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Chapter 11

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Indian Wars in North Carolina

E. Lawrence Lee

The Carolina Charter
Tercentenary Commission
Raleigh, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 13
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p81  Chapter XII

The Cherokee War; The End

On April 1, 1760, 1,200 British regulars arrived in Charles Town under the command of Colonel Archibald Montgomery. The addition of South Carolina troops and Indian scouts, including forty Catawba, increased the size of the force to about 1,700 men. At the head of this army Montgomery arrived among the Lower Cherokee towns on June 1st. His men marched the last sixty miles without sleep, caught the Indians by surprise and destroyed all their towns, including their granaries, orchards and cornfields. Between sixty and eighty natives were killed and forty captured. The balance fled for their lives to the woods and to the other Settlements. Montgomery lost only three or four killed and a few wounded. After his work of destruction he led his victorious but exhausted men on to Fort Prince George to rest.

Before continuing his campaign, Montgomery decided to offer the Cherokee an opportunity to end the war. An Indian messenger was sent to the Middle and Overhills Settlements and another to the Lower people to invite representatives to meet with him to discuss the terms of peace. The Overhills people were short of corn and those of the Middle Settlements were almost without ammunition. Both groups appeared to want peace but remembering the fate of the murdered hostages, they were afraid to place themselves at the mercy of the English. When none came to him, Montgomery made preparations to march against the Middle towns. He left Fort Prince George on June 24th, passed through Rabun Gap and continued on down the Little Tennessee River. He travelled through a wild country of dismal forests, rugged paths and narrow passes where the danger of  p82 ambush was always present. It was terrain over which wagons could not pass and so tents and all other equipment not absolutely essential were left behind. Food and other bulky baggage was carried by pack horses.

Montgomery's objective was Echoe, the nearest of the Middle Settlement towns. When he came within about five miles of this goal (and about eight miles of the present town of Franklin, North Carolina), he entered a valley covered with heavy undergrowth through which his men had to march. It was an ideal location for Indian style fighting and sensing the hidden danger that might lurk ahead, Montgomery sent a scouting party forward to investigate. As soon as the men entered the thicket, shots rang out from unseen foes and several of the scouts fell dead. Other troops quickly moved up and the battle had begun. The firing was heavy on both sides, but the English could only guess at the location of the enemy by the sounds of their guns and their war cries. These sounds, however, were sufficient to indicate that they were numerous and were determined.

Montgomery maneuvered his men in an effort to surround the enemy, but natives fell back and took possession of a nearby hill. The shooting continued, but each time the whites advanced the Indians faded back. When Montgomery realized that the natives had no intention of engaging him in pitched battle, he halted his advance and ordered his men to march into the Town of Echoe. The battle had last only an hour, and the English lost twenty men killed and seventy‑six wounded. The Indians lost an estimated fifty men.

From the field of battle the whites went into the Town of Echoe and burned it. There, too, Montgomery determined his future course of action. Virginia and North Carolina had not executed their part of the campaign by simultaneously attacking the Overhills Settlement and relieving Fort  p83 Loudon. His own army, Montgomery felt, could not reach the Overhills country, and he was not equipped to carry on the style of mobile fighting the Indians chose. His wounded was his biggest problem. They could not be carried forward in a continuing campaign, and he had no fortified place to shelter them. Neither could he spare a sufficient number of men to remain behind and protect them. The destruction of a few Indian villages seemed little compensation for the losses he could expect to suffer if he continued. His only choice was to return to Fort Prince George and this he did, arriving there in early July.

Montgomery remained at Fort Prince George for several weeks and then returned to Charles Town, leaving behind 200 men of the Royal Scots Battalion to help defend the frontier. His orders had been to strike an offensive blow against the Cherokee and then return to Canada where his services were needed. Believing that he had fulfilled his duty he soon sailed north amid protests and criticism. Some, including the Little Carpenter, thought he could have continued on into the Overhills Settlement and ended English opposition among the Cherokee. William Bull, who had succeeded Lyttleton as Governor of South Carolina, believed that Montgomery's inconclusive campaign and withdrawal left the colony in greater danger than ever. The confidence gained in standing up to the English would, he feared, lead the Cherokee to even greater violence than before.

Fear of renewed fighting spread across the Carolina frontier. There were alarms and reports of scattered killings, but the Indians were less active than had been expected. The Lower Cherokee had been rendered destitute. Within few months they had rebuilt their towns, but they were lacking in food. The Middle Cherokee were still without adequate ammunition. In mid‑August, Governor Bull learned that  p84 the two Settlements had held a joint meeting and had agreed on a desire for peace on the basis of mutual exchange of prisoners and the abandonment of Fort Prince George and Fort Loudon by the English. Whatever hope this report might have aroused in Bull faded a few days later when he received news that Fort Loudon had been surrendered to the Cherokee on August 8th.

After Montgomery's withdrawal, the Overhills Cherokee, with few exceptions, had shown less interest in peace than in seeking revenge against the English by the capture of Fort Loudon. Since the beginning of the war, the fort had been cut off from the outside world and without adequate food its garrison of almost 200 men had reached the point of starvation and despair. For this reason Captain Paul Demeré agreed to surrender the fort on condition that its occupants be escorted in safety to Virginia or to Fort Prince George. The day following the surrender, while enroute to Fort Prince George, the Indians turned on the whites, and when the shooting ended, had killed or mortally wounded thirty of them, including Captain Demeré. The survivors were held as captives. Captain Demeré and his companions were killed to provide satisfaction for the Cherokee hostages slaughtered at Fort Prince George. The deaths in excess of the number of hostages were not intended. After this act of vengeance and tribal honor, even the Overhills people showed little inclination to continued violence. In fact, it became increasingly clear that more and more members of the tribe desired peace.

The French had encouraged the Cherokee to go to war against the English by promises of plentiful trade goods, but they had not been able to keep the promise. For them, the intrigue was an act of desperation that came too late for more than a slight hope of success. Even this hope faded in  p85 September, 1760, when Canada was surrendered to the English at Montreal. By that time, or soon thereafter, the Lower and Middle Cherokee were in great need of clothing and food. Near the end of the year, representatives of several towns in the two Settlements came to Fort Prince George and pleaded for their people:

That they are tired of war; that they love the English, and want peace; that they cannot do without the English, and want traders with goods as usual to come among them; that the French are too far off, and cannot supply them; that therefore they have now none.

The following spring, the headmen of numerous towns came to Fort Prince George and requested peace, explaining that "they should be totally ruined were they prevented from planting this season." The Overhills people, because of their location beyond the mountains, had fared somewhat better in French trade, but even they became disillusioned with their new white allies. By the spring of 1761, they were receiving little more than ammunition and not enough of that. Most of them were reported as favoring peace and Oconostata, the Great Warrior of Chote who had been the principal leader in the war, expressed his willingness to leave the choice of war or peace up to the Little Carpenter, who had remained a friend to the English.

From the beginning of 1761, the South Carolina government took advantage of the need of the Cherokee and sent a large quantity of non‑military goods to Fort Prince George to be exchanged for the many white captives held by the Indians. By the end of May, the freedom of 115 prisoners had been gained in this manner. At the same time, though, the South Carolinians prepared to strike a decisive blow against the Cherokee and dictate the terms of peace in the heart of their own country. Again the plan was for the British regulars to join the South Carolinians in attacking  p86 the Middle and Lower people while Virginia and North Carolina troops attacked the Overhills Settlement.

In early January, 1761, 1,200 British regulars arrived in Charles Town under Lieutenant Colonel James Grant who had served under Montgomery the previous year. He was joined by about the same number of South Carolinians and assorted Indian scouts, including twenty Catawba under King Haigler. After careful preparations, Grant and his army of more than 2,500 men arrived at Fort Prince George near the end of May. There, he was met by the Little Carpenter who pleaded for time to go to the Overhills towns and attempt to arrange for peace before the whites struck. Grant gave him little encouragement and continued with his plans to march against the Middle Settlement.

On June 7, 1761, Grant led his army out of Fort Prince George and proceeded along the same route followed by Montgomery the year before. Also like Montgomery, his army carried only the most essential equipment and supplies, and by forced marches he led it safely throughout two narrow and dangerous mountain passes. On the fourth day, June 10th, he finally met the enemy as the army moved down the Little Tennessee, with the river on one side and hill on the other. The location was only two miles from Montgomery's field of battle. Caught in a sharp through irregular crossfire from the hill and the opposite bank of the river, the whites were in a dangerous position. Not the least problem was an enemy that appeared, disappeared and reappeared at unexpected places. The battle began at eight in the morning and continued until eleven when the Indians broke and retreated. They were pursued but by early afternoon had disappeared for the last time and the battle was over. Fortunately for the English, the Indians were short of ammunition which explains the irregular nature of their fire  p87 during the battle as well as their retreat. Had they possessed a more adequate supply along with their strategic position the outcome might have been far bloodier, or even reversed. Grant's casualties included about ten killed and fifty wounded. The Cherokee losses were no more, and were probably less.

After the fighting ended, Grant led his army into the Town of Echoe which had been rebuilt and where he established a base of operations. Leaving his wounded there along with his supplies under the protection of a guard of 1,000 men, he proceeded through each of the fifteen Middle towns which he destroyed along with more than 1,400 acres of corn and other crops. The Indians sought safety in the recesses of the mountains and offered no further resistance. This work of destruction required almost a month and it was not until July 9th that Grant and his men arrived back at Fort Prince George.

North Carolina and Virginia disappointed Grant as they had Montgomery the year before by not attacking the Overhills Settlement. In 1760, several militia companies patrolled the North Carolina frontier which suffered some Indian violence, but the colony raised no troops to go against the Cherokee until after the Montgomery battle. They were raised then only because of fear that Creeks would join in the war against the English. The fear never became a reality, and the troops were disbanded in December.

Virginia's military activity in 1760 was also confined to defense. In 1761, a large body of Virginians was raised to march against the Overhills people, but Grant's campaign against the Middle Settlement had been completed before they arrived at Stalnaker's Plantation, a short distance from the Long Island of the Holston River (present‑day Kingsport, Tennessee). There they remained and Colonel William  p88 Byrd, their commanding officer, made no effort to lead them against the Cherokee. In October, about 400 North Carolinians and a few Tuscarora warriors joined the Virginians, by that time under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Adam Stephen who had succeeded Byrd. The combined forces moved on to the Long Island where, on November 17th, information was received that South Carolina had negotiated a preliminary treaty of peace with the Cherokee. The North Carolinians then returned home and were disbanded. The Virginians remained until the final treaty was signed and peace was assured. By their proximity, the forces of North Carolina and Virginia may have encouraged the Overhills leaders to enter into the peace agreement but otherwise both colonies played only a defensive role in the Cherokee War.

After returning from his destruction of the Middle towns, Grant waited at the Fort Prince George for the Cherokee to come in to plead for peace. The Lower Cherokee were still in need and the Middle Cherokee were in even greater distress. There was little reason to fear that either group would continue the conflict. The Overhills people had not suffered invasion, but they had become disillusioned with the French who had failed to come to their aid, and they were tired of the war they knew they could not win. When they received an invitation from Grant to send representatives to discuss peace, they were receptive but the principal war leaders were afraid to go to the English. As a result, the Little Carpenter was authorized to negotiate peace for the entire Nation. Grant presented the Little Carpenter with a set of demands that had been furnished him by Governor Bull before he left Charles Town. With some revisions, a preliminary treaty was signed on September 23rd and the final and binding treaty was signed on December 17th. Though negotiated  p89 by the South Carolina government, the treaty was also made in the name of all the other English colonies, especially North Carolina and Virginia.

By the more important terms of the treaty, the Cherokee recognized the superiority of the English arms; prisoners were to be exchanged; trade was to be restored and 40‑Mile River (the distance from the Lower towns) was designated as the dividing line between the Cherokee and the English. No white was to settle or even hunt to the west of that stream and no Cherokee was to cross east of it for any purpose unless in the company of a white or with permission of the South Carolina government. The most important provision of all was the one that restored peace and ended the Cherokee War.

By the end of the war, England had already won the French and Indian War. However, the formal treaty closing the conflict (along with the Seven Years' War, fought simultaneously in Europe and elsewhere) was not signed until February 10, 1763. Except for two small islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the city and island of New Orleans, all North American French possessions east of the Mississippi were surrendered to the English. New Orleans and French territory west of the Mississippi were surrendered to Spain, her ally in the late months of the war. Spain, in turn, surrendered Florida to the English.

The English government realized that encroachment of English settlers on Indian hunting grounds had been the principal reason why the former native allies had turned against them in the recent war. It also realized that England's undisputed control of the area east of the Mississippi would create fear among the natives that such encroachment would continue. This belief was confirmed in May, 1763, when Indian warfare again broke out with Pontiac's Conspiracy.  p90 Pontiac was an Ottawa chieftain who resented unfair treatment by English traders and who was convinced that the Indians could continue to hold their land only by war. The result was his plan for all the Indian tribes from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico to turn against the English. Pontiac was encouraged to begin his uprising by French traders who deceived him with false promises that a large French army would come to his aid. The help never arrived and the conflict collapsed the following year with the defeat of the Indians.

Fortunately, the southern Indians failed to join in the plot and the war was confined to the north of the Ohio River. In October, 1763, to assure the Indians they need not fear the loss of their land, the English government issued a proclamation forbidding grants west of the headwaters of all streams flowing into the Atlantic. This Proclamation Line, in effect, guaranteed to the Indians the continued possession of their lands to the west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The following month at Augusta, Georgia, representatives of the principal southern tribes, the Catawba, Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw and Chickasaw, met with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss various problems, especially those concerning land and trade. The result was a more substantial basis for understanding and continued peace.

Page updated: 4 Jan 15