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1956 image of Moccasin Bend

History of Moccasin Bend

Geologic Events
Moccasin Bend is a meander in the Tennessee River where it meets the hard geology of the Cumberland Plateau, called the Moccasin because of its appearance from Lookout Mountain.

The Paleoindian Period
Because of its location at a break in the Southern Mountains, Moccasin Bend has served as a strategic crossroads for over 10,000 years of history. Located between the river valley and mountain plateaus, and with rich bottomland resources, the Bend attracted nomadic hunter-gathers. These nomadic bands hunted large game, but also relied on smaller game animals and plant foods that could be foraged as they traveled. The highly mobile nature of these bands contributed to production of a variety of at least seven distinctive projectile point types manufactured from materials such as chalcedony and chert.


The Archaic Period
The Archaic Period in the Middle South ranged from 8000 B.C. to 700 B.C. and is characterized by the development of stone tools that represent a significant change from the Paleoindian stage. It was during this time that there was a marked increase in population which led to the establishment of more permanent sites. The river's flood plain stabilized and shoal habitats were enhanced. Freshwater gastropods were collected in large numbers and large shell mounds on the Tennessee River were first constructed during this period.

Paleolithic Period
Archaic Period

The Woodland Period
The Woodland Period, spanning from about 700 B.C. to 1000 A.D., is well represented on Moccasin Bend, with about 20 sites ranging from Early, through Middle and Late periods. The transition from Late Archaic to Early Woodland is characterized by the addition of ceramics and increased flood plain horticulture. In addition to gardening, the Woodland populations continued hunting both large and small mammal speicies, as well as gathering seasonal wild crops such as hickory, acorns, and chestnuts. Early agriculture on Moccasin Bend is hinted at by the recovery of cornstalk fragments.

Woodland period
Early Mississippi Period

The Mississippian Period
Beginning in East Tennessee about 900 A.D. and continuing until the mid-17th century, the Missippian period indentifies the time that indigenous cultures reached their zenith with multi-mound towns, intensive maize horticulture, and a stratified socio-policical structure based on kinship. Archaeologically, it is represented by shell tempered ceramics, rectangular buildings and triangular projectile points/arrowheads. Copper ornaments, effigy pipes and marine shell ornaments suggest a widespread trade network among adjacent Mississippian regions. Palisaded villages became the dominant settlement type and substantial mound construction declined.

The Spanish Contact
At the time of contact (1540-1541) by the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto, Moccasin Bend was the site of this region's principal population and political center at the site now known as Hampton Place. These people were the ancestors of today's Muscogee (Creek) and Yuchi people. The southeastern Tennessee area was almost abandoned by Mississippian populations by 1650, and during the next hundred years or so the area was largely unoccupied except occasionally by Creek and Cherokee groups.

Spanish Contact
Cherokee Tenure

The Cherokee Tenure
Around the time of the American Revolution (1775), the 'Chickamauga' Cherokee under Dragging Canoe moved into the region to flee white Colonial aggression and destruction of Cherokee towns in Appalachian Mountain areas. Under duress from the emerging Colonial economy, they shifted from a village-based lifestyle to farmsteading, which allowed for individual ownership of 1 square mile (640 acres) per head of household. One such property on the Bend was owned by a Cherokee named Richard Brown. His son John operated the ferry at what is still known as Brown's Ferry, and built built Brown’s Tavern across the river.

Trail of Tears
The Cherokee tenure in the valley was short-lived. They, and the Muscogee (Creek) before them, were forcibly removed by the thousands and deported along the "Trail of Tears" to lands in Oklahoma. In 1838, the Cherokee residing in Southeast Tennessee, North Georgia, Western North Carolina, and Northeast Alabama were rounded up and forced into camps, one of which was located near Ross’s Landing in Chattanooga. Two detachments from this camp were escorted by the army down the Tennessee River around Moccasin Bend. John Drew's Detachment, with John Ross and his family, later traveled a similar route around the Bend. Another detachment was ferried to Moccasin Bend, which was crossed on foot. At Brown's Ferry, they crossed the river again and continued their march down Lookout Valley into Alabama and further westward. Bell's Detachment also crossed Moccasin Bend as they marched across southern Tennessee to Memphis where they crossed the Mississippi.

Trail of Tears
Civil War

The Civil War
Many of the young officers who executed the removal returned twenty years later as colonels and generals to lead their armies in familiar territory at the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga. Again, Moccasin Bend played a central role. It was the weak point in the Confederate siege. Union guns placed at the toe of the Moccasin harried the defense route over the shoulder of Lookout Mountain, allowing the Federals under Hooker to pour up Lookout Valley, cross onto the Bend at Brown's Ferry and into Chattanooga, opening the way for needed supplies and for reinforcements lead by General Sherman. Those same guns on the Bend also assisted Hooker's men as they swept across the slopes of Lookout Mountain, overwhelming the Confederates who were ceaselessly and devastatingly bombarded by the guns on the Moccasin below. The armies regrouped that night and the following day the Federals routed the Confederates from their final stronghold on Missionary Ridge.

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P.O. Box 4953 • Chattanooga • TN • 37405• 423-490-9170 • moccasinbendpark@gmail.com