Friday, November 5, 2010

The Patriot Response to the Cherokee Attacks

Gov. Rutledge
Once survivors began to make their way to settlements where they could get protection and spread the alarm the people of the back country began to rally to protect their homes and loved ones. The first major attempt of organizing resistance was with Major Andrew Williams who sent out the word for the word for his Ninety Six Militia Regiment to assemble to repel the Cherokee onslaught. This effort for some days was meet with futility as few people reported to Williams call because of fear of their homes being attacked while they were gone. Also during this time period riders where sent down to Charlestown to inform the government there of what was transpiring on the frontier. At this point the officials in Charlestown, including General Lee and Gov. Rutledge were still watching for a possible second attack from the British forces located in Charlestown Harbor when word reached them of the new enemy attacking along the frontier. After several days of waiting the South Carolina government released the Third South Carolina under Thomson, the Fifth under Huger, and the Sixth South Carolina under Sumter to begin the track up the Cherokee trail to assist the local militias with dealing with the attacks. The first to get up the Cherokee Trail was the Third South Carolina and Fifth South Carolina with the Sixth following behind them collecting supplies for the troops already in the Back Country and for future operations.
As Major Andrew Williams was continuing gathering his forces the first of the other Militia Regiments began to combine with his force. The first to come to his assistance was that of Major Andrew Pickens know as the “Wizard Owl” or the “Fighting Elder” with his Lower District Militia Regiment.  Other Militia Regiments began to form and moved towards Major Williams camp to help push back the Cherokee and to punish them for these attacks. These other militia regiments included the New Acquisition Regiment, Spartan Regiment, Little River Regiment, Camden Regiment, Fairfield Regiment, Upper Craven County Regiment, a Georgia Militia Regiment under the command of Col. Samuel Jack, and a group of Catawba Indians who had been fighting against the Cherokee for many generations and were more than happy to help settle an old debt with an old enemy.  Another group also offered their help against the Cherokee also, this was the Loyalist of the Back Country who had only a few months before been fighting against the Patriots in the Snow Campaign. These Loyalist were lead by Captain Robert Cunningham who offered to raise his Loyalist Regiment to help defeat the Cherokees. When Captain Cunningham offered his sword and that of his men to fight along with the Patriots they were refused. For logical reason we can understand why Williams refused Cunningham whom he had just been fighting some months before, but the question must also be asked why Cunningham and his men fighting alongside the Cherokee as other Loyalist wasn’t were at this time?  Did they not know this was an attack orchestrated by the crown or did they not want to be known among their friends and peers as those whom had assisted in this unleashing of total war?

William Henry Drayton
As this back country army formed they received unofficial orders for their expedition against the Cherokee nation from William Henry Drayton. In his letter Word to the Wise he told the expedition to “cut up every Indian corn field and burn every Indian town.” This letter was not official and surely not needed as a catalyst to let the back country know what they could or could not do against the Cherokee. These were people use to no prisoners taken type of fighting against the Cherokee Nation as they had already fought with the Cherokee numerous times and   understood this was not a war of territory, but that of survival for each. Whoever was left standing after this war would be masters of these lands and both knew the cost would be total war along the frontier. Once the Cherokee Nation started these attacks the gloves were off and nobody from Charlestown need worry what the back country population would do to the Cherokee once they organized and went out for vengeance.

On July 15th it was found out by the Patriots that the Loyalist were more involved than what they thought in the 
Cherokee attacks. On July 15th a siege lead by the Cherokee was broken by the Patriots at Fort Lyndley which was the first check against the Cherokee since the attacks began two weeks earlier. After the siege was lifted, Loyalist were captured dressed as Indians who had help in the attack against the Patriot fort. This only hardened the feelings of the Patriots against the Cherokee and the Loyalist in the battles to come.
As Major Williams force grew he began to move closer to the Cherokee lands to set up a base of operation to shield the settlements from further attack and to act as a jump off point to attack the Cherokee towns across the border.

Our next article will be about the Patriot Counter Attack against the Cherokee.

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