On June 10, 1761, a 2,800-man army led by British Lieutenant Colonel James Grant defeated a Cherokee force led by Chief Oconostota in an engagement known as the Second Battle of Echoe near present-day Franklin. The battle took place only two miles from the location of the Cherokee defeat of Colonel Archibald Montgomery’s force the previous year in the First Battle of Echoe.
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Grant had arrived in America in 1757 as the major of Montgomery’s regiment, the 77th Foot, more aptly known as Montgomery’s Highlanders. Impetuous, Grant led a disastrous attempt to take Fort Duquense in Pennsylvania from the French in 1758 that resulted in his capture as well as the destruction of nearly 30 percent of his force. Exchanged in 1759, Grant returned to the British army and was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 40th Foot, although he was soon detached from his regiment to lead a new expedition against the Cherokee.
In late 1760, British General Jeffrey Amherst ordered Grant to take command of a new expedition consisting of nearly 2,800 men with orders to “not think of coming away till you have most effectivally punished these scoundreal Indians, as without, that, it will be ever to begin again. As to treating with them, it will be time enough when they are so low that you may be sure they cannot hurt the Province again soon.” Grant arrived in South Carolina the following spring.
Grant’s army consisted of two battalions of the 1st Foot, the Royal Scots, as well as several South Carolina provincial battalions, two detachments of Catawba and Chickasaw Indians, six Mohawk warriors, and 81 African slaves. Among the young men serving under him were Andrew Pickens, Thomas Sumter, William Moultrie, and Francis Marion, all of whom played major roles in the American Revolution.
Departing from Charleston in May 1761, Grant followed Montgomery’s route, stopping at Fort Prince George before proceeding into the Cherokee Lower towns. Grant burned crops and villages along the way until he was ambushed near the town of Echoe, the entranceway into the Cherokee Middle towns. For nearly five hours Grant’s force and an Indian army led by Oconostota waged battle, until finally the Indians withdrew. British losses amounted to 10 killed and 53 wounded, while Cherokee casualties were estimated in the hundreds. For a short time the wounded British were housed in the central ceremonial building at Cowee.
Grant responded by burning Echoe, followed by nearly all the remaining Middle villages, before returning to Fort Prince George. South Carolina provincial Francis Marion recorded of the sight: “We proceeded, by Col. Grant's orders, to burn the Indian cabins. Some of the men seemed to enjoy this cruel work, laughing heartily at the curling flames, but to me appeared a shocking sight. But when we came, according to orders, to cut down the fields of corn, I could scarcely refrain from tears. Who, without grief, could see . . . the staff of life sink under our swords with their precious load, to wither and rot untasted in their mourning fields?”
Grant’s destruction of the Cherokee villages had the desired effect, and the Indians sued for peace. British Lieutenant Henry Timberlake visited the Cherokee, volunteering as a hostage to ensure that peace remained. He stayed at the remains of Echoe village for nearly three months, before taking three Cherokee leaders – Ostenaco, Cunne Shote, and Woyi, to London where they met with King George III and officially made peace. After the meeting the King approved the Proclamation of 1763 that forbade colonists from settling west of the Blue Ridge.
William S. Powell, Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Barbara R. Duncan and Brett H. Riggs, Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook (2003)
Tom Hatley, The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution (1993)
Douglas L. Rights, The American Indian in North Carolina (1947)
John P. Arthur, Western North Carolina: A History, 1730-1913 (1914)Bartram Trail website: http://www.bartramtrail.org/pages/Bartram_Trail/nc.html
Margaret McCue, “Lt. Col. James Grant’s Expedition against the Cherokee Indians, 1761” (M.A. thesis, University of South Carolina, 1967)
Colonial Records of North Carolina, VI, 260-261, 313, and 314, and X, 860-861