Friday, May 8, 2009

Clinch River Bluff

In April 1777, a group of young Indian men devised a plan to lure the militiamen from Blackmore's Fort in southwest Virginia. They climbed Copper Ridge and the bluff (shown here) across Clinch River from the fort. They could see inside the fort from this vantage point. One of the men climbed a cedar tree while the others hid in smaller shrubs. At daybreak, the brave in the tree cupped his hands and gobbled like a male turkey. He repeated this call every five or ten minutes. When the militiamen heard this, they imagined how good that turkey would taste for breakfast.

As they were planning how to climb the bluff and retrieve their meal, an older, wiser man named Matthew Gray advised them to leave the turkey alone if they wanted to keep their scalps. He took some of the militiamen to the river and had them splash around to distract the Indian party. While this was going on, Gray took his long rifle and one that belonged to another man and sneaked down to the river. He forded the Clinch, climbed Copper Ridge and the bluff behind the Indian party where he waited until the next 'turkey' call from the young man in the tree. At that moment, his shot rang out and the Indian crashed to the ground with a lead ball in his head.

With the Indian party in pursuit, Gray ran for his life to the ford where he crossed the Clinch back toward the fort. The militiamen gave him cover as he dashed up the river bank and through the gate. The war party, unable to besiege the fort, turned toward Castle's Woods (modern-day Castlewood). Gray grabbed two rifles, jumped on a fast horse, and headed off toward the party. Firing a shot to confuse them, he sped past the war party and made it to Castle's Woods in time to warn the settlers who sought shelter at Moore's Fort.

Source: "Benge!" by Lawrence J. Fleenor, Jr.

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