I’ve been reading Massacre at Cavett’s Station by the eminent Tennessee archaeologist Charles Faulkner. The titular massacre was one of the uglier episodes in the long history of white-Cherokee conflict on the Tennessee frontier. It took place on September 25, 1793 when a massive war party (contemporary reports put their numbers as high as 1,500) headed for the territorial capital of Knoxville heard firing from the town and feared they’d lost the element of surprise. Instead, they fell on Cavett’s Station several miles to the southwest, killing the thirteen men, women, and children who were there.
Remarkably, the Indians had managed to approach Knoxville without detection by John Sevier’s militia, but retaliation was not long in coming. In what would prove to be his last Indian campaign, Sevier marched into Georgia and caught some of the perpetrators at Etowah, near present-day Rome. The Indians were in a position to oppose the militia’s crossing of the Etowah River at the town, but when a party of the whites moved south to cross elsewhere, the Indians followed them and left the fording place near the town undefended. The militiamen galloped back to Etowah, dispersing the defenders and putting the town to the torch.
Apparently Sevier decided that defeating the Indians wasn’t punishment enough, because he decided to up the ownage by sending them the following message, a copy of which is preserved in his journal:
Your murders and savage Barbarities have caused me to come into your Country Expecting you would fight like men, but you are like the Bairs and Wolves. The face of a white man makes you run fast into the woods and hide, u see what we have done and it is nothing to what we shall do in a short time. I pity your women & children for I am sure they must suffer and live like dogs but you are the Cause of it. You will make War, & then is afraid to fight,—our people whiped yours mightily two nights ago Crossing the river and made your people run very fast.
To the Cherokees and their warriors if they Have Any.
Ouch. Not much for the niceties of spelling and punctuation, but the guy definitely knew how to twist the rhetorical knife.