Indians speak French
For most of the Indian nations of the Appalachian border region and the Ohio Valley, the conflict that began in 1754 was the British "French an Indian War" called, little more than a continuation of the unrest that shook the tribes and their relationships both with one another and with the expanding white population.
Ultimately, this conflict, which broke out after years of small wars and skirmishes between the British, their colonies and Indian allies on the one hand, and the French and their allied tribes, on the other, was a struggle between these two European powers for the possession of North America. Most of the tribes realized that they would gain nothing in this war and tried to remain neutral; however, many could not avoid being used as auxiliary troops on one side or the other.
The immediate cause of the war were forts that the French wanted to build on the upper Ohio - a large area that was also claimed by Virginia and the British Crown. This had awarded half a million acres (2023.4 km²) of the area of the Ohio Company to build English settlements there. The French officers, however, insisted that the Ohio Valley belonged to France, which it needed for "a free and safe passage" from its central possessions in eastern Canada to those on the Mississippi; they didn’t mince their words, claiming that "our resolve is to take possession of the Ohio - and by God we will!"
In the winter of 1753/54 Virginia sent the twenty-one-year-old inspector and militia officer George Washington to this area to ask the French builders of the forts to leave the area. His attempt failed, but almost as important in this context is that both Washington itself and the French officers with whom he negotiated were concerned about the extent to which their respective Indian allies would actually assist them in eventual hostilities. There were many groups from different tribes in the Ohio Valley, some favored by the English and others by the French. But most of them were refugees who lived there with the tolerance of the League of Haudenosaunee (which, like England and France, also claimed the Ohio area for themselves), and it was difficult for them to act independently of the Iroquois chiefs. Since the federal government did not want to intervene in the quarrel between the whites, it caused great problems for the two European powers to win over Indian groups.
Before Washington's arrival, a powerful Seneca chief named Tanacharison, who was also federal spokesman for the Iroquois settlers in the Ohio area and overseer of the dependent Delaware refugee groups in the region, suggested to the French commander that the French and English should both get out of the Withdraw territory and leave it to the federal government as a kind of buffer zone between the two powers. Thereupon the French officer lost his temper and yelled at the dignified statesman of the Seneca: "I am not afraid of flies and mosquitoes, because that is exactly what the Indians are. I tell you that I will go down this river, the Ohio. If he does is blocked, I have enough soldiers to open it and trample on all who oppose me. I despise the stupidity you have shown of yourself. " Then he contemptuously tossed a wampum string at Tanacharison's face.
When Washington arrived he was greeted warmly by the insulted Seneca chief and given the assurance that the Indians were kind to the English. The French suffered another offense when one of their officers tried to get Tanacharison so drunk in Washington's presence that he would no longer be able to go with Washington as promised. So he would have to stay with the French, who could then possibly persuade him to provide Iroquois auxiliaries to the French armed forces. But the attempt failed and the chief traveled on with Washington.
But Seneca's friendship did not necessarily mean military support for the English from the Iroquois Federation. Washington returned to the Virginia government worried that the French would enlist Indians from Canada and the West, while the Iroquois and the tribes they ruled would abandon the English. "Without Indians to contrast with the Indians, we have little chance of success," he told the governor of Virginia.
In April 1754, Washington returned with 120 men to the Ohio Valley to protect a group of forty men from Virginia who were to build an English fort at the strategically important bifurcation of the river on the site of what is now Pittsburgh. Tanacharison was still sympathetic to the English and had joined the troop to offer his advice and - in the event of a French intervention - the support of his warriors, mainly Seneca emigrants who use the Delaware word mingo ("the stealthy") ) were designated. But before Washington reached its destination, a superior French unit of 500 men with Indian auxiliaries appeared at the forks. The small group from Virginia had to resign and the French renamed the fort Fort Duquesne after their military commander in chief in North America.
Tanacharison and his warriors rejoined Washington and its militia and with them raided the camp of a small French detachment, killing the commander and nine of his men. When the French authorities found out, they turned this episode into an international controversy, often referred to as the event that ultimately sparked the French-Indian, or Seven Years War.
n a place called Great Meadows, Washington set up a post of his own, which he called Fort Necessity. But the place was badly chosen. The fort lay in a depression and was surrounded on three sides by wooded hills. Before parting with Washington, the Seneca advised him not to use the fort, and that advice would prove correct.
On July 4th, 1754, a French army of 650 men - regular troops and Indians - attacked Fort Necessity. The French soldiers had been incited by their officers to avenge Washington's "murder" of the alleged French embassy. The French had been able to win support mainly from Indians from Canada with whom they traded or who were under the influence of French missionaries - Wyandot, Ojibway, Abenaki, Nipissing, Odawa, Algonquin and Iroquois from French mission stations with the Onondaga and Mohawk. However, after a day of unsuccessful fighting in the pouring rain, the Indians informed the French commanding officer that they would be moving home the next day. The French then offered Washington honorable terms of surrender. Since Washington could not withstand a siege, he surrendered his fort and marched back to Virginia.
The following year the French at Fort Duquesne were able to avert a serious English threat in the Ohio area with the help of Indian allies: on July 9, 1755, hundreds of warriors of the Odawa, Ojibway, Miami, Potawatomi, Menominee, Shawnee, Hurons, Delaware and Pro-French Seneca played a key role in driving Major General Edward Braddock's red-skinned grenadiers out of the deep forests on the Monongahela River.
Braddock, who did not skimp on insulting the tribes, had only eight Indians with his troops. Prior to his disastrous march through the wilderness to retake Fort Duquesne, he had inadvertently induced the Shawnee and Delaware refugee groups to dig up the hatchet against the English by telling Shingas, the chief of the Delaware, in his arrogant manner after he had defeated the French from the Ohio area, only English - and "no savage" - would inhabit this land. After Braddock's defeat, it took the British another three years to take possession of the area. In 1758 a large new army under Brigadier General John Forbes, with the help of several groups of Iroquois, Catawba, and Cherokee who had been won over to the side of the English, built a road across the rugged, wooded mountains of Pennsylvania and advanced to Fort Duquesne . The outnumbered French burned the fort and withdrew. The British immediately built a new post at the fork of the Ohio, naming it after their Prime Minister, William Pitt.
The English settlers on the open border to the west were exposed to the French and their Indian allies by Braddock's defeat and gave up their land. A delegation was then sent to the Cherokee, who had long been friendly to the English, asking them to help protect Virginia against the Shawnee and other Pro-French tribes.
One of the largest and most powerful nations in the east, the Cherokee lived in villages scattered across parts of South Carolina, northern Georgia, western North Carolina, and parts of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama. For years, because of their strength and their great distance from the coastal colonies of the Europeans, they had lived undisturbed under their traditional leadership. From their capital, Echota, they ruled the Mississippi area with a mixture of clan-based democracy and pre-Columbian religious doctrines.
At the beginning of the war, French agents, who often worked with Creek friends, tried to persuade the Cherokee to attack the English. But although many Cherokee complaints about the English traders and a pro-French faction emerged within the tribe under the leadership of Man Killer, the influential chief of the city of Tellico, the majority of the people remained loyal to their chief, Old Hopp of Chote (Kanagagota - Standing Turkey) who chose loyalty to the English.
he Iroquois also tried the Cherokee in the war of the white man at first to remain neutral. However, they too suffered from the raids on the frontier by the Shawnee and other tribes, which they jealously regarded as their property rather than those of the Colony of Virginia, the French, or anyone else. After Braddock's defeat, they made promises at meetings with English negotiators To send warriors to defend the border of Virginia. In return, the English gave them an assurance that they would build forts in the border area to protect the Cherokee from their enemies.
In order to keep their promise, the English built Fort Loudoun in 1756 to protect the territory of the Cherokee. But a series of gross violations by English settlers against Cherokee in their own territory, as well as resentment and prejudice by British officers against the Indians, as well as the anger at the continued fraud of English traders, finally brought the Indians' already reluctance to participate in the struggle of the Europeans to an end Succumb. When the Cherokee dispatched warriors to support General Forbes' march on Fort Duquesne in Pennsylvania in 1758, almost all of them deserted before the campaign began.
Tensions were mounting in the Cherokee land and their relations between them and the English were spiraling out of control. Indian murders were followed by fatal assaults on white families, whose homes and crops went up in flames. Armed skirmishes between Cherokee warriors and British militias increased, as an attack by one side resulted in an act of revenge by the other.
In October 1759, Oconostota, the war chief of the Upper Cherokee and a loyal friend of the English, led thirty-one important chiefs to Charles Town in the hope of defusing the situation. But instead of receiving the delegation, the governor of South Carolina had the men arrested and taken to the new Fort Prince George.
When other pro-British Cherokee chiefs asked for the release of the prisoners, who the English now referred to as "hostages", the governor agreed to release Oconostota and a few others from custody, but only in exchange for other Indians - whom he immediately did executed. That broke the barrel. Furious Cherokee fighters began the long-threatened war by besieging Fort Prince George and attacking border villages from Virginia to Georgia.
After successfully defending a position in which several Cherokee were killed, the militia commander wrote to the governor of South Carolina: Meanwhile, the besiegers of Fort Prince George killed the commander, whereupon the enraged garrison murdered the captive chiefs, some of them even, in revenge while they were in chains.
As the war raged on with undiminished severity in 1760, the British sent 1,200 soldiers to South Carolina. The army marched through Cherokee lands, pillaging and pillaging villages, fields, granaries and orchards, killing some Cherokee and capturing several. Near what is now Franklin, North Carolina, Cherokee warriors engaged troops in battle, killing twenty soldiers and, although they eventually gave up themselves, forced the Royal Scot and Highland Regiment to retreat.
Most British troops left the Carolinas after the siege of Fort Prince George. In the meantime, Cherokee warriors, led by Oconostota, conquered Fort Loudoun. In 1761 the British sent new troops into the country which, with the help of the Chickasaw, defeated a large Cherokee force. Thereupon they marched once more through the Cherokee country, laid fifteen places in rubble and ashes and once more burned the fields and granaries of the Indians. Over five thousand Cherokee fled to the mountains where they were starving. A new governor, who conferred with Cherokee peace chiefs in November 1761, finally ended the war.
In the meantime, the English had also been heavily involved in another front of the French-Indian War - they had tried to win against the French the support of the League of Haudenosaunee in what is now New York State. Land scams, the condescending attitude of the British, reports of better treatment by the French, and numerous territorial conflicts with the various English colonies had worn out the Federation's original benevolence for the British. In 1754 representatives of most of the British colonies met in Albany with the leaders of the Iroquois on the pretext of wanting to discuss the complaints of the Indians. Instead, the delegates wrestled among themselves for advantages for their colonies and devised clever new treaties for land that gave the tribes even more cause for concern.
However, Mohawk Chief Hendrick, nearly eighty years old, made a serious speech to the commissioners. He told them that while the English "turn their backs on us and disregard us," steal the land from the Indians, and make the warriors drunk with rum, the French, "a sensitive and cautious people, would always do anything to persuade our people and to pull on their side ". Hendrick went on to point out the strength that the unity of the union had brought to the tribes of the Iroquois, and urged the colonies to follow the example of the Iroquois and to unite against the French in a league.
This thought was not new to Benjamin Franklin, one of the Pennsylvania delegates; he had even brought with him to Albany his own plan for the amalgamation of the colonies. Franklin admired the mohawk, which had undoubtedly influenced his thinking. "It would be strange," he wrote, "if six nations (the Tuscarora had since joined the union) of ignorant savages should be able to form such a union that would last for years and appear indissoluble; that a similar union for ten or twelve English colonies, for which it is more necessary and more advantageous, and for whom it cannot lack a similar knowledge of their interests, should not be feasible. " But although the Albany Congress voted in favor of Franklin's union plan, none of the colonies ratified it.
Some groups of the Iroquois went their own way during the war. Influenced by the French, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Seneca sent warriors against the English, while in the Ohio region the western, non-federal Seneca (or Mingo) supported George Washington. Even old Hendrick himself, a good friend and relative by marriage of Sir William Johnson, the British Indian Commissioner in northern New York State, actively joined the English side; he provided Johnson with four hundred Mohawk warriors in the summer of 1755 for use against the French in the Champlain Valley.In Lake George, on the eve of a battle against a large French unit and its Indian allies, the old man looked at his warriors and remarked, "They are too few to fight; too many to die." Johnson won the battle, but Hendrick and many of his men were killed in the process.
During this time the leaders of the League of Haudenosaunee had to deal with a crisis in their own camp. The Iroquois had become rich and powerful not least because of the strategic position of their territory between the sphere of influence of the French and the English; they had pitted the two European rivals against one another, assumed the role of a neutral third power, and threatened each side with possibly joining or favoring the other. With the defeat and withdrawal of France from North America, this situation changed.
Surrounded by British forts and without a second European power behind it, the Iroquois Federation had lost an important diplomatic weapon.
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