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Colonization of Georgia
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.
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Intrigues Of The Reverend Thomas Bosomworth
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.
Cherokee War Of 1759
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.
Capitulation At Fort Loudon
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. ”
Campaign Of Colonel Grant
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.”
Complete Reduction Of The Cherokees
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.