|On The Trail of - Colonel CHARLES COCKE|
|ROCKY STATION FORT|
A cabin in Jonesboro- almost identical in design to Rocky Station Fort - but only about 1/2 the size. Another difference is that the chimney on the Rocky Station Fort was in the center of the house, offset to the right side.
From at least 1780 to 1782, Charles Cocke was in charge of Rocky Station Fort, one of the string of forts located on the western frontier of Virginia. As can be seen, the "fort" was little more than a fortified house. It was garrisoned by a "company" of Rangers- which in that context meant only a handful of men. There are numerous account of Indian attacks upon the fort, and its Rangers had many encounters with them throughout the valley, especially those bands dedicated to stealing horses, which acts seemed to increase many fold during the Revolution.1 Nevertheless, this was one of the only forts to remain open throughout the revolution. Charles Cocke "was particularly alert, often delegating command of the fort to a subordinate and going out as an Indian spy himself".2 These kind of patrols might have saved the fort from surprise attack.
The fort may have originally been the home of Isaac Chrisman, Jr.3 The Fort sits on top of a rise facing Rocky Station Creek, and beyond that, Wallens Ridge. This fort appears to have been little more than a fortified house and does not appear to have been surrounded by a stockade fence. In case of attack, the men could do little more than retreat to the fort and hold out as long as possible.
1. Emory L. Hamilton, "Frontier Forts of Southwest Virginia", from Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, Number 4, 1968, pp 1-26,
referencing Pension Statement of Alexander Ritchie, National Archives R-8784.
2. Emory L. Hamilton, "Frontier Forts of Southwest Virginia", supra.
3. This should not be confused with the fort built by Isaac Chrisman, Sr. (thought to be the father of Isaac Chrisman, Jr.). That fort was known variously as "Rye Cove Fort", "Chrisman's Fort" and "Fort Lee". Emory L. Hamilton, "Frontier Forts of Southwest Virginia", supra.
Capt. Cocke was in charge of a company of Rangers. This was not a
large Ranger unit, like "Roger's Rangers", but a smaller unit that fulfilled
the traditional role of a Ranger unit - to defend the frontier by scouting
the surrounding area. Such units had been in use since the mid 1600s.
The men in this kind of Ranger unit were self-sufficient and lightly
equipped, capable of traveling large distances alone in potentially hostile
territory. They did not wear bright military uniforms. Instead,
they wore forest green uniforms or other irregular clothing that enabled
them to blend into the surroundings.|
Charles Cocke says that his company was part of the regiment commanded by Col. Arthur Campbell. The regiment was probably the 70th Regiment of the Virginia militia.
|SERVICE AT ROCKY STATION FORT|
In 1780, the Washington County Court recommended that Charles Cocke be promoted to Captain:
This period of service was described by Charles Cocke in his Pension Application:
His service at Rocky Station Fort was confirmed by affidavits of William Yeary and his brother in law, William Ewing. William Yeary stated that:
It appears that at least some of the Yeary family served under Charles Cocke. Henry Yeary is noted as a member of Charles Cocke's company from 1780-1782.4 William's father Benedict may have also served.
The affidavit of William Ewing stated that:
These affidavits show that, not only was Charles Cocke placed in charge of a company of Rangers, but that he was the kind of man who was not afraid to put himself at risk. The hazardous nature of this duty is shown by the fact that several of the other Forts were either abandoned or forced to surrender. It is said that Rocky Station Fort was the only Fort that remained open during the Revolution. Much of the credit for this success is undoubtedly due to Charles Cocke's practice of making frequent patrols into the surrounding countryside. As any soldier will tell you, a base commander who makes a routine practice of sending out patrols is less likely to be overrun, both because of the intelligence provided and because of the psychological message which such patrols send- that the troops are not afraid of whatever is out there. And while soldiers do not always appreciate having to go out on patrol, with the constant risk of ambush, these soldiers must have been heartened to find that their commander was not afraid to take on these risks himself.
The dangers associated with this kind of duty were shown by the affidavit of Robert Sinclair, who filed his pension claim in Madison Co., Missouri:
The pension statement of Alexander Ritchie is supposed to have listed numerous attacks on the Fort and encounters with the enemy.7
Nor was this the kind of stockade fort commonly seen in the movies. To the contrary, it was little more than a fortified house, but a sturdy one, because the structure is still standing and is located 5 miles east of Jonesville.
|1. L. P.
Summers, "Annals of Southwest Virginia", Vol. 2, pp. 1056-1057.
2. Pension Application of Charles Cocke, R-2086, filed Lee Co., VA (1838).
3. Pension Application of Charles Cocke, R-2086, supra.
4. Wes Forbis, cited at http://www.my-ged.com/db/page/davidson/00482.
5. Pension Application of Charles Cocke, R-2086, supra.
6. Pension Application of Robert Sinclair, S-17678, filed Madison Co., MO (1832). This Captain Cox is probably not be our Charles Cocke. The Pension Application of Edward Dorton (filed Floyd Co, KY (1833)) indicates that Solomon Kendrick was killed in July 1776, which is before our Charles Cocke was promoted to Captain. This could have been Capt John Cox (1739-1818).
7. Pension Application of Alexander Ritchie, R-8784. A transcript of the Pension Application does not contain any references to the Fort or to Charles Cocke. Interestingly, as the "R" prefix indicates, the Application of Alexander Ritchie was also rejected. Service against the Indians was not considered service in the Revolution.
|ROCKY STATION FORT TODAY|
My Visit to Rocky Station Fort
|1. Tom from Va., 9/21/00; http://www.treasurefinders.net/forum/_forum/0000001c.htm.|