What was the Anglo-Cherokee War (1758-1761)?

Introduction

The Anglo-Cherokee War (1758 t o1761; in the Cherokee language: the “war with those in the red coats” or “War with the English”), was also known from the Anglo-European perspective as the Cherokee War, the Cherokee Uprising, or the Cherokee Rebellion. The war was a conflict between British forces in North America and Cherokee bands during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

The British and the Cherokee had been allies at the start of the war, but each party had suspected the other of betrayals. Tensions between British-American settlers and Cherokee warriors of towns that the pioneers encroached on, increased during the 1750s, culminating in open hostilities in 1758.

Not to be confused with the Cherokee-American Wars (1763-1794).

Background

Refer to the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).

After siding with the Province of Carolina in the Tuscarora War of 1711-1715, the Cherokee had turned on their British allies at the outbreak of the Yamasee War of 1715-1717. Midway through the war, they switched sides and allied again with the British, ensuring the defeat of the Yamasee. The Cherokee remained allies of the British until the French and Indian War.

At the 1754 outbreak of the war, Cherokee warriors took part in British campaigns against the French Fort Duquesne (at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and the Shawnee of the Ohio Country. In 1755, a band of Cherokee 130-strong under Ostenaco (or Ustanakwa) of Tamali (Tomotley) became the garrison in a fortified town at the mouth of the Ohio River at the behest of the Iroquois League (most of these Six Nations were also British allies).

For several years, French agents from Fort Toulouse had been visiting the Overhill Cherokee on the Hiwassee and Tellico rivers, and had made inroads into those places. The strongest pro-French Cherokee leaders were Mankiller (Utsidihi) of Talikwa (Tellico Plains), Old Caesar of Chatuga (or Tsatugi, Chatooga), and Raven (Kalanu) of Ayuhwasi (Hiwassee). The “First Beloved Man” (or Uku) of the nation, Conocotocko (called “Old Hop”), was very pro-French, as was his nephew, Conockotocko (“Standing Turkey”), who succeeded him after the death of the elder man in 1760.

The former site of the Coosa chiefdom had been abandoned for some time. It was reoccupied in 1759 by a Muscogee contingent under Big Mortar (Yayatustanage) in support of the pro-French Cherokee then residing in Great Tellico and Chatuga. This was a step toward Yayatustanage’s planned alliance of Muscogee, Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Catawba peoples (which would have been the first of its kind in the South). Although such an alliance was not organised until the days of Dragging Canoe, Big Mortar still rose to become leading chief of Muscogee bands after the French and Indian War.

Early Stages

The Anglo-Cherokee War broke out in 1758 when Virginia militia attacked Moytoy (Amo-adawehi) of Citico in retaliation for the alleged theft of some horses by the Cherokee. Moytoy led retaliatory raids against colonial towns along the Yadkin and Catawba rivers in North Carolina. This began rounds of retaliation. After the British murdered 23 Cherokee hostages at Fort Prince George near Keowee, the Cherokee massacred the British garrison of Fort Loudoun near Chota (Itsati).

This conflict did not end until 1761. The Cherokee were led by Aganstata of Chota, Attakullakulla (Atagulgalu) of Tanasi, Ostenaco of Tomotley, Wauhatchie (Wayatsi) of the Lower Towns, and Round O of the Middle Towns.

During the second year of the French and Indian War, the British had sought Cherokee assistance against the French and their Indian allies.

The English had reports, which proved accurate, that indicated the French were planning to build forts in Cherokee territory. (They had already built Fort Charleville at Great Salt Lick (now Nashville) on the Cumberland River); Fort Toulouse, near present-day Montgomery, Alabama; Fort Rosalie at Natchez, Mississippi; Fort St. Pierre at modern-day Yazoo City, Mississippi; and Fort Tombeckbe on the Tombigbee River), extending their reach from some of their colonial settlements along the Gulf Coast.

Once the Cherokee agreed to be their allies, the British hastened to build forts of their own in Cherokee lands, completing Fort Prince George near Keowee in South Carolina (among the Lower Towns); and Fort Loudoun (near Chota at the mouth of the Tellico River) in 1756. Once the forts were built, the Cherokee raised close to 700 warriors to fight in western Colony of Virginia under Ostenaco. Oconostota and Attakullakulla led another large group to attack Fort Toulouse.

In 1758, the Cherokee participated in the taking of Fort Duquesne at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers (present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). However, they felt their efforts were unappreciated. While traveling through Virginia, on their way home, several Cherokee were murdered by Virginians. The Cherokee had been promised supplies, but misunderstood where they were to get them from. After the Cherokee took some horses they believed were rightly theirs, several Virginians killed and scalped between 30 and 40 of the Cherokee warriors. Later, the Virginians claimed bounties for the scalps, saying they were Shawnee.

The War

While some Cherokee leaders still called for peace, others led retaliatory raids on outlying English pioneer settlements. The Cherokee finally declared open war against the British in 1759. A number of Muskogee under Big Mortar moved up to Coosawatie. These people had long been French allies in support of the Cherokee pro-French faction centred in Great Tellico.

The governor of South Carolina, William Henry Lyttelton, embargoed all gunpowder shipments to the Cherokee and raised an army of 1,100 men which marched to confront the Lower Towns of the Cherokee. Desperate for ammunition for their fall and winter hunts, the nation sent a delegation of moderate chiefs to negotiate. The twenty-nine chiefs were taken prisoner as hostages and sent to Fort Prince George, escorted by the provincial army. Lyttleton thought this would ensure peace.

Governor Lyttleton returned to Charleston, but the Cherokee were still angry, and continued to attack frontier settlements into 1760. In February 1760, they attacked Fort Prince George in an attempt to rescue their hostages. The fort’s commander was killed. His replacement massacred all of the hostages and fended off the attack. The Cherokee also attacked Fort Ninety Six, but it withstood the siege.

The Cherokee expanded their retaliatory campaign into North Carolina, as far east as modern day Winston-Salem. An attack on Fort Dobbs in North Carolina was repulsed by General Hugh Waddell. However, lesser settlements in the North and South Carolina back-country quickly fell to Cherokee raids.

Governor Lyttleton appealed for help to Jeffery Amherst, the British commander in North America. Amherst sent Archibald Montgomerie with an army of 1,200 troops (the Royal Scots and Montgomerie’s Highlanders) to South Carolina. Montgomerie’s campaign razed some of the Cherokee Lower Towns, including Keowee. It ended with a defeat at Echoee (Itseyi) Pass when Montgomerie tried to enter the Middle Towns territory. Later in 1760, the Overhill Cherokee defeated the British colonists at Fort Loudoun and took it over.

In 1761, Montgomerie was replaced by British army officer James Grant. He led an army of 2,600 men (the largest force to enter the southern Appalachians to date) against the Cherokee. His army moved through the Lower Towns, defeated the Cherokee at Echoee Pass, and proceeded to raze about 15 Middle Towns while burning fields of crops along the way.

Treaties

In November 1761, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston with the Colony of Virginia. They made peace with South Carolina the following year in the Treaty of Charlestown. During the Timberlake Expedition, Lieutenant Henry Timberlake, Sergeant Thomas Sumter, John McCormack (who served as their interpreter), and an unknown servant travelled into the Overhill settlements area to deliver a copy of the treaty with Virginia to the Cherokee. Timberlake’s diary and map of his journey (see above), were published in 1765. His diary contained what historians assessed was an accurate description of Cherokee culture.

Pro-French leader, Standing Turkey, was deposed and replaced as “First Beloved Man” with the pro-British Attakullakulla. John Stuart became British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern District, based out of Charlestown, South Carolina, and was the main liaison between the Cherokee and the British government. His first deputy, Alexander Cameron, lived among the Cherokee, first at Keowee, then at Toqua on the Little Tennessee River, while his second deputy, John McDonald, resided a hundred miles to the southwest on the west side of Chickamauga Creek where it was crossed by the Great Indian Warpath.

During the war, a number of Cherokee towns had been destroyed under General Grant and were never reoccupied. The most notable of these was Kituwa, the inhabitants of which migrated west, taking up residence at Great Island Town (on the Little Tennessee), living among the Overhill Cherokee. As a result of the war, Cherokee warrior strength estimated at 2,590 before the war in 1755 was now reduced by battle, smallpox and starvation to 2,300.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of the war, French Louisiana east of the Mississippi went to the British, along with Canada, while Louisiana west of the Mississippi went to Spain; in return, Spanish Florida went to Britain, which divided it into East Florida and West Florida.

After the signing of the treaties and the conclusion of the Timberlake Expedition, Henry Timberlake visited London with three Cherokee leaders: Ostenaco, Standing Turkey, and Wood Pigeon (Ata-wayi). The Cherokee guests visited the Tower of London, met the playwright Oliver Goldsmith, drew massive crowds, and had an audience with King George III. On the voyage to England, their interpreter, William Shorey, died. This made communication nearly impossible.

Hearing of the Cherokees’ warm welcome in London, South Carolinians viewed their reception as a sign of imperial favouritism at the colonists’ expense, especially in view of the Royal Proclamation of 1763 (which prohibited settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains), and was a foundation of one of the major irritants for the colonials leading up to the American Revolution.

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