Wednesday, December 14, 2016

"Fetid Exhalation from the Cesspools of Europe"

I enjoy finding obscure 19th century literature pertaining to the Southern Appalachians. Until this week, I was unaware of James Roberts Gilmore (1823-1903), a wealthy Northern merchant who ran a New York cotton and shipping company in the 1850s. Inspired by his business trips to the southern states, Gilmore began publishing books under the pseudonym Edmund Kirke. During and after the Civil War, his fact-based novels advanced his abolitionist views.

The best profile I found on Gilmore can be read here:

In 1889, Gilmore published “A Mountain-White Heroine” with much of its action set along the Tuckaseigee and Oconaluftee Rivers. Perhaps a review of the story will be forthcoming. I have yet to determine if the novel’s character “Dan Ellis” is the same Union officer whose modestly titled autobiography “Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis” included many war-time stories about his exploits in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee – a great read for anyone interested in the history of this region.

Gilmore’s introduction to “A Mountain-White Heroine” is a real attention-grabber, given his warnings about lax immigration policies and the insidious nature of Socialist thought in America.  I was surprised by what he was describing at such an early date. Though the most dire of scenarios outlined by Gilmore has not yet come to pass, the recent hysteria on behalf of Bernie Sanders points to the relevance of Gilmore’s words, 130 years after they were written:







Our country offers hospitality to all civilized nations. It opens wide its doors to every man who desires civil and religious freedom, and is willing to assimilate with our people, and support our free institutions. It accords to him every right of property, and, after a brief probation, the same voice in shaping our governmental policy that is enjoyed by our native-born population, whose fathers laid the foundations of our Republic, and who have themselves erected it into a great nation. But, like prudent householders, our native citizens do not give cordial welcome to the foreign beggar, burglar, incendiary, and cutthroat. And yet, recent investigations, conducted under the authority of Congress, disclose the fact that European governments are vomiting upon our shores their criminal and worthless characters in startling numbers. Their highways and by-ways are ransacked for paupers, and their jails and penitentiaries are emptied of dangerous vagabonds, to be thrust into our large cities in idle and lawless crowds, there to form an element that is a menace to the peace and security of any civilized community.

The presence of this element has already obliged every one of our larger municipalities to so augment its police force, as to greatly increase the tax-burden of its order loving citizens.

This is an element sufficiently dangerous to cause alarm; but it is far less dangerous to us as an American people than those firebrands of Europe — the Anarchists and Socialists — whom foreign governments are scattering broadcast among us. The paupers and criminals threaten our security as individual citizens; the Anarchists and Socialists are a menace to the stability of our Government, and the integrity of our very civilization.

John Most, the high priest of American anarchy, in his recent examination before the Congressional Immigration Committee, expressed the opinion that there are fifty millions of Socialists in Europe, and he stated that two million Anarchists are already domiciled in the United States, and are being reinforced by every ship that arrives from the Continent. The number of Socialists already here he did not state; but they are undoubtedly more numerous than the Anarchists. When asked to define the difference between socialism and anarchism, Most replied that the Socialist seeks to change the whole system of society. He does not seek to abolish individual ownership, but — what is the same thing — he would have the earnings of property equally distributed among the people. Under this system he believes there would be no necessity for laws, nor any need of a government. Every man would become a law unto himself, and the State would soon go out of existence. The" Anarchist, on the other hand, according to Most, believes in the equal distribution of all property, and the immediate and total abolition of all State government.

The mere statement of these doctrines is enough to show that these people are the natural enemies of our American civilization. They are simply destructives. License with them is liberty; and freedom the ability of the poor to pull down the rich, and to revel idly on the avails of other men's industry. Both Socialists and Anarchists are largely sceptics and atheists, and drawn, as they mainly are, from the most ignorant and degraded population of Europe, they are the ready instruments of designing demagogues who would build themselves up on the ruin of society. What enormities they would commit if once freed from restraint, may be seen in the recent developments in Chicago, and in the atrocities attending the great riots in Pittsburg and New York city.

But I conceive that the peril to which the country is exposed from this disorganizing element, lies not so much in its violent uprising, as in the peaceful spread of its opinions — the silent infusion of its poisonous virus into the veins of the great body of our working population, till they shall mistake French Communism, or German Socialism, or Russian Nihilism, for Anglo-Saxon freedom. The danger is that the country shall thus lose its national character, be un-Americanized, swung away from the traditions of our fathers, and from the English liberty, English law, and English religion, which have given us all our greatness as a nation.

This calamity may not be possible in our Eastern and Middle States, where the foreign element is a minority, and every school-boy knows that true freedom is liberty regulated by law, and its most characteristic trait a strict regard for the property and rights of other men. The natural field for these destructive theories is the West, where the foreign-born population is a much more potent element, and New England ideas have not so thoroughly leavened the community. In that section, which in the near future will hold the political power of the country, these atheistic and destructive principles are strongly aggressive, and gaining ground with astonishing rapidity. In Chicago alone there are now, according to Professor Samuel Ives Curtiss, forty thousand Anarchists, who openly counsel resistance to law, and support vile journals in which are reproduced the writings of Thomas Paine, the shallow utterances of Robert G. Ingersoll, and ribald parodies of all that is most sacred in human literature. These journals distinctly proclaim that property is theft, the future life a delusion, Christianity a fable, and God Himself merely a scarecrow, invented to keep the poor out of the rich man's cornfield.

All along the Great Lakes this fetid exhalation from the cesspools of Europe is spreading, and it threatens to soon taint the atmosphere of the entire West. And the misfortune is that the spread of the poison cannot be checked. No capitation tax will keep these men out of the country, and we cannot deny them a free expression of their opinions when they are in it. If we were to set zealously about the work we might convert a few of them to our political creed; but the chances are that when we had made one proselyte two others would spring up in his place, armed at all points with false logic, and backed by the moral support of that European reserve of fifty millions.

But it is doubtful if any genuine Anarchist can be converted to our American idea of freedom. Hatred of the rich he has drunk in with his mother's milk, and the iron heel of the governing classes in his native country has so scarred his very soul, that he has come to regard all who are better-conditioned than himself as his natural enemies. He cannot be made to understand that there can be no tyranny where every man wears a crown, no actual inequality where all are equal before the law, no exclusive possession of riches where moderate intelligence, and persistent industry, will speedily bestow them upon the poorest and most illiterate. He is incapable of understanding this, and hence, is unable to appreciate either the rights or the duties of an American citizen. This being so, and these men increasing in number in a more rapid ratio than our native population, and every one of them having the ballot in his possession, how shall we during the coming years preserve our national character, and keep intact our American institutions? The question is of vital moment to this nation, and it concerns not only every patriot, but every Christian who has at heart the upward progress of the human race, and would see his country achieve its high mission as the standard bearer of civil and religious freedom.

There can be but one answer to this question, and that is —The safety of our American institutions depends solely upon a more general education of our native born American population. From our own people, who have inherited our national traditions, and have our Anglo-Saxon freedom in their very blood, must be formed a body of intelligent, liberty-loving, God-fearing men, whose ballots shall hold this destructive foreign element in check, and thus preserve to us in their integrity our national character, and our free institutions. Thus far we have been safe in our numerical superiority; but with this inflowing tide of socialism and anarchism overspreading all the West, the time has come when our supremacy is endangered, and we need to be reinforced by a body of voters who have the same ideals and aspirations as ourselves. This reinforcement we must have, or soon lose our character as an American people. This is the emergency that is now upon the nation.

But where shall we look for an auxiliary native force that will neutralize the baleful influence of this disorganizing foreign element? The Southern negro is the born enemy of atheism and anarchism, and when his rights as a freeman are more generally respected, and he is better educated, and more fully acquainted with his duties as an American citizen, he will be a valuable aid in upholding our American institutions. But the negro has not inherited our traditions, he has no ancestral memories connected with Bunker Hill, or King's Mountain, nor does he belong to a race which through fifteen hundred years of blood and struggle has achieved enlightened liberty and Christian civilization.

There is, however, among us a class of native-born Americans, who, if educated, and socially and morally elevated, would I think give the country the added strength it needs to maintain intact its free institutions; and this class is the so-called " Mountain-White" population of the Southern Alleghanies. They occupy what is now the very heart of this country, and number about two millions, all of them native-born, with an inherited love of freedom, and the intense patriotism which is peculiar to our American character. Being either too poor, or too conscientious, to hold slaves, they were, more than a hundred years ago, forced back to the mountains by the slave-holding planters of the seaboard, and, insulated there, shut out from the world, and deprived of schools and churches, they have grown up in ignorance of their rights and duties as American citizens.

The present condition of these people is directly traceable to slavery; for in making the slave the planter's blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, and man of all work, slavery shut every avenue of honest employment against the working white man, and drove him to the mountains and the barren sand hills to starve and to die. And having there shut him out from the world, it legislated to keep him in ignorance, lest he should learn his rights and overthrow its power. Only a few years before the war I saw a planter of my acquaintance march twenty of these men up to the polls, and when they had voted at his bidding, he turned to me and said, "This is your boasted Democracy. These men govern this country: Jefferson gave them the right of suffrage, and they suppose they are voting for Jefferson now."

"But," I said to him, "why do you not teach them to think? Why not give them schools and churches?"

"Because, if we did, they might not vote for Jefferson."

This reply indicates the policy that was pursued toward these people, through long years, by the ruling element in the South. But ignorant as they generally are, there is not in the whole country a more honest, brave, and liberty-loving class of men than these " Mountain-Whites," and during our recent civil war they developed qualities that do honor to American manhood. Though citizens of seceded States, and hemmed in by secession armies, and a disloyal people, the majority of them stood firmly by the Union, enduring, for what they thought the right, such suffering as rarely falls to the lot of any people. Multitudes of them laid out in the woods, were hunted with blood-hounds, beaten with stripes, hung to trees, tossed on the points of bayonets, and buried while yet alive, rather than deny their country, or betray its friends. Grass-grown cross-roads, where rude guide posts point ways no traveler ever went; lonely mountain hamlets, unknown except to the census-taker and the tax-gatherer, where the spelling-book and the mail bag never were seen, produced a race of heroes whose deeds will vie with those of any of the most noted characters in our history.

Living as these people do, remote from traveled routes, they are seldom seen by travelers, and their exploits in the late war, performed as they were in small conflicts, and amid the seclusion of their remote mountains, have escaped the notice of the chroniclers of the great events that decided the fate of the nation. Nevertheless, they are worthy of record at the present time, if for no other reason than to show the character of a large native element on which, when properly instructed, we may rely to stem the tide of socialism and anarchy that is now inundating the country. Therefore, it has been suggested to me that I may do a public service by recounting some of the war history of these people as it has been related to me by veracious persons, and by drawing such a general picture of their way of life, and natural and social surroundings, as came under my personal observation during a recent residence of some years in their near neighborhood. The facts that I record were communicated to me by some scores of individuals while I was traveling through their country in pursuit of material for a series of histories of the early South-West, that I have recently written; and I had then no thought of ever giving them to the public. I consequently took no further care at the time to verify the various accounts I received than would be natural to one who has more personal satisfaction in truth than in fiction. But, since the idea of writing this volume has been suggested to me, I have taken every means of verifying its facts that are possible by a correspondence with my original informants. The conclusion I have arrived at is, that the main facts I relate are historically true, and that, if some of the minor details are not so, the fact does not detract from the truthful character of my picture as a whole, nor render it a less faithful representation of the rare heroism, and self devoted patriotism exhibited by these Mountain-Whites during the recent war for the preservation of the Union.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Webster Knob

Webster Knob, Acrylic, 11x17"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wit and Wisdom of Theodore Dalrymple

“In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

“To regret religion is to regret Western civilization.”

 “When every benefit received is a right, there is no place for good manners, let alone for gratitude.”

 “The purpose of those who argue for cultural diversity is to impose ideological uniformity.”

“If the history of the 20th Century proved anything, it proved that however bad things were, human ingenuity could usually find a way to make them worse.”

“The loss of the religious understanding of the human condition—that Man is a fallen creature for whom virtue is necessary but never fully attainable—is a loss, not a gain, in true sophistication. The secular substitute—the belief in the perfection of life on earth by the endless extension of a choice of pleasures—is not merely callow by comparison but much less realistic in its understanding of human nature.”

“I sometimes astonish my patients by telling them that it is far more important that they should be able to lose themselves than that they should be able to find themselves. For it is only in losing oneself that one does find oneself.”

“Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one’s state of mind, or one’s mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one’s life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct. A ridiculous pas de deux between doctor and patient ensues: the patient pretends to be ill, and the doctor pretends to cure him. In the process, the patient is wilfully blinded to the conduct that inevitably causes his misery in the first place.”

“It is only by having desire thwarted, and thereby learning to control it — in other words, by becoming civilized — that men become fully human.”

“The idea that freedom is merely the ability to act upon one's whims is surely very thin and hardly begins to capture the complexities of human existence; a man whose appetite is his law strikes us not as liberated but enslaved.”

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph, said Burke, is for good men to do nothing; and most good men nowadays can be relied upon to do precisely that. Where a reputation for intolerance is more feared than a reputation for vice itself, all manner of evil may be expected to flourish.”

“No man was more sensitive than Zweig to the destructive effects upon individual liberty of the demands of large or strident collectivities. He would have viewed with horror the cacophony of monomanias—sexual, racial, social, egalitarian—that marks the intellectual life of our societies, each monomaniac demanding legislative restriction on the freedom of others in the name of a supposed greater, collective good.”

“Turgenev saw human beings as individuals always endowed with consciousness, character, feelings, and moral strengths and weaknesses; Marx saw them always as snowflakes in an avalanche, as instances of general forces, as not yet fully human because utterly conditioned by their circumstances. Where Turgenev saw men, Marx saw classes of men; where Turgenev saw people, Marx saw the People. These two ways of looking at the world persist into our own time and profoundly affect, for better or for worse, the solutions we propose to our social problems.”

“A crude culture makes a coarse people, and private refinement cannot long survive public excess. There is a Gresham's law of culture as well as of money: the bad drives out the good, unless the good is defended.”

“How can one respect people as members of the human race unless one holds them to a standard of conduct and truthfulness?”

“In the psychotherapeutic worldview to which all good liberals subscribe, there is no evil, only victimhood. The robber and the robbed, the murderer and the murdered, are alike the victims of circumstance, united by the events that overtook them. Future generations (I hope) will find it curious how, in the century of Stalin and Hitler, we have been so eager to deny man's capacity for evil.”

“Political correctness is often the attempt to make sentimentality socially obligatory or legally enforceable.”

“Political correctness is the means by which we try to control others; decency is the means by which we try to control ourselves.”

“I've heard a hundred different variations of instances of unadulterated female victimhood, yet the silence of the feminists is deafening. Where two pieties--feminism and multi-culturalism--come into conflict, the only way of preserving both is an indecent silence.”

“I have the not altogether unsatisfying impression that civilisation is collapsing around me.  Is it my age, I wonder, or the age we live in? I am not sure. Civilisations do collapse, after all, but on the other hand people grow old with rather greater frequency.”

“It goes without saying that the artists sympathised not with the actual working classes but with their own idea of the working classes,”

“No one seems to have noticed that a loss of a sense of shame means a loss of privacy; a loss of privacy means a loss of intimacy; and a loss of intimacy means a loss of depth. There is, in fact, no better way to produce shallow and superficial people than to let them live their lives entirely in the open, without concealment of anything.”

“This is the lie that is at the heart of our society, the lie that encourages every form of destructive self-indulgence to flourish: for while we ascribe our conduct to pressures from without, we obey the whims that well up from within, thereby awarding ourselves carte blanche to behave as we choose. Thus we feel good about behaving badly.”

“A being as dependent on his cultural inheritance as man cannot escape convention so easily: and the desire to do so has itself become a cliché.”

“It is not surprising that emotion untutored by thought results in nearly contentless blather, in which--ironically enough--genuine emotion cannot be adequately expressed.”

“Restraints upon our natural inclinations, which left to themselves do not automatically lead us to do what is good for us and often indeed lead us to evil, are not only necessary; they are the indispensable condition of civilized existence.”

“Shakespeare knows that the tension between men as they are and men as they ought to be will forever remain unresolved. Man's imperfectability is no more an excuse for total permissiveness, however, than are man's imperfections a reason for inflexible intolerance.”

“The only permissible judgment in polite society is that no judgment is permissible. A century-long reaction against Victorian prudery, repression, and hypocrisy, led by intellectuals who mistook their personal problems for those of society as a whole, has created this confusion. It is as though these intellectuals were constantly on the run from their stern, unbending, and joyless forefathers—and as if they took as an unfailing guide to wise conduct either the opposite of what their forefathers said and did, or what would have caused them most offence, had they been able even to conceive of the possibility of such conduct.”

“The state looms large in all our lives, not only in its intrusions but in our thoughts: for so thoroughly have we drunk at the wells of collectivism that we see the state always as the solution to any problem, never as an obstacle to be overcome. One can gauge how completely collectivism has entered our soul – so that we are now a people of the government, for the government, by the government – by a strange but characteristic British locution.”

“When you are harried, browbeaten, cajoled, bullied, pursued, threatened, bribed and surveyed by the state and its agencies, you have little inclination left over for obedience: least of all obedience to what one judge called the unenforceable. You have already paid your dues to society. Society can now look after itself. In the small sphere left to you, you will do exactly what you please, without regard to anyone else.”

“To base one's rejection of what exists--and hence one's prescription for a better world--upon the petty frustrations of one's youth, as surely many middle-class radicals have done, is profoundly egotistical. Unless consciously rejected, this impulse leads to a tendency throughout life to judge the rightness or wrongness of policies by one's personal emotional response to them, as if emotion were an infallible guide.”

“One's past is not one's destiny, and it is self-serving to pretend that it is. If henceforth I were miserable, it would be my own fault: and I vowed never to waste my substance on petty domestic conflict.”

“It is only the sentimentalist who imagines that the profundity of a person's response to tragedy is proportional to the length, volume, or shrillness of his lamentation.”

“When exactly did this downward cultural spiral begin, this loss of tact and refinement and understanding that some things should not be said or directly represented? When did we no longer appreciate that to dignify certain modes of behavior, manners, and ways of being with artistic representation was implicitly to glorify and promote them? There is, as Adam Smith said, a deal of ruin in a nation: and this truth applies as much to a nation's culture as to its economy. The work of cultural destruction, while often swifter, easier, and more self-conscious than that of construction, is not the work of a moment. Rome wasn't destroyed in a day.”

“One of the characteristics of modern political life is its professionalization, such that it attracts mainly the kind of people with so great an avidity for power and self-importance that they do not mind very much the humiliations of the public exposure to which they are inevitably subjected.”

“Facts are much more malleable than prejudices.”

“This posture of skepticism towards the classics displays a profound misjudgment. For the great works of Western culture are remarkable for the distance that they maintained from the norms and orthodoxies that gave birth to them. Only a very shallow reading of Chaucer or Shakespeare would see those writers as endorsing the societies in which they lived, or would overlook the far more important fact that their works hold mankind to the light of moral judgment, and examine, with all the love and all the pity that it calls for, the frailty of human nature. It is precisely the aspiration towards universal truth, towards a God’s-eye perspective on the human condition, that is the hallmark of Western culture.”

“I suspect, though I cannot prove, that in part this is the consequence of living in a world, including a mental world, so thoroughly saturated by the products of the media of mass communication. In such a world, what is done or happens in private is not done or has not happened at all, at least not in the fullest possible sense.”

“A taste for kitsch among the well-to-do is a sign of spiritual impoverishment; but among the poor, it represents a striving for beauty, an aspiration without the likelihood of fulfilment.”

“That civilised life cannot be lived without taboos—that some of them may indeed be justified, and that therefore taboo is not in itself an evil to be vanquished—is a thought too subtle for the aesthetes of nihilism.”

“The only way to eliminate hypocrisy from human existence is to abandon all principles whatsoever;”

“Such bureaucrats can neither be hurried in their deliberations nor made to see common sense. Indeed, the very absurdity or pedantry of these deliberations is for them the guarantee of their own fair-mindedness, impartiality, and disinterest. To treat all people with equal contempt and indifference is the bureaucrat’s idea of equity.”

“The knowledge, tastes, and social accomplishments of 13-year-olds are often the same as those of 28-year-olds. Adolescents are precociously adult; adults are permanently adolescent.”

“This is the first time in history there has been mass denial that sexual relations are a proper subject of moral reflection or need to be governed by moral restrictions. The result of this denial, not surprisingly, has been soaring divorce rates and mass illegitimacy, among other phenomena. The sexual revolution has been above all a change in moral sensibility, in the direction of a thorough coarsening of feeling, thought, and behavior.”

“The first requirement of civilisation is that men should be willing to repress their basest instincts and appetites: failure to do which makes them, on account of their intelligence, far worse than mere beasts.”

“For example, the number of patients admitted to our ward declined precipitously during the first days of the Gulf War and during the European soccer championships. People were too absorbed for a time in affairs other than their own – albeit by the proxy of television – to contemplate suicide. The boredom of self-absorption is thus one of the promoters of attempted suicide, and being attached to a cardiac monitor for a time or having an intravenous infusion in one’s arm helps to relieve it. I’m treated, therefore I am. Patterns”

 “Some of the things written by romantic educational theorists are so ludicrous that it takes a complete absence of sense of humour not to laugh at them, and an almost wilful ignorance of what children, or at least many or most children, are like to believe them. Perhaps my favourite is from Cecil Grant’s English Education and Dr Montessori, published in 1913: No child learning to write should ever be told a letter is faulty… every stupid child or man is the product of discouragement… give Nature a free hand, and there would be nobody stupid. Clearly Mr Grant was much discouraged in his youth, but not nearly enough, I fear.”

 “The only thing worse than having a family, I discovered, is not having a family. My rejection of bourgeois virtues as mean-spirited and antithetical to real human development could not long survive contact with situations in which those virtues were entirely absent; and a rejection of everything associated with one’s childhood is not so much an escape from that childhood as an imprisonment by it.”

“I remember watching rioters in Panama, for example, smashing shop windows, allegedly in the name of freedom and democracy, but laughing as they did so, searching for new fields of glass to conquer. Many of the rioters were obviously bourgeois, the scions of privileged families, as have been the leaders of so many destructive movements in modern history. That same evening, I dined in an expensive restaurant and saw there a fellow diner whom I had observed a few hours before joyfully heaving a brick through a window. How much destruction did he think his country could bear before his own life might be affected, his own existence compromised?”

“Music escapes ideological characterization. Just as there are some social scientists who believe that what cannot be measured does not truly exist, and some psychologists used to believe that consciousness does not exist because it cannot be observed by instruments, so ideologists find anything that escapes their conceptual framework threatening - because ideologists want a simple principle, or a few simple principles, by which all things may be judged. When I was a student, I lived with a hard-line dialectical materialist who said that Schubert was a typical petit bourgeois pessimist, whose music would die out once objective causes for pessimism ceased to exist. But I suspect that even he was not entirely happy with this formulation.”

“It is the breakdown of the family structure--a breakdown so complete that mothers do not consider it part of their duty to feed their own children once they have reached the age at which they can forage for themselves in a refrigerator--that promotes modern malnutrition in Britain. Such malnutrition, according to the public health establishment, now affects millions of British households. And it is hardly surprising if young people who have not learned to socialize within the walls of their own homes, who have not learned even the minimal social disciplines required by people who eat together, should be completely anti-social in other respects.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

History Rewritten - 5

Men are not worried by things, but by their ideas about things.

They have prostituted their culture.  I went to Cherokee this summer.  I could only stay two days.
-Vernon Bellecourt, American Indian Movement leader

Who controls the present controls the past; who controls the past controls the future.
-The Ministry of Truth, in George Orwell’s 1984.

Among legendary Cherokee figures few, if any, have attained the lofty status of Tsali, aka Charley, aka Old Charley.  That’s understandable if one’s knowledge of the man is limited to the version depicted in the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills.  But for anyone who begins with the documentary record of his final days, the transformation of the Tsali of history to the Tsali of legend is a head-scratcher.   In that regard, a rewording of the Epictetus adage is in order

Men are not inspired by things, but by their ideas about things.

The popular legend of Tsali goes something like this:

During the Cherokee removal, Tsali and his family were taken into custody.  Subsequently, a soldier accompanying the captives was killed and Tsali escaped.  After hiding out in the upper Deep Creek area, Tsali came forward to accept his inevitable execution on November 25, 1838.  As a result of Tsali’s sacrifice, federal officials allowed 1000 of his fellow Cherokees to remain along the Oconaluftee River, thereby avoiding the Trail of Tears. 

So we’re told.  But while the myth is easily refuted, some aspects of the story remain a mystery.  Few incidents occurring deep in the Smokies in the 1830s are as well documented as the death of Tsali.  I would be the last to claim, though, that such documentary evidence is infallible.  Military records in particular should be taken with a very large grain of salt.  Having examined the respective Union and Confederate accounts of the Civil War Battle of Bryson City, I find it hard to believe that they are both describing the same event.  Nevertheless…

Historian Duane King gets to the crux of the matter:

The extent to which Tsali’s death has been glorified in martyrdom staggers the imagination.  To whites and acculturated Indians, Tsali is seen as a combination of the Messiah and George Washington, who made the ultimate sacrifice for the creation of a new state.  

However, many traditional Cherokees view the murder of the soldiers as a hideous crime which jeopardized the entire Cherokee community in the North Carolina mountains.  It invoked the wrath of the United States government.  In their bid to remain in North Carolina, the Oconalufty Cherokees had worked hard to promote an image of peaceful, law-abiding, industrious, model citizens.  Suddenly, through no fault of their own, that image was challenged.

My curiosity led me to trace the evolution of the Tsali story from fact to fiction.  I promptly discovered that several bona fide scholars had already outlined that progression.  Unfortunately, the nuances of the “real” story don’t lend themselves to melodramatic pageants and other tourist bait. 

Clearly, there is a price to be paid for chipping away at a legend.  After University of Tennessee historian John Finger wrote about the facts surrounding the Tsali incident, the blustering, rough-edged, criminal, Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Jonathan “Ed” Taylor, confronted the professor:

We don't need outsiders coming in and attacking our heroes.  Cherokees wouldn't attack George Washington, and you're doing that to us.*

Good.  I don’t want anyone shaking my firmly held belief in GW’s chopping down of the cherry tree or flinging of a silver dollar across the Potomac. Is nothing sacred?

Chief Ed is a funny one to be feigning such sensitivity.  Back in 1991, the Atlanta Braves were catching hell for their mascot and their tomahawk chops even after Chief Noc-A-Homa had been dispatched to the Great Baseball Stadium in the Sky.

But Taylor stepped up to the plate in their defense.

Doug Grow reported on the controversy for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:

CHEROKEE, N.C. — Thousands of the tomahawks favored by fans of the Atlanta Braves are made here. So are the chicken-feather headdresses.

``And blankets,`` said Jonathan Taylor. ``Don`t forget to mention we make blankets.``

Taylor is principal chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. He also is a fan of capitalism, the Braves baseball team, Braves owner Ted Turner and the much discussed tomahawk chop.

``We`re not fighting a war-Indians against whites-anymore,`` Taylor said. ``Cherokees just want to make a living. The tomahawk chop is great. Right now, we`ve got 300 Indians working over at the moccasin factory.``

Cherokee is designed to be a tourist trap. It`s filled with places with such names as the Honest Injun Trading Post, Trail of Tears Gallery, Big Chief Swap Shop and Princess Cafe.

American Indian Movement leaders in the Twin Cities and in Atlanta have spoken with a combination of contempt and pity for the Cherokee tribe. One AIM leader, Bill Means, compared the Cherokees profiting from the Braves` success to the Indian scouts who helped the cavalry.

The last line is hilarious, considering that is PRECISELY what happened in the case of Tsali.  Why isn’t that the moral of the story?  “Look how swimmingly things turn out when Indian scouts help the cavalry!!!!”

Background to a Showdown

In 1835, one minority faction of Cherokees signed a treaty in New Echota, Georgia that provided for removal of Cherokees to the West.  But another small faction settled along the Oconaluftee River held fast to the terms of an 1819 treaty which had allowed them to seek United States citizenship and hold lands in the vicinity of Quallatown.  These “Oconaluftee,” “Lufty,” or “Qualla” Indians had enjoyed harmonious relations with their white neighbors, and the white merchant Will Thomas was an adopted member of the group.

When the terms of the New Echota Treaty were being implemented, there was great dissension among the “non-Oconaluftee” Cherokees.  Many who felt railroaded by the small faction of treaty signers did their best to elude the United States Army as it rounded up Cherokees for the removal.  Among those fugitives was a small band led by Tsali.

Most of his early life was spent with the so-called Chickamauga Cherokees of northwest Georgia, about 100 miles away from Qualla.  During the onset of the Revolutionary War, a number of Cherokees in Tennessee sought to distance themselves from the expanding frontier settlements.  Starting in 1776 –77, they migrated southwest and establish a dozen new towns south of present-day Chattanooga.

These Chickamauga or Lower Cherokees had ongoing conflicts with the Upper Cherokees remaining along the Hiwassee and Little Tennessee Rivers.  Black Fox of the Chickamauga served as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1801-1810, and took a major role in treaty negotiations. In 1806, Black Fox relinquished nearly 7,000 square miles of land in present-day Tennessee and Alabama, and was given a lifetime annuity in return.  

A series of such transactions, arguably quite self-serving, did not sit well with certain elements among the Cherokees.  Upper Cherokees complained to President Thomas Jefferson January 24, 1808:

We…can never consider any future Treaty binding upon us, until it is reviewed & approved by a Majority of all our beloved Men, Chiefs & Warriors. This Regulation will effectually prevent all future Misunderstandings of our Engagements and secure Tranquility between us.

Tommy J responded to the Upper Cherokees on May 4, 1808:

You complain that you do not receive your just proportion of the Annuities we pay your Nation; that the Chiefs of the lower Town’s take for them more than their share. My Children, this distribution is made by the Authority of the Cherokee Nation, & according to their own rules over which we have no control. We do our duty in delivering the Annuities to the head men of the Nation and we pretend to no Authority over them, to no right of directing how they are to be distributed. but We will instruct our Agent Colo. Meigs to exhort the Chiefs to do justice to all the parts of their Nation in the distribution of these Annuities & to endeavor that every town shall have its due share. We would willingly pay these Annuities in money which Could be more equally divided, if the Nation would prefer that, and if we can be assured that the money will not be laid out in strong drink instead of necessaries for your wives & children….

You propose My Children, that your Nation shall be divided into two and that your part the Upper Cherokees, shall be separated from the lower by a fixed boundary, shall be placed under the Government of the U.S. become citizens thereof, and be ruled by our laws; in fine, to be our brothers instead of our children. My Children I shall rejoice to See the day when the red men our neighbors become truly one people with us, enjoying all the rights and privileges we do, & living in peace & plenty as we do without any one to make them afraid, to injure their persons, or to take their property without being punished for it according to fixed laws. but are you prepared for this? have you the resolution to leave off hunting for your living, to lay off a farm for each family to itself, to live by industry, the men working that farm with their hands, raising stock or learning trades as we do, & the women spinning & weaving Clothes for their Husbands & Children? all this is necessary before our laws can suit you or be of any use to you.

By 1811, other outside factors complicated the turmoil among the Cherokees.  The Shawnee leader Tecumseh came south to persuade the Five Civilized tribes to join his proposed pan-Indian alliance to resist the Americans.  He exhorted the Muscogees in October 1811.  General Samuel Dale, who was present at the meeting, claimed these were the words of Tecumseh:

In defiance of the white warriors of Ohio and Kentucky, I have traveled through their settlements, once our favorite hunting grounds. No war-whoop was sounded, but there is blood on our knives. The Pale-faces felt the blow, but knew not whence it came. Accursed be the race that has seized on our country and made women of our warriors. Our fathers, from their tombs, reproach us as slaves and cowards. I hear them now in the wailing winds. The Muscogee was once a mighty people. The Georgians trembled at your war-whoop, and the maidens of my tribe, on the distant lakes, sung the prowess of your warriors and sighed for their embraces. Now your very blood is white; your tomahawks have no edge; your bows and arrows were buried with your fathers. Oh! Muscogees, brethren of my mother, brush from your eyelids the sleep of slavery; once more strike for vengeance; once more for your country. The spirits of the mighty dead complain. Their tears drop from the weeping skies.

Let the white race perish. They seize your land; they corrupt your women; they trample on the ashes of your dead! Back, whence they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven. Back! back, ay, into the great water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores! Burn their dwellings! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! The Red Man owns the country, and the Pale-faces must never enjoy it. War now! War forever! War upon the living! War upon the dead! Dig their very corpses from the grave. Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones. This is the will of the Great Spirit, revealed to my brother, his familiar, the Prophet of the Lakes. He sends me to you. All the tribes of the north are dancing the war-dance. Two mighty warriors across the seas will send us arms. Tecumseh will soon return to his country. My prophets shall tarry with you. They will stand between you and the bullets of your enemies. When the white men approach you the yawning earth shall swallow them up. Soon shall you see my arm of fire stretched athwart the sky. I will stamp my foot at Tippecanoe, and the very earth shall shake.

If those were indeed the words of Tecumseh, such sentiments drew mixed response in the South.  A Cherokee leader, The Ridge, after observing Tecumseh among the Muscogee, threatened him with death should he ever set foot upon Cherokee territory.  On the other hand, Tsali was very receptive to Tecumseh’s message and during a national council of the Cherokees, he argued for war against the Americans.  After a heated debate, The Ridge prevailed with his arguments in favor of maintaining peace with the Americans. 

Several weeks later, though, the Southeast was rattled by the New Madrid earthquakes.  Tsali asserted the temblors fulfilled Tecumseh’s vow that by stamping his foot at Tippecanoe, “the very earth shall shake.”  With prophetic fervor, Tsali warned of a coming apocalypse for the Cherokee Nation and convinced many fellow Cherokees to retreat to the Smoky Mountains to find safe haven.  Tsali, his wife, and three sons relocated from Georgia to the Nantahala River near its confluence with the Little Tennessee and lived quietly for the next quarter century. 

This brings us to where the scholars begin to trace the evolution of Tsali from man to myth. In November 1838, United States Army troops under the command of General Winfield Scott were tracking down recalcitrant Cherokees trying to avoid their forced removal.  A number of holdouts, including Tsali and his family, were hiding along the Little Tennessee River and its tributaries.   Will Thomas was assisting the army by organizing a party of Oconaluftee Cherokees to help track down the fugitives.

Rounding Up the Fugitive Cherokees

I was aware of the military correspondence regarding the matter, but I was surprised to find that the records were published in numerous periodicals within a month of Tsali’s death.  An overview of events is found in a November 6, 1838 letter from General Scott, at the headquarters of the Eastern Division of the War Department in Athens, Tennessee.  At that point, he knew of the killings committed by Tsali’s party and was awaiting their capture, shuttling army troops in and out of the region.  

Troops were ordered from North Carolina to the Canada frontier, July 21st, on the assurance of Brigadier General Eustis, their immediate commander, that all the Indians …had been collected and sent in to the agency for emigration….

 In a few weeks, [it was] discovered that perhaps 300 had escaped…by retiring to distant hiding places in the same range of mountains, beyond the limits of the late Cherokee country; which number was in the months of July and August augmented by forty or fifty [more], who stole away singly from the principal emigrating depot…

Early in August I sent Lieutenant Scott, with a detachment of mounted men and Indian runners furnished by the Cherokee authorities, into those mountains, who succeeded, by the aid of those runners in bringing to the agency about 90 of the fugitives…

On the 12th of September I dispatched Lieutenants Larned, Johnson, and Smith, with a larger detachment of mounted men, and a double set of Indian runners, furnished as before and [they apprehended] about 60 prisoners, all of whom were captured, not one having yielded to invitation or persuasion on the part of the runners.

Lieutenant Larned estimates the remaining Indians in the region (subject to emigration— that is, excluding those who have acquired the right to remain on the Oconeelufty, Haywood county, under the laws of North Carolina,) at about 200 souls, including 40 warriors. Five of the latter were the prisoners of Lieutenant Smith, and [they] murdered two of his men and wounded a third.  Indeed he had no others with him at the moment, the rest of his party being on the return from a search for Indians, and only half a mile off when the prisoners made the attack.  That this act of hostility was wholly unprovoked by any unkindness, is evident from the fact that the two men killed had dismounted and lent their horses to the murderers to ride, who pretended to be lame or fatigued.

Tsali Kills His Captors and Escapes

In a November 5 letter to Lieutenant Larned, Lieutenant A. J. Smith went into greater detail concerning the murders committed by the Cherokees taken into custody:

Agreeably to your instructions, dated September 17th, I repaired immediately to Oconeelufty, North Carolina, for the purpose of collecting all the Indians in that neighborhood belonging to the nation. After two weeks unsuccessful search at Olufty, I started to S. Carolina, in pursuit of a large number of Indians that had been reported to me to be in the vicinity of Pickens. I found a camp of sixteen, and brought them to O.

On my return to the place, I found orders for us to return home as soon as practicable. On our way down the little Tennessee river I heard of a party of Indians within a few miles of us, and thinking it my duty to collect them, if possible, I proceeded in company with Mr. Thomas and three men to their camps, sending the other party on down the river in charge of a sergeant and eight men. I found but eight at their camp, but understanding that there were twenty belonging to the company, I concluded to stay with them until next morning, hoping they would all come in. I was, however, obliged to start with only twelve of the company.

This day I expected to overtake the other command, but was forced to stop at James Welsh's. There I found an express with a repetition of your previous orders.  From thence I made rny way, with all possible speed, down the river, ordering, by express, a portion of the men of the first command to join me immediately. On the evening of [November 1st] I discovered an unwillingness among the Indians to travel, and, in order to make greater speed, I put some of the children on horses, but it was with great difficulty I could then get them along, I suspected.all was not right and frequently cautioned the men to be on their guard.

Shortly after sunset, I discovered a long dirk-knife in the possession of one of our Indians, and ordered it to be immediately taken from him. He turned it over without any hesitation; and we had proceeded but a short distance before I spied an axe, which I also ordered to be taken from them, but I am sorry to say, too late, for I had scarcely finished the order, before I saw the axe buried in the forehead of one of our men.

This being the signal for attack the others fell immediately to work, and in less than one minute, they killed two, wounded a third, and commenced searching them, and carrying off every article they could lay their hands on. I fortunately escaped unhurt, and owe my life in a measure to the spirit and activity of my horse.

Search for the Killers

Returning to General Scott’s letter, plans for capture of the offending party are outlined:

The country to be searched by Colonel [William S.] Foster is very extensive, and in the greater part, extremely difficult to traverse, both for horse and foot. It abounds in deer, wild beef cattle, and hogs. I suppose that the expedition may be out about four weeks…

The instructions which I shall give the expedition, (which has commenced its march,) will have nothing in them of a vindictive character, except as regards the murderers, and I shall change my former orders so far as to permit the troops to fire on any warrior who flies.

The Indians lo be pursued are mere outlaws. They have obstinately separated themselves from their tribe, and refused all obedience to the orders and entreaties of its chiefs. Nevertheless, they shall be again summoned to deliver themselves up, with a promise of kind treatment to all except the murderers. Every Cherokee in this neighborhood who has heard of the recent outrage has expressed the utmost indignation and regret, and it would be very easy to obtain from the emigrants on the road any number of warriors to march with the troops against the outlaws. I shall, however, only accept of the services of a few runners, to bear invitations of kindness, deeming it against the honor of the United States to employ, in hostilities, one part of a tribe against another.

Col. Foster will also have the aid, as runners, guides, and interpreters, of some of Mr. Thomas's Oconeelufly Indians, as well as the personal services of Mr. Thomas himself, who takes a lively interest in the success of the expedition.

Besides punishing the murderers and capturing the other fugitives, the expedition has another important object, viz., to prevent those Indians who, unprovoked, have commenced hostilities, from murdering the White families thinly scattered over that mountainous region.

Finally, on December 5, Captain John Paige announced “mission accomplished”:

I have the honor to report the arrival of the troops from the mountains; they having captured the five murderers, four of which were executed, and the fifth was pardoned.  The Lufty Indians that reside in North Carolina rendered great assistance in finding them. After the murderers were caught, they were tied to trees, the troops drawn up, and the Lufty Indians shot them.  The families of the murderers (nine in number) were brought to this place and will go west accompanied by the troops as prisoners.  The troops will all leave this nation in a few days…

Eyewitness to Tsali’s Execution

In these accounts there is nothing to indicate that the Oconaluftee Indians faced any risk of deportation.  So where did we get the idea that Tsali “sacrificed” himself so that “his people” could remain in the mountain? Five years afterwards, an eyewitness to Tsali’s execution gave a deposition to Joseph Welch, Justice of the Peace. This account explains that the small group of Cherokees who executed the Tsali party did gain the right to remain in North Carolina as a reward for their cooperation, a far cry from the legendary tale:

This day personally came before me, Joseph Welch, one of the acting Macon County Justices of the peace in and for said county, Jonas Jenkins, aged forty one years, a respectable citizen of said county who, after sworn according to law, deposeth and saith as follows:

That about the fifteenth of November 1838, he was employed to accompany Euchella and about forty Cherokee warriors that had been employed by Colonel Foster of the United States Army to aid in capturing Charley and three other Cherokee Indians that had as he was informed murdered two soldiers by the names of Perry and Martin belonging to the 4th Infantry a short time previous to the time he entered the service.

After the Cherokee company and the few white hunters that accompanied them captured three of the murderers, deponent aided to guard them to where Colonel Foster was, then stationed with the United States troops near the mouth of the Tuckasegee River on the Little Tennessee River in the above mentioned county.

A few days afterwards the murderers were tried by the Cherokees, found guilty (as deponent as informed) and deponent was present when they were shot by a guard of the Cherokees under the direction of Euchella in the presence of Colonel Foster and the United States Army which was drawn up on the bank of the Little Tennessee River to see them executed.

Euchella and the chiefs and warriors that composed the company were directed to assemble at Colonel Foster's tent to hold a talk. Colonel Foster when they were assembled informed them that they had seen in the punishment of those murderers the consequence resulting from an attack on the United States Army and murdering citizens. He stated that he was aware of the important services they had rendered the United States in capturing and executing those murderers and that only one by the name of Charley remained to be captured and executed, he would leave them to perform that part of the duty and would immediately march his army out of the country and in consequence of the meritorious services rendered the United States by the Cherokee chiefs and warriors in performing the services he would close the emigration and permit Euchella and his band as well as all the Cherokees remaining in the country (except old Charley's family) to settle in and unite with the Cherokees at Qualla Town that had been citizenized.

He advised them to send runners to bring in their friends that had been lying out in the mountains to avoid being taken to Arkansas to inform them of the permission granted them to settle at Qualla Town and become citizens of the state, advised them to say to their friends not to lie out in the mountains any longer suffering with hunger but to take his advice and settle at Qualla Town and not scatter off among the whites, to live in friendship with their white neighbors and make good citizens and he assured them that they would never be molested by the United States.

Euchella replied before they were made citizens of the United States. that they had aided the white people in their war against the Creek Indians and now since the government of the United States had been so kind to them as to permit the Cherokees remaining to remain citizens of the state of North Carolina, they would always be found ready as American citizens to render their adopted country all the aid in their power against her enemies.

Euchella and the other chiefs and warriors belonging to the company took leave of Colonel Foster and Euchella, informed him when his warriors had captured Charley that he should be dealt with as the chiefs had promised and though he might be in a foreign country when he heard from them, he should have no reason to accuse them for not performing on their part in good faith all they had promised him. The Cherokee company then marched up the Tuckasegee River towards Qualla Town and the American Army started towards Tennessee as deponent was informed, he did not wait to see them on their march but they were preparing to march when he left with the Cherokee company.

The next day Wachucha and some other Cherokees met the Cherokee company with old Charley who they had captured on Nantahala and the next day afterwards Euchella and the chiefs tried him, he acknowledged he had killed the soldier and that he expected to die for it when he done the act. Euchella after the decision was made informed Charley that he would be shot at twelve o'clock. A short time before twelve he told Euchella to hunt up his children that had been left in the mountains when he was taken first to be emigrated, to be a father to them talk good to them, give them good advice, to tell them what had become of their father and that it was his request that they should die in that country and never go to Arkansas.

He told them he was a brave man and not afraid to die and when he was chained to the tree to be shot he showed no symptom of fear. Euchella promised him what he requested in relation to his children should be performed, a bandage was place over his eyes and three of the warriors were selected to execute the sentence and at a signal given by Euchella with his hand, the three selected fired, one ball passed into his brain and two balls into his breast, deponent aided in digging his grave and burying him on the bank of the Tuckasegee River.

The Cherokee company immediately marched on towards Qualla Town. A few days afterwards deponent was at that town and saw about thirty of the outlying Cherokees including men, women, and children almost naked move into the town to settle there in pursuance of the instructions given by Colonel Foster in permitting those Cherokee Indians to remain with the best arrangement that could have been made, that the interest of the government of the Cherokees and the white citizens were promoted thereby. Colonel Foster's whole regiment unaided by the Indians could not in his opinion have captured those murderers against this time. The large beds of laurel in which they had secreted themselves rendered it impossible for him to have taken them with his troops, deponent further saith, as sworn to and subscribed before me August 16, 1843.

So there you have it.  Myth debunked. 

The Legend Takes Root

Before long, the legend of Tsali took on a life of its own.  A prime suspect in this process is Will Thomas, though his motives are not entirely clear.  We do know that Thomas was an informant to Charles Lanman when that writer travelled through Qualla a decade after the Cherokee removal. 

Lanman’s retelling appeared in his book, Letters from the Alleghany Mountains.  His embellishment of Tsali’s dying words is a stock feature of the romanticized “noble savage” literature of the nineteenth century:

Another of the characters I intended to mention is named Euchella. He is a very worthy chief, and now in the afternoon of his days. He is quite celebrated among his people as a warrior, but is principally famous for important services rendered by him to the United States Government during the Cherokee troubles. He, and a band of one hundred followers, first attracted public attention by evading, for upwards of a whole year, the officers of Government who had been commanded to remove the party beyond the Mississippi. It having been ascertained, however, that Euchella could not easily be captured, and would never submit to leave his country, it was determined that an overture should be made, by which he and his brotherhood of warriors could be secured to assist the whites in their troublesome efforts to capture three Indians who had murdered a number of soldiers. The instrument employed to effect a reconciliation was the Indian trader, Mr. Thomas, who succeeded in appointing a meeting with Euchella on a remote mountain-top.

During this interview, Mr. Thomas remonstrated with Euchella, and told him that, if he would join the whites, he might remain in Carolina, and be at peace. “I cannot be at peace,” replied the warrior, “because it is now a whole year that your soldiers have hunted me like a wild deer. I have suffered from the white man more than I can bear. I had a wife and a little child—a brave, bright-eyed boy—and because I would not become your slave, they were left to starve upon the mountains. Yes; and I buried them with my own hand, at midnight. For a whole week at a time have I been without bread myself, and this in my own country too. I cannot bear to think upon my wrongs, and I scorn your proposition.”

It so happened, however, that he partially relented, and having submitted the proposition to his warriors, whom he summoned to his side by a whoop, they agreed to accept it, and from that time Euchella became an ally of the army. It was by the efforts of Euchella and his band that the murderers already mentioned were arrested and punished. They had been condemned by a court martial, and sentenced to be shot, and the scorn of death manifested by one of them, named Charley, is worth recording.

He had been given into the hands of Euchella, and when he was tied to the tree, by one arm, where he was to die, (to which confinement he submitted without a murmur,) he asked permission to make a few remarks, which was of course granted, and he spoke as follows: “And is it by your hands, Euchella, that I am to die? We have been brothers together; but Euchella has promised to be the white man’s friend, and he must do his duty, and poor Charley is to suffer because he loved his country. O, Euchella! if the Cherokee people now beyond the Mississippi carried my heart in their bosoms, they never would have left their beautiful native land—their own mountain land. I am not afraid to die; O, no, I want to die, for my heart is very heavy, heavier than lead. But, Euchella, there is one favor that I would ask at your hands. You know that I had a little boy, who was lost among the mountains. I want you to find that boy, if he is not dead, and tell him that the last words of his father were that he must never go beyond the Father of Waters, but die in the land of his birth. It is sweet to die in one’s own country, and to be buried by the margin of one’s native stream.”

After the bandage had been placed over his eyes, a little delay occurred in the order of execution, when Charley gently raised the bandage, and saw a dozen of Euchella’s warriors in the very act of firing; he then replaced the cloth, without manifesting the least anxiety or moving a muscle, and in a moment more the poor savage was weltering in his blood. And so did all three of the murderers perish.

Qualla Town, North Carolina, May, 1848.

One More Bite at the Apple

Forty years after Will Thomas told Charles Lanman about Tsali, he retold the tale to James Mooney, an ethnographer who spent several years among the Cherokee at Qualla and compiled Myths of the Cherokee.  At this stage of his life, Thomas’ mental faculties may have been seriously compromised. Either that, or a tendency toward self-aggrandizement resulted in his taking a more central role in the Tsali story as it was channeled by Mooney.

It remains to speak of the eastern band of Cherokee—the remnant which still clings to the woods and waters of the old home country. As has been said, a considerable number had eluded the troops in the general round-up of 1838 and had fled to the fastnesses of the high mountains. Here they were joined by others who had managed to break through the guard at Calhoun and other collecting stations, until the whole number of fugitives in hiding amounted to a thousand or more, principally of the mountain Cherokee of North Carolina, the purest-blooded and most conservative of the Nation. About one-half the refugee warriors had put themselves under command of a noted leader named U′tsălă, “Lichen,” who made his headquarters amid the lofty peaks at the head of Oconaluftee, from which secure hiding place, although reduced to extremity of suffering from starvation and exposure, they defied every effort to effect their capture.

The work of running down these fugitives proved to be so difficult an undertaking and so well-nigh barren of result that when Charley and his sons made their bold stroke for freedom General Scott eagerly seized the incident as an opportunity for compromise. To this end he engaged the services of William H. Thomas, a trader who for more than twenty years had been closely identified with the mountain Cherokee and possessed their full confidence, and authorized him to submit to U′tsălă a proposition that if the latter would seize Charley and the others who had been concerned in the attack upon the soldiers and surrender them for punishment, the pursuit would be called off and the fugitives allowed to stay unmolested until an effort could be made to secure permission from the general government for them to remain.

Thomas accepted the commission, and taking with him one or two Indians made his way over secret paths to U′tsălă’s hiding place. He presented Scott’s proposition and represented to the chief that by aiding in bringing Charley’s party to punishment according to the rules of war he could secure respite for his sorely pressed followers, with the ultimate hope that they might be allowed to remain in their own country, whereas if he rejected the offer the whole force of the seven thousand troops which had now completed the work of gathering up and deporting the rest of the tribe would be set loose upon his own small band until the last refugee had been either taken or killed.

U′tsălă turned the proposition in his mind long and seriously. His heart was bitter, for his wife and little son had starved to death on the mountain side, but he thought of the thousands who were already on their long march into exile and then he looked round upon his little band of followers. If only they might stay, even though a few must be sacrificed, it was better than that all should die—for they had sworn never to leave their country. He consented and Thomas returned to report to General Scott.

Now occurred a remarkable incident which shows the character of Thomas and the masterly influence which he already had over the Indians, although as yet he was hardly more than thirty years old. It was known that Charley and his party were in hiding in a cave of the Great Smokies, at the head of Deep creek, but it was not thought likely that he could be taken without bloodshed and a further delay which might prejudice the whole undertaking. Thomas determined to go to him and try to persuade him to come in and surrender. Declining Scott’s offer of an escort, he went alone to the cave, and, getting between the Indians and their guns as they were sitting around the fire near the entrance, he walked up to Charley and announced his message. The old man listened in silence and then said simply, “I will come in. I don’t want to be hunted down by my own people.” They came in voluntarily and were shot, as has been already narrated, one only, a mere boy, being spared on account of his youth. This boy, now an old man, is still living, Wasitû′na, better known to the whites as Washington.

Enough Already

I have only scratched the surface of the “mythification” of Tsali, but frankly I find it too tiresome to proceed.  And I am eager to get back to the 16th century and following the trail of Hernando De Soto.  For further reading, including a closer look at the evolution of the oral tradition of the Tsali legend among the Qualla Indians, the following sources are all essential:

Duane King, “Tsali: The  Man Behind the Legend,” Journal of Cherokee Studies, Fall 1979. Excerpted online: 

John Finger, “The Saga of  Tsali: Legend Versus Reality,” North Carolina Historical Review, January 1979.
(Also at  )

Paul Kutsche, “The Tsali  Legend: Culture Heroes and Historiography,” Ethnohistory, Autumn 1963.

Also, for a modernist critical approach that breaks free from such confining paradigms as chronology, historical fidelity, patriarchy, and the dreaded Old Dead White Guys, a recent dissertation might be of interest.  Actually, as doctoral dissertations go it is fairly engaging:

AUGUSTÉ, NICOL NIXON, Ph.D. The Rhetoric of Nuna Dual Tsuny: Retelling the Cherokee Trail of Tears. (2006) Directed by Dr. Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater. 170pp.   This dissertation discusses ways to examine historical events such as the Cherokee Trail of Tears through various rhetorical lenses and scrutinizes how to negotiate meaning via these strategies.  This work will contribute to the current discourse on how rhetoric and rhetorical strategies guide the reexamination of a unique American Indian/Euro-American history.   To accomplish this task, I examine the Trail of Tears event through rhetorical lenses that utilize dynamic genres such as ethnohistory, witness, and women’s voice.
Even those doing the best works of history and archaeology are combining evidence and imagination, in an unavoidably imperfect way.  Rebuilding the distant past is like assembling a 1000-piece puzzle missing 900 pieces.  Of course there is room for “various rhetorical lenses.”  If someone is peeved that a great native feminist utopia was subverted by the arrival of Ol’ Whitey, then give voice to that great lost cause.  I get it.

If some inspiring moral can be drawn from the Tsali story, as it is generally marketed, fine.  I get it.  But why the bitter resistance to hearing the extremely strong evidence of another, contradictory, story?  One in which the Oconaluftee Cherokees had little to gain or lose from the shenanigans of a guy named Charley.  A fellow who might have been something other than a selfless martyr.

Having spent most of my life in these mountains, I consider the history of this place to be MY heritage, too.  And I have spent decades studying that history, to see this place not just as it is today, but as it was long ago.  So I’m surprised, though perhaps I shouldn’t be, at how hard it is to sweep away the misinformation and get to something solid, or as solid as a reconstruction of the past can be.

Admittedly, when I read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or George Orwell’s 1984, it doesn’t strike me as fiction, so much as a critique of current events, troubling events.  And those books warn what happens when the past is appropriated or erased by the powers-that-be. I find some satisfaction in fighting back against that form of oppression in whatever small and feeble way that I can.  At least that’s one way to justify my obsession with historical minutiae.


*Note - The Ed Taylor quote appears in a Washington Post article (9/14/2004), When Myth Meets Reality, by Bob Thompson.  Describing the way that a “top ten list” of Eastern Cherokee cultural events was chosen for inclusion in the National Museum of the American Indian, my overwhelming response is deep sadness. From the article, “Event No. 9 was the opening of the casino on Nov. 13, 1997.”  The article delivers an interesting critique on the struggles faced by the museum to balance tribal involvement with historical integrity.  Hopefully, intelligent policy has prevailed over the PC crowd by now, but who knows.  Everybody gets a trophy.

I would not go to the National Gallery of Art to see popsicle-sticks-glued-to-construction-paper presented as “art.”  Nor would I go to the NMAI for a celebration of worthless junk spawned by a tribe’s marketing arm.


Vern Bellecourt, rest his soul, was right about those who prostitute their culture. Long ago and far away, I interviewed Mr. Bellecourt.  I only wish I could have taken a ride with him through Cherokee.  Now THAT would have been an interview!