The Robertson Genealogy Exchange
Draper Manuscript 6XX70
Lyman C. Draper Esqr.
My Dear Sir:
In overhauling some old papers a day or two since, I had the mortification of finding the enclosed communications from our old friend John Davis, Esqr. How they became misplaced and overlooked I have no idea.
We have renovated our State Historical Society and are making some progress in its work. Should there be no flaging I have hope that much may yet be done.
Colo. [A. W.] Putnam has in press a book on the history of Middle Tennessee, what it will amount to I am unable to say, but I am confident not what that history should be. You have the only materials existing that will do it justice. What is your prospect of publishing?
For two or three years past my health has declined greatly, principally from violent neuralgia. It is with difficulty that I can write, and hardly legibly.
It would give me great pleasure to see any part of your intended work published.
Under the memorandum of Esqr. Davis on the subject of the affair at my brother Jonathan's new place I have made a few observations, but the space in the paper was too limited to allow my being as particular as perhaps is requisite. This being the first and almost only instance where the whites being fired on by Indians in ambush, making a stand and driving them from the battle ground, makes it more worthy of notice.
Soon after the death of [Mr.] Helen my brother determined to preserve in his new settlement, got two of the Cowans to help work in the clearing & a little Irishman to stand as sentinel. The ground was so situated that the sentinel had to be placed some hundred yards or more from where they were at work to prevent the Indians from inching up between them and the house, & they had to depend upon their own sharp lookout in front.
For a small distance outside of the clearing the cane was what was called maiden cane, that is, of small growth but little higher than a man's head, and not so thick as the main cane brakes.
The Indians by great care, however, succeeded in getting in fair gunshot without being seen.
They had blowed the horn at the house for them to come to dinner, & they were going round pushing up the burnt-down brush heaps when the Indians fired on them.
Daniel Cowan had taken off his hat to brush some fire sparks which bad fallen on it; a ball passed through his hat & wounded his hand; no other one was touched. They broke to their guns & the Indians pursuing had just made their appearance at the edge of the clearing as the whites turned & fired, Cowan discharging a large musket loaded with some twenty rifle balls, he says in a perfect crowd as they emerged from the cane.
Robertson & an Indian at the same moment took a tree & fired so as to give but one report. The brim of Robertson's hat was cut some four or five inches near its junction with the crown & almost touching his ear. He aimed at the edge of the tree that partly covered his body, and afterward ascertained that his bullet just passed through the bark & must have inflicted a pretty deadly wound.
When the Indians fled the whites raised the Indian yell & those at the house had no doubt they were all killed & that it was the Indians who were yelling.
Reliable information afterward received stated that five were killed or so badly wounded that they died on their way home. Some years afterward in the wood near were found three shot bags hidden under a log.
Accept my best wishes for health & success.
Source: William Curry Harlee, Kinfolks: A Genealogical and Biographical Record, 3 vols. (New Orleans: Searcy & Pfaff, 1935-37), 3: 2514-2516.
Last updated: Tuesday, September 9, 2003
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