The setter's on the New River encountered perilous times when Shawnee warriors attacked their villages during the French and Indian War. Adam Harman's part in protecting his and the other settlers' place in the region was fraught with intrigue and confusion over who was the enemy. Some people didn't distinguish between friendly Cherokee and enemy Shawnee. Some Cherokee didn't always seem friendly, and not all actions of the militia were above board. This is more of Adam Harman's story as first published in The Smithfield Review, Vol. 13, 2009. (For partial citations in endnotes, you can find complete citations in parts of the story published in previous weeks.)
Adam’s wilderness experience and prior examples of risk taking certainly would suggest that he was not hiding from danger. Was he part of the ill-fated Sandy Creek expedition of 1756 led by Andrew Lewis? This expedition set out with objectives to punish the Shawnee for attacks on the settlements and to establish a military presence at the mouth of the Big Sandy. The path this group traveled from Fort Frederick crossed the New River below the Horseshoe and went through Burke’s Garden and on toward the Big Sandy. William Preston kept a journal of the events. He reported bad weather, lack of supplies and disgruntled men who nearly mutinied, and the expedition ended in failure to reach either goal. Without a list of the more than 200 white men on this expedition, we cannot determine positively that Adam Harman was one of them.
If Adam left, stayed or was a part of the Sandy Creek campaign is in question, but he was certainly in the area by 1758 when he served as one of thirty-five men accompanying Captain Robert Wade from Fort Mayo to the New River. Captain Wade’s trip resulted from a series of actions to quell the Shawnee terror strikes against the English settlements. First, the governors of Virginia and of North and South Carolina realized the importance of establishing good relations with their neighbors, the Cherokee and Catawba, long-time enemies of the Shawnee. The governors wanted cooperation from the Indians in building forts. Thus in December 1755, Governor Dinwiddie sent Robert Byrd and Peter Randolph to meet with the Cherokee and ask their cooperation in building a fort on the Holston and New Rivers. In return the Cherokee could recover the deserted lands and preserve grain left behind when the settlers fled. Governor Dinwiddie also asked the Cherokee to send warriors to help protect the Virginia frontier, but the Cherokee did not want to leave their villages unprotected. They wanted assurance that the forts would protect their women and children as well as the white settlers. To assuage their fears, Governor Dinwiddie offered to build forts for the Cherokee. To accomplish this, he sent Andrew Lewis with a group of men to Chota to build a fort, which they completed by July 1756, but because the governors never sent soldiers to man the fort, the Indians tore it down fearing that their enemies would take control of it.
When the Cherokee finally sent a contingent of warriors into Virginia in 1757 to help fight the French and Shawnee, the warriors became impatient with delays and inaction, and many of them left. Later, Governor Dinwiddie appealed for more help from the Cherokee, so more warriors were sent in early 1758. Then in May, a large group of Cherokee returning home led by Moytoy of Settico decided to “recover” horses they had lost doing battle with the French by taking them from setters along their route. Their action offended the settlers who pursued the Indians, and a battle ensued. To get revenge for their losses, the Cherokee attacked and killed nineteen whites in North Carolina. Both whites and Cherokee were confused about whom they could trust and tensions escalated.
At this point, Captain Wade’s group, which included Adam Harmon, was sent to hunt down enemy Indians, but the march served only to increase tension and add to the confusion on whom to trust. On August 12, 1758, Captain Wade left Fort Mayo and set out in search of Shawnee or renegade Cherokee. John Echols’ account of this incident describes it vividly, spelling quirks and all:
Next morning being Wednesday the 16th. Inst, we Sent our Spyes and hunters to Spy for Enemy Signs, & to hunt for provisions. But the body of the Company Tarryed there. . . . Next morning Thursday the 17th Inst, we sent out hunters as usual, & in the afternoon some of them came in & informed us that they had seen signs of Indians at Drapers' Meadow. . . but one of our men not coming in that night disappointed us—next morning Being Fryday the 18th. Inst. Some of the men were sent to Look for the man that was Lost—& the Rest remained there. . . . The Capt. and Wm. Hall and Adam Hermon, and two or three more went off & Left the men under my Command and ordered that we should be in Readyness for a march as soon as he returned—Soon after the Captain was Gone, the man that was Lost Came in. . . . But when the Captain came to the place where the sign was Seen, he Tels us that he saw a Shoe track among them, which caused them to believe that it had been white men after their horses—So the Captain nor none of the men, that was with him returned that night, But went a hunting—Next morning being Saturday 19th Inst. the Captain not coming gave us a great deal of Uneasyness. . . . I ordered the men to keep a Verry Sharp Look out, and Likewise to be in order to march next morning, by SunRise,—I was Determined to stay that night & if the Capt: did not come, to march off after him—Soon after we had come to a conclusion about it Some of the men Spyed five Indians Very near to us. . . . I was a Lying down in the house when I heard the news—I Rased up and presented my Gun at one of the Indians, But I heard some of our Company that was in another house, Cry out, Don't Shoot—
I Stopt at that and askt them what they were & I beleive they said Cheroke, but Stood in amaise, & Reason they had, for I suppose there was 20 Guns presented at them, we went up to them & Examined them—they said they were Cherokees, I made signs to them to show me their Pass, But they had none,—They had with them 5 head of horse Kind & Skelps, that appeared to be whitemens. . . . Some of the Company insisted to fall upon them and Kill them, for they said they believed they were Shawnees, & that they were Spyes. . . but I said I was determined to keep them till the Capt: came. . . . After Capt: heard the opinion of the people, he past sentence of Death upon them; but there was one Abraham Dunkleberry, hunter that we let off who said they were Cherokees, yet he agreed that they were Rogues. . . . next morning Being Sunday 20th Inst, upon what Dunkleberry had said the Capt: let them have their Guns & let them go off—which displeased some of the Carolina men—so much that they swore if they were not allowed to kill them, they would never go Ranging again, for they said it was to no purpose to Rang after the Enemy, & when they had found them, not to be allowed to kill them. . . .
Upon consideration of their having no pass, nor white man, & by reason of their steal of horses, they did not appear any waise Like friends, so the Captain told them to be Easy, and after Dunkleberry was gone, we would go after them and Kill them. . . . . the Capts: orders was for 12 of the best men to follow them and Kill them and the remainder of the Company to go to the Dunker Fort which was about half a mile below us. . . . The men that followed them were Adam hermon, Daniel Hermon, Wm. Hall, Ric'd Hall, Jun'r, Tobias Clapp, Philip Clap, Joseph Clapp, Benj. Angel, David Currie, Ric'd Hines, James Lyon & my self—13 of us—We followed them and overtook them at a peach orchard—jest as they were leaving it, we watched our opportunity, and fired at them and followed them up till we Killed 4 of them, and wounded the other—we Skelpt them that we killed, & then followed the other—he bled verry much, he went into the river and to an Island—but we could not find where he went out. . . . Next morning being Monday 21st Inst. we packed up in order to march homeward, for signs of Indians was plenty & we had but little amunition but before we left the fort, we were Sworn—the words of the oath Do not remember exactly, but the Intent of the thing was not to tell that we ever heard them say that they were Cherokees without required to swere—so left the fort and marcht till dark & took up Camp at a Plantation upon a Branch of the Little River. . . . I Rem'n Yrs. &., John Echols.
This incident left the remaining Cherokee warriors in Virginia fearful for a safe return to their homes, so they petitioned Governor Dinwiddie for “promises that their people would not be molested in Virginia.” More misunderstandings on both sides resulted in increasing distrust and hatred between whites and Indians. After these incidents, no further evidence has been found of Adam Harman’s involvement in altercations with Indians.
1 “CaptainWilliam Preston and the Journal of the Sandy Creek Expedition, 1756,” Draper Manuscripts, IQQ p. 123, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison.
2 Alexander Scott Withers, Chronicles of Border Warfare, edited and annotated by Reuben Gold Thwaites with notes by Lyman Copeland Draper (Cincinnati: Stewart & Kidd Company, 1912), p. 82. The entire text of this book is available on Google Books.
3 “CaptainWilliam Preston,” Draper Manuscripts, IQQ p. 57. Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 57.
4 Harman, Harman Genealogy, p. 53; Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 60.
5 Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 56.
6 Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 58.
7 Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 59-60.
8 Summers, History of Suthwest Virginia, pp. 63-6. The complete text of John Echol’s journal from Capt. Wade’s march is transcribed in Summer’s History on pages 62-6. A summary of this incident can also be found in Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 60.
9 Kegley and Kegley, Early Adventures, p. 61.
© 2014, Z. T. Noble