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Portrait of Ostenaco by Joshua Reynolds, 1762
|Died||c. 1780 (aged 76–77)|
Otacity Ostenaco[a] /
Ostenaco was a war chief or skiagusta // (ᎠᏍᎦᏯᎬᏍᏔ, asgayagvsta) of the Cherokee town Tomotley. Probably born in Great Hiwassee, he had resided in Great Tellico before becoming skiagusta. Later in life he migrated to the town of Ooltewah, during the Cherokee–American wars.
French and Indian War action
During the French and Indian War, Ostenaco at first aided the Colony of Virginia against the French and the Shawnee, traveling over 3,500 miles on foot and by canoe. In 1756, he led 130 Cherokees in a joint Virginia-Cherokee campaign on the frontier of what is now West Virginia. In 1757 and 1758, his war party raided the French stronghold at Fort Duquesne (present day Pittsburgh).
The expeditionary party comprising Lieutenant Henry Timberlake, Sergeant Thomas Sumter, John McCormack (an interpreter), and an unnamed servant, arrived in the Overhill town of Tomotley on December 20, where they were greeted by one of the leading men in the town, Ostenaco, who was visiting from Keowee.
After spending several days in Tomotley as guests of Ostenaco, Timberlake and his interpreter proceeded to the Overhill mother town of Chota, where a number of chiefs had gathered in the town's large councilhouse. Ostenaco gave a speech and ceremonially buried a hatchet in the ground, symbolizing a state of peace between the English and the Cherokee. Afterward, Timberlake took part in a peace ceremony in which he smoked several ceremonial pipes with the gathered chiefs, a practice Timberlake personally found "very disagreeable," but participated without openly complaining.
On January 2, 1762, Timberlake returned to Tomotley with Ostenaco, his assignment largely completed. Timberlake spent the next few weeks studying Cherokee habits and making notes for his maps of the Overhill country. At the end of January, rumors began trickling in from Cherokee scouts of renewed hostilities with rival tribes to the north. Timberlake grew anxious and begged Ostenaco to guide him back to Virginia. Ostenaco reluctantly agreed, and the party set out on March 10, 1762. The party arrived in Williamsburg in early April.
While in Williamsburg, Timberlake and Ostenaco attended a dinner party at William & Mary College at which Ostenaco professed his desire to meet the king of England. A young Thomas Jefferson, then a student at the college, later wrote of Ostenaco:
"I knew much of the great Outassete (Ostenaco), the warrior and orator of the Cherokee. He was always the guest of my father on his journeys to and from Williamsburg. I was in his camp when he made his great farewell oration to his people the evening before he departed for England. The moon was in full splendour, and to her he seemed to address himself in his prayers for his own safety on the voyage and that of his people during his absence. His sounding voice, distinct articulation, animated action, and the solemn silence of his people at their several fires, filled me with awe and veneration, although I did not understand a single word he uttered."
In May 1762, Timberlake, Sumter, and three distinguished Cherokee leaders, including Ostenaco, departed for London. Arriving in early June, the Cherokee were an immediate attraction, drawing crowds all over the city. The poet Oliver Goldsmith waited for three hours to meet the Cherokee, and offered a gift to Ostenaco. They sat for Sir Joshua Reynolds to take their portraits, and they met personally with King George III. The Cherokee returned to North America with Sergeant Sumter on about August 25, 1762.
During the American Revolution
During the Second Cherokee War (part of the American Revolution), Ostenaco was the chief war leader of the Cherokee Lower Towns in western South Carolina/northeast Georgia, and was allied with the British forces. In 1776 he led their attack against the Province of Georgia. After the destruction of the Lower Towns in the retaliation which followed, Ostenaco led his people west. The majority resettled in what is now far northern Georgia, with Ustanali as their chief town. Some followed him into the Cherokee–American wars with Dragging Canoe, and settled with him in the Chickamauga (now Chattanooga, Tennessee) region at the town of Ooltewah (Ultiwa'i, "owl's nest") on Ooltewah Creek (in the modern Hamilton County, Tennessee).
Ostenaco died at the home of his grandson, Richard Timberlake, the son of Henry Timberlake and Ostenaco's daughter, at Ooltewah in 1780.
- Other spellings of Ostenaco include Osteneco, Ostinaco, Austenaco, Ousteneka, Ustenacah, Oostenaca, and Ustoneeka, as well as Ocenesta and Oconesta (compare Oconostota).
- Goodpasture (1918) writes that Ostenaco earned the nickname Judd's Friend "from his humanity in saving a man of that name from the fury of his countrymen". Rothrock (1976) writes of a custom among the Cherokee: "As soon as a trader had won the confidence and admiration of his Indian acquaintances, he was chosen by some warrior as a 'particular friend.' This was a generally recognized and well defined relationship, which was symbolized by a complete exchange of clothing and sometimes of names as well. It lasted throughout life, binding the Indian, at least, in loyalty to his special friend; and often it was the means of saving the white man's life. This custom is reflected in the name 'Judd's Friend' which was applied to the great warrior Ostenaco."
- Also in the corrupted forms "Judge's Friend", "Judge Friend", and "the Judge".
- Goodpasture 1918, p. 155.
- Rothrock 1976, p. 26.
- Also rendered Outacity, Otacité, Outacité, Ooskasedee, Otossity, Outasseti, Outasseté, Outassatah, Wootasité, Ontasseté, or Antossity.
- Also spelled skyagusta, skiagunsta, skyagunsta, skayagunsta, skygusta, askayagusta, asgayagusta, skyacust, or syacust.
- Stuart 1767; Wood 2015.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 57–58.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 59–61.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 109–113.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 118–129.
- Hirst 1926, p. 16.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 130–133.
- Timberlake 1948, p. 136.
- Chronicle 1762.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 136–144.
- Timberlake 1948, pp. 145–146.
- Evans, E. Raymond (1976), "Notable Persons in Cherokee History: Ostenaco", Journal of Cherokee Studies, Cherokee: Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 1 (1): 41–54
- Goodpasture, Albert Virgil (1918). "Portrait of Judge Friend". Tennessee Historical Magazine. Vol. 4, No. 3. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Society.
- Hirst, Francis W. (1926). Life and Letters of Thomas Jefferson. Macmillan Co.
- Rothrock, Mary U. (1976). "Carolina Traders Among the Overhill Cherokees 1690/1760". The East Tennessee Historical Society's Publications. No. 51. East Tennessee Historical Society.
- St James Chronicle, 31 July 1762.
- Stuart, John (21 July 1767), Letter to Thomas Gage
- Timberlake, Henry; Williams, Samuel, eds. (1948), Memoirs, 1756–1765, Marietta, Georgia: Continental Book Co.
- Wood, Douglas McClure (2015). "Ostenaco". The West Virginia Encyclopedia.