The Timberlake Expedition was an excursion into the Overhill Cherokee lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, which took place in 1761 following the Anglo-Cherokee War. Its purpose was to renew and solidify friendship between colonial Americans and the Cherokee following the three-year war. The endeavor is named after the commander of the expedition, Henry Timberlake.
The Timberlake Expedition was organized in 1761 by Colonel Adam Stephen. The expressed purpose of the expedition was to visit the Overhill Cherokee (in present-day Tennessee) to verify that an end of hostilities of the Anglo-Cherokee War had taken place in the Virginia back-country. Stephen gave command of the expedition to Timberlake, who had volunteered for the assignment.Timberlake was accompanied by Sergeant Thomas Sumter (who funded the expedition), John McCormack (an interpreter), and a servant. The small group purchased a canoe and ten days' worth of provisions with money Sumter had borrowed. The planned route was to follow the Holston River to its confluence with the French Broad River, and proceed to the Little Tennessee River, where the five main Overhill towns were situated.
Timberlake's party left Long Island-on-the-Holston on November 28, 1761. The Holston River's unusually low water levels slowed their progress, as the party had to drag or portage the canoe over and around exposed shoals and sandbars. They ran out of provisions after several days, but McCormack managed to shoot a bear, supplying them with several days' worth of meat. Around December 7, the party explored a stalactite-filled cave situated approximately 50 feet (15 m) above the river. Timberlake, in his journal, described Sumter's swimming nearly a half-mile in the icy waters to retrieve their canoe which had drifted away while they were exploring the cave.
On December 13, the party reached a series of river cascades which Timberlake called "Great Falls". The party spent a day maneuvering their way down the cascades but found the Holston frozen over immediately downstream. The ice slowed them more, but rains on the night of December 14 thawed the ice, and the party passed out of the mouth of the Holston (at the site later developed as modern Knoxville) into the Tennessee River on December 15.
Having traveled through the Appalachian Mountains to this point, the expedition traveled more quickly on the Tennessee River. A hunting party led by the Cherokee leader, Slave Catcher, met the party near the mouth of the Little Tennessee River, and supplied the weary expedition with provisions of "dried venison, homminy, and boiled corn."The following day Slave Catcher guided the expedition up the Little Tennessee. The colonial party struggled to keep up with the Cherokee, with Timberlake recalling, "my hands were so galled, that the blood trickled from them, and when we set out the next morning I was scarce able to handle a pole." They arrived in the Overhill village of Tomotley on December 20, where they were greeted by the town's head man, Ostenaco (or "Mankiller").
After spending several days in Tomotley as guests of Ostenaco, they proceeded to the Overhill mother-town of Chota, where a number of Cherokee town heads had gathered in the large council-house. Ostenaco gave a speech and ceremoniously buried a hatchet in the ground, symbolizing a state of peace between the English and the Cherokee. Timberlake smoked several pipes with the gathered town heads. He described it in his memoir as "very disagreeable," but respected the ritual with the chiefs.
The party continued southward to Citico, where Timberlake was greeted with a ceremonial dance involving some four hundred Cherokee. Timberlake recalled that the dancers were "painted all over in a hideous manner" and that they "danced in a very uncommon figure."The town's head man, Cheulah, presented Timberlake with a string of beads and held another pipe-smoking ceremony. The non-stop pipe smoking made Timberlake so sick that he "could not stir for several hours." The following day, Timberlake and Ostenaco traveled to Chilhowee, the second southernmost of the Overhill towns on Timberlake's map, where the town's head man, Yachtino, held a peace procession similar to that held at Citico.
The assignment largely completed, the party returned to Tomotley with Ostenaco on January 2, 1762. Timberlake spent the next few weeks studying Cherokee habits, making notes, and mapping the Overhill country. At the end of January, rumors began trickling in from Cherokee scouts of renewed hostilities with rival tribes to the north. Although the rumors turned out to be based on a misunderstanding, Timberlake grew anxious and begged Ostenaco to guide him back to Virginia. Ostenaco reluctantly agreed, and the party set out on March 10, 1762. Just before departure, Timberlake witnessed the ceremonial return of a war party led by Willinawaw. The party sang "the war-song" and planted a scalp-filled pole next to the council-house door.
The Timberlake party had decided to make the return trip overland with purchased horses from the Cherokee. Ostenaco, accompanied by several hundred Cherokee warriors, guided the Timberlake group northward along what is now known as the Great Indian Warpath, which followed the western base of the Appalachian Mountains. On March 11, the party arrived at the abandoned Cherokee village of Elajoy along the Little River in what is now Maryville, Tennessee. They crossed the French Broad River the following day. A week later, they reached Fort Robinson, which the Stephen garrison had abandoned but where they left behind a large supply of flour. The expedition left Long Island-on-the-Holston on March 22, continuing northward to an abandoned army camp. there, Timberlake was disappointed to find that his belongings had been looted from a trunk. The party finally arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia on the James River in early April.
While in Williamsburg, Timberlake and the Cherokee leader Ostenaco attended a dinner party at William & Mary College at which Ostenaco professed his desire to meet the king of England. Although he feared the trip would break him financially, Timberlake agreed. In May 1762, Timberlake, Sumter, and three distinguished Cherokee leaders, including Ostenaco, departed for London.
Arriving in early June, the Cherokee were an immediate attraction, drawing crowds all over the city. The poet, Oliver Goldsmith, waited for three hours to meet the Indians, and offered a gift to Ostenaco.They sat for Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint their portraits, and they met personally with King George III. The Cherokee returned to North America with Sergeant Sumter on about August 25, 1762. Timberlake remained behind in England.
Upon returning to the colonies, Sumter became stranded in South Carolina due to financial difficulties. He petitioned the Virginia Colony for reimbursement of his travel expenses, but was denied. He was subsequently imprisoned for debt in Virginia. When his friend and fellow soldier, Joseph Martin, arrived in Staunton, Martin asked to spend the night with Sumter in jail. He gave Sumter ten guineas and a tomahawk. Sumter used the money to buy his way out of jail in 1766.When Martin and Sumter were reunited some thirty years later, Sumter repaid the money.
Thomas Sumter was a soldier in the Virginia colonial militia, a brigadier general in the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution, a planter, and a politician. After the United States gained independence, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and to the United States Senate, where he served from 1801 to 1810. Sumter was nicknamed the "Fighting Gamecock" for his fierce fighting style against British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Tuskegee was an Overhill Cherokee town located along the lower Little Tennessee River in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee, United States. The town developed in the late 1750s alongside Fort Loudoun, and was inhabited until the late 1770s. It was forcibly evacuated and probably burned during the Cherokee–American wars.
Chota is a historic Overhill Cherokee town site in Monroe County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Developing after nearby Tanasi, Chota was the most important of the Overhill towns from the late 1740s until 1788. It replaced Tanasi as the de facto capital, or 'mother town' of the Cherokee people.
Tanasi was a historic Overhill settlement site in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. The village became the namesake for the state of Tennessee. It was abandoned by the Cherokee in the 19th century for a rising town whose chief was more powerful. Tanasi served as the de facto capital of the Overhill Cherokee from as early as 1721 until 1730, when the capital shifted to Great Tellico.
The Cherokee Path was the primary route of English and Scots traders from Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina in Colonial America. It was the way they reached Cherokee towns and territories along the upper Keowee River and its tributaries. In its lower section it was known as the Savannah River. They referred to these towns along the Keowee and Tugaloo rivers as the Lower Towns, in contrast to the Middle Towns in Western North Carolina and the Overhill Towns in present-day southeastern Tennessee west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Fort Loudoun was a British fort located in what is now Monroe County, Tennessee. Constructed from 1756 until 1757 to help garner Cherokee support for the British at the outset of the French and Indian War, the fort was one of the first significant British outposts west of the Appalachian Mountains. The fort was designed by John William Gerard de Brahm, while its construction was supervised by Captain Raymond Demeré; the fort's garrison was commanded by Demeré's brother, Paul Demeré. It was named for the Earl of Loudoun, the commander of British forces in North America at the time.
The Anglo-Cherokee War, was also known from the Anglo-European perspective as the Cherokee War, the Cherokee Uprising, or the Cherokee Rebellion. The war was a conflict between British forces in North America and Cherokee bands during the French and Indian War.
Conocotocko of Chota, known in English as Old Hop, was a Cherokee elder, serving as the First Beloved Man of the Cherokee from 1753 until his death in 1760. Settlers of European ancestry referred to him as Old Hop.
The Cherokee–American wars, also known as the Chickamauga Wars, were a series of raids, campaigns, ambushes, minor skirmishes, and several full-scale frontier battles in the Old Southwest from 1776 to 1794 between the Cherokee and American settlers on the frontier. Most of the events took place in the Upper South region. While the fighting stretched across the entire period, there were extended periods with little or no action.
Otacity Ostenaco was a Cherokee leader and warrior of the 18th century. By his thirties, he had assumed the warrior rank of Utsidihi (Mankiller), and the title of the Tassite of Great Tellico. He then rose to assume the higher Cherokee rank of Cherokee chief warrior or skiagusta, orator, and leading figure in diplomacy with British colonial authorities. The name Otacity has a variety of spellings.
Overhill Cherokee was the term for the Cherokee people located in their historic settlements in what is now the U.S. state of Tennessee in the Southeastern United States, on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains. This name was used by 18th-century European traders and explorers from British colonies along the Atlantic coast, as they had to cross the mountains to reach these settlements.
Henry Timberlake was a colonial Anglo-American officer, journalist, and cartographer. He was born in the Colony of Virginia and died in England. He is best known for his work as an emissary from the British colonies to the Overhill Cherokee during the 1761–1762 Timberlake Expedition.
Adam Stephen was a Scottish-born American doctor and military officer who helped found what became Martinsburg, West Virginia. He emigrated to North America, where he served in the Province of Virginia's militia under George Washington during the French and Indian War. He served under Washington again in the American Revolutionary War, rising to lead a division of the Continental Army. After a friendly fire incident during the Battle of Germantown, Stephen was cashiered out of the army, but continued as a prominent citizen of western Virginia, including terms in the Virginia General Assembly representing Berkeley County.
Tomotley is a prehistoric and historic Native American site along the lower Little Tennessee River in Monroe County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. Occupied as early as the Archaic period, the Tomotley site was occupied particularly during the Mississippian period, which was likely when its earthwork platform mounds were built. It was also occupied during the eighteenth century as a Cherokee town. It revealed an unexpected style: an octagonal townhouse and square or rectangular residences. In the Overhill period, Cherokee townhouses found in the Carolinas in the same period were circular in design, with,
Citico is a prehistoric and historic Native American site in Monroe County, Tennessee, in the southeastern United States. The site's namesake Cherokee village was the largest of the Overhill towns, housing an estimated Indian population of 1,000 by the mid-18th century. The Mississippian village that preceded the site's Cherokee occupation is believed to have been the village of "Satapo" visited by the Juan Pardo expedition in 1567.
Chilhowee was a prehistoric and historic Native American site in present-day Blount and Monroe counties in Tennessee, in what were the Southeastern Woodlands. Although now submerged by the Chilhowee Lake impoundment of the Little Tennessee River, the Chilhowee site was home to a substantial 18th-century Overhill Cherokee town. It may have been the site of the older Creek village "Chalahume" visited by Spanish explorer Juan Pardo in 1567. The Cherokee later pushed the Muscogee Creek out of this area.
Tallassee is a prehistoric and historic Native American site in present-day Blount and Monroe counties, Tennessee in the southeastern United States. Tallassee was the southernmost of a string of Overhill Cherokee towns that existed along the lower Little Tennessee River on the west side of the Appalachian Mountains in the 18th century. Although Tallassee receives scant attention in primary historical accounts, it is one of the few Overhill towns to be shown on every major 18th-century map of the Little Tennessee Valley.
Bussell Island, formerly Lenoir Island, is an island located at the mouth of the Little Tennessee River, at its confluence with the Tennessee River in Loudon County, near the U.S. city of Lenoir City, Tennessee. The island was inhabited by various Native American cultures for thousands of years before the arrival of early European explorers. The Tellico Dam and a recreational area occupy part of the island. Part of the island was added in 1978 to the National Register of Historic Places for its archaeological potential.
The siege of Fort Loudoun was an engagement during the Anglo-Cherokee War fought from February 1760 to August 1760 between the warriors of the Cherokee led by Ostenaco and the garrison of Fort Loudoun composed of British and colonial soldiers commanded by Captain Paul Demeré.
A skiagusta, is a Cherokee title for a war chief, known as the 'red chief' in times of turmoil. The skiagusta was the highest possible rank for a red chief; however, he remained subordinate to the council of the 'white', or peace, chief in non-tactical matters, even during wartime.