Peace and War on the Anglo-Cherokee Frontier, 1756-63

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Peace and War on the Anglo-Cherokee Frontier, 1756-63. By John Oliphant. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2001. Pp. xvii, 269. $39.95, cloth.)

John Oliphant has produced a useful, thorough study of the Anglo-- Cherokee War (1760-61). Other historians-notably, David Corkran in The Cherokee Frontier (1962) and Gregory Dowd in several articles-have explored this moment of crisis in the otherwise longstanding alliance between the Cherokee Nation and Great Britain. Oliphant's contribution is in providing such a detailed, straightforward narrative of the war, from its initial causes to the most significant military engagements and eventually to the series of peace treaties that finally brought an end to the conflict.

Although a short war compared to most, the Anglo-Cherokee War could, from the British perspective, be considered one theater in the larger Seven Years War, which explains Oliphant's choosing 1756-63 as the chronological frame for his study. In truth, he begins a little earlier in the 1750s and shows how relations between the Cherokees and British colonists in South Carolina and Virginia deteriorated amid rising Cherokee complaints of dissatisfaction in trade, British squatters flocking westward onto Cherokee lands, and unrealized promises of British assistance in protecting Cherokee towns from enemy attack.

Using documentary records from the British Public Record Office, memoirs of soldiers and British officials, and correspondence between British officers as they organized military engagements or intermittently negotiated for peace, Oliphant attempts to reconstruct the personalities, motivations and strategies of both Cherokee and British leaders. He is especially successful at illuminating the factional divisions and personal rivalries that had such an influence on the origins and nature of this particular war. In terms of British policy, misstep after misstep lost them their most valuable, southern Indian allies when the Cherokees could have helped Britain wrest control of North America from the French and French-- allied Indians. As Oliphant shows, Great Britain's interests were often at odds with colonial interests and the colonies themselves, especially Virginia and South Carolina, also pursued separate policies. At the same time, the Cherokees had different allegiances. Some were more inclined to listen to what the French could offer them, while others favored patching up the British alliance. All Cherokees, however, appear to have shared the same frustrations with their British allies, who seemed remarkably oblivious to the consequences of their actions. …