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What is Now East Tennessee Area was Important Factor in American Independence

The readiness of folks from Tennessee, no less so from the Northeast Tennessee area, to volunteer for action in the various military campaigns that have occurred throughout America’s history is well known. Tennessee’s nickname is “The Volunteer State.” And of course, what Tennessean doesn’t know about the University of Tennessee’s “Volunteers” — a name chosen for UT’s sports teams due to Tennessee’s long recognition for the volunteerism of its citizens.
During America’s quest for independence from the oppressive rule of Briton, many folks of what would be Northeast Tennessee acted heroically in the hard fought triumph over the forces of England, which included a number of Native Americans who were sympathetic to England’s cause.
Due to England’s influence the Indians ordered the white settlers to leave even though they had earlier signed a treaty with Richard Henderson and Nathaniel Hart for the sale of the “Transylvania Territory.” The settlers realized they must prepare to defend themselves. Therefore they began to build forts for protection. Among the forts built were Fort Caswell and Fort Shelby. The first battle of the Revolution in the west was fought at Fort Caswell (now Fort Watauga in Elizabethton). At Long Island (now Kingsport) the enemy was defeated.
An interesting bit of history occurred there. The account goes to show that heroism wasn’t just a characteristic of pioneer men but that heroism was found in the makeup of pioneer women as well. Following an assault in July of 1776 the camp of settlers at Long Island was under siege for two weeks. It was during that siege that Bonnie Kate Sherrill (The Bonnie Kate Theater in Elizabethton was named after her) was out tending to the stock. The Indians chased her and she was forced to scale the wall of the stockade. As she scaled the fort wall, John Sevier reached down to aid her and this was the meeting of the two who were later married. It was also during that time that Ann Robertson found that the enemy forces were coming too close to the walls trying to set them on fire and she poured buckets of scalding water on them to drive them away.
After minor skirmishes the enemy withdrew. The North Carolina and Virginia forces arrived and in September Fort Patrick Henry was built at Long Island (now Kingsport). In June a peace treaty with the Indians was signed.
Under the constitution of North Carolina the territory was set up as Washington District and later became Washington County. Jonesborough was named as the county seat of Washington County in 1779 in Honor of Willie Jones of North Carolina. In the fall of 1779 Sullivan County was formed from Washington County and ran well into what is now Johnson County. Carter County and Johnson County was once a part of Washington County.
One of the most important battles to take place during the Revolutionary War was the Battle of King’s Mountain in which a little over 1000 men (an early example of Tennessee’s volunteering spirit) turned the tide of the war by defeating Colonel Patrick Ferguson’s supposedly superior forces and leaving Ferguson dead on the battlefield.
Sycamore Shoals in what is now Elizabethton was the gathering and preparation point for the “Overmountain Men.” On September 26, 1780, the men advanced up Gap Creek, crossed the Doe River and spent the night at Shelving Rock. The following night they camped on the top of the Roan Mountain. In the meantime two men (British spies) slipped away and warned Ferguson of the impending attack. A two-hour battle ensued until the British threw down their guns.
A determined group of men who had practically no military experience and was not trained in the finer points of military tactics but who valued freedom and independence so much as to risk their lives or future has been recognized by many historians for bringing about the turning point in the Revolutionary War.