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Robertson, James 1742-1814

“the father of Tennessee” ; born in Brunswick county, Va., June 28, 1742; emigrated to the regions beyond the mountains about 1760. and on the banks of the Watauga, a branch of the Tennessee; made a settlement and lived there several years. He was often called upon to contest for life with the savages of the forest. In 1776 he was chosen to command a fort built

James Robertson.

near the mouth of the Watauga. In 1779 he was at the head of a party emigrating to the still richer country of the [447] Cumberland, and upon Christmas Eve of that year they arrived upon the spot where Nashville now stands. Others joined them, and in the following summer they numbered about 200. A settlement was established, and Robertson founded the city of Nashville. The Cherokee Indians attempted to destroy the settlement, but, through the skill and energy of Robertson and a few companions, that calamity was averted. They built a log fort on the high bank of the Cumberland, and in that the settlers were defended against fully 700 Indians in 1781.

The settlement was erected into a county of North Carolina, and Robertson was its first representative in the State legislature. In 1790 the “Territory South of the Ohio River” was formed, and Washington appointed Robertson brigadier-general and commander of the militia in it. In that capacity he was very active in defence of the settlements against the savages. At the same time he practised the most exact justice towards the Indians, and when these children of the forest were no longer hostile, his kindness towards the oppressed among them made him very popular. At length, when the emissaries, white and red, from the British in the North began to sow the seeds of discontent among them at the breaking out of the War of 1812, the government wisely appointed General Robertson agent to the Chickasaw tribe. He was ever watchful of the national interest. As early as March, 1813, he wrote, “The Chickasaws are in a high strain for war against the enemies of the country. They have declared war against all passing Creeks who attempt to go through their nation. They have declared, if the United States will make a campaign against the Creeks (because of some murders committed by them near the mouth of the Ohio), that they are ready to give them aid.” A little later he suggested the employnent of companies of Chickasaws and Choctaws to defend the frontiers and to protect travellers, and he was seconded by Pitchlyn, an active and faithful Indian.

During the war General Robertson remained at his post among the Indians, and invited his aged wife to share his privations by quaintly saying to her by a messenger, “If you shall come this way, the very best chance for rest and sleep which my bed affords shall be given you, provided, always, that I shall retain a part of the same.” He was then seventy-one, and she sixty-three years of age. She went to him, and was at his side when he died at his post in the Indian country, Sept. 1, 1814. His remains were buried at the agency. In 1825 they were removed to Nashville, and, in the presence of a large concourse of citizens, were reinterred in the cemetery there. A plain tomb covers the spot. The remains of his wife rest by his side, and the observer may there read the following inscriptions: “Gen. James Robertson, the founder of Nashville, was born in Virginia, 28th June, 1742. Died 1st September, 1814.” “Charlotte R., wife of James Robertson, was born in North Carolina, 2d January, 1751. Died 11th June, 1843.” Their son Dr. Felix Robertson, who was born in the fort, and the first white child whose birth was in west Tennessee, died at Nashville in 1864.

Royal governor, born in Fifeshire, Scotland, about 1710; was deputy-quartermaster under General Abercrombie in 1758; was at the capture of Louisburg; and accompanied Amherst to Lake Champlain in 1759. He took part in the expedition against Martinique in 1762, and was afterwards stationed in New York. At Boston, in 1775, he was made major-general, Jan. 1, 1776, and at the evacuation of that city he shared in the plunder. He was in the battle of Long Island; was military governor of New York until his return to England; and, coming back, was commissioned military governor of the city of New York in May, 1779, and remained such until April, 1783, when he again returned to England, where he died, March 4, 1788.

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