Deposition of Robert Dews concerning relations with Native Americans
Volume 22, Pages 995-1005
THE DEPOSITION OF ROBERT DEWS, TAKEN AT FORT PATRICK HENRY THE 21 JANUARY, 1777.
This deponent, being first sworn, deposeth as follows:
That some time after Colonel Christian withdrew his army from the town I spoke with several Indians belonging to the town of Tokok, where I resided, and it appeared to me that they were averse to a peace. I advised them to it, and the most of them I had talked with, belonging to either town, seemed averse to a peace. The time arriving near for the chiefs to treat with Colonel Christian at the Long Island, and finding it disagreeable to the major part of the town, I thought it most advisable that some persons should stay and endeavor to find what they intended or what they determined on. And accordingly, four days before the time appointed for us to
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come off for the island with the Raven, I went out, in order to go as far as Hiawassee, and left word at home if Mr. Harland called for me to inform him I should follow him to the Long Island, and to inform him I was gone to get some of my horses the Indians of that town had taken; and the —— day of November I came to Hiawassee to McKenzie’s and Campbell’s house. Some time after I had been in the house, Campbell told me that Mr. Cameron had sent a talk to the Indians, that the Dragon Canoe detained it from all the Indians who would not leave the towns. Immediately after Campbell had told me this, John Archie, a halfbreed and a trader, who stayed with the Canoe, came in at the door, which was shut, very much disordered in his countenance, in a manner naked. I asked him from whence he came. He said, from Chickamaga. I asked when he left his camp. He said about four weeks. I asked him who came with him. He said nobody. I asked if he had seen the Canoe lately. He said, No. I then asked him where he was going. He said to the towns to get some of his cattle. I told him I had seen some of them between Tokok and Chota. On this, the Dragon Canoe entered the door and sat down and continued silent for about an hour, when supper was, and then he and John Archie talked on trifling matters. After supper he eat considerable time, and then moved to go to the town to his lodgings. I followed him out of the house and desired Archie to linguist what I had to say to him. I told him what had passed during the stay of the army, and what talks Colonel Christian had left for him and the other chief of the nation. He said he supposed he was looked upon as a boy and not as a warrior. I told him not, but that he was spoken of as a warrior of the nation, and that he had better go to the towns and hear the talks. He said there was no occasion for his going to the towns. He said he had already heard all the talks. I told him he might have heard all the talks, but he would have greater satisfaction in hearing the talks from those who had them from the Colonel. We parted and he desired me to attend him early next morning. The next morning Archie went to him and they both returned in about an hour and left off for Tokok. About 3 o’clock in the afternoon Archie returned. I asked him what brought him back to town. He said the Canoe had met two young fellows about fifteen miles from the town and they told him that Colonel Christian had offered a reward for his head. They returned much displeased. The next morning I set off for Tokok and arrived the same evening, and was
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informed that Harland had set off for Fort Patrick Henry. The next morning several Indians of the town came to my house, and after some discourses, asked me whether or not I intended to go to the Long Island, and told me Harland and several Indians were gone. I told them I would go some time hence. A fellow called Charlotte, he and another called the Lying Fish, came and told me that the Canoe had letters from Cameron, and that he hid from everybody who had found the rogues. I asked them if they knew what the contents were. They told me they did, but no friends to the rogues were to be acquainted with it. The day after, a young fellow belonging to the town passed by my house, leveled a gun at me mad, and upon complaint to the Tassel, head of the town, he told me he could not prevent rougish young fellows from such things, and that I was looked upon as a Watauga man. Finding by every circumstance that the Indians were averse to peace, and that I was in danger, I determined to join them in sentiments. However, three days after I complained to the Tassel. I went to the town, and on my way called on Wallanawah. After some talk, he told me the young fellows hated me because I came in from the woods and joined with the rogues. I told him that I had not joined them, and that my reasons for coming to town were to get intelligence, and that I got a great deal and would send to Mr. Cameron if I could get an Indian to carry a letter. He mentioned several, and at last the Lying Fish. I went home, and next day he, with Lying Fish, came to my house, and after some talk about the great warrior, Wallanawah, said they had received a letter from Cameron, and they could not give him an answer for want of somebody to write for them, as all the white people had turned rogues; but as I did not go with Harland, and from what I acquainted Wallanawah, they believed I still thought of Mr. Cameron. The Lying Fish then agreed with me to carry a letter to Cameron and bring an answer in twenty days for sixty weight of leather. Two days after I went to Chota by the Tassel to write a talk to be sent to Mr. Cameron, which I did, and Charles Murphy interpreted. And after the talk was finished I agreed to carry it myself if they would send two men with me, which they then named and appointed to call on me in two days, and for me to be in readiness to start accordingly. They called on me at the time appointed and we set off. Having rode about two hours, the Lying Fish (who was one of my company) fell into discourse with me and
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drew from his shot bag a black belt of wampum and told me that the warriors of Tokok and the men of Tullico River had sent that belt to Cameron, acquainting him they had not joined the rogues, and they still wanted war. The next day, after riding about 14 or 15 miles beyond Hiawassee, we met with two messengers from the Dragon Canoe, going to the Tassel. The Lying Fish asked them what the Canoe wanted with the Tassel. They answered that the Buck, who was one of the messengers, had brought a great talk from Cameron, and that the Dragon Canoe wanted nobody but the Tokok and the Mouth of Tullico people to hear. The Lying Fish then asked him if there were any traders come to the camps or on the way. The Buck said he left McDaniel and another man within three days of the Canoe’s camp. He was then asked if McDaniel had any goods with him. He answered he had goods and some powder and bullets. The Fish then turned to me and asked what was to be done. I told him whatever he and the second man agreed on I would do. The second man determined to turn back and the Fish to proceed with the messengers to Tokok, and the second man and myself to wait their return to Hiawassee, which was to be on the third day. The second day I stayed at this town a young fellow arrived from Chickamaga and said that the Canoe had fine talks from Cameron, and that he would have help enough to fight the Watauga people. The fourth day after the Fish left me he sent a messenger to me acquainting me that he would not go to the Creeks, and advised me to send the talks by a young fellow and return home. The day after this, which was the fifth, the Young Eagle and the Hanging Man arrived from Tokok. I asked him in the house to eat, and after they had eat, began to talk to Campbell about the dreadful people at the Long Island, which vexed Campbell, and he told them the King had more dreadful people than the rogues. The Hanging Man then laughed and told him he need not be mad, as he well know the King had more men than the rogues, and only joked him, and that I knew all their intentions, but they were afraid to communicate them to any other white men, lest Harland should hear them and bring the army on their towns before they could get assistance, and what talk the warrior had with the army was only a makehaste to save their corn. They then asked me if I intended to keep on to the Creeks or go back to Tokok. I answered, if they thought proper I would keep forward, if not I would return. They said I might send the letters and return and get ready to move toward the Creeks and meet Brown, who
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they heard was on his way. The young Tassel then desired I would write a talk for him to Mr. Cameron, as the Lying Fish would not carry the one given him already by the warrior of Tokok and the Mouth of Tullico. Which I did nearly the same as the Fish had told me on the way. The next morning the talks were enclosed and directed to Mr. Cameron at the Sattissis, and sent by Thomas Semple, an Indian. The day following I returned. On my way to Tokok, where I arrived the next day after sunset, I was informed that two men from the Long Island had arrived at Chota with letters from Colonel Christian. I sent my negro boy to know who they were, and to ask them to come down. About 9 o’clock at night he returned and told me that Mr. Newell and Mr. Ewins was their names, and they desired I come next day and see them. I did not go, for reading the talks sent by Colonel Christian, and after reading them the Indians appointed the fourth day for an answer. Mr. Ewins went home with me. I told him from one particular circumstance, otherwise the Indians like what Colonel Christian had written them, and told him what it was. The Indians, finding Mr. Ewins stayed at my house, was frequently desiring me not to tell him what their intentions were. I promised that I would not. The Thursday after reading the letters, the Young Tassel and the Hanging Man returned from their interview with the Canoe. About 7 o’clock in the evening, the young fellows, shouting and running from all parts of the town to the Young Tassel’s house, alarmed me. He was come, and as I spoke I stepped out of the house in order to go and see him. I was met by one Miller, who was then hired to me. He told me the Tassel was come and brought word that McDaniel and other white people were then at the Canoe’s camp with a quantity of ammunition and goods. I desired Miller to go with me to the Tassel and I would hear the news. We went and I first called on Wullunawa and asked him what news the Tassel had brought from Chickamaga. He said that he had not heard. I then proceeded to the Tassel’s house, and desired Miller to return home, as he might be unwilling to tell anything before him, which he did, and I went into the house. He was sitting with Charlotte, he and other Indians who I did not know. After smoking, I asked him the news. He said he had none, but that McDaniel was with the Canoe and another white man, a stranger to him, but that McDaniel told him it was the man who was to keep the powder and goods to be sent to the Indians; and that all the traders were on their way, each with ten troop loads of ammunition
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and what goods they would bring, and as to Mr. Cameron’s talk, I should hear it after he had spoken with his uncle, which was the Old Tassel. I then got up and asked Charlotte to follow me, which he did. I asked him what he thought of my coming to the Island, as he and the Tassel had proposed that day. He asked me how many days I should be gone. I said about sixteen. He said it was a long time, and asked if I could not be back. I said if he thought it sufficient I would be back in that time. Says he: “If you stay sixteen days, put a white cloth around your hat and I will watch for you on the path.” I told him if he thought the path was dangerous I would not go. He said he did not know, but there was some Creeks come with McDaniel in order to form with the Cherokees in war against the Watauga people, and that the town and others had accepted of the offer, but if the Indians in the towns would prevent them till the third moon from that the Creeks, Chickesaws and Choctaws was to joint them, and the English troops would assist them against the frontiers of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia; that Capt. Stuart’s brother was then about four weeks on his way from Mobile up the Mississippi with the belt in order to get the Western and the Northern Indians to assist the King, and that he took a large quantity of ammunition and goods with him, he desired I would not acquaint any white man, then in the towns with what he had told me and that after the talk was finished with the town men from the island I should hear the whole of Cameron’s letter, I then went home. Mr. Newell asked me what the news the Tassel brought from the Canoe, I told him nothing but good news and peace. The next morning as we were getting in readiness to go up to Chota Mr. Ewins came from Chota to hurry up to the talk. I took them aside and told them what I had heard from Charlotte and the Tassel and that I thought we were in danger if the Indians wanted to detain us by delaying the answer to Col. Christian’s letter. I was determined to set off the same evening for the island, but as they sat on giving an answer that day I would not but would wait no longer than the next evening for it as I looked on all their talks in no other light than gaining of time till they were in readiness to renew their ravages on the back inhabitants. Mr. Newel seemed to be somewhat vexed at what I had told him and Ewins, which I perceived, and asked Mr. Evins and him to walk in a private place, and I would give him some proof of what I had said, to which they did, and I read the two talks, which was sent
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to Cameron. One by the great warrior and one by the warriors of the other town in council. This only aggravated him more, and he swore he would not move a foot till the warriors went, but yet allowed all I said to him to be true. I told him he might use his pleasure, that I did think it my duty to alarm them when I thought danger threatened them, and I had discharged it. I then asked them to wait until I went to Wellawawahs, I should be back in a few minutes. They promised to wait but before I returned Mr. Newel went off and exclaimed much against me, that I only wanted to fright them off. Mr. Ewins and Self went up to Chota. The Indians set the day out in council and no white man admitted. At sun sitting we sent Charles Murphy to ask whether they would be ready to give their answer that evening; at dusk Murphy returned and said the warriors would not be ready till the next day. Mr. Newell acquainted several people with what I had informed him and Ewins. Several Indians heard of it the same evening and about midnight the report got amongst the warriors and council and a runner was sent early in the morning to Tokok to know my reason for acquainting the two messengers with what had passed before, and after they had arrived in the town. I denied having acquainted them, and with some difficulty cleared myself with the charge. Mr. Ewins was present and heard the runner tax me with what I had told himself and Newell. Mr. Ewins and self had our horses saddled to attend at the talk when Mr. Newell arrived from Chota, called Ewins aside and spoke with him. I asked him to light and spoke with him, I asked him to light and breakfast, and go together, he refused and rode from the house. Mr. Ewins then told me that Newel was determined to get Murphy and tell the great warrior what I had acquainted him with. After breakfast we followed Mr. Newell. I was dubious of going to the town house before sending Newell word of the evil consequences of reporting what I had told him and Ewins, and after receiving an answer from him I went to the warrior’s house, and was called in and desired to set and eat by Murphy. I asked him what Newell wanted him to tell the great warrior, and he told me what I had acquainted Newell and Ewens with, word for word, and said what I had told him was true, as he had heard the warriors talking on the same subject the evening before, when he was sent by us to know if he might attend for their answers—and they desired him not to speak of it to us, which he had not, as he knew the consequences. A while after this
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we were called in, and the answer to Col. Christian’s letter was delivered to Savanoaks, who was appointed to meet him at the island, the time fixed for starting was the third day from that. Mr. Ewins came home with me. The next morning I went to John Benches and saw the young Dragon Canoe sitting at the fire mending his moccasins, his gun and a small bundle standing near him, I asked Bench what brought that fellow there, he said he came to guard him from some danger which he apprehended. I wanted to know particular; he said, I can’t tell you now as he understands a great deal of English, I told him I intended to set off with Ewins and others in two or three days. He said I believe not any one will go there this trip in four days. I expect as much Christian blood will be spilt as will fill that (pointing to an iron pot which would hold about two gallons). I told him he talked as trifling of Christian’s blood as though it was Bullock’s blood. I desired him to acquaint me who they were. He told me he could not at that time, till the fellow was gone, as the consequence would be bad on his side should the Indians know he told anyone of it. I left the house very uneasy and went home and desired Mr. Ewins to take his things and go to Mr. Harling’s, then in Choto, and tell him to come down Smoaking Creek a back way to Tokok; I had something of consequence to tell him. Mr. Ewins set off and I went shortly after to Benches, and between my house and that met the young Dragon Canoe with his gun and bundle going towards the woods. I proceeded to Benches and after sitting a while he began to relate the business of the young Canoe. Said he came in about midnight with the old Canoe, who went up to the Tassels to consult with him. I asked him if he knew his business. He said I know, but am afraid to acquaint you with it. If I do, you must not open your mouth about it to any person whatever, as your mentioning it will endanger my life. He then said the old Canoe, and thirteen fellows more of his party, camped up Notchee Creek the night before last and waited yesterday, hearing there was a talk at Chota, and the last night he and young Canoe came in to advise with the heads of this town. A commission was given him by McDaniel from Cameron to take the scalps of those who had come into the army, Harling not to escape by any means; for which McDaniel is to pay them 200 pounds of leather for each scalp, and McDaniel is not to return without he have, and by this means, says he, I hope we shall be rid of some of the liars. I asked him if he knew whether I was included or
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not? He said he did not know, but am sorry for one thing. I asked him what that was, he said for the Trouble of moving to the Woods, as orders would be given in four days time for every one to Carry off all the Corn in the Towns and he would be Obliged to leave a Quantity of Corn in his house. I told him I did not care how Soon, as I had dropt going to the Island and set off immediately for the Creeks. He then Advised me to do so in 2 days at most, as I had not a Single friend, red or white, and the 2 fellows which I most depended upon were my Bitter Enemies. We were then interrupted by a fellow who came in. I went home and kept my horses tide up with a full determination of Going to the Islands & Setting off. That night about 3 o’clock Harling came & I informed him of what I had heard, and he Agreed to set off that night, and to send Mr. Ewins to conduct me on the way, after dark he went home & about sun set I went towards Benches, & as I entered the Gate Met the Old Tassel. He desired I would return home, he wanted to talk with me; after we set some time he said I had informed the 2 Messengers from the Island of what they were doing & every thing the Indians were doing with Mr. Cameron & that he heard I was uneasy about the Dragon Canoe, and if that was the Case I would hurt them by going to the Island, and Indanger the Raven, who was to go in, and that what I had heard Concerning the Canoe being in the Town was false, and it was what Mr. Cameron would do with the white people who came into the Army; they should not be Killed by the Indians, and I had better stay and not go to the Island, and in 3 days time there was to be a talk at Chota, and after that we would go to the Creek together. I then told him that the talks had and was then so disagreeable that I had determined to run off that night with Harling and other white men in the towns. So that if they had a mind to proceed in their Intentions, to take one of the horses then tied near the door and ride up to Chota and stop Harling, otherwise he would be Gone, it being then dark. He said he would, and hold a new Talk and send, which he did, from what I heard him deliver to the Colo’ls, & the difference in the string of beeds it being much shorter than the one given him at the talk in Chota. Some time after the Tassel left the house, a fellow Called Ninatuah came in and shortly after the Lying Fish, the former told the latter I was Uneasy Concerning the Canoes being in Town the night before, the latter said I was a fool, and he had heard in the Town I was afraid of the Dragon Canoe. They then both turned themselves as they
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sat and hanging their heads, I heard Ninatuah ask the other in a Very low accent, if the Canoe was in the Town. He in like manner answered the other, the Canoe was with me & Others in the Town the last night. After this they turned to their former position, and talked on indifferent matters. The Fish, after some time went homewards, and about an Hour after Nanatuah desired of me To get a blanket, which I did. He then took me by the hand and led me out, and desired me to follow him, which I did, a considerable distance from the house, and coming to a thicket desired me to sit down, and he set opposite as nigh as he could to me, and speaking very low, told me that he had heard the talk 3 days before, but that he thought it a Flying report, but that day was told the Dragon Canoe was in the town and made a demand of myself and Harling, and the Togah people had given me up. But the Chota people would not give up Harling then, but did not know how it might be when he returned from the long Island, and desired I would not move till he returned. He was going to get Intelligence from the Canoe’s Intentions, and if the Towns people was determined to throw me away he would bring my horse and provisions, and go with me to Broad River. In about three hours he returned and stayed with me the remainder part of the night. Said he could not hear any more than what he had already Acquainted me with. Before sun Rise in the morning he took me to the Hot House, desired I might not shew myself and he would go to Chota and know if the runner would set off the next day for the Island; and some time before sunset he returned and told me to go home, that the Raven intended to set off next day. He went with me home and about 8 o’clock at night desired me to follow him; he then went to a house and fastened the doors, and began to recount to the Fellow of the house, the different Circumstances of my situation, the Fellow told him he had seen the Canoe and his Gang at Notchee Creek and he told him it was Camerons desire to kill and scalp every one who joined the Army, and that he was determined to execute every Order that should come from him, and that the Canoe told him he should move to Ball Play Creek that evening, consult the old Tassel on it, and would send a Talk to the Warriors and the Raven. The fellow then Advised me to go with the Raven and not to return till peace was made. The next Morning the Indians and I went home and began to prepare for the seeting off according to appointment with the Raven, and after I had got my horses up the Indians fathered about the house,
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and several were very inquisitive concerning the numbers of horses I intended to bring. I told them as many as would serve me. About two hours before I set off Charlotte came and desired I would take good notice of the strength of the Fort that I might give them a good description of it when I returned, and repeated his Former Injunction of Tying a white Cloth round my Hat if I exceeded Sixteen days, and said he hoped in the third Moon from that that Nation would be joined by the Creeks, Chickesaws & Choctaws, according to the agreement with Captains Stuart, Cameron and Tate, at a General Congress held at the Talasis in the Creek Nation, some time before Cameron’s Talks arrived at Chicamaga.
January 22d, 1777.
Mr. Dews makes oath that the within is a true statement.
A True Copy.
N. WALKER, Clerk.