The Heritage of Daniel Haston


The Caney Fork of the Cumberland
Rock Island Battle - Pages 6-8
Back Next

The Battle of Rock Island - November 9, 1793

The Battle of Rock Island, though small in many respects, was important as it marked the end of Indian warfare in Middle Tennessee and was one of the last engagements in Tennessee.  The battle occurred on the right bank [when facing downstream] of the Caney Fork River across from the Island and a short distance South of the Old Stone Fort.  Three accounts of the battle have been recorded by historians.  They follow along with some notes by the writer.

Reminiscences of Snoddy's Fight, November 1793
(From Capt. Wm. Reid, of Sumner Co., Tenn. about 79 in 1844.)  Draper Mss. 323 490-493.

Lieut. Wm. Snoddy mustered into service, at Winchester's Mill, 32 men in all -- my informant, being one of the number.  Went and camped that night at Dixon's Spring; next day Nathaniel Lattimore killed a bear; third day marched to Caney Fork -- Wm. Reid pilot -- just as they were in the act of crossing the stream, talking pretty loudly, they saw two Indian sentinels jump up apparently awakened from sleep, and ran off.  The men dashed across and soon discovered the Indian camp in alarm and confusion, all the Indians dashed off and over into an island in the river, called the Double or Rock Island.  The Indians, in their haste, left their plunder, and while the whites were gathering the articles, John Peyton called out that the Indians were surrounding them -- one Indian only was seen, and he darted off.  Then the men treed along the bank of the river for a hour or more, thinking they would be attacked.  The plunder was then gathered up -- 62 packs were taken, each containing a blanket, lead, a piece of bear skin to lie on -- one shot gun -- 2 Spanish blades, bridles and halters.  Went up a little distance to the top of the ridge from the river, and camped -- tied the horses and had the plunder in a pile and the horses around it.  The Indians, commanded by Doublehead, were on the island; and Doublehead was heard to make a loud howl, and then make a talk to his warriors.  The poorest horse in the company was then hoppled out and belled, and grass pulled and placed before him, and occasionally some one would go out and give the bell a ring -- this was designed as a trap for the Indians.  Sentinels were placed out; and finally the Indians came up around the camp, but kept at some distance off, and imitated owls and other birds -- then all the men were placed out to strengthen the guard, making 3 together.  The decoy horse was now brought in; and just at the break of day, Snoddy went and examined around the camp and suggested that the Indians had gone, and all had better start.  Reid, the pilot objected and advised that they wait till at least the sun was an hour up -- (Reid had been out with Scott and Wilkinson in 1791, and had seen service).  Snoddy acquiesced, and had scarcely got to his position, when Reid was badly wounded in the right arm, having received the charge of the signal gun (fired, as was believed by Doublehead himself) -- and the firing on both sides at once became warm and general, and particularly on the right where Reid was -- close by fell Nathaniel Lattimore, and (Ms blank) Scoby fell dead -- and Andrew Stelle was shot through the hand, and Hugh Elliott was wounded slightly through the body.  Three rounds were exchanged.

The Indians sounded the signal for retreat, and were seen no more.  When they first commenced fighting, they raised most deafening yells.  One Indian was left dead on the ground, and seven others either killed on the spot or died of their wounds before reaching the nation.  John Kendrick, Edward Williams, Charles Dyers and two others, ran away at the commencement of the fight, and did not rejoin their brave comrades until the third day after.  This fight of Snoddy's was Sept. '92.

(Memo vide narrative of Snoddy's fight by Wm. K. Sadler.)

From Carr's Early Times in Middle Tennessee

In 1792, Lieutenant Snoddy was out on scouting party on Caney Fork, and at Rock Island, late in the evening, he came on a large encampment of Indians.  He immediately plundered it, the Indians being absent hunting.  Whilst doing so they observed an Indian sauntering slowly down the hill, with a gun on his shoulder who, on discovering them, immediately took into the canebreak.  Snoddy knew well enough that he would have to fight before he left the neighborhood, so he went across the river and selected an eligible place for defense.  There as a high eminence, upon which he posted his party, about which spot he formed a hollow square, placing his horses in the centre.  Throughout the night he heard the Indians making all sorts of horrible imitations around, hooting like owls, barking like dogs and foxes, or screaming like catamounts.  Unfortunately, a restless horse belonging to one of the party frequently neighed, betraying their station to the Indians; and about the break of day the latter made an attack upon the whites.  The battle lasted until about sunrise; but Snoddy had a Spartan band with him, and although the Indians were double in numbers, they were handsomely shipped; he lost, however, two fine fellows, Scoby and Latimore, whilst several were wounded.  Among the latter were Captain William Reid, at present living in this county and Andrew Steel, since dead.  Two or three cowardly rascals ran away and came to the settlement, instead of staying to fight,.  The rest of the party came safely in, having gained great applause by their noble conduct in the battle.  There were some thirty engaged in the fight.  A large number of the Indians were killed.  My brother went to the spot afterwards, in company with some others, and found several Indians whom their own party had hidden away and scalped, for fear that the whites should do it; whilst they had dug up the bodies of the whites, scalping them also.

From Haywood's History of Tennessee

Some short time before the 9th. of November, 1793 some horses having been stolen and Indians seen near Croft's Mill in Sumner County Col. James Winchester ordered out Lieut. Snoddy with thirty men, to scour the woods about the Caney Fork, and if possible to discover the main encampment.  On the 4th. of November he met two Indians, who fled; and he pursued them to a large camp near the Rock Island ford of the Caney Fork, where he took twenty-eight good Spanish blankets, two match-coats, eight new brass kettles, one firelock, three new swords, Spanish blades, a bag of vermilion powder and lead, several bayonets, spears, war hatchets, bridles and halters.  Evening coming on he withdrew from the camp about a mile to an eminence, where he halted his men, and they lay on their arms all night.  About the dawn of day they appeared, advancing with trailed arms, and at the distance of about thirty yards a firing commenced, and was kept up from three to four rounds, when the Indians retreated, leaving one fellow on the ground and were seen to bear off several wounded.  Lieut. Snoddy had two men killed and three wounded.  He deserved and received much commendation for his gallantry.

In 1930 The Tennessee Electric Power Company, through the interest of Judge DeWitt, erected a bronze marker on the Memphis-Bristol Highway (Hw. 70) on the White County side of the Caney Fork and a short distance east of the bridge commemorating the engagement.  It is stated on the tablet that the Indian Chief, Doublehead, was killed in the battle.

The statement is not correct.  Haywood reports that the Chief attended a meeting at Tellico Plains in September 1794 at which Governor Blount was present.  He is also reported to have been with Sevier after the Battle of Rock Island.  Doublehead was a principal chief of the Cherokees.

It is even possible that Doublehead might not have been present at the fight as he took part in raids around Knoxville during the tend of September 1793 and was undoubtedly with the Indians who retreated South in the following month.

Mrs. Jennie (Hash) Rucker furnished the following information.  "Snoddy and his men approached Rock Island from the north-west, crossing Collins River at Flat Shoals.  Two white men who were killed and one of the Indians are buried on the point on the Warren County side of the river.  Three Indian graves are located on the island in the swag on the side facing Warren County.  Some time prior to 1920 the skeleton of an Indian was found on a shelf of rock in a cave on the left bank of Rocky River, a short distance above the mouth of the river.  This cave is now normally covered by the backwater from the Great Falls Dam.

The following words appear on the marker erected on the T.E.P. Co.

Battle of Rock Island

September 1792, 30 mounted militia men of Sumner County under Lieut. Wm. Snoddy defeated 60 Indians.  Nathaniel Latimore and Scobey were killed.  Capt. Wm. Reid, Hugh Elliott and Andrew Steel were wounded.  13 Indians, including Chief Doublehead were killed and many were wounded.

Erected by TEPCo 1930

Back Next