Fort Watauga
Sycamore Shoals Monument

Fort Watauga (Caswell)

Other names:
Sycamore Shoals

1772 Wataugans leased land from the Cherokee
1775 Wataugans purchased land from the Cherokee
7/20 - 8/2/1776 Fort Watauga (Fort Caswell): Capt. John Carter vs. Old Abraham (Abram), Cherokee, siege
Sept 1780, muster of overmountain men prior to Kings Mountain battle


Maps: [map notes]


  • Wikipedia article on Fort Watauga.
    The siege of Fort Caswell

    With the Cherokee approaching, some 150 to 200 settlers crowded into Fort Caswell. The fort's garrison consisted of roughly 75 men under the command of John Carter (the Committee of Safety commissioner), with James Robertson and John Sevier as subordinates. Old Abraham of Chilhowee's contingent of Cherokee warriors arrived at Fort Caswell in the early morning hours of July 21. The sudden appearance of the invaders surprised several women out milking cows, forcing them to rush to get back inside the fort. One of them, Catherine "Bonnie Kate" Sherrill, the future wife of John Sevier, was unable to get back inside before the gate was locked and had to be pulled over the palisades by Sevier. The initial Cherokee attack lasted about three hours, with both sides exchanging gunfire. During the attack, several Cherokees managed to get close enough to the fort to attempt to set it on fire, but were forced back after Ann Robertson (wife [Sic: sister] of James Robertson) threw scalding hot water at them.

    Unable to take the fort, the Cherokee halted the assault and settled in for a lengthy siege. In the ensuing days, a teenager named Tom Moore was captured outside the fort and taken to Tuskegee, where he was burned at the stake. Another captive, Lydia Russell Bean, was about to meet the same fate when Nancy Ward intervened and used her authority as a Beloved Woman to spare her. After approximately two weeks, the Cherokee lifted the siege and retreated. The arrival of the Virginia militia under William Christian later that year largely ended the threat to the fort.


    Location and design

    19th-century historian J.G.M. Ramsey provided the most often-cited description of Fort Watauga's location in his Annals of Tennessee, published in 1852. Ramsey, who visited Elizabethton and observed what he believed were the fort's remains, placed the fort's location at approximately 0.5 miles (0.80 km) northeast of the mouth of Gap Creek, along what is now West G Street (the site is marked by the 1909 D.A.R. monument). A contemporary of Ramsey, Lyman Draper, placed the fort's location at roughly 1 mile (1.6 km) downstream from the mouth of the Doe River (about 2 miles northeast of Ramsey's location). The 1974 excavations uncovered trench-like formations 300 feet (91 m) west of the D.A.R. marker [Basis for location] that state archaeologist Carl Kuttruff believed to be the remains of Fort Watauga. The current reconstructed fort is about 1,500 yards (1,400 m) northeast of Ramsey's location and about a mile west of Draper's.

    Little is known of Fort Watauga's original design. Ramsey described the fort as situated on a knoll, and Draper wrote that the fort was surrounded by an open glade within easy firing distance of the north bank of the Watauga River. The 1974 excavations revealed that the fort had an irregular shape, and that it probably consisted of a group of cabins connected by a stockade. The shape of the reconstructed fort was based largely on the formations uncovered in these excavations, and its design was based on contemporary Appalachian frontier forts, which typically consisted of log structures (some with overhanging second stories) and a stockade of sharpened poles surrounding a 1-acre (0.40 ha) courtyard.


  • Brian P. Compton, Revised History of Fort Watauga, A thesis presented to the faculty of the Department of History East Tennessee State University In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in History. May 2005.

  • Sycamore Shoals State Park map

  • Gwrtheyrn Roane, YouTube: Siege of Fort Watauga. 8:34.Re-enactment video.

  • RevWar75 RevWar75  
    7/20 - 8/2/1776 Fort Watauga (Fort Caswell). Shown as draw.

    archiveCherokee Prayer Initiative:

      archive Cherokee Prayer Site Guide. Also found here. See site #509.
      X 509. Fort Watauga, Fort Caswell
      attacked in 1776– 150 settlers; 12-year old Moore boy captured from here and burned to death in Tuskegee #93 (AT) on the Watauga River near Elizabethton
      Ann Robertson (sister of James) formed Bucket Brigade to pour scalding water on attacking Cherokees
      Description– Annals pg 140-141
      Maps– HT, OM, CA
      1776 received settlers from Gillespie's Station (warned by Ward) (GW); drove back Old Abram and his men. Mrs. Bean was captured here and condemned to death. Nancy Ward intervened. 40 men manned it.
      Group of cabins in rectangular shape connected by stockade walls; court house and jail nearby (OM)

      archive Historical Notes on the Cherokee People, Linda Fulmer. Also see here.
      Sources (Bibliography).
      [AT] J. G. M. Ramsey, Annals of Tennessee, 1853, reprint 1967
      [HT] ?
      [OM] Alderman, The Overmountain Men, 1970.
      [CA] ?
      [GW] Grace Steele Woodward, The Cherokees, 1963.

      Search for Watauga.

    • CPI Map: Tri-Cities, TN (Kingsport, Johnson City, Bristol). #509. Large.

  • Google Ramsey,James Gettys McGready, The Annals of Tennessee, to the End of the Eighteenth Century: Comprising Its Settlement, as the Watauga Association, from 1796 to 1777; a Part of North-Carolina, from 1777 to 1784; the State of Franklin, from 1784 to 1788; a Part of North-Carolina, from 1788 to 1790; the Territory of the U. States, South of the Ohio, from 1790 to 1796; the State of Tennessee, from 1796 to 1800. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1853. P. 140ff.

    Related locations:
    Cherokee Middle Towns