Cherokee Phoenix


Published March, 18, 1829

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A company of Arkansas Cherokees, consisting of thirty warriors, armed with rifles a few months ago, started on an expedition of exploration of the country westward of the head sources of streams that flow from the Rocky Mountains. In the wild and vast prairies after a few days journey, they found a large party of Creeks, on the same business, and who expressed pleasure at the chance of meeting and proposed, for mutual safety, to unite, and join company in their progress westward. The proposition was haughtily and indignantly rejected by the Cherokees, who expressed their disinclination to form combinations of friendship with people of another nation and language. The parties, after this, pursued their respective routes, but ranging in a westerly direction. The aspect of the country and nature of the soil grew rapidly unfavorable, as they advanced in these unknown regions. A point of distance had not been gained to which the most adventurous of the Cherokees had never been; and it was proposed to stop awhile and trap for beaver at the place. The chief who led the part had wandered alone, some distance from his people, to place his trap, when he at a short distance, discovered four men, wild, unknown and savage Indians. The chiefs at home had instructed them to form friendly relations with all the unknown Indians, who might be found in the expedition; and now a fit opportunity presented itself to perform the duty. He walked up to them, and offered his hand, which was received. Signs of peace and friendship, he next made, which were approved by the same mode of communication. Confirmation of this friendship was now proposed by the strangers in the present of bows and arrows, for which he gave his gun. A dressed buffaloe skin was next present, for what he gave his blanket. The third article was a pipe, for which he gave his butcher's knife and tomahawk. The strangers now manifested a desire to accompany him to his camp and company, to which he agreed, and conducted them towards it; but deemed it prudent to leave them a little out of sight of his party, which he did, and advanced alone to them, and communicated the result of his first interview with the unknown Indians, in the conclusion of friendship, according to the instructions and orders of their chiefs on the subject. Their reply was one of contempt and indignation. 'What have we to do with these Indians, but perform the deeds of their enemies! Living in a country of which we have no knowledge, of what benefit will their friendship be to us? We will kill them.' Remonstrance was in vain, and they immediately ran to execute the threatened barbarity. The Chief, naturally humane and honorable, exercised the only alternative left him, and flew to admonish his newly acquired friends of their approaching fate. His knowledge of the place, where he left them enabled him to reach it, before his barbarous companions; and with earnestness not to be misunderstood, he urged them instantly to run for their lives, as his treaty of friendship with them was disapproved by his party. They returned his presents for theirs and fled: but in the pursuit two of them were overtaken, and slain and scalped. After committing the murder, these barbarians continued their journey, and one day, late in the afternoon, ascended a lofty hill, from whose summit they saw below, by a small branch of water, the Creeks, whose party they had refused to join, engaged in making fires for an encampment. They turned to avoid them. But now the tribe of the slain Indians had come up with them, and had already surrounded them, and instantly assaulted them from all sides with bows and arrows, attended with savage war hoops and yells, astounding in noise, which sent their echoes up and down the adjacent valleys. The Creeks were undisturbed spectators of this skirmish. The Cherokees, firm in valour, resisted the attack, by discharging the guns on all sides at the enemy, who were armed only with bows and arrows. Their Chief performed dangerous feats of valour, and with a loud voice, urged his people to a closer engagement. He rode a mule, and frequently ran full speed between his people and the Cherokees, hanging to the side of his beast, longitudinally, and placing the body of his mule as a bulwark to the shot of the Cherokees. Night at last spread its sable mantle over the combatants, the Cherokees in the meantime having experienced the loss of two of their warriors, who were killed by the enemies' arrows. As the enemies' loss was uncertain, as to amount, and as their disposition to continue the fight remained unrelaxed, the Cherokees deemed it prudent to force a passage through the surrounding rank; at a given point, and to retreat to their own country, both of which objects they effected without additional loss. The finger of scorn and disapprobation was pointed at them on their arrival in their country, for having acted contrary to instructions, in killing two harmless Indians, who, under the pledge of friendship, had approached too near their camp. This sentiment was not, however, universal among the Cherokees; the fires of revenge were kindled in the hearts of seven warriors, who determined to find the enemy in their distance haunts, and revenge their countrymen slain in battle. Many days of traveling at last brought them in view of a town, consisting of a large collection of camps or tents, at the declivity of a hill, whose top, which they had just reached afforded a fine view of the whole. While they stood at this place a bee-tree was discovered by one of the party, who attempted to furnish himself with honey, by cutting the hollow tree with his tomahawk, notwithstanding the objection of his companions, who apprehended the dangerous consequences of a discovery from town. He had commenced to climb the tree, and made but little progress in his ascent, when they found the two in motion, and a rapid movement made to surround them, which was effected in a short time. The party ran to a little from the bee-tree, where a few bushes afforded them a little shelter; but in running to it one of them experienced a fit of cramp which rendered him incapable of going faster than a slow walk, notwithstanding the approaching lines of the enemy, who now discovered his weakened condition. He on the tree had however descended, and gained his gun, (of which the strangers evinced some dread), and brought the invalid to his companions. A desultory and irregular fight ensued, which continued until dark. The man who had taken the cramp was now desperately worse, and unable to exercise any motion, was unable to exercise any motion, and was altogether helpless. A second had been mortally wounded with arrows, and was writhing in the agonies of a lingering death. The remaining five determined to break through the surrounding ranks, loaded their guns, charged and shouted, and fired at a particular spot, which opened, and four succeeded in escaping through it, but the fifth found himself enclosed a second time. It was dark, ' the unfortunate man's hopes for life were nearly extinguished. He crawled on his hands and knees, close to the surrounding lines, in pursuit of an unguarded spot by which to effect his escape, but found no intervals. He wandered across to reach the other side, and about mid-way found his wounded companion, crawling along the ground, nearly exhausted of strength, and conscious of approaching death. 'My friend, (these were his words) attempt your escape; as for me I have but a short time longer to live. Tell my relations how I died in a distance land.' 'No! I will defend you while you live, and while you live I will not leave you,' was the reply. The wounded man expired some time after midnight, and the warrior renewed his search for an outlet. He at last found a deep gulley washed by rains, in which he walked, well armed, with heedful steps, and approached the surrounding lines, terminating on either side of the gulley, but nearly in reach of him. But now he bounded through the interval, with the swiftness of a wild Indian, accustomed to run in forests, ' gained some distance. He heard their talk in wild and savage accents, calling dogs, and in an few minutes heard their barking in his track, and the shout of their masters. He was overtaken by surprise of the dogs, who barked vehemently around as these animals do when they come up with the objects of their pursuit. The enemy, still behind, raised a shout to encourage the dogs. The Cherokee scolded them to silence, and ran nearly in a back course. The dogs came up with him a second time, and barked, and they were also cheered by the shouts of the enemy. He scolded them to silence again, and again ran in a course near his pursuers, and by adverse and counter running, till the ensuing night, secured his escape, and arrived in his country after experiencing the fatigues and dangers of a wilderness of several thousand miles extent, soon after the four men who first escaped from their perilous situation.


March 3d, 1829