Parent Category: 18th Century History Articles
Category: American Revolution
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When the Calhoun plantation (in South Carolina), upon which Clemson College is now located, was purchased in 1826, it was called "Clergy Hall." It received this name because the original mansion was built by the Rev. James McIlhenny who resided there with his son-in-law, the Rev. James Murphy. An old Revolutionary fort known in history as Fort Rutledge was upon this estate, crowning a hill overlooking the Seneca River and when Mr. Calhoun took possession of the place, he changed its name to "Fort Hill." Although fifty years had elapsed since the fort was built and doubtless there were few remains of it to be seen at that time, still many were living who remembered it well, and the hill upon which it stood was known from the earliest settlement of the country by the name of "Fort Hill."


One of the most beautiful drives on the Clemson property is the road to Fort Rutledge which is about a mile from the college. This road winds through rich cornfields of bottom land; it then rises gently to the top of a long level ridge which slopes precipitously down to the fields on one hand and the Seneca River on the other; trees and shrubs thickly clothe the sides of this ridge and beautiful and extended views can be seen in every direction. Looking to the east, Clemson College, seated upon an opposite hill, with its many buildings and the dwellings of the community presents an ideal picture of loveliness; on the north, the Blue Ridge mountains, forty miles away, are clearly seen with several lofty ranges; to the west and south, the eye follows the river winding through smiling valleys, the cultivated fields green with promise which is always fulfilled.

This boldly commanding ridge, overlooking the surrounding country, was well adapted for an outlook during the conflicts between the Indians and the early settlers. The Seneca Indians had one of their largest towns on the river at the base of the hill, extending for four miles on both sides, the hundreds of acres of inexhaustible bottom land supplying them bountifully with corn even with the crudest methods of cultivation.

Nothing remains of the old fort to-day but the abandoned well, which has been filled and is marked by a tangled growth of weeds and shrubs, and the cellar of the old lookout tower or five sided bastion; this is faced with brick and the shape can be seen distinctly.

One of the early battles of the Revolution was fought near Fort Hill at Seneca town at its base. This town was one of note among the Indians and up to this day arrowheads and other implements of war or household use may be found upon its site. For generations the Indians preserved a strong attachment for this spot and up to the time that the college began its active work, "Bushy Head," an Indian Chief from the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina, would lead a band here every summer.

The story of the battle here is taken from official reports and from McCrady's "History of South Carolina."

During the spring of 1776, the Tory leaders, Stuart and Cameron, had informed the Cherokees that a British fleet was coming to attack Charleston and as soon as they heard of its arrival they must fall upon the up-country pioneer settlements and destroy them. With the British to fight in the south and the combined Tories and Indians in the north it was believed that the province would soon be subjugated. The news came to the Indians on the eve of July 1st and at the dawn of day they were on the warpath slaying every white person they could capture, without distinction of age or sex. At this time the Hamptons were massacred with many other families.

Mr. Francis Salvador lived on Corn-acre or Coronaca creek in Ninety-six district. He was one of the few members of the provincial congress from the up-country, a man of much ability, enthusiasm and patriotism. When the dreadful tidings of the Indian uprising reached him that day, he mounted his horse and galloped to the home of Major Andrew Williamson, twenty-eight miles away; he found that officer already aroused to the horrors of the situation and busily endeavoring to collect forces. But the settlers were terror stricken, several hundred had been murdered and the survivors had but one thought and that was to get their families safely into the nearest forts. He waited two days and only forty men had volunteered. With this small band Major Williamson with Mr. Salvador started on the 3rd of July for the Indian villages resolved to punish them severely. But when the settlers had provided for the safety of their wives and children, many of them hurried to join him and on the 5th there were 110 men with him, on the 8th his band increased to 222 and on the 16th they numbered 450; reinforcements came from Charlestown and also from Georgia and on the 22nd of July he was at the head of 1,150 men. Meanwhile he had been advancing from his home towards the Cherokee country and was encamped on Baker's creek, a few miles above Moffattsville. Here his scouts brought him the news that Alexander Cameron, thirteen white men and a band of Indians were camped on O'connor Creek about thirty miles away, and Williamson determined to surprise and capture them before they could hear of his proximity. He therefore selected with care three hundred and thirty horsemen, the brave Mr. Salvador accompanying him and started about six o'clock on the evening of July 31st planning to surprise the enemy before day. About two in the morning of the first day of August they drew near the town of Essenecca (or Seneca). A party of his men who had visited the place two days before had reported to him that the town was thoroughly evacuated; trusting to this report he carelessly neglected to send out advance scouts, rode into an ambush and was surprised and completely routed by the Indians at this town. Quoting Major Williamson's report of the event:

  "The enemy either having discovered my march or laid themselves in ambush with a design to cut off my spies or party I had sent out, had taken possession of the first houses in Seneca, and posted themselves behind a long fence on an eminence close to the road where we were to march, and to prevent being discovered had filled up the openings between the rails, with corn blades, etc. They suffered the guides and advance guard to pass, when a gun from the house was discharged (meant I suppose as a signal for those placed behind the fence, who a few seconds afterwards poured in a heavy fire upon my men), which being unexpected, staggered my advance party. Here Mr. Salvador received three wounds and fell by my side; my horse was shot down under me but I received no hurt. Lieut. Farar of Capt. Prince's Company immediately supplied me with his. I desired him to take care of Mr. Salvador, but before he could find him in the dark, the enemy unfortunately got his scalp which was the only one taken. Capt. Smith, son of the late Capt. Aaron Smith, saw the Indian, but thought it was his servant taking care of his master or could have prevented it. He died about half-after two o'clock in the morning, forty-five minutes after he received the wounds, sensible to the last. When I came up to him after dislodging the enemy, and speaking to him, he asked whether I had beat the enemy, I told him yes, he said he was glad of it, and shook me by the hand, and bade me farewell and said he would die in a few minutes. Two men died in the morning, and six more who were badly wounded I have since sent down to the settlements and given directions to Dr. DeLaTowe and Russell to attend them. I remained on the ground till daybreak and burnt the houses on this side of the river and afterwards crossed the river; the same day reduced Seneca entirely to ashes."

An Extract from another report gives further particulars:

  "The Indian spies had observed the Major's march and alarmed their camp; upon which about thirty Indians and as many white men went to Seneca and placed themselves in ambush. The Indians had one killed and three wounded.

  "Seneca, four miles long on each side of the river with six thousand bushels of corn, &c, burned August 1st.

  "Sugar Town and Keowee, Aug. 4th."

The account given by McCrady in his History of South Carolina is a little more unfavorable than Major Williamson's:

  "Major Williamson's forces, completely surprised, broke away and fled in the greatest confusion. The enemy kept up a constant fire which the retreating militia returned at random, as dangerous to their friends who were willing to advance against the enemy as it was to the enemy themselves. Fortunately Lieutenant Colonel Hammond rallied a party of about twenty men, and, making an unexpected charge, repulsed the savage foe and escaped. The Indians lost but one man killed and three wounded; of Major Williamson's party three died from their wounds and fourteen were badly injured. When daylight arrived he burnt that part of Esseneca town which was on the eastern side of the Keowee River, and later Col. Hammond crossed the river burnt that on the western side as well and destroyed all the provisions, computed at six thousand bushels of Indian corn, besides peas and other articles. The object of overtaking Cameron and his associates having been thus defeated Williamson retreated and joined his camp at Twenty-three Mile Creek."

The loss of Mr. Salvador was greatly deplored by the province. He was a man of prominence, intelligence and worth and his services to the American cause would have been most valuable. An interesting sketch of his life may be found in Elzas "History of Jews of South Carolina," written by Mr. A. S. Salley.

On the 8th of August, 1776, Williamson marched with 640 men upon the Indian towns. They destroyed Ostatoy, Tugaloo, Tomassee, Chehohee and Eustash; every bit of the corn was burned and the Indians were forced to live upon roots and berries, etc. The expedition was most successful and completely retrieved the defeat at Seneca. McCrady states that about this time Major Williamson was appointed colonel of the Ninety-six Regiment and upon Colonel Williamson's return to his camp he found that numbers of his men had gone home, forced to do so from fatigue, want of clothes, and other necessaries and that many who had remained were in equal distress. He was obliged therefore to grant furloughs ordering them to rejoin him at Esseneca on the 28th to which place he marched on the 16th with about six hundred men. Here he erected a fort, which in honor of the president of South Carolina, he called Fort Rutledge.

Upon the breaking out of this war application had been made to North Carolina and Virginia to co-operate with the forces of South Carolina in this region. Each of these states complied and raised a body of troops. The first under General Rutherford, to act in conjunction with the South Carolinians on this side the mountains, and the other under Colonel Christie, to act against the over-hill Cherokees. But Colonel Williamson had destroyed all the lower settlements before the North Carolinians under General Rutherford took the field.

Colonel Williamson now having increased his force to 2,300 men, broke up the camp at Esseneca; leaving 300 men as a guard to the inhabitants and as a garrison to Fort Rutledge he marched with about 2,000 men to co-operate with General Rutherford.

History tells us that the campaign was successful; the Indians received lessons they never forgot; in less than three months the Cherokees lost 2,000 and humbled and broken in spirit; they sued for peace on any terms. A treaty of pacification was signed and the Indians yielded to South Carolina a large tract of land embracing the counties of Anderson, Pickens, Oconee and Greenville.

So this is the story of the building and holding of Fort Rutledge. The remains of the old fort are well worth preserving for its foundations were laid in a period of storm and stress and suffering; its rude walls frowned upon the Indians early in the Revolution; its watch tower kept guard so that the settler's family in his humble cabin might rest in peace; with its little garrison of three hundred men it did its work well and effectually intimidated the enemies of the province in this part of the country.

After the Revolutionary war it was abandoned and gradually fell into ruins and decay but the name "Fort Hill" has always clung to it and the site never has been forgotten.--American Monthly, 1907.