Papers of the Continental Congress
Jos. Martin to Henry Knox, Secretary of War July 10, 1788
National Archives & Records Administration
M247 - 164 i150 v2 pg. 443
Transcribers Note: This is a copy of a letter received by Henry Knox from Jos. Martin which Knox forwarded to the President of Congress.
Henry County, Virginia
July 10th 1788
Your letter of the 23d. of last month came to my hand this day - I observe its contents with due attention, and do sincerely lament that Congress did not at an earlier period give me, or some other person whose attention was to the interest of the United States, a power sooner, as Indian Affairs now stand thro' this department in which I am acquainted. I fear it will be difficult to answer the expectations of Congress which with case I could have done some time past.
Agreeable to your request, I give you a detail of Indian affairs as they now occur to me, being at present two hundred miles from the Long Island on Holston River where I chiefly reside - the place where my journals and public papers are - having none of those to guide me at present.
The detail comes forward thus - "At the last session of Assembly in North Carolina, I was appointed Brigadier General of Washington District which comprehends all that part of territory illegally called Franklin, also Cumberland - Settlements the nearest to the Chickesaw tribe of Indians. In consequence of my appointment on the 20th of April last, I set out in order to take command of that trust reposed in me, also to put the Constitutional Laws in execution which had been dormant for some considerable time, much to the prejudice of that remote part - On the 24th I reached the lower settlements on Holston River where I found a number of men in arms in order to attack the Cherokee towns in consequence of a man and boy being killed at that place a few days before - I had every well grounded reason to believe the Cherokee Indians were not guilty of that murder - After some postulation with the people on the subject I prevailed with them to choose four men of their body in whom they could confide, and send them to the nation, and make inquiry, and that I myself would go with them - which had the desired effect - On our arrival I dispatched runners to the different towns of Indians, and Collected together their Chiefs and an number of their young warriors. After making our business known the Indians declared they were altogether clear of the aforementioned murders - that the Creek Indians were often passing thro' their lands to war with the whites - That many of their parties they had turned back - That their wish and desire was to live in peace with the white people.
The conference ended, and the white men came off perfectly satisfied as it appeared to me, at the same time requesting of me to wait with the Indians and prevail with them to plant their Corn, and not think of moving which in all appearances they had in view - some families were already gone - The Indians concluded if I would stay with them, which I agreed to do, expecting daily to hear from Congress, that they would and did proceed to plant their crops.
About the 15th May a family was killed within nine miles of Chota - the Chief town of the Cherokees on the lands reserved by the Legislature of North Carolina for those Indians on which limits they are placed by the Commissioners under the direction of Congress.
A few days after this murder was done, a number of men raised and marched against the Cherokee towns - I got notice of their march, and met them ten miles from town, and turned them back - another party which had taken a different route attacked one of the friendly towns about twenty miles from me - On information of which the Indians set a guard over me supposing I was privy to the matter, and had any of their warriors been killed in the attack I most certainly should have suffered - but fortunately for me none were killed but an old woman - some wounded - the town plundered -
After the matter was fully investigated the Indians found I was innocent and expressed much concern for their rashness to me, desired the matter might be made up - that they had no hand in the murder of any white person, and that what the Creek and Chickamaugin Indians did to the white people was not in their power to prevent, and they hoped the white people would not punish them for other's faults.
The Chickamaugin and Creek Indians had five days before this affair happened taken a boat richly laden going down the Tennessee river, and had put all on board to death except three - That those friendly Indians does not show a desire to conceal the faults of their own people, where they transgress - That as the Chickamaugin Indians had actually joined their arms and force to co - operate with the Creek Indians they, the friendly Indians, gave up cheerfully all claim below high wasse river to be punished as the white people thought proper - But above all wishes to be at peace - Thro' those passages between the Indians and white people I used my endeavors to bring them to a reconciliation, from which actings [sic] both parties appeared to me to be perfectly reconciled - On the 24th I left the towns, and coming to French Broad River about 35 Miles from Chota I got intelligence of a certain Mr. Sevier who acted as Governor in the spurious state of Franklin, that was raising men to of [sic] the Cherokee Indians - Immediately finding this to be the case I returned back to the Indian towns, and moved off my negroes, horses &c, without taking my leave of the Indians - The next day one Mr. Harlin a trader left the towns. He informed me the Indians had all left the towns, and intended to keep out of the way of the white people until my return expecting I would send express to Congress for relief to protect them in the enjoyment of their just rights - As I came forward I met this Mr. Sevier, on his way - I endeavored to prevail on him to return back, but all to no purpose. I am well informed since he found no Indians in the towns, but by hoisting a white flag some Indians ventured up. Mr. Sevier sent for the Old Corn Tassel, Hanging Man and Abram - three Indian Chiefs - to come in that he wished to peace with them - Upon which those three Chiefs of the Cherokees ventured up - After getting them secured in a house, suffered a certain John Kirk to tommahawk [sic] them all in his presence - This information from Alexander [Dromgoole?] an Indian Trader, which I believe to be fact - "
The Convention of North Carolina sets on Monday next - I being one of that body shall attend - from thence set out for the Cherokee Towns and exert every nerve to discharge the trust reposed in me - I am informed a number of Indians have gone to my plantations in the frontiers of Georgia where I have large quantities of Corn, having no other resource unless they join some other tribe - I have had messages from the Chickasaw Indians to come down and see them knowing that I was appointed Agent over them by the State of Georgia also over the Cherokees at the same time - I fear if they are neglected as the Cherokees has been, the Spaniards will draw them over to their interest - I beg leave to inform you that the French and Spanish Traders at the Muscle Shoals are drawing off the Indian interest very fast - They are building strong houses, and will be very strong shortly - several of those traders was in Chickamauga in May last - I could give you very particular accounts of the different tribes - their connections &c - but fear it may give offence to the Superintendent so confine myself to the Cherokees only - The people on Holston River say Congress has given up the Indians to be punished as they see proper, otherwise would have appointed an Agent which saying will now be removed.