My Cherokee Ordeal

On August 9th 1760, we marched out of the Fort of the final time with only what we could carry with us. We were a long and sorry procession as we marched off toward Fort Prince George in South Carolina. As the sun went down, we set camp along Cane Creek, just up river from Loudoun.

In the night, a band of Cherokee attacked with no warning, killing about twenty five of our soldiers.

Several of our number were captured, myself included. We were beaten severely about the face and arms. I was bound about the neck with a leash that ran down my back and to my hands. Private Ebenezer Sweet was bound in a similar fashion and placed in a prisoner procession just in front of me.

Mr. R. Melton, whom you may recall served with me in the Hospital at Fort Niagara.

Pvt. E. Sweet

My own wounds.

We were paraded back along the trail and trough old Fort Loudoun, which was now nearly unrecognisable as our former home, and back out again to Tuskeegee, the nearby Cherokee village.

Once there, we were in the thick of them. I understood very little of what most of them had to say, they shouted and gestured a great deal, especially the fellow who held my leash. He seemed generally unhappy, pushing and kicking me when I didn't march along to suit him.

Eventually it was made clear by one of the surprisingly well spoken elder women, that the captured men were to be made to run the 'gauntlet', a particularly vicious tradition whereby we would walk or run down the middle of a group of the Cherokee and be beaten with long, thick cane rods. We were untied and Private Sweet was made to go first. He marched through the line defiantly, arms at his sides, he seemed half mad with the injuries inflicted and starvation.

I was pushed in next, I attempted to resist, but my captor would have none of it and gave me a great blow to the back of the knee and then to the stomach to goad me onward. I landed on the ground and the beating began straight away.

Eventually I got up and shielded my face and head with my arms and got through the line as quickly as possible. Sweet and I watched as the others were made to go through. One poor Provincial fellow was beaten so that he had to crawl through and barely made it out. He laid at our feet afterward and was encouraged to stay down.

They seemed impressed that Sweet could march through seemingly unaffected by the blows and made him march through twice more. Each time, he kept his arms to his sides and marched through defiantly.

One of the natives on the other side of the group cried, "Make the Doctor run the gauntlet again!"

The well spoken Cherokee elder woman looked at Private Sweet, who stood bloodied next to me and said, "I do not think he could take another." as she mistakenly reached out for him.

"No," says I quietly, "You are mistaken, for I am the Doctor."

She reached for my arm instead and pushed me on into the gauntlet again.

Afterward, it was announced that Sweet would be adopted into the group and his life spared. I stood and awaited my fate. It was then that Eaglewoman and Cornblossom went to the well spoken elder woman on my behalf. They petitioned her to spare my life and allow me to be adopted into the community as well. She concieded and announced that I would be spared as well.

Eagle Woman and Cornblossom

God bless that sprig of mistletoe that saved my life!

I was later treated to some of the first food I had eaten in some time. Eaglewoman brought me fresh water, fruit and a fat strip of cooked turkey.

Later that evening, the natives went back into the Fort and performed their dances.

"...ten or tweleve of which were entirely naked, except a piece of cloth about the middle, and painted all over in a hideous manner, six of them with eagles tails in their hands, which they shook and flourished as they advanced, danced in a very uncommon figure, singing in concert with some drums of their own make, and those of the late unfortunate Capt. Demere..."
From the Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake

Being left mostly unattended, I took my opportunity to escape, slipping into the water in my linen shirt and red wool breeches. I crawled along the shoreline completely underwater, only my eyes and nose above the water. The natives that were still in the village and encamped along the water didn't notice me as I carefully made my way along the slick, algae covered rocks that lurked just below the surface.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Wonderful post! I can't wait to read the rest of the tale.