Fort Nashborough's
Battle of the Bluff

The Battle of the Bluff began on April 2, 1781. A force of about 400 Chickamaugans warriors led by leader Dragging Canoe, came to wipe out Fort Nashborough and the surrounding settlements. This was called the Battle of the Bluff.

Now Dragging Canoe was the son of Cherokee chief Attakullakulla. The Chickamungans were Cherokees that broke away from the Cherokee tribe. They didn't believe the Cherokees were aggressive enough against the settlers who took their land.

During the night the Indians divided up and crept close to the fort. One group came to where Church and Broadway is now and hid in the wild-brush and cedars. The other group hid on the banks of a small stream that ran into the Cumberland River. It is now the intersection of College and Demonbreun.

The next morning three indians ran up to the fort and fired at the guard in the watchtower. They then retreated out of range and reloaded their guns while shouting and waving their hands.

About twenty of the settlers led by Colonel James Robertson mounted their horses and chased after them. The three warriors keeping in sight of the settlers and made their stand on the banks of stream near the intersection of College and Demonbreun.

The settlers rode up and dismounted for battle. No sooner had they dismounted, the hidden warparty attacked directly in front of them. The gunfire from the indians scared the horses and they ran up the hill to the fort.

Once the gunfire began, the second group of indians came out of hiding to cut off the settlers retreat to the fort. The horses almost running over this group of warriors caused a distraction. Indians loved horses and many of these warriors couldn't resist trying to capture them.

The horses ran to the fort but the gates were closed. With the Indians in pursuit, they ran over Capitol Hill and down to Sulfur Spring Bottom. Some of the horses were captured, but the majority returned to the fort later.

As the Battle of the Bluff continued, the settlers were attempting to get back to the fort. Carrying their wounded and shooting back at the Indians, they were making their way back to the fort.

In the fort, a pack of fifty hunting dogs were running madly around the fort enclosure wanting to get at the Indians. Charlotte, wife of Colonel James Robertson, seeing what was happening ordered the gates to be opened to let the dogs out.

The dogs ran down the hill to defend their masters and attacked the war party. The dog attack distracted the indians and gave the settlers the break they needed. Carrying their wounded they hurried to the fort.

Isaac Lucas was in the rear of the group when he was shot in the leg and fell to the ground. He primed his gun and shot a big indian in the lead of the attack, killing him. The rest of the settlers making it into the fort looked back and saw Lucas on the ground. They started shooting at the advancing war party and drove them back.

The retreating Indians scalped the dead settlers on the battlefield. Also they collected all the guns and ammunition they could find. It was 10 am when the war party disappeared into the woods. The Battle of the Bluff was over.

Capt. James Leiper, Peter Gill, Alex Buchanan, John Kennedy and had been killed, and Kasper Mansker, James Manifee, and Joseph Moonshaw were wounded. One of Robertson’s sons, was scalped but survived. It is unknown how many Indians were killed because they would carry off their dead.

After the Battle of the Bluff, Mrs James Robertson stood at the fort gates petting all the dogs that returned. She thanked God that he had gave the Indians a love for horses and a fear of dogs.


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