Fort Loudoun (Tennessee)
Fort Loudoun from the outside
|Location||Vonore, Tennessee, South bank of Little Tennessee River, about 3/4 miles southeast of U.S. 411|
|Area||50 acres (200,000 m2)|
|Architect||John William G. De Brahm|
|Architectural style||No Style Listed|
|Governing body||State of Tennessee|
|NRHP Reference #||66000729|
|Added to NRHP||October 15, 1966|
|Designated NHL||June 23, 1965|
Fort Loudoun was a British colonial-era fort located in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee, United States. Built in 1756 and 1757 to help garner Cherokee support for the British at the outset of the Seven Years' War, the fort was one of first significant British outposts west of the Appalachian Mountains. The fort was designed by John William G. De Brahm, its construction was supervised by Captain Raymond Demeré, and its garrison was commanded by Demeré's brother, Paul Demeré. It was named for the Earl of Loudoun, the commander of British forces in North America at the time.
Relations between the garrison of Fort Loudoun and the local Cherokee inhabitants were initially cordial, but soured in 1759 due to hostilities between Cherokee fighters and European settlers in Virginia and South Carolina. After the massacre of several Cherokee chiefs who were being held hostage at Fort Prince George, the Cherokee laid siege to Fort Loudoun in March 1760. The fort's garrison held out for several months, but diminishing supplies forced its surrender in August 1760. Hostile Cherokees attacked the fort's garrison as it marched back to South Carolina, killing more than two dozen and taking most of the survivors prisoner.
The fall of Fort Loudoun led to an invasion of Cherokee territory by General James Grant and an important peace expedition to the Overhill country by Henry Timberlake. The fort was reconstructed in the 20th century based on the detailed descriptions of its design by De Brahm and Demeré, and excavations conducted by Carl Kuttruff of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and is now the focus of Fort Loudoun State Park.
As early as 1708, British officials had discussed building a fort in Cherokee territory. The British colony of South Carolina considered trade with the Cherokee crucial, but had struggled to regulate it due to the remoteness of Cherokee territory. English traders frequently exploited the Cherokee, generating considerable resentment for the English among Cherokee leaders. The presence of a fort would be one means of regulating this trade.
Support for the fort increased considerably with the appointment of James Glen as South Carolina's governor in 1743. Glen believed such a fort would not only help regulate trade, but would be a stepping stone for expanding the British Empire into the interior of the continent. The fort had some support among British officials, as it was the height of King George's War (1744–1748), and the French were threatening to expand into the area from their base at Fort Toulouse (in modern central Alabama). While the Cherokee were initially cold to the idea, the Overhill Cherokee (i.e., the Cherokees living on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains, in what is now Tennessee), who had been suffering attacks from French-backed rival tribes, invited South Carolina to build the fort in 1747. Support for the fort faded at the end of the war, however.
The outbreak of the French and Indian War (the North American theater of the Seven Years War) in 1754 brought revived interest in the construction of a fort. While the Cherokee were allies of the British, French influence within the tribe had grown considerably, and a faction of the tribe at Great Tellico had switched its support to the French. The British Crown provided Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia with funds for the construction of a fort, though Dinwiddie gave an insignificant amount to Governor Glen for the fort, and spent most of the remainder on Braddock's Expedition in 1755. After this expedition ended in disaster, Dinwiddie turned to the Cherokee for assistance in defending Virginia's frontier. The Cherokee agreed to provide 600 warriors, and in return Virginia and South Carolina would construct a fort to protect Cherokee families while the men were away fighting.
Construction of Fort Loudoun
The fort was to be a joint effort by Virginia and South Carolina. The party from South Carolina was hampered by bureacratic delays, however, and the Virginians, led by Major Andrew Lewis, arrived at the Cherokee town of Chota in the Little Tennessee Valley on June 28, 1756, several weeks ahead of the South Carolinians. Rather than wait for the South Carolinians, Lewis's party began work on a fort across the river from Chota. This structure, known as the "Virginia Fort," was square in shape, measuring 105 feet (32 m) on each side, with walls consisting of earthen embankments topped by a 7-foot (2.1 m) palisade. Lewis's orders were to merely construct the fort, not garrison it, so when it was completed in early August 1756, the Virginians returned home.
Although Governor Glen's political foes had him ousted in May 1756, his successor, William Henry Lyttelton, was committed to the fort's completion. An advance party led by William Gibbs crossed the mountains and arrived at Great Hiwassee in early August, and had reached Tomotley on August 6, 1756, where Gibbs stayed in the home of Cherokee leader Attakullakulla. The main body, consisting of 80 British regulars commanded by Captain Raymond Demeré and two provincial companies of 60 men each, departed Fort Prince George on the South Carolina frontier on September 21, 1756. Accompanied by 60 pack horses, the group made the roughly 100-mile (160 km) trek in ten days, arriving in Tomotley on October 1. They were greeted by the Cherokee leader Old Hop and 200 Indians. The herculean task of moving the fort's 300-pound (140 kg) cannons over the mountains was accomplished by a contractor named John Elliott. John Stuart, an officer and future Indian agent who had accompanied the garrison, negotiated a purchase of corn from the Cherokee that helped the garrison avoid starvation.
John William Gerard de Brahm, a German-born engineer who had overseen the repair of the fortifications of Charleston, was tasked with designing the fort. De Brahm and Demeré constantly bickered over the fort's location and design. Demeré favored a site selected earlier that year by a scout named John Pearson, but De Brahm rejected the site as too exposed. He favored a site further upstream that offered a commanding view of the river, but Demeré disagreed, saying the site lacked suitable land for the garrison to grow crops. Demeré reported that De Brahm, incensed, took out his pistol and offered it to Demeré to shoot him in the head. The two eventually agreed on the current site of the fort as a compromise.
Construction of the fort began on October 5, 1756. De Brahm's design was more elaborate than a typical frontier fort. The fort was diamond-shaped with bastions at the corners, each of which contained three cannons. As the fort was built on a hill slope, two of the bastions were atop the hill, and two were closer to the bottom, with the walls sloping downward. The bastions were named for the King of England, the Queen of England, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cumberland. The walls were 300 feet (91 m) in length, and surrounded by a ditch, a yard deep and 10 feet (3.0 m) wide, which was planted with a honey locust hedge.
Throughout November and December 1756, Demeré and De Brahm continued to squabble over the fort's design. Demeré disliked De Brahm's original design for outer and inner palisades, and thought De Brahm's plans for two smaller auxiliary fortresses near the river were too complex. The two also disagreed on whether or not to discharge the provincials, with De Brahm arguing the construction work was nearly complete and the provincials no longer needed, and Demeré disagreeing, stating the fort was uninhabitable. On December 24, 1756, De Brahm, stating the fort was essentially finished, abruptly left for South Carolina, drawing a strong rebuke from Demeré. The nonplussed Cherokees referred to De Brahm as "the warrior who ran away in the night."
After De Brahm's departure, Demeré abandoned the original palisade design in favor of a single, more permanent palisade. The walls of the palisade consisted of 15-foot (4.6 m) upright logs, 8 feet (2.4 m) of which extended from the ground at a 15-degree angle. The interior of the fort covered approximately 2 acres (0.81 ha), and included a powder magazine, a blacksmith shop, barracks and officers' quarters, and supply buildings. The garrison built drains, troughs for salting beef, a meathouse, and a charcoal pit for the blacksmith. The walls and bastions were completed by March 26, 1757. Demeré reported the fort completed on May 30, 1757. Governor Lyttelton named the fort after John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun, who had recently been appointed commander-in-chief of British forces in North America.
Fort Loudoun's garrison
After reporting the fort completed, Demeré requested a replacement, stating he had fallen ill. On August 6, 1757, his brother, Paul Demeré, arrived to relieve him, accompanied by reinforcements. By November 1757, the garrison had completed a guardhouse and several supply houses. A personal house for Demeré was completed by early 1758, and the fort's well was completed by June 1758. During the same period, the garrison planted 700 acres (280 ha) of crops.
Life at the fort was generally routine. A changing of the guard took place several times per day. At night, five large guard dogs roamed the fort's exterior. The fort's blacksmith spent much of his time mending Cherokee guns and tools. The garrison provided most of its own food through hunting, fishing and farming, though some food was acquired from the Cherokees (some soldiers had Cherokee wives). Sixty women and children, dependents of the soldiers, lived in the fort.
In June 1757, a 36-man contingent of the garrison, led by Lieutenant James Adamson and Ensign Richard Coytmore, attacked a band of hostile Indians who were threatening the Cherokee at Great Tellico. Three of the intruders were killed, and the rest were driven out. In September 1757, Paul Demeré attended the Cherokees' Green Corn Dance, and spent the subsequent months encouraging the Cherokee to launch attacks against the French and their Indian allies. He convinced a number of Cherokees, including Attakullakulla, to join the Forbes Expedition against Fort Duquesne in 1758 (Attakullakulla would eventually abandon the expedition in disgust over Forbes' delays).
William Richardson, a Presbyterian missionary (and uncle of future North Carolina governor William Richardson Davie), arrived at Fort Loudoun in late 1758. He baptized a child of one of the soldiers, and delivered sermons on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He reported the Little Tennessee River had frozen over on December 19, and noted a persistent rumor of an impending French attack. Richardson stated the Cherokees were heavy drinkers who were uninterested in his message about the Gospel. Frustrated, he left the fort on February 6, 1759.
Relations between the Cherokee and the English began to decline in late 1758. After deserting the Forbes Expedition, Attakullakulla and several warriors were disarmed and briefly detained. Although Governor Fauquier of Virginia managed to placate Attakullakulla, some Cherokees raided Virginia's frontier settlements while returning to the Tennessee Valley. In response, the settlers killed several Cherokees, and the situation quickly spiraled out of control. In April 1759, Moytoy of Citico led a raid into Virginia that killed several settlers. Both Demeré and Attakullakulla demanded the surrender of some of the murderers, but were unsuccessful.
Fearing the situation would dissolve into open warfare, Governor Lyttelton placed an embargo on the sale of guns and ammunition to the Cherokee in August 1759. Several Cherokees, especially in Great Tellico and Citico, began turning to the French for weapons. In early September, a soldier from Fort Loudoun, an English merchant and an English parkhorseman were killed and their scalps exchanged for French ammunition.
After Demeré reported that the Cherokee were blocking roads into the Overhill country, Governor Lyttelton began making preparations to march against the Cherokee in October 1759. As he was making these preparations, a Cherokee delegation led by Oconostota arrived in Charleston to sue for peace. Skeptical of their intentions, Lyttelton ordered them held prisoner (ostensibly for their protection). He departed for Fort Prince George with 1,700 troops and the Cherokee captives, arriving on December 9, 1759. Shortly after his arrival, he negotiated a peace treaty with Attakullakulla, freeing Oconostota and several other Cherokee captives, and promising to release the remaining captives when the Cherokees who had killed white settlers were turned over.
Oconostota and Attakullakulla returned to Fort Prince George in February 1760 to demand the release of the remaining hostages, but Richard Coytmore (who had replaced Lachlan McIntosh as commander of Fort Prince George's garrison) refused. On February 16, Oconostota requested a meeting with Coytmore. When Coytmore arrived at the meeting outside the fort, he was mortally wounded in an ambush orchestrated by Oconostota. The enraged garrison responded by killing the remaining hostages.
Siege of Fort Loudoun
Demeré had begun preparing Fort Loudoun for a siege in September 1759. On September 9, after the Cherokee tried to drive away the fort's cattle, Demeré ordered the cattle to be brought inside the fort, where they were butchered and their meat salted. In November of that year, John Stuart arrived with 70 reinforcements, increasing the fort's garrison to 200. In January 1760, Demeré reported the fort had stockpiled enough meat for four months and enough corn for several weeks.
Outraged by the events at Fort Prince George, the Cherokee, led by Standing Turkey and Willenawah, launched an attack against Fort Loudoun on March 20, 1760. The fort's cannons prevent them from getting close enough to inflict serious damage, however, and after firing on the fort for four days, the Cherokee settled in for a long siege. In June 1760, a force of 1,300 British regulars led by Archibald Montgomerie destroyed several of the Lower Towns and invaded the Middle Towns, but after encountering stiff opposition at Etchoe Pass, he retreated to Charleston. During the same period, a force led by William Byrd III marched down the Holston Valley from Virginia with plans to relieve the fort, but their progress was very gradual.
Attakullakulla, who remained on good terms with the garrison, was expelled from the Council at Chota for warning the garrison that Oconostota had planned a ruse to lure them out of the fort. In early June 1760, Demeré reduced the rations to one quart of corn for three men. In early July, the garrison ran out of bread, and was forced to subsist on horse meat. A dispatch in late July described the condition of the fort's garrison as "miserable beyond description." News of Montgomerie's retreat further demoralized the garrison, and men began deserting. On August 6, 1760, Demeré called a Council of War, which determined it was "impracticable to hold out any longer." John Stuart and James Adamson met with Oconostota and Standing Turkey at Chota to negotiate the fort's surrender. The fort, its cannon, and gunpowder would be turned over to the Cherokee, while the soldiers would be allowed to keep their personal arms and baggage.
The flag was lowered at the fort for the final time on August 8, 1760, and the garrison set out for Fort Prince George the following day. They camped for the night at the mouth of Cane Creek, along the Tellico River near modern Tellico Plains. On the morning of August 10, some 700 Cherokees suddenly attacked the camp. The garrison briefly returned fire before surrendering. In the melee, three officers, twenty-three privates, and three women were killed. Demeré was reportedly forced to dance, and had dirt stuffed in his mouth before he was executed. Stuart, the only officer to survive the assault, was ransomed by Attakullakulla. The remaining garrison and their families were taken captive. Most were ransomed in the ensuing months.
Prior to leaving the fort, the garrison had buried several bags of gunpowder (in violation of the terms of surrender), which was suggested as a possible motive the Cherokee attack at Cane Creek. However, John Stevens, a member of the fort's garrison who survived the attack, suggested the Cherokee had planned the attack all along.
Aftermath and later history
After receiving news of the fort's capture, Governor Kerlerec of Louisiana dispatched French ships into the interior in an attempt to occupy the fort, but the ships were unable to navigate the Tennessee River. In the Summer of 1761, an invasion led by James Grant destroyed a dozen Lower and Middle towns. Seeing their position as untenable, the Cherokee negotiated a peace treaty with Grant, which was signed on September 23, 1761. In November, Old Hop negotiated a peace treaty with Byrd's men at Long Island of the Holston. Henry Timberlake and Thomas Sumter, soldiers in Byrd's expedition, visited the Overhill towns as part of a peace delegation in late 1761 and early 1762. In his Memoirs, Timberlake merely noted that Fort Loudoun was in ruins.
Sequoyah, a prominent 19th-century Cherokee scholar, was born at Tuskegee, a village which had developed just south of the fort. Stones from Fort Loudoun may have been used to construct the Tellico Blockhouse, an American outpost located across the river from the fort, in the 1790s. Louis Phillipe, the future King of France, visited the Blockhouse while in exile in the United States in 1797, and noted that Fort Loudoun was mostly rubble and brush. He argued the site of fort had been poorly selected. After the Cherokee relinquished control of the area with the signing of the Calhoun Treaty in 1819, ownership of the fort's ruins changed hands several times.
Historian P.M. Radford published an article about the fort, Old Fort Loudoun, in 1897, and noted that all traces of the fort, with the exception of the well, had vanished. The following year, author Mary Noailles Murfree published a novel about the fort, The Story of Old Fort Loudon, which included several drawings by illustrator Ernest Peixotto. The Colonial Dames of America placed a marker at the site of the fort in 1917. In a 1925 article, "Fort Loudoun on the Little Tennessee," historian Philip Hamer suggested the fort's earthworks were still discernible.
With sporadic support from the state, and from the federal government via the Works Progress Administration, preservationists researched the fort's history and began reconstructing the fort starting in 1935 during the Great Depression. The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The Tennessee Valley Authority funded extensive excavations at the site in mid-1970s as part of the Tellico Dam project. These excavations, led by Carl Kuttruff of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology, determined the layout of the fort and its buildings, and uncovered thousands of artifacts, many of which are now on display in the fort's museum. The site of the fort was below Tellico Lake's operating levels, so it was raised several meters (care was taken to preserve the original topography). The design of the fort and its buildings reflect the findings from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology's excavations and related historical work.
The present-day reconstruction of the fort sits on the bank of the Little Tennessee River, but the fort was not originally on the waterfront. When the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) construction of Tellico Dam threatened to flood the original fort site, preservationists moved the reconstruction. They dismantled the fort, used fill dirt to raise the site 26 feet (8 meters), and rebuilt it. The dam brought the river closer to the fort than it was originally.
Together with an interpretive center and recreation area, the fort is part of Fort Loudoun State Park. The Tellico Blockhouse site is also part of the park. It features foundations reconstructed based on archaeological investigations. The blockhouse was built on the river opposite the fort by the U.S. Government in 1794 and was in operation until 1805.
- Polly M. Rettig and Horace J. Sheely, Jr. (March 29, 1975). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service and PDF (32 KB)
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- "Fort Loudoun". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-27.
- Carroll Van West, "Fort Loudoun," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 1 December 2013.
- James C. Kelly, “Fort Loudoun: A British Stronghold in the Tennessee Country,” East Tennessee Historical Society ‘’Publications’’, Vol. 50 (1978), pp. 72-92.
- Carl Kuttruff, Beverly Bastian, Jenna Tedrick Kuttruff, and Stuart Strumpf, "Fort Loudoun in Tennessee: 1756-1760: History, Archaeology, Replication, Exhibits, and Interpretation," Report of the Tennessee Wars Commission and Tennessee Division of Archaeology, Research Series No. 17 (Waldenhouse Publishers, Inc., 2010). Accessed at the Tennssee State Library and Archives website, 3 December 2013.
- Daniel Patterson, "Backcountry Legends of a Minister's Death," Southern Spaces, 30 October 2012. Retrieved: 16 December 2013.
- John Finger, Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition (Indiana University Press, 2001), pp. 34-39.
- Henry Timberlake, Samuel Cole Williams (ed.), Memoirs, 1756-1765 (Marietta, Georgia: Continental Book Co., 1948), p. 38.
- Timberlake, Memoirs, p. 57.
- Charles Egbert Craddock (Mary Noailles Murfree), The Story of Old Fort Loudon (MacMillan, 1913).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Fort Loudoun (Tennessee).|
- Fort Loudoun State Park – official site
- Fort Loudoun Association
- Tennessee State Library photographs