Buchanan’s Station: A Stirring Reminiscence of the Olden Time

Primary Source Document, transcribed by Kathy B. Lauder.

Republican Banner, November 17, 1869

To the Editor of the Banner:

In company with the Vice-president of the Pacific Railroad, a few days since, I rode along the first six miles of the road. The work is in a forward condition, and but for two or three injunctions, the grading, masonry, etc., would be finished by the first of next January ready for track-laying.  The masonry of the bridge at Mill Creek is finished and the iron bridge will be erected when the track-laying reaches that point.  The object of this communication is to call public attention to the fact that this bridge crosses the creek at the point where was fought one of the most remarkable Indian battles that characterize the early settlements of Tennessee.

Nearly fifty years ago, the writer became familiar with the spot, and often heard from those who had participated in the battle an account of the gallant and successful defense of the fort, then called Buchanan’s Station.  The eastern abutment of the bridge rests on the bluff near the spot where stood the stockade and block-house.  It should be commemorated by some suitable tablet and inscription erected upon that end of the bridge.  This and many similar events are passing out of the memory of our people, and I am afraid that the rising generation are not at all familiar with the early history of our State.    In 1792 General Robertson, the father of Middle Tennessee, received intelligence which led him to believe the Indians would visit his neighborhood.  He sent out one of his trusty scouts, Abraham Castleman, to reconnoitre and find out what danger, if any, was impending.  Castleman made a circuit of some sixty miles, going south and returning by the place where Murfreesboro now stands.  He reported traces of the Indians at that point.  Other scouts reported that no Indians were about and none appearing.  Castleman was jeered for his report to such an extent as to cause both himself and General Robertson great mortification.  Events, however, proved the correctness of his reconnoisance [sic].  On Monday, the 30th of September, the people in the fort were awakened by the running in of the cattle and other noises which betokened a large force of Indians at hand.  Before daylight a vigorous attack was made by a large body of savages.  They attempted to fire the fort before the little garrison were in position for defense.  In the fort were fifteen gun-men and a few women, who did their full share of the fighting, running bullets, loading the guns, and firing, as the occasion required.  The heroic conduct of Mrs. Buchanan, exhibited in her coolness, bravery, and the spirit in which she animated the men, was common talk long after her death. 

Reenactors portray Sally Buchanan and a wilderness preacher at a 2012 event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Buchanan’s Station. (photo from NHN collection)

This station was on the old road to the Hermitage, and until the turnpike was built visitors to the Hermitage were shown this place as one pre-eminently entitled to notice.  With the people of this section, Mrs. Buchanan was as much a heroine as General Jackson was afterward a hero. 

The battle lasted an hour. The Indians, from the brisk and incessant firing kept up from the fort to their destruction, believed it was defended by a large force, and retired, leaving some of their dead on the field, but carrying off their wounded.  They left a large amount of guns, swords, tomahawks, kettles, etc., on the field.  The celebrated John Watts, a noted Cherokee Chief, was wounded.  Kiachatalee, a noted Indian warrior, was killed, as was also a hostile half-breed, known as “Tom Turnbridge’s step-son,” who was shot while attempting to fire the fort.  Thirty balls were fired through one port-hole into the roof of the fort, and were found in the area of a man’s hat.  Governor Blount, in his official account of this battle, estimated the number of assailants at three or four hundred.  Both Ramsey and Putnam, in their histories, say the Indians acknowledged their force to have been seven hundred, and that they were dispirited by the constant fire, which led them to believe that the fort was defended by a very strong force.

Not a man, woman or child in the fort received the slightest harm.  Surely such an event as this is worthy of some commemoration.  A simple tablet of iron, with a suitable inscription, could be placed by the railroad company on this bridge at a trifling cost, which they can well afford to pay, as the owners of the land neither charge damages for running the road through it, nor ask pay for the fine stone quarried from the bluff for the erection of the bridge.

(No author is listed.)

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