Robertson Saves the Settlement
He went safely, though quite alone, and returned on the evening of January 15 (1780) with a good supply of ammunition. You may be sure he had a hearty welcome in the fort, where all were gathered. There was much to talk about, and they sat up till late into the night. All went to bed, tired and sleepy, without any fear. For at that season of the year the red men seldom molested them; and no sentinels were left on guard.
Soon all were in deep slumber except Robertson, whose sense of lurking danger would not let him sleep. He kept feeling that enemies might be near. And he was right. For just outside the fort, prowling in the thick underbrush and hidden by the great trees, there lay in ambush a band of painted warriors, hungry for plunder, eager for scalps.
They creep forward to their attack. They are very cautious, for a bright moon lights up the blockhouses and the palisaded fort.
Suddenly a moving shadow falls upon the moonlit clearing outside the fort. An Indian is stealthily crossing from the dark woods to the wall. There he crouches close, to be out of sight of the inmates of the fort. Another crouching figure, and another. One by one every feathered warrior crosses and keeps close to the palisade.
The next move is to slide cautiously the strong bar and undo the chain which fastens the gate. It is done skilfully enough, but the chain clanks or the hinges creak. The wakeful Robertson springs quickly to his feet. His keen eyes catch sight of the swift, dark figures, moving stealthily into the fort.
“Indians!” he shouts, and off goes his rifle. Instantly every settler has snatched the gun lying at his side. In a second the shots ring out; and the Indians flee through the gate to disappear into the leafy woods. But they have lost one man, whom Robertson has shot, and have killed or wounded three or four of the settlers. Robertson, by keen watchfulness, has saved the fort from capture and his comrades from probable torture or death.
This was only one of many occasions in which Robertson’s leadership saved the day. After the Revolution ended (1783) the Indians were not so unfriendly, for the English were no longer paying them for scalps. People, therefore, became less timid about crossing the mountains, and a large number migrated from Virginia and North Carolina to the Tennessee settlement and made their homes at Nashville. As numbers grew larger, dangers became less.
By this time Robertson had become well known through the successful planting of his two settlements, and for the wisdom and bravery with which he managed them. As a reward for his valuable services, Washington later on (1790) made him a general in the army. In 1814 he died.
He is the kind of man we like to think of as a pioneer in the making of our history. Sturdy and self-reliant, strong and fearless, he cheerfully faced the unending struggle with the hard conditions of those early days. Though his life was narrow, it cut deep in its loyalty to friends and country.