William Henry Lyttelton

Royal Governor of South Carolina Province 1756 to 1760

William Henry Lyttelton arrived in Charles Town on June 1, 1756 and took the oaths of office and allegiance as the next Royal Governor of South Carolina, replacing Governor James Glen. In 1760, he was appointed the new governor of Jamaica, and he left Charles Town on April 4, 1760, leaving the government in the hands of William Bull, Jr.


William Henry Lyttelton entered politics in 1748 as member of Parliament for Bewdley. He was appointed governor of South Carolina in 1755, but because the ship in which he was sailing was captured by a French squadron, he did not arrive in America until June 1, 1756. After five years in South Carolina, he was transferred to Jamaica, where he served as its chief executive from 1760-1766. Lyttelton was an admirer of George Grenville, and, as colonial governor, supported Grenville's American policy. Lyttelton was envoy to Lisbon from 1766-1771, returning to Parliament three years later. He was a consistent follower of the North administration and a lord of the Treasury from 1777-1782.
William Henry Lyttelton (Baron Westcote), governor of South Carolina, was born in England on December 24, 1724, and he died on September 14, 1808, at Hayley, England. He was a younger son of Sir Thomas Lyttelton, and was educated at Eton College and Mary Hall, Oxford. In 1748, he was elected a Member of Parliament.

In 1755, he was appointed Royal Governor of South Carolina, and held the post till 1760, when he was transferred to Jamaica. He was British minister to Portugal in 1766. On July 31, 1776, he was raised to the Irish peerage, as Baron Westcote of Ballymore, and in 1779, on the death of his nephew, Thomas, the baronetage reverted to him. In 1794, he was created a peer of Great Britain, with the title of Lord Lyttelton, Baron of Frankley, which had been bestowed already on his brother, Sir George, the poet, but had expired with his nephew.


The vigorous complaint of the Virginia governor, and the horror in England at Braddock's defeat, caused the recall of Governor James Glen in 1756. He was succeeded by William Henry Lyttelton, a pompous braggart, far less capable of dealing with the Indians than Governor James Glen.
At the beginning of the French and Indian War, Oconastota and other Cherokee leaders signed treaties with South Carolina and Virginia to reaffirm their loyalty to Great Britain. In turn, both Virginia and South Carolina built forts on the Little Tennessee River in 1756 to protect the power center of the Cherokee Nation from the French and their Indian allies.

By the summer of 1757, the Cherokees had more warriors engaged in military service on the Virginia frontier than any other tribe aligned with the British. Nevertheless, on several occasions Cherokee veterans returning to their homes by way of the Shenandoah Valley were killed by Virginia frontiersmen, who collected bounties offered for the scalps of enemy Delaware and Shawnees. Relatives of the slain warriors, incensed by the murders and seeking revenge on English settlers, attacked closer to home, in the Carolina backcountry.

Governor William Henry Lyttelton of South Carolina demanded that the Cherokees surrender the attackers. The Cherokee leader Attakullakulla reported in July of 1759 that they could not be extradited because their leader was a relative of the "Great Warrior," who would not permit such action.

In September 1759, Oconastota and Ostenaco, in an attempt to settle the difficulties, led a peace delegation to South Carolina and proposed a treaty based on "mutual forgiveness." Refusing Oconastota's offer, Governor Lyttelton took Oconastota and his twenty-four fellow delegates hostage and demanded the surrender of the Cherokee attackers.

That December, Oconastota was released because it was felt that he could convince other Cherokees to accept the harsh terms of Lyttelton's peace plan; Ostenaco was also released. The public humiliation that Oconastota subsequently suffered, however, prevented his political ascendancy when Old Hop died the following month. He and Ostenaco instead used their influence to elect Standing Turkey, a political underling with limited capabilities, as the new emperor.


The last governor to lead troops into battle was William Henry Lyttelton, the royal governor of South Carolina from 1756-60, who fought the Cherokee Indians, according to Walter Edgar, author of "South Carolina: a History."
In 1756, the home government appointed a new governor, William Henry Lyttelton, who served until 1760. In his first year in office, Governor Lyttelton reported to his superiors that the militia of the province included 5,000 to 6,000 men, ages 16 to 60, enrolled according to the muster rolls. In 1756, British assigned a quota of 2,000 men to be raised in South Carolina as a part of 30,000 man force the English hoped to raise in the colonies to join with the British troops in an invasion of Canada.

The quota was reduced in order to deploy the militia to defend the colony. Lord Loudoun complained to Cumberland that "the great Number of Troops that are employed in Nova Scotia and South Carolina . . . robs the main body" of his force mustered to invade Canada. In "South Carolina I think there is more Force there than [is] necessary." He asked that the quota be re-instated and that South Carolina be ordered to send the men to his army.

Governor Lyttelton sent a mission to Indian territory in the autumn of 1756 to discover how the Indians were receiving firearms wherewith to conduct their raids on the outlying settlements. Daniel Pepper reported that a minor chief named the "Gun Merchant" had, in the past, procured arms from the French agents who were urging the tribes to rise up and drive out the English. Since the French had withdrawn Gun Merchant was procuring arms from the various Indian traders working their territory. Pepper warned that since the French had sold rifled guns instead of trade muskets the Indians wanted no other arms and that they had become exceedingly proficient in the use of rifles, regularly hitting targets at 200 yards.


The Cherokee, to balance the death of Cherokee warriors in Virginia, began isolated attacks along the frontier of both the Carolinas. As a reaction, the Governor of South Carolina, William Henry Lyttelton, organized approximately 1,300 men and marched into the backcountry of South Carolina in the Fall of 1759.
His father died about 1750 and Francis Marion managed the plantation and took care of his mother. He was about age 25 when his military career began. The Cherokee Indians began acting up along the frontier. The then governor, William Henry Lyttelton, enlarged the South Carolina Militia and recruited Francis and Gabriel Marion on 31 January of 1756.

Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Montgomerie led his British Highland Regiment and the South Carolina Militia over into the valley of the Little Tennessee. Assistance was requested from Lord Jeffery Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America.

In 1761, 1,200 British regulars disembarked at Charles Town, South Carolina. Colonel Thomas Middleton, Lt. Colonel Henry Laurens, and Major John Moultrie, all prominent in South Carolina politics, provided support for the regulars. The first lieutenant of Captain William Moultrie's company of infantry was Francis Marion.


The British formally declared war on the Cherokee in 1759. Yet, some Indians still desired peace. An Indian delegation of 31, including important Cherokee leaders, traveled to Charles Town to confer with Governor William Henry Lyttelton, who had replaced Governor James Glen in 1756. But the governor refused to see them, and instead ordered them imprisoned.

All 31 Indians were eventually jailed at Fort Prince George in a room designed to hold only six people. Their arrest on a mission of peace was the final insult, prompting outraged Cherokee to surround the fort, placing it under siege. In February of 1760, the Indians somehow tricked the fort commander into stepping outside the stockade where they shot him dead. The soldiers inside retaliated by killing all their Cherokee captives.


Two days after the massacre at Long Canes, on February 3, 1760, the fort at nearby Ninety-Six was attacked by a force of over 200 Cherokee Indians led by Chief Young Warrior. All the surrounding buildings were burned but the fort’s defenders withheld the attack.

The fort’s commander wrote to Governor William Henry Lyttelton, “We fattened our dogs with their (the Indians) carcasses.”

In reply the governor directed the commander to: “display their scalps neatly ornamented to the tops of our (fort’s) bastions!”

A Cherokee war party attacked the Stevens Creek settlement, which was located about ten miles southeast of present-day Modoc, killing twenty of the settlers. 170 survivors, under the leadership of George Bussey, fled for safety to Fort Moore.

The Cherokee raiding parties across the upstate varied in number from a dozen or so to over a hundred. Only the stockade forts, which within a week of the Long Cane massacre, dotted the South Carolina frontier, prevented wholesale carnage in the upstate. These hastily constructed forts were later improved and strengthened so as to provide a safe haven for settlers.


Governor William Henry Lyttelton was a prolific writer and many of his letters have been archived, and many of these can be found online. [previous link provided here no longer works, sorry.]

Some contains correspondence relating to Lyttelton’s career as governor of South Carolina, including letters from officials in London; correspondence with other southern governors relating to Indian affairs, frontier defense, and boundaries; correspondence with military officers in America; and communications with the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly and his Executive Council. A series of reports by Edmond Atkin, superintendent of Indian affairs in the Southern District, provides valuable information on the Cherokees, Creeks, and Chickasaws. There are 142 items, 1761-1766, concerning Lyttelton’s governorship of Jamaica, including material on the slave insurrection of 1765 in St. Mary’s Parish.


In 1776, William Henry Lyttelton was raised to the peerage of Ireland as Baron Westcote. In 1794, he was created a peer of Great Britain with the title of Lord Lyttelton, Baron of Frankley.
Click Here for information on the Executive Council under Governor William Henry Lyttelton.

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