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Cherokees, Creeks, and Charlestonians: The Colonial World of James Grant, 1757-1771




McGaughy, Joseph T

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


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Date Available



The following study provides a revisionist interpretation of the career of James Grant, an officer in the British army during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), and subsequently governor of the new colony of East Florida (1763-1771). Grant’s extant biography casts him as a tireless champion of British imperialism on the battlefield and in the council chamber; this analysis accentuates Grant’s unabashed careerism and all-consuming ambition, which drove him to defy the direct orders of superiors and occasionally subordinate imperial priorities and objectives to his own. It also reconsiders Grant’s command of an invasion of Cherokee country in 1761. Several historians have translated his sympathetic commentary on Cherokees as prima facie evidence of an unwillingness to prosecute the war with vigor; this study highlights the terror and destructive efficiency of the campaign. Moreover, this research examines Grant and the events of his colonial career through historiographic lenses other scholars have neglected to affix, including material culture, the history of war and society, postcolonialism, Atlantic World history, entangled history, environmental history, and, most prominently, ethnohistory. Grant’s interactions with Native Americans – his defeats at their hands, his victories with their assistance, his devastation of their communities, and the fluency he acquired in their cultures – defined much of his trajectory as a colonial actor, and accordingly take center stage here. Though motifs swirl throughout, thematic organization was eschewed in favor of a more straightforward, chronological approach. The narrative tracks Grant’s motions from his arrival in Charlestown on a recruiting mission in 1757 through his departure for London at the culmination of his gubernatorial tenure, unveiling a vast continental theater teaming with markets, tension, and diverse peoples.