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Most Americans understand the Revolutionary War was fought in defense of human rights and has since been celebrated on the ideals of conquest over tyranny. The conquerors, it is said, are those who record the history we inherit. What we weren’t told, until now, is how the Revolution played out in the backcountry between Cherokees and colonials. Using first-hand accounts from British Indian agents, Cherokee headmen, and colonial militia, A Demand of Blood presents a war fought in the shadows of the American Revolution.
We see rebels defending frontier settlements as a crucial part of the rebellion against Britain. For the Cherokees, it was their fight for freedom against the inroads of intruding illegal immigrants. After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson propounded the necessity of crippling the Cherokees—Britain’s powerful southern Indian ally.
A Demand of Blood introduces for the first time in a historical narrative the legendary Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe who deftly navigated his way through treachery and betrayal, and led the charge to regain sovereignty over Cherokee land.
In the spring of 1776, a delegation of Mohawk, Shawnee, and Delaware appeared in Cherokee country. In a solemn war belt ceremony, they presented their grievances, making passionate speeches in favor of war. They told of seeing settlers, who, in defiance of the King’s orders, were expanding settlements on Indian hunting grounds, threatening the Indians’ existence. As a result, their nations had reached near-extinction. Nothing short of war would remedy their cause.
Dragging Canoe agreed to wage war with his northern brethren. Soon, war parties executed surprise attacks on South Carolina’s backcountry settlers. The violence quickly spread throughout the southern frontier, as men, women, and children on the frontiers of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia felt the scourge of the war club and the scalping knife. Warriors seized captives, burned houses, barns, and mills, and drove off horses and cattle.
According to policy in the British Indian department, the Cherokees had the right to burn out the settlers and take their horses as a penalty for defying the King’s authority regarding the Indian Boundary line. The British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, then living in Charleston, had fled for his life and lost control of events in Indian country. His deputies failed in their attempts to restrain young Cherokees from striking the warpath. Dragging Canoe delivered on his promise of making illegal settlements ‘dark and bloody,’ and afterwards, the militia sprang to action.
On July 21st 1776, a company of South Carolina militiamen discovered the remains of a massacred white family and their slaves, and vowed to take revenge or die in the attempt. Within weeks, 6,000 militiamen were on the march toward Cherokee country. Having competed with Gen. George Washington for troops and gunpowder, militia forces burned their way through Cherokee country, destroying dozens of towns and food stores. Months later in Virginia and South Carolina, rebels and Cherokees engaged in a land-for-peace deal.
A Demand of Blood portrays the men, on all sides of the conflict, who fought for the land they loved, as brave, hardy, and resolutely determined to annihilate their enemy—whether British, rebel, Cherokee, or loyalist. We see the Carolina and Virginia backcountry and those vying for the same land: Cherokee headmen and warriors, British Indian agents, loyalists, traders, half-breeds, spies, riflemen, and rebels against their King.
Nadia Dean offers a story of heroism and fear, of bravery and concession, of tenacity and defeat. Drawing on unpublished 18th century documents, and illustrated with original maps and drawings, A Demand of Blood relives a fascinating part of our American past—one that cannot be ignored.
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