Cherokee Origin and Religion

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For four hundred years the question: “From whence came the Indian?” has been a recurrent problem. Four centuries of quest and investigation have not brought the solution nearer and it’s sanest answer of today is conjecture.

Every person, who has made an extended study of Indians either as a tribe or as a race, has naturally evolved some idea of their possible origin and this is very often based on tribal migration legends.

At some ancient period, so remote that even legend does not note it, the earth most probably came so ear the sphere of influence of some other planet, that it momentarily swung out of its solar trend, causing a cataclysm that instantly transformed the zones so suddenly that the giant mammoths were frozen as they stood, to be later incased in great masses of ice and preserved so well that as it melted away from their bodies the flesh was so fresh that it was eaten by dogs and other animals.

The immense glaciers were left in the temperate and possibly the torrid zones. .4s to whether any land was raised at that time there is a question, but there is very little doubt that much of the land connecting northern Europe and America was submerged, leaving only Greenland, Iceland and a few other elevated portions above sea level. The flora and fossil remains indicate a previous continuity and the charts of the ocean bed show a well defined plateau at only a comparatively shallow depth extending from Labrador to Norway.

These seismic and climatic convulsions most probably very nearly destroyed the cave dwellers of what had been the united continent of Euroamerica but on account of their peculiar hardiness a few survived to repopulate the riven continent.

Aeons later, so late that even the historians of the early civilizations were able to gather bits of legends concerning it, the fabled continent of Atlantis, lying west of Spain and possibly joining southern Europe or Northern Africa with South or Central America, sank with its mythical civilization and possibly leaving parts of a homogenous people in America, North Africa and Eurasia.

Other people possibly came to western America from Asia and the South Sea Islands. As the people became more numerous they commenced to migrate. The Cherokees, with the soft accents of the underbills, which was obviously the mother dialect, were evidently from a southern country, for the pleasant fluent languages always come from a southern people in contradistinction from the harsher tones of the north. This tribe moved gradually to the north and east as evidenced by the mounds in Iowa, Ohio Virginia and Tennessee that have been explored and showed artifactuary and thhnic composition almost identical and peculiar to known early Cherokee customs and handicraft. In each of these the well known crematory marks of the tribe were found; the charred post at the apex of the mound, to which the victim had been bound. The hardened saucer like clay deposit with the ashes, charred bones and fire marks, one above another, as the mound had been added to. Among the mortuary remains near the center and base of the mounds of these regions were found monitor pipes that were identical with those described by Adair as having been made and used by the Cherokees in the eighteenth century.

In the center of a mound at Etowah, Georgia and on the surface of the ground were found two copper plates. This territory was known to have been inhabited by the Cherokees since 1540. The only known similar designs to these are those of Central America, Yucatan and the Levant.

An inter-tribal tradition details that the Cherokees got as far east as Delaware River before they were stopped by the warlike Iroquois confederacy, although they had been in contact with that tribe of northern origin so long that each of the tribes had imbibed many words in common.

The Cherokees most probably preceded by several hundred years the Muskogees in their exodus from Mexico and swung in a wider circle, crossing the Mississippi River many miles north of the mouth of the Missouri River as indicated by the mounds. All of the northern mounds are so built that the structure indicates they were built by other people. The Muskogees claim that when they came to the “black grass country” they crossed the Mississippi. This probably has reference to the frost line.

The Cherokees came so suddenly and unexpectedly into the coast land that the Senecas and many other tribes thought that they came from the earth and called them “cave men” or “the people that came from a hole in the ground,” The ancient Delawares, who called themselves “Lenni Lenape” or “The People,” called the Cherokees, “Allegans.” The Cherokees were known to the Shawnees, another Algonquin tribe as he Keetoowhas. The Shawnees called the Muskogees, “Swamp People” or “Humaskog” and this foreign name was slightly changed and adopted by the Muskogees when they formed their confederacy, but the Muskogees changed the word to Emmussuk, of Medicine, referring to the “black wash” and ogee, meaning confederacy or the confederacy of those who drank the black wash, a stringent emmenagogue and chologague for purification purposes immediately preceding the green corn dance and on other stated occasions. The Muskogees were probably driven out of Mexico by the Aztecs, Toltecs or some other of the northwestern tribal invasions of the ninth or preceding centuries. This is evidenced by the customs and devices that were long retained by the Creeks.

The Cherokees were forced back from the vicinity of the Great Lakes and Atlantic by assailants, led by the valorous Iroquois, until they reached the southern Appalachian mountains, where they held all enemies at bay and created a neutral strip extending north to Ohio River, on which no tribe or war nor dared settle with impunity.

When the early missionaries came among the Cherokees, they were astonished at the similarity of the religious traditions of the Cherokees to the biblical accounts. In recounting the religious views of the Cherokees they stated that from time immemorial the tribe had been divided in sentiment. That while the greater part had been idolatrous, worshiping the sun, moon, stars and other gods; a small portion denied that system and taught that there were three beings above, who created all things and will judge all men. That hey fixed the time and manner of death. Their names were: U-ha-he-ta-qua the great head of all power; A-ta-no-ti and U-squa-hu-la. These three beings; were said to be always unanimous in thought and action and always will be. They sit on three white seats above and are the only objects to which worship and prayers should be directed. The Angels are their messengers and come down to earth to attend to the affairs of men.

They claimed that Yehowa was the name of a great king. He was a man and yet a spirit, a great and glorious being. His name was never to be spoken in common talk. This great king commanded them to rest every seventh day. They were told not to work on this day and that they should devote it to talking about God.1

Yehowa created the world in seven days at Nu-ta-te-qua or the first new moon of autumn, with the fruits all ripe.2 God made the first man of red clay and he was an Indian, and made woman of one of his ribs.3 All people were Indians or red people before the flood. They had preachers and prophets who taught the people to obey God and their parents. They warned the people of the approaching flood, but said that the world would only be destroyed by water once, and that later it would be destroyed by fire, when God would send a shower of pitch and then a shower of tire’ which would burn up everything. They also taught that after death the good and the bad would he separated, the good would take a path that would lead to happiness, where It would always be light, but the bad would be urged along another path which would lead to a deep chasm over which lay a pole with a dog at each end. They would be urged on to this pole and the dogs, by moving it, would throw |hem off into the gulf of fire beneath. But if they got over they would be transfixed with red hot bars of iron and thus be tormented forever.4

A little before the flood men grew worse and worse. At length God sent a messenger from above to warn the people of the flood unless they turned from their wickedness. God then told a man to make a house that would swim, take his family and some of the different kinds of animals into it.5 The rain commenced and continued for forty days and forty nights, while the water at the same time gushed out of the ground, so that as” much came up as came down from the clouds.6

The house was raised upon the waters and borne away. At length the man sent out a raven, and after some time, sent a dove, which came back with a leaf in her mouth. Soon after this the man found the house was resting on dry ground on the top of a mountain. This being in the spring of the year the family and all the animals left the house and the family descended to the bottom of the mountain and commenced their farming operations7.

The Cherokees detailed to the missionaries parallels to practically every one of the stories of the Bible. They called Abraham, Aquahami; Moses was called Wasi. These accounts were so circumstantial that many investigators were led to believe that the Cherokees were of Semitic origin. But it is palpable that they had been told these stories by Priber during his short stay among them and that they had forgotten their origin within seventy years and attributed it to legends that had descended from the mythical Kutani and their primal religion. On account of the fact that the Cherokees thought that the missionaries were bringing back to them their old religion, it was a comparatively easy task to convert them from a tribe of savages to a Christian nation within the comparatively short period of thirty years. When they were converted, they, at the behest of the missionaries cast aside every vestige of their ancient customs to such an extent that not any of their mythology has ever been preserved, even among those of the tribe that speak the Cherokee language preferably.

On May 10, 1540, De Soto, according to the historiographer, “a gentleman of Elvas,” entered the province of Chelaque, which was most probably one of the Underhill settlements, as the use of the sound of the letter ‘i” was universal with them in preference to the letter “r” which was occasionally used by the Overhills, notably in the word oochera in contradistinction to oocheta, as used by the Underhills. After traveling a northward course through their country he came to Xualla, probably Qualla, an 1 then turning westward the Spaniards traversed the entire Cherokee country, visiting Canasauga on the way.

In the decade of 1666-1676 an exploring party sent out from Appomattox by Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, came to some abandoned fields and settlements located on a river flowing to the westward when their Indian guides refused to proceed, alleging that not far away dwelt a powerful tribe that never suffered strangers who discovered their towns to return alive’. This was in the vicinity of the Cherokees, and was thought to allude to them.

Alexander Dougherty, a Virginia trader, was the first white man to marry a Cherokee, the date was 1690.2 The Cherokees in concert with the Muskogee towns of Alabama, Abekas and Conchartys were said to have been in league to attack the French in 1708 but probably did not do so.

Two hundred and eighteen Cherokees accompanied the colonists under Colonel Barnwell in 1712 in the subjugation of the Tuscaroras, an Iroquoian tribe that lived adjacent to and southeast of the Cherokees. Following the success of this expedition, the tribe then moved northward and joined the Iroquoian confederacy on the Great Lakes. Three years later the Cherokees joined the Yamassees, Appalachians and Creeks against the colonists, but they were defeated and the Yamassees and Appalachian tribes were destroyed.

In January 1716 the Cherokees killed the Frenchmen de Ramsey and de dongueie, the latter being a member of the illustrious de Moyne family that founded Biloxi and New Orleans and furnished the first two governors of Louisiana, both of whom were the paternal uncles of young de Lonsjueil whose father was Governor of Canada. In reprisal for the death of his son, the Governor induced the Iroquois to attack and burn two of the Cherokee towns.

The estimated population of the Cherokee country in 1715 was eleven thousand, in 1735 fifteen thousand. In 173 8 the ravages of smallpox which was a hitherto unknown disease with them, reduced their number by one half, later reports gave their population for 1875, 10,717; 1880, 21,920; 1890, 28,000; 1900, 32,376 and 1910, 38,300.

De Iberville established Biloxi as the capital of Louisiana in 1690, it was moved to Mobile in 1702, which was fortified nine years later, and was finally transferred to New Orleans in 17 18. Fort Toulouse, among the Creeks, Fort Rosalie among the Natchez and other fortified stations among the Chickasaws and Choctaws were established’ with the consent of those tribes by the French in 1714 or earlier, and four years later the ambitious promotions of Law threatened to found a formidable French colony in the lower Mississippi valley. Of all the tribes east of the great river only the Cherokees remained friendly to the English and in order to counteract the French influence. Governor Nichol-son of South Carolina concluded a treaty of peace and commerce with them in 172 1 by which their boundaries were defined. This was their first treaty with the whites.

In 1729, Sir Alexander Gumming, of England, was led, by a dream of his wife’s, to undertake a voyage to America with the object of visiting the Cherokees. He sailed on September 13th, arrived at Charlestown on December 5th, and on March 11, 1730 began his journey to the Cherokee country. At Keowee, three hundred miles from Charlestown and which was the first important location on the road, locally called the trace from Charlestown to the Cherokee nation, he met Ludovic Grant, a Scotch trader from Tellico, who had lived there since 1720, had married a Cherokee woman and spoke their language. He informed Grant that he wanted to visit the Cherokees and prevailed on him to accompany him on the trip. They stopped at the residence of Joseph Baker, a trader at Keowee and that evening attended a meeting of the headmen at the townhouse, where the Indians met every night. Sir Alexander made the first of his stereotyped addresses in which he stated “that he was one of the Great King George’s children but was not sent either by the Great King or any of his Governors – that he was no public person and only came for his own private satisfaction to see their country, and that he would drink the King’s health hoping that all persons would pledge him, which he accordingly did upon his knee desiring those present to follow his example He carried with him into the townhouse, his gun, cutlass and a pair of pistols; upon one of the traders telling him that the Indians never came there armed and that they did not like to see others do so, he answered, with a wild look, that his intention was, “if any of the Indians had refused the King’s health I would have taken a brand from out the fire, that burns in the middle of the room and set fire to the house. 1 would have guarded the door and put to death every one that endeavored to make his escape, so that they might have all been consumed in the flames.”‘

On the next morning he departed from Keowee on a trip of over one hundred and fifty miles into the center of the nation, during which time he never stopped for more than one night at a place. When any of the Cherokees met him, they would, as was their custom, shake hands with him, upon which he would take down their names in a note book, saying that he had made a “friend of him.”

Sir Alexander was told of the ceremonies that were used in making a “beloved man,” or ouka; of which there were many in the nation, the word was ordinarily translated into English as “king” and the cap of red or yellow dyed opossum skin was generally spoken of as a crown. When Sir Alexander arrived at Neguasse he expressed a desire to see one of the crowns and upon being shown one, requested that he be allowed to take it to England and present it to the King. In an article in the London Daily Journal of October 8, 1730 he made claims to have been made a chief of the tribe and that he was further allowed to name Mogtog of Tellico as their emperor. He told the Indians he would soon return to England and that if any of them would like to accompany him he would take them. Seven Cherokees signified their willingness to go, two of whom were Attacullaculla and Oconostota. They arrived at Charlestown on April 13, 1730 and on June 5th they landed at Dover, England, on the English man-of-war Fox. On the 22nd they were presented to the King. Sir Alexander laid the opossum skin “crown” at his feet and the Indians added four scalps and eagle tail feathers to the tribute. This audience developed the real reason of his activities which were to follow in, a degree, the machinations of Crozat and Law in France. Among his schemes, was one for paying off eighty millions of the national debt by settling three million Jewish families in the Cherokee mountains to cultivate the land, and for relieving the American colonies from taxation by establishing numerous banks and a local currency, but he could find no one who would take his scheme seriously. In a letter from South Carolina bearing date of June 12th and published in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal of September 16, 1830 Sir Alexander was accused of having defrauded the settlers out of large sums of money and other property by means of fictitious promissory notes. He did not answer these charges and his chimera collapsed. The Indian delegation was loaded with presents by the government and returned to Charlestown.

The Principal Chiefs of the Cherokees have been: 1736 Moytog; Attacullaculla, died 1778; Oconostota, died 1785; Tassel, killed in July 1788 Hanging Neaughe, Blackfox; Pathkiller; William Hicks, was chief for only one year, 1827; John Ross 1828 to 1866; William Potter Ross, Reverend Lewis Downing, William Potter Ross, Reverend Ochalata, Dennis Wolf Bushyhead, Joel Bryan Mayes. Thomas Mitchell Buffington, Colonel Johnson Harris.” Samuel Houston Mayes, Thomas Mitchell Buffington and William Charles Rogers. The Principal Chiefs of the Western Cherokees were, consecutively: John Bowles 1795-18 13; Takatoka 1813-1818; Tahlonteeskee, John Jolly, John Brown and John Rogers. The latter was deposed in 1839 and his valuable property at Grand Saline was confiscated by Chief John Ross. John Roger, was the grandfather of William Charles Rogers, the last Chief of the Cherokees.

Governor Glenn of South Carolina concluded a treaty with the Cherokees on November 24, 1855 by which that colony acquired five million five hundred twenty six thousand four hundred acres and the right to construct and garrison three forts in the Cherokee country, and soon afterwards the Govern-or built Fort Prince George within gunshot of Keowee and Fort Moore, one hundred and seventy miles further down on Keowee River. A treaty of alliance was made in 1756 between the Cherokees, Catawbas and North Carolina. During this year the Earl of London having been appointed commander in chief of the British forces in the American colonies, sent Major Andrew Lewis to build the third fort in the Cherokee nation. He located it on the Tennessee River within five miles of Echauta, the capital of the nation. The English translation of Echauta is “place of rest.” The English ordinarily spelled the name Chota. This fort was named London in honor of the Earl. It was garrisoned with two Scotch companies under Captains Paul Demere and John Stuart and was over one hundred and fifty miles from the nearest white settlement.

General Braddock marching to attack Fort Duquense with a well equipped army of more than two thousand regulars and the famous Virginia Militia was met in ambush on the Monongahela River by seventy-two French regulars, two hundred and fifty Canadian volunteers and six hundred thirty seven Indians under Captain Marie de Beauyeu and ingloriously defeated. The French had already ingratiated themselves with all of the western Indians except the Cherokees and the effect of Braddock’s defeat was to encourage the Indians to scour the frontier in large and small bodies, killing, burning and destroying. The tide of emigration that had for several years steadily flowed westward over the Alleghenies commenced to rapidly recede. During this time Colonel George Washington wrote to his former employer, Lord Fairfax, that three hundred and fifty wagons had crossed one ford of the Monocacy River, east-bound, within three days. Colonels William Byrd and Peter Randolph were deputed by the Colony of Virginia in November 1755 to treat with the Cherokees for their active cooperation; as Colonel George Washington expressed it “without Indians we will be unable to cope with the cruel foes of our country.’”

Major Andrew Lewis had led a company of Cherokees in an attack on the Shawnees, who were allies of the French and while on their return a party of them was entertained by a back settler in Augusta County, Virginia and when they had taken their leave, some of his friends, whom he had placed in ambush for that purpose, fired upon and killed several of them. Those who escaped arrived in their towns just as Byrd and Randolph were on the point of concluding their treaty. Great excitement ensued, and but for the devotion of Silonee and the wisdom and tact of Attacullaculla, the treaty would not only have been defeated, but the commissioners themselves would have been killed. Attacullaculla hastened to apprise the commissioners of their danger, warning them to stay within their tent, and on no account to appear abroad. Silonee saved the lives of the commissioners by standing in their tent door and telling a body of warriors that before they got to the commissioners they would have to kill him, as Colonel Byrd was his friend. In addressing the council Attacullaculla expressed the indignation that they all felt at the treachery of the Virginians and declared he would have full satisfaction for the blood of his countrymen. “Let us not, however” he added, “violate our faith, or the laws of hospitality, by imbruing our hands in the blood of those who are now in our power; they came to cement a perpetual alliance with us. Let us carry them back to their own settlement; conduct them safely to their confines; and then take up the hatchet and endeavor to exterminate the whole race of them.’” A treaty of alliance was finally concluded.

For three years the Cherokees adhered to their promise made in the treaty and defended the western frontier, rendered every aid possible to the settlers and when General Forbes assembled his levies to attack the French a large number of Cherokees joined him at Winchester. Virginia. Dr. John Forbes, a Scotch physician, who had been serving in the Canadian service as a lieutenant colonel was promoted to a brigadier generalship by James Abercromby, the new British commander in chief, early in 1758. General Forbes was a strict disciplinarian who profited much by correcting many of the military mistakes of Braddock. He was domineering, petulant and at that time in such bad health that he had to be carried on a litter, and died in March 1759. He did not understand the irregular but effective mode of warfare as practiced by his Cherokee allies and his irritable complaints and continuous insults, even to the magnanimous Attacullaculla, caused the Cherokees to quit his command on November l5, 1758, ten days before his reduction of Fort Duquesne. On the nineteenth the General ordered that they be intercepted, their horses, guns and ammunition be taken from them and if they protested they should be stripped of everything except their breech clouts and then escorted back to their nation, to prevent them from reprisals. Thus the only tribe that had been faithful allies of the English for the last thirty seven years, after having been driven from the army by the continuous petty insults of the commander, was offered this last indignity and this, by the orders of the general must be executed by Colonel Byrd whose life had been saved in 1755 by Attacullaculla, who was on this latter occasion the commander of the Cherokees.

In addition to this, the colonial Indian affairs of the army which was under the “control of Edmund Atkin, Indian Agent,”‘ were so badly managed that, instead of receiving the encouragement their services and bravery merited, they were met by what they considered injustice, neglect and contempt. At one time ten of them were imprisoned on suspicion of being spies in the French interest; another party, after having undergone the perils and privations of their long march, went into action in their destitute condition, behaved nobly and rendered valuable service to the colony; but on returning with their trophies of honor, found neither agent nor interpreter to reward or thank them; nor any one who could tell them why they were thus neglected. But for the intervention and kind treatment of Colonel George Washington, they must have returned to their nation, tired with just resentment, if not open war, against their allies.”‘

The Cherokees were attacked as they were returning from Forbes’ camp by some of the back settlers, the very same people that they had gratuitously protected, but the settlers did not discriminate between friendly Indians and enemy Indians, but set upon and killed twelve or more of the unsuspecting Cherokees, alleging that they had stolen some of their horses.

The young warriors clamored for war but the old chiefs persuaded them to wait until they had asked satisfaction from the colonies, in accordance with treaty stipulations. They sought reparation and satisfaction from Virginia, then North Carolina and afterwards South Carolina, but in vain. War, their only alternative, began. Among others, two soldiers of the garrison at Fort London, who were out hunting, were killed. Governor Lyttleton, of South Carolina mobilized the colonial militia in the vicinity of the Congarees to march against the Cherokees. Oconostota and thirty-one other chiefs visited the Governor at Charlestown in an attempt to settle affairs. He told them that he would make his demands known only when he had reached their country, and if they were not granted he would take satisfaction by force of arms; that they must follow his army back to the nation. Upon Oconostota arising to protest, the Governor forced him to be seated and would not allow him to utter a word. The chiefs were forced to march behind the army to the Congarees where they were made prisoners, taken to Fort Prince George and shut up in a room that was scarcely large enough for the accommodation of six persons.

The Governor’s military ire cooled in proportion to the distance that he got from Charlestown. When he arrived at Fort Prince George, he sent for Attacullaculla, the known friend of the English and upon that chief’s arrival he insolently demanded the twenty-four Cherokees who had been accused of killing whites. Attacullaculla promised to do whatever he could in their delivery and asked that some of the prisoners be freed so that they might assist in the endeavor. Oconostota and seven others were accordingly liberated and the others, although they had gone as peace envoys were detained.

Two of the Indians that had been demanded were brought in and ex-changed for two of the imprisoned chiefs; and an agreement was entered into on December 26, 1859 that the others would be delivered, but they had fled and could not be apprehended. Despairing of being able to rescue the prisoners by any other means Oconostota asked the commander of Fort Prince George for a conference and Captain Cotymore, Lieutenant Dogherty, Ensign Bill and their interpreter, Foster, met him on February 16, 1760, the parties being en opposite banks of the Savannah River. At a signal from Oconostota some warriors who had been hidden near him, fired and wounded all four of the party from the fort, the Captain being so severely wounded that he died two or three days later. The Indians stormed the fort but were re-pulsed and the twenty-two hostages were killed.

War with all of its dreaded consequences was now on, and the back settlers appealed in vain to Governor Nicholson. Colonel Montgomery, who was later Earl Eglington was dispatched from New York to Charlestown from whence he marched against the Cherokees raised the seige in May 1 760 that Oconostota was conducting against Fort Prince George, and on June 27, 1760, he destroyed Etchoe, which had been deserted by its inhabitants, but on account of the incessant attacks it became necessary for him to retreat and in doing so he had to destroy and abandon all of his surplus supplies in order to expedite his progress. He reached Charlestown and sailed for New York.’

At the same time that Oconostota attacked Fort Prince George, Willinawa threw a strong cordon around Fort London. Manned by two companies of Scotch highlanders, the Fort mounted twelve cannon and was amply sup-plied with ammunition. Runners were sent to Virginia and South Carolina, but the former was not able to reach their destination on account of the distance, and the defense of the latter was centered in the fleeing, harassed Montgomery, and when his forces were safely away. Oconostota assumed the command of the investment of Fort London. Courageous, active and vigilant, he had the unaccountable reputation of having never lost a man in battle? Rations became shorter and shorter, and despite the fact that the Cherokee wives of many of the soldiers dared death in taking food to their husbands, the garrison was soon reduced to horseflesh. In this extremity Captain Stuart, the junior commander, whose wife was Susannah Emory, the quarter blood ‘granddaughter of the Scotch trader Ludovic Grant, and who spoke the Cherokee language fluently, was known to them on account of his great shock of blond hair as Oonotota or Bushyhead asked for and had a conference with the Cherokee Chiefs at the townhouse of Etchauta, and agreed on the following articles of capitulation:

“That the garrison of Fort London march out with their arms and drums, each soldier having as much powder and ball as their officers shall think necessary for their march, and all the baggage they may choose to carry that the garrison be permitted lo march to Virginia or Fort Prince George, as the commanding officer may think proper, unmolested; and that a number of Indians be appointed to escort them, and hunt for provisions during their march; that such soldiers that are lame or by sickness disabled from marching, be received into the Indian towns and kindly used until they recover, and then be allowed to return to Fort Prince George; that the Indians do provide for the garrison as many horses as they conveniently can for their march, agreeing with the officers and soldiers for payment; that the fort, great guns, powder, ball and spare arms be delivered to the Indians without fraud or further delay, on the day appointed for the march of the troops.”

This agreement was signed by Captain Paul Demere representing the garrison and by Oconostota and Cunigacatgoae for the Indians.1

The Fort was evacuated on August 7, 1760, the garrison under the escort if Oconostota and Outacite started for Fort Prince George and encamped that evening on Tellico Plains after having travelled some fifteen miles. Noticing that his escort was gradually leaving him, Captain Demere posted sentries, who came in early in the morning and reported that Indians painted for war were quietly approaching in large numbers. Hardly had he formed his men when a volley was fired into their ranks, killing Captain Demere, three of his officers and about twenty-six men. The attack continued with war whoops and an incessant rattle of guns from all quarters. The rest of the men were either killed outright or captured and returned to Fort London. After the soldiers left, the Indians found that the British had, contrary to agreement, buried much of their powder and equipment. This breach of faith incensed them and was the primary reason for the Tellico Plains attack.

As soon as Attacullaculla heard that Captain Stuart had been returned to Fort London with the other prisoners, he hastened there and purchased him giving in exchange his arms and all of his clothing except his breech clout. He took his prisoner to Captain Demere’s house, which he had appropriated and entertained him. Oconostota was anxious to renew the investment of Fort Prince George and proposed that Captain Stuart be compelled to operate the artillery that they had captured, against the fort. Captain Stuart appealed to Attacullaculla to save him from this fratricidal position. The Chief stated that he was going on a hunt and that he intended taking his prisoner with him. As soon as they were safely in the northern hunting grounds and outside the Cherokee settlements they turned eastward to Virginia, where Attacullaculla delivered Captain Stuart to his friends and retraced his way to Fort London.

Attacullaculla was a small, slender man, distinguished as an orator and diplomat instead of being a great warrior. The word attacullaculla is translated as a pole or reed slightly stuck in the earth and leaning; or leaning stick

Captain John Stuart was born in Scotland in the early part of the eighteenth century and died at Pensacola, Florida, February 21, 1779.

The assembly of South Carolina tendered Captain Stuart a vote of thanks, together with a reward of 1500 pounds for his heroic defense of Fort London and he was later appointed British Superintendent of Indian Affairs South of the Ohio River.

Fort Prince George was strengthened. In January 176 1 Lieutenant Colonel James Grant, who had succeeded to the command of Colonel Montgomery’s Highland Scotch regiment arrived at Charlestown and went into winter quarters. By the accession of Provincial Militia, Choctaw and Chickasaw allies his command was brought up to twenty-six hundred men. They arrived at Fort Prince George on May 2 7, 1761, when they were met by Attacullaculla who plead the cause of his people and begged Colonel Grant to delay his march until he could return to the nation and attempt to bring about peace.

Colonel Grant refused to listen to him and started from Fort Prince George on June 7th. After a rapid march he reached a gap in the mountains, where he detailed Lieutenant Francis Marion, who later played such an important part in the revolution, with thirty men to reconnoiter. Scarcely had this advance force entered the gap before they were entiladed and twenty-one of the men fell at the first discharge. The battle lasted for about three hours with a loss of about sixty men killed on each side and the Cherokees were defeated. For a month more Colonel Grant devastated the middle Cherokee settlements, burned every habitation and destroyed all troops. Driven to distress the Cherokees made a treaty of peace with the South Carolinians in September 1761 and another with the Virginians on November o, 1 761 For fifteen years peace reigned in the Cherokee nation, but on May 9, 1776, circular letters were sent out by the British Superintendent, Stuart, to the Cherokees and Tories asking them to fall on and destroy the western American settlers. The Cherokees at first demurred but finally acceded to the wishes of King George, as they understood that he was the head of the English. It was hard for them to understand how one part of any people could fight others of their own nationality. But at last many of the young warriors listened to the persuasive Stuart, who had been their friend and agent for some ten years.

It was agreed to make a simultaneous attack on the western settlers. For this purpose the Cherokees were to furnish seven hundred warriors to be divided into three bodies. One of these under Dragging Canoe was to at-tack the Holston settlements, the second contingent under Abraham of Chilhowee was to destroy the Watuga settlements and Raven (Colonah) was to march against Carters Valley. The attack was to be made on the morning of July 21, 1776. But as soon as she was certain that the preparations were in earnest Mrs. Nancy Ward, the Ghigan or the beloved woman of the Cherokees, who was living at Chota dispatched William Thomas, a white trader and William Fawling, an eighth blood Cherokee and a son of Rim and Elizabeth ‘Emory) Fawling to apprise the settlers of their danger. Hastily assembling they were ready to meet the advance of the British allies which included warriors and Tories. The little army from the Holston settlement met Dragging Canoe’s contingent at Long Island on July 20, 1776 and after a short skirmish in which thirteen Cherokees were left dead on the field, Dragging Canoe withdrew his forces.

On the next morning at sunrise, Abraham attacked Fort Watauga, which was garrisoned by forty men under Captain James Robertson and Lieutenant John Seiver and this post was invested for twenty days but the Indians were finally compelled to retire. On account of the repulse of Dragging Canoe and Abraham and the further fact that he found the citizens of Carter’s Valley forted up. Raven failed to make the concerted attack.

“Upon the whole, the Indian invasion was a failure, owing to the timely warning of Nancy Ward, and the concentration of the inhabitants in forts built in consequence of the information she conveyed. If the well guarded secret of the Indian campaign had not been disclosed, and they had been permitted to steal upon the defenseless backwoodsmen, who, in fancied security, had remained scattered over the extensive frontiers, every soul of them would have been swept from the borders of Tennessee.’”

Isaac Thomas’ services were recognized and rewarded by the Virginia legislature. Mrs. William Bean, the mother of the first white child born in Tennessee, and Samuel Moore, a boy, were captured at the attack on Fort Watauga. They were taken back to the Cherokee nation where the boy was burned at the stake and a like punishment was being meted to Mrs. Bean, who was tied to a stake on the top of the mound that stood in the center of Etsauta, the fagots were piled around her and the frenzied savages were gloating; over their chance to also sacrifice their second. Defeat had whetted their remorseless appetites, but just as the torch was about to be applied, the Ghigan exercising her prerogatives approached the pyre, pronounced the pardon of Mrs. Bean, cut the strands that bound her and took her to her home, kept her until it was safe to send her under the escort of her brother Longfellow and her son Firekiller, to her home and husband. Chief Tassel said afterward that Moore was the only white person that was ever burned by the Cherokees.

In retaliation for the Cherokee attacks North Carolina sent twenty-four hundred men under Colonel Griffith Rutherford against the Cherokees, two hundred Georgians under Captain Jack, eighteen “hundred and sixty South Carolinians and two thousand Virginians under Colonel William Christian attacked and destroyed most of the nation; destroyed their crops, appropriated their property and burned fifty of their towns and reduced the people to dire destitution. Etsauta, the home of Attacullaculla and Ghigau was spared from destruction by Colonel Christian, the commander of the Virginia forces. A treaty of peace was concluded with the South Carolinians and Georgians ai De Witt’s Corner on May 20, 1777, and exactly two months later another with Virginia and North Carolina at Long Island of the Holston. By these two treaties they ceded five million two hundred sixty four thousand acres. Outacita, Young Tassel and Dragging Canoe did not attend either of these treaties and the latter chief withdrew with many implacable young warriors and established the five Chicamauga towns, east of the present city of Chattanooga. Dragging Canoe was at this time a stalwart, subtle and daring warrior of about twenty-four years of age. Outacita was at this time seventy-five years old, discontented, he moved to the Chicamauga settlements but on account of his age was not active in their affairs. Young Tassel was a half blood English-Cherokee who was later known as John Watts. He settled in the vicinity of the Chicamaugas, but did not join them. Chief Attacullaculla died in 1778 and was succeeded by Oconostota. The Chicamauga towns flourished and became the headquarters of the British authority south of the Ohio. The British agent Colonel Brown and subagent John McDonald were established there. McDonald’s store became the British commissary. Many warriors from that community prepared to join Governor Henry Hamilton in a general attack on the western frontier, but the Governor was arrested on February 25, 1779 by Colonel George Rogers Clark and the Chicamaugas decided to attack the Holston settlement, but in the meantime James Robertson who was located ac Etsauta as the first American Cherokee agent had ascertained their moves and with a force of five hundred men attacked and destroyed the eleven Chicamauga towns by way of the Tennessee. Among other property destroyed was one granary of twenty thousand bushels of corn. Upon hearing of this destruction the Cherokee warriors retraced their way to their devastated homes.

The lull that followed this destruction enabled the Transylvania troops to furnish many expert riflemen to the American forces at Kings Mountain, where the tide of war was changed in favor of the young republic. It also gave the Chicamaugas time to re-mobilize their forces for another general attack, but this was thwarted by a counter attack by Colonel John Sevier in the winter of 1780-81 in which he destroyed the Overhill towns and those on the Hiwassee River. In the summer of 1781 a treaty of peace was concluded with the Overhills. For a third time in three years the western settlements of the Cherokees were over run and ruined, this time by Colonel Sevier, in September, 1782.

Conditions were not any longer tenable for the impoverished Chicamaugas, within the Cherokee settlements, so they moved about forty-five miles westward and established the Five Lower towns of: Running Water, Chicamauga, Nickajack, Crow and Lookout Mountain, forming a strategic point for the assembling of Chicamaugas, Tories, Shawnees and Creeks. Oconostota resigned the Chieftaincy on account of old age in 1782 and was succeded by Tassel. Oconostota died in 1785. The English interpretation of his name was pounded ground hog, or popularly called “ground hog sausage.” Fifty-five years before his death he had, as a young chief, visited England, and for that reason was most probably born about the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The Lament of the Cherokee

By John Howard Payne, Author of Home, Sweet Home.

O, soft falls the dew, on the twilight descending.
And night over the distant forest is bending
And night over the distant forest is bending
Like the storm spirit, dark, o’er the tremulous main.
But midnight enshrouded my lone heart in its dwelling,
A tumult of woe in my bosom is swelling
And a tear unbefitting the warrior is telling
That hope has abandoned the brave Cherokee.
Can a tree that is torn from its root by the fountain.
The pride of the valley; green, spreading and fair.
Can it flourish, removed to the rock of the mountain,
Unwarmed by the sun and unwatered by care?
Though vesper be kind, her sweet dews in bestowing.
No life giving brook in its shadows is flowing.
And when the chill winds of the desert are blowing.
So droops the transplanted and lone Cherokee.
Sacred graves of my sires; and 1 left you forever?
How melted my heart when I bade you adieu;
Shall joy light the face of the Indian? Ah, never;
While memory sad has the power to renew.
As flies the fleet deer when the blood hound is started.
So fled winged hope from the poor broken hearted;
Oh, could she have turned ere forever departing.
And beckoned with smiles to her sad Cherokee.
Is it the low wind through the wet willows rushing.
That fills with wild numbers my listening ear?
Or is it some hermit rill in the solitude gushing,
The strange playing minstrel, whose music I hear?
‘Tis the voice of my father, slow, solemnly stealing,
I see his dim form by yon meteor, kneeling
To the God of the White Man. the Christian, appealing.
He prays for the foe of the dark Cherokee.
Great Spirit of Good, whose abode is in Heaven,
Whose wampum of peace is the bow in the sky,
Wilt thou give to the wants of the clamorous ravens,
Yet turn a deaf ear to my piteous cry?
O’er the ruins of home, o’er niv heart’s desolation:
No more shalt thou hear my unblest lamentation;
For death’s dark encounter, I make preparation;
He hears the last groan of the wild Cherokee.



MLA Source Citation:

Starr, Emmett. History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: The Warden Company. 1921 AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 14 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/cherokee-origin-and-religion.htm - Last updated on Apr 5th, 2013


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