Ft. Loudon on the Little Tennessee


Launch: Ft. Loudon Marina, Lenoir City, TN. This is a great marina, with fine folks, good facilities, and several great restaurants within walking distance.

Nearby campsites: TVA has a nice campsite on the Clinch River a few miles from Lenoir City

Comments: These rivers are gems. One bank is developed with homes; the other is wild federal land. The Great Smoky Mountains rise in the eastern horizon. This is a special place.



-----Spring is such an optimistic season. New bright green leaves burst from buds as though insects hadn't been invented; flowers explode on trees and on the forest floor without a thought of fall; birds sing, loudly proclaiming themselves and nesting grounds ignoring the searching eyes of hawks. Even those of us, grown cynical by experience with suffering and death, find a rekindling of hope in every spring. Nowhere is spring more beautiful than in the southern forest, and no rivers are better suited for spring cruising than those of Tennessee.


Springtime Beauty on the Rivers of Tennessee


-----We cruised Tennessee for the month of April, and on into May. We watched the forests change from stark winter to full glorious spring and then the fading of exuberance as the excess of spring faded and fell to the water. The cyle of seasons seemed accelerated as we cruised southerly against the northward seasonal flow.


Spring Fades

-----The land changes from the flow of nature and from human intervention. The silos of former farms are drowned under Lake Tellico and fisherman cast where farmers plowed. Forests, home to over 10,000 years of human occupation, change to make room for homes of modern Americans. The only constant, we are reminded, is change.



-----A highly developed native culture existed in southeastern North America, the Mound Builders. We visited one of their major communities while cruising the Arkansas River. They lived along these Tennessee Rivers also, building mounds still visible from the rivers.

A Rattlesnake Pendant, Created by Mound Builders Living Along the Tellico River

-----Later, the Cherokee flourished here, often using the ancient mounds as cultural centers for their villages. They were one of the major tribes in the southern Appalachians. Their homelands ranged through the present states of North and South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. An Algonquin people, they are linguistically related to the tribe that dominated the northeastern Appalachians, the Iroquois. In the Overhill Country, one of the centers of Cherokee population, they farmed, hunted and lived along the riverine bottomlands.

A Map Made in 1762 of the Little Tennessee River. The Dots along the River are Cherokee Villages, With Chote the Population Center. Ft. Loudoun is Located near the Bottom of the Map.

-----The Cherokee flourished and developed a complex culture of laws, traditions, and ceremony. They were divided into seven matrilineal clans. Their winter homes were made from vertical posts driven into the ground in a rectangle. River cane was woven between the poles and this covered by a mat of cane daub. The roof was made from woven river cane covered by shingles. Traditional homes were oriented so the door faced southeasterly to allow access for the morning sun. Some of the villages had hundreds of residents.


Reconstructed Cherokee Winter House and the Site of the Village of Chote (Seven of the Pillars Represent Each of the Cherokee Clans, the Eighth Pillar Marks the Site of the Burial of a Chief)

-----With the arrival of Europeans, Cherokee traded and intermarried with them. They adopted many European customs. However, Europeans coveted their land. Between 1721 and 1819, over 90% of their land was ceded to others. In 1829, in his inaugral address, Pres. Andrew Jackson proposed a policy to relocate eastern Indians. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 was passed by Congress. The same year, gold was discovered on Cherokee land in Georgia. Georgia held a lottery to give Cherokee land and gold rights to whites. Cherokee were not allowed to conduct tribal business, contract, testify in courts, or mine for gold.

---The Cherokee challenged Georgia in the courts. The US Supreme Court decided in favor of the Cherokee. Andrew Jackson, when he heard the court decision, reportedly said, "[Chief Justice] John Marshall has made his decision; let him enforce it now if he can."

-----A minority of Cherokee believed that the tribe would only survive if they continued to resist. In December 1835, about 400 of the 15,000 Cherokee, and none of their chiefs, met the US in New Echota, Georgia. Twenty signed the treaty, ceding all lands east of the Mississippi to the US in exchange for $5 million dollars and a homeland in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The US Senate, by one vote, ratified the illegal treaty.

-----In 1838, Federal troops rounded up Cherokee into stockades. Families were separated, elderly and ill forced out of their homes at gunpoint, and looters followed the troops. Crowding, poor sanitation and drought create suffering and death among the 15,000 captives. In November, 12 groups of 1,000 each were marching west. The chief's wife gave her only blanket to a child -- she died of pneumonia at Little Rock. One man watched his father die, then his mother, and one by one all five of his siblings "One each day. Then all were gone." Nearly a fifth of the Cherokee died on The Trail of Tears.

-----Today, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on the Arkansas River, is capital of the Cherokee Nation. About 1,000 Cherokee, hiding in the mountains, escaped removal, and they are known as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

-----The Cherokee were not the only tribe affected by the European culture. Between 1816 and 1840, more than 40 treaties were signed by southeastern Natives ceding their land to the United States. Between 1830 and 1850, about 100,000 Natives were also forced to move westerly from their ancestral lands. Many were brutally treated. Some were transported in chains. The Chickasaw, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles were removed. Over 3,500 Creeks died.


-----We had heard of Ft. Loudoun, and it's many variant spellings, and were anxious to visit the site and interpretive center. There is a dock for landing at the fort and Wanderer and Halcyon tied off.


Boat Dock, Visitor Center, and Reconstructed Colonial Fort

--------The French and British were locked in a deadly competition during the mid Eighteenth Century for control of North America. In 1854 warfare broke out between their armies in the Americas. In October 1756, to help counter this threat, the Colony of South Carolina built and garrisoned Ft. Loudon at the junction of the Tellico and Little Tennessee Rivers in what is now Tennessee. This was the first British fort built to the west of the Appalachians, or in what is called the "Overhill Country." The fort was constructed in the center of the Cherokee Nation and helped to ally the Cherokees with the British in the French and Indian War. It also guaranteed continued fur trade between the British and Indians.

----- The first soldier to die, Corp. James Hill, was mortally wounded a month after fort construction began, when a gun, fired in celebration of the King's Birthday, exploded. Within a few years, relations broke down between the Cherokee and the British. It is written that the Cherokee believed they were cheated in pay for work they had performed for British settlers in South Carolina, so they took some British horses for compensation. Settlers killed Cherokee in retaliation. By Cherokee tribal law, a life taken by someone of a different clan must be avenged by a death for someone of that clan. To the Indians, all British were of one clan, so the Cherokee killed by British settlers must be avenged by the deaths of an Englishman. British troops from Ft. Loudon captured the Cherokees accused of murder and executed them, thus escalating the bloodshed.

-----Consequently, the Cherokee laid siege to Ft. Loudon in March 1760. On August 9th, the starving British surrendered. According to the Cherokee, the British agreed to leave guns, cannons, and powder with the fort and in return, the British officers, troops, and families would be allowed to walk to Fort Prince George.

-----The next night, at the British camp, their Cherokee escorts murdered all the officers save one. The captured troops, women and children were forced into slavery. Cherokee tradition says this was in retribution for the British destroying all the armaments and powder in Ft. Loudon, contrary to the surrender agreement.


-----The information center, staff, and reconstruction of the fort are excellent. They give an insight into those troubled former times along the rivers.

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Artifacts Found at Ft. Loudoun


Ft. Loudoun, Reconstructed



-----Thirty years later, toward the end of the 17th century, the British were gone and American settlers, moving westward into the Overhill Country, came in conflict with Cherokee. Settlers claimed the rich bottomlands along the rivers. In order to keep settlers and Indians apart, the US government established a Blockhouse and Factory on land ceded to the military by the Cherokee. The Blockhouse was built in 1794 across the Little Tennessee River from the ruins of Ft. Loudon, and soon became a bustling center of activity. By this time, the Cherokee lived in well-built homes in towns and had adopted European-style agriculture. One duty of the garrison at Tellico was to protect Indian rights from the settlers. A second, major function, was for Indian agents to share agricultural and technical knowledge with the Cherokee. New varieties of livestock, agricultural implements, and cloth manufacturing were introduced. The factory was the public store for the region. Between 1796 and 1806, most interactions between the US and Cherokees took place at this blockhouse. The facility was closed in 1807.

-----There is a small dock for visitors to stop at the Tellico Blockhouse, and it is a fine walk ashore and worthwhile visit.


-----Cherokees have built a museum near the birthplace of Sequoyah, a famous statesman and the creator of a writing system for the Cherokee language. It is a beautiful museum, with excellent displays and a fine interpretive movie. The dock is nice and the folks friendly and helpful.


The Museum and Dock

-----Sequoyah was born in 1776 on the north bank of the Little Tennessee River. In 1821, after 12 years of hard work, he perfected a method of syllabary notation in which English stood for Cherokee syllables. Within a few years, Cherokee were publishing their own newspapers, had adopted a constitution, and a code of laws. Sequoyah is honored in the scientific names of redwood and giant sequoia trees.


Sequoyah, Syllabary, and Cherokee Clock


"And we were there ..."


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