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in spite of a very limited education, for he could not even read or write until middle age, when he was taught to do so by his wife.
Another leader in the early days of what was to be, after many vicissitudes, a great commonwealth was John Sevier, a man who in many ways was a sharp contrast to RobertHe was highly educated, of distinguished appearance, and of French Huguenot ancestry, and one of the most reckless and dashing Indian fighters that the country has ever produced. This combination of qualities gave him a strong hold on the frontier society. Under the leadership of Robertson and Sevier, a government was formed with a written constitution, which has peculiar importance in institutional history and will be more fully considered in a future chapter. Under this constitution the Watauga community became self-governing and prosperous.
Similar colonizing movements were going on in other parts of the lands recently acquired from the Indians. In 1774, James Harrod and forty companions entered what is now central Kentucky and established a village named in honor of their leader, Harrodsburg. About the same time Boonesborough was established. In Boone's wanderings he had come in contact with Colonel Henderson, of North Carolina, who, influenced by Boone's account of the fertility of the land organized a company called the Transylvania Company for the purpose of establishing a colony. A fort was built on the selected site, and in 1775 Henderson and a party of emigrants formed the settlement of Boonesborough. The fortifications of this place were a type of the defences which during the early period, as well as against the Indians at the time of the Revolution, did good service. Shaler, in his history of Kentucky describes the Boonesborough fort as follows:
"The fort was laid out as a parallelogram, about two hundred and fifty feet long and one hundred and twenty feet wide; at the four corners log houses were built; the part of the walls of those block-houses that lay beyond the
fort were without windows, but pierced with loopholes, from which a clearing fire could be delivered along the curtains of the fort. The sides were formed in part by the outer walls of the cabins, and in part by lines of stockade, made by placing squared timbers vertically in the ground and binding them together by a horizontal stringer or staypiece on the inside near the top. The steep roofs of the houses were covered with thick slabs of riven beams, held in their places by means of horizontal bars of wood laid upon them and tied by withes to the rafters. Iron was little used in these early constructions of the wilderness, and to this day houses are built in the mountain districts of Kentucky which do not contain a pound of the metal. Two gates of stout framed wood in the middle of the longer side, commanded on the inside by the small windows on the inside faces of the houses, and on the outside by the loopholes of the block-houses, completed the outline of this primitive castle. As long as artillery was not used-and in the early fights it usually had no place-such defences were all that could be desired. The central square gave a large place for herding cattle. Each cabin was separately defensible, and the tolerably complete separation of the several houses made them safe from conflagrations; one cabin could be burned without involving the destruction of others." Shortly after the settlement of Harrodsburg and Boonesborough, other settlements, Boiling Springs and Logan's, were formed within the limits of the Transylvania claim.
By 1775 the settlers had gained a firm foothold in Kentucky, and numbered perhaps three hundred men. The harvests were abundant, and the people were hopeful. One day in this same year, a little party of hunters were encamped at the hut of one of the number on Elkhorn River, when a message came that war had broken out between Great Britain and the United States; and the hunters, to show their patriotism, named the spot on which they were encamped Lexington" in honor of the Massachusetts patriots who had fired the first shots of the American Revolution.
THE WEST IN THE REVOLUTION
THE men of the western settlements were a liberty-loving people, and many of them had crossed the mountains that they might obtain greater freedom. They considered themselves capable of self-government, and their isolation did not prevent them from feeling a keen interest in the struggle of their fellow countrymen. The tax on tea did not concern them very much, because tea, other than the homemade article, was a rare luxury in the western clearings; but they felt the selfish and oppressive policy of the British government more keenly, if possible, than did their eastern neighbors. The Quebec Act of 1774, by which the boundaries of Quebec were extended to Mississippi River on the west and the Ohio on the south, was looked upon as an oppressive measure, because one of its objects was to deter the settlement of this part of the country. The terms of the act were such that the government of the Ohio country might, without question, be arbitrary, and it promised to be more favorable to Catholics than to Protestants. It was also believed that under the Quebec Act the settler going into this section, out of which five great States grew later,—would find himself under a far worse government than that of the eastern colonies. The great majority of the western men, therefore, threw themselves heartily into the Revolution, on the American side. There were a few Tories among them, some perhaps favoring the king from conviction, but most
of them because they felt that in antagonism to the majority was to be found greater opportunity for plunder. These conscienceless Tories were the desperadoes and outlaws from the seaboard settlements, who had fled beyond the mountains and lived as outlaws or joined the Indians. Neither the British nor the Continental governments had troops to spare for this fight for the possession of the West; so that, as a rule, the battles west of the Alleghanies and east of the Mississippi were between the settlers and the Indians with or without Tory leaders. It was a conflict on both sides of fierce and relentless hatred. On the Atlantic slope, the Revolution was a struggle for liberty. In the West, it was a war for liberty and life; the Indians, knowing that, now if ever, with the help of their British allies, they must drive the invaders back, and the settlers fighting for home and life against a desperate and remorseless foe. In these battles the white men adopted the Indian method of warfare, fighting from behind trees in the wilderness and picking off their enemy with the unerring rifle. The contestants were very evenly matched in this kind of warfare, in which there was room for the exercise of much individual strategy on both sides and very little call for concerted action by large bodies of men. The frontiersman was too independent to submit long to the discipline of regular army life, but as an independent fighter he was unequalled. There were a few general engagements, but, as a rule, it was the stealthy foray of a body of Indians against a defenceless settlement, in which as many scalps were taken as possible with the least danger to the Indians. Then there followed the expedition for avenging the assault. Fierce battles were carried on in the wilderness, with only a score, or even less, men on a side. It was a long, hideous series of ambuscades and massacres.
There can be no question but that Indian raids were encouraged by the British. The headquarters for the campaign against the western settlers were at Detroit, where Colonel Henry Hamilton, known amongst the settlers as
the "hair-buyer" was in command. In March, 1776, he received orders from his superior officers to organize Indian raids against the frontier and his work was to destroy and drive beyond the mountains all the settlers, and we have his own statement that up to July, 1777, he had sent out fifteen Indian expeditions.
The first Indian attack upon the Watauga communities was in June, 1776. The settlers had been warned by a friendly Indian woman and so had had opportunity to withdraw into their forts. The Cherokees to the number of two thousand advanced to the attack. A party of six hundred warriors assailed the Watauga fort where Robertson and Sevier were in command. This fort was held by forty or fifty men and for three weeks endured a siege which the Indians were finally obliged to raise.
The operations of the savages in Kentucky were directed mainly against Boonesborough. With a persistence unusual to Indian warfare they tried repeatedly to destroy this fortification. A body of Indians on their way to the siege of Boonesborough surprised Daniel Boone and a party of men who were at the Lower Blue Licks on Licking River making salt to supply the stations. They were all captured and well treated. Boone and ten of his companions were carried to Detroit where Hamilton tried to ransom Boone from them, but the Indians had become greatly attached to their captive and after the return of the warriors to their home, he was adopted as one of the tribe. In June, 1778, Boone, discovering that a considerable force of Indians was preparing to march against Boonesborough, escaped and made the journey of one hundred and sixty miles to Boonesborough in five days. On August 8th, a combined party of British, French, and Indians attacked the fort, subjecting it to a regular siege, in the course of which the French commander persuaded Boone and eight others to come out of the fort for a parley with an equal number of the besiegers. They were treacherously seized but escaped. After an ineffectual attempt to tunnel the fortifications the besiegers withdrew.