Cherokee Phoenix

From the Georgia Athenian

Published March, 12, 1831

Page 4 Column 2b

From the Georgia Athenian.

Colonel Nelson -- The Gold diggers, etc. The following letter was received by a gentleman in this town a few days since, and we have taken the liberty to lay the interesting information it contains before the public. The letter is dated at Gainsville, Hall County, the 7th of February, and is from a source that we know from personal acquaintance to be highly respectable. After alluding to a former letter, the writer says:

'On the 15th last month, a Sergeant Sappington of Georgia's standing army, came to Leathers' Ford in this county. He there met an individual by the name of Cron, a short distance from a gate leading into the yard of Mr. Joel Hasley. Sergeant Sappington, in a very peremptory manner, ordered Cron to go back and open the gate. Cron pointed to others nearer the gate, and remarked, they can open the gate.' Sappington, in a more authoritative tone, bid him again open the gate, when Cron replied he would not; for which Sappington, by a severe blow with his musket, brought Cron to the ground. This blow was inflicted on the cheek bone of Cron, and by reason of it he has been since, then unable to transact business; indeed, if I am correctly informed, he has been confined, and his recovery is still despaired of. This act of lawless savagism produced very naturally a good deal of indignation at the Ford.

'On the 16th ult. Col. Nelson having arrested several prisoners in the Nation, (on suspicion of their having dug gold since the first of January, but without a warrant authorising it,) arrived at the Ford, and having met a detachment of the army at that place, ordered them to join him and aid in conducting the prisoners to this place. The detachment of three or four men alluded to, at the time of receiving the order, was dismounted, and the Colonel leaving a Sergeant Henderson to conduct them, proceeded some three hundred yards with the prisoners and his guard, where he awaited his remaining company. He was, at the time of stopping, entirely out of view of the point where he left his men. Henderson was detained a little in waiting on one of his men, who was endeavoring to replenish his flask, and while thus waiting was addressed by a Mr. Ligon, (who is a man of worth and respectability,) and asked what would be done with the prisoners. Henderson, in a very abrupt and uncourteous manner, told him to ask no questions. Ligon observed he thought himself in a free country, and hoped he had the liberty of speech. This self-important Sergeant in reply told him he should not take to him; this enraged Ligon, and he commenced abusing Henderson and his company by words, saying that if they were not a set of inhuman desperadoes, they would never compel prisoners, no matter how high the crime, to wade a river when the ground was covered several inches in snow; nor would a soldier have treated an individual as Sappington had Cron the day previous.

These remarks carried such a piercing wound to the sensitive feelings of Sergeant Henderson, that he immediately cocked and presented his musket at the old man. Ligon told the Sergeant he would not present his arms so readily at him if he were on a footing, and immediately inquired of the bystanders for a gun. Taylor (who was afterwards severely stabbed) said to Ligon he thought a gun could be had; at which moment Henderson strained off to his commander, and possibly informed him he had been attacked. In a few moments Col. Nelson and eight or ten of his guard returned, making a furious charge on Taylor, and, at the same time, inquiring for a man of Ligon's description. Taylor was standing weaponless; three or four of the guard rushed on him with fixed bayonets, commanding him to surrender, at the same time piercing him on all sides with the bayonets. Taylor attempted to ward off the stabs, and endeavored to get out of the way. After receiving his most dangerous wound, Taylor seized a maul, and threw it with some violence at one of the guard.

'I notice Col. N. supposes the number in battle array on the occasion to be 60. I am credibly informed there were not more than 15 or 20, and but two of those participated in the conflict, and with them it was a matter of necessity, that is, in self-defence. Taylor has not recovered; Ligon, by the timely aid of his friends, escaped uninjured. Thus ended the brilliant achievement of the 16th ult. and had it been me, sooner than have blazoned to the world, I should have let it sleep, and numbered it among the little unfortunate deeds of my life.'

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Some of our readers may be still in doubt as to the truth of the case -- they many not know who to believe, Col. Sanford or the writer of the letter. We are however happy to relieve that doubt by copying from the Hiwasee in the following statement given by eye-witnesses. The facts contained in it corroborate the reports we had frequently heard touching the affair, and confirms the particulars stated by the Gentleman in Gainsville. This must settle the question with disinterested readers.

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Feb. 6, 1831

Mr. PRINTER: You will probably have seen, in the Georgia papers, a communication from Col. Nelson, giving an account of an affair that took place at Leathers ford, on the 16th of last month. He says, that as he was conducting eleven prisoners from the Cherokee Nation, to Gainsville, he was met by about sixty men at Leathers ford, who attempted to rescue the prisoners, 'with every kind of weapons except guns.' He adds, 'we charged upon, and dispersed them all without injury to any of the mean under my command. One of the assailants received three severe stabs of which his recovery is considered doubtful.'

This statement is untrue, he was not met at that place by any number of men, nor was he attacked by any man. If it is true that he appeared with his guard and some prisoners on the opposite side of the river, on the fifteenth of January last; and on the next day, he crossed, conveying his prisoners to Gainsville. The people of the village at the ford, manifested no disposition to rescue the prisoners although they were forced to wade the river cold as the day was. The principal part of the guard passed quietly through the place with the prisoners, and were out of sight, when a dispute took place between a citizen here, and the remainder of the guard (five in number,) relative to their right to compel the prisoners to wade the river. The dispute grew warm, and the guard galloped off, and returned in ten or fifteen minutes, with the Col. at their head and several more of the guard in full charge. The gentleman with whom they had the dispute, wore a white hat, and upon their coming up, a part of the guard attacked him, a part pursued Major Taylor (formerly a citizen of Athens, Tennessee) round a house and gave him three severe wounds, one through the arm into his body, one in the breast, and one in his hip. We are happy to say that the old gentleman has so far recovered, as to be able to start home. While they were bayoneting him, the old man got a large maul and threw it, but missed his man. He then retreated; the Col. ordered a fire, one gun fired, the old man wheeled upon them, called for the man who had shot him, he being under that impression as his wounds, at that moment began to bleed. A march was ordered immediately.

This sir, is a correct account of the affair. The undersigned were present, and saw the whole of it. Not a single weapon was raised by any man after the return of the guard, except the maul by Major Taylor.

The prisoners, they were conveying to Gainsville, were taken in the Nation on suspicion of digging gold. They were made to wade all the waters, and every mud hole for fifteen miles. Some who could not keep up, were beat with the sword, etc.

This is not all that deserves notice. One of their sergeants crossed the river on the fifteenth, and knocked a man down with his gun, for refusing to open a gate for him. No insult had been offered. This account is given in detail, that the people may be undeceived with regard to Nelson a communication.

The undersigned were present, saw the affair, and vouch for the truth of this statement.