Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fort Loudoun

Of the wars that have taken place on American soil in the last 400 years, the one I know least about is the French and Indian War; a recent trip to a TN State Park helped fill in some of the gaps. From 1754 to 1763 the colonies of British America fought against those of New France, both sides supported by Native American allies and military units from Europe in what was the North American portion of the Seven Years’ War.

We were in Tennessee for the weekend and started our exploration in Fort Loudoun, a British colonial-era fort located in Venore, Tennessee. Built in 1756-57 to provide safe haven for Cherokee allies in exchange for their assistance against the French, the fort was one of the first British outposts west of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s 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 1758 due to hostilities between Cherokee fighters and European settlers in Virginia and SC. 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.” (source here)

Based on detailed descriptions of the design, the fort was excavated during the Great Depression, and the site raised by 17 feet so that the fort could be rebuilt above the water line of what was to be the Tellico Reservoir.  When the Tellico Dam was finally completed in 1979, the Little Tennessee flooded the locations of the Overhill Cherokee towns of Chota, Tanasi, Toqua, Tomotley, Citico, Mialoquo and Tuskegee – but the reconstructed Fort Loudoun remains.

Today Fort Loudoun is managed by the Tennessee State Parks. Along with a visitor center and the reconstructed fort, there is also a picnic area, fishing pier, hiking trails and boat dock. When doing research on the fort I discovered that there were actually three colonial forts built by the British in what is now the US that share the same name: the TN Fort Loudoun, and two others in Virginia and Pennsylvania... Seems like a recipe for confusion for British logistics!

To round out your visit to the fort, head across the road to the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a tribally operated museum dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of the history of the Cherokee people. The Museum is also a location on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. The ruins visible on the opposite shore of the Little Tennessee from Fort Loudoun are that of the Tellico Blockhouse, the US army fort built in 1794 with a similar purpose to Fort Loudoun's. The significance of the area to the Cherokee is further emphasized by the proximity to Icehouse Bottom, a prehistoric Native American site that is one of the oldest-known habitation areas in Tennessee. Icehouse Bottom was submerged with the creation of the Tellico Reservoir, the shoreline immediately above the site now part of the McGhee-Carson Unit of the Tellico Lake WMA, just one peninsula east of Fort Loudoun State Park.

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