Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jackson-Sevier Feud

This has been a busy year for Marble Springs.  In addition to our regular annual events, we recently joined Sevier descendants in commemorating the bicentennial of John Sevier’s death, and we’ll also be celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the end of the War of 1812 with a special event this month. 
            In retrospect, it’s somewhat appropriate that Sevier’s death coincided with the end of the War of 1812.  That war launched the national career of Sevier’s mortal enemy Andrew Jackson, and historians usually mark the beginning of the “Jacksonian Era” in 1815.  On a national scale, the date represents the passing of the torch from the generation that waged the Revolution to the generation that came of age afterward.  In Tennessee, a similar passing of the torch took place as the first prominent settlers—men like Sevier and James Robertson—yielded the stage to the men whose careers blossomed in the Age of Jackson.
            Maybe this generational difference helps account for the disdain in which Sevier held Jackson.  He dismissed him as a “poor, pitiful, pettyfogging, scurrilous lawyer,” and indeed Jackson must have seemed like something less than a formidable opponent for Sevier when he first arrived in Tennessee.  Sevier, after all, had been an officer of the Revolution, an architect of one of America’s critical battlefield victories, a congressman, a brigadier general of the Southwest Territory’s militia, and Tennessee’s first governor.  Jackson, by comparison, was an ambitious upstart, but he succeeded in securing a position of command over the state militia that Sevier wanted for himself in 1802.
            The tables turned the following year, when Jackson’s allegations that Sevier had engaged in fraudulent land dealings failed to prevent Sevier’s re-election to the governorship.  That October, their personal and political feud erupted into open confrontation when the two men encountered one another in Knoxville and began trading insults.  Jackson challenged Sevier to a duel, and the two spent the next several days swapping barbs by letter before another physical confrontation on the road to Southwest Point, where Sevier claimed Jackson attempted to “assassinate” him.  Little wonder that Sevier referred to Jackson as “one of the most abandoned rascals in principle my eyes ever beheld.”
            Given their contentious history, it’s ironic that Sevier supported the war with Britain that would make Jackson a national celebrity.  It’s still more ironic that when Sevier died, he was in Alabama as a member of commission appointed to survey the boundary line of the land Jackson forced the Creeks to sign over to the U.S.  His last official duty was to formalize one of his mortal foe’s greatest accomplishments. 
            But I think it’s important to remember that the achievements of Jackson himself, and the achievements of all the frontier leaders of the Age of Jackson, ultimately rested on the foundation laid by Sevier and his generation of Tennessee pioneers.  The territorial expansion, economic growth, and national renown that Tennesseans like Jackson achieved in the nineteenth century depended on what men like Sevier had accomplished in the eighteenth.  Indeed, I think it’s impossible to think about Tennessee history without first considering Sevier and his contemporaries.  In that sense, Jackson’s rise to national fame and Tennessee’s reputation as the “Volunteer State” in the War of 1812 both represent a sort of fulfillment of Sevier’s career.

            I hope you’ll join us for the rest of the events we have planned at Marble Springs in this bicentennial year of Sevier’s death.
~Michael Lynch
  President of the Board

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Women's History Month

March is Women's History Month, so join us on Facebook this month as we post links to various images, blogs, and other links that depict John Sevier's wives and daughters and his interactions with other women, such as Dolley Madison and Mary Blount.

His mother is Joanna Goad, who was born in Virginia in 1723. She died in 1773 in Virginia, shortly before John Sevier moved his family to what is now northeast Tennessee.

His first wife was Sarah Hawkins, until her death in early 1780. His second wife was Catherine Sherrill, more commonly known as Bonny Kate.

His daughters with Sarah included Elizabeth (c. 1768), Sarah Hawkins (1770), Mary Ann (1772), Rebecca (1777) and Nancy (1780). His daughters with Bonny Kate included Ruth (1782), Joanna Goad (1784), Eliza Conway (1790), and Catherine Sherrill (1791).*

*Please note- the birthyears and spellings differ from source to source.

We look forward to sharing various links that we find about the women in John Sevier's life on our Facebook page, and we hope you will check in!

Monday, February 9, 2015

200 Years in the Making

2015 marks the 200th anniversary of many important moments for John Sevier and the United States.
February 18, 1815 was the official end of the War of 1812, when the Senate ratified the Treaty of Ghent (unanimously). Sevier remarks:
“Sat. [February] 18 attended the house. The City illuminated in consequence of peace — cold day and a little sleet. . . .”

Then in March came the news that he would be heading to the Alabama territory:
“Mon. [March] 13 Attended the War office & drew a draft on the Treasury for $1500 as a commissioner to run Creek line.”

This boundary line was a necessity following the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, when Andrew Jackson’s forces defeated the Creeks and ended the Creek War portion of the War of 1812.
In June, Sevier set out for the region by spending the night in Knoxville.
“Sat. 10 Set out for running the Creek boundary line, went to Knoxville & stayed all night at Colo. Seviers.”

Later in June, he set up a July meeting with Pathkiller, the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation and other Cherokees. His diary is then filled with information regarding distribution of presents and money and what is due to which person or people. The Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers (although the latter he spells differently from time to time) play an important role in his travels and the boundary line, so they are mentioned often.

As far as any notice of John Sevier becoming ill is concerned, he mentions pain in his back at the end of August, and in September, his last entry states:
“Sat. 9 Dicky Brown very sick — We started late & traveled . . miles. there is some tolerable land on Culluba (?) Creek & about Hawkins old place, but between that & other see (?) the land is sandy, poor, & the growth long leaf pine.”

As the editor of the diary notes, “In 1815 Sevier was appointed by President Madison as a commissioner to run the boundary line of the Creek nation in Alabama, as provided by the treaty made by General Jackson after his conquest of the Creeks in 1814. His service lasted from early in June, 1815, until his death, September 24, 1815. He was buried on the east bank of the Tallapoosa River at an Indian village called Tuckabotchee, near Fort Decatur, in Macon County. In 1889 his remains were removed to Knoxville, Tennessee, and re-interred in the court house yard. A beautiful monument stands over his remains, dedicated in a splendid oration by Col. W. A. Henderson.”

John Sevier was 70 years old (+ one day) when he passed away, still working for the government.
To commemorate this bicentennial, the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association is asking the Marble Springs supporters to consider giving to our new “$200 for 200” campaign. Donors who give $200 (or more) in 2015 will be listed on our website (unless they prefer to be left anonymous), and will receive membership benefits at the Sustaining level.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sons of Liberty & Rebellious Little Brothers

The History Channel just hosted a mini-series about the Sons of Liberty. You can find countless recaps and corrections of the miniseries by historians (including our board president), so we won’t add to it here.

But it did bring up the question: Where does John Sevier fit in the early Revolution story? He certainly wasn’t in Boston with the Sons of Liberty, but he’s also one of the soldiers in the Revolution… albeit about ten years younger than the Sons of Liberty (and those we consider to be the Founding Fathers) were.

As you may be aware, John Sevier was in the militia and did fight in Kings Mountain. But during the earliest parts of the Revolution, he was moving from Virginia to Tennessee with his parents, wife Sarah, and their seven children.

In 1773, he was serving as a Captain of the colonial militia in Lord Dunmore's War. He rose to the rank of general thanks to his efforts at Kings Mountain.

But after the Revolution, he started his own rebellion with others in the Watauga area through the State of Franklin. Though it was ultimately unsuccessful, Sevier and the other Franklinites spent several years trying to create a new government separate from North Carolina. Negotiations, skirmishes, international intrigue, and treaties (not unlike what they’d been through with the Revolution and colonial governments before) were a part of life in Franklin. The Franklinites utilized their knowledge and war-found fame to gain respect for their statehood efforts. 

For all their efforts, it earned John Sevier an arrest for treason (of course, nothing came of the charges), but it also paved the way for the U.S. Constitution and a path for new states to form.

It just goes back to Jack Neely’s theory that Sevier wasn’t a Son of the Revolution or a Founding Father. Instead, he was the Rebellion’s rebellious little brother.