“In the year 1747 a couple of the Mohawk Indians came against the lower towns
of the Cheerake, and so cunningly ambuscaded them through most part of the
spring and summer, as to kill above twenty in different attacks before they were
discovered any party of the enraged and dejected people. They had a
thorough knowledge of the most convenient ground for their purpose, and were
extremely swift and long-winded. Whenever they killed any and got the scalp
they made off to the neighboring mountains, and ran over the broad ledges of
rocks in contrary courses, as occasion offered, so as the pursuers could no
means trace them. Once, when a large company was in chase of them, they ran
round a steep hill at the head of the main eastern branch of Savana river,
intercepted, killed, and scalped the hindmost of the party, and then made off
between them and Keeowhee. As this was the town to which the company
belonged, they hastened home in a close body, as the proper place of security
from such enemy wizards. In this manner did those two sprightly, gallant
savages perplex and intimidate their foes for the space of four moons in the
greatest security, though they often were forced to kill and barbecue what they
chiefly lived upon, in the midst of their watchful enemies. Having sufficientlyrevenged their relations’ blood and gratified their own ambition with an
uncommon number of scalps, they resolved to captivate one and run home with
him as a proof of their having killed none but the enemies of their country.
Accordingly, they approached very near to Keeowhee, about half a mile below
the late Fort Prince George. Advancing with the usual caution on such an
occasion, one crawled along under the best cover of the place about the distance
of a hundred yards ahead, while the other shifted from tree to tree, looking
sharply every way. In the evening, however, an old, beloved man discovered
them from the top of an adjoining hill, and knew them to be enemies the cut
of their hair, light trim for running, and their postures. He returned to the town
and called first at the house of one of our traders and informed him of the affair,
enjoining him not to mention it to any, lest the people should set off against them
without success before their tracks were to be discovered and he be charged with
having deceived them. But, contrary to the true policy of traders among
unforgiving savages, that thoughtless member of the Choktah Sphynx Company
busied himself, as usual, out of his proper sphere, sent for the headmen, and told
them the story. As the Mohawks were allies and not known to molest any of the
traders in the paths and woods, he ought to have observed a strict neutrality. The
youth of the town, order of their headmen, carried on their noisy public
diversions in their usual manner to prevent their foes from having any suspicion
of their danger, while runners were sent from the town to their neighbors to
come silently and assist them to secure the prey in its state of security. They
came like silent ghosts, concerted their plan of operation, passed over the river at
the old trading ford opposite to the late fort, which lay between two contiguous
commanding hills, and, proceeding downward over a broad creek, formed a
large semicircle from the river bank, while the town seemed to be taking its
usual rest. They then closed into a narrower compass, and at last discovered the
two brave, unfortunate men lying close under the tops of some fallen young pine
trees. The company gave the war signal, and the Mohawks, bounding up, bravely
repeated it; but, their sudden spring from under thick cover, their arms were
useless. They made desperate efforts, however, to kill or be killed, as their
situation required. One of the Cheerake, the noted half-breed of Istanare
[Ustăna′lĭ] town, which lay 2 miles from thence, was at the first onset knocked
down and almost killed with his own cutlass, which was wrested from him,
though he was the strongest of the whole nation. But they were overpowered
numbers, captivated, and put to the most exquisite tortures of fire, amidst a
prodigious crowd of exulting foes.One of the present Choktah traders, who was on the spot, told me that when they
were tied to the stake the younger of the two discovered our traders on a hill
near, addressed them in English, and entreated them to redeem their lives. The
elder immediately spoke to him, in his own language, to desist. On this, he
recollected himself, and became composed like a stoic, manifesting an
indifference to life or death, pleasure or pain, according to their standard of
martial virtue, and their dying behaviour did not reflect the least dishonor on
their former gallant actions. All the pangs of fiery torture served only to refine
their manly spirits, and as it was out of the power of the traders to redeem them
they, according to our usual custom, retired as soon as the Indians began the
diabolical tragedy.”—Adair, American Indians, p. 383, 1775.


Bureau of American Ethnology nineteenth annual report pl. xvii .  Photograph the author , James Mooney, 1888


Myths of the Cherokee, James Mooney