Charlotte Reeves Robertson
Charlotte Reeves Robertson was among the earliest settlers to live in Middle Tennessee. She followed her husband, James Robertson, in a journey from the Watauga settlement of East Tennessee to the wilderness of Middle Tennessee, helping to establish settlements in each of these areas. She survived Indian attacks as well as long separations from her husband, who was frequently called away on governmental business. Indians killed two of her sons and she nursed another son back to good health after he had been scalped by the Indians and left for dead at the “Battle of the Bluffs.”
Charlotte and James Robertson had moved to Watauga from North Carolina shortly after their marriage. At Watauga Charlotte Robertson and the other women who lived there worked shoulder to shoulder with men, planting crops, tending livestock, and defending themselves from the Indians. At Watauga, Charlotte Robertson’s husband was a leader. Because of his knowledge of the Cherokee language, he devoted much of his life to negotiating with the Indians to try to provide a permanent peace. The Robertsons and other families moved further west to acquire land. When James Robertson, a surveyor, identified the spot of the Salt Lick on the Cumberland River, forty families at Watauga decided to leave for Middle Tennessee.
While James Robertson led a group of men by land through the Cumberland Gap to the site later known as Fort Nashborough, Charlotte Robertson traveled with John Donelson and a group of women and children by flatboats via backcountry rivers. Almost immediately, there were conflicts with Chickamaugas who resented the settlers’ moving into the region. Charlotte Robertson is remembered as the heroine of the “Battle of the Bluffs,” fought in April of 1781. When she realized that the Indians were about to attack, she left the safety of the fort to warn the men. Returning to the fort, she realized that the men would not be able to get inside the walls because the Indians had positioned themselves between the men and the fort. At this point, she unleashed the hounds. They chased the Indians and created so much confusion that the men were able to return to the safety of the fort. Consequently, Charlotte Robertson is credited with saving Fort Nashborough.
The city of Charlotte, Tennessee, and Charlotte Pike in Nashville are named for Charlotte Robertson, who lived in Middle Tennessee until her death in 1843 at the age of ninety-two. She is buried in Nashville’s City Cemetery.