I Have a New Theory About Finnelson

Here we are in mid-September, 1792, from Finnelson’s own account of his and Deraque’s roustabout, “On the fourth day after arriving at Pensacola, Finnelson and J. Deraque sat [sic] out for the Creeks and the Cherokees; they met on the path, in different parties, about three hundred Creeks, who said they were going for their ammunition and guns, and that on their return, they would go to war against the Cumberland.”

Let’s skip ahead to what Finnelson says about The Black Dog, one of the Creek leaders, says “as soon as his people returned from Pensacola, we shall turn out to war against the Cumberland, in conjunction with the Cherokees: this he said F. might depend upon, as the two nations were friends.” Finnelson’s next stop is Willstown where he seems to have changed his mind about the coming War.

Next, April 18th, 1793, Governor Blount writes Major Beard and says, “The object of your command is to relieve the Cumberland inhabitants, Miro district, from a powerful invasion of the Creeks [...] You will have with you, for your guide, Richard Finnelson, a Cherokee.”

And then the letter I misunderstood as being about Finnelson’s wife and kid being kidnapped by Indians. But no, I looked more closely at it. Now, let’s look together.

This is a letter from James Ore, to, I presume, Blount or the Secretary of War, September 24, 1794, describing his men leaving Nashville and wiping the Nickajack and Running Water towns off the face of the earth. He says, “The prisoners taken, among whom was the wife and child of Richard Finnelson, my pilot, informed me that on the fourth instant, sixty Creeks and Lower Cherokees passed the Tennessee, for war against the frontiers.”

Richard Finnelson was his pilot, presumably doing for Ore what he did for Beard–guiding them into Indian territory. But look who against–the Creek or mixed groups of Creek and Cherokee warriors.

So, here’s my new theory: Finnelson was fine with the Cherokee going to war with the Cumberland settlements. He distrusted the Creeks. And the more he heard of how involved the Creeks were going to be–not just also attacking the settlements, but attacking with the Cherokees–the more uneasy he got.

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One thought on “I Have a New Theory About Finnelson

  1. I guess it’s not entirely clear what I find compelling from Finnelson’s testimony. But it’s the fact that The Black Dog specifies to Finnelson that the Creeks and the Cherokees are friends.

    For whose benefit is that? Certainly the USians already know that the two groups are working together. Spain certainly knows it–they sent Finnelson out to talk to both groups. And you’d think Finnelson, being a Cherokee dude, would know that more than anyone.

    But The Black Dog still specifically says it to Finnelson and I suspect it’s because The Black Dog thought (and, if I’m right, rightly so) that Finnelson needed the reassurance. But I don’t think Finnelson buys it.

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