The result of over ten years of meticulous research by author Paul Clements. Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements is a highly detailed account of the frontier history of Middle Tennessee.
Over 2000 historical accounts, many from those who experienced the warfare that raged in the 1780's and 1790's, focus on the wide range of events that took place in the region years before Tennessee became a state.
Reviewed by Mark Sage in MUZZLELOADER, September/October 2013:
I recently acquired a book that I think will be an invaluable resource to those who love and appreciate American frontier history. Paul Clements's Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements 1779-1796 is a gold mine of information about the early Cumberland frontier-well organized and easy to use. Paul's book, an eleven year project, brings frontier history alive, displaying it in living color-affording the reader an opportunity to directly connect with the players on stage of the Cumberland frontier. This is not a novel or history book where the author tells the story in narrative form. Instead, Paul Clements has collected and assembled a vast amount of historical data from pre-history to statehood, from diverse source material, using as many first person eye witness accounts as possible. This is history from the people who actually lived it. In doing so, he has successfully created a detailed, mosaic picture of the early Cumberland frontier. Paul writes, "So rather than a traditional history, this is a compilation of material from books, government records, and early newspaper article, and what could be found in letters, memoirs, interview notes, and oral traditions that survived into contemporary times. It is hoped that considerably more will be gained by the reader learning, as directly as possible, about the early frontier directly from those who were there." (Preface, Pg. xiv)
The Table of Contents attests both to how the historical data has been thoughtfully organized and the broad number of historical topics the book addresses. Some chapters are dedicated to specific topics. Right away, I was drawn to the chapter dedicated to Long Hunters, and was delighted to read accounts of men like Henry Skaggs, Kasper Mansker, Michael Stoner, Alexander Neely the Bledsoe brothers, Daniel Boone, and others. One entry, given by John Redd in 1849, provides a good example of what I am talking about. "Elisha Walden usually hunted on a long range of mountains to the east of Powell's Valley. The game was intruded on so seldomly by man, that they did not fear his presence, bus they soon learned to flee. He always returned home with his horses laden with skins and furs. Henry Skaggs had dark skin and was some six feet three inches tall." (Pg. 65) In the chapter entitled the Cherokees and the English, Paul cites this observation written in 1755 by Edmond Atkin, "The Cherokees are far less warlike than the Chickasaws or Creeks. The upper and lower Cherokees differ almost as much as two different nations-the upper being more warlike, better governed, better disposed toward us, and as sober and well behaved as the other debauched and insolent..." (Pg. 43)
The reader may also research the Cumberland frontier by years. Seventeen chapters, each covering a year from 1780 to 1796 allow the student of history to peer into the Cumberland past during a specific time frame. Each chapter in this section will begin with an overview of a particular year, followed by valuable and interesting resource material that Paul had meticulously collected.
I found the index to be particularly useful. Right away I looked up names of people I was interested in, like Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark and even Simon Girty, finding some interesting and worthwhile accounts of their lives. Further, the endnotes Paul has compiled provide a lot of useful amplification to the source materials quoted in the text.
Two other features of this book both surprised and delighted me. The epilog includes paintings of some of the people in the book, putting faces on some of the characters in the story. In the appendices, there is a section of aerial photographs, showing the present day sites of frontier forts (stations) and different battles and skirmishes.
Paul Clements book, Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements 1779-1796 is well written, organized and compelling history of the Cumberland frontier. The story is told through the eyes of the people who lived during the time period, sharing their painful and memorable experiences. Paul has done an excellent job of tying all the pieces together in his momentous historical. Don't expect to sit down and read this book from cover to cover in one sitting. This is a book whose contents should be slowly ingested and digested-a book that will connect the reader to the American frontier in a new and rich way. I highly recommend it!