Thursday, July 5, 2012



Reconstructed Fort Loudoun is 17 feet higher than the original because of the Tellico Dam.

            I am often amazed in retrospect at how a series of small events can have a huge impact.  An illustration can be found in the history of the Fort Loudoun State Historic       Area in a state park on the banks of the Tellico Lake in Vonore, Tenn.   Without the fort to protect the southern frontier for the English from the French from 1756-1760, we might all be speaking French instead of English. At the time the British and the French were fighting the Seven Years’ War in Europe, and here in North America we were in the middle of the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  

The Cherokee had opted to fight on the side of their trading partners, the British; but they were afraid if their warriors went off to battle, other tribes might raid the camps where they had left their women and children.  Built at the request of the Cherokee, Fort Loudoun helped keep the Cherokee loyal to the English while English soldiers in the North were winning the battles that eventually gave them control of eastern North America and left us speaking English.

            A 15-minute film in the visitor’s center gives a history of the fort and its eventual burning by the Cherokee.  At first the relationship went well.  The fort became a center for trading with the Cherokee exchanging food and skins for what they considered modern marvels: guns, metal cooking pots, beads, paint and cloth.

The relationship began to break down when the Cherokee felt they were not being treated fairly by the British. After some settlers killed some Cherokees, the Indians killed an equal number of settlers, and the relationship broke down.  The Cherokee believed that if some tribe killed a member of your tribe, they owed you a death that could be paid by any member of the other tribe. 

            A leader of the Cherokee was arrested under false pretentions, and other Cherokees were taken hostage and killed.  In retaliation, late in 1759 the Cherokee surrounded the fort and by early 1760 had starved them into submission.  The Cherokee negotiated to allow the British to leave the area in safety if they would leave the fort’s cannon and gunpowder behind.   The British buried the gunpowder and ruined the cannon.   As they marched away, the Cherokee accompanied them, but during the night disappeared.  The next morning the Cherokee attacked them and killed 24 (one report said 30) of the troops--the same number as their own tribal members who had earlier been killed.  The rest of the British, which included women and children were captured and some died in captivity, some were returned to the English and a few decided to remain with the Cherokee.

            At this point the Cherokee burned the fort.  In 1936 the Works Projects Administration had an appropriation to restore the area.  After digging to find the former post holes, old plans and letters helped to start the rebuilding of a an accurate reproduction.  The Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River was built in 1979, the site of the fort was raised 17 feet, and the fort reconstructed. 

            We passed through the visitors’ center and walked about 100 yards to the fort with its small cannon, barracks, blacksmith shop and other buildings of the period.  To add to the ambiance there is a Cherokee encampment outside the gates and a barrier outside the wooden palisades of pine lotus with its prickly thorns that provide additional protection.  

One weekend a month re-enactors recreate the period when the fort was in use.  The fort is located on an island in a highly attractive setting that also serves as the center of much boating and fishing activity.

 A display in Fort Loudoun’s Visitor’s Center of weapons of the period

A reconstructed Cherokee Village outside of Fort Loudoun

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