On The Trail of - Colonel CHARLES COCKE
 
THE CHEROKEE EXPEDITION
 

In October 1776, Colonel William Christian led a force of 2,000 riflemen against the Cherokee villages. Although Charles Cocke did not mention this Service in his Pension Application, the records indicate that Charles Cocke was on this expedition:

Cherokee Expedition- 1776 August
Charles Cocke listed as private under Col. William Christian.
[L. P. Summers, Annals of Southwest Virginia, Vol 2, p. 1419]

This expedition is described in the following account:

The army of Col William Christian was made up of about 1800 men and marched 6 Oct 1776 from the Double Spring camp toward the Indian towns. They went down Lick Creek, in present Greene County to its junction with the Nolichucky River. During the night while the army was camped here, Ellis Hardin, a trader at the Cherokee towns, came into camp with information that the Indians were waiting on the south side of the French Broad to contest the crossing of the river. From the camp at the mouth of Lick Creek the army marched across the Nolichucky and up Long Creek to its head, then down Dumplin Creek to the French Broad River. The army's march was evidently along the Great War Path of the Indians, and the ford across the French Broad was near Buckingham Island.

Before the army reached the ford they were met by Fallin, a trader who had a white flag, but this was disregarded by Col Christian. The Cherokee Nation was divided. One faction, led by Chief Dragging Canoe who had been wounded at the Battle of Island Flats 20 July 1776, wanted to abandon the towns along the Little Tennessee and withdraw further down the Holston [in the copy we have this parenthetical of (now the Tennessee) which we are researching. We were not aware that the Holston may have joined the Little Tennessee without taking the Tennessee name]. The elders and other of the tribe wanted to remain in the beloved towns along the Little Tennessee. This faction prevailed, and the Cherokees sent Nathaniel Gist to seek peace from Col Christian. Later, Dragging Canoe, with many young Cherokees and some Creeks, would prevail and make many vicious raids against the settlers from the Chicamauga towns in the vicinity of the present day Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Col Christian, having been told the Indians were prepared to contest the fording of French Broad at Buckingham Island, attempted a ruse. He had his men light a fire and pitch tents for each mess, as if the army meant to remain in camp on the north side of the French Broad River for several days. At 8 pm, he took 1100 men, marched about 4 miles below Buckingham Island and crossed the river at the ford discovered there by some scouts from John Sevier's company. It was the intention of Col Christian to attack the Indians drawn up to oppose the crossing of the river from behind before sunrise. To Christian's surprise there was no Indian force there. It is possible the crossing of the French Broad was made the night of 15 Oct 1776, Col Christian had stated in a report from the Double Spring Camp 6 Oct 1776 that it was his intention to cross French Broad on 15 October. Christian allowed the men to remain in camp that day to dry their equipment and clothes which had gotten wet at the crossing made at the lower ford. While in camp on the south bank of French Broad, in what is now Sevier County, the scout and traders from the Cherokee towns came in and reported that many of the Indian warriors had taken their families and fled south to the Hiwassee River, in present day McMinn, Meigs, and Bradley Counties.

After spending the day following the crossing of French Broad in camp, the army resumed the march to the towns of the Overhill Cherokees along the Little Tennessee River, probably on 16 or 17 Oct 1776. From the fording of the French Broad to Toqua Ford on Little Tennessee the march led the army up the valley of Boyds Creek, in present day Sevier County, and down Ellejoy Creek from its source in Sevier County to where it runs into Little River in present day Blount County. The army passed the present site of Maryville, Tennessee, and on Friday, 18 Oct 1776, crossed the Little Tennessee River near Toqua, probably at Tomotley Ford. The night of 18 Oct 1776 was spent at Tomotley, a site of a Cherokee village down river from Toqua. No opposition was found and next day the forces of Col Christian marched down river, on the south side of Little Tennessee passing through Tuskegee, then past the site of old Fort Loudoun which was destroyed by the Cherokees in 1760, to the Great Island Town (Mialaquo). Col Christian made his headquarters at Great Island Town near the present Vonore, Monroe County, Tennessee. The army camped near the Indian towns about 6 weeks and probably returned to their homes about 1 Dec 1776.

[David W Templin, "John Denton - Patriot and Pioneer", http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~tnwash/denton.html]

The campaign was not entirely in vain, however, since it appears that, while the men were assembling for the expedition, Colonel Christian had them build a fort on the long island, which thereafter served as a strong point on the southern frontier.