappointed to their old positions. Tipton's star was now in the ascendant, for his enemy was to be made the vicarious sacrifice for the sins of all whom he had "led astray." Presently David Campbell, still graciously permitted to preside over the Superior Court, received from the Governor of North Carolina the following letter:
"Sir: It has been represented to the Executive that John Sevier, who style's himself Captain-General of the State of Franklin, has been guilty of high treason in levying troops to oppose the laws and government of the State.... You will issue your warrant to apprehend the said John Sevier, and in case he cannot be sufficiently secured for trial in the District of Washington, order him to be committed to the public gaol."
The judge's authority was to be exercised after he had examined the "affidavits of credible persons." Campbell's judicial opinion seems to have been that any affidavit against "the said John Sevier" could not be made by a "credible person." He refused to issue the warrant. Tipton's friend, Spencer, who had been North Carolina's judge of the Superior Court in the West and who was sharing that honor now with Campbell, issued the warrant and sent Tipton to make the arrest.
Sevier was at the Widow Brown's inn with some of his men when Tipton at last came up with him. It was early morning. Tipton and his posse were about to enter when the portly and dauntless widow, surmising their errand, drew her chair into the doorway, plumped herself down in it, and refused to budge for all the writs in North Carolina. Tipton blustered and the widow rocked. The altercation awakened Sevier. He dressed hurriedly and came down. As soon as he presented himself on the porch, Tipton thrust his pistol against his body, evidently with intent to fire if Sevier made signs of resistance. Sevier's furious followers were not disposed to let him be taken without a fight, but he admonished them to respect the law, and requested that they would inform Bonnie Kate of his predicament. Then, debonair as ever, with perhaps a tinge of contempt at the corners of his mouth, he held out his wrists for the manacles which Tipton insisted on fastening upon them.
It was not likely that any jail in the western country could hold Nolichucky Jack overnight. Tipton feared a riot; and it was decided to send the prisoner for incarceration and trial to Morgantown in North Carolina, just over the hills.
Tipton did not accompany the guards he sent with Sevier. It was stated and commonly believed that he had given instructions of which the honorable men among his friends were ignorant. When the party entered the mountains, two of the guards were to lag behind with the prisoner, till the others were out of sight on the twisting trail. Then one of the two was to kill Sevier and assert that he had done it because Sevier had attempted to escape. It fell out almost as planned, except that the other guard warned Sevier of the fate in store for him and gave him a chance to flee. In plunging down the mountain, Sevier's horse was entangled in a thicket. The would-be murderer overtook him and fired; but here again fate had interposed for her favorite. The ball had dropped out of the assassin's pistol. So Sevier reached Morgantown in safety and was deposited in care of the sheriff, who was doubtless cautioned to take a good look at the prisoner and know him for a dangerous and a daring man.
There is a story to the effect that, when Sevier was arraigned in the courthouse at Morgantown and presently dashed through the door and away on a racer that had been brought up by some of his friends, among those who witnessed the proceedings was a young Ulster Scot named Andrew Jackson; and that on this occasion these two men, later to become foes, first saw each other. Jackson may have been in Morgantown at the time, though this is disputed; but the rest of the tale is pure legend invented by some one whose love of the spectacular led him far from the facts. The facts are less theatrical but much more dramatic. Sevier was not arraigned at all, for no court was sitting in Morgantown at the time. * The sheriff to whom he was delivered did not need to look twice at him to know him for a daring man. He had served with him at King's Mountain. He struck off his handcuffs and set him at liberty at once. Perhaps he also notified General Charles McDowell at his home in Quaker Meadows of the presence of a distinguished guest in Burke County, for McDowell and his brother Joseph, another officer of militia, quickly appeared and went on Sevier's bond. Nolichucky Jack was presently holding a court of his own in the tavern, with North Carolina's men at arms—as many as were within call—drinking his health. So his sons and a company of his Wataugans found him, when they rode into Morgantown to give evidence in his behalf—with their rifles. Since none now disputed the way with him, Sevier turned homeward with his cavalcade, McDowell and his men accompanying him as far as the pass in the hills.
* Statement by John Sevier, Junior, in the Draper MSS., quoted by Turner, "Life of General John Sevier," p. 182.
No further attempt was made to try John Sevier for treason, either west or east of the mountains. In November, however, the Assembly passed the Pardon Act, and thereby granted absolution to every one who had been associated with the State of Franklin, EXCEPT JOHN SEVIER. In a clause said to have been introduced by Tipton, now a senator, or suggested by him, John Sevier was debarred forever from "the enjoyment of any office of profit or honor or trust in the State of North Carolina."
The overhill men in Greene County took due note of the Assembly's fiat and at the next election sent Sevier to the North Carolina Senate. Nolichucky Jack, whose demeanor was never so decorous as when the ill-considered actions of those in authority had made him appear to have circumvented the law, considerately waited outside until the House had lifted the ban—which it did perforce and by a large majority, despite Tipton's opposition—and then took his seat on the senatorial bench beside his enemy. The records show that he was reinstated as Brigadier General of the Western Counties and also appointed at the head of the Committee on Indian Affairs.
Not only in the region about Watauga did the pioneers of Tennessee endure the throes of danger and strife during these years. The little settlements on the Cumberland, which were scattered over a short distance of about twenty-five or thirty miles and had a frontier line of two hundred miles, were terribly afflicted. Their nearest white neighbors among the Kentucky settlers were one hundred and fifty miles away; and through the cruelest years these could render no aid—could not, indeed, hold their own stations. The Kentuckians, as we have seen, were bottled up in Harrodsburg and Boonesborough; and, while the northern Indians led by Girty and Dequindre darkened the Bloody Ground anew, the Cumberlanders were making a desperate stand against the Chickasaws and the Creeks. So terrible was their situation that panic took hold on them, and they would have fled but for the influence of Robertson. He may have put the question to them in the biblical words, "Whither shall I flee?" For they were surrounded, and those who did attempt to escape were "weighed on the path and made light." Robertson knew that their only chance of survival was to stand their ground. The greater risks he was willing to take in person, for it was he who made trips to Boonesborough and Harrodsburg for a share of the powder and lead which John Sevier was sending into Kentucky from time to time. In the stress of conflict Robertson bore his full share of grief, for his two elder sons and his brother fell. He himself was often near to death. One day he was cut off in the fields and was shot in the foot as he ran, yet he managed to reach shelter. There is a story that, in an attack during one of his absences, the Indians forced the outer gate of the fort and Mrs. Robertson went out of her cabin, firing, and let loose a band of the savage dogs which the settlers kept for their protection, and so drove out the invaders.
The Chickasaws were loyal to the treaty they had made with the British in the early days of James Adair's association with them. They were friends to England's friends and foes to her foes. While they resented the new settlements made on land they considered theirs, they signed a peace with Robertson at the conclusion of the War of Independence. They kept their word with him as they had kept it with the British. Furthermore, their chief, Opimingo or the Mountain Leader, gave Robertson his assistance against the Creeks and the Choctaws and, in so far as he understood its workings, informed him of the new Spanish and French conspiracy, which we now come to consider. So once again the Chickasaws were servants of destiny to the English-speaking race, for again they drove the wedge of their honor into an Indian solidarity welded with European gold.
Since it was generally believed at that date that the tribes were instigated to war by the British and supplied by them with their ammunition, savage inroads were expected to cease with the signing of peace. But Indian warfare not only continued; it increased. In the last two years of the Revolution, when the British were driven from the Back Country of the Carolinas and could no longer reach the tribes with consignments of firearms and powder, it should have been evident that the Indians had other sources of supply and other allies, for they lacked nothing which could aid them in their efforts to exterminate the settlers of Tennessee.
Neither France nor Spain wished to see an English-speaking republic based on ideals of democracy successfully established in America. Though in the Revolutionary War, France was a close ally of the Americans and Spain something more than a nominal one, the secret diplomacy of the courts of the Bourbon cousins ill matched with their open professions. Both cousins hated England. The American colonies, smarting under injustice, had offered a field for their revenge. But hatred of England was not the only reason why activities had been set afoot to increase the discord which should finally separate the colonies from Great Britain and leave the destiny of the colonies to be decided by the House of Bourbon. Spain saw in the Americans, with their English modes of thought, a menace to her authority in her own colonies on both the northern and southern continents. This menace would not be stilled but augmented if the colonies should be established as a republic. Such an example might be too readily followed. Though France had, by a secret treaty in 1762, made over to Spain the province of Louisiana, she was not unmindful of the Bourbon motto, "He who attacks the Crown of one attacks the other." And she saw her chance to deal a crippling blow at England's prestige and commerce.
In 1764, the French Minister, Choiseul, had sent a secret agent, named Pontleroy, to America to assist in making trouble and to watch for any signs that might be turned to the advantage of les duex couronnes. Evidently Pontleroy's reports were encouraging for, in 1768, Johann Kalb—the same Kalb who fell at Camden in 1780—arrived in Philadelphia to enlarge the good work. He was not only, like several of the foreign officers in the War of Independence, a spy for his Government, but he was also the special emissary of one Comte de Broglie who, after the colonies had broken with the mother country, was to put himself at the head of American affairs. This Broglie had been for years one of Louis XV's chief agents in subterranean diplomacy, and it is not to be supposed that he was going to attempt the stupendous task of controlling America's destiny without substantial backing. Spain had been advised meanwhile to rule her new Louisiana territory with great liberality—in fact, to let it shine as a republic before the yearning eyes of the oppressed Americans, so that the English colonists would arise and cast off their fetters. Once the colonies had freed themselves from England's protecting arm, it would be a simple matter for the Bourbons to gather them in like so many little lost chicks from a rainy yard. The intrigants of autocratic systems have never been able to understand that the urge of the spirit of independence in men is not primarily to break shackles but to STAND ALONE and that the breaking of bonds is incidental to the true demonstration of freedom. The Bourbons and their agents were no more nor less blind to the great principle stirring the hearts of men in their day than were the Prussianized hosts over a hundred years later who, having themselves no acquaintance with the law of liberty, could not foresee that half a world would rise in arms to maintain that law.
When the War of Independence had ended, the French Minister, Vergennes, and the Spanish Minister, Floridablanca, secretly worked in unison to prevent England's recognition of the new republic; and Floridablanca in 1782 even offered to assist England if she would make further efforts to subdue her "rebel subjects." Both Latin powers had their own axes to grind, and America was to tend the grindstone. France looked for recovery of her old prestige in Europe and expected to supersede England in commerce. She would do this, in the beginning, chiefly through control of America and of America's commerce. Vergennes therefore sought not only to dictate the final terms of peace but also to say what the American commissioners should and should not demand. Of the latter gentlemen he said that they possessed "caracteres peu maniables!" In writing to Luzerne, the French Ambassador in Philadelphia, on October 14, 1782, Vergennes said: "it behooves us to leave them [the American commissioners] to their illusions, to do everything that can make them fancy that we share them, and undertake only to defeat any attempts to which those illusions might carry them if our cooperation is required." Among these "illusions" were America's desires in regard to the fisheries and to the western territory. Concerning the West, Vergennes had written to Luzerne, as early as July 18, 1780: "At the moment when the revolution broke out, the limits of the Thirteen States did not reach the River [Mississippi] and it would be absurd for them to claim the rights of England, a power whose rule they had abjured." By the secret treaty with Spain, furthermore, France had agreed to continue the war until Gibraltar should be taken, and—if the British should be driven from Newfoundland—to share the fisheries only with Spain, and to support Spain in demanding that the Thirteen States renounce all territory west of the Alleghanies. The American States must by no means achieve a genuine independence but must feel the need of sureties, allies, and protection. *
* See John Jay, "On the Peace Negotiations of 1782-1788 as Illustrated by the Secret Correspondence of France and England," New York, 1888.
So intent was Vergennes on these aims that he sent a secret emissary to England to further them there. This act of his perhaps gave the first inkling to the English statesmen * that American and French desires were not identical and hastened England's recognition of American independence and her agreement to American demands in regard to the western territory. When, to his amazement, Vergennes learned that England had acceded to all America's demands, he said that England had "bought the peace" rather than made it. The policy of Vergennes in regard to America was not unjustly pronounced by a later French statesman "A VILE SPECULATION."
* "Your Lordship was well founded in your suspicion that the granting of independence to America as a previous measure is a point which the French have by no means at heart and perhaps are entirely averse from." Letter from Fitzherbert to Grantham, September 3, 1782.
Through England's unexpected action, then, the Bourbon cousins had forever lost their opportunity to dominate the young but spent and war-weakened Republic, or to use America as a catspaw to snatch English commerce for France. It was plain, too, that any frank move of the sort would range the English alongside of their American kinsmen. Since American Independence was an accomplished fact and therefore could no longer be prevented, the present object of the Bourbon cousins was to restrict it. The Appalachian Mountains should be the western limits of the new nation. Therefore the settlements in Kentucky and Tennessee must be broken up, or the settlers must be induced to secede from the Union and raise the Spanish banner. The latter alternative was held to be preferable. To bring it about the same methods were to be continued which had been used prior to and during the war—namely, the use of agents provocateurs to corrupt the ignorant and incite the lawless, the instigation of Indian massacres to daunt the brave, and the distribution of gold to buy the avaricious.
As her final and supreme means of coercion, Spain refused to America the right of navigation on the Mississippi and so deprived the Westerners of a market for their produce. The Northern States, having no immediate use for the Mississippi, were willing to placate Spain by acknowledging her monopoly of the great waterway. But Virginia and North Carolina were determined that America should not, by congressional enactment, surrender her "natural right"; and they cited the proposed legislation as their reason for refusing to ratify the Constitution. "The act which abandons it [the right of navigation] is an act of separation between the eastern and western country," Jefferson realized at last. "An act of separation"—that point had long been very clear to the Latin sachems of the Mississippi Valley!
Bounded as they were on one side by the precipitous mountains and on the other by the southward flow of the Mississippi and its tributary, the Ohio, the trappers and growers of corn in Kentucky and western Tennessee regarded New Orleans as their logical market, as the wide waters were their natural route. If market and route were to be closed to them, their commercial advancement was something less than a dream.
In 1785, Don Estevan Miro, a gentleman of artful and winning address, became Governor of Louisiana and fountainhead of the propaganda. He wrote benign and brotherly epistles to James Robertson of the Cumberland and to His Excellency of Franklin, suggesting that to be of service to them was his dearest aim in life; and at the same time he kept the southern Indians continually on the warpath. When Robertson wrote to him of the Creek and Cherokee depredations, with a hint that the Spanish might have some responsibility in the matter, Miro replied by offering the Cumberlander a safe home on Spanish territory with freedom of religion and no taxes. He disclaimed stirring up the Indians. He had, in fact, advised Mr McGillivray, chief of the Creeks, to make peace. He would try again what he could do with Mr. McGillivray. As to the Cherokees, they resided in a very distant territory and he was not acquainted with them; he might have added that he did not need to be: his friend McGillivray was the potent personality among the Southern tribes.
In Alexander McGillivray, Miro found a weapon fashioned to his hand. If the Creek chieftain's figure might stand as the symbol of treachery, it is none the less one of the most picturesque and pathetic in our early annals. McGillivray, it will be remembered, was the son of Adair's friend Lachlan McGillivray, the trader, and a Creek woman whose sire had been a French officer. A brilliant and beautiful youth, he had given his father a pride in him which is generally denied to the fathers of sons with Indian blood in them. The Highland trader had spared nothing in his son's education and had placed him, after his school days, in the business office of the large trading establishment of which he himself was a member. At about the age of seventeen Alexander had become a chieftain in his mother's nation; and doubtless it is he who appears shortly afterwards in the Colonial Records as the White Leader whose influence is seen to have been at work for friendship between the colonists and the tribes. When the Revolutionary War broke out, Lachlan McGillivray, like many of the old traders who had served British interests so long and so faithfully, held to the British cause. Georgia confiscated all his property and Lachlan fled to Scotland. For this, his son hated the people of Georgia with a perfect hatred. He remembered how often his father's courage alone had stood between those same people and the warlike Creeks. He could recall the few days in 1760 when Lachlan and his fellow trader, Galphin, at the risk of their lives had braved the Creek warriors—already painted for war and on the march—and so had saved the settlements of the Back Country from extermination. He looked upon the men of Georgia as an Indian regards those who forget either a blood gift or a blood vengeance. And he embraced the whole American nation in his hatred for their sakes.
In 1776 Alexander McGillivray was in his early thirties-the exact date of his birth is uncertain. * He had, we are told, the tall, sturdy, but spare physique of the Gael, with a countenance of Indian color though not of Indian cast. His overhanging brows made more striking his very large and luminous dark eyes. He bore himself with great dignity; his voice was soft, his manner gentle. He might have been supposed to be some Latin courtier but for the barbaric display of his dress and his ornaments. He possessed extraordinary personal magnetism, and his power extended beyond the Creek nation to the Choctaws and Chickasaws and the Southern Cherokees. He had long been wooed by the Louisiana authorities, but there is no evidence that he had made alliance with them prior to the Revolution.
* Probably about 1741 or 1742. Some writers give 1739 and others 1746. His father landed in Charleston, Pickett ("History of Alabama") says, in 1735, and was then only sixteen.
Early in the war he joined the British, received a colonel's commission, and led his formidable Creeks against the people of Georgia. When the British were driven from the Back Countries, McGillivray, in his British uniform, went on with the war. When the British made peace, McGillivray exchanged his British uniform for a Spanish one and went on with the war. In later days, when he had forced Congress to pay him for his father's confiscated property and had made peace, he wore the uniform of an American Brigadier General; but he did not keep the peace, never having intended to keep it. It was not until he had seen the Spanish plots collapse and had realized that the Americans were to dominate the land, that the White Leader ceased from war and urged the youths of his tribe to adopt American civilization.
Spent from hate and wasted with dissipation, he retired at last to the spot where Lachlan had set up his first Creek home. Here he lived his few remaining days in a house which he built on the site of the old ruined cabin about which still stood the little grove of apple trees his father had planted. He died at the age of fifty of a fever contracted while he was on a business errand in Pensacola. Among those who visited him in his last years, one has left this description of him: "Dissipation has sapped a constitution originally delicate and feeble. He possesses an atticism of diction aided by a liberal education, a great fund of wit and humor meliorated by a perfect good nature and politeness." Set beside that kindly picture this rough etching by James Robertson: "The biggest devil among them [the Spaniards] is the half Spaniard, half Frenchman, half Scotchman and altogether Creek scoundrel, McGillivray."
How indefatigably McGillivray did his work we know from the bloody annals of the years which followed the British-American peace, when the men of the Cumberland and of Franklin were on the defensive continually. How cleverly Mire played his personal role we discover in the letters addressed to him by Sevier and Robertson. These letters show that, as far as words go at any rate, the founders of Tennessee were willing to negotiate with Spain. In a letter dated September 12, 1788, Sevier offered himself and his tottering State of Franklin to the Spanish King. This offer may have been made to gain a respite, or it may have been genuine. The situation in the Tennessee settlements was truly desperate, for neither North Carolina nor Congress apparently cared in the least what befell them or how soon. North Carolina indeed was in an anomalous position, as she had not yet ratified the Federal Constitution. If Franklin went out of existence and the territory which it included became again part of North Carolina, Sevier knew that a large part of the newly settled country would, under North Carolina's treaties, revert to the Indians. That meant ruin to large numbers of those who had put their faith in his star, or else it meant renewed conflict either with the Indians or with the parent State. The probabilities aria that Sevier hoped to play the Spaniards against the Easterners who, even while denying the Westerners' contention that the mountains were a "natural" barrier between them, were making of them a barrier of indifference. It would seem so, because, although this was the very aim of all Miro's activities so that, had he been assured of the sincerity of the offer, he must have grasped at it, yet nothing definite was done. And Sevier was presently informing Shelby, now in Kentucky, that there was a Spanish plot afoot to seize the western country.
Miro had other agents besides McGillivray—who, by the way, was costing Spain, for his own services and those of four tribes aggregating over six thousand warriors, a sum of fifty-five thousand dollars a year. McGillivray did very well as superintendent of massacres; but the Spaniard required a different type of man, an American who enjoyed his country's trust, to bring the larger plan to fruition. Miro found that man in General James Wilkinson, lately of the Continental Army and now a resident of Kentucky, which territory Wilkinson undertook to deliver to Spain, for a price. In 1787 Wilkinson secretly took the oath of allegiance to Spain and is listed in the files of the Spanish secret service, appropriately, as "Number Thirteen." He was indeed the thirteenth at table, the Judas at the feast. Somewhat under middle height, Wilkinson was handsome, graceful, and remarkably magnetic. Of a good, if rather impoverished, Maryland family, he was well educated and widely read for the times. With a brilliant and versatile intellectuality and ready gifts as a speaker, he swayed men easily. He was a bold soldier and was endowed with physical courage, though when engaged in personal contests he seldom exerted it—preferring the red tongue of slander or the hired assassin's shot from behind cover. His record fails to disclose one commendable trait. He was inordinately avaricious, but love of money was not his whole motive force: he had a spirit so jealous and malignant that he hated to the death another man's good. He seemed to divine instantly wherein other men were weak and to understand the speediest and best means of suborning them to his own interests—or of destroying them.
Wilkinson was able to lure a number of Kentuckians into the separatist movement. George Rogers Clark seriously disturbed the arch plotter by seizing a Spanish trader's store wherewith to pay his soldiers, whom Virginia had omitted to recompense. This act aroused the suspicions of the Spanish, either as to Number Thirteen's perfect loyalty or as to his ability to deliver the western country. In 1786, when Clark led two thousand men against the Ohio Indians in his last and his only unsuccessful campaign, Wilkinson had already settled himself near the Falls (Louisville) and had looked about for mischief which he might do for profit. Whether his influence had anything to do with what amounted virtually to a mutiny among Clark's forces is not ascertainable; but, for a disinterested onlooker, he was overswift to spread the news of Clark's debacle and to declare gleefully that Clark's sun of military glory had now forever set. It is also known that he later served other generals treacherously in Indian expeditions and that he intrigued with Mad Anthony Wayne's Kentucky troops against their commander.
Spain did not wish to see the Indians crushed; and Wilkinson himself both hated and feared any other officer's prestige. How long he had been in foreign pay we can only conjecture, for, several years before he transplanted his activities to Kentucky, he had been one of a cabal against Washington. Not only his ambitions but his nature must inevitably have brought him to the death-battle with George Rogers Clark. As a military leader, Clark had genius, and soldiering was his passion. In nature, he was open, frank, and bold to make foes if he scorned a man's way as ignoble or dishonest. Wilkinson suavely set about scheming for Clark's ruin. His communication or memorial to the Virginia Assembly—signed by himself and a number of his friends—villifying Clark, ended Clark's chances for the commission in the Continental Army which he craved. It was Wilkinson who made public an incriminating letter which had Clark's signature attached and which Clark said he had never seen. It is to be supposed that Number Thirteen was responsible also for the malevolent anonymous letter accusing Clark of drunkenness and scheming which, so strangely, found its way into the Calendar of State Papers of Virginia. * As a result, Clark was censured by Virginia. Thereupon he petitioned for a Court of Inquiry, but this was not granted. Wilkinson had to get rid of Clark; for if Clark, with his military gifts and his power over men, had been elevated to a position of command under the smile of the Government, there would have been small opportunity for James W Wilkinson to lead the Kentuckians and to gather in Spanish gold. So the machinations of one of the vilest traitors who ever sold his country were employed to bring about the stultification and hence the downfall of a great servant.
* See Thomas M. Greene's "The Spanish Conspiracy," p. 78, footnote. It is possible that Wilkinson's intrigues provide data for a new biography of Clark which may recast in some measure the accepted view of Clark at this period.
Wilkinson's chief aids were the Irishmen, O'Fallon, Nolan, and Powers. Through Nolan, he also vended Spanish secrets. He sold, indeed, whatever and whomever he could get his price for. So clever was he that he escaped detection, though he was obliged to remove some suspicions. He succeeded Wayne as commander of the regular army in 1796. He was one of the commissioners to receive Louisiana when the Purchase was arranged in 1803. He was still on the Spanish pay roll at that time. Wilkinson's true record came to light only when the Spanish archives were opened to investigators.
There were British agents also in the Old Southwest, for the dissatisfaction of the Western men inspired in Englishmen the hope of recovering the Mississippi Basin. Lord Dorchester, Governor of Canada, wrote to the British Government that he had been approached by important Westerners; but he received advice from England to move slowly. For complicity in the British schemes, William Blount, who was first territorial Governor of Tennessee and later a senator from that State, was expelled from the Senate.
Surely there was never a more elaborate network of plots that came to nothing! The concession to Americans in 1796 of the right of navigation on the Mississippi brought an end to the scheming.
In the same year Tennessee was admitted to the Union, and John Sevier was elected Governor Sevier's popularity was undiminished, though there were at this time some sixty thousand souls in Tennessee, many of whom were late comers who had not known him in his heyday. His old power to win men to him must have been as strong as ever, for it is recorded that he had only to enter a political meeting—no matter whose—for the crowd to cheer him and shout for him to "give them a talk."
This adulation of Sevier still annoyed a few men who had ambitions of their own. Among these was Andrew Jackson, who had come to Jonesborough in 1788, just after the collapse of the State of Franklin. He was twenty-one at that time, and he is said to have entered Jonesborough riding a fine racer and leading another, with a pack of hunting dogs baying or nosing along after him. A court record dated May 12, 1788, avers that "Andrew Jackson, Esq. came into Court and produced a licence as an Attorney With A Certificate sufficiently Attested of his Taking the Oath Necessary to said office and Was admitted to Practiss as an Attorney in the County Courts." Jackson made no history in old Watauga during that year. Next year he moved to Nashville, and one year later, when the Superior Court was established (1790), he became prosecuting attorney.
The feud between Jackson and Sevier began about the time that Tennessee entered the Union. Jackson, then twenty-nine, was defeated for the post of Major General of the Militia through the influence which Sevier exercised against him, and it seems that Jackson never forgave this opposition to his ambitions. By the close of Sevier's third term, however, in 1802, when Archibald Roane became Governor, the post of Major General was again vacant. Both Sevier and Jackson offered themselves for it, and Jackson was elected by the deciding vote of the Governor, the military vote having resulted in a tie. A strong current of influence had now set in against Sevier and involved charges against his honor. His old enemy Tipton was still active. The basis of the charges was a file of papers from the entry-taker's office which a friend of Tipton's had laid before the Governor; with an affidavit to the effect that the papers were fraudulent. Both the Governor and Jackson believed the charges. When we consider what system or lack of system of land laws and land entries obtained in Watauga and such: primitive communities—when a patch of corn sealed a right and claims were made by notching trees with tomahawks—we may imagine that a file from the land office might appear easily enough to smirch a landholder's integrity. The scandal was, of course, used in an attempt to ruin Sevier's candidacy for a fourth term as Governor and to make certain Roane's reflection. To this end Jackson bent all his energies but without success. Nolichucky Jack was elected, for the fourth time, as Governor of Tennessee.
Not long after his inauguration, Sevier met Jackson in Knoxville, where Jackson was holding court. The charges against Sevier were then being made the subject of legislative investigation instituted by Tipton, and Jackson had published a letter in the Knoxville "Gazette" supporting them. At the sight of Jackson, Sevier flew into a rage, and a fiery altercation ensued. The two men were only restrained from leaping on each other by the intervention of friends. The next day Jackson sent Sevier a challenge which Sevier accepted, but with the stipulation that the duel take place outside the State. Jackson insisted on fighting in Knoxville, where the insult had been offered. Sevier refused. "I have some respect," he wrote, "for the laws of the State over which I have the honor to preside, although you, a judge, appear to have none." No duel followed; but, after some further billets-doux, Jackson published Sevier as "a base coward and poltroon. He will basely insult but has not the courage to repair the wound." Again they met, by accident, and Jackson rushed upon Sevier with his cane. Sevier dismounted and drew his pistol but made no move to fire. Jackson, thereupon, also drew his weapon. Once more friends interfered. It is presumable that neither really desired the duel. By killing Nolichucky Jack, Jackson would have ended his own career in Tennessee—if Sevier's tribe of sons had not, by a swifter means, ended it for him. At this date Jackson was thirty-six. Sevier was fifty-eight; and he had seventeen children.
The charges against Sevier, though pressed with all the force that his enemies could bring to bear, came to nothing. He remained the Governor of Tennessee for another six years—the three terms in eight years allowed by the constitution. In 1811 he was sent to Congress for the second time, as he had represented the Territory there twenty years earlier. He was returned again in 1813. At the conclusion of his term in 1815 he went into the Creek country as commissioner to determine the Creek boundaries, and here, far from his Bonnie Kate and his tribe, he died of fever at the age of seventy. His body was buried with full military honors at Tuckabatchee, one of the Creek towns. In 1889, Sevier's remains were removed to Knoxville and a high marble spire was raised above them.
His Indian enemies forgave the chastisement he had inflicted on them and honored him. In times of peace they would come to him frequently for advice. And in his latter days, the chiefs would make state visits to his home on the Nolichucky River. "John Sevier is a good man"—so declared the Cherokee, Old Tassel, making himself the spokesman of history. Sevier had survived his old friend, co-founder with him of Watauga, by one year. James Robertson had died in 1814 at the age of seventy-two, among the Chickasaws, and his body, like that of his fellow pioneer, was buried in an Indian town and lay there until 1825, when it was removed to Nashville.
What of the red tribes who had fought these great pioneers for the wide land of the Old Southwest and who in the end had received their dust and treasured it with honor in the little soil remaining to them? Always the new boundary lines drew closer in, and the red men's foothold narrowed before the pushing tread of the whites. The day came soon when there was no longer room for them in the land of their fathers. But far off across the great river there was a land the white men did not covet yet. Thither at last the tribes—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek—took their way. With wives and children, maids and youths, the old and the young, with all their goods, their cattle and horses, in the company of a regiment of American troops, they—like the white men who had superseded them—turned westward. In their faces also was the red color of the west, but not newly there. From the beginning of their race, Destiny had painted them with the hue of the brief hour of the dying sun.
Chapter XI. Boone's Last Days
One spring day in 1799, there might have been observed a great stir through the valley of the Kanawha. With the dawn, men were ahorse, and women, too. Wagons crowded with human freight wheeled over the rough country, and boats, large and small, were afloat on the streams which pour into the Great Kanawha and at length mingle with the Ohio at Point Pleasant, where the battle was fought which opened the gates of Kentucky.
Some of the travelers poured into the little settlement at the junction of the Elk and the Kanawha, where Charleston now lies. Others, who had been later in starting or had come from a greater distance, gathered along the banks of the Kanawha. At last shouts from those stationed farthest up the stream echoed down the valley and told the rest that what they had come out to see was at hand.
Several pirogues drifted into view on the river, now brightening in the sunshine. In the vessels were men and their families; bales and bundles and pieces of household furnishings, heaped to the gunwale; a few cattle and horses standing patiently. But it was for one man above all that the eager eyes of the settlers were watching, and him they saw clearly as his boat swung by—a tall figure, erect and powerful, his keen friendly blue eyes undimmed and his ruddy face unlined by time, though sixty-five winters had frosted his black hair.
For a decade these settlers had known Daniel Boone, as storekeeper, as surveyor, as guide and soldier. They had eaten of the game he killed and lavishly distributed. And they too—like the folk of Clinch Valley in the year of Dunmore's War—had petitioned Virginia to bestow military rank upon their protector. "Lieutenant Colonel" had been his title among them, by their demand. Once indeed he had represented them in the Virginia Assembly and, for that purpose, trudged to Richmond with rifle and hunting dog. Not interested in the Legislature's proceedings, he left early in the session and tramped home again.
But not even the esteem of friends and neighbors could hold the great hunter when the deer had fled. So Daniel Boone was now on his way westward to Missouri, to a new land of fabled herds and wide spaces, where the hunter's gun might speak its one word with authority and where the soul of a silent and fearless man might find its true abode in Nature's solitude. Waving his last farewells, he floated past the little groups—till their shouts of good will were long silenced, and his fleet swung out upon the Ohio.
As Boone sailed on down the Beautiful River which forms the northern boundary of Kentucky, old friends and newcomers who had only heard his fame rode from far and near to greet and godspeed him on his way. Sometimes he paused for a day with them. Once at least—this, was in Cincinnati where he was taking on supplies—some one asked him why, at his age, he was leaving the settled country to dare the frontier once more.
"Too crowded," he answered; "I want more elbow-room!"
Boone settled at the Femme Osage Creek on the Missouri River, twenty-five miles above St. Charles, where the Missouri flows into the Mississippi. There were four other Kentucky families at La Charette, as the French inhabitants called the post, but these were the only Americans. The Spanish authorities granted Boone 840 acres of land, and here Daniel built the last cabin home he was to erect for himself and his Rebecca.
The region pleased him immensely. The governmental system, for instance, was wholly to his mind. Taxes were infinitesimal. There were no elections, assemblies, or the like. A single magistrate, or Syndic, decided all disputes and made the few regulations and enforced them. There were no land speculators, no dry-mouthed sons of the commercial Tantalus, athirst for profits. Boone used to say that his first years in Missouri were the happiest of his life, with the exception of his first long hunt in Kentucky.
In 1800 he was appointed Syndic of the district of Femme Osage, which office he filled for four years, until Louisiana became American territory. He was held in high esteem as a magistrate because of his just and wise treatment of his flock, who brought him all their small bickerings to settle. He had no use for legal procedure, would not listen to any nice subtleties, saying that he did not care anything at all about the EVIDENCE, what he wanted was the TRUTH. His favorite penalty for offenders was the hickory rod "well laid on." Often he decided that both parties in a suit were equally to blame and chastised them both alike. When in March, 1804, the American Commissioner received Louisiana for the United States, Delassus, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Louisiana, reporting on the various officials in the territory, wrote of the Femme Osage Syndic: "Mr. Boone, a respectable old man, just and impartial, he has already, since I appointed him, offered his resignation owing to his infirmities. Believing I know his probity, I have induced him to remain, in view of my confidence in him for the public good." *
* Thwaites, "Daniel Boone." To this and other biographies of Boone, cited in the Bibliographical Note at the end of this volume, the author is indebted for the material contained in this chapter.
Daniel, no doubt supposing that a Syndic's rights were inviolable, had neglected to apply to the Governor at New Orleans for a ratification of his grant. He was therefore dispossessed. Not until 1810, and after he had enlisted the Kentucky Legislature in his behalf, did he succeed in inducing Congress to restore his land. The Kentucky Legislature's resolution was adopted because of "the many eminent services rendered by Colonel Boone in exploring and settling the western country, from which great advantages have resulted not only to the State but to the country in general, and that from circumstances over which he had no control he is now reduced to poverty; not having so far as appears an acre of land out of the vast territory he has been a great instrument in peopling." Daniel was seventy-six then; so it was late in the day for him to have his first experience of justice in the matter of land. Perhaps it pleased him, however, to hear that, in confirming his grant, Congress had designated him as "the man who has opened the way for millions of his fellow-men."
The "infirmities" which had caused the good Syndic to seek relief from political cares must have been purely magisterial. The hunter could have been very little affected by them, for as soon as he was freed from his duties Boone took up again the silent challenge of the forest. Usually one or two of his sons or his son-in-law, Flanders Calloway, accompanied him, but sometimes his only companions were an old Indian and his hunting dog. On one of his hunting trips he explored a part of Kansas; and in 1814, when he was eighty, he hunted big game in the Yellowstone where again his heart rejoiced over great herds as in the days of his first lone wanderings in the Blue Grass country. At last, with the proceeds of these expeditions he was able to pay the debts he had left behind in Kentucky thirty years before. The story runs that Daniel had only fifty cents remaining when all the claims had been settled, but so contented was he to be able to look an honest man in the face that he was in no disposition to murmur over his poverty.
When after a long and happy life his wife died in 1813, Boone lived with one or other of his sons * and sometimes with Flanders Calloway. Nathan Boone, with whom Daniel chiefly made his home, built what is said to have been the first stone house in Missouri. Evidently the old pioneer disapproved of stone houses and of the "luxuries" in furnishings which were then becoming possible to the new generation, for one of his biographers speaks of visiting him in a log addition to his son's house; and when Chester Harding, the painter, visited him in 1819 for the purpose of doing his portrait, he found Boone dwelling in a small log cabin in Nathan's yard. When Harding entered, Boone was broiling a venison steak on the end of his ramrod. During the sitting, one day, Harding asked Boone if he had ever been lost in the woods when on his long hunts in the wilderness.
* Boone's son Nathan won distinction in the War of 1812 and entered the regular army, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Daniel Morgan Boone is said to have been the first settler in Kansas (1827). One of Daniel's grandsons, bearing the name of Albert Gallatin Boone, was a pioneer of Colorado and was to the forefront in Rocky Mountain exploration. Another grandson was the scout, Kit Carson, who led Fremont to California.
"No, I never got lost," Boone replied reflectively, "but I was BEWILDERED once for three days." Though now having reached the age of eighty-five, Daniel was intensely interested in California and was enthusiastic to make the journey thither next spring and so to flee once more from the civilization which had crept westward along his path. The resolute opposition of his sons, however, prevented the attempt.
A few men who sought out Boone in his old age have left us brief accounts of their impressions. Among these was Audubon. "The stature and general appearance of this wanderer of the western forests," the naturalist wrote, "approached the gigantic. His chest was broad, and prominent; his muscular powers displayed themselves in every limb; his countenance gave indication of his great courage, enterprise and perseverance; and, when he spoke, the very motion of his lips brought the impression that whatever he uttered could not be otherwise than strictly true."
Audubon spent a night under Boone's roof. He related afterwards that the old hunter, having removed his hunting shirt, spread his blankets on the floor and lay down there to sleep, saying that he found it more comfortable than a bed. A striking sketch of Boone is contained in a few lines penned by one of his earliest biographers: "He had what phrenologists would have considered a model head—with a forehead peculiarly high, noble and bold, thin compressed lips, a mild clear blue eye, a large and prominent chin and a general expression of countenance in which fearlessness and courage sat enthroned and which told the beholder at a glance what he had been and was formed to be." In criticizing the various portraits of Daniel, the same writer says: "They want the high port and noble daring of his countenance.... Never was old age more green, or gray hairs more graceful. His high, calm, bold forehead seemed converted by years into iron."
Although we are indebted to these and other early chroniclers for many details of Boone's life, there was one event which none of his biographers has related; yet we know that it must have taken place. Even the bare indication of it is found only in the narrative of the adventures of two other explorers.
It was in the winter of 1803 that these two men came to Boone's Settlement, as La Charette was now generally called. They had planned to make their winter camp there, for in the spring, when the Missouri rose to the flood, they and their company of frontiersmen were to take their way up that uncharted stream and over plains and mountains in quest of the Pacific Ocean. They were refused permission by the Spanish authorities to camp at Boone's Settlement; so they lay through the winter some forty miles distant on the Illinois side of the Mississippi, across from the mouth of the Missouri. Since the records are silent, we are free to picture as we choose their coming to the settlement during the winter and again in the spring, for we know that they came.
We can imagine, for instance, the stir they made in La Charette on some sparkling day when the frost bit and the crusty snow sent up a dancing haze of diamond points. We can see the friendly French habitants staring after the two young leaders and their men—all mere boys, though they were also husky, seasoned frontiersmen—with their bronzed faces of English cast, as in their gayly fringed deerskins they swaggered through the hamlet to pay their respects to the Syndic. We may think of that dignitary as smoking his pipe before his fireplace, perhaps; or making out, in his fantastic spelling, a record of his primitive court—for instance, that he had on that day given Pierre a dozen hickory thwacks, "well laid on," for starting a brawl with Antoine, and had bestowed the same upon Antoine for continuing the brawl with Pierre. A knock at the door would bring the amiable invitation to enter, and the two young men would step across his threshold, while their followers crowded about the open door and hailed the old pathfinder.
One of the two leaders—the dark slender man with a subtle touch of the dreamer in his resolute face—was a stranger; but the other, with the more practical mien and the shock of hair that gave him the name of Red Head among the tribes, Boone had known as a lad in Kentucky. To Daniel and this young visitor the encounter would be a simple meeting of friends, heightened in pleasure and interest somewhat, naturally, by the adventure in prospect. But to us there is something vast in the thought of Daniel Boone, on his last frontier, grasping the hands of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis.
As for the rough and hearty mob at the door, Daniel must have known not a few of them well; though they had been children in the days when he and William Clark's brother strove for Kentucky. It seems fitting that the soldiers with this expedition should have come from the garrison at Kaskaskia; since the taking of that fort in 1778 by George Rogers Clark had opened the western way from the boundaries of Kentucky to the Mississippi. And among the young Kentuckians enlisted by William Clark were sons of the sturdy fighters of still an earlier border line, Clinch and Holston Valley men who had adventured under another Lewis at Point Pleasant. Daniel would recognize in these—such as Charles Floyd—the young kinsmen of his old-time comrades whom he had preserved from starvation in the Kentucky wilderness by the kill from his rifle as they made their long march home after Dunmore's War.
In May, Lewis and Clark's pirogues ascended the Missouri and the leaders and men of the expedition spent another day in La Charette. Once again, at least, Daniel was to watch the westward departure of pioneers. In 1811, when the Astorians passed, one of their number pointed to the immobile figure of "an old man on the bank, who, he said, was Daniel Boone."
Sometimes the aged pioneer's mind cast forward to his last journey, for which his advancing years were preparing him. He wrote on the subject to a sister, in 1816, revealing in a few simple lines that the faith whereby he had crossed, if not more literally removed, mountains was a fixed star, and that he looked ahead fearlessly to the dark trail he must tread by its single gleam. Autumn was tinting the forest and the tang he loved was in the air when the great hunter passed. The date of Boone's death is given as September 26, 1820. He was in his eighty-sixth year. Unburdened by the pangs of disease he went out serenely, by the gentle marches of sleep, into the new country.
The convention for drafting the constitution of Missouri, in session at St. Louis, adjourned for the day, and for twenty days thereafter the members wore crape on their arms as a further mark of respect for the great pioneer. Daniel was laid by Rebecca's side, on the bank of Teugue Creek, about a mile from the Missouri River. In 1845, the Missouri legislators hearkened to oft-repeated pleas from Kentucky and surrendered the remains of the pioneer couple. Their bones lie now in Frankfort, the capital of the once Dark and Bloody Ground, and in 1880 a monument was raised over them.
To us it seems rather that Kentucky itself is Boone's monument; even as those other great corn States, Illinois and Indiana, are Clark's. There, these two servants unafraid, who sacrificed without measure in the wintry winds of man's ingratitude, are each year memorialized anew; when the earth in summer—the season when the red man slaughtered—lifts up the full grain in the ear, the life giving corn; and when autumn smiles in golden peace over the stubble fields, where the reaping and binding machines have hummed a nation's harvest song.
The Races And Their Migration
C. A. Hanna, "The Scotch-Irish," 2 vols. New York, 1902. A very full if somewhat over-enthusiastic study.
H. J. Ford, "The Scotch-Irish in America." Princeton, 1915. Excellent.
A. G. Spangenberg, Extracts from his Journal of travels in North Carolina, 1752. Publication of the Southern History Association. Vol. I, 1897.
A. B. Faust, "The German Element in the United States," 2 vols. (1909).
J. P. MacLean, "An Historical Account of the Settlements of Scotch Highlanders in America" (1900).
S. H. Cobb, "The Story of the Palatines" (1897).
N. D. Mereness (editor), "Travels in the American Colonies." New York, 1916. This collection contains the diary of the Moravian Brethren cited in the first chapter of the present volume.
Life In The Back Country
Joseph Doddridge, "Notes on the Settlements and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania," from 1763 to 1783. Albany, 1876. An intimate description of the daily life of the early settlers in the Back Country by one of themselves. J. F. D. Smyth, "Tour in the United States of America," 2 vols. London, 1784. Minute descriptions of the Back Country and interesting pictures of the life of the settlers; biased as to political views by Royalist sympathies.
William H. Foote, "Sketches of North Carolina," New York, 1846. See Foote also for history of the first Presbyterian ministers in the Back Country. As to political history, inaccurate.
Early History And Exploration
J. S. Bassett (editor), "The Writings of Colonel William Byrd of Westover." New York, 1901. A contemporary record of early Virginia.
Thomas Walker, "Journal of an Exploration in the Spring of the Year 1750." Boston, 1888. The record of his travels by the discoverer of Cumberland Gap.
William M. Darlington (editor), "Christopher Gist's Journals." Pittsburgh, 1893. Contains Gist's account of his surveys for the Ohio Company, 1750.
C. A. Hanna, "The Wilderness Trail," 2 vols. New York, 1911. An exhaustive work of research, with full accounts of Croghan and Findlay. See also Croghan's and Johnson's correspondence in vol. VII, New York Colonial Records.
James Adair, "The History of the American Indians," etc. London, 1775. The personal record of a trader who was one of the earliest explorers of the Alleghanies and of the Mississippi region east of the river; a many-sided work, intensely interesting.
C. W. Alvord, "The Genesis of the Proclamation of 1763." Reprinted from Canadian Archives Report, 1906. A new and authoritative interpretation. In this connection see also the correspondence between Sir William Johnson and the Lords of Trade in vol. VII of New York Colonial Records.
Justin Winsor, "The Mississippi Basin. The Struggle in America between England and France." Cambridge, 1895. Presents the results of exhaustive research and the coordination of facts by an historian of broad intellect and vision.