Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763

Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763

Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763

Carolina in Crisis: Cherokees, Colonists, and Slaves in the American Southeast, 1756-1763


In this engaging history, Daniel J. Tortora explores how the Anglo-Cherokee War reshaped the political and cultural landscape of the colonial South. Tortora chronicles the series of clashes that erupted from 1758 to 1761 between Cherokees, settlers, and British troops. The conflict, no insignificant sideshow to the French and Indian War, eventually led to the regeneration of a British-Cherokee alliance. Tortora reveals how the war destabilized the South Carolina colony and threatened the white coastal elite, arguing that the political and military success of the Cherokees led colonists to a greater fear of slave resistance and revolt and ultimately nurtured South Carolinians' rising interest in the movement for independence.

Drawing on newspaper accounts, military and diplomatic correspondence, and the speeches of Cherokee people, among other sources, this work reexamines the experiences of Cherokees, whites, and African Americans in the mid-eighteenth century. Centering his analysis on Native American history, Tortora reconsiders the rise of revolutionary sentiments in the South while also detailing the Anglo-Cherokee War from the Cherokee perspective.


The Concerns of this Country are … closely connected and interwoven with Indian Affairs,” Governor James Glen informed the South Carolina Council in 1746. Three years later, in his report to Britain’s Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations (the Board of Trade), Glen elaborated, writing that “not only a great Branch of our Trade, but even the Safety of this Province, do so much depend upon our continuing in Friendship with the Indians.” South Carolina, he concluded, was deeply “connected in Interest” to its Indian neighbors. the future of the American colonies, and their divergence from Great Britain, was deeply linked to the West and to the Indians who lived there. For South Carolina, those Indians were Cherokees. “Their Country is the Key of Carolina,” Glen wrote.

The most authoritative eighteenth-century trader and ethnographer in the Southeast, James Adair, summed up the South Carolina– Cherokee relationship during the mid-eighteenth century: “In brief, we forced the Cheerake to become our bitter enemies, by a long train of wrong mea sures, the consequences of which were severely felt by a number of high assessed, ruined, and bleeding innocents.”

This book chronicles how the mid-eighteenth century was an unmitigated disaster for the Cherokee people, a watershed moment for them. the British had long recognized and coveted Cherokee military and economic power. But from 1758 to 1761, in a series of clashes known as the Anglo-Cherokee War, Cherokees went from British allies to enemies to neglected nuisances. the process was devastating and disruptive. According to North Carolina’s governor, Arthur Dobbs, “upon account of the War Sickness and famine,” the Cherokee population declined by a third from 1758 to 1761. in the Anglo-Cherokee War, Cherokees lost the position of strength that they had once enjoyed.

In addition, this book shows that Indians greatly destabilized the South Carolina colony in a way that threatened the livelihoods of coastal elites and raised their social and political anxieties to a fever pitch. South Carolina shared in the burdens and trials of empire to a considerable degree. With a devastating Indian war on its frontier, a slave conspiracy, a smallpox epidemic, and widening tensions between colonists and British officials, South Carolina was a critical theater of action, not just a sideshow.

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