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How the Sandy Creek Expedition changed history

“I have now made a path to Virginia, and think of it every day, and when I get there I shall enquire for the Enemy, there I will be likewise.”

– Cherokee Outacite (Man Killer) Ostenaco to Virginia Lt. Gov. Robert Dinwiddie, July 23, 1756, in Great Britain’s Public Record Office: Colonial Office 5:17 Transactions 595, p. 749

When Outacite Ostenaco directed these words to Virginia’s colonial governor, he was alluding to the symbolic pathway that had been opened between the two nations by the first Cherokee-British allied military campaign against the French and their allied American Indians during the French & Indian War.  This 1756 campaign became known as the Sandy Creek Expedition, for its course followed a war road along “Sandy Creek,” the 18th century English name for the Dry Fork/Tug Fork/Big Sandy River valley that flows from Virginia to West Virginia and along Kentucky’s eastern border with West Virginia today.

The Cherokees planned the expedition in the winter of 1756 as part of an overall strategy of defensive fort-building by the Virginians in Cherokee country and offensive action by the Cherokees in enemy Indian country.  Instead, Governor Dinwiddie decided to send a large force of Virginia soldiers along with the Cherokee warriors against the Shawnee towns on Ohio River and Scioto River (near present-day Portsmouth, Ohio) before he asked Virginia’s burgesses to fund the fort construction.

The Cherokees were accustomed to the extreme requirements of Indian-style warfare, but most of the Virginians were not prepared for the hardships of the winter campaign in the rugged mountain valleys of the Sandy Creek country.  The two armies gathered at newly built Fort Frederick on New River (the site is now under the waters of Claytor Lake, Virginia).  The Virginian army fared well until it reached the headwaters of Dry Fork, where Capt. William Preston recorded:

“Saturday 28th  We marched 10 oClock & passed several branches of Clinch and at length got to the head of Sandy Creek where we met with great trouble & fatigue occasioned by a very heavy rain and the driving of our baggage horses down sd Creek which we crossed 20 times that evening.”

To continue following the Sandy Creek Expedition, visit the first site on our historical driving tour.

Historical Impact of Sandy Creek Expedition

Every Dark cloud has its silver lining, and the failure of the Sandy Creek expedition …

The Alliance Begins

“The Cherokees have taken up the Hatchet against the French & Shawnesse, & have sent 130 of their Warriors to New River, & propose to march immediately to attack, & cut off the Shawnesse, in their Towns.  I design they shall be join’d with three Companies of Rangers, & Capt. Hogg’s Company, & I propose Colo. Stephens or Majr. Lewis to be the Commander of the Party on this Expedition.”

— Virginia Lt. Governor Robert Dinwiddie to Col. George Washington, December 14, 1755.