On the first day of this year Governor BLOUNT issued a proclamation calling the Territorial Assembly and Legislature to meet at Knoxville and the fourth Monday in February following.
This body consisted of thirteen members. The three Middle Tennessee counties were represented as follows: General James WHITE from Davidson, David WILSON from Sumner, and James FORD from Tennessee. WILSON of Sumner was elected Speaker of the Assembly, it being insisted by the western delegation that as the Governor had selected from the eastern portion of the Territory, therefore their division was entitled to the presiding officer of the legislative body.
Thus was begun a sectional rotation in office, which has since become law, both written and unwritten, in the selection of Tennessee officers.
By provision of the Congressional Act creating the Territory, it became the Assembly's duty to nominate ten persons from whom the President of the United States should select five, the latter constituting a Legislative Council. From the names presented the following were chosen: Col. John SEVIER, Gen. James WINCHESTER, Stockley DONELSON, Griffith RUTHERFORD and Parmenas TAYLOR.
This first meeting of the Assembly was lengthy in session, the same being devoted largely to details of the territorial organization.
At its adjournment on September 24, a resolution was adopted instructing James WHITE, Esq., at the time territorial representative in Congress, to exhibit to the "President of Congress" a list of those who had this year fallen by the hands of the Creeks and Cherokees. He was also requested to assure his excellency that "if people of this territory have borne with outrages which stretch human patience to its utmost, it has been through our veneration for the head of the Federal Government (Washington), and through the hopes we entertain that his influence will finally extend to procure for this injured part of the Union that justice which nothing but retaliation on an unrelenting enemy can afford."
Already, as we shall see presently, but possibly without the knowledge of those who framed this resolution, the worm had turned, and a swift vengeance wreaked on a part of this "unrelenting enemy."
So great now was the peril from the savages that the Governor was importuned by certain members of the assembly for protection on their journey homeward. WHITE, FORD, and Speaker WILSON were escorted back to Nashville by an armed guard.
Throughout the early part of this year Governor BLOUNT continued seemingly to have great faith in the councils and negotiations he was still conducting with the belligerent tribes, and lent a listening ear to all made-to-order "peace talks" from the chiefs. On April 15 he wrote General ROBERTSON as follows: "An attack on Cumberland by a large party of Indians, either Creeks or Cherokees, or both, is not to be apprehended this summer. Small parties, however, I fear will yet infest your frontier. I entreat and command you to let neither opportunity nor distant appearances of danger induce you to order out any party (of the militia) unnecessarily large. Economy is a republican virtue which from the injunction laid on me (by the Secretary of War) I feel myself bound to enjoin on you the observance of ."
Nevertheless, in the midst of these promises of peace and lectures on economy, the destruction of human life and loss of property went on apace.
But the Governor, or some other agency, had at least brought the Secretary of War to the belief that the people along the Cumberland were exposed to at least some danger which had not been brought upon themselves by any misconduct of their own.
About this time the officials were authorized to raise from the militia of Mero District one hundred men, allowing twenty-six privates for Davidson County, a like number for Tennessee, and seventeen from Sumner, besides subaltern officers, sergeants and corporals, and a mounted force of thirty men to range throughout the district.
On New Year's day John DRAKE with three companions went from his home near Shackle Island in Sumner County to hide near one of the licks in wait for game. They had killed two deer which they were busily engaged in skinning when they were espied by a band of Indians. After firing a volley the latter rushed upon them with uplifted battle axes. In the conflict which followed, so many shots were fired that each of the whites suspected all his comrades slain. Not a man was wounded, and all escaped to Shackle Island. But their rifles and the venison, both of which were deeply mourned, fell into the hand of the enemy.
Miss Deliverance GRAY, while passing between the stations west of Nashville, was pursued by the enemy who tried to effect her capture. She was fired upon and slightly wounded, but escaped by flight. John HELEN was killed and scalped at a point half a mile from General ROBERTSON'S residence. He ran a long way and when finally overtaken, made a heroic fight for his life. He was overpowered by numbers.
Jonathan ROBERTSON, eldest son of the General, had many a conflict with Redskins.
One day this spring he had as companions three lads by the name of COWAN, aged from ten to fourteen years. They were hunting a few miles west of the ROBERTSON plantation. About ten o'clock they killed some game and swinging it across their shoulders went marching in single file through the woods. Suddenly the rustle of a brush and the gleam of a rifle told them that danger was near. One of the boys raised his gun to fire, but young ROBERTSON stopped him and ordered the party to seek protection behind neighboring trees. Two of the lads sprang behind a tree each, while ROBERTSON and the other boy sought a third. The Indians while yet carefully concealed, fired a shot which slightly wounded ROBERTSON'S companion. In trying to get sight of the enemy that he might take a shot, ROBERTSON exposed his head and received a bullet through his hat just above this left ear. The Indian who made this shot thus exposed his own body, and ROBERTSON in turn sent a bullet after him which reached its mark, causing the savage to drop his gun. In this fusillade another Indian was wounded. Before long the savages were running like troopers, carrying with them their wounded and leaving ROBERTSON and his band in complete possession of the field. In their flight they lost a rifle, which was captured.
A few days later the bodies of two dead Indians, supposed to be the wounded in this skirmish, were found a short distance from the scene of the conflict.
Two of the young BLEDSOES, one a son of Col. Anthony BLEDSOE, the other a son of his brother Isaac, both named Anthony, had boarded during the winter at Rock Castle, the home of Gen. Daniel SMITH. While there they attended a school which had been established on Drake's Creek near Hendersonville. On the afternoon of March 21, while returning to Rock Castle, they were killed at a rock quarry in which the Indians were secreted. Out of this quarry had been taken the stone from which Rock Castle had been built.
A month later, Thomas, son of Col. Anthony BLEDSOE, was surprised and mortally wounded near his deceased father's station at Greenfield. The survivors of this brave family of pioneers now felt that surely their cup of bitterness was full.
On the morning of August 9, Maj. George WINCHESTER was killed and scalped at what is now the forks of the Scottsville and Hartsville turnpike in the edge of Gallatin. He was on his way to attend a meeting of the County Court, of which he was a member.
When the news of Major WINCHESTER'S death reached town the court was just assembling, and a large crowd had gathered about the court house. Immediately a company of fifty men were enrolled under Maj. George D. BLACKMORE, for the purpose of pursuing the murderers. The march was begun next morning at daybreak, but the Indians were not overtaken, as they were mounted on strong horses recently stolen, and they were a day and night advance of the whites. Goaded to desperation by the continued recurrence of such outrages, the settlers now determined to break up these marauding expeditions at any sacrifice, and regardless of opposition from all sources, even the Federal Government itself. This resolution General ROBERTSON no longer hesitated to approve.
The task to be undertaken was not light, and concert of action
must be had.