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Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 30

French and Indian War and Fort Dobbs

Posted on December 30, 2019 at 3:29 PM by Jenny Levins

The Iredell County Public Library will be hosting author Dr. John R. Maass on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 12 noon to 1:30 pm. Dr. Maass will be speaking on his new book, “The French & Indian War in North Carolina: The Spreading Flames of War.” The book includes discussion on our own Fort Dobbs here in Iredell County and even features artist Robert Steele’s painting, “Fort Dobbs: The edge of the frontier; 1754,” on its cover.

The French & Indian War according to Dr. Maass was caused by, “The rivalry between Great Britain and France, particularly over land in the Ohio Valley west of the Appalachians.  Both sides claimed it and wanted the rich farmlands and the trade in pelts and Indian trade. Land investment companies made up of wealthy colonists and those in England pushed to have France kicked out of the land across the mountains, and each side tried to get the various Indian tribes from NY to the Cherokees in SC/TN/NC to support their cause.”

The Catawba Indians occupied the land area that now encompasses Iredell County when the settlers first arrived here. To the west were the Cherokees. The Catawba’s fought on the side of the Carolina settlers during the French-Indian War while the Cherokee were allied with the French. To the Cherokee it was a choice between a lesser evil. The colonial Carolina government and the settlers were pushing aggressively further west threatening to take more and more Cherokee lands. During the Revolutionary War the Cherokee sided with the British against the settlers again feeling that the British would be more likely to honor treaties and respect their boundaries.

Dr. Maass says there were many Cherokee raids in the western Carolina backcountry especially from 1759-61, but the only large battle in the Iredell County area took place on February 27, 1760 when an attack was made on Fort Dobbs. “In 1760, a Cherokee party from Settico came to Fort Dobbs in February of that year—with the intent of destroying it and its thirty-man garrison. Colonel Waddell noticed a small party of Indian warriors moving in the woods around the fort, but scouting parties were unable to locate them when he sent them out of the stockade. On the night of February 27, Waddell heard “an uncommon Noise” coming from a nearby spring outside the walls of the fort. The colonel feared that it might be a ploy by the enemy “to draw out the Garrison” and ambush his soldiers, so he and Captain Bailie led eight men toward the disturbance to investigate.    Waddell’s small party “had not marched 300 yds from the fort when we were attacked by at least 60 or 70 Indians.”

Colonel Waddell’s troops repulsed the attack with several of the Cherokee either being wounded or killed.  One of Waddell’s men was scalped during the attack, but survived and Waddell own musket was shattered by an enemy bullet as he held it in his hands. Dr. Maass says Fort Dobb was important as the only fort built by the colony within N.C. He is enthusiastic on plans to build a French & Indian War era type fort at the Fort Dobbs location. “It is an excellent idea! It will help explain and show what life was like on the frontier 250 years ago, and interpret the war in the southern colonies.”

Dr. Maass is a historian at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. He was founder of the Rockbridge Civil War Round Table in 1981 and was formerly a U.S. Army Reserve officer in the Transportation Corps. He grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, near Lexington, Virginia, and now makes his home near Mount Vernon.

The Vance House Museum is sponsoring a quarterly series of free programs that focus on the History of Iredell in the Civil War. Harry Watt, past president of the Vance House Association will present a lecture on “The Pre-War Life of Zebulon B. Vance” at 7 pm on Thursday, Dec. 5th at the Iredell County Public Library. Zebulon B. Vance was North Carolina’s Civil War governor who made his home here in Statesville for a short time before the war ended. For more information contact Harry Watt at 704-880-3067.

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “French and Indian War expert to speak at library” on Dec. 2, 2013