Savage Frontier: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas - Vol. 2

By Stephen L. Moore | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The Cherokee War
June–July 16, 1839

About ten days after receiving Lamar’s ultimatum, Chief Bowles finally reported in mid-June that he and Chief Big Mush were unable to reach a peaceful agreement. From Fort Lacy, agent Martin Lacy, Dr. Jowers, John Reagan, and their interpreter Cordray again visited the Cherokee leader near present Alto.

Reagan was impressed with how the Indians and his little negotiating party managed to carry on the talks.

These conferences produced a strong impression on my
mind for two reasons. The first was that neither the agent nor the
chief could read or write, except that Mr. Lacy could sign his
name mechanically; and neither could speak the language of the
other. The second was the frankness and dignity with which the
negotiations were carried on––neither tried to disguise his pur-
pose nor to mislead the other.1

Bowles told the negotiators that the younger men of his tribe were ready for war, although he and Big Mush wished to avoid it. According to Reagan, Bowles said that the young braves “believed they could whip the whites; that he knew the whites could ultimately whip them, but it would cost them ten years of bloody frontier war.” The Cherokee leader said that he had no choice but to stand by his people’s wishes, for “if he fought, the whites would kill him; and if he refused to fight, his own people would kill him.”

Bowles explained the plight of his people. He had led this band of the Texas Cherokees since they had first split from the main band of Cherokees in Arkansas. He and his people had tried to settle near pre-

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