Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Demand of Blood, The Cherokee War of 1776 by Nadia Dean

Most Americans understand the Revolutionary War was fought in defense of human rights and has since been celebrated on the ideals of conquest over tyranny. The conquerors, it is said, are those who record the history we inherit. What we weren’t told, until now, is how the Revolution played out in the backcountry between Cherokees and colonials. Using first-hand accounts from British Indian agents, Cherokee headmen, and colonial militia, A Demand of Blood presents a war fought in the shadows of the American Revolution. 

We see rebels defending frontier settlements as a crucial part of the rebellion against Britain. For the Cherokees, it was their fight for freedom against the inroads of intruding illegal immigrants. After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson propounded the necessity of crippling the Cherokees—Britain’s powerful southern Indian ally.

A Demand of Blood introduces for the first time in a historical narrative the legendary Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe who deftly navigated his way through treachery and betrayal, and led the charge to regain sovereignty over Cherokee land. 

In the spring of 1776, a delegation of Mohawk, Shawnee, and Delaware appeared in Cherokee country. In a solemn war belt ceremony, they presented their grievances, making passionate speeches in favor of war. They told of seeing settlers, who, in defiance of the King’s orders, were expanding settlements on Indian hunting grounds, threatening the Indians’ existence. As a result, their nations had reached near-extinction. Nothing short of war would remedy their cause. 

Dragging Canoe agreed to wage war with his northern brethren. Soon, war parties executed surprise attacks on South Carolina’s backcountry settlers. The violence quickly spread throughout the southern frontier, as men, women, and children on the frontiers of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia felt the scourge of the war club and the scalping knife. Warriors seized captives, burned houses, barns, and mills, and drove off horses and cattle. 

According to policy in the British Indian department, the Cherokees had the right to burn out the settlers and take their horses as a penalty for defying the King’s authority regarding the Indian Boundary line. The British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, then living in Charleston, had fled for his life and lost control of events in Indian country. His deputies failed in their attempts to restrain young Cherokees from striking the warpath. Dragging Canoe delivered on his promise of making illegal settlements ‘dark and bloody,’ and afterwards, the militia sprang to action.

On July 21st 1776, a company of South Carolina militiamen discovered the remains of a massacred white family and their slaves, and vowed to take revenge or die in the attempt. Within weeks, 6,000 militiamen were on the march toward Cherokee country. Having competed with Gen. George Washington for troops and gunpowder, militia forces burned their way through Cherokee country, destroying dozens of towns and food stores. Months later in Virginia and South Carolina, rebels and Cherokees engaged in a land-for-peace deal. 

A Demand of Blood portrays the men, on all sides of the conflict, who fought for the land they loved, as brave, hardy, and resolutely determined to annihilate their enemy—whether British, rebel, Cherokee, or loyalist. We see the Carolina and Virginia backcountry and those vying for the same land: Cherokee headmen and warriors, British Indian agents, loyalists, traders, half-breeds, spies, riflemen, and rebels against their King. 

Nadia Dean offers a story of heroism and fear, of bravery and concession, of tenacity and defeat. Drawing on unpublished 18th century documents, and illustrated with original maps and drawings, A Demand of Blood relives a fascinating part of our American past—one that cannot be ignored.

Nadia Dean, a veteran journalist and research historian, spent eight years researching and writing A Demand for Blood. She was introduced to the Rutherford Campaign by her cousin, Charles Miller, who asked her to write this book. Charles Miller and Earl Lanning were Historical consultants on the book. Photographs by Ric Lambert, Earl Lanning, Jan Riser and a painting by David Wright are some of the visuals used in the book. There is a listing of Cherokee Towns burned in 1776, North Carolina's Expenses Related to the Cherokee War of 1776, List of the Company under the command of Joseph Martin in July 20, 1776, The speech of Ontositah or Corn Tassell, Loyalist who signed the Oath at Nolichucky, Petition of Inhabitants of Frontier Parts of Clinch River Valley, and Casualities of the Cherokee War of 1776. The bibliography list Primary and Secondary Sources as well as Periodicals. There are 65 pages of End Notes. This 440 page book is a wealth of information and an exciting read.

The book can be order in hardcover $34.95 or softcover  $29.95 from Valley River Press. Nadia Dean will be available for speaking beginning in April 2013. You can see inside the book here.

Synopsis and images from River Valley Press with additional copy by Jan Riser.


  1. Sounds like a must have book. And beautifully designed too.

  2. I just finished reading this book and I must say it is an excellent work. Most books about the American Revolution deal with the well know events or the war; the events covered in every grade school textbook. But here we have more than a new look at an old subject; we have a meticulously researched and well-written account of a conflict previously ignored. Full of detailed endnotes, suitable for any scholarly study, and yet an easy read for the historically curious. The book is also very well illustrated with pertinent depictions that bring depth and meaning to the story. The report of the conflict is also very honestly presented with no bias towards white or Indian accounts. Nadia Dean has truly done a great service to all who love the history of our nation and the complex events that together made America what it is today. This book is a must read for all Revolutionary War and Indian History enthusiasts.