Early History
Early History of Middle Tennessee
By Edward Albright, 1908

Chapter 16
End Of The Voyage

     Two days later some of the boats coming too near the shore were fired upon by the Indians and five of the crew were wounded. That night after having gone into camp near the mouth of a creek in Hardin County, Tennessee, the party became alarmed by the loud barking of their dogs, and supposing that the enemy was again upon them, ran hastily down to the river, leaving all the camp outfit behind. Springing into the boats they drifted in the darkness about a mile down stream and camped again on the opposite shore. Next morning John DONELSON, Jr., and John CAFFREY, who seem to have been the scouts of the expedition, determined to find out the cause of alarm. Securing a canoe they rowed back to the first camp where they found an old negro man, a member of the party, sound asleep by the fire. In the hurried flight of the night before no one had thought to wake him, and he was yet undisturbed by the rays of the morning sun. The alarm was false, for nothing had been molested.

     The party now returned and gathered up their belongings, after which another day's voyage was begun. On Monday night, March 20, they arrived at the mouth of the Tennessee River and went into camp on the lowland which is now the site of Paducah. Though already much worn by hunger and fatigue, the supply of provision having run short, they were here confronted by new difficulties, the whole making the situation extremely disagreeable. Having been constructed to float with the tide their boats were unable to ascend the rapid current of the Ohio, which was almost out of banks by reason of the heavy spring rains. They were also ignorant of the distance yet to be traveled, and the length of time required to reach their destination. Some of the company here decided to abandon the journey to French Lick; a part of them floating down the Ohio and Mississippi to Natchez, the rest going to points in Illinois. Among the latter were John CAFFREY and wife, the son-in-law and daughter of Colonel DONELSON.

     This loss of companionship made a continuation of the voyage doubly trying on those who were left behind. However, nothing daunted, they determined to pursue their course eastward, regardless of all the danger. Accordingly they set sail on Tuesday, the 21st, but were three days in working their way up the Ohio from Paducah to the mouth of the Cumberland, a distance of fifteen miles. Arriving at the latter place they were undecided as to whether the stream they found was really the Cumberland. Some declared it could not be the latter, because it was very much smaller in volume than they had expected to find. Probably their three days of incessant toil against the swift current of the Ohio had much to do with this pygmean appearance of our own beloved and historic river. However, they had heard of no stream flowing into the Ohio between the Tennessee and Cumberland, and, therefore, decided to make the ascent. They were soon assured by the widening channel that they were correct in their conjectures. In order to make progress up stream Colonel DONELSON rigged the Adventure with a small sail made out of a sheet. To prevent the ill effects of any sudden gusts of wind a man was stationed at each lower corner of this sail with instructions to loosen it when the breeze became too strong.

     For three days after entering the mouth of the Cumberland their journey was without incident. An occasional hunting excursion was made through the forest which skirted the shore. Thus was procured a supply of buffalo meat, which was poor but palatable. On the second day out a large swan came floating by the Adventure. Colonel DONELSON shot it, and described the cooked flesh thereof as having been very delicious. Two days later they gathered from a place in the bottoms near the shore a quantity of greens which some of the company called Shawnee salad. To this day the spot above mentioned is known as "Pat's Injun Patch," so named for Colonel DONELSON'S old negro cook, Patsy, who was called "Pat for short."

     On Friday, March 31, they had the good fortune to meet Colonel HENDERSON, of the Transylvania Company, who was out with a surveying party trying to establish the much disputed boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina. This meeting was very timely, as Colonel HENDERSON had come over by way of French Lick and brought to them good tidings of the arrival of Colonel ROBERTSON and his companions from whom they had not heard since the latter began their perilous westward march over the Kentucky trail five months before. Until late in the night they plied him with questions about the new country toward which they were journeying. He painted in glowing colors the future before them, and by way of relieving anxiety as to present needs vouchsafed the information that he had just purchased a quantity of corn from the settlements in Kentucky to be shipped by boat from Louisville to French Lick for the use of the settlers. Doubtless there was then a silver lining to the cloud of uncertainty that had long hovered over this hardship-ridden band of adventurers.

     But there were yet three weeks of sailing before them. At length they arrived without further accident, at the mouth of Red River in Montgomery County, where they bade adieu to Isaac RENFROE and several companions, the latter having on a previous hunting trip selected a location at that place. The voyage was now near an end, and on April 23, they found themselves alongside of Eaton's Station, a mile and a half below the Bluff fort. The following day, Monday, April 24, they joined their relatives and friends of the ROBERTSON expedition from whom they had parted many weeks before. Colonel DONELSON records the fact that it was then a great source of satisfaction to himself and his associates that they were now able to restore to Colonel ROBERTSON and others their families and friends, whom sometime since, perhaps, they had despaired of ever meeting again. Thirty-three of the party had perished by the way, and nine of those who remained were wounded.

     Truly has GILMORE said: "This voyage has no parallel in history. A thousand miles they had journeyed in frail boats upon unknown and dangerous rivers. The country through which they passed was infested by hostile Indians, and their way had been over foaming whirlpools and dangerous shoals where for days they had run the gauntlet and been exposed to the fire of the whole nation of Chickamaugas, the fiercest Indian tribe on this continent."

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