The War In The West
Competition for the support of the Indians.—The westward movement across the mountains was almost simultaneous with the outbreak of the Revolution, and the western settlements were soon drawn into the current. The frontiersmen held back the Indian allies of the British, and by settlement and conquest secured large areas of the back country. At the opening of the war both British and Americans made great efforts to secure the support of the Indians, but in the main the tribes favored the British who did not encroach upon their lands and whose posts on the frontiers were centers for the distribution of presents and for the work of the traders. During the war British agents were kept at work among the tribes, distributing presents and weapons, and often leading the Indian raids.
The Cherokee War.—In the summer of 1776 the Cherokee went on the warpath. From their villages in the southern Alleghanies they were in a position to raid the frontier settlements of Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee. The Cherokee towns were in three groups. The upper towns inhabited by the Overhill Cherokee were along the mountain streams that ran into the Tennessee. The lower towns were in the foothills of the back country of Georgia and South Carolina. In the mountainous region between were the middle towns. During June and July Cherokee war parties, at times assisted by Creeks and Tories, fell upon the Georgia and Carolina frontiers and upon the Watauga settlements. The Georgia invaders were met by Colonel Samuel Jack at the head of two hundred rangers who drove them back and destroyed one or two of the lower towns. In North Carolina the Indians came down the Catawba and drove the settlers into the blockhouses. General Griffith Rutherford raised the frontier levies and chased the Indians back to their villages. In South Carolina the Cherokees from the lower and middle towns, aided by Tories and led by the British agent, Cameron, descended upon the settlements. Colonel Andrew Williamson collected eleven hundred militia, defeated the invaders, and by the middle of August destroyed the lower towns. In July seven hundred Overhill Cherokee raided the Watauga settlements. One party under Chief Dragging Canoe attacked the settlers about Eaton's Station, but the frontiersmen sallied forth and defeated the Indians at Island Flats. For three weeks Fort Watauga was invested by another band, but so stubborn was the defence conducted by Robertson and Sevier that the Indians abandoned the siege. The Carolinians and Virginians determined to carry the war into the enemy's country. In September Rutherford and Williamson completely destroyed the valley towns of the Cherokee; and in October Colonel William Christian led the Virginia troops into the Overhill country, destroyed the principal village, and brought the warriors to terms.
Indian raids in the Northwest, 1776-1778.—In the Northwest the memory of the Battle of the Kanawha kept the Indians quiet for a time while the diplomats struggled for mastery. Colonel George Morgan was made congressional agent at Fort Pitt, while Hamilton at Detroit was the most active British agent on that frontier. In the fall of 1776 Hamilton sent raiding parties along the border. During 1777 the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky were kept in a state of terror. Colonel Morgan urged an expedition against Detroit, and when his advice was rejected, he resigned. Governor Patrick Henry sent Virginia militia to relieve Kentucky and Congress sent General Hand to defend the upper Ohio. Hand and his successor, McIntosh, had little success, for the raids continued and by the end of 1778 Kentucky was nearly depopulated.
Willing's raids.—In 1777 James Willing, a former resident of Natchez, obtained permission from Congress to make an expedition down the Mississippi to secure the neutrality of the Tories in the Southwest. Descending the Ohio from Pittsburg, his expedition became a raid on the Loyalist plantations along the Mississippi. Far from having the desired effect, the raid drove the inhabitants into active resistance. In May Willing led a second expedition down the Mississippi but he failed to win over the inhabitants. The Chickasaw and Choctaw went over to the British side. The Southwest had thus definitely taken its stand against the United States.
Clark conquers the Northwest.—To Virginia fell the task of conquering the Northwest. The chief actor in the enterprise was George Rogers Clark, who, though only twenty-six, had already played a prominent part in Kentucky. With one hundred and seventy-five frontiersmen, mainly Virginians, in June, 1778, Clark descended the Ohio to Fort Massac, crossed Illinois, and in July took Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, St. Philippe, and Cahokia, and French sympathizers secured the submission of Vincennes. Hamilton at once organized a force at Detroit to retake the lost posts. In December he occupied Vincennes without difficulty, but was unable to proceed farther. In February, 1779, after a difficult march over flooded prairies, Clark captured Hamilton and his force. In December, 1778 the Virginia legislature erected the territory north of the Ohio into the county of Illinois, John Todd being made civil and Clark military head. Clark planned the capture of Detroit, but was unable to get the necessary aid. Instead, in 1780 he founded Fort Jefferson on the Mississippi near the mouth of the Ohio and it soon became the center of a settled area.
Depredations of the Iroquois and Tories.—On the New York frontier Burgoyne's invasion had aroused the Iroquois and even after his defeat the Six Nations, except the Tuscaroras, Oneidas, and part of the Mohawks, adhered to the British. Many Tory refugees settled among the Indians and incited them to go on the warpath. In July, 1778, a force of Tories and Iroquois, mainly Senecas, descended into the Wyoming Valley and laid it waste, killing and capturing many of the inhabitants. Continental troops presently reoccupied the valley and in October the Indian town of Unadilla. The Indians and Tories retaliated by a descent on Cherry Valley. The depredations continued in 1779. Troops sent out from Ft. Stanwix destroyed the Onondaga villages. The Indians then assailed the Schoharie Valley and the western settlements in Ulster County, and spread destruction about Pittsburg.
Expeditions sent into the Iroquois country.—So extensive were the depredations that Congress decided to send an overwhelming force into the Iroquois country. Three brigades from Washington's army were assembled at Wyoming under Sullivan. While he was waiting for a New York brigade to join him, Chief Brant and his warriors burned Minisink and ambushed the militia who went in pursuit. Sullivan at the head of five thousand men passed up the Chemung branch of the Susquehanna, defeated a strong force of Indians and Tories on the site of modern Elmira, and then burned eighteen Indian villages and destroyed the crops. Sullivan, however, failed to attack Niagara which was a British stronghold. Another expedition from Pittsburg ascended the Alleghany and destroyed the Indian villages along the river. These operations scattered the Indians and Tories but did not destroy them, and frequent depredations occurred on the New York and Pennsylvania frontiers during the remainder of the war.
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