In 1957 University of Georgia archaeologists, under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Caldwell, were working on several archaeological sites on the tributaries of the Savannah River that were to be flooded by Lake Hartwell. The best known of these town sites are Tugaloo and Chauga. Because they were last occupied by Lower Cherokees in the early 1700s, the archaeologists assumed that excavation of their mounds would prove that the Cherokees built all the mounds in the Southern Highlands.
The archaeologists were shocked to find that the Cherokee occupation of both sites was very brief and much smaller than the ancestors of the Creeks, who had actually built the mounds. The town had been burned and then abandoned by the Creeks. Because radiocarbon dates for the oldest Cherokee occupation averaged in the 1720s, Dr. Caldwell publicly stated that the Cherokees could have captured the town any earlier than 1700 AD. Particularly puzzling to him was the widespread presence of “Lameroid” pottery, which was typical of Georgia Creek towns in the early 1700s, just before they switched entirely to cooking in British-made iron pots.
Despite the published archaeological report, still on file with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State of Georgia erected historical markers on Lake Hartwell in the 1960s stating that Tugaloo was Georgia’s oldest Cherokee town and dated back to the 1400s. Caldwell’s tests showed that the site was occupied at least as early as the 20 BC by ancestors of the Creeks.
The conflict between professional archaeological work, professionally researched history and the popular history portrayed in most publications makes the task of discerning the factual history of the Southeastern United States in the early 1700s very difficult. The contradictions between folklore and incomplete archival evidence put much interpretation in the range of probability, not fact.
In 1711 the northern and southern branches of the Tuscaroras went on the war path in response to repeated abuses by North Carolina settlers, most of whom were Moravians. The Europeans treated the native peoples in the North Carolina Piedmont and Coastal Plain as sub-humans. They stole land at will and regularly raided villages to obtain Native American slaves.
Undoubtedly French officials in Mobile were overjoyed with Tuscarora uprising, but there is no known record of French agents making direct contact with indigenous peoples that far to the east. However, the Tuscarora strategy exactly matched the battle plan of Pierre Le Moyne, described in Part Three of this series.
The Tuscarora attacks almost wiped out the North Carolina colonists. Initially, hundreds of Europeans, including the famous explorer, John Lawson, were killed. However, the remnants of the European population obtained substantial assistance from the Colony of South Carolina’s militia, plus the Catawba and Chorakee (Lower Cherokee) Alliances. The Native American allies probably outnumbered the militia. As a result, almost a thousand Tuscarora adults were killed and about 2,000 women and children were marched in chains to the coast to be sold as slaves.
An excellent example of the contradictions between historical archives and popular history can be found in the Cherokee-Yuchi War in 1714. Most contemporary history books state that Indian traders Eleazer Wiggan and Alexander Long sold firearms to the Cherokees in Tennessee and agreed to buy all slaves captured, if the Cherokees would attack Yuchi towns along the Hiwassee River. The South Carolinians were seeking revenge because a Yuchi man in the town of Chestowee had cut off Wiggan’s ear after being caught cheating the Yuchi. Most texts place the location of “Chestowee” on the Hiwassee River in Tennessee. Several Yuchi towns, including were supposedly destroyed and the survivors were marched off into slavery in South Carolina. According to Official Cherokee history, the Cherokees conquered all of southeastern Tennessee in 1714.
There are several aspects of this long accepted story that are not fully factual. The Chorakees (Lower Cherokees) already had some firearms. They used them against the Tuscarora. Furthermore, British maps did not even use the word “Cherokee” until 1725. French maps of the period show eastern Tennessee being occupied by several bands of Yuchi (Hogeloge, Tongoria, Settico, etc.) several branches of the Creeks, and in the northeastern tip, the Rickohockens. The French did not label northeastern Tennessee as being “Charaqui” until 1718. The French were much more knowledgeable about the interior than Great Britain.
In 1713, there was a French fort and trading post on Hiwassee Island near the Hogeloge (Yuchi) towns that were supposedly destroyed. The Hogeloge in Tennessee were apparently French allies at the time, so were subject to being enslaved. However, they were also near a French garrison and under their protection. It is far more likely that an isolated Yuchi town, named Chestua, at the headwaters of the Nottley River in northeastern Georgia, was the one attacked by the Chorakees. It was much closer to the Chorakee towns, allied with the British.
The Yamasee War
An important fact of which few are aware is that originally, the core of the Lower Cherokees, the Tamatlis, Keowahs and Okonees were ethnically the same people as the Yamasee. They were Itsati Creeks! Tamasee was the principal town of their alliance. The word Tamsee means “offspring (satellite villages) of Tama.” The most important member of the Yamasee Alliance was the Province of Tama on the Altamaha and Lower Ocmulgee Rivers.
The official version of history states that the Ochese Creeks or the Yamasee Alliance of the Georgia Coastal Plain persuaded all of the tribes in the Southeast to rise up against South Carolina in 1715. Their grievances of most tribes were much the same as those of the Tuscarora, although those farther away from South Carolina had no problems with settlers stealing their land. However, the Yamasee had killed off most of the deer in their territory, while piling up large debts with traders. Some traders were raiding Yamasee villages to abduct teenagers and wives to sell into slavery in order to recover their debts.
Although rumors of a pending Indian war had been circulating for months, the official starting date was April 14, 1715. This is when the Yamasee tortured and killed most members of a peace delegation sent from Charleston to quell unrest. The initial attacks from the Yamasee, some South Carolina tribes, and some Cherokee bands, swept the back country of South Carolina of plantations and European farmsteads. The survivors fled to the walls of Charleston for protection. However, foods supplies were low. If the Southeastern tribes had laid siege to Charleston, the occupants would have soon starved.
All of the Yamasee warriors and most of the small tribes in South Carolina were initially involved with the uprising, but the major threat to British colonists came from the Ochese Creeks, Apalachicola Creeks, Upper Creeks, Cherokee, Savano, Apalachee, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. No mention of the Yuchi being involved survives. In coordinated ambushes around the Southeast these tribes killed any British traders in their midst. Neither the French colonists, not traders from Virginia, were not attacked.
The British colonial militia was at its best in open fields in conventional European battle formations. The Yamasee quickly learned that they would lose many men in such confrontations. Combined Catawba and Cherokee war parties massacred settlers in the Upcountry. When a 90 man cavalry unit under Colonial Thomas Barker was dispatched to drive out the Catawbas and Cherokees, it was ambushed and completely wiped out.
In May the Lower Cherokees went home, because they heard rumors that a militia unit was headed toward their villages. In June the Catawba were soundly defeated by a militia army commanded by Col. George Chicken. In July the Catawbas sued for peace and joined the British side. During the remainder of 1715, the war consisted of scattered surprise attacks on British settlers and militia units. None of the large Southeastern tribes sent armies to attack Charleston. The Cherokees were bitterly divided as to whether they should continue attacking the British, become neutral or join the British side.
In January of 1716 the Lower Cherokees invited the leaders of many Muskogee and Itsati (Hitchiti) provinces to a diplomatic conference in Tugaloo, which was located near where the Tugaloo River joins the Keowee River to form the Savannah. The purpose of the conference was to determine what joint action the two alliances should take. This is where there are conflicting details. Supposedly a Cherokee conjurer summoned the demonic spirits that inhabited the sacred fire in the Tugaloo council house. He told other Cherokee leaders that the spirits told him to kill the Creek leaders and join the British side. The Cherokees would become very powerful as a result.
All of the Creek mikkos were killed. Taskimikko (war leaders) could not have attended such a conference. Official South Carolina history remembers their number as being 11 or 12. Creek historians remember the number murdered as 32. Forty years later 32 Cherokee leaders would be assassinated to end the war that resulted from this treachery. The Tugaloo Massacre started the Creek-Cherokee War that would last until 1754, when all of the Georgia and Valley Cherokee towns were destroyed by an army from the Creek town of Koweta.
Suddenly leaderless, the provinces of the Muskogee confederacy did not send armies to attack Charleston. The bloodshed continued throughout 1716, but the Yamasee and other South Carolina tribes were suffering increasingly severe losses. When South Carolina militia attacked a village, they either killed or enslaved all its occupants. Most of Muskogean tribes and provinces had signed peace treaties with South Carolina by the end of 1717, but the Apalachicola Creeks and Yamasee continued to attack isolated plantations and settlements throughout much of the 1720s.
Probable French involvement
France claimed South Carolina from 1562 until 1763. Pierre Le Moyne’s “Project Sur de Carolina” was a military campaign specifically designed to make South Carolina French territory. (See Part III.) The alliance of tribes and towns in northeastern Tennessee (later called the Overhills Cherokees) were generally opposed to fighting the British. They were supplied primarily by Virginia traders and wanted to expand into southeastern Tennessee, which was occupied by Yuchi and Muskogeans, allied with France. The Lower Cherokees, who were originally Keowah, Tamatli and Okonee Creeks wanted to be allied with the other Muskogeans.
Modern historians generally assume that the Lower Cherokees were always at war with the Creek provinces in Georgia. There is no evidence of this. They would have been hostile perhaps to the aggressive Muskogees, but before intermarrying with the Overhills Cherokees they were essentially the same people, who occupied most of Georgia western South Carolina. However, the treachery at Tugaloo created an “Iron Curtain” between the Lower Cherokees and the Creeks, which would not end until the Lower Cherokees essentially ceased to exist in 1757. The small village with Rickohocken style round huts may not be Lower Cherokee, but rather represent Yuchi’s or Middle Cherokees who resettled Tugaloo after it was destroyed in the Creek-Cherokee War.
The French-Natchez War and the founding of Fort Toulouse on the Alabama River by the French, will be discussed in Part Five.