Military history


The Cherokee War and Amherst’s Reforms in Indian Policy


THE FIRST INDICATION that something was amiss in Anglo-Indian relations came in the form of a bloody, unexpected uprising in what had been the quietest sector in eastern North America, the far southern frontier, during the last year of the war. There, for three decades, the largest single Indian nation in contact with the British colonies, the Cherokees, had been the peaceable trading partner of South Carolina. With a population of perhaps ten thousand living in three groups of villages near what is now the eastern border of Tennessee—the Lower Towns east of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Middle Towns in their hollows, and the Overhills in the valley of the Little Tennessee River beyond—the Cherokees dominated the South Carolina frontier and served as important allies of the low-country–dominated government. For years they had sold deerskins and slaves (war captives taken from nations of the interior) to the licensed Carolina traders based in their towns. They had functioned as slave catchers, too, handing runaways back to their masters in return for rewards. Most recently they had participated, after a fashion, in the defense of the Virginia frontier. At the high point of the alliance, in 1758, as many as seven hundred warriors had briefly offered their services to John Forbes. Broadly speaking, the Cherokees’ rebellion stemmed both from the Seven Years’ War, which destabilized what had been a durable relationship between the nation and South Carolina, and from the disorderly settlement of white farmers and hunters in the backcountry, beyond the control of the colony government. But in a narrow, immediate sense, Forbes’s expedition was where the trouble started.1

The Forbes campaign did nothing to endear the British military command to the Cherokees, who streamed northward in the summer of 1758 to offer themselves as British allies. Warriors who had traveled hundreds of miles for trophies, captives, and plunder found only frustration in Forbes’s stolid advance and insult in his commanding manner. Virtually all of them left before the end of summer, taking home the muskets and ammunition he had provided. On the way south through the Virginia and North Carolina backcountry, the combination of these arms and the fighters’ warlike appearance unsettled the frontier farmers, who suspected them of stealing horses and killing livestock. Acting on rumor and fear, unable or unwilling to distinguish between Indian allies and Indian enemies, local militiamen treated the returning Cherokees with offhanded savagery. In one episode, a militia patrol hunted down, murdered, and mutilated three Overhill chiefs, then claimed the reward Virginia offered for enemy scalps. In another, a group of whites surrounded a party of Lower Town warriors whom they suspected of theft, forced them to lay down their arms, and then opened fire—killing three and wounding a fourth before the survivors could make their escape. No fewer than thirty warriors lost their lives while trying to return to their villages.2

These murders alone would have impaired the Cherokee alliance, but what the warriors discovered when they finally reached their villages made hostilities virtually inescapable. White hunters from the Long Canes settlement in South Carolina had taken advantage of the warriors’ absence to cross over into Indian country and poach Cherokee game. This invasion of the Lower Towns’ hunting grounds disrupted the Indians’ winter hunt, threatened their food supply, diminished the number of deerskins available for trade, and added weight to the nativists’ arguments that the time had come to teach the backwoodsmen a lesson. Civil chiefs—mainly older men who had had some role in establishing the alliance and maintaining peace with the colony government—still urged caution. The spring of 1759 was therefore a time of division and confusion: even as parties of Overhill and Lower Town warriors set out to avenge the deaths of the previous summer, moderate emissaries were trying to reach some agreement with Governor William Henry Lyttelton in Charleston.3

If anything could hold the rapidly disintegrating alliance together, it was some material improvement in the terms of trade, for the Cherokees were no less dependent than any other native people on European manufactures, and licensed traders monopolized all of South Carolina’s Indian commerce. Because exchange principally occurred at two remote and exposed posts—Fort Prince George in the Lower Towns, and Fort Loudoun in the Overhill country—the colony had excellent reason to seek common ground with moderates. The nation’s leading accommodationist, Attakullakulla (Little Carpenter), had tried to lessen tensions by seeking concessions and demanding a substantial gift from the Carolina government. This tactic, if successful, might have strengthened the bonds between his people and the province. It would certainly have increased his credibility as a mediator and helped counter the arguments of the Creek emissaries from the vicinity of Fort Toulouse in the Alabama Country, who reportedly were urging Cherokee nativists to join them in an alliance with the French.4 Although Governor Lyttelton negotiated with Little Carpenter through the spring of 1759, he refused to bestow the needed present—thus diminishing the status of the man who had the best chance to preserve the peace—either because he failed to understand the tenuousness of the situation or because he actually wished to force a conflict in order to gain for himself some of the military glory that was currently showering on British arms. When it became known that Cherokee raiders on the frontier had killed thirty settlers, Lyttelton completely undercut Little Carpenter’s position by embargoing all gunpowder shipments until the Cherokees surrendered the murderers to colony authorities.


A New Map of the Cherokee Nation, 1760. Published in the London Magazine from “an Indian Draught,” this view of the Cherokee settlements responded to public curiosity about what had been until recently almost entirely unknown territory. Although the engraver was far from literally accurate in his depiction, he does actually represent something like the number and distribution of Cherokee towns. Here the Lower Towns appear along the river systems that flow southeast to the Atlantic; the Middle and Overhill Towns on the tributaries of the Coosa (here labeled, with wild inaccuracy, “a branch of Mississipi R.”), the Hiwassee (shown as a tributary of the Coosa rather than the Tennessee), and the Tennessee (here called the “Cherokees or Hogohegee R.” and shown as a tributary of “Mississipi River”). Fort Prince George is not shown among the Lower Towns, but would appear opposite Keewohee (Keowee), lower right; Fort Loudoun appears as “Savanna Hill” at upper left. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

Desperate for ammunition they needed for the fall and winter hunts, the nation now sent a new delegation of moderate chiefs to Charleston to negotiate with the governor, but in October, Lyttelton blasted what slender chances remained for accommodation by taking them prisoner. He would hold the chiefs hostage, he declared, until every man who had killed a settler had been surrendered for punishment in the colony’s courts. In November, believing that a show of force would bring the Cherokees to their senses, he carried his hostages up-country to Fort Prince George at the head of thirteen hundred provincial soldiers. In anticipation of a restoration of normal relations he also brought a great gift, including three tons of gunpowder, to bestow once the Cherokees had turned over the guilty warriors.5

The governor had made peace all but impossible to preserve. By imprisoning the chiefs who had been most inclined to negotiate, Lyttelton strengthened the hand of militant nativist leaders and rendered suspect any arguments that the last remaining moderate chief, Little Carpenter, could make. Eventually he persuaded his fellow chiefs to surrender two suspected murderers to the Carolinians, and Lyttelton responded by releasing a handful of his captives; but this hopeful turn of events was lost when the governor announced that he would hold the remaining twenty-two hostages at Fort Prince George until twenty-two more murderers had been turned over. Since by now most of the participants in the spring’s war parties had taken to the woods, and since according to Cherokee law and custom they had acted legitimately to avenge deaths inflicted on their families or clans, the surrender of twenty-two warriors was beyond the power of any Cherokee leader. Lyttelton blustered on and issued ultimatums regardless: a tactic that would have been counterproductive enough even had smallpox not broken out in the vicinity of the fort and made his provincials, whose enlistments were set to expire on January 1, eager to return home. The combination of an epidemic and the prospect of mass desertions left him no choice but to withdraw. Lyttelton accordingly marched for Charleston with the two accused murderers on December 31, escorted by his officers and the few troops who had not already deserted or been discharged. Behind him he left both the hostages and the gift, instructing Fort Prince George’s commandant to complete the exchange of malefactors for prisoners—then distribute the gunpowder. He might as well have lit a fuse to it.6

On January 19, 1760, a party of Cherokee warriors tried to free the hostages by force. Failing, they laid siege to the fort, cut communications between it and its distant satellite in the Overhill country, Fort Loudoun, and launched a series of sanguinary raids on backwoods settlements from southwest Virginia to Georgia. Within a month, following a surprise attack that killed their commanding officer, the garrison of Fort Prince George massacred the twenty-two hostage chiefs. Meanwhile, Cherokee raiders struck all along the southwestern borderlands; by the end of March they had killed or captured more than a hundred settlers and traders. With the exception of those families “forted up” in isolated stockades like Ninety-six, the warriors had rolled the frontier back a hundred miles, from Long Canes to Orangeburg—and Orangeburg lay just seventy-five miles from Charleston. 7

Lyttelton, who had done so much to bring about this state of affairs, seems to have been genuinely surprised by it, and found himself almost completely helpless to restore order. Since disbanding the previous year’s provincial regiment, he had only militiamen—unembodied, untrained, and unwilling to leave their homes—and a couple hundred regulars to defend the province. Early in February, Lyttelton accordingly demanded that the legislature appropriate emergency funds to raise a new regiment and seven mounted ranger companies, asked Governor Fauquier to send Virginia troops down to relieve Fort Loudoun, and appealed to Amherst for two or three regiments of regulars. All this would take time, three or four months at the least, to produce any result; and in the meantime smallpox, carried back in January by the returning provincials, broke out in Charleston, along with rumors that the slaves were planning to rebel. Fortunately for Lyttelton, the British government had already seen fit to reward his political and military skill by making him governor of Jamaica, the richest post in the colonies. He sailed for Kingston in March, presumably without regret.8

Meanwhile all that restrained the Cherokees was the growing awareness that they stood alone. The Creeks, who had so insistently pressed for hostilities, now showed no disposition to attack settlers on the Georgia frontier, but bided their time, to see if they might reap advantage by offering themselves to the English as mediators or even allies. The commandant of Fort Toulouse, the French outpost on the Alabama River 250 miles to the southwest, gave his best wishes to the Cherokee emissaries who approached him, but he had no powder to spare. The Indians of the Ohio Country, who had lately made their peace with the English, were equally unwilling to offer aid.9

Thus despite their success in emptying the frontiers of whites, and despite the military impotence of the South Carolinians, the Cherokees hesitated to attack Forts Loudoun and Prince George in the spring of 1760—not because they feared the tiny mixed garrisons of redcoats and provincials, but because they understood the consequences of diplomatic isolation. Had the Carolinians been willing to make peace on the basis of the status quo ante bellum, the war could undoubtedly have been ended at this point. The arrival in April of more than thirteen hundred regulars from the 1st and 77th Regiments of Foot under Colonel Archibald Montgomery, however, forestalled the option of negotiation. By May 24, with support from about three hundred mounted Carolina rangers, a handful of provincial infantry, and forty or fifty Catawba warriors, the redcoats reached the stockade at Ninety-six. On the first of June they marched into the Lower Towns, skirmished with their defenders, killed or captured over a hundred warriors, and burned five villages. Only then did Montgomery halt and invite negotiation and find that the Cherokees were not disposed to parley. As the population of the Lower Towns retreated to the Middle Towns, the war chiefs refused even to respond to Montgomery’s summons. The British would have to dig them out of the mountains.10

When the ten days he had allotted as time for the Cherokees to answer had passed, Montgomery ordered his men to prepare to march against the Middle Towns, sixty miles to the northwest, in the midst of some of the most rugged terrain in eastern North America. The redcoats, virtually all of whom were Scots, therefore set about improvising panniers and packsaddles for the horses of the baggage train, cutting up tents for packs and provision bags, cooking rations for the march, and taking what other measures they could to enable them to operate without wagons, which could not pass beyond the Lower Towns. In the country they were about to enter, operations would be infinitely more taxing than before and strictly limited in duration by the supplies that men and horses could carry on their backs. On June 23, Montgomery’s men began their sixty-mile trek up the traders’ path to the Middle Towns.

By July 1 they were back, bone-weary and deeply shaken by the resistance they had encountered. They had met the Cherokees near the first of the Middle Towns, Echoe, on June 27, sustaining a hundred casualties to the Indians’ fifty and losing so many pack animals that it was impossible to proceed further. The next day, after ordering excess provisions jettisoned and the wounded to be loaded onto the remaining horses, Montgomery had led his men in a hasty retreat to Fort Prince George. They remained at the fort only long enough to turn over supplies to the garrison and to leave off men who were too sick or badly wounded to travel. On July 3, Montgomery marched for Charleston; by the middle of August he and his men were sailing for New York. Amherst called Montgomery’s expedition “the greatest stroke the Indians have felt,” but to Charlestonians it looked very much as if the Cherokees had sent the British packing.11

Although Montgomery’s expedition accomplished little of military significance, it had unquestionably written Fort Loudoun’s death warrant. The garrison had been under a kind of open siege since March, cut off from communication with the outside world and surviving largely on what food Cherokee women (mainly the soldiers’ wives) brought in from the surrounding towns. Little Carpenter, still a voice for peace, had also done his best to protect the garrison, at one point discouraging a rumored attack by moving his own family into the fort. Once word of Montgomery’s devastation of the Lower Towns arrived in the Overhill country, however, nothing could stay the hand of the nativists. On June 3 they began a close siege, with the intent of starving the defenders out. In a week’s time the commander, Captain Paul Demeré (or Demere), was forced to cut the daily corn ration to two-thirds of a pint per man; by the time another week passed, the men had eaten the last of their horses. At the end of July, “miserable beyond belief” and living on a few kernels of parched corn a day, the civilian traders and packhorse drivers who had sought shelter in the fort began stealing away under cover of darkness, preferring captivity to starvation. Soon thereafter individual soldiers (most likely those with Cherokee wives) began to desert. On August 5 the garrison’s remaining troops declared their intention to depart en masse if their officers did not capitulate. Two days later Captain Demeré, his options gone along with his food, surrendered the fort and its contents to the Cherokees in return for safe passage to Fort Prince George.12

On the morning of August 9 the troops, carrying their muskets and colors and leading a small column of wives and children, marched off under a Cherokee escort. The garrison, relieved to be freed from the wretched prison of Fort Loudoun, marched a few miles down the trail and encamped by Ball Play Creek. The night passed peacefully. But the following morning, as the soldiers were forming up to march, suddenly “two guns were fired at Captain Demere who was wounded by one of the shots. . . . [T]he war whoop was . . . sent up and vollies of small arms with showers of arrows poured in . . . [from] 700 Indians, who, as they advanced surrounded the whole garrison and put them into the greatest confusion. . . . [The soldiers] called out to one another not to fire and surrendered.”


Plan of a turret at Fort Loudoun, 1759. Captain Paul Demeré enclosed these sketches of features of Fort Loudoun in a letter to William Henry Lyttelton of February 27, 1759. At left is the flagstaff, some fifty feet tall and supported by a pyramidal base. On the right is the plan of a three-story hexagonal turret, or tower, of the sort sometimes erected at the points of bastions, to give a better view of the surrounding area. A sturdy structure constructed of logs, it was capable of mounting swivels (light cannon) to fire through the portholes on the second floor, and had loopholes for muskets on the first and third levels. The footprint of the tower, with eighteen-foot exterior faces, a thirty-six-foot diameter, and a circular center stair, appears at bottom right. The sketch immediately above it shows the appearance of one face, some twenty feet tall, with a palisade and fraising to protect the rooftop firing platform. Courtesy of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

A good deal of quite deliberate killing followed the surrender. Between casualties sustained in the initial firing and the butchery that ensued, a total of twenty-five people lost their lives—three women plus a number of soldiers equal to the hostages massacred at Fort Prince George six months before. All the officers save one—a South Carolina provincial and former Scots merchant, Captain John Stuart, who had become a friend of Little Carpenter—were killed, but only Captain Demeré, who was scalped while alive and then forced to dance until he died, seems to have been ritually tortured. The common soldiers were stripped, beaten, and driven off into captivity; their wives and children were evidently treated gently. Captain Stuart was allowed to accompany Little Carpenter on a peace mission to Virginia. The remainder of the captives, about two hundred in all, remained in the Overhill Towns until the end of the war.13

Following Montgomery’s flight and Fort Loudoun’s fall, Cherokee leaders and the South Carolina authorities warily observed a six-month truce. Although Fort Prince George was nearly as vulnerable as Fort Loudoun had been, the Indians did not subject it to close siege, and as a goodwill gesture even allowed a limited amount of supplies to be brought in. Meanwhile, the Cherokees talked: to the French, who sent small symbolic gifts from Fort Toulouse, but no ammunition; to the Creeks, who continued to refuse a direct alliance while they explored ways to increase their standing at Cherokee expense; to the Virginians, who threatened invasion and sent gifts to support Little Carpenter; to Lyttelton’s successor, Lieutenant Governor William Bull, who advocated peace and tried desperately to persuade men to enlist in the South Carolina provincial regiment. Everyone but the Cherokees played for time. And time—as the nativist leaders, whose prestige and morale were at the zenith, were too slow to realize—was the one element that favored the Cherokees least.

The winter of 1761 weakened the Indians, who suffered by the great depth of snow, scarcity of ammunition, shortages of food brought on by the loss of the Lower Towns’ harvest, and disease. Yet the warriors’ morale remained high, bolstered by the surrender of Fort Loudoun, their success in driving Montgomery’s troops out of the Middle Towns, and the appearance of a present of trade goods from the French—goods, as it happened, that were English in origin, having been brought to the Gulf Coast by clandestine Anglo-American traders and then transported up the Alabama River to Fort Toulouse. The war chiefs did not yet know that on January 6 a new complement of regulars had arrived from New York under Lieutenant Colonel James Grant, a man whose experiences as Montgomery’s second-in-command and as a field commander under Forbes and Bouquet had made him a systematic, and therefore dangerous, opponent. He had orders from Amherst “to chastise the Cherokees [and] reduce them to the absolute necessity of suing for pardon,” and he had brought with him a body of Mohawk and Stockbridge Indian scouts. The South Carolina government, moreover, had finally raised a substantial number of provincials and rangers and had recruited Catawba and Chickasaw warriors as well.14

The threat that all this posed to the Cherokees would not in fact be clear until late spring, because the severe weather, the lack of forage, and the necessity of training Lieutenant Colonel Henry Laurens’s provincials all kept Grant from reaching the frontier settlement of Ninety-six until May 18. But by then his force numbered more than 2,800 men, half of whom were well-seasoned regulars of the 1st, 17th, and 22nd Regiments; and this time, unlike the last, they were prepared to operate for an extended period in the mountains. When Grant’s men marched from Fort Prince George toward the Middle Towns on June 7, they were followed by a pack train a mile long—six hundred horses carrying a month’s worth of food and ammunition—and a herd of beef cattle so big that scores of slaves were needed to manage it.15

A great Cherokee force of a thousand warriors met Grant’s invading army on June 10 near Echoe, where the previous year’s battle had taken place. Once again the Indians attacked the British column from ambush and concentrated on destroying the British pack animals, but this time they failed to repeat their earlier success. Six hours of long-range firing from “amazingly advantageous” positions on “the Tops & Brows of Hills upon our right [and] across the River Cowhih on our left” cost Grant’s army an officer and eleven men killed and fifty-two soldiers and wagoners wounded, along with perhaps sixty horses and an indeterminate number of cattle killed or stampeded. The Cherokees may have lost twice as many men, but more important, they exhausted most of their ammunition and thus lost the ability to prevent Grant from carrying through his chastising mission. During the remainder of the month and the first days of July, the warriors could only pick off unwary sentries and watch helplessly from the woods as Grant’s men burned all fifteen of the Middle Towns and laid waste to fifteen hundred acres of corn- and beanfields. Any Indian man, woman, or child luckless enough to be caught was summarily executed, by Grant’s express order.16

When Grant returned to Fort Prince George on July 9, he had marched his men nearly to exhaustion—three hundred were too sick or lame to walk, and another thousand had worn their shoes to shreds—but he had made at least four thousand inhabitants of the Middle Towns homeless and destroyed the crops they needed to survive the coming winter. Perhaps three Cherokees out of every five now lived as refugees in the Overhill settlements, overwhelming the available food stocks, and effectively incapable of carrying on the war. The Cherokee economy had spiraled down to a virtually neolithic level: the last resistance against Grant’s men had been made by warriors armed only with bows and arrows. Meanwhile, the Creeks had been playing off Cherokee, French, and British interests in a classic neutrality strategy and battening on trade with the English. Well-armed Chickasaw, Catawba, and Iroquois war parties were beginning to raid Overhill settlements whose warriors could no longer defend them. Disease had risen to epidemic levels, and a winter’s famine had become a certainty. On top of it all, over the last year’s time, Colonel William Byrd’s Virginia Regiment had succeeded in building more than eighty miles of road from Chiswell’s Fort on the southwestern frontier of the Old Dominion to the upper reaches of the Holston River in North Carolina. While Grant’s men were laying the Middle Towns in ashes, Byrd’s Virginia provincials and a large accompanying contingent of Tuscarora warriors were advancing to the Long Island of the Holston, little more than a hundred miles from the Overhill Towns. If the Virginians and their allies chose to descend the Holston Valley, they could reach the Overhill Towns in a month’s time without ever overstretching their supply lines. Then they could wreak a kind of havoc that even Grant had been unable to contemplate.17

So the council of the Cherokee nation sued for peace in August, sending a delegation under Little Carpenter to meet with Grant at Fort Prince George. There, and later in Charleston, the chief showed how much he deserved his reputation as a negotiator. Under the treaty’s remarkably mild terms all white prisoners, slaves, and captured livestock were to be returned, and the line of demarcation between white settlement and the Cherokee lands was to be moved to within twenty-six miles of the Keowee River—a forfeiture of about half of the Lower Towns’ hunting grounds. Lyttelton’s old insistence that the twenty-two braves who had killed settlers in the spring of 1759 be surrendered was quietly forgotten, along with Grant’s demand that the chiefs choose four from among their number to be executed. It was close to a status quo ante bellum peace, and it came even closer in the next few months, when subsequent negotiations moved the line of demarcation back to forty miles east of the Keowee. Moreover, the resumption of peace brought at least one considerable advantage to the Cherokees, for the war had broken the old Carolina trade monopoly. Overhills, having lost the mart at Fort Loudoun, had begun to deal with the Virginia and North Carolina traders who accompanied the Virginia Regiment to the Holston, while Georgia traders operating out of Augusta had responded to a Lower Town invitation to set up camps in the woods southwest of Fort Prince George.

Finally, the previous Indian superintendent for the southern department, the comparatively ineffectual Charleston trader Edmund Atkin, died in the fall of 1761. Atkin had been content to leave management of Cherokee affairs largely in the hands of South Carolina’s governor, where control had rested since 1730. But the man whom Pitt chose to take Atkin’s place was John Stuart, the friend of Little Carpenter, a committed imperialist, and an activist administrator. Although he would face problems enough during his tenure as superintendent, Stuart would never permit another South Carolina governor to exert the kind of baleful influence William Henry Lyttelton had had on relations with the Cherokee nation.18

At least three paradoxical lessons could be extracted from the war. In the first place, the conflict had severely damaged the Cherokees, who had seen half their settlements destroyed and lost a great deal of population— we do not know how much, but the proportion was high—to disease and famine. At the same time, however, the strategic position of the nation actually improved insofar as the war had destroyed the Carolina trade monopoly, the peace settlement ultimately required a negligible cession of lands to the province, and the legislature had left Cherokee sovereignty effectively undiminished.

Second, the events leading up to the outbreak of hostilities had shown that moderate or neutralist leaders like Little Carpenter could easily lose control of policy to more aggressive nativist chiefs whenever the Anglo-Americans tried to direct Indian relations by coercion, intimidation, the manipulation of trade, or the suspension of such necessary diplomatic gifts as ammunition. At the same time, the collapse of Cherokee resistance in the face of Grant’s expedition also demonstrated that the Indians depended so heavily on European supplies that even skilled warriors protected by distance and difficult terrain could be brought to terms once their stocks of lead, powder, and other strategic goods were spent.

Third, nativist leaders had proven strong enough to override the counsel of experienced mediators like Little Carpenter, and capable of retaining control of policy until all possibility for resistance had been destroyed. Nevertheless, the war gave no indication that nativists in different nations could cooperate against the British. Indeed, virtually every native group that the British had approached for help, from the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Catawbas of the south to the Iroquois and Ohio peoples of the north, had been only too willing to profit from the defeat of a powerful rival.

The outcome of the Cherokee War therefore lent itself equally well to contradictory interpretations. Militarily, the conflict made it plain that Indian populations could be incapacitated by the denial of European manufactures, and that Indian nations lacked the capacity to cooperate when French leadership was weak or absent. The cultural messages of the war, however, were both more ambiguous and more powerful: first, that any attempt to control the behavior of Indian nations by manipulating the supply of trade goods could tip the balance of tribal policy from accommodation to hostility; second, that while British soldiers might be capable of inflicting great direct damage on an Indian enemy, even a failed attempt at resistance could result in gains for nativist leaders.

Unsurprisingly, Jeffery Amherst construed the meaning of the conflict in a purely military way and ignored the war’s cultural implications. As early as February 22, 1761, he had begun to think about how Indian relations might best be conducted now that the French could no longer organize opposition to English power. Writing to Sir William Johnson concerning the establishment of trade at the recently acquired post of Detroit, and clearly conscious as well of the state of affairs in South Carolina, Amherst explained that while trade was clearly necessary and desirable, the lavish giving of gifts was not:

So long as I am honored with the Command, these Officers [commanding the posts in the interior of the continent] Shall be Instructed to keep up a Steady, Uniform, and friendly Conduct & behavior towards the Indians; with regard to furnishing the latter, with a little Cloathing, some arms & ammunition to hunt with, that is all very well in Cases of Necessity; but as, when the Intended Trade is once Established they will be able to supply themselves with these, from the Traders, for their furrs, I do not see why the Crown should be put to that Expence.—I am not neither for giving them any Provisions; when they find they can get it on Asking for, they will grow remiss in their hunting, which Should Industriously be avoided; for so long as their minds are Intent on business they will not have leisure to hatch mischief. . . .

. . . Services must be rewarded; it has ever been a maxim with me; but as to purchasing the good behavior either of Indians, or any Others, [that] is what I do not understand; when men of what race soever behave ill, they must be punished but not bribed.... 19

By August the commander in chief had ceased propounding maxims and had begun issuing orders. Instructing Johnson on how to proceed at the Indian Congress to be held at Detroit that would confirm Canada’s capitulation and create amicable ties with the nations of the pays d’en haut, Amherst thought it worthwhile to call to his attention “the Chastizement the Cherokees have met with from the King’s Troops, . . . in Carolina.” The superintendent had previously warned the commander in chief, from Niagara, that the Geneseo Senecas—a Francophile band traditionally engaged to portage goods and supplies around the falls—had been trying to raise a western confederacy to oppose English interests. He had taken every occasion to denounce the Geneseo scheme, Johnson wrote, and because of it advised Amherst of the “absolute necessity for . . . allowing [the commanding officer at Niagara] to give the dist[ant] Nations & others who resort here Ammunition & a little prov[isio]ns on their return if we want to continue their friendship.” This had made no sense to Amherst, who believed that self-interest alone would ensure the Indians’ cooperation. Grant’s campaign had recently furnished an “Example [by which] the Indians may be Convinced that We have it in our power to Reduce them to Reason, and You will accordingly make use of this . . . piece of Intelligence, among those You are to Treat with, in such a manner as You Shall see most for His Majesty’s Interest.” As for the gifts Johnson wished to bestow, Amherst wrote,

You are sensible how averse I am, to purchasing the good behavior of Indians . . . ; wherefore as a Trade is now opened for them, and that you will put it under such Regulations as to prevent their being imposed upon, I think it much better to avoid all presents in future, since that will oblige them to Supply themselves by barter, & of course keep them more Constantly Employed by means of which they will have less time to concert, or Carry in to Execution any Schemes prejudicial to His Majestys Interests; and to abolish entirely every kind of apprehension on that account, the keeping them scarce of Ammunition, is not less to be Recommended; since nothing can be so impolitick as to furnish them with the means of accomplishing the Evil which is so much Dreaded.20

In practice this meant that, starting in the fall of 1761, traders at the interior forts would have to operate under rules so stringent that commerce actually diminished instead of growing, as the British had promised it would, in diplomatic conferences from 1758 onward. Real suffering ensued in Indian villages throughout the west. The better to supervise the traders, and prevent them from charging excessive prices for their goods, Amherst forbade them to carry on commerce in Indian villages. This compelled the Indians, who frequently lacked the horses to transport large packs of peltry, to haul skins and furs to the forts in small quantities. Once there, they discovered that the traders had been forbidden to sell them any rum or other liquor, and that they could buy only five pounds of lead and five pounds of powder in any single transaction.21

Amherst wanted these measures to reduce the disorders of a trade in alcohol that he rightly believed had gotten out of hand, to economize on presents that he knew had become too expensive, and to minimize Indian military capabilities that he feared had become too great. What he did, however, was disable Indian men from carrying on their fall and winter hunts, inhibit their ability to provide for their families and villages, and deprive them of a drug that had become an important part of their social life. Rather than improving their character by forcing them to become soberly attentive to the business of hunting, Amherst had begun to turn the Indians of the interior into sober (and vastly more dangerous) enemies.22 Far from keeping the Indians so busy that they had no time to hatch mischief among themselves, he had given them what they had never had before: a common grievance, and tangible evidence that the English would not hesitate to threaten their way of life.

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