I never heard of Fort Southwest Point, though I’ve been to Kingston, TN years ago and by the exit many times on the way to elsewhere. Looking at Smoke and Fire finding events close by to go to, Mike and I spotted this event some months ago and decided to day trip it.
What a sweet place! It’s a wooden star fort, nestled on the overlook at the join of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers. In 1792, General John Sevier created his headquarters here and built the stockade and blockhouse. The fort itself was built at that exact site in 1797 as a way station for settlers traveling west and an Indian agency. At its peak, there were over 600 Federal troops under the command of Col. David Henley. Their role was a dual one: protect the area from attack and keep the settlers out of Cherokee settlements. In 1802, command was assumed by Col. Return J. Meigs, reputed to be a very fair man and outstanding commander, who acted both as an Indian agent and an agent of the Dept. of War for the government. He was instrumental in purchasing Cherokee land, and providing goods to the Cherokee and other tribes. Military operations were transfered to the Hiwassee garrison and the fort was decomissioned by 1811.
In 1974, archeological digs overseen by the University of Tennessee were started and still continue today. The outpost was built on existing foundations and is still a work in progress. What I found impressive is that this place is owned by the City of Kingston with no outside financial assistance from the federal or state park services and all the building has been done by local volunteers using , in many instances , their own money for materials.
The Roane County Chapter of the SOR sponsored the 2nd Annual Trade Faire this past weekend at the fort and while it was a small event, it was a lot of fun. There was a fair representation of people in the shade outside the stockade walls. Mike and I went on Saturday morning and the organizers said we could set up our demos (Mike leather sewing on his leather clamp, me making a pine needle basket, weaving ) on the porch of the officers’ quarters. The two really interesting buildings they have built so far is the barracks (soldiers on one side, officers on the other divided by a common fire place) and the blockhouse. There is a blacksmith shop being built close by in the same location as it was back when the fort was in use. Next to where we were set up are three digs (magazine, supply and another building as yet to be determined). As hot as it was, there was a nice breeze blowing from the river and there were a good number of public curious and asking questions.
Down below there was a big tent with music and games for the kids (let’s fire a flintlock pistol and see how high you can jump when it fires!) and the Daughters of the Revolution supplied an endless array of homemade cookies and coffee to anyone who wanted them. We met some fantastic people there; David Whaley who knew a number of Regiment members , the Cherokee from Georgia and his family, and everyone who was there was terrific.
At 2 PM, Mike Dahl entertained the crowd with the history of the fort and the skirmish caused by some forked tongue diplomacy on the part of the Federals. The militia fought the Cherokee (all two of them) and in the end, there was a pow-wow and an uneasy truce. The group has an 8 pounder that gave a whole new meaning to the word “BOOM”. They pack it with a POUND of black powder and on top of that, pack it with a like amount of flour. When it shoots, it’s FIREWORKS!
At 4 PM, the event was over for the day and there was such a marvelous peace in the place, the breeze, the view of the river, quiet conversation, and the shade of the blockhouse. It was hard to leave.
If you have a chance to go next year, it’s an easy run up Rt 40 to Kingston and the fort is 1 1/2 miles off the exit. I know we’ve already decided to go next year.
Check out their website. Also I posted photos I took in a Webshot album. Take a look.