This campaign against the Cherokee was the result of the Cherokee Nation going to war for King George against the Patriots of the South. On July 1st, 1776 the Cherokee Nation in an attempt to coordinate with the British attack in Charlestown launched a campaign against the settlers along the Cherokee boarder in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. This attempt to coordinate with General Clinton on Long Island was designed to help the British regain control of South for the crown. The main problem with this use of the Cherokee Nation as an instrument of war against the rebels was that they could not or would not, discriminate against whom they attacked, be it Patriot or Loyalist when this Pandora’s Box of war was unleashed on the weakly defended frontier. This unleashing of the Cherokee Nation brought about the typical horrors of war to all those who were touched by it.
Before we go into the events of this campaign, we must first understand the reasons that caused the Cherokee Nation to take up arms for King George. Cherokee warriors fighting against the English settlers was not a new concept, they had fought that at several different times in the history of the British Colony. The most influential fighting happened during the French and Indian War when the Colonist and British troops defeated the Cherokee Nation and forced them to sign a peace treaty in 1761 ending the conflict between the Cherokee and the British while the war continued on in other parts of the World. The treaty of 1761 guaranteed the Cherokee their land boundaries and that they would be treated fairly in commerce. To ensure the Cherokee were treated fairly the British Government appointed Indian Agents to help make sure all of the treaty agreements were up held and so that the Cherokee would have a person they knew to voice concerns and complaints to. As long as these agents did their job fairly, peace would flourish along the frontier.
However ever as the years passed more and more people began to more closer and closer to the Cherokee boarder as the settlements of the Midlands of South Carolina continued to flourish and grow through trade and agriculture. The growth of the Midland was a result of the Rice and Indigo gentry of the Low Country of South Carolina trying to create a buffer zone between the Cherokee Nation and their highly profitable enterprises along the coast. The Royal Government of South Carolina gave land grants and farming tools to those who agreed to develop this wilderness between the coast and the Cherokee. As a result of these land grants, people from Pennsylvania and Virginia in North American and Ulster, the Principalities of Germany, Sweden, and other Western European countries traveled by foot, wagon, horse, and boat to get to these advertised fertile lands. This land grant program was so successful that communities began to spring up all along the frontier of South Carolina in such areas as Camden, Fairfield, New Acquisition, Williamsburg, Ninety Six, Waxhaws, Spartan, Saxe-Gotha, Orangeburg, and others. As these communities began to grow and as more people continued to come, settlers started to move father and further up the Cherokee trail from Charlestown to the Cherokees land in order to get their share of the land grants. As a result of this movement of settlers towards their lands the Cherokee began to rely more and more on the King’s Indian Agents to help control the perceived threat that was inching closer and closer to them each day. Thus a true bond was formed between themselves and their protector the King, through the Indian Agent.
Fortunately for the Crown, an Indian Agent for whom the Cherokee had total trust in was a very loyal subject from Scotland, named Captain John Stuart.
As the South Carolinas began to move closer and closer to war with the mother country in 1775 they knew that Captain Stuart was the key to the Cherokee threat on their frontier. His influence within the Cherokee high councils was well know and that he could either help pacify the Cherokee for the Patriots or send them to war against them was on their minds in dealing with Stuart. The Patriots did not want to fight a two front war against Britain and the Cherokee at the same time for obvious reasons. To this end the local radicals began to undoubtedly pressure him to either join their cause or to be dealt with to ensure the Cherokee would not interfere with their plans. With the pressure of these radicals beginning to weigh on him and with the Royal Government of South Carolina in exile on board a ship in the harbor, he left Charlestown and his family for the safer haven of the British Florida Colonies to continue his work and communications with the Cherokee.
At the end of the French and Indian War Spain ceded Florida and France ceded Florida and other territories on the Gulf Coast to England. With this being such a large area England decided to divide the colony of Florida into two parts with the addition of the other territories to form two colonies. The colony that comprised much of Florida except for the panhandle was names East Florida with Saint Augustine the old Spanish capital of Florida becoming the English capital of this colony. To the west they name this colony West Florida and it was composed of the panhandle of Florida and other lands along the gulf coast with its capital being located at Pensacola. These two new colonies were added to the thirteen along the Atlantic Coast and the Canadian colonies under the Crown’s control. While the thirteen colonies were actively gearing for war the Florida colonies were staying very loyal to the crown and thus became a sort of safe haven for Loyalist who were being driven from their homes in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and other places. As these Loyalist began to gather at the capitals of the different colonies of Florida they began to form their own Loyalist Militia groups such as the Royalist Rangers and others and started to plan their return homes to restore the crown to power and to retaliate against those who had forced them from their lands. From this hot bed of Loyalist activity, John Stuart along with his brother Henry Stuart and other such as Alexander Cameron and Moses Kirkland began to plot how to use their Loyalist and Cherokee friends to bring the crown back into power over their former land.
After Captain Stuarts escape from Charlestown and its rebel government to Pensacola in West Florida Loyalist bands were already starting to form in the back country of the colony in order to put down the rebellion. As they began to form their Loyalist Militia in the back country they did so as close to the Cherokee Nation as they could for most Patriots were at this time trying to pacify the nation and were giving them a wide berth in coming anywhere near their lands as to not provoke them. However with Stuarts relationship with the Cherokee the Loyalist where not as fear full of the Cherokee and began to form near them. AS their numbers grew the Loyalist began to strike at different points along the back country and even laid siege to the town of Ninety Six which was a Patriot strong hold in the back country. In order to relieve Ninety Six and to restore Patriot control over the back country the Council of Safety in South Carolina ordered Col. Richard Richardson with Thomas Sumter as his second in command to relieve Ninety Six and to crush the loyalist in the back country. With a thirteen hundred man force he marched to Ninety Six in November of 1775 and relieved the Patriots under threat there and then began to march his force towards the Cherokee Nation boundary line to finish off the Loyalist still trying to use the Cherokee lands for a base of operation against the Patriots. This Loyalist force was lead by Col. Thomas Fletchall and others such as Captain Patrick Cunningham. After several weeks of fighting this campaign against what was left of the Loyalist force in the back country ended in December of 1775. This was to become known as the Snow Campaign in South Carolina lore because of the harsh conditions the men fought under and travelled under. At the end of this campaign the Loyalist were smashed as an organized resistance in the back country of South Carolina with its leaders dead, in prison in Charlestown, in hiding, or making their way to one of the Florida Colonies to regroup with other Loyalist there.
|Snow Campaign Route|
While the events of the Snow Campaign were playing out in South Carolina, John Stuart was devising what would be a very dangerous plan that if it worked would quickly subdue the back country of the Southern Colonies for the crown in British controlled Florida. His plan was to use the Cherokee Nation to open a second front of the war sort to speak that the rebels would have to divide their resources to fight against. If he could convince the Cherokee to go to war on the side of the British they could help Britain end the war quickly with the numbers of warriors the Cherokee could place on the field of battle along the lightly defended frontier. The major danger of this plan was that once the Cherokee Nation was unleashed on the frontier there could be no pulling them back or stopping them until events had ran their course. We must try to understand, this time period was one of no quarter in terms of fighting on the frontier. Most settlers’ biggest fear was an Indian war with all of its barbarities and now Stuart, the commissioner, whose job it was to pacify the great Cherokee Nation was willing to unleash them on friend and foe alike in order to serve his king. Stuart had to of known what he was proposing to unleash and was still willing to risk this upon the frontier. With this plan in mind he wrote a letter suggestion to General Gage that Stuart could have the Cherokee Nation coordinate with General Clintons planned Southern Expedition to the South and have the Patriots caught between the might of the crown and the might of the Cherokee Nation. This letter he entrusted to another eager Loyalist named Moses Kirkland whom boarded a ship to Boston to take the letter from Stuart. The ship that Kirkland was riding on was captured by Patriot Privateers and Kirkland did not destroy the letter before he was taken prisoner. Thus the letter feel into the hands of the Patriots who were shocked and appalled that the crown would even think of bringing the Cherokee into the war and all of the events that it would lead to all Patriot and Loyalist who lived along the frontier. Copies of this letter were distributed to all of the Southern Delegates in Congress and to the Southern Capitals for them to distribute to the frontier to show what the crown was willing to do. This letter without a doubt cost the crown many of its loyal supporters in the colonies because of the reality of what it meant to them and their families.
Next up: The War begins along the frontier