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From the readiness with which young Marion yielded himself to the entreaties of his mother, and resumed the occupations of agriculture, and from the quiet and persevering industry with which he pursued them for a period of nearly or quite ten years, it might be supposed that the impatience and restlessness of mood, which had formerly led him to revolt at the staid drudgery of rural life, had been entirely extinguished in his bosom. But such was not the case. It was only subdued, and slumbering for a season, ready to awaken at the first opportunity, with all the vigor and freshness of a favorite passion. That opportunity was at hand. Events were in progress which were to bring into the field, and prepare by the very best sort of training, for the most noble trials, the great military genius of the Partisan. At the opening of the year 1759, the colony of South Carolina was on the eve of an Indian war. The whole frontier of the Southern Provinces, from Pennsylvania to Georgia, was threatened by the savages, and the scalping-knife had already begun its bloody work upon the weak and unsuspecting borderers. The French had been conquered upon the Ohio. Forts Frontenac and Duquesne had fallen. British and Provincial valor, aided by strong bodies of Cherokee warriors, had everywhere placed the flag of Britain above the fortresses of France. With its elevation, the Indian allies of the French sent in their adhesion to the conquerors; and, their work at an end, the Cherokee auxiliaries of Britain prepared to return to their homes, covered with their savage trophies, and adequately rewarded for their services. It happened, unfortunately, that, while passing along the frontiers of Virginia, the Cherokees, many of whom had lost their horses during the campaign, supplied themselves rather unscrupulously from the pastures of the colonists. With inconsiderate anger, the Virginians, forgetting the late valuable services of the savages, rose upon their footsteps, slew twelve or fourteen of their warriors, and made prisoners of as many more. This rash and ill-advised severity aroused the nation. The young warriors flew to arms, and pouring their active hordes upon the frontier settlements, proceeded to the work of slaughter, without pausing to discriminate between the offending and the innocent. The emergency was pressing, and Governor Lyttleton, of South Carolina, called out the militia of the province. They were required to rendezvous at the Congarees, about one hundred and forty miles from Charleston. To this rendezvous Francis Marion repaired, in a troop of provincial cavalry commanded by one of his brothers.* But he was not yet to flesh his maiden valor upon the enemy. The prompt preparation of the Carolinians had somewhat lessened the appetite of the savages for war. Perhaps their own preparations were not yet sufficiently complete to make them hopeful of its issue. The young warriors were recalled from the frontiers, and a deputation of thirty-two chiefs set out for Charleston, in order to propitiate the anger of the whites, and arrest the threatened invasion of their country.
Whether they were sincere in their professions, or simply came for the purpose of deluding and disarming the Carolinians,is a question with the historians. It is certain that Governor Lyttleton doubted their sincerity, refused to listen to their explanations, and, carrying them along with him, rather as hostages than as commissioners in sacred trust, he proceeded to meet the main body of his army, already assembled at the Congarees. The treatment to which they were thus subjected, filled the Cherokee deputies with indignation, which, with the usual artifice of the Indian, they yet contrived to suppress. But another indiscreet proceeding of the Governor added to the passion which they felt, and soon baffled all their powers of concealment.
In resuming the march for the nation, he put them into formal custody, placed a captain's guard over them, and in this manner hurried them to the frontiers. Whatever may have been the merits of this movement as a mere military precaution, it was of very bad policy in a civil point of view. It not only degraded the Indian chiefs in their own, but in the eyes of their people. His captives deeply and openly resented this indignity and breach of faith; and, brooding in sullen ferocity over the disgrace which they suffered, meditated in silence those schemes of vengeance which they subsequently brought to a fearful maturity. But though thus impetuous and imprudent, and though pressing forward as if with the most determined purposes, Lyttleton was in no mood for war. His policy seems to have contemplated nothing further than the alarm of the Indians. Neither party was exactly ripe for the final issue. The Cherokees needed time for preparation, and the Governor, with an army ill disciplined and imperfectly armed, found it politic, when on the very confines of the enemy's country, to do that which he might very well have done in Charleston -- listen to terms of accommodation. Having sent for Attakullakullah, the wise man of the nation, who had always been the staunch friend of the whites, he made his complaints, and declared his readiness for peace; -- demanding, however, as the only condition on which it could be granted, that twenty-four men of the nation should be delivered to him, to be disposed of as he should think proper, by death or otherwise, as an atonement for that number of Carolinians, massacred in the late foray of the savages. A treaty was effected, but with some difficulty, on these terms. Compliance with this requisition was not so easy, however, on the part of the Cherokee chiefs. The moment it was understood, the great body of their people fled to the mountains, and the number of hostages could be secured only by the detention of twenty-two of those chiefs already in the Governor's custody. The captives were placed, for safe keeping, at the frontier fort of Prince George.
-- * Judge James' Life of Marion, p. 17. --
But the natural sense of the savage is not inferior to that by which the laws of the civilized are prescribed, in their dealings with one another. The treaty thus extorted from their leaders, while in a state of duress, was disregarded by the great body of the nation. They watched their opportunity, and, scarcely had the Governor disbanded his forces, when the war-whoop resounded from the frontiers.
Fort Prince George was one of the most remote of a chain of military posts by which the intercourse was maintained between the several white settlements of the seaboard and the interior. It stood on the banks of the Isundiga River, about three hundred miles from Charleston, within gunshot of the Indian town of Keowee. This post, to which the Cherokee hostages were carried, was defended by cannon, and maintained by a small force under Colonel Cotymore. It was in this neighborhood, and, as it were in defiance of this force, that the war was begun. Fourteen whites were massacred at a blow, within a mile of this station. This was followed up by a stratagem, by which Occonostota, one of the principal warriors, aimed to obtain possession of the fort. Pretending to have something of importance to communicate to the commander, he dispatched a woman who had usually obtained access to the station, to solicit an interview with him. This was to take place on the banks of the river. Meanwhile the savage prepared his ambush. Cotymore imprudently assented to the meeting, and, attended by Lieutenants Bell and Foster, walked down towards the river, from the opposite side of which Occonostota addressed him. While they spoke, the Indian was seen to wave a bridle over his head. This was the signal agreed upon with the ambushed warriors. At this signal they rose and poured in their fire. Cotymore was slain on the spot, and his companions wounded. But the savages failed to get possession of the fort. Suspecting a concerted movement among the hostages, by which they would cooperate with the assailing foe without, the officer in command of the fort gave orders to secure them with irons. The attempt to obey these orders ended in a bloody tragedy. The Indians resisted with arms, and, stabbing three of the soldiers, so exasperated the rest, already excited by the murder of their captain, that they fell upon the miserable wretches and butchered them to a man.
This unhappy event, completing what the indiscreet severities of Governor Lyttleton had begun, united the whole nation of Cherokees in war. There had been a strong party favorable to peace, and friendly to the whites. This unfortunate proceeding involved the loss of this party. The hostages were among their chief men, and scarcely a family in the nation but lost a relative or friend in their massacre. They were now unanimous for battle; and, numerous parties rushing simultaneously down upon the frontiers, baffled the courage and prevented the flight of the fugitives. They fell without distinction upon men, women and children. "Such as fled to the woods and escaped the scalping-knife, perished of hunger. . . . Every day brought fresh accounts to the capital of their ravages, murders and desolations. But while the back settlers looked to their governor for relief, the small-pox raged to such a degree in town that few of the militia could be prevailed upon to leave their distressed families to serve the public."* Lyttleton, meanwhile, by whom all the mischief was occasioned, was made Governor of Jamaica, and the charge of the colony devolved on William Bull, a native -- "a man of great integrity and erudition." In the almost hopeless condition of the province, her sisters, North Carolina and Virginia, raised seven troops of rangers for the frontiers; and Colonel Montgomery, afterwards Earl of Eglintoun, was dispatched from Canada, with a battalion of Highlanders and four companies of Royal Scots. Before the end of April, 1760, the camp of rendezvous for a new invasion of the Cherokee territories was established at Monk's Corner. Meanwhile, the health of Carolina had undergone some improvement, and the gentlemen of the country were not idle. They turned out in force as volunteers, and under the spirited direction of Governor Bull, the whole disposable force of the province was put in requisition. Among these, it is not so sure, but is believed, that Francis Marion once more made his appearance as a volunteer. From what we know of his character, his temperament, and that unsatisfied craving which he seems to have shown from the beginning for such excitements, it is reasonable to infer his presence in the field. But, though asserted by tradition, we confess that the records are silent on the subject. Unsatisfactory as at that period they generally are, on this point they are particularly so; and but that his share in this war, before its final conclusion, was not only unquestionable but conspicuous, we should pass over the campaign of Montgomery, with a simple reference to its results.
-- * Hewatt's Hist. S.C. --
The Cherokees, meanwhile, were not unobservant of the preparations and approaches of the Carolinians. They gathered themselves up for defence, and in silence matured their half civilized, half primitive modes of warfare. This people, at the period of which we write, were a people of very superior endowments and resources to any of the neighboring savage nations. If less warlike, in the simple sense of the word, than their rivals the Creeks, they were really more to be feared, as it was in consequence of their superior civilisation that they had lost some of their brute ferocity. If they were less reckless, they were better skilled; if less frantic in their fury, they coupled it with a wary vindictiveness which rendered the blow more fatal when it fell. The advances which they had made in civilisation had naturally increased their numbers; while the novel tastes by which their wandering habits were diminished, had necessarily added to their love of country, in adding to the resources and improvements by which its comforts and delights were increased. Thus, neither degraded by the lowest condition in which we find the human animal, nor enervated by the superior luxuries to which he may attain, the Cherokee was perhaps at this time in possession of his greatest vigor; not very remote, in his moral and physical condition, from the Roman when he overcame his Etrurian and Sabine neighbors.
The Cherokees occupied a country equally broad and beautiful. It lay in fertile valleys, green meadows, sunny slopes, and mighty forests, along the sides of lofty summits, that circled their extensive territory with natural fortresses of giant grandeur. Spreading from the Broad, or Cherokee river, beyond the Tennessee and the Savannah, it comprised every variety of soil and surface, and while adapted in a high degree to the hands of the agriculturist, seemed almost as easily made secure against the footsteps of invasion. Its apparent securities had made them insolent. Their mountain recesses had never known the presence of this foe. Their fruits and fields, their villages and towns, with the exception of a district that lay upon the Atlantic slopes, were generally fenced in, and admirably protected, by wild and rugged masses of rocky mountains, natural defences, impenetrable, unless through certain passes which a few determined hearts might easily make good against twenty times their number. But the numerical force of this great aboriginal people, seemed of itself sufficiently strong to promise security to their country. At the time of Montgomery's invasion they had no less than sixty-four towns and villages. In an emergency, they could send six thousand warriors into the field. Many of these were armed with the weapons of European warfare -- were accustomed to that warfare, and were thus doubly prepared to encounter the enemy in whose ranks they had received their best military lessons.
Such a force very far exceeded that of the Carolinians. Mustering but two thousand men, Col. Montgomery found it advisable to urge his march upon the nation with equal celerity and caution. Having reached a place called Twelve-mile River, within twenty miles of the Indian town of Estatoee, he advanced by night upon it, secretly, and with a view to its surprise. In his march, surrounding the town of Little Keowee, not a warrior of the Cherokees escaped the sword. His success was less complete at Estatoee. The Indians, apprised of his approach, with few exceptions, succeeded in making their escape; but the town, consisting of more than two hundred houses, and well stored with corn, hogs, poultry and ammunition, perished in the flames. Shugaw Town and every other settlement in the "Lower Nation", shared the same fate. The lightning-like rapidity of the march had taken the savages everywhere, in this part of the country, by surprise. They fled rather than fought, and while they lost everything in the shape of property, but few of them were slain. They sought for shelter among their more numerous and better protected brethren of the mountains; a people neither so easily approached, nor so easily overcome.
Montgomery, having finished this part of his work so successfully, hurried on to the relief of Fort Prince George, which, from the time when their Chiefs were so cruelly butchered within its walls, had been closely invested by a formidable force of Cherokees. The fort was relieved. The Indians fled at his approach; and, thinking that the severe chastisement which he had inflicted upon them, had inclined their hearts to peace, the General of the Carolinians paused in his progress, to give them an opportunity to sue for it, as the former friends and allies of the English. But he had mistaken the stubborn nature of his foe. They were not sufficiently humbled, and it was resolved to march upon the "middle settlements". To this task, that which had been performed was comparatively easy. They were now to enter upon a different country, where the Indians were better prepared for them -- nay, where they HAD prepared for them, -- in all probability, to the neglect of the lower towns.
Toilsome and full of peril was this march. Dismal and dense was the wilderness which they were now to penetrate. Rugged paths, narrow passes, gloomy thickets and dark ravines, encountered them in their hourly progress, calling for constant vigilance and the maintenance of all their courage. Rivers, fordable in unfrequent places and overlooked by precipitous banks on either side, crowned most commonly by dense and intricate masses of forest, through which and without a guide, our little army was compelled to pass, -- presented opportunities for frequent ambush and attack, in which, very inferior forces, if properly commanded, might, with little danger to themselves, overwhelm and utterly destroy an advancing enemy. It was in such a region that the Cherokees made their first and formidable stand. Within five miles of Etchoee, the nearest town of the middle settlements, the army of Montgomery approached a low valley, clothed with a thicket so dense that the soldiers could scarcely discern objects three paces ahead. Through this thicket ran a muddy river, enclosed between steep banks of clay. This passage, where but few men could act in unison, was that through which it became necessary that the army should proceed. It was the very spot, which, over all others, a sagacious warrior would choose in which to place an ambush, or meet a superior assailant.
Montgomery knew his enemy, and prepared for the encounter. Captain Morrison, commanding a company of rangers, native marksmen and well acquainted with the forest -- was sent forward to scour the thicket. His advance was the signal for battle. Scarcely had he entered upon the dismal passage when the savages rose from their hiding-places and poured in a severe fire. Morrison, with several of his men, perished at the first discharge. They were sustained by the light Infantry and Grenadiers, who boldly advanced upon the wood in the face of the invisible foe. A heavy fire followed on both sides, the Cherokees, each with his eye upon his man, the Carolinians aiming at the flash of the enemy's guns. The pass was disputed by the savages with a degree of conduct and courage, which left the issue doubtful. The necessity was apparent for extraordinary effort. The Royal Scots, who were in the rear, were now pushed forward to take possession of a rising ground on the right, while the Highlanders were marched forward to the immediate support of the Infantry and Grenadiers. This movement had the effect of bringing the enemy into close action. The bayonet stirred and laid bare the thicket. The woods resounded with the shouts and yells of the Cherokees, but they no longer fell with terror upon the ear of the whites.
They had grown familiar. The savages yielded slowly as the bayonet advanced. Suffering severely as they fled, they yet displayed the native obstinacy of their race, -- turning upon the pursuer when they could, availing themselves of tree or thicket to retard, by shot or stroke, the assailants; and, even in flight, only so far keeping ahead of the bayonet as to avoid its stroke. As he beheld this, Montgomery changed the head of his army, and advanced upon the town of Etchoee, which it had been their purpose to defend, and from which they now strove to divert him. This movement alarmed them for their wives and children. Their retreat became a flight; and, satisfied with having inflicted upon them this measure of punishment, the British General prepared to march back to Fort Prince George.
This decision was the result of his exigencies. The situation of his army was neither a safe nor an agreeable one. The victory was with the Carolinians, yet the affair was very far from decisive in its consequences. The enemy had only retired from one advantageous position to another. They waited his approach only to renew a conflict in which even victory might be without its fruits. To gain a battle, unless a final one, was, with a force so small as his, a matter of very doubtful advantage. He was already encumbered with his wounded, to furnish horses for whom, he was compelled to discard, and to destroy, a large quantity of the provisions necessary for the army. What remained was measured with a nice reference to their absolute wants on the return march to Prince George. Under these suggestions of prudence the retreat was begun. It was conducted with admirable regularity. The Cherokees, meanwhile, hung upon the retiring footsteps of the invaders, annoying them to the utmost of their power. Sixty miles of mountainous country were traversed in this manner, and under various hardships, with a skill and intrepidity which confer the highest credit upon the English captain. A large train of wounded was brought to the frontier without the loss of a man.
We have admitted an uncertainty as to the presence of Marion in this campaign. It would be impertinent and idle, therefore, to speculate upon his performances, or the share which he might have taken in its events. Tradition simply assures us that he distinguished himself. That, if present, he did his duty, we have no question; and, enduring with becoming resolution the worst severities of the march, proved himself possessed of the first great requisite for soldiership in Indian warfare.
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