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Colonial and State Records of North Carolina
Letter from Patrick Henry to Richard Caswell
Henry, Patrick, 1736-1799
January 08, 1779
Volume 14, Pages 243-246

[From MS. Records in Office of Secretary of State.]

Williamsburg, Jan'y 8th, 1779.


Captain Martin, the Agent for this State in the Cherokee nation, is now here. He has given a long State of Facts respecting a part of that nation settled at Chickamogga & its neighborhood, by which I am informed that a considerable number of our people have been Murdered by them. By several Circumstances attending the murder of William Cote, lately committed,

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by these Indians having sent near 300 Horses to be loaded with goods at Pensacola, by the constant Residence of a British agent among them, & by a great Variety of other concurring Incidents, there seems no room to Doubt the certainty of Captain Martin's Conjecture, in that these Indians intend a vigorous attack upon our Frontiers in the Spring. The Agent has mentioned also several Injuries done to subjects of your State by the same Indians, which, I doubt not, have been communicated to you.

The Navigation of the Tennessee River, a matter in which your State, as well as ours, seems deeply interested, is rendered unsafe, & Indeed impracticable, so long as these Banditti remain unpunished. Their present Situation on the Banks of that river gives them the Command of it. By this means the Communication with our posts on the Mississippi & Ohio is rendered difficult, expensive and precarious, & the flattering prospects of Trade which were opening to our View at New Orleans are lost. Impunity will add strength & invite numbers to join these offenders, who have dared to secede from the Body of their Nation, to refuse the peace offered them, & by openly adhering to the English have committed depredations & murders & set our power at Defiance.

Justice & necessity as well as policy do therefore demand that proper measures be adopted to chastise these people, and, by doing that, to anticipate the Evils they meditate against us. And in order to lose no time I have given Directions to Colo. Shelby to raise 300 men immediately, to march to Chicamogga and totally to destroy that & every other settlement near it, which the offending Indians Occupy.

I do not suppose this Force sufficient for the purpose, and I have to request of your Excellency that it may be increased to 500 by drawing 200 men from that part of your State most convenient to the great Island of Holston, & that you will be pleased to issue your orders accordingly I shall be glad. You will please, also, to appoint a Lieut. Col. to act under Col. Shelby, and to give the necessary Directions for the pay and provisions of men furnished by your State. I have reason to expect that the Expedition will be very short & little expensive, & that our people,

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as well as those of No. Carolina settled on the waters of Holston, will perform the service with great alacrity.

The privy Council, by whose Concurrence & advice this Business is undertaken, have thought with me that the only Evil which can arise is the Displeasure of the Bulk of the Cherokee nation, who are at present in peace & Friendship with us. Our Agent, who has been very particularly examined as to that, is strongly of opinion that the measure will not endanger that peace, but will strengthen it. He observes that the leading Men are much exasperated at the Conduct of the Seceders at & about Chickamogga who perpetually embroil their public Council, and, by repeated violence, instigated by British Emissaries, attempt to involve the nation at large in the suspicions of Hostility & consequent war, which would be evidently destructive to them and that numbers of Indians have gone & are going to Chickamoga from the Towns, notwithstanding the Remonstrance made against these Imigrations by the old Warriors, most of whom have expressed great wrath and Bitterness against the Headstrong & Lawless part of their nation. Their being obliged therefore to return to the old Towns, it is thought, will be highly acceptable, & those of the men who may be slain will fall unlamented by their Country, who I trust will have no occasion furnished to Complain of the Loss of Women or Children, the strictest orders being given to spare them.

I have given your Excellency this Explicit account of the Intended Expedition that you might see the propriety of the Co-operation requested. The advantages resulting from peace with all the Cherokees are mutual to North Carolina & Virginia. War with that people involves both countrys.

It seems proper, therefore, that both should engage in the present undertaking. However, notwithstanding all that is here said, if it happens that your Excellency is possessed of Facts not known here, & from which you are convinced that bad Consequences will follow the Execution of the plan for chastising the Chickamogga Indians, it will be postponed for the present. But I cannot help thinking that no time should be lost in striking the Blow that the Militia may return time enough to prepare for their summer Crops; & for this purpose that your orders will go to Holston

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without loss of time for the 200 Men to join Col. Shelby, who is getting ready to march immediately.

I shall be much obliged to your Excellency for your answer by the Bearer, & am,

With great regard & esteem, Sr.,
Y'r Excellency's mo. obed. Servant,

P. S.

I send herewith a Copy of an Act of Assembly for extending Boundary Line as also a Letter from the Commissioners to the Commissioners of your State on that Subject.