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Back to the history of Hugh Beard


The treaty made by Governor Blount in 1791 bound the whites to refrain from encroachments on the Indian lands, and pledged the Indians to desist from hostilities. The whites did not all act in good faith, while the Indians, with characteristic treachery, failed from the outset to regard the treaty. At first the Cherokees contented themselves with occasional outrages, but in the year 1793 it was known that the whole nation was in arms. The Indians were emboldened by the avowedly pacific policy of the Federal Government. Governor Blount had received specific instructions to act only on the defensive. Arson and murder were of daily occurrence and went unpunished. It was with genuine relief, therefore, that the whites received news, late in the summer of 1793, that the Indians had, in effect, declared war. On the night of the 24th of September, 1793, a body of more than a thousand warriors crossed the Tennessee River some twenty five miles below Knoxville and marched in the direction of that place. Seven hundred of this invading force were Creeks and the remainder Cherokees, and, strangely enough, one hundred of the Creeks were mounted. It was the intention to reach and to attack Knoxville at daylight, but they found difficulty in crossing the river, and were further delayed by a consultation among the leaders upon an interesting question. This was whether they should kill all the people of Knoxville, or only the men. The discussion of this nice question of casuistry proved so attractive, or provoked so many differences, that daylight seems to have found it still unsettled.

At sunrise on the 25th the Indians heard the morning gun at the barracks at Knoxville and concluded that it was an alarm signal. Halting near Cavet's blockhouse, eight miles from the village, they entertained themselves by decoying and butchering the inmates. Their coming had been made known on the 24th to the people of Knoxville, who prepared with courage and energy to resist them. The total fighting strength of the whites was forty men. It was determined to waylay the Indians, and after firing upon them to retreat to the barracks. Accordingly, leaving two old men with the women and children, the remaining thirty eight spent the night concealed on a wooded ridge west of the town, fearlessly awaiting a foe outnumbering them more than twenty to one. Early on the morning of the 25th, however, a messenger brought the news that the Indians had lost heart after the affair at Cavet's and were in full retreat.

In this little band of defenders was the Rev. Samuel Carrick, a Presbyterian minister, afterwards the first President of Blount College, of whose conduct on this occasion there is a pleasing and honorable tradition. It is said that when news of the invasion came he was preparing to bury his wife, who had just died, but, putting aside his grief, and leaving her beloved remains to be buried by the women of the neighborhood, he seized his rifle and hastened to take his post at the front.

A month later the Tennessee militia, led by Sevier, were in the heart of the Indian country, and the battle of Etowah, on the 17th of October, 1793, ended the campaign and cowed the savages.

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