Today, Dr. Fath and the TenneSwim team went through the Fort Loudoun lock. It is the first of a series of locks that help boats move from one Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) reservoir to another. The process normally takes about 45 minutes.
Researching the locks results in a list of names straight out of a Tennessee history book. They represent the people and events that shaped the Tennessee Valley region. Some names, of course, are pretty obvious. For example, the Kentucky Dam is in Kentucky. Norris Dam is named for George Norris, the Nebraska senator who was a driving force behind the founding of TVA. Other TVA dams are named for a British earl, a Confederate general, and even a 19th-century English novel.
At first glance, it seems pretty obvious to assume that Fort Loudoun Dam played a role in the Civil War. It is, after all, located in the Tennessee Valley where the word “Fort” most often indicative of just such a history. But in fact, Fort Loudoun goes back even farther than the Revolutionary War, to the colonial-era conflict known as the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
During this conflict, the British Colony of South Carolina felt threatened by French activities in the Mississippi Valley. To counter this threat, the Colony sent the Independent Company of South Carolina to construct and garrison what became Fort Loudoun. This move helped to ally the Overhill Cherokee Nation in the fight against the French and guaranteed the trade would continue between the Cherokee and South Carolina.
In the course of the fort’s four year existence, relations between South Carolina and the Cherokee Nation broke down. In August 1760, the Cherokee captured Fort Loudoun and its garrison. After the surrender in 1760, Fort Loudoun was never used again for any military purpose. It is thought the Cherokees destroyed the fort sometime shortly after the English marched away.
The fort is named John Campbell, the fourth Earl of Loudoun, a British nobleman who never actually saw it. Like the fort itself, the dam has considerable strategic value, at least to TVA’s river system. It’s the dam farthest upstream on the Tennessee River, and it plays a crucial role in the prevention of flooding downstream, especially at Chattanooga.
The TenneSwim journey will pass through 9 lock systems on the Tennessee River. To learn more about the TVA and it’s connection to the area’s history. Be sure to check out their web page.