Late in the summer Lieutenant SNODDY went out with a scouting party, about thirty in number, on Caney Fork. During the afternoon he came upon the rendezvous of a large company of Indians. The latter were absent, and the camp was immediately plundered. While thus engaged SNODDY observed an Indian with a gun on his shoulder slowly sauntering down the hill. Discovering them the latter took flight, and soon disappeared in a canebrake nearby.
SNODDY well knew that he would have to fight before he left the neighborhood. Accordingly, he crossed the river with his men and selected as a place for defense a high eminence on the south shore. In the center of this he placed the horses and around them posted his troops, thus forming a hollow square. Throughout the night they lay in this position, listening to the savages, who made the surrounding forest resound with their horrible imitations---hooting like owls, barking like dogs and foxes, and screaming like wild cats.
The frequent neighing of a restless horse betrayed the position of the settlers, and at daylight the attack was begun, and continued for an hour. Though the attacking force was double that of Lieutenant SNODDY he had with him a Spartan band, and the enemy were put to route. David SCOBY and Nathan LATIMER were killed. Among the wounded were Andrew STEEL and Captain William REID, late of Sumner County. Two or three of SNODDY'S party in a cowardly manner deserted their comrades on the even of battle.
The loss to the Indians in killed and wounded was great.
The capture of Zigler's Station had awakened the settlers anew to a sense of danger, and guards were now picketed around every fort.
Governor BLOUNT still gave little encouragement in matters of defense. His letters from his home in Knoxville advised patience and leniency with the Indians, who from messages received from Watts, Bloody Fellow and others, he believed to be on the eve of accepting terms of peace. On September 14, he sent General ROBERTSON an order to disband the minute men. In a letter attached he said: "I heartily congratulate you and the District of Mero upon the happy change of affairs."
A few days later, however, having received information of an alarming nature from the Chickamauga towns, he sent a courier post-haste to Nashville with the following message: "The danger is imminent, delay not an hour." About this time a half-breed by the name of Findleston arrived at the Bluff and told General ROBERTSON that John WATTS was assembling a large force in the region of Nickajack for the purpose of breaking up the settlement. He said, futhermore, that if his statements were not true, the whites might put him in jail and hang him.
The minute men were thereupon again called out, and sent into camp at Rain's Spring in Waverly Place, while the Castlemans and other scouts of good repute were sent out as spies. The latter went down as far as Murfreesboro where at that time an Indian called Black Fox and several associate hunters had located a camp. They returned with the information that there was not an Indian on the course, even the Black Fox camp being deserted.
Reassured by this report, the force at Rain's Spring was marched back to the Bluff and there disbanded. However, another party of scouts consisting of John RAINS, Abraham KENNEDY, and two men by the names of CLAYTON and GEE were sent over the region covered by the Castlemans. It was believed that WATTS and his band would pass by the Black Fox camp in order that they might confer with Black Fox, with whom WATTS was though to be secretly in league.
RAINS and KENNEDY took one route, while CLAYTON and GEE went by another. When near the present site of Lavergne, CLAYTON and his companion encountered an approaching force of about seven hundred Cherokees, Creeks, Chickamaugas and Shawnees, all under command of WATTS.
The scouts were killed. It is said that on the march thither WATTS kept ahead of his army Indian spies dressed as white men. In this way the unfortunate scouts were decoyed within his lines where they were surrounded and slain.
RAINS and KENNEDY not having discovered the fate of CLAYTON and GEE returned on the third day and reported no signs of danger. This information created great satisfaction among most of the settlers. Some of these now complained loudly because of the alarm which had, as they now declared, been uselessly occasioned.
Doubtless FINDLESTON, the half-breed, who furnished the information, now trembled for his head.
However, despite the failure of the scouts to discover signs of danger, the more experienced of the settlers viewed the situation with alarm. That veteran woodsman and Indian fighter, Abraham CASTLEMAN, molded a new supply of bullets, filled afresh his powder horn, cleaned and repolished his faithful rifle, "Betsey", picked his flint and ambled off down the trail. When questioned as to his destination he replied that he was "going over to Buchanan's to see the enemy". It was supposed that Buchanan's Station would be the first point of attack.
After killing the scouts, CLAYTON and GEE, the main body of the Indian force lay concealed in the woods for several days, while spies were sent forward to reconnoiter.
On the morning of September 30, the march was resumed to a point about a mile below Buchanan's fort. Here the horses were left in charge of some of the men. At dusk the main body moved noiselessly up to within site of the station. George FIELDS, a half-breed Cherokee, and a member of the party, afterwards related that they saw the lights in the hands of the settlers as they moved about the stockade, and could hear the neighing of the horses and the lowing of the cows.
While the invaders were thus halted, a dispute arose between Watts and Tom TUNBRIDGE, who was in command of one wing of the army. The latter wanted to attack the fort at once. WATTS insisted on going first to the Bluff and there make an assault on that station. He argued that if Buchanan's be attacked now the occupants of the Bluff would thus be put on their guard, whereas, with the latter out of the way, the smaller fort could be easily taken on the return journey.
It is evident that their success in capturing Zigler's Station had made the Indians bold to the belief that on this expedition they would be able to destroy the entire settlement.
The controversy between the chiefs lasted for several hours. Finally it was ended by WATTS, who told TUNBRIDGE to go ahead and take the fort himself, and that he, WATTS, would stand aside and look on. However, it is a matter of history that the whole force was in action before the engagement which followed was well under way.
Within the last few days, in anticipation of trouble, Major BUCHANAN had repaired the stockade and otherwise greatly strengthened his fortifications. On the night of the attack he had within the enclosure twenty of as brave men as any of whom record is made in the annals of early history. Their names are as follows: James BRYANT, Thomas WILCOX, Jacob and Abraham CASTLEMAN, James O'CONNOR, James MULHERRIN, Thomas MCCRORY, Morris SHANE, William and Robin KENNEDY, George FINDLESTON, Samuel BLAIR, Charles HERD, Sampson WILLIAMS, Samuel MCMURRY, Robin TURNBULL, Robin HOOD, Thomas LATIMER, Robin THOMPSON and Joe DURAT. The last named was a half-breed but a friend of the whites.
As on previous occasions of Indian attack a full moon shone that night from a clear sky. At the lonely hour of midnight two faithful sentinels in the watch tower over the gate discovered the approach of the enemy. When they came within easy range two rifle shots rang out and two Indian warriors bit the dust. The occupants of the fort were now aroused and both sides opened fire. For an hour the battle raged more furiously than in any engagement yet known to the settlement. With whoops and yells and a fusillade of shots the savages stormed the stockade on every side, making repeated efforts to break down the gate and thus enter the enclosure. Through one porthole alone they directed thirty shots to the inside, all of which lodged under the roof in a place the size of a hatbrim.
A few yards from the fort a cellar had been dug over which an outhouse was soon to be built. In this some of the Indians took refuge, hoping to pick off the men in the fort as occasion should be presented. Some sought safety by crouching in the outside corners of the stockade, while others hurled burning brands onto the roofs of the cabins and into the enclosure, hoping thereby to fire the fort. During all this time they were being met by volley after volley from twenty trusty rifles within. Whenever an Indian came within reach or raised his head he thus constituted himself a backstop for a bullet from a neighboring porthole. However, there were more portholes than gunners to man them, and the Major's wife, Mrs. Sallie BUCHANAN, together with other women of the fort, displayed in this emergency great bravery. Seizing each a man's hat they dodged about holding them from time to time in front of the vacant openings. This was called a "showing of hats". It was intended to fool the Indians as to the size of the garrison. At length, impatient at the seeming failure of the attack, Tom TUNBRIDGE seized a firebrand and mounted the roof of a cabin. No sooner on top than he received a fatal shot that sent him tumbling to the ground. In his dying moments he crawled up to the wall and tried to set fire to the logs, blowing the flames with his last breath in a desperate effort to burn the stockade. His dead body, scorched by the fire he had kindled, was found next morning beside the fort.
The Indians were finally repulsed and withdrew in great confusion.
The body of TUNBRIDGE, who is believed to have led the capture of ZIGLER'S, and many of those of his followers were left on the field.
WATTS, desperately wounded, was carried away on a litter. Trails of blood leading down the rocky declivity from the fort and along the paths through the woods made evident the fact that many of the dead and wounded were carried away.
Around the stockade by the light of the morning were found swords, tomahawks, rifles, pipes, kettles and numerous other articles of Indian usage. One of the swords was a handsome Spanish blade, richly ornamented after the Spanish custom. This had doubtless been presented by the Dons to some Indian brave in return for a specified number of hapless paleface scalps.
None of the occupant of the fort were killed or wounded.
Jimmie O'CONNOR, one of the defending party in the Buchanan fort, and a gallant son of the Emerald ISLE, was somewhat addicted to the use of strong drink. It is related that he had returned from Nashville about an hour before the attack above mentioned in a state of rather hilarious jubilation. In the midst of the battle Jimmie came up to Major BUCHANAN and asked permission to use an old pistol, the property of the Major's mother. This particular implement of warfare, which was usually kept loaded and laid away under the old lady's pillow, was a funnel-shaped species of the blunderbuss family and was known about the fort as "My Grandmammy's Pocket Piece."
The request was granted and Jimmie, mounting a ladder to an upper porthole, pulled the trigger. Supposing that it had fired, he descended from his station and asked that the weapon be reloaded. This request was four times repeated and granted. All of this was quite a drain on the supply of ammunition, as it required several times as much powder as an ordinary rifle.
On the fifth ascent to the porthole the blunderbuss, which had only snapped before, went off in dead earnest, with a report which rivaled that of a six-pounder, and with a kick which hurled poor Jimmie to the ground. No sooner landed, however, than he was on his feet, and running over to Major BUCHANAN, exclaimed: "Be jabbers, but they got one alright, didn't they?"
Next day a company of a hundred and fifty men, under
command of General ROBERTSON and Captain RAINS, began a pursuit of the Indians, who, it
was discovered, had retreated in two parties. When the whites reached Stewart's Creek they
found that the fleeing savages were gaining ground, and therefore abandoned the chase. After this
attack there was comparative peace in the settlement for a period of several months.