Christian's Cherokee Expedition of 1776



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Source:Summers, 1929:1419 gives list of participants such as are known.

A copyrighted summary is given at [1] and also at [2]

Rufner, 1890


Cherokee Expedition of 1776, Roster


From Source:Rufner, 1890 Rufner, Henry, 1890. EARLY HISTORY OF WASHINGTON COLLEGE, NOW WASHINGTON AND LEE UNIVERSITY. John Murphy and Company.

p.52-56 Col. William Christian was born in Augusta in 1743, was educated with great care by his father, and arriving at manhood was soon employed in the active schemes of oifence and defence against the incessant attacks of the Indians. On the organization of the first two Virginia regiments in 1775, he was chosen lieutenant- colonel of the first, of which Patrick Henry was the colonel. To such distinction did he attain as a military man that in May, 1776, he was appointed colonel of the first battalion of Virginia militia, and commander-in-chief of an expedition against the Overhill Cherokee Indians, the troops under his command consisting of two battalions from Virginia and one from North Carolina, which, with other men necessarily employed, composed an army of 1600 men—an extraordinary number for that period. Again in 1780 he commanded another expedition against the Cherokees, and at Double Springs was joined by troops from North Carolina under Col. Sevier, whose original name of Xavier shows his French extraction, and who was a son of the Valley of Virginia. These marches against the Indians were always successful. In 1781, after the successful expedition of Col. Arthur Campbell against the Cherokees, when it was decided to make a treaty with those Indians, and when it was then not known to whom the authority belonged to make treaties with Indians who roamed through the territories of several states, an application was made to Gen. Greene to appoint a commission for the purpose; and that officer complied with the request, and placed Colonel Christian at its head. It consisted of Col. Christian, Col. Arthur Campbell, Col. William Preston, and Col. Joseph Martin, of Virginia, and of some able men from North Carolina.

But though called into military service at every emergency, he was a member of the House of Burgesses, and participated in the various stages of the disputes that led to the Declaration of Independence. In May, 1774, while in Williamsburg, when the Indian troubles were brewing that led to the Battle of Point Pleasant, he was earnestly entreated by Lord Dunmore to leave his seat in the house and hasten to the West to provide against the threatened danger. He accordingly hastened to the mountains and collected troops with which he marched to the seat of war. When he had successfully accomplished the object in view, he hastened to unite his forces with those of Col. Andrew Lewis; but before he reached Camp Union, the present Lewisburg, Col. Lewis had marched to the Ohio. It is stated by Campbell, though not sustained by other authorities, that if Christian had united his forces with those of Lewis, the chief command would have devolved upon him. He hastened his march, but did not reach Lewis until the midnight after the battle of Point Pleasant, when he found that every arrangement was made for the renewal of the fight next morning. Next day he marched to meet the enemy, who had withdrawn early at the close of the fight the evening before, leaving thirty- three dead bodies which they had not been able to throw into the Ohio.

Like most of the prominent military and political actors of his time, he owned large possessions in Kentucky, whither in 1785 he removed with his family and settled on Bullskin creek, and afterwards on Oxmoor creek, an estate which is still in possession of his family, near the site of the present city of Louisville. Here his career was destined soon to end. In the year after his arrival a party of Indians stole a number of horses in his vicinity, and he determined to pursue them. He reached a spot near where the town of Jeffersonville in Indiana now is, where he overtook two of the Indians. Col. Christian was riding in front, and was followed by Col. Bullett, his son-in-law, and Major O'Bannon. As Col. Christian dismounted, preparatory to firing, he was shot and killed by one of the Indians; and at the same instant both of the Indians were shot and mortally wounded by Col. Bullett and Maj. O'Bannon. One of the company of the name of Kelly, who ran to tomahawk the Indian whose gun had not been discharged, but who had been mortally wounded, was shot dead by the Indian, who in a dying state sprang to his feet and discharged his rifle. The body of Col. Christian was conveyed home, and was buried in the graveyard on the plantation which is still owned by his grandson. A plain slab marks the spot, and is inscribed : " Col. William Christian was killed in an action with the Indians April 9, 1786, aged 43. This monument was erected to his memory by the filial piety of his son John Henry Christian, who died Nov. 5, 1800, aged 19." So with the century expired the last male heir of William Christian. When the intelligence of his death was spread through Kentucky, which was then a part of Virginia, and through Virginia proper, and especially in the Valley, where his talents and services were so well known and admired, grief for the sudden extinction of such a master-spirit was profound and general. None felt the loss of such a man at such a conjuncture more keenly than his brother-in-law, Patrick Henry, who wrote to his sister in a strain of pious eloquence which had probably never before fallen from his pen, and which shows that the heart of the orator responded to the tenderest emotions of domestic love. " Would to God/' said the sympathizing brother, " I could say something to give relief to the dearest of women and sisters. My heart has felt in a manner new and strange to me, insomuch that, while I am endeavoring to comfort you, I want a comforter myself. I forbear to tell you how great was my love for my friend and brother. I turn my eyes to heaven where he is gone, I trust, and adore with humility the unsearchable ways of that Providence which calls us off this stage of action at such time and in such manner as its wisdom and goodness direct." And he concludes his letter : " For, indeed, my dearest sister, you never knew how much I loved you and your husband. My heart is full. Perhaps I may never see you in this world. Oh ! may we meet in that heaven to which the merits of Jesus will carry those who love and serve him. Such is the prayer of him who thinks it his honor and pride to be your affectionate brother." Such was William Christian—a successful soldier, where other men would have yielded to despair, and a wise statesman. After the untimely death of Gen. Andrew Lewis, he was regarded as the first military genius of the West, to whom all eyes were turned at the approach of danger. Had he lived to behold the administration of AVashington, who greatly esteemed him, he would have been appointed by acclamation to command those expeditions against the Indians which in other hands resulted so disastrously. It is pleasing to state that his descendants in Kentucky are numerous and respectable, and that the estate on which his ashes repose is still owned by his grandson.