John De Brahm, engineer and cartographer, was a native of Germany. A military engineer in the army of Charles VII, he resigned his commission in 1748 and three years later led a group of immigrants to America, settling in the German Lutheran community of Ebenezer, Georgia.
De Brahm's skills as an engineer and cartographer resulted in an appointment as surveyor general for Georgia in 1754 and a commission from South Carolina the next year to repair the fortifications of Charles Town. De Brahm was also appointed to design and supervise the construction of Fort Loudoun, a fortification to be built in the Overhill Cherokee country. In August 1756 De Brahm accompanied the first garrison of troops, under the command of Captain Raymond Demeré, to the proposed site on the Little Tennessee River. De Brahm, however, preferred an alternative site, which was unacceptable to the Cherokees. Demeré's decision to build the fort on the original site led to such ill feelings between the two men that they were never able to establish a good working relationship. Apparently, De Brahm perceived himself as co-commander and on at least one occasion issued conflicting orders. Demeré viewed this as inciting mutiny, and the officers of the garrison, with only one exception, agreed. Soon afterwards, De Brahm abandoned the project, leaving Fort Loudoun abruptly on Christmas Eve, 1756.
De Brahm continued to work as an engineer and surveyor. In 1764 his appointment as surveyor general of Georgia ended, and he received a dual appointment as surveyor general for both East Florida and the Southern District. His “Report of the General Survey in the Southern District of North America,” completed in 1773, includes information obtained during his stay among the Cherokees. The coming of the Revolution prompted De Brahm to return to England in 1777, where he apparently experienced financial difficulties. Returning to Charleston in 1789, he soon moved to Philadelphia, where he died in the summer of 1796.