Fort Chiswell (1760-1790) - A French & Indian War era Fort established in 1760 near the present-day town of Fort Chiswell, Wythe County, Virginia. Named Fort Chiswell after Colonel John Chiswell, who owned nearby lead mines. Abandoned as a fortification about 1790.
History of Fort Chiswell
Established in 1760 by Colonel William Byrd III as winter quarters while en route to relieve the besieged garrison at Fort Loudoun in Tennessee. That garrison was besieged by a strong force of hostile Cherokee. The overall context of the Cherokee uprising was the French & Indian War but the Cherokee had originally been allies of the British and turned on them as the result of escalating incidents and that conflict came to be known separately as the Anglo-Cherokee War (1758-1761).
On 8 Aug 1760 Fort Loudoun and its garrison were surrendered to the Overhill Cherokee who had besieged the fort. After first allowing the garrison to march out unmolested the Cherokee later attacked the retreating column massacring some and ransoming the remainder. Colonel Byrd had not arrived in time to relieve the siege.
Colonel Byrd first referred to his location as "Camp at Sayers" and "Sayers Mill" after the owner of the property in his correspondence. By 7 Feb 1761, the location was referred to as Fort Chiswell.
In early November 1760, Little Carpenter and 32 other Cherokee Indians met with Colonel Byrd and agreed to suspend hostilities until March if the Army would proceed no further that fall. Other British forces were prosecuting the war and laying waste to the Cherokee Lower and Middle villages. Colonel Byrd resigned his command in September 1761. The beginning of the end of the war came in November 1761 with the Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston (1761) between the Cherokee and the Colony of Virginia.
The fort remained a Virginia colonial militia outpost until the Revolutionary War, when it then became a Patriot fort. After 1776 it also served as the county seat of Montgomery County and guarded the nearby lead mines. The British unsuccessfully attacked it in 1780. The Wilderness Road to Kentucky started here.
Abandoned as a fortification about 1790.
The site is marked by a stone cairn with multiple markers on it. The site itself has been partly overbuilt by road construction. Some archeological sites remain.