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Description by J. G. M. Ramsey of an attack by the North Carolina Militia on the Cherokee Nation [Extracts]
Ramsey, J. G. M. (James Gettys McGready), 1797-1884
1853
Volume 10, Pages 881-885

[Reprinted from Ramsay's History of Tennessee. P. 162.]
An account of the subjugation of the Cherokees.

The Indians were true to their engagement. Being informed that a British fleet with troops had arrived off Charleston they proceeded to take up the war club and with the dawn of day on the first day of July [1776] the Cherokees poured down upon the frontiers of South Carolina, massacreing without distinction of age or sex, all persons who fell into their power. ∗ ∗ ∗ The news of the gallant defence at Sullivan's Island and the repulse of Sir Peter Parker in the harbor of Charleston on the 28th of June, arrived soon after that glorious victory and frustrated in part the plan as concerted.

Preparations were immediately made to march with an imposing force upon the Cherokee Nation. ∗ ∗ ∗ They were the most warlike and enterprising of the native tribes and except the Creeks, were the most numerous. ∗ ∗ ∗ They lived in towns of various sizes; their government was simple and in time of war especially, the authority of their chiefs and warriors was supreme. Their country was known by three great geographical divisions: The Lower Towns, the Middle Settlements and Vallies and the Overhill Towns. The number of warriors in the

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Middle settlements and Vallies
878
In Lower Towns
356
In Over-hill Towns
757
Total Cherokee men in Towns
1991

To these may be added such warriors as lived in the less compact settlements estimated at five hundred.

To inflict suitable chastisement upon the Cherokees several expeditions were at once made into their territory. Colonel McBury and Major Jack from Georgia entered the Indian settlements on Tugaloo and defeating the enemy, destroyed all their towns on that River. General Williamson of South Carolina early in July began to embody the militia of that State and before the end of that month was at the head of an army of eleven hundred and fifty men marching to meet Cameron who was with a large body of Esseneca Indians and disaffected white men encamped at Oconoree. Encountering and defeating this body of the enemy he destroyed their town and a large amount of provisions. He burned Sugaw Town, Soconee, Keowee, Ostatory, Tugaloo and Brass Town. He proceeded against Tomassee, Chehokee and Eustustie where observing a recent trail of the enemy he made pursuit and soon met and vanquished three hundred of their warriors. These towns he afterwards destroyed.

In the meantime an army had been raised in North Carolina under command of General Rutherford and a place of joining their respective forces had been agreed upon by that officer and Colonel Williamson under the supposition that nothing less than their united force was adequate to the reduction of the Middle Settlements and Vallies. Colonel Martin Armstrong of Surry County in August raised a small regiment of Militia and marched with them to join General Rutherford. Benjamin Cleveland was one of Armstrong's captains. William (afterwards General) Lenoir was Cleveland's first Lieutenant and William Gray his second Lieutenant. Armstrong's regiment crossed Johns River at McKenney's ford, passed the Quaker Meadows and crossed the Catawba at Greenlee's ford and at Cathey's Fort joined the army under General Rutherford, consisting of above two thousand men. The Blue Ridge was crossed by this army at the Swannanoa Gap and the march continued down the river of the same name to its mouth near to which

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they crossed the French Broad. From that river the army marched up Hominy leaving Pisgah on the left and crossing Pigeon a little below the mouth of the East Fork. Thence through the mountains to Richland Creek above the present Waynesville and ascending that Creek and crossing Tuckaseigee River at an Indian town. They then crossed the Cowee mountain where they had an engagement with the enemy in which but one white man was wounded. The Indians carried off their dead. From thence the army marched to the Middle Towns on Tennessee River where they expected to form a junction with the South Carolina troops un er General Williamson. Here after waiting a few days they left a strong guard and continued the march to the Hiwassee towns. All the Indian villages were found evacuated the warriors having fled without offering any resistance. Few were killed or wounded on either side and but few prisoners taken by the whites, but they destroyed all the buildings, crops and stock of the enemy and left them in a starving condition. This army returned by the same route it had marched. They destroyed thirty or forty Indian towns. The route has since been known as Rutherford's Trace.

While the troops commanded by McBury, Williamson and Rutherford were thus desolating the Lower Towns and Middle Settlements of the Cherokees, another army not less valiant or enterprising had penetrated to the more secure, because more remote, Overhill Towns. ∗ ∗ ∗ Orders were immediately given to Colonel William Christian to raise an army and to march them at once into the heart of the Cherokee country.1 The place of rendezvous was the Great Island of Holston. ∗ ∗ ∗ Soon after Col. Christian was reinforced by three or four hundred North Carolina Militia under Col. Joseph Williams, Col. Love and Major Winston. ∗ ∗ ∗ The whole force now amounted to eighteen hundred men, including pack-horse men and bullock drivers. ∗ ∗ ∗ Near the mouth of Lick Creek was extensive cane brakes, which, with a lagoon or swamp of a mile long, obstructed the march. The army succeeded, however, in crossing through the pass. ∗ ∗ ∗ At the bend of the Nollichucky the camps of the enemy were found by the spies, deserted. ∗ ∗ ∗ The route to be pursued was unknown and through a wilderness. Isaac Thomas, a trader among the Cherokees, acted as pilot. He conducted the army along a narrow but plain

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war path up long Creek to its source and down Dumplin Creek to a point a few miles from its mouth, where the war path struck across to the ford of French Broad, near what has since been known as Buckingham's Island. ∗ ∗ ∗ Next morning the main body crossed the river near the Big Island. They marched in order of battle, expecting an attack from the Indians, who were supposed to be lying about in ambush; but to their surprise no trace was found even of a recent camp. ∗ ∗ ∗

When it was understood in the Cherokee Nation that Christian was about to invade their territory, one thousand warriors assembled at the Big Island of French Broad to resist the invaders. ∗ ∗ ∗ A trader named Starr, who was in the Indian encampment harrangued the warriors in an earnest tone. ∗ ∗ ∗ The trader's counsels prevailed, all defensive measures were abandoned and without waiting for the return of their messengers the warriors dispersed and the island was found deserted and their encampments broken up and forsaken. The next morning the army resumed its march. The route led along the valley of Boyd's Creek and down Ellejay to Little River. From there to the Tennessee River not an Indian was seen. ∗ ∗ ∗ Next morning they marched to the Great Island Town which was taken without resistance. ∗ ∗ ∗ A panic had seized the Cherokee warriors and not one of them could be found. Small detachments were therefore sent out from time to time to different parts of the nation, and finding no armed enemy to contend against, they adopted as not a less effectual chastisement of the implacable enemy, the policy of laying waste and burning their fields and towns. In this manner Neowee, Telico, Chilhowee and other villages were destroyed. Occasionally during these excursions a few warriors were seen escaping from one town to a place of greater safety and were killed. No males were taken prisoners. These devastations were confined to such towns as were known to have advised or consented to hostilities, while such, like the Beloved Town Chota, as had been disposed to peace, were spared. Col. Christian endeavored to convince the Cherokees that he warred only with enemies. He sent out three or four men with white flags and requested a talk with the chiefs. Six or seven immediately came in. In a few days several others from the more distant towns came forward also and proposed peace. It was granted, but not to take effect till a treaty should be made by representatives from the whole tribe to assemble the succeeding May at Long Island. A suspension

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of hostilities was in the mean time provided for, with the exception of two towns high up in the mountains on Tennessee River. These had burnt a prisoner, a youth named Moore, whom they had taken at Watauga. Tuskega and the other excepted town were reduced to ashes.

Colonel Christian, finding nothing more to occupy his army longer, broke up his camp at Great Island Town, marched to Chota, re-crossed the Tennessee and returned to the settlements. In this campaign of about three months not one man was killed. A few from inclement weather and undue fatigue became sick. No one died. ∗ ∗ ∗ The volunteers who composed the command of Christian were, many of them, from the more interior counties of North Carolina and Virginia. In their marches they had seen and noticed the fertile vallies, the rich uplands, the sparkling fountains, the pellucid streams, the extensive grazing and hunting grounds and had felt the genial influences of the climate of the best part of East Tennessee. Each soldier upon his return home, gave a glowing account of the adaptation of the country to all the purposes of agriculture. The story was repeated from one to another till upon the Roanoke and the Yadkin the people spoke familiarly of the Holston, the Nollichucky, the French Broad, Little River and the Tennessee.”


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1 Haywood's History of Tennessee, page 52.