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Indians of the Southern States
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Alabama,Florida,Georgia,Louisiana,Mississippi,Native American | No Comments
We shall not undertake to assign definite boundaries to the several tracts of country occupied by the extensive tribes of the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Catawbas, Uchees, &c., nor to pursue their history, separately. There are no sufficient distinctions in their general habits and character to render such a detail necessary, and as they were nearly all more or less affected by the same political events and changes, they can be best considered collectively. The name of Creeks (an English term, taken from the character of the country they inhabited,) has been applied to all the tribes above mentioned.
James Adair, a trader and resident among the Southern Indians for forty years, in his History of the American Indians, published in 1775, gives the most Complete ac count of these races to be found in the early writers. The principal portion of his book is devoted to a labored disquisition upon the origin of the red men, and arguments to prove their descent from the Jews: the rest consists of separate details of the manners and history of the southern tribes, with observations and anecdotes connected with the race in general.
He commences with the Catawbas, who then dwelt between the Carolinas and the country of the Cherokees. By intercourse with the whites, they had become more degraded than the other nations of which we are now to speak, and drunkenness, indolence, and poverty were obviously prevalent. They were a numerous and warlike people when South Carolina was first settled, mustering about fifteen hundred warriors; but small-pox and the use of ardent spirits had, at this time, reduced them to less than one-tenth of their former numbers.
They were old enemies of the Iroquois, with whom they had waged long and savage wars: with the English they had generally been upon good terms. Adair describes an old waste field, seven miles in extent, as one of the evidences of their former prosperity, when they could “cultivate so much land with their dull stone-axes.” Of these, as of other Indians, he says: “By some fatality they are much addicted to excessive drinking; and spirituous liquors distract them so exceedingly, that they will even eat live coals of fire.”
The Upper Cherokees inhabited the high and mountainous region of the Appalachian range, and that upon the upper portions of the Tennessee. The Lower tribe occupied the country around the head waters of the Savannah and Chatahoochee, to the northward of the Muscogees or Creeks proper. When Adair first became acquainted with the Cherokees, about the year 1735, they were computed by old traders to number six thousand fighting men. They had sixty-four populous towns. In 1738, nearly half of them perished by the small-pox.
Like all the other untaught nations of America, they were driven to perfect desperation by the ravages of this disease. The cause to which they ascribed it, and the strange remedies and enchantments used to stay its progress, are alike remarkable. One course was to plunge the patients into cold running water (it is elsewhere mentioned that those afflicted will frequently leap into the river themselves to allay the fever and torment) the result of which operation was speedily fatal. “A great many killed themselves; for, being naturally proud, they are always peeping into their looking-glasses. By which means, seeing themselves disfigured, without hope of re gaining their former beauty, some shot themselves, others cut their throats, some stabbed themselves with knives, and others with sharp-pointed canes; many threw themselves with sullen madness into the fire, and there slowly expired, as if they had been utterly divested of the native power of feeling pain.” One of them, when his friends had restrained these frantic efforts, and deprived him of his weapons, went out, and taking ” a thick and round hoe-helve, fixed one end of it in the ground, and repeatedly threw himself on it till he forced it down his throat! when he immediately expired.”
These tribes were formerly continually at war with the Six Nations, at the north, and with the Muscogees at the south; but previous to their war with the English colonies they had been for some time comparatively at peace, and were in a thriving and prosperous condition. They were excellently well supplied with horses, and were skilful jockies, and nice in their choice.”
The lower settlement of the Muscogees or Creeks was in the country watered by the Chatahoochee and Flint; the upper Creeks dwelt about the headwaters of the Mobile and Alabama rivers. Their neighbors, on the west, were the Choctaws and Chickasaws.
The Creeks were a nation formed by the union of a number of minor tribes with the Muscogees, who constituted the nucleus of the combination. About the middle of the eighteenth century, they were computed to number no less than three thousand five hundred men capable of bearing arms. They had learned the necessity of secluding those infected with the small-pox, so as to avoid the spread of the contagion, and their general habits and usages were such that they were fast increasing, instead of diminishing, like all the surrounding tribes.
While the Floridas were in the possession of Spain, the Creeks were surrounded by belligerent powers, both native and European, and they appear to have adopted a very shrewd and artful policy in their intercourse with each. There was a French garrison in their country; the English settlements lay to the north and east, and those of the Spaniards to the south; and the old sages of the tribe ” being long informed by the opposite parties of the different views and intrigues of those foreign powers, who paid them annual tribute under the vague appellation of presents, were become surprisingly crafty in every turn of low politics.” The French were very successful in their efforts to conciliate the good will of the Muscogees, and in alienating them from the English.
The country of the Choctaws extended from that of the Muscogees to the Mississippi, reaching northward to the boundaries of the Chickasaws: their lower towns on the river were about two hundred miles north of New Orleans. Adair gives these people a very bad character, as being treacherous, dishonest, ungrateful, and unscrupulous; but he bears witness to their admirable readiness of speech. They were “ready-witted, and endued with a surprising flow of smooth, artful language on every subject within the reach of their ideas.”
The strange custom of flattening the head, prevalent among some other American tribes, obtained with the Choctaws. The operation was performed by the weight of a bag of sand kept upon the foreheads of the infants before the skull had hardened. This process not improbably affected the powers of the mind: at all events, Adair says: “their features and mind exactly correspond together; for, except the intense love they bear to their native country, and their utter contempt of any kind of danger in defense of it, I know no other virtue they are possessed of: the general observation of the traders among them is just, who affirm them to be divested of every property of a human being, except shape and language.”
The French had acquired great influence over the Choctaws, as, indeed, over nearly every tribe in North America with whom they had maintained friendly intercourse. Adair enlarges upon the artful policy with which they conciliated and bribed the leaders and orators of the nation. Besides this, he says: “the masterly skill of the French enabled them to do more with those savages, with trifles, than all our experienced managers of Indian affairs have been able to effect by the great quantities of valuable goods they gave them with a very profuse hand. The former bestowed their small favors with exquisite wisdom; and their value was exceedingly enhanced by the external kindly behavior and well-adapted smooth address of the giver.”
The nation of the Chickasaws, at the time of which we are speaking, was settled near the sources of the Tombigbee, a few miles eastward of the head waters of the Tallahache. They numbered about four hundred and fifty warriors, but were greatly reduced since their ancient emigration from the west. They were said to have formerly constituted one family with the Choctaws, and to have been able to bring one thousand men into the field at the time of their removal. Due allowance must of course be made for mistake and exaggeration in these early traditions.
The Chickasaws were ever inimical to the French and friendly to the English colonists. It was by their efforts that the neighboring tribe of the Natchez was stirred up to attack the French settlements, in 1729. The French had, unadvisedly, imposed a species of tax upon the Natchez, demanding a dressed buckskin from each man of the tribe, without rendering any return; but, as some of that people afterwards reported to Adair, “the warriors hearts grew very cross, and loved the deer-skins.”
The Chickasaws were not slow to foment a disturbance upon intelligence of this proceeding, and sent messengers, with presents of pipes and tobacco, to counsel an attack upon the exercisers of such tyranny. Nothing so strongly excites an Indian’s indignation as any attempt at taxation, and the Natchez were easily persuaded that the French had resolved to crush and enslave them. It took about a year to ripen the plot, as the Indians are “slow in their councils on things of great importance, though equally close and intent.”
It was in the month of November, (1729,) that the Indians fell upon the French settlement. The commandant had received some intimation of the intended attack from a woman of the tribe, but did not place sufficient dependence upon it to take any efficient steps for the protection of his charge. The whole colony was massacred: men, women, and children, to the number of over seven hundred Adair says fifteen hundred perished by the weapons of the savages. The triumph of the Natchez was, however, but of short duration. The French came upon them in the following summer with a large army, consisting of two thousand of their own soldiers and a great array of their Choctaw allies. The Natchez were posted at a strong fort near a lake communicating with the Bayou D Argent, and received the assailants with great resolution and courage. They made a vigorous sally, as the enemy approached, but were driven within their defenses, and “bombarded with three mortars, which forced them to fly off different ways.” The Choctaws took many prisoners, some of whom were tortured to death, and the rest shipped to the West Indies as slaves.
The remnant of the Natchez fled for safety to the Chickasaws. This brought about a war between the French and the last-mentioned tribe, in which, if we may believe Adair, the Indians had decidedly the advantage. He tells of one engagement, in which the French and their Indian allies had surrounded the Chickasaw settlements in the night, with the exception of one, which stood at some distance from the rest, called Amalahta. The besiegers beset every house, and killed all who came out: “but at the dawn of day, when they were capering and using those flourishes that are peculiar to that volatile nation, the other town drew round them, stark naked, and painted all over red and black; thus they attacked them, killed numbers on the spot, released their brethren, who joined them like enraged lions.” The Indians belonging to the French party fled, but the whites were all killed except two, “an officer, and a Negro, who faithfully held his horse till he mounted, and then ran along side of him. A couple of swift runners were sent after them, who soon came up with them, and told them to live and go home, and inform their people, that as the Chickasaw hogs had now a plenty of ugly French carcasses to feed on till next year, they hoped then to have another visit from them and their red friends; and that, as messengers, they wished them safe home.”
On another occasion, the same historian informs us that the French approached the Chickasaw stockade, strangely disguised, and protected from the balls of the enemy by paddings of wool. The Indians were to the last degree astonished both at their appearance and invulnerability, and were about to desist from active resistance, and resort to the skill of their own necromancers to oppose what they thought must be “wizards, or old Frenchmen carrying the ark of war against them.” As the enemy approached, and began to throw hand-grenades into the fort, they were quickly undeceived, and set in earnest about the work of defense. They pulled the matches out of the grenades, or threw them back among the French; and, sallying forth, directed an effective fire at the legs of the enemy, who were speedily driven off. “I have two of these shells,” says Adair, ” which I keep with veneration, as speaking trophies over the boasting Monsieurs and their bloody schemes.”
When the little colony of one hundred and fourteen souls, under the guidance of James Edward Oglethorpe, commenced the settlement of Georgia, in the winter of 1733, the upper and lower Creeks laid claim to the whole territory southwest of the Savannah. The only natives residing in the vicinity at Yamacraw were peaceably disposed towards the settlers, but the governor of the infant colony thought it advisable to put himself upon safe grounds as respected the Indian claims. He therefore secured the services of a half-breed woman, named Mary Musgrove, who could speak English, and, by her mediation, brought about a conference with the chiefs of the tribe at Savannah, the seat of the new settlement.
Mary had formerly married a white trader from Carolina. Besides her usefulness as an interpreter, she had such influence over her tribe, that Oglethorpe thought it worth his while to purchase her services at the rate of one hundred pounds a year. She became afterwards, as we shall see, a source of no little danger and annoyance to the English.
Fifty chiefs of the Creek nation were assembled at the place of conference, and Tomochichi, the most noted among those then known to the settlers, made an amicable speech, proffering at the same time a present of a buffalo-skin, adorned with eagles feathers. A treaty was concluded, subject to the ratification of the English crown, by virtue of which the Indians were to consider them selves the subjects of the king, and to live in peace and friendship with his white colonists. The lands lying between the Savannah and Altamaha, were made over to the English, with all the islands on that coast, except St. Catharine s and two others, which were reserved for the use of the Indians as bathing and fishing stations. A tract was also set apart for them to encamp upon when they visited their white friends, a little above the Yamacraw bluff, where Savannah now stands. Various other stipulations, respecting terms of trade, the punishment of offenses, &c., were entered into, to the satisfaction of both parties.
In April 1734, Oglethorpe took Tomochichi, his queen, and several other Indians with him to England. They were presented to the king, and every pains was taken to produce a strong impression upon their minds of the English power and magnificence. All the Indians with whom the first governor of Georgia held intercourse seem to have formed a great attachment for him, styling him their “beloved man.” If others in authority among the English colonies had pursued as honest a course towards the natives, much bloodshed would doubtless have been averted.
When difficulties arose in 1738, connected with the conflicting claims of England and Spain to jurisdiction over the new country, Spanish agents were dispatched to win over the Creeks. They decoyed a body of them to Augustine, by pretenses that Oglethorpe was there, and that he was desirous of seeing them. On their arrival, the Indians were told that the English governor was sick on board one of the ships; but they had begun to suspect deception, and, refusing to go out to the vessel, left the town in great disgust. Their suspicions were confirmed when they reached home, and the transaction only strengthened their dislike to the Spaniards.
In the following year, Oglethorpe attended a great assembly of Creeks, Cherokees, and Chickasaws, at the Coweta town, several hundred miles from Frederica, and confirmed their good will towards the English by presents, and friendly communion. He smoked the calumet with the chiefs, and solemnly renewed the original treaty of amity and mutual protection. This year old Tomochichi died, not far from Yamacraw, expressing to the last his love for his first English patron, and urging upon his people the policy of maintaining their place in his good will. The chief was nearly ninety-seven years of age.
The year 1749 was memorable for a most audacious attempt on the part of one Thomas Bosomworth to aggrandize himself by attaining a supremacy over the Creeks. He had been formerly a chaplain in Oglethorpe s regiment, and had married Mary Musgrove, his half-breed interpreter. In December, of 1747, this man fell in with a company of chiefs, belonging to the nation, then on a visit to Frederica; and persuaded them to sign certain articles, acknowledging one of their number, named Malatche Opiya Meco, as rightful king over the whole Creek nation. Bosomworth then procured from Malatche a conveyance, for certain considerations among other things, a large quantity of ammunition and clothing, of the islands formerly reserved by the Indians, to himself and his wife Mary, their heirs and assigns, “as long as the sun shall shine, or the waters run in the rivers, forever.” This deed was regularly witnessed, proved before a justice of the peace, and recorded in due form. Bosomworth made some efforts to stock and improve these islands, but, his ambition becoming aroused by success in his first intrigue, he entered upon one much more extensive. By his persuasions, his wife now made the extraordinary claim that she was Malatche’s elder sister, and entitled to regal authority over the whole Creek territory.
A great meeting of the tribe was procured, and, what ever of truth Mary s claims might be founded upon, she appears to have succeeded in persuading large numbers of the Creeks to espouse her cause, and acknowledge her as an independent queen. Accompanied by a strong force of her adherents, she proceeded incontinently to Savannah, sending emissaries before her to demand a surrender of all lands south of the Savannah river, and to make known her intention of enforcing her claim by the entire destruction of the colony, should her demands be resisted.
The militia were called out by the president and council, and the Indians were kept quiet by a display of confidence and firmness, that matters might be fully discussed by their leaders and the colonial authorities. “Bosomworth,” says McCall, “in his canonical robes, with his queen by his side, followed by the kings and chiefs, according to rank, marched into the town on the 20th of July, making a most formidable appearance. The inhabitants were struck with terror at the sight of this ferocious tribe of savages.”
Lengthy discussions ensued, between Bosomworth and Mary on the one hand, and the president and council on the other. The fickle and impressible savages leaned alternately to either opinion according as they were harangued by their new leaders, or listened to the explanations of the other party. They were told that Mary’s claims to royal descent were entirely false; that she was the daughter of a white man by a squaw of no note, and that the mad ambition of her reprobate husband had led to the whole movement. They expressed themselves convinced, but no sooner had Mary obtained another opportunity to communicate with them, than she succeeded in inflaming and bewildering their minds. It was found necessary to confine her and her husband before the savages could be quietly dispersed.
Before this was accomplished, the town was in a situation of the most imminent danger, as the Indians vastly outnumbered the whites; and a very slight matter might have so roused their fury that the whole colony would have been annihilated. The intriguing chaplain had a brother, Adam Bosomworth, agent for Indian affairs in Carolina, who afterwards espoused his interests, so far as the claim to the islands of St. Catharine, Ossabaw, and Sapelo was concerned. This coadjutor visited the Creek nation, pro cured a new conveyance, and prosecuted the claim before the courts of Great Britain. The case proved almost as tedious and complex as that of the celebrated Mohegan land question in Connecticut. Bosomworth and his wife obtained a decision in their favor, in 1759, by virtue of which they took possession of St. Catharine s island, and resided upon it the remainder of their lives. Ossabaw and Sapelo were decreed to be sold for the benefit of the successful parties, but further litigation arose from the claims of one Isaac Levy, to whom they had sold, as was asserted, a moiety of that portion of the grant.
The breaking out of the Cherokee war, in the winter of this year, (1759,) is the next event of special interest, connected with the affairs of the Southern Indians. They seen generally to have been peaceably disposed, and honest in the fulfillment of their national engagements, and probably would have continued so, had they met with fair treatment at the hands of the English colonists. Parties of Cherokees, under British commanders, had been engaged with the English in campaigns against the French fortifications at the west. Upon the evacuation of Fort Duquesne, numbers of these Indian warriors, whose services were no longer required, set out upon their return home. Having been ill supplied with provisions, and having lost their horses, some of them caught and availed themselves of such of those animals, as they found loose in the woods. In revenge for this theft, the German settlers of Virginia fell upon them, and murdered and scalped a considerable number. They even imitated, in several instances, the horrible cruelties of the savages in the manner of butch every at least, so says Adair, who further reports, that “those murderers were so audacious as to impose the scalps on the government for those of French Indians; and that they actually obtained the premium allowed at that time by law in such a case.”
The Cherokees did not, for a long time, attempt any retaliation for this act, but made peaceable applications to the authorities of Virginia and the Carolinas; but all was in vain, and fresh insults and injuries, received from certain officers at Fort St. George, finally excited the nation to fury. Adair says truly: “When the Indians find no redress of grievances, they never fail to redress themselves, either sooner or later. But when they begin they do not know where to end. Their thirst for the blood of their reputed enemies is not to be quenched with a few drops. The more they drink, the more it inflames their thirst. When they dip their finger in human blood, they are rest less till they plunge themselves in it.”
The French, and, at their instance, the Muscogees, were not slow in availing themselves of the above circumstances to stir up a war against the English. The Cherokees determined upon direct retaliation for the massacres by the Germans. A party, bound on this errand, first killed two soldiers near Fort Loudon, on the south bank of Tennessee River, and afterwards spread themselves among the western settlements of North Carolina, killing such of the whites as fell in their power. It was their first intention to take scalps only equal in number to that of their murdered kinsmen, but once having their hand in, they could not resist the temptation of going much farther. “Soon after they returned home, they killed a reprobate old trader.”
The young warriors, now thoroughly roused and excited, would listen to no proposals of restraint: “Nothing but war-songs and war-dances could please them, during this flattering period of becoming great warriors, by killing swarms of white dung-hill fowls, in the corn-fields, and asleep, according to their war-phrase.”
William H. Lyttleton, governor of South Carolina, set himself strenuously both to prepare for the defense of the colonies, and to bring about an adjustment of difficulties. At Fort St. George, on the Savannah, he held a conference with six Cherokee chiefs, on the 26th of December (1759), and formed a treaty of peace, secured by the delivery of thirty-two Indian hostages. These were placed in close confinement in a small and miserable hut, and the governor returned to Charleston.
According to the usual course of events, the Cherokees denied the authority of the chiefs who had concluded the above treaty, and hostilities broke out afresh. The two most celebrated chiefs and leaders among them, at this time, were old Attakullakulla, a promoter of peace, and long the fast friend of the English, and Occonostota, a noted war-chief. Captain Coytmore, commandant at Fort George, was an object of the bitterest hatred on the part of the Indians, and a large body of them, led by Occonostota, besieged the fort in February of 1760.
The place was too strong to be taken by assault, but the Indian chief managed to entice Coytmore out of the defences into an ambush, where he was shot dead, and lieu tenants Bell and Foster, who accompanied him, were wounded. The hostages who were confined within the works, shouted to encourage their friends without, and when an attempt was made to put them in irons, resisted manfully, stabbing one soldier, and wounding two others. Upon this, a hole was cut in the roof over their heads, and the cowardly garrison butchered them by shooting down from above.
This war now commenced in earnest, and Indian ravages extended far and wide upon the frontier. Troops were ordered from New York by General Amherst, commander-in-chief of the British forces in America; and the neigh boring colonies appropriated liberal sums for the purpose of buying the aid of the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Catawbas.
Colonel Montgomery reached Carolina in April, (1760,) and hastened, in command of the regulars and provincials, to make an effective inroad upon the hostile Indians. His progress through the lower Cherokee country was marked by the entire destruction of the Indian towns. The first place attacked, called Keowee, was surrounded, and the men of the town were put to the sword. Estatoe, containing two hundred houses, with great quantities of provisions, was entirely destroyed; but the inhabitants were saved by a timely flight. “Every other settlement east of the Blue Ridge,” says McCall, “afterwards shared the same fate.”
The army made some stay at Fort Prince George, and useless endeavors were put forth to bring about a pacification with the upper portion of the Cherokees. In the month of June the troops were again on their advance into the wilderness of the interior. Near the Indian town of Etchoe, the native warriors prepared a most skilful am buscade to check the advancing forces. It was in a deep valley, through which ran a muddy stream, with steep banks; on either side of which the way was completely choked with tangled brushwood. Some hard fighting took place at this spot, in which twenty of the whites were killed and seventy-six wounded. The loss on the side of the Indians was much less, and, although driven from the spot where the first stand was made, they en trenched themselves a little farther on. Under these circumstances, Montgomery determined to secure the safety of his troops, and to provide for the requisite attention to his wounded men, by a retreat. He soon after sailed for New York, leaving four companies of regulars, under Major Hamilton, for the protection of the frontier.
The garrison at the isolated Fort Loudon was now in a state of imminent peril. The provisions of the place were nearly exhausted, and the redoubtable Occonostota was laying close siege to it with his fierce and enraged warriors. After suffering great extremes of privation, and experiencing disappointment in all their hopes of relief, the two hundred men stationed at this place were obliged to capitulate, and trust to the honor of their savage enemy. Captain Steuart, an officer greatly in favor with all the friendly Indians, arranged the terms upon which the fort should be evacuated. The troops were to be allowed a free and unmolested passage to Virginia, or Fort Prince George, and a detachment of Indians was to accompany them for the purpose of supplying provisions by hunting.
The garrison marched out on the 7th of August (1760). Occonostota himself, with a number of other natives, kept company with the whites, during the first day s march of fifteen miles; but these all disappeared when they reached the place of encampment, near an Indian town called Taliquo. On the next morning, just before day, (the time generally selected by Indians for a surprise, as men sleep more soundly then than at any other hour,) a large body of armed savages in war-paint, were seen by a sentinel, creeping through the bushes, and gathering about the camp. Hardly was the alarm given when the attack was made: twenty-six of the feeble and half-starved soldiers were killed outright, and the rest were pinioned and marched back to the fort.
Captain Steuart was among the prisoners, but his evil fortune was alleviated by the staunch friendship of the benevolent Attakullakulla. This chief, as soon as he heard of Steuart s situation, hastened to Fort Loudon, “and purchased him of the Indian who took him, giving him his rifle, clothes, and all that he could command by way of ransom: he then took possession of Captain Demere’s house, where he kept his prisoner as one of his family, and humanely shared with him the little provisions his table afforded, until an opportunity should offer of rescuing him.”
A quantity of ammunition was discovered by the Indians buried in the fort, and Occonostota determined to proceed at once to lay siege to Fort Prince George. Captain Steuart was informed that the assistance of himself and his men would be required in the management of the great guns, and that, furthermore, if the garrison should refuse to capitulate, all the prisoners now in the hands of the Indians should, one by one, be burned in sight of the fort. Perceiving the difficulty of his situation, the captain begged his kind old proprietor to assist him in effecting an escape, and Attakullakulla readily lent his aid. Upon pretense of taking his prisoner out for a hunt, he left Fort Loudon, with his wife and brother, and two English soldiers, and took a direct course for the Virginia frontier. After a most toilsome and dangerous march, they fell in with a party of three hundred men, sent out for the relief of such of the garrison at Fort Loudon as might have effected their escape. Being now in safety, Captain Steuart dismissed his Indian friends with handsome rewards, to return and attend to the welfare of his former fellow-prisoners. Such of them as had survived were afterwards ransomed and delivered up at Fort Prince George.
This post was immediately supplied with provisions in anticipation of the siege; and care was taken, through the mediation of Attakullakulla, to impress the Cherokees with the idea that it was totally impregnable.
Matters appeared now to be, in some manner, at rest; but the majority of the Cherokee nation remained thoroughly inimical, and emissaries from the French colonies were busy in their midst. A French officer, of the name of Latinac, was especially successful in rousing up their hostile feelings. As an instance of his style of proceeding, it is related that, .at a great conclave of the tribe, he stepped out, and drove his hatchet into a log, calling out: ” Who is the man that will take this up for the king of France? Saloué, a young warrior of Estatoe, laid hold of it, and cried out, I am for war! the spirits of our brothers who have been slain still call upon us to revenge their death he is no better than a woman who refuses to follow me. ”
In the following spring, Colonel James Grant, who had succeeded to the command of the Highlanders employed in British service in America, commenced active operations against the belligerent nation. What with the aid of the provincials and friendly Indians, he was at the head of about twenty-six hundred men. The Chickasaws and Catawbas lent some assistance to the English; but the Creeks are said to have alternately inclined to the French or English, according as they received or hoped for favors and presents.
The army reached Fort Prince George on the 27th of May (1761,) and there old Attakullakulla made his appearance, deprecating the proposed vengeance of the whites upon his people. He was told that the English still felt the strongest regard for him individually, but that the ill-will and misconduct of the majority of the nation were too palpable and gross to be suffered to go longer unpunished. Colonel Grant marched from the fort in the month of June, and advanced nearly to the spot where Montgomery s progress had been arrested, before coming to an engagement. Here the Cherokees, on the 10th, made a desperate but unavailing stand; they were routed and dispersed, leaving their towns and villages of the interior to be destroyed by the invaders. Etchoe was burned on the day following the battle; and, according to McCall, “all the other towns in the middle settlement, fourteen in number, shared the same fate: the corn, cattle, and other stores of the enemy, were likewise destroyed, and those miserable savages, with their families, were driven to seek shelter and subsistence among the barren mountains.”
Upon the return of the army to Fort Prince George, after this campaign, Attakullakulla again visited the camp, bringing with him a number of other Cherokee chiefs. Broken down by their disastrous losses, and disgusted with the deceitful promises of the French, they gladly acceded to such terms as Colonel Grant thought fit to impose, and a treaty of peace was formally concluded.
In the year 176, it was thought advisable by the English government to appoint a general agent and superintendent of Indian affairs at the south. Partly through the earnest intervention of Attakullakulla, but especially be cause of his known sagacity and influence over the native tribes, this office was conferred upon Captain John Steuart. Upon entering on the duties of his appointment, he called a great council of deputies, from all the southern tribes, at Mobile. Addressing the assembled chiefs in their own style of oratory, he explained to them the relations then existing between France and England, impressing upon them the idea that all residing east of the Mississippi, must now look to the English for supplies and protection. He directed his harangue to the several nations in separate succession, promising entire amnesty to all who had taken up the hatchet in behalf of the French; commending those who had remained faithful to the English; and excusing those who had sided with the enemy, as the victims of deception.
It was proposed to adopt, at this time, a more just and equable policy towards the Indians than had heretofore been used, and to take the necessary steps to secure them against the deception of unprincipled speculators. Affairs, accordingly, looked peaceful and prosperous for some years. The natives made over a large additional tract of land to the growing colony of Georgia, to be sold, and the avails applied to the discharge of the heavy debts they had incurred for supplies of ammunition, clothing, &c. The following circumstance sufficiently evinces the policy of mild measures towards the Indians: In 1767, the whites having made encroachments upon the Indian lands, some of the Creek warriors began to retaliate by stealing horses which they found upon their own territory. A party of them also attacked a store at Trader’s Hill, on the St. Mary’s, belonging to one Lemmons, and after plundering it of its contents, burned the buildings. Some of the whites pursued these marauders; recovered the stolen horses; laid hands upon what valuable goods they could discover, and destroyed the villages of the offenders. Far less important affairs have often led to long and bloody wars with the natives; but, in this instance, Governor Wright, at Savannah, restored perfect quiet by decreeing mutual restorations and compensation.
No events of very striking interest connected with the Indians of the Southern States, call for our attention from this period to that of the wars with the western tribes in the early part of the present century. Until they became, to a certain extent, involved in those hostilities, they remained in comparative peace with the American whites. After the termination of the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the independence of the United States, the intrigues of opposing parties no longer operated to foment disturbance, or to tempt the unfortunate savages to engage in quarrels where they had nothing to gain, and which ever resulted in their final discomfiture.
By a steady increase of numbers, and the adventurous spirit of pioneers, the white settlers every where made advances upon the Indian territory. Sometimes large acquisitions would be made by a government purchase; but to no small extent, the opinion that the occupation of a few roving savages could give no natural title to lands, as op posed to the claims of those who had reclaimed, enclosed, and improved the wilderness, satisfied the consciences of the encroachers. The argument in favor of this conclusion is by no means without force; but who can take upon him self to draw the line of demarcation, which shall decide, upon any principle of universal application, the bounds of so artificial a right as the ownership of land?
In the autumn of 1811, the great Shawanee chief Tecumseh, in pursuance of his bold and extensive plans for a universal association of the Indians against the whites, made a tour among the southern tribes. His eloquent appeals, and the overpowering energy which distinguished this truly great man, proved successful in the winning over to his views of no small number of the Indian warriors, even among those who had long maintained a friendly intercourse with the Americans and the government of the United States.
At the time of the declaration of war with England, (June 18th, 1812,) the whole western border of the United States was in a position of the greatest danger and insecurity. The machinations of Tecumseh and the Prophet had roused an extensive flame of vindictive ferocity throughout the Indian nations, while British agents, it is said, were widely dispersed, and, by munificent promises and artful persuasions, had still farther widened the breach between the savages and their white countrymen. Frightful scenes of depredation and murder called for a prompt and decisive check. Many minor forays are recorded, but the destruction of Fort Minims in the Tensau settlement of Mississippi, in the summer of the year following, may be considered the first important part taken by the southern tribes in the wars of this period. We shall not under take, in our brief account of the Indian campaign of 1813, to keep up a distinction between the different tribes of Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees, &c., who were drawn into hostilities.
Prominent among the chiefs and leaders of the southern confederacy, was the celebrated Weatherford. His mother was said to have been a Seminole, but he was born among the Creeks. He was, beyond question, possessed of many noble and commanding qualities, but these were combined with cruelty, avarice, and degrading vices. A party of about one thousand warriors, led by this popular chief, fell upon the devoted Fort Minims, on the 30th of Au gust, 1813. The post was garrisoned by one hundred and sixty efficient soldiers; the rest of its occupants, to the number of one hundred and fifteen, consisted of old men, women and children. The forces were under the command of Major Beasly. No regular preparations had been made for the reception of so powerful an enemy, and al though the soldiers did their duty manfully, they were overpowered, and all slain except seventeen. The women and children having ensconced themselves in several blockhouses, met with a more terrible fate. The savages set fire to the buildings, and consumed them, together with their inmates.
The settlers inhabiting exposed districts were now obliged to fly for safety to places of protection, and the hostile hordes of Indians were collecting their warriors for further inroads upon the frontier. To resist them, a large force was called into requisition in Tennessee, and the command bestowed upon General Andrew Jackson. Colonel Coffee, at the head of a considerable body of troops, and such volunteers as could be immediately collected, hastened forward to defend the country in the vicinity of Huntsville. General Jackson, although disabled at this time, by a broken arm, determined to take the field in person, and pushed on the necessary preparations with all that zeal and energy which marked his character through life.
News was brought by some runners from the establishment of the friendly old Creek chief Chinnaby, that the enemy was approaching Huntsville, or Fort Hampton, in full force. The report was erroneous, but, as other rumors seemed, at the time, to confirm it, the general hurried his army on to relieve the post. This was on the 10th of October (1813). From Huntsville, Jackson, with his forces, crossed the Tennessee, and joined Colonel Coffee, who was posted upon a high bluff on the south bank of the river.
From this place, Colonel Coffee was dispatched, with seven hundred men, to beat up the enemies quarters on the Black Warrior river, while the commander of the army turned all his attention to securing some supplies of provision for his famishing troops. Encamped in the enemies country, whither they had arrived by forced marches, the troops were necessarily exposed to great hard ship and want. While awaiting supplies at this encampment, General Jackson had an interview with Shelocta, a son of Chinnaby, who had come to request assistance for his father and friends, blockaded in their fort by the hostile Creeks. He said that a considerable force of the enemy was now in the vicinity of the Ten Islands, on the Coosa.
The news was confirmed by other messengers, and the commander proceeded towards the Coosa, to protect his Indian allies, notwithstanding the straits to which his men were reduced from want of provisions. The troops reached the Islands without encountering an enemy. On the route, Colonel Dyer was detached, with two hundred mounted men, to fall upon Littafutchee, at the head of Canoe Creek, a western tributary of the Coosa. He accomplished the service, destroyed the town, and brought back to the camp twenty-nine prisoners.
While encamped at the Ten Islands, the general ascertained the real rendezvous of the enemy to be upon the Tallussahatchee Creek, emptying into the Coosa about thirteen miles below the encampment. Colonel Coffee, with nine hundred men, was promptly ordered upon the duty of engaging them. He forded the Coosa at the Fish-Dams, and approaching the Indian camp, so disposed his forces as to partially surround it, while several companies, under Captain Hammond and Lieutenant Patterson, were marched in to beat up the enemies quarters. The savages fought boldly and desperately, but were overpowered and driven into their buildings, where one hundred and eighty-six of their number perished, fighting hand to hand. Eighty-four women and children were taken prisoners, and a number were killed, as is said, by accident, during the melee. This battle was fought on the 3d of November (1813).
A species of fortification was now prepared at the islands, and named Fort Strother. On the 7th of the month, in formation was received that the enemy was collecting in force to attack Talladega, a post about thirty miles be low, occupied by friendly Indians, and General Jackson, with nearly his whole army, consisting of twelve hundred infantry and eight hundred mounted men, hastened to its relief. The baggage, the sick, and the wounded, were left, under a guard of protection, at Fort Strother.
The river was forded by the mounted men, each carrying one of the infantry behind him, a process which was continued till the whole army was safely landed on the opposite shore. It was about midnight when the march commenced, and on the evening of the ensuing day, a spot only six miles from Talladega was reached. By four o’clock, on the following morning, the troops were again in motion; and, acting upon intelligence obtained by reconnoitering during the night, General Jackson was enabled so to dispose his troops as partially to surround the camp before the action commenced. It is unnecessary to give the details of this battle. The Indians displayed both courage and firmness, and by the impetuosity of their attack, broke through the line of the advancing forces at a point occupied by General Roberts brigade. They were driven in again by a body of reserved troops, but succeeded in making their escape to the mountains, three miles distant, through an opening left by some miscalculation in the direction of the Americans advance. “In this battle,” according to Cobbett, “the force of the enemy was one thousand and eighty, of whom two hundred and ninety-nine were left dead on the ground; and it is believed that many were killed in the night, who were not found when the estimate was made. Their loss, on this occasion, as stated since by themselves, was not less than six hundred. That of the Americans was fifteen killed and eighty wounded, several of whom afterwards died.”
The friendly Indians, who had been besieged in their fort at this place, deprived even of water, expressed the liveliest gratitude and exultation at their release. The fatigue, exposure, and want, which the army were compelled to undergo, now began to arouse a spirit of discontent and mutiny. Few men have ever possessed that self-devotion and noble spirit of endurance, combined with an inflexibility of purpose never surpassed, which enabled Jackson to quell the disturbances which arose, and to preserve the forces under his charge in a condition for active and useful service.
After the battle at Talladega, the Hallibee Indians, who were largely concerned in that transaction, sued for peace. They were told by the American general that this should be accorded, upon condition of the restoration of plundered property, and the delivering up of those who had taken part in the massacre at Fort Mimms. Unfortunately, while these negotiations were pending, General White, acting under orders independent of General Jackson, attacked the towns of these Indians, destroyed many of their warriors, and carried off several hundred captives. Supposing that this was by Jackson s orders, they expected no further favor, and fought thereafter with the desperation of men to whom no quarter was to be given.
The result of this Indian campaign was the entire reduction of the hostile nations. We need not recount the various battles in which they were defeated and destroyed. The most noted of these were at Autossee, where some two hundred were massacred, on the 29th of November, and that of the great bend in the Tallapoosie, known as Horse-Shoe Bend. At this latter point, the Indians fortified themselves for a last and desperate stand.
They were supposed to be about one thousand in number, and had been, for some time, strengthening their position by every means within their reach. This was in the month of March 1814. On the 27th, General Jackson, with a force of whites and friendly Indians, three times the number of the enemy, commenced operations against the fort. General Coffee, with most of the cavalry and Indian allies, was directed to surround the bend, in order to cut off all retreat across the river. The place was then carried by storm, under a heavy fire from within. More than half the Indians were killed at the fort, and an unknown number perished in their endeavors to escape by crossing the river, beset as it was by the assailants. Some have asserted that probably not more than twenty ever reached a place of safety. At a time when it was evident that the fortune of the day was decided, General Jackson sent a messenger, with a flag of truce, to invite a surrender, but, from ignorance or desperation, the savages fired upon the bearer of the flag. After this, no mercy was shown: until night put an end to the work of destruction, they were shot or cut down wherever they could be found, and even on the following morning, a considerable number were ferreted out from the ff caves and reeds,” where they had sought concealment, and remorselessly put to death. Several hundred women and children were made captives. The loss of the attacking army in this battle was fifty-five killed, and one hundred and forty-six wounded.
In the ensuing month, (April,) General Jackson having affected a junction with the troops from Georgia, under Colonel Milton, received a deputation from the principal hostile tribes, expressing a wish for peace. The general demanded, as one condition upon which he would treat, and as a test of the sincerity of the proposal, that the great but notorious Weatherford should be delivered up for punishment. This chief, hearing of the requisition, and hopeless of further success in resistance, came voluntarily to the American camp, and presenting himself before the commander, with characteristic dignity and composure, requested peace for his people, and announced his own sub mission to his fate, whatever it might be.
His speech on this occasion is given as follows: “I am in your power do with me as you please I am a soldier. I have done the whites all the harm I could. I have fought them, and fought them bravely. If I had an army, I would yet fight I would contend to the last: but I have none. My people are all gone. I can only weep over the misfortunes of my nation.”
On being told that he was still at liberty to depart, and that no favor would be shown to him or his nation unless they should submit to whatever terms the whites should see fit to impose, he replied: “You can safely address me in such terms now. There was a time when I could have answered you there was a time when I had a choice I have none now. I have not even a hope. I could once animate my warriors to battle; but I cannot animate the dead. My warriors can no longer hear my voice. Their bones are at Talladega, Tallusshatchee, Emuckfaw, and Tohopeka. You are a brave man; I rely upon your generosity. You will exact no terms of a conquered people but such as they should accede to.”
This was the last important incident of the campaign. The Indians submitted to the dictation of the whites, and retired to the districts assigned them, eastward of the Coosa.
“Bearing a people with all its household gods into exile,
Exile without an end, and without an example in story.”
But a few years have passed since the Cherokees were in the peaceful occupation of an immense and fertile territory in the northern part of Georgia. They numbered not far from eighteen thousand, and were increasing in a ratio, which attested their power of self-support and improvement. They had made advances far beyond most of their red brethren in the arts of agriculture and manufactures. A system of legislation adapted to their capacities and wants had been established, and, generally speaking, the nation exhibited a praiseworthy spectacle “of sobriety, industry, and good order. They were in possession of about eight millions of acres of land, and their ability and inclination to cultivate it may appear from the statistics of their stock and agricultural implements. In 1826, they were the owners of seven thousand six hundred horses, twenty-two thousand cattle, forty-six thousand swine, and two thousand five hundred sheep. There were in use among them two thousand nine hundred and forty-three ploughs, and one hundred and seventy-two wagons. They occupied their territory under the treaties entered into, and within the bounds assigned, at the negotiations between the con federate states and the Indian tribes of the south, at the close of the revolutionary war.
In the year 1802, when the long vexed question of the boundaries of the state of Georgia was finally settled, the United States stipulated to extinguish the title of the Cherokees to the lands then in their possession, “as early as the same could be peaceably obtained, upon reasonable terms.”
As the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi increased in power and population, they became more and more impatient of the existence of self-governing and independent tribes within their boundaries, and began to exert a control over them in some instances exceedingly unjust and oppressive. Strong efforts were made to induce an emigration of these Indians to the west, which were in some measure successful, and, prior to 1889, a cession or sale of a very large district had been obtained from the Cherokees. The members of this tribe, naturally attached to the beautiful country in which they had passed their lives, finally determined to retain possession of what remained of their lands, and to allow of no further sales to whites.
In December, of the above year, the state of Georgia passed a series of acts, which justly aroused the fears and indignation of the Indians, and excited a feeling of sympathy in their behalf, as powerful as extensive. The laws of the state were declared to be in full force over all the Aborigines within its limits; the regulations and provisions of the Cherokee council were declared invalid and void; heavy penalties (amounting to years of imprisonment at hard labor) were awarded against any Cherokee who should “endeavor” to oppose emigration; and it was even enacted, by the fifteenth section, “that no Indian, or descendant of an Indian, within the Cherokee nation of Indians, shall be a competent witness in any court of Georgia, in a suit in which a white man is a party, unless such white man resides within said nation.”
Notwithstanding the adverse opinions of many of the ablest jurists in the country, as to the constitutionality or validity of these and other provisions of the Georgia legislature, and even a decision against them in the Supreme Court of the United States, they were, to a certain extent, enforced. The situation of the Indians became, in con sequence, so precarious and uncomfortable, that a considerable party was formed among them of those favorable to migration. At the head of this faction was Major Ridge, while the celebrated John Ross was the leader of those opposed to the movement a very large majority of the nation.
Matters continued in a disturbed and unquiet state, until 1835. At this time, the Rev. J. T. Schermerhorn was deputed by the United States executive to bring about a treaty whereby the Cherokees should remove peaceably, receiving a reasonable compensation for the improvements which they should leave behind them.
The negotiation appears to have been conducted as most Indian treaties have been, wherever a specific object was to be gained. Notice was given of a council to be held, and a collection of those favorable to the proposed emigration ratified a treaty by which the whole tribe was bound to remove within two years. Notwithstanding the obvious want of authority on the part of those individuals to bind the nation, and a remonstrance signed by the thousands who opposed the treaty, it was ratified by Congress. An appropriation was made for the indemnification of those who should suffer loss by being torn from their homes, and for the other expenses attending the iniquitous transaction, and nothing was left to the unhappy Cherokees but submission.
No resistance was made, as, indeed, any opposition would have been utterly fruitless. The United States forces, sent to overawe the Indians and enforce compliance with the cruel edict, found no call for their services. With a commendable spirit of energy and perseverance, the Cherokees, with their brethren of the neighboring tribes of the south, have pursued the arts and refinements of civilization in their new homes at the west. They are now set down as numbering not far from twenty-six thousand, of whom by far the larger portion is located west of the Mississippi. A considerable settlement, however, still exists in North Carolina.
The Creeks or Muscogees have been continually emigrating westward since the era of the difficulties between the southern states and the Indians within their limits, in 18289, et seq. They enjoy a tolerably systematic form of government, and are in many respects prosperous.
Without going into a particular description of the condition of the other emigrating nations, we will conclude this subject with the remarks of Mr. Schoolcraft, upon “The problem of civilization,” to be solved in the future history of these races. “Whatever doubts have existed, heretofore, in regard to the satisfactory solution of this question, they must now give way before the cheering results that have attended the philanthropic efforts that have, from time to time, been made, and are at present going on among the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks. These tribes yielded their country east of the Mississippi, rendered dear to them by the associations of youth, their traditions, and the graves of their fathers. They had learned the great truths of Christianity, and the arts of agriculture, and of civilized life; yet they gave up all, and sought a new home in the far-off wilderness, and have made in that wilderness fruitful and rich farms, and flourishing villages. Some of their schools are of a high order. The gospel ministry is well attended. Some of their constitutions are purely republican. The people are increasing in numbers. Peace dwells within their limits, and plenteousness within their borders; civilization upon Christian principles; agriculture and the mechanic arts; and schools. “With these primary and fundamental principles of human happiness, civilization among them is no longer problematical.”
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