Massacre and incineration of Cherokee families at Little Keowee and Estatoe

In September of 1760 over 2000 headmen of the Cherokee met with Oconostota, Ostenaco, Attakulakula, and Standing Turkey in Nikwasi and decided to make peace with the British in South Carolina. They released ten captives and sent a letter to Governor Bull for a peace treaty. Lt Colonel James Grant was instead sent with 3000 men to teach the Cherokee a lesson.

Colonel Grant’s first Letter:

james-grant-300
Portrait of James Grant of Ballindalloch, circa 1770, currently held by the State Archives of Florida.

“After we had marched about 16 miles, a dog was heard bark∣ing at some distance in our front and the guides informed us, that there were a few houses about a quarter of a mile from the place, called Little Keowee, of which indeed they had not informed us before: To prevent any inconvenience from these houses, the light infantry company of the Royal was detached to surround the houses, and put the Indians to death with their bayonets. By an accident a scout which had been at Fort Prince George that very day, were encamped near the houses, and upon discovering our men, they fired at them; a few of ours returned the fire, but immediately rushed in upon them, and most of those who were without the houses, and all who were in them, were put to death with bayonets, except the women and children, according to the orders which had been given. We proceeded directly on our march to Estatoe, and found a few houses on the road just deserted; the beds were warm, and everything was left in the houses, which you may believe did not escape. We arrived early in the morning at Estatoe, which was abandoned about half an hour before: ten or a dozen of them, who had not time to escape, were killed. The town, consisting of above __ houses, well provided with ammunition, corp. and in short all the necessaries of life, we plundered and laid in ashes. Many of the inhabitants who had endeavoured to conceal themselves, I have reason to believe perished in the flames, some of them I know of for certain.

Cunne Shote, Cherokee Chief, by Francis Parsons (English), 1762, oil on canvas, Gilcrease Museum
Cunne Shote, Cherokee Chief, by Francis Parsons (English), 1762, oil on canvas, Gilcrease Museum

In order to continue the blow, and to shew those savages that it was possible to punish their insolence, we proceeded on our march, took all their towns in our way, and every house and town in the Lower nation shared the same fate with Estatoe. I could not help pitying them a little: Their villages were agreeably situated; their houses neatly built and well provided, for they were in the greatest abundance of every thing: They must be pretty numerous. Estatoe and Sugar-Town consisted of at least of 200 houses, and every other village at least __ houses. After killing all we could find, and burning every house in the nation, we marched to Keowee, and arrived the second of June (after a march of above many miles without sleeping) at four in the evening at fort Prince George. There must have been from 60 to 80 Cherokees killed, with about 40 prisoners; I mean men, women, and children.

Those who escaped must be in a miserable situation and can possibly have no resource but flying over the mountains, in case their friends there will receive them: they can have saved nothing: some of them had just time to run out of their beds; others left their food warm upon the table and in their kettles. The surprise in every town was almost equal, as the whole affair was the work of a very few hours. They had, both at Estatoe and Sugar-Town, plenty of ammunition, which was destroyed; and every where astonishing magazines of corn, which were all consumed in the flames: they had not even time to save their most valuable effects: The soldiers found money in many hou∣ses; 3 or 4 watches were got; their wampum, their cloaths, skins, and in short every thing. Many loaded guns went off when the houses were burning. I had almost forget to tell you that we intended to save SugarTown, as the place nearest the fort (where they even had a stockade fort): Sentries were placed for the security of the town, but we found the body of a dead man, whom they had put to the torture that very morning, it was then no longer possible to think of mercy.”