About the year 1756, Col. Peter Randolph, Col. [William] Byrd [III], Mr. [John] Campbell, and other persons, were sent upon an embassy by the Governor of Virginia to the Cherokee country, in order, if possible, to cement more strongly the friendship and alliance which subsisted at that time between our colonies and those savages, and to engage them more heartily in our cause.
The business was in train, and likely to succeed, when unfortunately the following most flagrant and atrocious act of treachery immediately put an end to the negotiation, and eventually involved us in a new and bloody war with the very nation, whose friendship and aid it was the object of the mission to cement and make more firm and lasting.
The reader should be informed that the cruel depredations and ravages committed by the Indians after General Braddock’s defeat had induced government to offer a considerable premium for every scalp of a hostile Indian, that should be brought in by any of our rangers: this unfortunately opened a door, and gave occasion to many acts of enormity; for some of the back-settlers, men of bad lives and worse principles, tempted by the reward, insidiously massacred several of our friendly Indians, and afterwards endeavored to defraud government of the reward, by pretending that they were the scalps of hostile tribes.
Amongst others, a back-settler in Augusta county, a captain of militia, whose name ought to be delivered down to posterity with infamy, treacherously murdered some Cherokee Indians, who had been out upon a military expedition in our behalf against the French, under a pretence that they had pilfered some of his poultry.
He had received and entertained them as friends; and when they took leave of him to return to their own country, he placed a party in ambush, murdered several of the poor unsuspecting Cherokees, and then endeavored to defraud government, by claiming the premium assigned for the scalps of hostile Indians.
A few of those who escaped the massacre arrived at the Cherokee town with the news of this horrid transaction, just at the moment when the embassy was upon the point of concluding a very advantageous treaty: a violent ferment took place, and the Cherokees, in the utmost rage, assembled from every quarter, to take instant revenge by putting all the embassadors to death.
Attakulla Kulla, or the Little Carpenter, a steady friend of the English, hastened to the embassadors, apprized them of their danger, and recommended to them to conceal or barricade themselves as well as they could, and not to appear abroad on any account.
He then assembled his nation, over whom he possessed great influence, in the council-room; inveighed bitterly against the treachery of the English; advised an immediate war to revenge the injury; and never to lay down the hatchet, till they had obtained full compensation and atonement for the blood of their countrymen.
“Let us not, however,” said he, “violate our faith, or the laws of hospitality, by imbruing our hands in the blood of those who are now in our power; they came to us in the confidence of friendship, with belts of wampum to cement a perpetual alliance with us. Let us carry them back to their own settlements; conduct them safely within their confines; and then take up the hatchet, and endeavour to exterminate the whole race of them.”
They accordingly adopted this counsel; they conducted the embassadors safe to the confines; and as they could not obtain satisfaction for the murder, by having the offender delivered up to them, which they demanded, and which ought to have been done, a dreadful war ensued, in which the different tribes of the Cherokee nation became gradually involved; and which did not cease, or relax from its horrors, till terminated by Col. Grant in the year 1761, with still more horrid circumstances, than any that had been exercised during the carrying of it on.
This account was communicated to me by one of the gentlemen engaged in the embassy.
Mr. Jefferson, in his ‘History of Virginia,’ page 99, has related the following circumstance that occurred during this awful and interesting transaction.
Speaking of the strict observance and fidelity of Indians in regard to their promises and attachments, he says, in a note:
“A remarkable instance of this appeared in the case of the late Col. Byrd, who was sent to the Cherokee nation to transact some business with them.
“It happened that some of our disorderly people had killed one or two of that nation; it was therefore proposed in council that Col. Byrd should be put to death, in revenge for the loss of their countrymen.
“Among them was a chief called Silouee, who on some former occasion had contracted an acquaintance and friendship with Col. Byrd; he came to him every night in his tent, and told him not to be afraid, they should not kill him.
“After many days deliberation, however, the determination was, contrary to Silouee’s expectation, that Byrd should be put to death, and some warriors were dispatched as executioners.
“Silouee attended them, and when they entered the tent, he threw himself between them and Byrd, and said to the warriors: ‘This man is my friend—before you get at him, you must kill me!’
“On which they returned, and the council respected the principle so much as to recede from their determination.”
from Travels through the middle settlements in North America, in the years 1759 and 1760 with observations upon the state of the colonies, Edition the 3d : rev., cor., and greatly enl. by the Rev. Andrew Burnaby, 1798, T. Payne, London