Native American Legends
The Two Mohawks
A Cherokee Legend
In the year 1747 a couple of the Mohawk Indians came against the
lower towns of the Cheerake, and cunningly ambuscaded them through
most part of the spring and summer.
The two killed above twenty in different attacks before they were
discovered by any party of the enraged and dejected people. They
had a thorough knowledge of the most convenient ground for their
purpose, and were extremely swift and long-winded. Whenever they
killed any and got the scalp they made off to the neighboring mountains,
and ran over the broad ledges of rocks in contrary courses, as occasion
offered, so as the pursuers could by no means trace them.
Once, when a large company was in chase of them, they ran round
a steep hill at the head of the main eastern branch of Savana river,
intercepted, killed, and scalped the hindmost of the party, and
then made off between them and Keeowhee.
As this was the town to which the company belonged, they hastened
home in a close body, as the proper place of security from such
enemy wizards. In this manner did those two sprightly, gallant savages
perplex and intimidate their foes for the space of four moons in
the greatest security, though they often were forced to kill and
barbecue what they chiefly lived upon, in the midst of their watchful
Having sufficiently revenged their relations' blood and gratified
their own ambition with an uncommon number of scalps, they resolved
to captivate one and run home with him as a proof of their having
killed none but the enemies of their country.
Accordingly, they approached very near to Keeowhee, about half
a mile below the late Fort Prince George. Advancing with the usual
caution on such an occasion, one crawled along under the best cover
of the place about the distance of a hundred yards ahead, while
the other shifted from tree to tree, looking sharply every way.
In the evening, however, an old, beloved man discovered them from
the top of an adjoining hill, and knew them to be enemies by the
cut of their hair, light trim for running, and their, postures.
He returned to the town and called first at the house of one of
our traders and informed him of the affair, enjoining him not to
mention it to any, lest the people should set off against them without
success before their tracks were to be discovered and he be charged
with having deceived them.
But, contrary to the true policy of traders among unforgiving savages,
that thoughtless member of the Choktah Sphinx Company busied himself,
as usual, out of his proper sphere, sent for the headmen, and told
them the story. As the Mohawks were allies and not known to molest
any of the traders in the paths and woods, he ought to have observed
a strict neutrality.
The youth of the town, by order of their headmen, carried on their
noisy public diversions in their usual manner to prevent their foes
from having any suspicion of their danger, while runners were sent
from the town to their neighbors to come silently and assist them
to secure the prey in its state of security.
They came like silent ghosts, concerted their plan of operation,
passed over the river at the old trading ford opposite to the late
fort, which lay between two contiguous commanding hills, and, proceeding
downward over a broad creek, formed a large semicircle from the
river bank, while the town seemed to be taking its usual rest.
They then closed into a narrower compass, and at last discovered
the two brave, unfortunate men lying close under the tops of some
fallen young pine trees. The company gave the war signal, and the
Mohawks, bounding up, bravely repeated it; but, by their sudden
spring from under thick cover, their arms were useless. They made
desperate efforts, however, to kill or be killed, as their situation
One of the Cherokee, the noted half-breed of Istanare [Ustäna'lï]
town, which lay 2 miles from thence, was at the first onset knocked
down and almost killed with his own cutlass, which was wrested from
him, though he was the strongest of the whole nation. But they were
overpowered by numbers, captivated, and put to the most exquisite
tortures of fire, amidst a prodigious crowd of exulting foes.
One of the present Choktah traders, who was on the spot, told me
that when they were tied to the stake the younger of the two discovered
our traders on a hill near, addressed them in English, and entreated
them to redeem their lives. The elder immediately spoke to him,
in his own language, to desist. On this, he recollected himself,
and became composed like a stoic, manifesting an indifference to
life or death, pleasure or pain, according to their standard of
martial virtue, and their dying behavior did not reflect the least
dishonor on their former gallant actions.
All the pangs of fiery torture served only to refine their manly
spirits, and as it was out of the power of the traders to redeem
them they, according to our usual custom, retired as soon as the
Indians began the diabolical tragedy.
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