Early History of the South-West.
INDIAN BATTLES AND MURDERS — NARRATlVE OF GENERAL HALL.
[FROM NOTES OF CONVERSATIONS WITH THE EDITOR.]
ONE of the finest sections of country in the entire South-West, is comprised in Sumner County, East of Gallatin, in this State ; the fertility of the soil, being only equalled by the beauty of the scenery, whilst its legends of the past, add to the deep interest with which the visitor thither surveys its charming valleys, its magnificient uplands, and crystal streams. And as if to reward them for past sufferings and hardships in the settlement of the country, Time seems to have dealt with especial kindness with numbers of these gallant old men who live there as monuments of another period, for we know of no neighborhood where so many survive to tell of the perils of the past.
And amongst those most honored for the part nobly borne in troublous times, is the gallant, although aged pioneer whose narrative we in the present No. of the South-Western Monthly have the satisfaction of laying before our readers; and whilst the dangers encountered and the escapes made, seem almost miraculous, the interest is enhanced by the deservedly high character of the venerable narrator, whose high position, in later times, in the State, attest the esteem and confidence in which he is held by his fellow citizens. To various offices of honor and of trust, Gen. Hall has added that of GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, — of Chief Magistrate of the glorious Commonwealth he so gallantly defended in its infancy; and now in the evening of his days, in dignified retirement, in deserved affluence, he reaps in the respect and regard of all who know him, the rewards of a life well spent. His home, the abode of a generous hospitality, all who approach it are welcomed with the freedom which ever marked the intercourse of the early settlers, with each other; and few greater pleasures can be recurred to in life, than that of listening to the voice of such an one, as he goes back to the stirring details of a period, so fraught with adventure, — so full of interest.
Gen. Hall is now about seventy-eight years of age, has fine acquiline features, a noble presence, and most pleasant deportment; and although his hair is silvery, and he has suffered recently from ill-health, yet he bids fair to live many years, a blessing to the large circle of friends with whom he is surrounded. We trust he may long stay to witness the increasing greatness of the glorious State in which he has so well acted his part, and that long years hence, when he is summoned away to that repose which awaits all alike, that his example will be recurred; to by the youth of the land, to incite
332them to deeds which shall in like manner reflect honor upon their country.
I was born in Surrey county, North Carolina, in the year 1775, and my father sold his possessions in North Carolina in 1779, and started for Kentucky. He came on to New River in Virginia, purchased a track of land, and spent five years there from 1779 to 1785. He did this, in consequence of the times being so perilous and troublesome that he could not then get through the wilderness with his family. He sold his plantation there in the fall of 1785, and moved to Sumner county, which was made a county that year ; arriving here on the 20th of November, 1785. We had no incidents worth relating on the journey. My father settled near Bledsoe's Lick on the spot where I am at present residing. Leaving his family at Bledsoe's Fort, he came out during that winter, put up buildings, and moved his family to the place. In the spring of 1786 the Indians came in and stole all his horses, 12 or 15 in number, a heavy loss. He then moved his family back to the fort, and continued there until the next fall. He then returned and lived here until the next summer in 1787, the Indian war having broken out during the summer of that same year. My brother James was killed on the 3rd of June in 1787, at this place, being the first white person killed in this section of country after the war broke out. The circumstances were these.
James and myself went up to a field at Mr. Gibson's about a quarter of a mile from my father's house, we having put our horses up there, and the Indians, fifteen in number, had ambuscaded the road, ten lying behind some logs on the road, and five, about fifty yards further up in a tree top, at the gap of the pasture fence. The object appears to have been to have the five towards Mr. Gibson's, fire upon any person from that quarter, and if they escaped, to let the ten intercept them, or the reverse if they came from my father's. The ten Indians that lay behind the logs let us pass them, I suppose, because we were boys; probably intending quietly to tomahawk us, throw us aside and then resume their position. But after we passed, the ten rose up at once with their tomahawks in their right hands and their guns in their left. I was not noticing them, and my brother was close behind me. As I turned to speak to him about some corn with which to catch the horses, as we were near the fence, I saw the whole ten hemming us in. The case looked so hopeless, that I never dreamed of resistance, and had concluded at once to surrender. But the next thing I saw, two of them struck my brother as he turned around, each sinking their tomahawks into his brain one on each side of the forehead. Instantly seeing the case was hopeless, I sought to dodge the ten, when up rose the other five from the tree top, and as I fled past them, I was so near to them, only six or eight feet distant, that some of them raised their tomahawks to strike me down. Dashing into the thick cane brake close by which the road ran, two of them at once rushed after me. Being about thirteen years of age, and of course slimmer than they were, and withal very active, I soon found that unincumbered with a gun, or any thing else, I could make my way through the thick cane faster than they could, burthened as they were with their guns and tomahawks. The first mishap that befel me, a grape vine caught me by the neck, threw me over backwards, and took my hat off; but recovering myself, still fled onward, gaining on them at every jump. I feared, at last, that they would cut me off at the point of a ridge which I had to cross to get to my father's house, since the thick cane terminated a little distance below, and I should there be compelled to leave it. Watching one fellow who was running along the hill side where the cane was thinnest, as Heaven ordered it, a large tree had fallen right in his path, crushing the cane about in all directions, and forming an insurmountable obstacle, thus compelling him to go around at one end, or the other. Fortunately he took down towards me to get around the top, and by the time
333he had got to the end of it, for it was a long tree, I had already passed it, and consequently I had then the whole three behind me. They, however, ran me to within one hundred yards of the house. They killed and scalped my poor brother, and then fled. As I got to the house, half a dozen young men and as many young women were coming on a visit to my father's. The young men were all armed, and they at once jumped off their horses and ran back with me to where my brother was lying, and brought him in. The word was immediately given out, the fort being only about a mile distant, and five men under Maj. Jas. Lynn instantly went in pursuit of the Indians. The latter had taken a buffalo trace from Bledsoe's Lick to Dickson's Lick through the cane-brake, and the Major being an old Indian fighter, told his men that they would not pursue directly after them, for fear of an ambush; but as they (the whites) were the fewest, they would take another trace that ran parallel with the one the Indians were on, which led on, and to Goose Creek ahead, and where the trace crossed, they could there find out whether the gang had passed. Pursuing this plan, they came upon the Indians right in the creek, and firing upon them, they fled, two of them being wounded, leaving their knapsacks, tomahawks; and so forth, behind them. The whites brought back my poor brother's scalp which had been tied to a pack, and likewise one of the tomahawks with which he had been killed, the blood still upon it.
My father was not at home at the time my brother was killed, having been summoned to Nashville to attend a council Gen. Robinson was holding with the Little Owl and others of the Cherokee Chiefs.
It was supposed that my brother was killed to satisfy the vengeful feelings of a party of Indians who had come to Morgan's fort about five weeks before and stolen some horses; but who, in taking them away, lost one of their number who was killed by the whites in pursuit. The Indians had taken a circuit through the knobs on their way with the horses to the "nation," aiming to cross at Dickson's Spring ; but the whites having detected their whereabouts by the sound of a bell which had become loosened, followed them some five miles, and killing the Indian mentioned, recovered all the horses.
After my father returned from Nashville, three families of us residing out from the fort, held a council as to whether we would spend the summer at the farms, or go to the fort at Bledsoe's Lick. Our two neighbors were Messrs. Gibson and Harrison; and the former having no white family, it was agreed that the three should combine and hire each two young men to guard the farms through the season. From the 3rd of June, accordingly, the day my brother was killed, to the 2nd day of August, we had no alarm ; but on that day the spies came in and advised my father to pack up at once, and move to the station, — that the Indians were at least thirty in number. We accordingly loaded up a sled and started for the fort. We started with the first load in the morning, my sister being along on horseback, going to the fort to arrange the things at the cabins as fast as they should arrive; and we had two young men along also, my brother and a Mr. Hickerson to guard us. When about half a mile from my father's house, and crossing the Defeated Branch, the horses became alarmed, the two I was driving turning around so suddenly as nearly to run over me. I said to the young men, that I was sure the horses smelt the Indians; but my brother insisted upon going onward, which we did, making four trips through the day. When we came late in the evening to make the last trip and take the family to the fort, five men went along to guard the family on their way thither. We packed up when the sun was about two hours high, whites, negroes, and all; I still driving the horses, my little brother behind me on one of them, We had arranged it that we should go ahead as we had been doing all day; the two young men in advance of myself and the sled. The Indians, forty or fifty in number, had arranged an ambuscade
334on both sides of the road, for about one hundred yards, and as we went on, my brother and Hickerson just in advance, a little dog belonging to my brother showed violent alarm on approaching the top of a large ash tree that had fallen in the road. My brother was just in advance, as I have said, and as he stopped a moment, I stopped the horses, to see what was the cause of the alarm evinced by the dog. My brother took a step forward towards the tree top, when immediately, I saw a gun poked out from amongst the leaves, which being fired at once, my brother was shot right through the body with a couple of bullets. He instantly turned and dashed back into the woods, and fell dead about one hundred yards off, whilst the Indians finding themselves discovered, rose all together, yelling like demons, and charged upon the party. Hickerson unwisely took his stand right in the road instead of "treeing," and his gun missing fire, he next attempted to use my gun which he had in his hand, but in the act of firing it, he was shot with six or seven bullets, and running a little distance off, he also fell and expired. At this, I jumped off the horse, and taking my little brother John, and my sister, Prudence, I ran back and placed them behind the men, who, advancing, kept the Indians for a few moments at bay. My mother was mounted upon a large, powerful horse, and he, scared and quite ungovernable, dashed right along the entire line of the Indians, whilst she holding to his mane was carried about a mile distant, safely to the fort.
My father, and Mr. Morgan, my brother-in-law, kept the Indians in check until the whites and negroes scattered into the woods, and Morgan was then wounded by the Indians, who flanking around shot him very dangerously through the body. He however succeeded in escaping, my father keeping the savages back for some little time longer, but finally, after firing his heavy rifle, which I could mark distinctly from the report made, so different from that by the Indian's guns, he turned and ran about forty yards, when he fell pierced by thirteen bullets. The Indians scalped him and hastily fled, not stopping to take any thing but his rifle and shot pouch, and in their hot haste, they did not even pick up the things scattered by the overturn of the sled, the horses having dashed it against a tree as they broke clear of it at the first alarm. Meanwhile, I had directed my little brother and sister to run back to the house, I awaiting behind a tree upon the hill above the result of the fight; and when I heard my father fire and the Indian's raise the yell, thereupon I started for the fort. My little brother and sister ran back to the house, but the alarmed dogs barking at them, they ran back to the scene of the battle. Here they found Mr. Rogan's hat which the little boy picked up, and coming to the sled, my little sister picked up also a small pail of butter, and the two thoughtlessly walked on towards the fort, along the road, meeting the men directly who were coming from thence. The children were placed in charge of a negro man who took them safely back.
After my father was killed, my mother concluded to move to Greenfield fort, her two sons-in-law living there; and so I moved her there soon after, where we remained until the December following, which was in the year '87. At this time, Evan's battallion having been sent out from North Carolina for the defence of the frontiers against the Indians, a company of them under command of Capt. William Martin, having built a block house between our old residence and Mr. Harrison's, we moved back, concluding that the close neighborhood of the soldiers would be a sufficient defence. Soon after this, the Indians came in and attacked the fort at Bledsoe's Lick, passing us as too strong; and then we broke up once more and moved to the fort at Bledsoe's Lick, the soldiers being scattered about in smaller parties at different forts.
In relation to the attack on Bledsoe's Lick. There were only a few men in the fort, and not expecting any attack, a party of them were in the room occupied by Col. Anthony Bledsoe at the time he
335was killed. A little schoolmaster, gamed George Hamilton was sitting in front of the fire singing at the top of his voice. The Indians prowling about the place, found a hole in the back of the chimney and one of them poking a gun in at the crevice, fired upon the singer, the shot aimed at his open mouth, striking upon his chin and passing around his jaw, he just escaped with his life. The Indians then cut down one of the window shutters with their tomahawks, and trying to get in at the window, Mr. Hugh Rogan, still living in this vicinity, fired an old musket out amongst them, and they left that part of the stockade. They tried afterwards at Mr. Donahoe's cabin, at another quarter of the fort, and firing in amongst a large number of children, succeeded only in killing a large dog stretched before the fire, when the old man seizing a bucket of water threw it upon the fire and extinguishing it, thus avoided the danger. The Indians finding they could achieve nothing; then left.
Here, at BIedsoe's fort, my mother remained, from the spring of '88, to, '92, about five years; and then moved to Morgan's fort about three miles distant from BIedsoe's fort, where she staid until the close of the war in '95.
Of those killed at BIedsoe's fort and in the neighborhood, about this time, an account may be interesting. The fort was an oblong square, and built all around in a regular stockade except at one place, where stood a large double cabin. This was occupied by the two brothers, Col. Anthony and Col. Jesse Bledsoe. This cabin stood in the front line of the fort, the whole being built, it will be understood, around an open square. Excepting the open passage between the two cabins, the whole was compactly enclosed. Here Col. Anthony Bledsoe was killed, with a servant of his, by the Indians. The circumstances were these:
A lane came down at right angles to the fort thus described, the mouth of it being about thirty yards distant; whilst the Nashville road ran along in front. The Indians, it appears, had been reconnoitering the place in their prowlings through the day, and the night being a bright moonlight one, the Savages posted themselves in the fence corners fronting the passage referred to as between the two cabins. Then they got a party to mount on horseback and gallop past, in order to attract persons into the passage through which the moonlight poured in full splendor. The plot succeeded. At the sound of the horses feet, Col. Anthony Bledsoe, and Campbell, the servant, both jumped up and stepped into the passage, when the Indians shot them both down. The Col. died next morning, the servant the morning afterwards. I was in the fort at the time. The occurrence took place about midnight. This was on the 20th of July, 1788.
I should have mentioned that in the winter of this year, the Indians killed my brother-in-law, Mr. Chas. Morgan, also Mr. Jordan Gibson whilst both of them were on their way to my mother's house. This occurred within a few hundred yards of my residence, the field now cleared, being in forest at the time. Mr. Morgan lived some days after he was found. Mr. Gibson was shot dead. Mr. Morgan was killed in attempting to save Mr. Gibson, who was an old man. The same winter, the Indians killed the father of Mr. Morgan, at Morgan's Fort.
Mr. Alexander Neely and his two sons, James and Charles, were killed in the summer of 1790, at about one mile distant from BIedsoe's Lick fort. They had moved out from the fort to his farm, and the father and the two boys had taken a cart to haul some bark; but the Indians lying in wait for them, killed all three. During the same summer or that following, the Indians killed Henry and William Ramsay, two brothers. Henry was killed first, the Indians having fired upon several of a party, of which he was one. A Mr. Hicks was wounded at the same time. The brother, William Ramsay, came up from White's Creek soon after to attend to his brother's estate, and on his way back, the Indians lying in wait at the mouth of a lane killed him and his horse, also. The same summer, 1790, old Robert Desha's two
336sons, Benjamin and Robert, were killed over on Desha's Creek, about two and a half miles from Bledsoe's Lick; and the summer following, on the same creek, at Lander's fort. Col. Landers' had two sons killed. The same year, also, two men whose names I do not, remember, were killed down on Bledsoe's Creek, near Gen. Winchester's.
In April, 1793, Col, Isaac Bledsoe was killed whilst on the way to his fields, with his hands. The party was proceeding out to mend up the log heaps, and the Indians knowing that at such times some person might be expected to attend to them, lay in wait near by, and shot him down, and scalped him. The negroes , being a short distance behind, turned and reached the house in safety. [TO BE CONTINUED]