Hostilities broke out between the once allied Cherokees and British Colonies in 1759. Friction between the two parties (encouraged by French diplomacy) spiraled into sporadic back country violence and escalated into an outright war following the killing of Lt. Richard Coytmore and the retaliatory execution of Cherokee hostages being held at Fort Prince George in early 1760. The garrisons at Fort Prince George, 96, and Fort Loudon (Tennessee) were subsequently under attack, the latter cut off. British authorities responded to requests of military assistance from South Carolina by sending approximately 1,400 British regulars (composed of the 1st Royal Regiment and the 77th) under the command of Colonel Archibald Montgomery of the 1st Highland Battalion (77th) from New York in March of 1760.
While the regulars were ordered to attack the lower Cherokee towns from South Carolina, Amherst ordered the under-strength, neglected, and scattered Virginia Provincial Regiment under Col. William Byrd "to hold the regiment in readiness to march." from garrison duty in the Virginia and Pennsylvania back country (March 30, 1760 Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover Virginia 1684-1776 Volume 2). Montgomery's regulars saw initial success against the Cherokee lower towns but received a serious check at the battle of Etchoe in June as he advanced on the Cherokee middle towns. Montgomery and his second in command Major Grant (of Grant's defeat infamy) withdrew and returned to New York by August, failing to rescue the garrison at Fort Loudon.
Colonel Byrd's family had been involved in the Southern Indian trade since the 17th century and he had served as an envoy to the Cherokees and Catawbas in the Carolinas for the Colony of Virginia in 1755 and 1756. After the resignation of Colonel Washington, he took command of the Virginia Provincial Regiment in 1759 (he commanded the short lived 2nd Battalion for the 1758 Forbes campaign against Fort Duquesne), Upon being ordered to march to the relief of the besieged Fort Loudon Garrison, Byrd wrote Brigadier General Monkton on May 24th, 1760 that "...You will judge of the impossibility of the attempt when I tell you that this fort [Loudon] is six hundred miles beyond our outermost inhabitants & not a post in the whole way; no men are yet levy'd for that purpose, neither are any provisions or carriages engaged. These men [of the Fort Loudon garrison] must unavoidably fall into the hands of the savages who will shew them no mercy." (Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover Virginia 1684-1776 Volume 2). Despite his protests and attempt to resign from the expedition, Byrd did his best to muster a relief party. The experienced Byrd recommended a plan to advance in stages along the lines of the "Protected Advance" utilized by Forbes in the campaign prior. Byrd's ill equipped forces slowly moved southward, many of them without regimental clothing and unarmed. By the time his under-strength regiment was fully armed in late August, the Garrison at Fort Loudon had already surrendered to the Cherokee and many of the men had been massacred. Byrd continued his route towards the Big Island (Kingsport Tennessee), and advanced parties encountered survivors of the garrison and a party of Cherokees under Attakullakulla (Little Carpenter) who had ransomed Captain Stewart and removed him to the safety of the Virginian's lines.
Sayer's Plantation/Fort Chiswell
Byrd encamped at the abandoned plantation of a Virginia officer named Alexander Sayers, who is mentioned in passing in Timberlake's Memoirs (Lt. Timberlake recounts him concerning a difficult crossing of a rain swollen river; ironically Sayers drowned crossing the New River in 1765) and had already removed his family from the area for greater safety in New London while he was with the army at Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania. When Byrd's command reached the "Camp at Sayer's" on Reed's creek (near modern Wytheville, Va), they encountered a small farm consisting of a log house, a log kitchen and a small four foot square smokehouse (the bricks used in the foundation were excavated in the 1970s). At some point from 1760-62, the Virginia Provincials added a dug out powder "magazine" similar to the one unearthed at Fort Ligonier in Pennsylvania. This magazine was the only purely military feature discovered by Archaeologists working a salvage dig at the site prior to highway construction, although it is possible that other fortifications were present, none were found by the Archaeological team working on the site. Although incongruous with the modern use of the word "fort", it should be remembered that this site was first considered a way point on the protected advance towards the site of the yet unbuilt Big Island fort.
The next year Byrd was ordered to proceed to Stalnacker's plantation "to erect a small log-house fort for the security of provisions, ammunition & etc." so it appears likely that the Virginia Provincials simply made use of the existing structures at the camp, and the log house was sufficient to earn the name "Fort Chiswell" ( named for John Chiswell, a friend of Byrd's, who owned a large tract nearby that would become an important source of lead for Virginia during the Revolutionary War) with the addition of an underground powder magazine to secure their stores. Later Revolutionary war accounts of proper blockhouses at Chiswell's nearby lead mines in Austinville likely added to the confusion about a proper fortification at the Sayer's site. The 1976 Hazzard/McCartney dig report notes that a February 1761 letter from William Fleming to John Bullitt is the earliest reference to "Fort Chiswell" but the same letter also refers to the site as "their camp."
Negotiations with the Cherokees began and an agreement to cease hostilities until the following March were agreed to with the condition that the Virginia army did not press further towards the Cherokee towns. Provincials overwintered at the Sayer's/Ft. Chiswell site, and the campaign against the Cherokee upper towns began anew the next spring. The loss of crops, the lack of ammunition and casualties from the campaign began to take a heavy toll on the Cherokee who were heavily dependent on the now disrupted deerskin trade with South Carolina.
In South Carolina, Montgomery had been replaced by James Grant, who proceeded against the middle towns with an enlarged force of around 1400 regulars and about 500 South Carolina provincials; again engaging them near the Etcho pass in June and burning fifteen middle towns. Grant's victory drove many of the remaining warriors to the upper towns, which the significantly smaller Virginia Provincial force was supposed to assault from the North.
pen and ink, 1751-1758NPG 4855(63) © National Portrait Gallery, London
Virginia troops again massed at Fort Chiswell, and then on to Stalnaker's plantation on the Holston river. By July 1761, Byrd reported that "My whole force is only six hundred and seventy men fit for duty. Those I have employ'd since I came here in building a block-house, & throwing up an intrenchment round it, for the security of themselves & provision." This Fort at Stalnaker's was named after Attakullakulla and was near the modern town of Chillhowie Virginia, about 58 miles from the Great Island.
By October the long awaited (and mostly unarmed) North Carolina provincials and a party of Tuscaroras arrive at Fort Chiswell. Around this time the Virginia Provincials had reached and fortified a position at the Great Island (Kingsport, Tennessee) and have constructed a proper 120 foot log fort with four bastions. By November a peace treaty was concluded.
Below is a rough timeline of events taken from:
Amherst Papers, 1756-1763: The Southern Sector : Dispatches from South Carolina, Virginia, and His Majesty's Superintendent of Indian Affairs
Edith Mays, Ed. Heritage Books, 1999
Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover Virginia 1684-1776 Volume 2
The Official Papers of Francis Fauqier, Lieutenant Governor of Virginai 1758-1768, Vol. 1
Feb 1, 1760 Cherokees kill settlers at Long Cane Massacre in SC
February 16, 1760, a Cherokee war-party attacked Fort Prince George to free the hostages.
The British executed all hostages and repulsed the assault after Lt. Richard Coytmore was killed in an ambush while coming out to parlay with the Cherokees.
Feb/March Fort 96 attacked in SC
March 20 Fort Loudon garrison in Tenn attacked by Cherokees
May 29 Byrd asked to be excused from Cherokee expedition
June 23rd Byrd called down from Ft Bedford, PA to command (in a Sept 16th letter to Abercromby) says was mortified to be told to command “this ill-concerted expedition”
July 4, Byrd at Augusta CH/Staunton says everything deficient but provisions
July 7 Fort Loudon (TN) garrison runs out of corn
July 9 (in a Sept 16th letter to Abercromby) Byrd says levies/recruits complete but not armed or clothed.
July 11 Byrd tells Gov and Council in a letter that he is at Bryan's and will need posts every 25 miles to the Big Island and a big fort should be built at Big Island. Asks what the
Ft Loudon (TN) relief plan is, should the garrison hold out until he arrives, is he to reinforce or withdraw/abandon it.
July 18 Byrd at Camp on Roanoke to Monkton "2/3rds of the mob I command (I cannot call them nothing else) are new rais'd men, who at this moment are neither cloathed or armed..."
mentions Montgomery hit lower towns and only has 30 days provisions must want to raid Loudon and abandon if so.
August 8 Fort Loudon surrenders
August 25th Byrd's "musketts came up" (in a sept 16th letter to Abercromby) so his troops are now all armed
August 27th Byrd marches towards Big Island
Sept 3 Byrd crosses the New River, meets 4 starving men who escaped Ft Loudon on August 1 (in a Sept 16th letter to Abercromby)
Sept 9 Maj. Andrew Lewis advanced party above Big Island encounters Little Carpenter with Cpt. Stewart, friendly Cherokees and small party of British survivors from Fort Loudon
Sept 16th Byrd letter to Abercromby mentions above letter from Lewis
Sept 17th Byrd proposes articles of peace delivered via Little Carpenter to Chota, demanding return of Ft Loudon and prisoners, offenders who attacked fort
pushes for Little Carpenter to be head man, asks Governor if this suits (copy sent by Amherst April 61)
Sept 19th letter to Gov and Council at Sayer's (Ft Chiswell) the Sunday before Maj Lewis brought in Little Carpenter and Ft Loudon survivors
Sept 24th Byrd asks Gov and Council if the regiment is to be completed (1000 men) and what is to be done over the winter
Nov 3 letter to Gov and Council from Byrd at Sayer's saying Little Carpenter returned on Saturday with 32 more Cherokees and gave up 10 more prisoners from Ft Loudon, promise to end hostilities
until March when they will meet on his terms if Virginians advance no further on the expedition towards Cherokee towns. Byrd is waiting on Indian presents for them, Byrd will station troops in order to protect frontier
Nov 22 Byrd at Bryan's has discharged and paid new levies, is about to go to Winchester, wants to go to NY for business that winter
Dec 3, Byrd is at Winchester will be in Williamsburg for next assembly session, "is sorry he has given so little satisfaction in his command, and therefor resigns his commission."
April 28, 1761 LT Gov Fauquier orders Byrd to proceed to Stalnackers "to erect a small log-house fort for the security of provisions, ammunition & etc. and from thence to advance
with as many picked men to the Big Island...there wait for from Major General Amherst...conduct the intended expedition into the Cherokee upper towns.
June 6: 145 men at Fort Chiswell based on Byrd's return, bulk of forces in Staunton
June 30 1761 651 men at Fort Chiswell under Byrd
July 1, 1761 Byrd at Camp at Fort Chiswell (letter to Amherst) "this our most advanced post"
July 7 Robert Stewart writes George Washington from "Camp before Fort Chiswell" that they arrived last week at "this our most advanc'd post" Major Lewis and 3 companies advanced from camp to open road to the Holston, other companies to follow and no sign of NC Troops
July 9 1761 Byrd is at Fort Chiswell writing to Moncton saying he doesn't have enough men
July 16 2 Runners from Little Carpenter arrive at Stalnakers (Stewart to GW 20 july 1761)
July 17th Little carpenter arrives at Stalnakers with 42 other Cherokees 1/4 mile off of advanced sentries to talk to Byrd. (Stewart to GW 20 july 1761)
July 19 Byrd arrives at Stalnaker's Plantation
July 20 1761 Robert Stewart writes that a post is to be built at his location at Stalnaker's plantation, still no NC troops, over 100 men sick with fevers
July 31 45 men left at Chiswell 24 sick
August 1 Byrd's letter to Amherst says he arrived at Stalnakers on July 19th, doesn't have enough men to do 200 miles, Grant did little with more and retired
says "My whole force is only six hundred and seventy men fit for duty. Those I have employ'd since I came here in buildign a block-house,
& throwing up an intrenchment round it, for the security of themselves & provision..." says 200 miles more road to build, Cherokees are coming in suing for peace,
he resigns, appoints Stephen.
August 26th NC provincials have reached Salisbury, NC on the way up with 374 Men & 52 Indians, "that he had not above 50 Stands of Arms for the Whole"
Sept 7 1761 Adam Stephen is at Ft Chiswell in command
Sept 12 troops under Adam Stephen finish fort at Stalnakers (Stephen to Amherst oct 5) he marches to the Holston, gets letter from "obstinate" Cherokee
October 8, 1761 AS reports NC Troops under Waddell reached Fort Chiswell
3. Adam Stephen wrote Governor Fauquier on 8 Oct. that Hugh Waddell (c.1734–1773), colonel of the North Carolina forces, had arrived at Fort Chiswell with about three hundred men and a number of Tuscarora Indians (Exec. Journals of the Virginia Council, 6:199).
October 9 1761 90 men at Fort Chiswell, bulk of troops at Great Island
October 24th AS @ Great Island: "I have erected a square redoubt of hewed logs on a piece of very strong ground on the banks of the river, with four bastions, the exterior 120 feet. I have done this from the just sense
I have of the great advantage of it will be to have a post maintained here, either by the King or Colony. It is the only advanced betwen Pittsburg & Ft. Prince George, commands
a large river navigable to the Missippi & not only awes the Cherokees, but several other numerous tribes of Indians.
Nov 19 treaty agreement with Cherokees
Nov 28 1761 Adam Stephen return of troops at great Island
744 Virginia Regiment 408 North Carolina [including 52 Tuscarora Indians] 1152 total
Timberlake agrees to go to Cherokee towns as hostage
December 20 1761 4 Barrels of Powder, 200 weight of barr lead and 150 quires of cartridge paper are at Ft Chiswell with 17,899 lbs of flour, 300lbs beef and 8 bags of salt
December 25 1761 Northern allied Indians skirmish with Cherokees Col. Stephen to Col. Henry Bouquet (Fort Chiswell, Jan. 7, 1762)
Stephen, Adam in: B. M., Add. MSS.,
21648, f. 1, A. L. S., and in Stevens,
et all., The Papers of Col. Henry
Bouquet, Series 21648,
part I, pp. 1-2.
About Seventy Northern Indians, Set Some Cherokees a Scampering on Christmas day last; but let one fellow slip through their fingers after they had taken him.
They behaved themselves extreamly well to our People, but conducted themselves, very indifferently as Warriors, they had Opportunity to give the Cherokees a Severe Blow.
They very readily produced there pass on all Occasions, Signed At Pittsburg Ocr 27. George Croghan.
March Timberlake at Fort Attakullakulla
April Timberlake at Wmsburg with Cherokee delegation
May Timberlake takes Cherokees to London
1763 March Timberlake returns to Va
1764 fall Timberlake takes Cherokees to London
1765 September Timberlake dies
Byrd papers V2 note p727
Bryan's to Dunkard Bottom [Pulaski Virginia] 40 miles
thence to Sayer's Mill (aka Reedy Creek aka Ft Chiswell aka Modern Wytheville) 24
Thence to Davis' 26
thence to Stahlnaker's 25 [Marion Va/Chillhowie Fort Attakullakulla]
thence to the halfway spring 25
thence to the Big Island 25 [Kingsport TN Fort Robinson/Chiswell's son in law, financial scandal fort abandoned in 62 later fortified as fort Patrick Henry in 76]
From the Big Island to Chotee 130
[grand total ] 295 miles