October 10th Colonial & American Revolutionary War History

Oct 10, 1775; The Schooner USS Hannah decommissioned by Continental Congress

The schooner Hannah was the first armed American naval vessel of the American Revolution and is claimed to be the founding vessel of the United States Navy. She was owned by John Glover’s in-laws of Marblehead, Massachusetts and was named for his wife, Hannah Glover. The crew was drawn largely from the town of Marblehead.

The schooner was hired into the service of the American Continental Army by General George Washington. Washington commissioned Nicolson Broughton to command the Hannah on September 2, 1775 and ordered the vessel to cruise against the enemy. Hannah set sail from the harbor of Beverly, Massachusetts on September 5, 1775, but fled to the protection of the harbor of Gloucester, Massachusetts two days later under the pursuit of HMS Lively and a second British vessel. Leaving Gloucester Harbor, Hannah captured the British sloop Unity.

Hannah’s brief naval career ended on October 10, 1775, when she was run aground under the guns of a small American fort near Beverly by the British sloop Nautilus. After an engagement between the British ship and townspeople on the shore, Hannah was saved from destruction and capture, but was soon decommissioned as General Washington found more suitable ships for his cruisers.

The City of Beverly, Massachusetts and the Town of Marblehead, Massachusetts each claim to have been the home port of the schooner. Each asserted the honor of being “the Birthplace of the American Navy” from the career of the Hannah until a plaque, currently on display in the Selectmen’s room at Abbot Hall in Marblehead, was discovered in the Philadelphia Navy Yard proclaiming Marblehead to be the birthplace; Beverly has since reinvented itself as “Washington’s Naval Base.”

Oct 10, 1775; General Gage departs Boston for England.Military Governor of Massachusetts in 1774-1775.

Overview:

Lieutenant General Thomas Gage was commanding officer at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 22, 1775. He resigned following Bunker Hill, in protest over his requests for reinforcements being denied. He remained in command until October 10, 1775, when General Willliam Howe replaced him.

He took his last salute as commander in chief of His Majesty’s forces in North America and the next day sailed for England aboard the transport Pallas. As he wound up nearly two decades of dedicated service in the American colonies, almost no one saw him off; and after his arrival in London a fellow officer wrote of him as a “poor wretch [who] is scarcely thought of, he is below contempt …” while other countrymen joked about the possibility of hanging him. For nearly half of those years in the colonies Gage had been the most powerful official on the continent; honest, honorable, a faithful servant of his king, he had given all he had to his task, only to be despised by the Americans and abandoned by the British.

It was ironic that Thomas Gage’s colonial service should have begun and ended with two of the greatest disasters of British arms in North America Braddock’s defeat and the battle for Bunker Hill; yet in the twenty years between those bloody encounters the mood and circumstances in the colonies had altered forever, and forces totally beyond Gage’s capacity to control had swept across the land like a whirlwind, catching him up, helpless, and wrecking his career in the process.

Oct 10, 1776; Salem, NC: Moravian church members recorded: “All day soldiers marched through, returning from the expedition with Gen. Rutherford. Col. Armstrong, who had been with the General, was also here. According to him they burned the Middle Towns of the Cherokee, ruined about 2000 acres of corn, and killed some of the Indians and took others prisoner.”

Overview:

General Griffith Rutherford, who was commissioned for the District of Salisbury. In the summer of 1776 he raised an army of 2,400 men and marched on the English forces of the Cherokee nation. This expedition laid waste to 36 Cherokee towns. The Cherokee were forced to sue for peace and in the Treaty of Long Island of 7/20/1777, the Cherokee ceded all lands east of the Blue Ridge, as well as, lands along the Watauga, Nolichucky, Upper Holston and New River.

To stop raids when the English stirred up the Cherokee against patriots during the Revolutionary War in 1776, General Griffith Rutherford of Rowan marched, along with a regiment of 2,400 men, through Haywood County. Rutherford’s troop marched up Hominy Creek and made a crossing at the Pigeon River in Canton. They proceeded along Pigeon Gap (present U.S. 276) east of Waynesville and from there on across Balsam Gap into the Tuckasegee River Valley and across Cowee Gap into the Little Tennessee River Valley.

Details:

After the British instigated multiple Cherokee raids in July of 1776, the governments of North Carolina and South Carolina coordinated an offensive with the governments of Georgia and Virginia. North Carolinians under Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford were to rendevous with Col. Andrew Williamson’s South Carolinians and attack the lower and middle Cherokee settlements. The Virginians under Col. William Christian would march south and west and strike the Overhill Cherokees, while the Georgians would strike north and attack the Indian settlements in northern Georgia and South Carolina.

The settlers along the Watauga River, the Holston River, and the Nolichucky River petitioned the North Carolina Provincial Congress to become a recognized part of the State and to be named as the Washington District. This request was addressed by the Provincial Congress on August 22, 1776 and approved. The Provincial Congress then instructed the settlers to hold free and impartial elections on October 15th to elect five delegates that should attend the upcoming Congress – they first took their seats in Halifax, NC on November 19, 1776.

Since the state of Virginia also created a Washington County on December 7, 1776, one can assume that its creation had been in the works for several months earlier. The interesting part of this is that Washington County, Virginia was adjacent to Washington District, North Carolina. Add to that the fact that the NC-VA border had not been surveyed that far west in 1776, this area soon adopted the moniker of “the Squabble State.” Many folks who thought they were living in Virginia actually resided in North Carolina. The “Squabble State” continued until 1779 when the official boundaries were finally surveyed and accepted by both states.

Between 1776 and 1779, militia companies were raised by both Virginia and North Carolina in this area. Captains sometimes claimed to represent the Virginia Militia, and other times claimed to represent the North Carolina Militia. Although Colonel William Christian (often referred to as Col. Christie) was clearly commissioned by the state of Virginia – well before Washington County and Washington District were established – most of his captains were actually from within North Carolina. Some are very difficult to pin down – were they truly Virginians or North Carolinians? Because of this, many units from this area are identified as both – this is the case herein.

Word arrived quickly along the Holston River that the Indians would soon bring hostilities to the white settlers who were already in greater numbers than most realized. Makeshift forts were hurriedly thrown up and manned by all men (and many boys) available with guns – Watauga and Eaton’s Station.

On July 20th, Capt. James Thompson led five other captains with a total of about 170 backwoodsmen in an ambush against Dragging Canoe and his brother Little Owl at the battle known as Island Flats. After this battle and expulsion of the Indians, men returned to the fort at Long Islands which was built on the bank near the head of the Islands. Here they remained guarding this fort and surrounding country until the arrival of Colonel William Christian in early October.

While the locals were waiting for Col. Christian, the army under Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford assembled at Pleasant Gardens and commenced their westward march in late August or early September toward the Middle Towns in anticipation of linking up with the South Carolinians under Col. Andrew Williamson. Word reached camp of the troubles on the Holston River and Brig. Gen. Rutherford ordered the Surry County Regiment to divide its men and to send half up to the Hoston settlement. Col. Joseph Williams assembled eleven (11) companies and marched them back to Richmond then on to Holston. Col. Martin Armstrong and his eleven companies from Surry County continued their march with Brig. Gen. Rutherford and the rest of the Salisbury District Militia.

The army of Col William Christian was made up of about 1,800 men and marched on October 6, 1776 from the Double Spring camp toward the Indian towns. They went down Lick Creek, in present Greene County to its junction with the Nolichucky River. During the night while the army was camped here, Ellis Hardin, a trader at the Cherokee towns, came into camp with information that the Indians were waiting on the south side of the French Broad River to contest the crossing. From the camp at the mouth of Lick Creek the army marched across the Nolichucky and up Long Creek to its head, then down Dumplin Creek to the French Broad River. The army’s march was evidently along the Great War Path of the Indians, and the ford across the French Broad was near Buckingham Island.

Before the army reached the ford they were met by Fallin, a trader who had a white flag, but this was disregarded by Col. William Christian. The Cherokee Nation was divided. One faction, led by Chief Dragging Canoe who had been wounded at the battle of Island Flats, wanted to abandon the towns along the Little Tennessee River and withdraw further down the Holston. The elders and others of the tribe wanted to remain in the beloved towns along the Little Tennessee River. This faction prevailed, and the Cherokees sent Nathaniel Gist to seek peace from Col. Christian. Later, Dragging Canoe, with many young Cherokees and some Creeks, would prevail and make many vicious raids against the settlers from the Chicamauga towns in the vicinity of the present day Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Col. Christian, having been told the Indians were prepared to contest the fording of the French Broad River at Buckingham Island, attempted a ruse. He had his men light a fire and pitch tents for each mess, as if the army meant to remain in camp on the north side of the French Broad River for several days. At 8 pm, he took 1,100 men, marched about four miles below Buckingham Island and crossed the river at the ford discovered there by some scouts from John Sevier’s company. It was the intention of Col. Christian to attack the Indians drawn up to oppose the crossing of the river from behind before sunrise.

To Col. Christian’s surprise there was no Indian force there. It is possible the crossing of the French Broad River was made the night of October 15, 1776; Col. Christian had stated in a report from the Double Spring Camp on October 6, 1776 that it was his intention to cross the French Broad River on October 15th. Col. Christian allowed his men to remain in camp that day to dry their equipment and clothes which had gotten wet at the crossing made at the lower ford. While in camp on the south bank of French Broad River, in what is now Sevier County, the scout and traders from the Cherokee towns came in and reported that many of the Indian warriors had taken their families and fled south to the Hiwassee River, in present day McMinn, Meigs, and Bradley Counties.

After spending the following day in camp, the army resumed its march to the towns of the Overhill Cherokees along the Little Tennessee River, probably on October 16th or October 17th. From the fording of the French Broad River to Toqua Ford on the Little Tennessee River, the march led the army up the valley of Boyd’s Creek, in present day Sevier County, and down Ellejoy Creek from its source in Sevier County to where it runs into Little River in present-day Blount County.

The army passed the present site of Maryville, Tennessee, and on Friday, October 18th, crossed the Little Tennessee River near Toqua, probably at Tomotley Ford. That nigh was spent at Tomotley, the site of a Cherokee village downriver from Toqua. No opposition was found and next day the forces of Col. Christian marched downriver, on the south side of the Little Tennessee passing through Tuskegee, then past the site of old Fort Loudoun which was destroyed by the Cherokees in 1760, to the Big Island Town (Mialaquo). Col. Christian made his headquarters at Big Island Town near the present Vonore, Monroe County, Tennessee.

The army camped near the Indian towns about six weeks and probably returned to their homes sometime in December.

In his 1832 pension application affadavit, William Alexander (S2344) recounts:

“In the month of June 1776 this deponent entered the service of the United States in the County of Pittsylvania Va, as a Volunteer for six months, in a company of militia commanded by Captain Joseph Martin, and rendezvoused at Elliotts old store in the said County, and marched from thence direct to the Long Islands of the Holston River [at present Kingsport TN], where they joined the troops under command of Col. William Christian. After being stationed at the Long Islands of Holston for about six weeks, during which time other troops were collecting – and those that were there engaged in the erection of a Fort [Fort Patrick Henry], they marched to the Lower Towns of the Cherokee Nation of Indians [early Oct 1776]. Upon arriving at the Towns, they found them abandoned by the Indians; but after remaining there some days, a considerable number of the Indians came in and sued for peace, and surrendered themselves. Those that came in and offered terms of peace were unmolested, and a proposition made and acceeded to, that a treaty should be formed in compliance with the terms proposed, at the Long Islands of Holston in the ensuing spring – but the Towns of those who refused to surrender or sue for peace, were entirely destroyed, together with all their corn, stock and other property that could be found. After destroying their property, and committing such depredations upon them as they could, the troops returned to the Long Islands of Holston, where they remained some time, and then set out for home. This deponent however was selected by request, to take charge of one of his mess mates who was sick, and was sent on ahead of the company a few days, and arrived at home a day or two before Christmas; the rest of the Company not arriving however until a few days after Christmas.

In his 1832 pension application affadavit, Joseph Banner (W9716) recounted:

“That he volunteered the 18th of July 1776 at Old Richmond Surry County now Stokes under Capt. Richard Goode marched under Col. Martin Armstrong to the Mulberry fields commonly called Fishing Creek in Wilkes County the expedition was to relieve a fort which was besieged by the Indians on the Watauga River; while at Fishing Creek received intelligence that the fort was relieved; we remained encamped at Fishing Creek 3 weeks; was marched back to Surry County; was then placed under the command of Col. Joseph Williams & Major Joseph Winston and marched to the Long Island of Holston [River]; lay there about four weeks waiting for the arrival of Virginia Troops. Soon after they arrived [we] were all marched under the command of Genl. Christie [sic, William Christian] to the Indian Towns on Tennessee River. On the arrival of our troops the Indians fled; we destroyed their towns & remained there until there was a treaty of peace concluded with the Indians. Were then marched back and discharged about the first of December 1776.”

Oct 10, 1776; Because of General Guy Carleton release of American prisoners in Canada, Congress released all the Canadian prisoners.