The Cherokee–American wars were a series of back-and-forth raids, campaigns, ambushes, minor skirmishes, and several full-scale frontier battles in the Old Southwest from 1776 to 1795 between the Cherokee (Ani-Yunwiya, Tsalagi) and the Americans on the frontier. Most of the events took place in the Upper South. While their fight stretched across the entire period, there were times, sometimes ranging over several months, of little or no action.
The Cherokee leader Dragging Canoe, whom some historians call “the Savage Napoleon”, and his warriors and other Cherokee fought alongside and in conjunction with Indians from a number of other tribes both in the Old Southwest and in the Old Northwest, most often Muscogee (Muskokulke) in the former and the Shawnee (Saawanwa) in the latter. During the Revolution, they also fought alongside British troops, Loyalist militia, and the King’s Carolina Rangers.
Open warfare broke out in the summer of 1776 along the frontier of the Watauga, Holston, Nolichucky, and Doe rivers in East Tennessee, as well as the colonies (later states) of the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It later spread to those along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee and in Kentucky.
The wars of the Cherokee and the Americans divide into two phases.
In the first phase, lasting 1776–1783, the Cherokee also fought as allies of the Kingdom of Great Britain against its rebellious colonies. This first part of this phase, from summer 1776 to summer of 1777, involved the all sections of the entire Cherokee nation, and is often referred to as the “Cherokee War of 1776”. At the end of 1776, the only militant Cherokee were those who migrated with Dragging Canoe to the Chickamauga towns, for which they were known to the frontierspeople as the "Chickamauga" or "Chickmauga Cherokee".
In the second phase, lasting 1783–1794, the Cherokee also served as proxies of the Viceroyalty of New Spain against the new United States of America. Because of their relocation westward to new homes initially known as the "Five Lower Towns", they then became known as the Lower Cherokee, a moniker which persisted well into the nineteenth century. In 1786, the Lower Cherokee became founding members of the Native Americans' Western Confederacy organized by the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, and took an active part in the Northwest Indian War.
The conflict in the Southwest ended in November 1794 with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse. The Northwest Indian War, which the Cherokee were also involved in, ended with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
- 1 Prelude (1763–1775)
- 1.1 Aftermath of the French and Indian War
- 1.2 Early colonial settlements in Upper East Tennessee (1768–1772)
- 1.3 Settlements of the Cherokee in 1775
- 1.4 Henderson Purchase (1775)
- 2 Revolutionary War phase: Cherokee War of 1776
- 2.1 Flight of the Loyalists
- 2.2 Patriot black propaganda
- 2.3 Battle of Sullivan's Island
- 2.4 Visit from the northern tribes
- 2.5 First Cherokee campaigns
- 2.6 Colonial response
- 2.7 Treaties of 1777
- 2.8 Other Southeastern Indian nations
- 2.9 Migration to the Chickamauga area
- 2.10 Continuing the fight
- 3 Revolutionary War phase: Southern strategy (1778–1783)
- 3.1 British victory in the North
- 3.2 British victories in the South
- 3.3 First Cumberland settlement
- 3.4 Loss in the North
- 3.5 Raids in the Overmountain region
- 3.6 Death of John Stuart
- 3.7 Scott and Shelby expeditions
- 3.8 Cameron's expedition
- 3.9 Concord between the Lenape and the Overhill Cherokee
- 3.10 Loss of Mobile
- 3.11 Chickasaw-American war
- 3.12 Robertson and Donelson parties
- 3.13 Capture of Charlestown
- 3.14 Defense of Augusta and Battle of Kings Mountain
- 3.15 Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1780
- 3.16 Cherokee Cumberland campaign, 1780–1781
- 3.17 First Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1781
- 3.18 Loss of Pensacola
- 3.19 Battle of the Bluff
- 3.20 Shawnee Overmountain campaign, 1781–1785
- 3.21 Loss of Augusta
- 3.22 Second Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1781
- 3.23 Lenape refugees
- 3.24 Politics in the Overhill Towns
- 3.25 Cherokee Georgia campaign of 1781
- 3.26 Death of Alexander Cameron
- 3.27 Diplomatic mission to Ft. St. Louis
- 3.28 Loss of Savannah
- 3.29 Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1782
- 3.30 Migration to the Lower Towns
- 3.31 Another visit from the North
- 3.32 Georgia Indian war of 1782
- 3.33 Cherokee in the Ohio region
- 3.34 St. Augustine conference
- 3.35 Treaty of Long Swamp Creek (1783)
- 3.36 More Overhill politics
- 3.37 Treaty of Paris (1783)
- 3.38 Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1783
- 3.39 Treaty of French Lick
- 3.40 Treaty of Augusta (1783)
- 4 Post-Revolution phase: New directions (1783–1788)
- 4.1 Coldwater Town
- 4.2 Spanish Indian treaties
- 4.3 Unquiet Western frontier
- 4.4 Towards an Indian alliance
- 4.5 Muscogee council at Tuckabatchee
- 4.6 Free Republic of Franklin
- 4.7 Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)
- 4.8 Treaty of Galphinton
- 4.9 Treaty of Hopewell
- 4.10 Houston County, Georgia
- 4.11 The Spanish Conspiracy
- 4.12 Cherokee war of 1786
- 4.13 Formation of the Western Confederacy
- 4.14 Trouble with Franklin and Kentucky
- 4.15 Coldwater Indian war (1785–1787)
- 5 Post-Revolution: Peak of Cherokee influence (1788–1792)
- 5.1 Chiksika's band of Shawnee
- 5.2 Cherokee-Franklin war of 1788 (1788–1789)
- 5.3 Blow to the Western Confederacy
- 5.4 Implosion of the Spanish Conspiracy
- 5.5 Council at Coweta
- 5.6 Prisoner exchange
- 5.7 Non-treaty of Swannanoa
- 5.8 Doublehead's war
- 5.9 Treaty of New York (1790)
- 5.10 Muscle Shoals settlement
- 5.11 Bob Benge's war
- 5.12 Treaty of Holston (1791)
- 5.13 Battle of the Wabash
- 5.14 Death of the "Savage Napoleon"
- 6 Post-Revolution: the Watts years (1792–1795)
- 6.1 John Watts
- 6.2 Southwest Territory Indian War, 1792–1795
- 6.2.1 Raiding season, spring and summer 1792
- 6.2.2 Invasion of the Miro District
- 6.2.3 Northern concerns
- 6.2.4 Death of an ally
- 6.2.5 Spring and summer campaigns, 1793
- 6.2.6 Peace overtures
- 6.2.7 Attack on the diplomatic party
- 6.2.8 Invasion of the Eastern Districts
- 6.2.9 Battle of Etowah
- 6.2.10 Southwest Point Blockhouse
- 6.2.11 Tellico Blockhouse
- 6.2.12 Another Spanish treaty
- 6.2.13 Spring and summer 1794
- 6.2.14 Treaty of Philadelphia (1794)
- 6.2.15 End of Lesley’s war party
- 6.2.16 Battle of Fallen Timbers
- 6.2.17 Aborted invasion of the Miro District
- 6.2.18 Trans-Oconee Republic
- 6.2.19 Nickajack Expedition
- 6.2.20 Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse (1794)
- 6.2.21 Muscogee continue the war
- 6.3 Treaty of Greenville
- 6.4 Treaty of Coleraine
- 6.5 Treaty of San Lorenzo
- 7 Aftermath and Assessment
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
- 11 External links
The French and Indian War (1754–1763) and the related European theater conflict known as the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) laid many of the foundations for the conflict between the Cherokee and the American settlers on the frontier. These tensions on the frontier broke out into open hostilities with the advent of the American Revolution.
Aftermath of the French and Indian War
The action of the French and Indian War in North America included the Anglo-Cherokee War, lasting 1758–1761. British forces under general James Grant destroyed a number of major Cherokee towns, which were never reoccupied. Kituwa was abandoned, and its former residents migrated west; they took up residence at Mialoquo, called Great Island Town, on the Little Tennessee River among the Overhill Cherokee.
At the end of this conflict within a conflict, the Cherokee signed the Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston with the Colony of Virginia (1761) and the Treaty of Charlestown with the Province of South Carolina (1762). Standing Turkey, the First Beloved Man during the conflict, was replaced by Attakullakulla, who was pro-British.
In the aftermath of the Seven Years' War, France in defeat ceded that part of the Louisiana Territory east of the Mississippi and Canada to the British. Spain took control of Louisiana west of the Mississippi. In exchange it ceded Florida to Great Britain, which created the jurisdictions of East Florida and West Florida.
Valuing the support of Native Americans, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This prohibited colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, in an effort to preserve territory for the native tribes. Many colonials resented the interference with their drive to the vast western lands. The proclamation was a major irritant to the colonists, contributing to their support for the American Revolution and ending interference by the Crown.
For example, the British had previously announced that a colony, to be called Charlotina, was planned for the lands of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions, which under the French had been part of Upper Louisiana; it was also known as the Illinois Country. The Proclamation of 1763 ended those plans of another Anglo-American colony. In 1774 the Crown attached the lands in question to the Province of Quebec. After achieving independence in 1783, the United States identified the area north of the Ohio River as the Northwest Territory.
John Stuart, the only officer to escape the Fort Loudoun massacre that took place during the Anglo-Cherokee War, was appointed as the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern District, based in Charlestown. His deputy to the Cherokee, Alexander Cameron, lived among them, first at Keowee, then at Toqua on the Little Tennessee River. Cameron's assistant, John McDonald, set up a base 100 miles to the southwest on the west side of the Chickamauga River, where it was crossed by the Great Indian Warpath. To the Muscogee, Stuart sent David Taitt as deputy. The deputy to the Choctaw was his brother Charles Stuart. Among the Chickasaw, Farquhar Bethune served as Stuart’s deputy. John’s brother Henry Stuart served as chief deputy superintendent.
Treaty of Hard Labour (1768)
To resolve the problem of settlers living beyond the line established in the previous treaty, John Stuart, as Superintendent for Southern Indian Affairs, negotiated a treaty signed on October 17, 1768, with the Cherokee surrendering their claims to the Colony of Virginia to the land between the Allegheny Mountains and the Ohio River. Essentially, it covered what is now West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, with a bit of the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.
Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768)
After Pontiac's War (1763–1764), the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee) ceded to the British government its claims to the hunting grounds between the Ohio and Cumberland rivers, known to them and other Indians as Kain-tuck-ee (Kentucky), in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix. It had controlled this area by right of conquest after pushing Siouan tribes out to the west during the Beaver Wars of the 17th century.
With a significant obstacle removed, in 1769 developers and land speculators planned to start a new colony called Vandalia in the territory ceded by the Cherokee. Plans for that fell through, however, and in 1774 Virginia annexed it as the District of West Augusta.
Treaty of Augusta (1773)
In this treaty signed on June 1, 1773, with the Province of Georgia, the Cherokee and the Muskogee ceded their claims to 2 million acres in return for the cancellation of their enormous debts to traders of the colony. The land ceded now makes up the counties of Wilkes, Oglethorpe, Elbert, and Lincoln, plus parts of the surrounding counties. Most of the Muscogee refused to recognize it and the British government rejected it.
Dunmore’s War (1774)
The next year, Daniel Boone led a group to establish a permanent settlement inside the hunting grounds of Kentucky. In retaliation the Shawnee, Lenape (Delaware), Mingo, and some Cherokee attacked a scouting and forage party, which included Boone's son James. The Indians ritually tortured to death their captives James Boone and Henry Russell. The colonists responded with the beginning of Dunmore's War (1773–1774).
The Cherokee and the Muscogee were active also, mainly confining themselves to small raids on the backcountry settlements of the Carolinas and Georgia. The fighting reached into the later Tennessee with an attack by the Shawnee and their allies upon the North-of-Holston settlements.
In the Treaty of Camp Charlotte that ended the war, signed October 19, 1774, between the Shawnee and Lenape and Virginia, the former two ceded all their claims to Kentucky in addition to pledging an end to fighting. The Mingo (Minko latter) refused to take part.
Early colonial settlements in Upper East Tennessee (1768–1772)
The earliest colonial settlement in the vicinity of what became Upper East Tennessee was Sapling Grove (Bristol). The first of the North-of-Holston settlements, it was founded by Evan Shelby, who "purchased" the land in 1768 from John Buchanan. Jacob Brown began another settlement on the Nolichucky River, and John Carter another in what became known as Carter's Valley (between Clinch River and Beech Creek), both in 1771. Following the Battle of Alamance in 1771, James Robertson led a group of some twelve or thirteen Regulator families from North Carolina to the Watauga River.
Each of the groups thought they were within the territorial limits of the colony of Virginia. After a survey proved their mistake, Alexander Cameron, Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs, ordered them to leave. Attakullakulla, now First Beloved Man (Principal Chief) of the Cherokee, interceded on their behalf. The settlers were allowed to remain, provided no additional people joined them.
On May 8, 1772, the settlers on the Watauga and on the Nolichucky signed the Watauga Compact to form the Watauga Association. Although the two other settlements were not parties to it, all of them are sometimes referred to as "Wataugans".
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Settlements of the Cherokee in 1775
To get a better view of where actions took place and who was involved, here's the following list:
The Middle Towns sat on the upper Little Tennessee River and its headwaters in western North Carolina.
Henderson Purchase (1775)
One year later, on March 17, 1775, a group of North Carolina speculators led by Richard Henderson negotiated the Treaty of Watauga at Sycamore Shoals with the older Overhill Cherokee leaders; Oconostota and Attakullakulla (now First Beloved Man), the most prominent, ceded the claim of the Cherokee to the Kain-tuck-ee (Ganda-giga'i) lands. The Transylvania Land Company believed it was gaining ownership of the land, not realizing that other tribes, such as the Lenape, Shawnee, and Chickasaw, also claimed these lands for hunting.
Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugunsini), headman of Great Island Town (Amoyeliegwayi) and son of Attakullakulla, refused to go along with the deal. He told the North Carolina men, "You have bought a fair land, but there is a cloud hanging over it; you will find its settlement dark and bloody". The governors of Virginia and North Carolina repudiated the Watauga treaty, and Henderson fled to avoid arrest. George Washington also spoke out against it. The Cherokee appealed to John Stuart, the Indian Affairs Superintendent, for help, which he had provided on previous such occasions, but the outbreak of the American Revolution intervened.
Henderson and frontiersmen thought the outbreak of the Revolution superseded the judgments of the royal governors. The Transylvania Company began recruiting settlers for the region they had "purchased".
Revolutionary War phase: Cherokee War of 1776
During the Revolutionary War, the Cherokee not only fought against the settlements in the Overmountain region, and later in the Cumberland Basin, defending against territorial encroachment, they also fought as allies of Great Britain against its rebellious subjects.
In the first phase, British strategy was focused on the North, and not so much on the backwoods settlements, especially those in the west. The Cherokee, therefore, were on their own, except for supplies from British ports on the coast and some joint operations in South Carolina.
Flight of the Loyalists
As tensions rose, the Loyalist John Stuart, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs, was besieged by a mob at his house in Charleston and had to flee for his life. His first stop was St. Augustine in East Florida.
Another noted Loyalist later associated with the Cherokee, Thomas Brown, was not nearly so fortunate. In his home of Brownsborough, Georgia, near Augusta, he was assaulted by a crowd of the Sons of Liberty, tied to a tree, roasted with fire, scalped, tarred, and feathered. After his escape, he took up residence among the Seminole commanding his East Florida Rangers, who fought with them and some of the Lower Muskogee.
From St. Augustine, Stuart sent his deputy, Alexander Cameron, and his brother Henry to Mobile to obtain short-term supplies and arms for the Cherokee. Dragging Canoe took a party of 80 warriors to provide security for the pack train. He met Henry Stuart and Cameron (whom he had adopted as a brother) at Mobile on March 1, 1776. He asked how he could help the British against their rebel subjects, and for help with the illegal settlers. The two men told him to wait for regular troops to arrive before taking any action.
Patriot black propaganda
When the two arrived at Chota, Henry Stuart sent out letters to the frontier settlers of the Washington District (Watauga and Nolichucky), Pendelton District (North-of-Holston), and Carter's Valley (in modern Hawkins County). He informed them that they were illegally on Cherokee land and gave them 40 days to leave. In an exercise of black propaganda, people sympathetic to the Revolution forged a letter to indicate a large force of regular troops, plus Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Muscgoee, was on the march from Pensacola and planning to pick up reinforcements from the Cherokee. The forged letters alarmed the settlers, who began gathering together in closer, fortified groups, building stations (small forts), and otherwise preparing for an attack.
Battle of Sullivan's Island
In June 1776, the British launched an attempt to capture Charlestown Harbor by land and by sea. On June 28 the land forces commanded by Henry Clinton attacked the harbor's chief defense, Fort Sullivan, commanded by William Moultrie. An attempt by three of the British ships to maneuver in support failed due to hidden natural obstructions. Meanwhile, Moultrie's guns inflicted heavy damage on several of the other ships in the fleet. The land attack failed too.
After withdrawing, the British abandoned the South for the next two-and-a-half years. However, the British officials could not halt plans already in motion for supporting attacks by the Cherokee and Loyalists.
Visit from the northern tribes
In May 1776, partly at the behest of Henry Hamilton, the British governor in Detroit, the Shawnee chief Cornstalk (Hokoleskwa) led a delegation from the northern tribes (Shawnee, Lenape, Iroquois, Ottawa, others) to the southern tribes. He traveled to Chota to meet with the southern tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw, Choctaw) about fighting with the British against their common enemy. Cornstalk called for united action against those they called the "Long Knives", the squatters who settled and remained in Kain-tuck-ee (Ganda-gi), or, as the settlers called it, Transylvania. At the close of his speech, Cornstalk offered his war belt, and Dragging Canoe accepted it, along with Abraham (Osiuta) of Chilhowee (Tsulawiyi). Dragging Canoe also accepted belts from the Ottawa and the Iroquois. Savanukah, the Raven of Chota, accepted the war belt from the Lenape. The northern emissaries offered war belts to Stuart and Cameron, but they declined to accept.
The plan was for the Cherokee of the Middle, Out, and Valley Towns, of what is now western North Carolina, to attack South Carolina. Cameron would lead warriors of the Lower Towns against Georgia. Warriors of the Overhill Towns, along the lower Little Tennessee and Hiwassee rivers, were to attack Virginia and North Carolina. In the Overhill campaign, Dragging Canoe was to lead a force against the Pendleton District, Abraham one against the Washington District, and Savanukah one against Carter's Valley.
To prepare themselves for the coming campaign, the Overhill Cherokee began raiding into Kentucky, often with the Shawnee. Before the northern delegation had left, Dragging Canoe led a small war party into Kentucky and returned with four scalps to present to Cornstalk before they departed. In another raid, a war party led by Hanging Maw (Skwala-guta) of Coyatee (Kaietiyi), captured three teenage settler girls, Jemima Boone and Elizabeth and Frances Callaway, on July 14, but lost them three days later to a rescue party led by Daniel Boone, father of Jemima, and Richard Callaway, father of Elizabeth and Frances.
First Cherokee campaigns
Meanwhile, traders warned the Overmountain settlers of the impending attacks from the Overhill Towns. They had come from Chota bearing word from Nancy Ward (Agigaue), the Beloved Woman (leader or Elder). The Cherokee offensive proved to be disastrous for the attackers.
Siege of McDowell's Station
On July 3, a small war party of Cherokee besieged a small fort on the North Carolina frontier. The garrison managed to keep from being overrun until a large body of militia under Griffith Rutherford arrived in the rear of besiegers, who then retreated.
Battle of Lindley's Station
A 190-strong war party of Cherokee and Loyalist partisans dressed as Cherokee attacked the large fort on the South Carolina frontier known as Lindley's Station. Its 150-man Patriot garrison had just finished building it the day before. After repulsing the attack, the Patriots gave chase, killing two Loyalists and capturing ten, but inflicting no casualties on the Cherokee.
Battle of Island Flats
Finding Fort Lee on the Nolichucky deserted, the Cherokee force from the Overhill Towns burned it to the ground, then divided into three columns.
Dragging Canoe's force advanced up the Great Indian Warpath and had a small skirmish with a body of militia numbering twenty who quickly withdrew. Pursuing them and intending to take Fort Lee at Long-Island-on-the-Holston, his force advanced toward the island. However, on July 20, it encountered a larger force of militia six miles from their target, about half the size of his own but desperate, in a stronger position than the small group before.
During the “Battle of Island Flats” which followed, Dragging Canoe himself was wounded in his hip by a musket ball and his brother Little Owl (Uku-usdi) incredibly survived after being hit eleven times. His force then withdrew, raiding isolated cabins on the way and returned to the Overhill area with plunder and scalps, after raiding further north into southwestern Virginia.
Siege of Fort Caswell
On July 21, Abraham of Chilhowee led his party in attempting to capture Fort Caswell on the Watauga, but his attack was driven off with heavy casualties. Instead of withdrawing, however, he put the garrison under siege, a tactic which had worked well the previous decade with Fort Loudon. After two weeks, though, he and his warriors gave that up.
Savanukah's party raided from the outskirts of Carter's Valley far into the Clinch River Valley in Virginia, but those targets contained only small settlements and isolated farmsteads so he did no real military damage.
The affected colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia conferred and decided that swift and massive retaliation was the only way to preserve peace on the frontier.
In the Lower, Middle, Valley, and Out Towns
The colonials quickly gathered militia who retaliated against the Cherokee. North Carolina sent Rutherford with 2400 militia to scour the Oconaluftee and Tuckasegee river valleys, and the headwaters of the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee. South Carolina sent 1800 men to the Savannah, and Georgia sent 200 to attack Cherokee settlements along the Chattahoochee and Tugaloo rivers.
Not long after leaving Fort McGahey on July 23, Rutherford’s militia, accompanied by a large contingent of Catawba warriors, encountered an ambush by the Cherokee at the Battle of Cowee Gap in what is now western North Carolina. After defeating the attackers, he proceeded to a designated rendezvous with the South Carolina militia.
On August 1, Cameron and the Cherokee ambushed Andrew Williamson and his South Carolina militia force near the Lower Cherokee town of Isunigu known to whites as Seneca, in the Battle of Twelve Mile Creek. After retreating, he joined up with the militia force of Andrew Pickens.
The next day, August 2, the joint militia force bivouacked, and Pickens led a party of twenty-five to forage for food and firewood. In what is known as the Ring Fight, two hundred Cherokee surrounded and attacked the party, which withdrew into a ring and were able to hold their attackers at bay until reinforcements arrived.
On August 12, Williamson and Pickens defeated the Cherokee at the Battle of Tamassee. With this, they had completed their destruction of the Lower Towns, Keowee, Estatoe, Seneca, and the rest. Afterwards, they proceeded north to meet up with the North Carolina militia of Griffith Rutherford.
Rutherford’s militia traversed Swannanoa Gap in the Blue Ridge on September 1, and reached the outskirts of the Out, Valley, and Middle Towns on September 14, at which they started burning towns and crops.
Williamson’s militia were attacked at the Battle of Black Hole near Franklin, North Carolina on September 19, but were able to fend off the Cherokee and meet up with Rutherford to take part in the campaign of destruction.
In all, Williamson, Pickens, and Rutherford destroyed more than 50 towns, burned the houses and food stores, destroyed the orchards, slaughtered livestock, and killed hundreds of Cherokee. They sold captives into slavery, and these were often transported to the Caribbean.
In the Overhill Towns
In the meantime, the Continental Army sent Col. William Christian to the lower Little Tennessee Valley with a battalion of Continentals, five hundred Virginia militia, three hundred North Carolina militia, and three hundred rangers. By this time, Dragging Canoe and his warriors had already returned to the Overhill Towns.
Oconostota supported making peace with the colonists at any price. Dragging Canoe called for the women, children, and old to be sent below the Hiwassee and for the warriors to burn the towns, then ambush the Virginians at the French Broad River. Oconostota, Attakullakulla, and the older chiefs decided against that plan. Oconostota sent word to the approaching colonial army offering to exchange Dragging Canoe and Cameron if the Overhill Towns were spared.
Dragging Canoe spoke to the council of the Overhill Towns, denouncing the older leaders as rogues and "Virginians" for their willingness to cede land for an ephemeral safety. He concluded, "As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will have our lands."  He stalked out of the council. Afterward, he and other militant leaders, including Ostenaco, gathered like-minded Cherokee from the Overhill, Valley, and Hill towns, and migrated to what is now the Chattanooga, Tennessee area. Cameron had already transferred there.
Upon reaching the Little Tennessee in late October, Christian's Virginia force found found those towns from whence the militant attackers had spring—Great Island, Citico (Sitiku), Toqua (Dakwayi), Tuskegee (Taskigi), Chilhowee, and Great Tellico—not only deserted but burned to the ground by their own former inhabitants, along with all the food and stores that could not be carried away.
Treaties of 1777
Preliminary negotiations between the Overhill Towns and Virginia were held as Fort Patrick Henry in April 1777. Nathaniel Gist, later father of Sequoyah, led the talks for Virginia, while Attakullakulla, Oconostota, and Savanukah headed the delegation of Cherokee.
The Cherokee signed the Treaty of Dewitt's Corner with Georgia and South Carolina (Ostenaco was one of the Cherokee signatories) May 20 and the Treaty of Fort Henry with Virginia and North Carolina on July 20. They promised to stop warring, with those colonies promising in return to protect them from attack. In the former treaty, the Lower Towns ceded all their land in modern South Carolina except for a small strip in what is now Oconee County. One provision of the latter treaty required that James Robertson and a small garrison be quartered at Chota on the Little Tennessee. He had been appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for North Carolina, while Joseph Martin had been appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Virginia.
Other Southeastern Indian nations
The paramount mico Emistisigua led the Upper Muscogee in alliance with the British; within a year he had become the strongest native ally of Dragging Canoe and his faction of Cherokee. After 1777, he was assisted by Alexander McGillivray (Hoboi-Hili-Miko; he signed his name "Alex McGillivray"), the mixed-blood son of a Coushatta woman and a Scots-Irish American trader. He was mico of the Coushatta, a former colonel in the British Army, and one of John Stuart's agents.
The Seminole of East Florida, universally Loyalist in sympathy, provided hundreds of warriors for British campaigns in the Southeast. They often fought with Loyalist Rangers commanded by Thomas Brown, formerly of Charlestown. Known to the whites as Cowkeeper, Ahaya, founder of the Seminole nation, was usually their leader.
Although the majority of the Lower Muscogee chose to remain neutral, the Loyalist Capt. William McIntosh, another of Stuart's agents and father of later Muscogee leader William McIntosh, recruited a sizable unit of Hitchiti warriors to fight on the British side.
The Choctaw and the Chickasaw in alliance with the British patrolled the Mississippi and western Tennessee rivers to prevent American incursion along those pathways. The Chickasaw formed part of the garrison of Fort Panmure on the Mississippi and later in Pensacola. Over a thousand Choctaw warriors helped guard the vital ports in West Florida of Pensacola (seat of the province) and Mobile against the Spanish. In contrast, a portion of Choctaw supported the Spanish, though never in direct opposition to other Choctaw, while the rest remained neutral.
Sandwiched in between the colonies of North Carolina and South Carolina, the Catawba had no real option to take the Loyalist side, but rather than simply remaining neutral joined the Patriot cause as active allies.
Migration to the Chickamauga area
After the end of the opening campaigns, Alexander Cameron had suggested to Dragging Canoe and his dissenting Cherokee that they settle at the place where the Great Indian Warpath crossed the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek). Since Dragging Canoe made that town his seat of operations, frontier Americans called his faction the "Chickamaugas". Other Cherokee refugees turned up in Pensacola and wintered there.
As mentioned above, John McDonald already had a trading post across the Chickamauga River. This provided a link to Henry Stuart, brother of John, in the West Florida capital of Pensacola. Cameron, the British deputy Indian superintendent, accompanied Dragging Canoe to Chickamauga. Nearly all the whites legally resident among the Cherokee were part of the related exodus.
In March 1777, Cameron sent the refugees to Chickamauga along with a sizable amount of goods. The colonials learned of the material and planned to intercept it. When Cameron informed him of the danger, Emistisigua, paramount chief of the Upper Mucogee, sent a force of three hundred fifty warriors to guard them as well as to assist in rebuilding and waging war.
Shortly after the column arrived, Dragging Canoe organized the campaign against the settlements in the Holston region mentioned above.
The Chickamauga Towns
In addition to Old Chickamauga (Tsikamagi) Town, the headman of which was Big Fool, Dragging Canoe's band set up three other settlements on the Chickamauga River: "Toqua" (Dakwayi), at its mouth on the Tennessee River, "Opelika", a few kilometers upstream from Chickamauga Town; and "Buffalo Town" (Yunsayi; John Sevier called it "Bull Town") at the headwaters of the river in northwest Georgia (in the vicinity of the later Ringgold, Georgia).
Other towns established were Cayoka, on Hiwassee Island; "Black Fox" (or Inaliyi) at the current community of the same name in Bradley County, Tennessee; "Ooltewah" (Ultiwa), under Ostenaco on Ooltewah (Wolftever) Creek; "Sawtee" (Itsati), under Dragging Canoe's brother Little Owl on Laurel (North Chickamauga) Creek; "Citico" (Sitiku), along the creek of the same name; "Chatanuga" (Tsatanugi) at the foot of Lookout Mountain in what is now St. Elmo; and "Tuskegee" (Taskigi) under Bloody Fellow (Yunwigiga) on Williams' Island.
The Cherokee towns of Great Hiwassee (Ayuwasi), Tennessee (Tanasi), Chestowee (Tsistuyi), Ocoee (Ugwahi), and Amohee (Amoyee) in the vicinity of Hiwassee River supported those who fought against the settlers moving into their lands, as did the Lower Cherokee in the North Georgia towns of Coosawatie (Kusawatiyi), Etowah (Itawayi), Ellijay (Elatseyi), Ustanari (or Ustanali), etc., who had been evicted from their homes in South Carolina by the Treaty of Dewitts' Corner.
Targets of the Cherokee
From their new bases, the Cherokee conducted raids against settlers on the Holston, Doe, Watauga, and Nolichucky rivers, on the Cumberland and Red rivers, and those in the isolated frontier stations in between. Dragging Canoe called them all "Virginians". The Cherokee ambushed parties traveling on the Tennessee River, and on local sections of the many ancient trails that served as "highways", such as the Great Indian Warpath (Mobile to northeast Canada), the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail (St. Augustine to the French Salt Lick at Nashville), the Cumberland Trail (from the Upper Creek Path to the Great Lakes), and the Nickajack Trail (Nickajack to Augusta). Later, the Cherokee stalked the Natchez Trace and roads improved by the uninvited settlers, such as the Kentucky, Cumberland, and Walton roads. Occasionally, the Cherokee attacked targets in Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Kentucky, and the Ohio country.
Continuing the fight
In contempt of the peace proceedings at Fort Henry in April 1777, Dragging Canoe led a war party that killed a settler named Frederick Calvitt and stole fifteen horses from James Robertson, then moved to Carter's Valley, killing the grandparents of later U.S. Congressman David Crockett along with several children near the modern Rogersville, and marauding across the valley. In all the raiders took twelve scalps.
In summer 1777, Deputy Superintendents Cameron and Taitt led a large contingent of Cherokee and Muscogee warriors against the back country settlements of the Carolinas and Georgia.
While they were thus engaged, the Shawnee repeatedly attacked the Kentucky settlements between the Cumberland River and Levisa Fork.
Besides continued small harassment raids against the back country of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, the Cherokee established at camp at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers to prevent infiltration into the Mississippi in the spring of 1778.
Warriors of the Chickamauga Towns renewed their raiding after the Green Corn festival in August 1778.
Revolutionary War phase: Southern strategy (1778–1783)
In late 1778, British strategy shifted south. As their attention went, so too did their efforts, their armies, and their supplies, including those slated for the Southern Indians. The Southern theater had the added advantage of being home to more Loyalists than the North. With all these new advantages, the Cherokee were able to greatly renew their territorial defense. Both the Cherokee (all of them) and the Upper Creek signed on for active participation.
British victory in the North
On December 17, 1778, Henry Hamilton captured Fort Vincennes and used it as a base to plan a spring offensive against George Rogers Clark, whose forces had recently seized control of much of the Illinois Country. His plans were to assemble five hundred warriors from various Indian nations, including the Cherokee, the Chickasaw, the Shawnee, and others, for a campaign to expel Clark's forces back east, then drive through Kentucky clearing American settlements. McDonald's headquarters at Chickamauga was to be the staging ground and commissary for the Cherokee and the Muscogee.
British victories in the South
The British captured Savannah, Georgia (see: Capture of Savannah) on December 29, 1778, with help from Dragging Canoe, John McDonald, and the Cherokee, along with McGillivray's Upper Muscogee force and McIntosh's band of Hitichiti warriors.
Just over a month later, January 31, 1779, they captured Augusta, Georgia, as well, though they quickly had to retreat. After a couple of more handovers, the British were in control.
With these victories, the remaining neutral towns of the Lower Muscogee now threw in their lot with the British side.
First Cumberland settlement
In early 1779, Robertson and John Donelson traveled overland across country along the Kentucky Road and founded Fort Nashborough at the French Salt Lick (which got its name from having previously been the site of a French outpost called Fort Charleville) on the Cumberland River. It was the first of many such settlements in the Cumberland area, which subsequently became the focus of attacks by all the tribes in the surrounding region. Leaving a small group there, both returned east.
Loss in the North
Unfortunately for the grand scheme of Henry Hamilton, Clark recaptured the fort and him along with it on February 25, 1779, after the Siege of Fort Vincennes. The Chickamauga Cherokee turned their sights to the northeast.
Raids in the Overmountain region
Robertson heard warning from Chota that Dragging Canoe's warriors were going to attack the Holston area. In addition, he had received intelligence that McDonald's place was the staging area for the northern campaign that Hamilton had been planning to conduct, and that a stockpile of supplies equivalent to that of a hundred packhorses was stored there. Small parties of Cherokee began repeated small raids on the Holston frontier shortly thereafter.
Death of John Stuart
On March 21, 1779, John Stuart, up to that point Indian Affairs Superintendent, died at Pensacola. George Germain, Secretary of State for the Colonies, split the Southern Department into two districts. Alexander Cameron in Pensacola was assigned to the Mississippi District to work with the Chickasaw and Choctaw. In Savannah, Thomas Brown of the King's Carolina Rangers (as his unit was renamed) was assigned to the Atlantic District to work with the Cherokee, Muscogee, and Seminole.
Scott and Shelby expeditions
At the beginning of April 1779, a group of three hundred Cherokee and fifty Loyalist Rangers under Walter Scott left the Chickamauga Towns headed for a marauding campaign against the frontier settlements in Georgia and South Carolina.
Hearing of their departure, Joseph Martin, Indian agent for the Americans at Chota, sent word to Governor Patrick Henry of their absence.
The state governments of Virginia and North Carolina made a joint decision to send an expedition against the Chickamauga Towns, who were thought to be responsible for the raids. Most of those warriors, however, were in South Carolina with Cameron and Dragging Canoe. A thousand Overmountain men under Evan Shelby (father of Isaac Shelby, first governor of the State of Kentucky) and a regiment of Continentals under John Montgomery disembarked on April 10, boating down the Tennessee in a fleet of dugout canoes.
They arrived in the Chickamauga towns ten days later. For the next two weeks, they destroyed the eleven towns in the immediate area and most of the food supply, along with McDonald's home, store, and commissary. Due to the absence of nearly all the warriors, there was no resistance and only four deaths among the inhabitants. Whatever was not destroyed was confiscated and sold at the site where the trail back to the Holston crossed what has since been known as Sale Creek.
Return home of the warriors
Upon hearing of the devastation of the towns and loss of all their stores, Dragging Canoe, McDonald, and their men, including the Rangers, returned to Chickamauga and its vicinity.
The Shawnee sent envoys to Chickamauga to find out if the destruction had caused Dragging Canoe's people to lose the will to fight, along with a sizable detachment of warriors to assist them in the South. In response to their inquiries, Dragging Canoe held up the war belts he'd accepted when the delegation visited Chota in 1776, and said, "We are not yet conquered". To cement the alliance, the Cherokee responded to the Shawnee gesture with nearly a hundred of their warriors sent to the North.
The towns in the Chickamauga area were soon rebuilt and reoccupied by their former inhabitants. Dragging Canoe responded to the Shelby expedition with punitive raids on the frontiers of both North Carolina and Virginia, and proved good on his word because British command communications in October show the Cherokee active on the frontier from Virginia to Georgia.
In midsummer 1779, Cameron arrived at Chickamauga with a company of Loyalist Refugees and convinced the Cherokee in the towns there to join them on their march to South Carolina. Three hundred took up arms and headed out to maraud the backcountry of Georgia and South Carolina. Later in October, Andrew Williamson's South Carolina militia responded by attacking several towns on the eastern frontier of Cherokee territory and burning their foodstores.
Concord between the Lenape and the Overhill Cherokee
In late 1779, Oconostota, Savanukah, and other non-belligerent Cherokee leaders traveled north to pay their respects after the death of the White Eyes, the Lenape leader who had been encouraging his people to give up their fighting against the Americans. He had also been negotiating, first with Lord Dunmore and second with the American government, for an Indian state with representatives seated in the Continental Congress, which he finally won an agreement for with that body, which he had addressed in person in 1776.
Upon the arrival of the Cherokee in the village of Goshocking, they were taken to the council house and began talks. The next day, the Cherokee present solemnly agreed with their "grandfathers" to take neither side in the ongoing conflict between the Americans and the British. Part of the reasoning was that thus "protected", neither tribe would find themselves subject to the vicissitudes of war. The rest of the world at conflict, however, remained heedless, and the provisions lasted as long as it took the ink to dry, as it were.
Loss of Mobile
On February 10, 1780, Spanish forces from New Orleans under Bernardo de Galvez, allied to the Americans but acting in the interests of Spain, captured Mobile in the Battle of Fort Charlotte, along with Charles Stuart and David Taitt.
When they next moved against Pensacola the following month, McIntosh and McGillivray rallied 2000 Muscogee warriors to its defense, joining a large contingent of Choctaw and a smaller one of Chickasaw. A British fleet arrived before the Spanish could take the port.
The Chickasaw transformed from river sentries into attacking warriors in June 1780 when George Rogers Clark and a party of over five hundred, including some Kaskaskia of the Illinois Confederation, built Fort Jefferson and the surrounding settlement of Clarksville near the mouth of the Ohio, inside their hunting grounds. The building had begun in April and just finished before the first attack on June 7.
After learning of the trespass, the Chickasaw destroyed the settlement, laid siege to the fort, and began attacking settlers on the Kentucky frontier. They continued attacking the Cumberland and into Kentucky through early the following year. Their last raid was in conjunction with Dragging Canoe's Cherokee, upon Freeland’s Station on the Cumberland on January 11, 1781.
Robertson and Donelson parties
In autumn 1779, Robertson and a group of fellow Wataugans left the east down the Kentucky Road headed for Fort Nashborough. They arrived on Christmas Day 1779 without incident, unlike what the group led by his partner John Donelson was to face.
Donelson journeyed down the Tennessee with a party that included his family, intending to go across to the mouth of the Cumberland, then upriver to Ft. Nashborough. Their departed the East Tennessee settlements on February 27, 1780. Eventually, the group did reach its destination, but only after being ambushed several times.
In the first encounter near Tuskegee Island on March 7, the Cherokee warriors under Bloody Fellow attacked the boat in the rear. Its passengers had come down with smallpox. They took as captive the one survivor, who was later ransomed by American colonists. The victory proved to be a Pyrrhic one for the Cherokee, a smallpox epidemic spread among its people, killing several hundred in the vicinity.
Several miles downriver, beginning with the obstruction known as the Suck or the Kettle, the party was fired upon throughout their passage through the Tennessee River Gorge (aka Cash Canyon); one person died and several were wounded. Several hundred kilometers downriver, the Donelson party ran up against Muscle Shoals, where they were attacked at one end by the Muscogee and the other end by the Chickasaw. The final attack was by the Chickasaw in the vicinity of the modern Hardin County, Tennessee.
The Donelson party finally reached its destination on April 24, 1780. The group included John's daughter Rachel, much later the wife of future U.S. Representative, Senator, and President Andrew Jackson, who fought a duel in her honor in 1806.
Shortly after his party's arrival at Fort Nashborough, Donelson along with Robertson and others formed the Cumberland Compact.
Donelson eventually moved to the Indiana country after the Revolution. He and William Christian were captured while fighting in the Illinois country in 1786 during the Northwest Indian Wars. They were burned at the stake as warriors by their captors.
Capture of Charlestown
Charlestown was captured on May 12, 1780, after a siege that began March 29. Along with it, the British took prisoner some three thousand Patriots, including South Carolina militia leader Andrew Williamson. Upon giving his parole that he would not again take up arms, Williamson became a double agent for the Patriots, according to testimony after the war by Patriot General Nathanael Greene.
Defense of Augusta and Battle of Kings Mountain
In the summer of 1780, Thomas Brown planned to have a joint conference between the Cherokee and Muscogee to plan ways to coordinate their attacks, but those plans were forestalled when Georgians under Elijah Clarke made a concerted effort to retake Augusta in September, where he had his headquarters. His King's Carolina Rangers and fifty Muscogee warriors formed the entire garrison against Clarke's seven hundred fighters.
The arrival of a sizable war party from the Chickamauga and Overhill Towns and a force from Fort Ninety-Six in South Carolina prevented the capture of both, and the Cherokee and Brown's rangers chased Elijah Clarke's army into the arms of John Sevier, wreaking havoc on rebellious settlements along the way.
This set the stage for the Battle of Kings Mountain October 7, 1780, in which Loyalist militia American Volunteers under Patrick Ferguson moved south trying to encircle Clarke; they were defeated by a force of 900 frontiersmen under Sevier and William Campbell, who were referred to as the Overmountain Men.
Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1780
Brown, aware that nearly 1,000 men were away from the American settlements with the militias, urged Dragging Canoe and other Cherokee leaders to strike while they had the opportunity. Under the influence of Savanukah, the Overhill Towns gave their full support to the new offensive. Both Brown and the Cherokee had been expecting a quick victory by Patrick Ferguson and were stunned that he suffered such a resounding defeat so soon. But their planned assault on the settlements was in motion.
Learning of the new invasion from Nancy Ward (her second documented betrayal of Dragging Canoe), Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition of 700 Virginians and North Carolinians against the Cherokee in December 1780, under the command of Sevier. It met a Cherokee war party at the Battle of Boyd's Creek on December 16 and routed it.
After that battle, Sevier's army was joined by forces under Arthur Campbell and Joseph Martin. The combined force marched against the Overhill towns on the Little Tennessee and the Hiwassee, burning seventeen of them, including Chota, Chilhowee, the original Citico, Tellico, Great Hiwassee, and Chestowee, finishing up on January 1, 1781. Afterwards, the Overhill leaders withdrew from further active conflict for a time, though warriors from the Middle and Valley Towns continued to harass colonists on the frontier.
Cherokee Cumberland campaign, 1780–1781
In the Cumberland area, the new settlements lost around forty people in attacks by the Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw, Shawnee, and Lenape during 1780. The Munsee-Lenape were the first to conduct what became repeated attacks, along with the Chickasaw, Shawnee, Wyandot, and Mingo, on the Cumberland settlements, as well as those in Kentucky.
The Chickamauga Cherokee began their own attacks against the Cumberland settlements in November 1780, sometimes raiding alongside their Chickasaw former enemies. Their last joint venture was the battle at Freeland's Station.
First Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1781
Not long after returning home from his destruction of the Overhill towns, Sevier had received word that the warriors from the Middle Towns were bent on revenge.
At the beginning of March, Sevier raised a force for a campaign against the Middle and Out Towns east of the mountains. Beginning at Tuckasegee and ending at Cowee, they burned fifteen towns, killed twenty-nine Cherokee, and took nine prisoners.
Martin led another militia group to disperse or destroy a Cherokee war party encamped in the mountains at Cumberland Gap to harass travelers on the Wilderness Road founds signs of their quarry but none of them.
Loss of Pensacola
On March 7, 1781, the Spanish attacked Pensacola again, with an army twice the size of the garrison of British, Choctaw, and Muscogee defenders, and the city fell on 8 May after a hard siege that saw courageous fighting by the Choctaw and Muscogee. Cameron and other Indian Department officials took refuge among the Muscogee, then transferred to Augusta to join Brown, who now had his own headquarters there.
Battle of the Bluff
Three months after the first Chickasaw attack on the Cumberland, on April 2, 1781, the Cherokee launched their largest campaign of the wars against those settlements. This culminated in what became known as the Battle of the Bluff, led by Dragging Canoe in person. It lasted through to the next day and was the last attack of this war.
Afterward, settlers began to abandon these frontier settlements until only three stations were left, a condition which lasted until 1785.
Shawnee Overmountain campaign, 1781–1785
While Dragging Canoe and his warriors turned their attentions to the Cumberland, the Shawnee began raiding settlements in Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, the latter by now having become Washington County. In particular they targeted those along the Clinch and Holston Rivers and in Powell's Valley. These Shawnee came down from their homes on the Ohio River by way of the Warriors’ Path through the Cumberland Gap. Their attacks continued, along with occasional forays by McGillivray's Upper Muscogee, even after sporadic raids by the Cherokee renewed, until they began to focus all their attention on the Northwest Indian War.
Loss of Augusta
Augusta, under the command of Thomas Brown, was also retaken by the Patriots on June 6 after a two-month siege when the Lower Muskogee relief force led by McIntosh coming to the rescue was unable to arrive in time.
Second Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1781
In midsummer, a party of Cherokee came west over the mountains and began raiding the new settlements on the French Broad River. Sevier raised a force of one hundred fifty and attacked their camp on Indian Creek.
On July 26, 1781, the Overhill Towns signed the second Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston, this time directly with the Overmountain settlements. It is notable in that, although affirming previous land cessions, it required none further.
While the Middle Towns warriors kept the Overmountain Men busy, the Chickamauga Towns welcome a sizable party of Lenape warriors seeking refuge from the fighting in the Illinois and Ohio Countries. These were not just warriors down south temporarily but permanent resettlers who brought their families.
Politics in the Overhill Towns
In the fall of 1781, the British engineered a coup d'état of sorts that put Savanukah as First Beloved Man in place of the more pacifist Oconostota, who succeeded Attakullakulla. For the next two years, the Overhill Cherokee openly, as they had been doing covertly, supported the efforts of Dragging Canoe and his militant Cherokee.
Cherokee Georgia campaign of 1781
In November 1781, the Cherokee invaded Georgia, ravaging Wilkes County, which was formed from 8100 km2 land ceded by the Cherokee and Muscogee in the 1773 Treaty of Augusta. A combined force of South Carolinians and Georgians under Andrew Pickens retaliated by burning all the Valley Towns up to the Valley River.
Death of Alexander Cameron
On December 27, 1781, Alexander Cameron, British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Mississippi District, blood brother to Dragging Canoe, and friend to all Cherokee, died in Savannah. He was replaced by John Graham.
Diplomatic mission to Ft. St. Louis
A party of Cherokee joined the Lenape, Shawnee, and Chickasaw in a diplomatic visit to the Spanish at Fort St. Louis in the Missouri country in March 1782 seeking a new avenue of obtaining arms and other assistance in the prosecution of their ongoing conflict with the Americans in the Ohio Valley. One group of Cherokee at this meeting led by Standing Turkey sought and received permission to settle in Spanish Louisiana, in the region of the White River.
Loss of Savannah
In June 1782 the Patriots took back the British and Muskogee garrison at Savannah. Brown, Graham, and the rest of the Southern Indian Department relocated yet again, this time to St. Augustine in Loyalist East Florida.
Paramount mico Emistisigua was leading the Upper Muscogee effort to relieve them and died in the attempt. McGillivray, by then his right-hand man, succeeded him to become the leading mico of the Upper Towns by 1783.
Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1782
In response to incursions by new settlers beyond the limits of the treaties, warriors from the Chickamauga Towns began harassing the Holston frontier in the spring and summer of 1782.
In September, an expedition under Sevier once again destroyed many of the towns in the Chickamauga vicinity, and those Cherokee of the former Lower Towns now in North Georgia, from Buffalo Town at the modern Ringgold, Georgia south to Ustanali (Ustanalahi) near modern Calhoun, Georgia, including what he called Vann's Town, as well as Ellijay and Coosawattee. Most of the towns were deserted because having advanced warning of the impending attack, Dragging Canoe and his fellow leaders chose relocation westward. Meanwhile, Sevier's army, guided by John Watts (Kunokeski), somehow never managed to cross paths with any parties of Cherokee.
Migration to the Lower Towns
Upon finishing their move, Dragging Canoe and his people established what whites called the Five Lower Towns downriver from the various natural obstructions in the twenty-six-mile Tennessee River Gorge, known locally as Cash Canyon.
Starting with Tuskegee (aka Brown's or Williams') Island and the sandbars on either side of it, these obstructions included the Tumbling Shoals, the Holston Rock, the Kettle (or Suck), the Suck Shoals, the Deadman's Eddy, the Pot, the Skillet, the Pan, and, finally, the Narrows, ending with Hale's Bar.
The whole twenty-six miles was sometimes called The Suck, and the stretch of river was notorious enough to merit mention even by Thomas Jefferson. These navigational hazards were so formidable, in fact, that the French agents attempting to travel upriver to reach Cherokee country during the French and Indian War, intending to establish an outpost at the spot later occupied by British agent McDonald, gave up after several attempts.
The Five Lower Towns
The Five Lower Towns included Running Water (Amogayunyi), at the current Whiteside in Marion County, Tennessee, where Dragging Canoe made his headquarters; Nickajack (Ani-Kusati-yi, or Koasati place), eight kilometers down the Tennessee River in the same county; Long Island (Amoyeligunahita), on the Tennessee just above the Great Creek Crossing; Crow Town (Kagunyi) on the Tennessee, at the mouth of Crow Creek; and Stecoyee (Utsutigwayi, aka Lookout Mountain Town), at the current site of Trenton, Georgia. Tuskegee Island Town was reoccupied as a lookout post by a small band of warriors to provide advance warning of invasions, and eventually many other settlements in the area were resettled as well.
Because this was a move into the outskirts of Muscogee territory, Dragging Canoe, knowing such a move might be necessary, had previously sent a delegation under Little Owl to meet with Alex McGillivray, the major Muscogee leader in the area, to gain their permission to do so. When the Cherokee moved their base, so too did John McDonald, now deputy to Thomas Brown, along with his own assistant Daniel Ross, making Running Water the base of operations. Graham's deputy, Alexander Campbell, set up his own base at what became Turkeytown.
More Lower Towns
Cherokee continued to migrate westward to join Dragging Canoe's militant band. Many in this influx were Cherokee from North Georgia, who fled the depredations of expeditions such as those of Sevier; a large majority of these were former inhabitants of the original Lower Towns. Cherokee from the Middle, or Hill, Towns also came, a group of whom established a town named Sawtee (Itsati) at the mouth of South Sauta Creek on the Tennessee.
Later major settlements included Willstown (Titsohiliyi) near the later Fort Payne; Turkeytown (Gundigaduhunyi), at the head of the Cumberland Trail where the Upper Creek Path crossed the Coosa River near Centre, Alabama; Creek Path (Kusanunnahiyi), near at the intersection of the Great Indian Warpath with the Upper Creek Path at the modern Guntersville, Alabama; Turnip Town (Ulunyi), seven miles from the present-day Rome, Georgia; and Chatuga (Tsatugi), nearer the site of Rome.
Partly because of the large influx from North Georgia added to the fact that they were no longer occupying the Chickamauga area as their main center, Dragging Canoe's followers and others in the area began to be referred to as the Lower Cherokee.
The ranks of these new Lower Cherokee were further swelled by runaway slaves, white Tories, Muscogee, Yuchi, Natchez, and Shawnee, plus a few Spanish, French, Irish, and Germans. The town Coosada came into the coalition when its Koasati and Kaskinampo inhabitants joined Dragging Canoe's coalition.
The band of Chickasaw living at what Chickasaw Old Fields at the later Ditto's Landing south of Huntsville, Alabama also joined the coalition. The rest of the Chickasaw, however, were trying to play the Americans and the Spanish against each other with no interest in the British.
Another visit from the North
In November 1782, twenty representatives from four northern tribes--Wyandot, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potowatami—traveled south to consult with Dragging Canoe and his lieutenants at his new headquarters in Running Water Town, which was nestled far back up the hollow from the Tennessee River onto which it opened. Their mission was to gain the help of Dragging Canoe's Cherokee in attacking Pittsburgh and the American settlements in Kentucky and the Illinois country.
When the party returned north, Turtle-at-Home (Selukuki Woheli), another of Dragging Canoe's brothers, along with some seventy warriors, headed north to live and fight with the Shawnee.
Georgia Indian war of 1782
At the end of 1781, the Cherokee invaded Georgia once again with a group of Muscogee, this time being met by South Carolina and Georgia troops under Pickens and Elijah Clarke at the Oconee River after much back country raiding. Evading the American force, the Cherokee withdrew, adopting a scorched earth strategy to deny their foes supplies. The force eventually retreated, opening the back country to further raids.
By the fall of 1782, Lt. Col. Thomas Waters of the Loyalist Rangers, formerly stationed at Fort Ninety-Six in South Carolina, had retreated to the frontier of Cherokee-Muscogee territory just outside Georgia. From his base at the mouth of Long Swamp Creek on Etowah River, he and his remaining rangers, in conjunction with Cherokee and Muscogee warriors, ravaged backwoods homesteads and settlements.
The states of South Carolina and Georgia sent out a joint expedition led by Andrew Pickens and Elijah Clarke to put an end to his insurgency. Leaving September 16, they invaded that section of the country, ranging at least as far as Ustanali, where they took prisoners. In all they destroyed thirteen towns and villages. By October 22, Waters and his men had escaped and the Cherokee sued for peace.
Cherokee in the Ohio region
At the beginning of 1783, there were at least three major communities of Cherokee in the region. One lived among the Chalahgawtha (Chillicothe) Shawnee. The second Cherokee community lived among the mixed Wyandot-Mingo towns on the upper Mad River near the later Zanesfield, Ohio. A third group of Cherokee is known to have lived among and fought with the Munsee-Lenape, the only portion of the Lenape nation at war with the Americans. Though filled by different warriors shifted back and forth, these three bands remained in the Northwest until after the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
St. Augustine conference
In January 1783, Dragging Canoe and twelve hundred Cherokee traveled to St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, for a summit meeting with a delegation of western tribes (Shawnee, Muscogee, Mohawk, Seneca, Lenape, Mingo, Tuscarora, and Choctaw) called for a federation of Indians to oppose the Americans and their frontier colonists. Brown, the British Indian Superintendent, approved the concept.
At Tuckabatchee a few months later, a general council of the major southern tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole) plus representatives of smaller groups (Mobile, Catawba, Biloxi, Huoma, etc.) took place to follow up, but plans for the federation were cut short by the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
Treaty of Long Swamp Creek (1783)
Signed May 30, 1783, the treaty confirmed the northern boundary between the State of Georgia and the Cherokee, with the Cherokee ceding large amounts of land between the Savannah and Chattachoochee Rivers.
More Overhill politics
In the fall of 1783, the older pacifist leaders replaced Savanukah with another of their number, Corntassel (Kaiyatsatahi, known to history as "Old Tassel"), and sent messages of peace along with complaints of settler encroachment to Virginia and North Carolina. Opposition from pacifist leaders, however, never stopped war parties from traversing the territories of any of the town groups, largely because the average Cherokee supported their cause, nor did it stop small war parties of the Overhill Towns from raiding settlements in East Tennessee, mostly those on the Holston.
Treaty of Paris (1783)
Signed between Great Britain and the United States on September 3, 1783, this treaty formally ended the American Revolution. The U.S. had already unilaterally declared hostilities over the previous April. Brown had already received orders from London in June to cease and desist.
Following that treaty, Dragging Canoe turned to the Spanish (who still claimed all the territory south of the Cumberland and were now working against the Americans) for support, trading primarily through Pensacola and Mobile. Dragging Canoe also maintained relations with the British governor at Detroit, Alexander McKee, through regular diplomatic missions there under his brothers Little Owl and The Badger (Ukuna).
Cherokee Overmountain campaign of 1783
With the end of the Revolutionary War, new settlers began flooding into the Overmountain settlements.
The reaction from the Cherokee was predictable, only it did not come from the towns on the lower Little Tennessee. Instead, warriors from the Middle Towns east of the mountains on the upper Little Tennessee began retaliation against the settlements on the west side, targeting the newer ones on the Pigeon and French Broad Rivers.
In late 1783, Major Peter Fine raised a small militia and crossed the mountains to the east side and burned down the town of Cowee.
Treaty of French Lick
The Chickasaw signed the Treaty of French Lick with the new United States of America on November 6, 1783, and never again took up arms against it. The Lower Cherokee were also present at the conference and apparently made some sort of agreement to cease their attacks on the Cumberland, for after this Americans settlements in the area began to grow again.
Treaty of Augusta (1783)
Also in November 1783, the pro-American camp of the Lower Muscogee nation signed the Treaty of Augusta with Georgia, ceding their claims to territory which roughly comprises the modern counties of Oconee, Franklin, Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Jackson, Stephens, Washington, Greene, Hancock, Johnson, Toombs, Treutlen, and Montgomery, plus parts of surrounding counties. Georgians referred to this region as the Oconee Country, after the tribe who lived there. This enraged McGillivray, who wanted to keep fighting; he burned the houses of the leaders responsible and sent warriors to raid Georgia settlements.
Post-Revolution phase: New directions (1783–1788)
The Spanish now held East Florida and West Florida in addition to Louisiana, Tejas, Nuevo Mexico, and Nueva California. Partly to hold the Americans at bay and party to regain lost parts of La Florida, they armed and supplied the Southern Indians both to curry favor and to encourage them to turn their weapons on the frontier settlements.
The settlement of Coldwater was founded by a party of French traders who had come down from the Wabash to set up a trading center in 1783. It sat a few miles below the foot of the thirty-five-mile-long Muscle Shoals, near the mouth of Coldwater Creek and about three hundred yards back from the Tennessee River, near the site of present-day Tuscumbia, Alabama.
For the next couple of years, trade was all the French did, but then, in 1785, the business changed hands. The new owners not only added firearms, powder, and shot to their wares, they recruited a garrison from the Cherokee of the Lower Towns and the Upper Muscogee. They traded arms to both those nations as well and encouraged them to defend their territory.
Spanish Indian treaties
Largely due to the efforts of Alex McGillivray, the Spanish (in the persons of Arturo O’Neill, governor of West Florida and Estevan Miro, governor of Louisiana) signed the Treaty of Pensacola for alliance and commerce with the Upper Muscogee and the Lower Cherokee on May 30, 1784.
On June 22, 1784, O’Neill and Miro signed the Treaty of Mobile, likewise for alliance and commerce, with the Choctaw and the Alabama. The Chickasaw, also at this conference, refused to sign because of their treaty with the Americans.
With the signing of these two treaties, McDonald and Ross relocated to Turkeytown to consolidate their efforts and business with those of Campbell closer to their Spanish suppliers and to the British trading house of Panton, Leslie & Company in Pensacola.
Unquiet Western frontier
With these assurances of support, the Cherokee of the Lower Towns renewed raiding the Overmountain settlements that summer. These remained only sporadic until the fall, when an incident between one of the settlers, James Hubbard, and a noted Cherokee leader in the Overhill Towns, Noonday, brought the younger Overhill warriors into the fight and incited them all to more violence. This could be considered the start of a Southwest Indian War, fought by the Cherokee and later the Muscogee too.
Towards an Indian alliance
Sponsored by the Spanish, Running Water Town hosted a grand council of western nations and tribes in the summer of 1785 to formulate a strategy for resisting encroachment by settlers from the new United States. Beside the Chickamauga Towns Cherokee, the Upper Muscogee and the Choctaw attended from the South while representatives from the Shawnee, Lenape, Mingo, Miami, Illinois, Wyandot, Ottawa, Mohawk, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, Odawa, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, Wabash Confederacy, and, of course, the Iroquois League, came from the North, plus a few others.
The same parties met again under sponsorship of the British at Detroit in the fall of 1785. The parties at these two councils agreed among themselves and with their sponsors to deal with the Americans as a unit rather than being picked off piece. This laid the groundwork for the confederacy formally established the next year.
Muscogee council at Tuckabatchee
In spring 1785, McGillivray had convened a council of war at the dominant Upper Muscogee town of Tuckabatchee about recent incursions of Georgian settlers into the Oconee territory. The council, attended by most of the nations and tribes of the soon-to-be Western Confederacy, decided to go on the warpath against the trespassers, starting with the recent settlements along the Oconee River. McGillivray had already secured support from the Spanish in New Orleans. This began the Oconee War, which lasted from May 1785 until September 1794.
Free Republic of Franklin
In May 1785, the settlements of Upper East Tennessee, then comprising four counties of western North Carolina, petitioned the Congress of the Confederation to be recognized as the "State of Franklin". Even though their petition failed to receive the two-thirds votes necessary to qualify, they proceeded to organize what amounted to a secessionist government, holding their first "state" assembly in December 1785. One of their chief motives was to retain the foothold they had recently gained in the Cumberland Basin. The Cumberland settlements were included in the government, but being separated by a wide stretch of hostile Cherokee territory were almost completely autonomous.
Treaty of Dumplin Creek
One of the first acts of the new State of Franklin was to negotiate with the Overhill Towns the Treaty of Dumplin Creek, signed on June 10, 1985, which ceded the "territory south of the French Broad and Holston Rivers and west of the Big Pigeon River and east of the ridge dividing Little River from the Tennessee River" to the State of Franklin.
Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)
In the autumn of 1785, after a conference at Detroit, the Indians of the Northwest—Wyandot, Shawnee, Lenape, Ottawa, Mohawk, Miami, Wabash Confederacy—began frequent small raids against settlements west and north of the Ohio River and in Kentucky. In the next year, these raids by small war parties had grown into invasions by small armies.
As allies of the Shawnee and later as full members of the Western Confederacy, Cherokee warriors of the three previously-mentioned bands in the Northwest took an active part, roughly proportional to the degree of activity by the Shawnee in their own area of operations. They participated in nearly every war party and every major action.
Though most of the action took place in the Northwest, especially the Ohio County, a significant amount occurred in Kentucky, part of the Southwest. From the mid-1780s till the end of the decade, for instance, raiders killed nearly fifteen hundred settlers.
Treaty of Galphinton
As if McGillivray and his people were not angered enough, on November 12, 1785, Georgia officials signed a new treaty with a few compliant Lower Muscogee micos (headmen) in which the latter ceded the land between the Altamaha and St. Mary's Rivers, and from the head of the latter to the Oconee River. They called this wide stretch of land the Tallassee Country, after the tribe which lived there.
Treaty of Hopewell
The Cherokee in the Overhill, Hill, and Valley Towns also signed a treaty with the new United States government, November 28, 1785 Treaty of Hopewell, but in their case it was a treaty made under duress, the frontier colonials by this time having spread further along the Holston and onto the French Broad. Several leaders from the Lower Cherokee signed, including two from Chickamauga Town (which had been rebuilt) and one from Stecoyee.
Houston County, Georgia
After the Hopewell Treaty, the legislature of the State of Georgia, which claimed all of what became Mississippi Territory (everything between the 31st and 35th parallels from its own borders west to the Mississippi River) created Houston County, to take in the Great Bend of the Tennessee River. The project was a joint venture between Georgia and Franklin. To stake their claim, Valentine Sevier and ninety men went south to what is now South Pittsburg in Marion County, Tennessee, and built a stockaded settlement and blockhouse in early December 1785.
The chosen location lay midway between Nickajack and Long Island towns of the Chickamauga-Lower Cherokee. By mid-January 1786, the pioneers tired of the constant life-or-death fighting and ended the project. The Houston County project collapsed, leaving the name open for the current Houston County, Georgia established in 1821.
In order to prevent a reoccurrence, the Cherokee established the town of Crowmocker on Battle Creek near the site of the Civil War-era Fort McCook.
The Spanish Conspiracy
Starting in 1786, the leaders of the State of Franklin and the Cumberland District began secret negotiations with Esteban Rodríguez Miró, governor of Spanish Louisiana, to deliver their regions to the jurisdiction of the Spanish Empire. Those involved included James Robertson, Daniel Smith, and Anthony Bledsoe (1739–1788) of the Cumberland District, John Sevier and Joseph Martin of the State of Franklin, James White, recently appointed American Superintendent for Southern Indian Affairs (replacing Thomas Brown), and James Wilkinson, governor of Kentucky.
The irony lay in the fact that the Spanish backed the Cherokee and Muscogee harassing their territories. Their main counterpart on the Spanish side in New Orleans was Don Diego de Gardoqui. Gardoqui's negotiations with Wilkinson, initiated by the latter, to bring Kentucky (then a territory) into the Spanish orbit also were separate but simultaneous.
The "conspiracy" went as far as the Franklin and Cumberland officials promising to take the oath of loyalty to Spain and renounce allegiance to any other nation. Robertson even successfully petitioned the North Carolina assembly create the "Mero Judicial District" for the three Cumberland counties (Davidson, Sumner, Tennessee). There was a convention held in the failing State of Franklin on the question, and those present voted in its favor.
A large part of their motivation, besides the desire to secede from North Carolina, was the hope that this course of action would bring relief from Indian attacks. The series of negotiations involved Alex McGillivray, with Robertson and Bledsoe writing him of the Mi ro District's peaceful intentions toward the Muscogee and simultaneously sending White as emissary to Gardoqui to convey news of their overture.
Cherokee war of 1786
Conflict erupted largely because of dissatisfaction over the Treaty of Hopewell, the flames of which were fanned by Dragging Canoe. In the east, it primarily involved warriors from the Overhill and Valley Towns against Franklin, which the Lower Towns to the west primarily raided the Cumberland.
In large part elated by their crushing defeat of the attempted Houston County, Cherokee warriors from the Lower Towns raided the Franklin settlements in small parties throughout the spring of 1786.
Due to a combination of resentment of Americans settling on the wrong side of the treaty line and pressure from the Muscogee, warriors of the Overhill Towns picked up the tomahawk in early July, led by John Watts. They were supported by Cherokee of the Valley Towns, and according to some accounts the army was as big as a thousand strong. First attacking a homestead on Beaver Creek near the newly established White's Fort (at the modern Knoxville, Tennessee) on July 20, they dispersed into small parties raiding the upper Holston and other parts of Franklin.
Throughout the summer of 1786, Dragging Canoe and his warriors along with a large contingent of Muscogee raided the Cumberland region, with several parties raiding well into Kentucky. One such occasion that summer was notable for the fact that the raiding party was led by none other than Hanging Maw of Coyatee, who was supposedly friendly at the time.
After the rise of the "local" Cherokee, Sevier responded with a force under joint command of Alexander Outlaw and William Cocke, which drove off the raiders from the Holston before marching for Coyatee near the mouth of the Little Tennessee. Once there, they burned the crops and the town's council house. Meanwhile, he himself led another expedition across the mountains to attack the Valley Towns on the headwaters of the Hiwassee.
Sevier responded to the immediate threat with a force under joint command of Alexander Outlaw and William Cocke, which drove off the raiders from the Holston before marching for Coyatee near the mouth of the Little Tennessee. Once there, they burned the crops and town's council house. Meanwhile, he himself led another across the mountains to attack the Valley Towns on the headwaters of the Hiwassee.
Treaty of Coyatee
The end result was the Treaty of Coyatee on August 3, 1786, in which the State of Franklin forced Corntassel, Hanging Maw, Watts, and the other Overhill leaders to cede the remaining land between the boundary set by the Dumplin treaty and the Little Tennessee River to the State of Franklin.
The Franklinites could now shift military forces to Middle Tennessee in response to increasing frequency of attacks by both the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee and the Upper Muscogee.
Formation of the Western Confederacy
In addition to the small bands still operating with the Shawnee, Wyandot-Mingo, and Lenape in the Northwest, a large contingent of Cherokee led by The Glass (Tagwadihi) attended and took an active role in a grand council of western tribes (Six Nations Iroquois, Wyandot, Lenape, Shawnee, Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawotami, Twigtis, Wabash Confedracy, and, of course, the Cherokee themselves) lasting November 28 – December 18, 1786, in the Wyandot town of Upper Sandusky just south of the British capital of Detroit. British agents attended, and zealous warriors brought recently acquired scalps.
This meeting, initiated by Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the Mohawk leader who was head chief of the Iroquois Six Nations and like Dragging Canoe fought on the side of the British during the American Revolution, led to the formation of the Western Confederacy to resist American incursions into the Old Northwest. Dragging Canoe and his Cherokee were full members of the Confederacy. The purpose of the Confederacy was to coordinate attacks and defense in the Northwest Indian War of 1785–1795.
According to John Norton (Teyoninhokovrawen), Brant's adopted son, it was here in the north that The Glass formed a friendship with his adopted father that lasted well into the 19th century. He apparently served as Dragging Canoe's envoy to the Iroquois as the latter's brothers did to McKee and to the Shawnee.
The passage of the Northwest Ordinance by the Congress of the Confederation (subsequently affirmed by the United States Congress) in 1787, establishing the Northwest Territory and essentially giving away the land upon which they lived, only exacerbated the resentment of the tribes in the region.
Trouble with Franklin and Kentucky
In early 1787, encroachments by American settlers became so great that the Overhill Towns held a council on whether to completely abandon their homes on the Little Tennessee for more removed locations to the west. They elected to stay, but the crisis provoked another rise in the small-scale raiding which never really ceased completely. The situation of the Overhill Cherokee was so bad that refugees appeared in Muscogee towns, and the Chickasaw threatened to break the treaty of 1783 and go on the warpath if something were not done to alleviate the situation.
Though they provided auxiliary support against Franklin, the Cherokee of the Lower Towns, playing their role as members of the confederacy, had made Kentucky the target of most of their efforts. A sally from the Kentucky militia led by John Logan mistakenly attacked a hunting party from the Overhill Towns and killed several of its members. In their non-apology to Chota, the Kentuckians warned the Overhill Towns to control Dragging Canoe's warriors or there would be widespread indiscriminate revenge.
Coldwater Indian war (1785–1787)
Around 1785, the new management began covertly gathering Cherokee and Muscogee warriors into Coldwater town, whom they then encouraged to attack the American settlements along the Cumberland and its environs. The fighting contingent eventually numbered approximately nine Frenchmen, thirty-five Cherokee, and ten Muscogee.
Because the townsite was well-hidden and its presence unannounced, James Robertson, commander of the militia in the Cumberland's Davidson and Sumner Counties, at first accused the Lower Cherokee of the new offensives. In 1787, he marched his men to their borders in a show of force, but without an actual attack, then sent an offer of peace to Running Water.
In answer, Dragging Canoe sent a delegation of leaders led by Little Owl to Nashville under a flag of truce to explain that his Cherokee were not the responsible parties. Meanwhile, the attacks continued.
At the time of the conference in Nashville, two Chickasaw out hunting game along the Tennessee in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals chanced upon Coldwater Town, where they were warmly received and spent the night. Upon returning home to Chickasaw Bluffs, now Memphis, Tennessee, they immediately informed their head man, Piomingo, of their discovery. Piomingo then sent runners to Nashville.
Just after these runners had arrived in Nashville, a war party attacked one of its outlying settlements, killing Robertson's brother Mark. In response, Robertson raised a group of one hundred fifty volunteers and proceeded south by a circuitous land route, guided by two Chickasaw. Somehow catching the town off guard despite the fact they knew Robertson's force was approaching, they chased its would-be defenders to the river, killing about half of them and wounding many of the rest. They then gathered all the trade goods in the town to be shipped to Nashville by boat, burned the town, and departed.
After the wars, it became the site of Colbert's Ferry, owned by Chickasaw leader George Colbert, the crossing place over the Tennessee River of the Natchez Trace.
Because of the perceived insult of the incursion against Coldwater so near to their territory, the Muscogee took up the hatchet against the Cumberland settlements afterwards. They continued their attacks until 1789, but the Cherokee did not join them for this round due partly to internal matters but more because of trouble from the State of Franklin.
Post-Revolution: Peak of Cherokee influence (1788–1792)
Dragging Canoe's last years, 1788–1792, were the peak of his influence and that of the rest of the Lower Cherokee, among the other Cherokee and among other Indian nations, both south and north, as well as with the Spanish of Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans, and the British in Detroit. He also sent regular diplomatic envoys to negotiations in Nashville, Jonesborough then Knoxville, and Philadelphia.
Chiksika's band of Shawnee
In early 1788, a band of thirteen Shawnee arrived in Running Water after spending several months hunting in the Missouri River country, led by Chiksika, a leader contemporary with the famous Blue Jacket (Weyapiersenwah). In the band was his brother, the later leader Tecumseh.
Their mother, a Muscogee, had left the north (her husband died at the Battle of Point Pleasant, the only major action of Dunmore's War, in 1774) and gone to live in her old town because without her husband she was homesick. The town was now near those of the Cherokee in the Five Lower Towns. Their mother had died, but Chiksika's Cherokee wife and his daughter were living at nearby Running Water Town, so they stayed.
They were warmly received by the Cherokee warriors, and, based out of Running Water, they participated in and conducted raids and other actions, in some of which Cherokee warriors participated (most notably Bob Benge). Chiksika was killed in one of the actions in which their band took part in February, resulting in Tecumseh becoming leader of the small Shawnee band, gaining his first experiences as a leader in warfare.
Cherokee-Franklin war of 1788 (1788–1789)
This year the conflict between the Cherokee and the Americans in the State of Franklin erupted into its bloodiest and most widespread since 1776, beginning in late spring and lasting well into the beginning of the following year. One important feature of this conflict was the introduction of large numbers of Muscogee warriors fighting in Cherokee war parties, which continued until the end of the Cherokee wars.
Massacre of the Kirk family
In May 1788, a party of Cherokee from Chilhowee came to the house of John Kirk's family on Little River, while he and his oldest son, John Jr., were out. When Kirk and John Jr. returned, they found the other eleven members of their family dead and scalped. This was the beginning of a Cherokee campaign of raids across the region, to which the frontierspeople by retreating inside forts and stations.
Massacre of the Brown family
After a preliminary trip to the Cumberland at the end of which he left two of his sons to begin clearing the plot of land at the mouth of White's Creek, James Brown returned to North Carolina to fetch the rest of the family, with whom he departed Long-Island-on-the-Holston by boat in May 1788. When they passed by Tuskegee Island (Williams Island) five days later, Bloody Fellow stopped them, looked around the boat, then let them proceed, meanwhile sending messengers ahead to Running Water.
Upon the family's arrival at Nickajack, a party of forty under mixed-blood John Vann boarded the boat and killed Col. Brown, his two older sons on the boat, and five other young men travelling with the family. Mrs. Brown, the two younger sons, and three daughters were taken prisoner and distributed to different families.
When he learned of the massacre the following day, The Breath (Unlita), Nickajack's headman, was seriously displeased. He later adopted into his own family the Browns' son Joseph as a son, who had been originally given to Kitegisky (Tsiagatali), who had first adopted him as a brother, treating him well, and of whom Joseph had fond memories in later years.
Mrs. Brown and one of her daughters were given to the Muscogee and ended up in the personal household of Alex McGillivray. George, the elder of the surviving sons, also ended up with the Muscogee, but elsewhere. Another daughter went to a Cherokee nearby Nickajack and the third to a Cherokee in Crow Town.
Franklinite invasion of the Overhill Towns
At the beginning of June 1788, John Sevier, no longer governor of the State of Franklin, raised a hundred volunteers and set out for the Overhill Towns. After a brief stop at the Little Tennessee, the group went to Great Hiwassee and burned it to the ground. Then they returned to the Little Tennessee and burned down Tallasee.
Returning to Chota, Sevier sent a detachment led by James Hubbard to Chilhowee to punish those responsible for the Kirk massacre. Hubbard's force included John Kirk Jr. Hubbard brought along Corntassel and Hanging Man from Chota.
At Chilhowee, Hubbard raised a flag of truce and took Corntassel and Hanging Man to the house of Abraham, still headman of the town. He was there with his son, also bringing along Long Fellow and Fool Warrior. Hubbard posted guards at the door and windows of the cabin, and gave John Kirk Jr. a tomahawk to get his revenge.
The murder of the pacifist Overhill chiefs under a flag of truce angered the entire Cherokee nation. Men who had been reluctant to participate took to the warpath. The increase in hostility lasted for several months. Doublehead, Corntassel's brother, was particularly incensed. Not only did the Cherokee from the Overhill Towns join those from the Lower Towns on the warpath, so too did a large number of Muscogee warriors, outraged at the senseless murders.
Highlighting the seriousness of the matter, Dragging Canoe came in to address the general council of the Nation, now meeting at Ustanali on the Coosawattee River (one of the former Lower Towns on the Keowee River relocated to the vicinity of Calhoun, Georgia) to which the seat of the council had been moved. The council elected Little Turkey (Kanagita) as First Beloved Man to succeed the murdered chief. The election was contested by Hanging Maw of Coyatee; he had been elected chief headman of the traditional Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River). Both men had been among those who originally followed Dragging Canoe into the southwest of the nation.
Siege of Houston's Station
In early August 1788, the commander of the garrison at Houston's Station (near the present Maryville, Tennessee) received word that a Cherokee force of nearly five hundred was planning to attack his position. He therefore sent a large reconnaissance patrol to the Overhill Towns.
Stopping in the town of Citico on the south side of the Little Tennessee, which they found deserted, the patrol scattered throughout the town's orchard and began gathering fruit. Six of them died in the first fusilade, another ten while attempting to escape across the river.
With the loss of those men, the garrison at Houston's Station was seriously beleaguered. Only the arrival of a relief force under John Sevier saved the fort from being overrun and its inhabitants slaughtered. With the garrison joining his force, Sevier marched to the Little Tennessee and burned Chilhowee.
Attempted invasion of the Lower Towns
Later in August, Joseph Martin (who was married to Betsy, daughter of Nancy Ward, and living at Chota), with 500 men, marched to the Chickamauga area, intending to penetrate the edge of the Cumberland Mountains to get to the Five Lower Towns. He sent a detachment to secure the pass over the foot of Lookout Mountain (Atalidandaganu), which was ambushed and routed by a large party of Dragging Canoe's warriors, with the Cherokee in hot pursuit. One of the participants later referred to the spot as "the place where we made the Virginians turn their backs". According to one of the participants on the other side, Dragging Canoe, John Watts, Bloody Fellow, Kitegisky, The Glass, Little Owl, and Dick Justice were all present at the encounter.
Dragging Canoe raised an army of 3,000 Cherokee warriors, which he split into more flexible warbands of hundreds of warriors each. One band was headed by John Watts (Kunnessee-i, also known as 'Young Tassel'), with Bloody Fellow, Kitegisky (Tsiagatali), and The Glass. It included a young warrior named Pathkiller (Nunnehidihi), who later became known as The Ridge (Ganundalegi).
Battles of Gillespie's Station and others
In October of that year, Watts' band advanced across country toward White's Fort. Along the way, they attacked Gillespie's Station on the Holston River after capturing settlers who had left the enclosure to work in the fields, storming the stockade when the defender's ammunition ran out, killing the men and some of the women and taking twenty-eight women and children prisoner.
They then proceeded to attack White's Fort and Houston's Station, only to be beaten back. Afterward, the warband wintered at an encampment on the Flint River in present-day Unicoi County, Tennessee as a base of operations.
An attack by another large party against Sherrill's Station on Nolichucky River was driven off by a force commanded by Sevier himself.
In response to the Cherokee incursions, the settlers increased their retaliatory attacks. Troops under Sevier invaded the Middle and Valley Towns in North Carolina.
Bob Benge, with a group of Cherokee warriors, evacuated the general population from Ustalli, on the Hiwassee; they left a rearguard to ensure their escape. After firing the town, Sevier and his group pursued the fleeing inhabitants, and were ambushed at the mouth of the Valley River by Benge's party.
The US soldiers went to the village of Coota-cloo-hee (Gadakaluyi) and burned down its cornfields, but they were chased off by 400 warriors led by Watts (Young Tassel). Watts' army trailed Sevier's all the way from Coota-cloo-hee back to the Franklin settlements, attacking at random.
One result of the above destruction was that the Overhill Cherokee and refugees from the Lower and Valley towns virtually abandoned the settlements on the Little Tennessee and dispersed south and west. Chota was the only Overhill town left with many inhabitants.
John Watts' band on Flint Creek fell upon serious misfortune early the next year. In early January 1789, they were surrounded by a force under John Sevier that was equipped with grasshopper cannons. The gunfire from the Cherokee was so intense, however, that Sevier abandoned his heavy weapons and ordered a cavalry charge that led to savage hand-to-hand fighting. Watt's band lost nearly 150 warriors.
Cherokee attacks upon the Franklin communities continued well into the spring.
Blow to the Western Confederacy
In January 1789, Arthur St. Clair, American governor of the Northwest Territory, concluded two separate peace treaties with members of the Western Confederacy. The first was with the Iroquois, except for the Mohawk, and the other was with the Wyandot, Lenape, Ottawa, Potawotami, Sac, and Ojibway. The Mohawk, the Shawnee, the Miami, and the tribes of the Wabash Confederacy, who had been doing most of the fighting, not only refused to go along but became more aggressive, especially the Wabash tribes.
Implosion of the Spanish Conspiracy
The scheme fell apart for two main reasons. The first was the dithering of the Spanish government in Madrid. The second was the interception of a letter from Joseph Martin which fell into the hands of the Georgia legislature in January 1789.
North Carolina, to which the western counties in question belonged under the laws of the United States, took the simple expedient of ceding the region to the federal government, which established the Southwest Territory in May 1790, with William Blount as governor as well as simultaneously Superintendent for Southern Indian Affairs. The counties in the Overmountain region were grouped together as the Washington District while the counties in the Cumberland region became the Miro District.
Wilkinson remained a paid Spanish agent until his death in 1825, including his years as one of the top generals in the U.S. army, and was involved in the Aaron Burr conspiracy. Ironically, he became the first American governor of Louisiana Territory in 1803.
Council at Coweta
On March 2, 1789, the Lower Muscogee chief town of Coweta hosted a council between their division of the Muscogee Confederacy and the Cherokee. As town headman, John Galphin, half-blood son of former Indian Commissioner for the United States George Galphin, presided. Dragging Canoe and Hanging Maw led the Cherokee delegation. The representative of the two nations present agreed they trusted neither the Americans nor the Spanish and drafted a letter to the government of Great Britain pledging their loyalty in return for the king's direct assistance. They promised that if this happened, then the Mohawk, the Choctaw, and the Chickasaw would come over. Nothing ever came of the petition, but the council is notable for this as well as for where it took place.
Word of their defeat did not reach Running Water until April, when it arrived with an offer from Sevier for an exchange of prisoners which specifically mentioned the surviving members of the Brown family, including Joseph, who had been adopted first by Kitegisky and later by The Breath. Among those captured at Flint Creek were Bloody Fellow and Little Turkey's daughter.
Joseph and his sister Polly were brought immediately to Running Water, but when runners were sent to Crow Town to retrieve Jane, their youngest sister, her owner refused to surrender her. Bob Benge, present in Running Water at the time, mounted his horse and hefted his famous axe, saying, "I will bring the girl, or the owner's head". The next morning he returned with Jane. The three were handed over to Sevier at Coosawattee on April 20.
McGillivray delivered Mrs. Brown and Elizabeth to her son William during a trip to Rock Landing, Georgia, in November. George, the other surviving son from the trip, remained with the Muscogee until 1798.
Non-treaty of Swannanoa
The next month, on May 25, 1789, the Cherokee were supposed to sign a peace treaty with the newly federated United States at the War Ford on the French Broad River, near Swannanoa, North Carolina. The Americans chose the location because it was scene of a major Cherokee defeat in 1776. The Cherokee leaders never showed, but when the Americans under Andrew Pickens ran across Cherokee on their way to Rock Landing on the Oconee River to meet with the Muscogee, they were assured hostilities were over.
The opposite end of Muscle Shoals from Coldwater Town, mentioned above, was occupied in 1790 by a roughly 40-strong warrior party under Doublehead (Taltsuska), plus their families. He had gained permission to establish his town at the head of the Shoals, which was in Chickasaw territory, because the local headman, George Colbert, the mixed-blood leader who later owned Colbert's Ferry at the foot of Muscle Shoals, was his son-in-law.
Like the former Coldwater Town, Doublehead's Town was diverse, with Cherokee, Muscogee, Shawnee, and a few Chickasaw. It quickly grew beyond the initial 40 warriors, who carried out many small raids against settlers on the Cumberland and into Kentucky. During one foray in June 1792, his warriors ambushed a canoe carrying the three sons of Valentine Sevier (brother of John) and three others on a scouting expedition searching for his party. They killed the three Seviers and another man; two escaped.
Doublehead conducted his operations largely independently of the Lower Cherokee, though he did take part in large operations with them on occasion, such as the invasion of the Cumberland in 1792 and that of the Holston in 1793.
Treaty of New York (1790)
Dragging Canoe's long-time ally among the Muscogee, Alex McGillivray, led a delegation of twenty-seven leaders north, where they signed the Treaty of New York in August 1790 with the United States government on behalf of the "Upper, Middle, and Lower Creek and Seminole composing the Creek nation of Indians". In it, McGillivray, who was made an America brigadier general, ceded in the name of the Confederacy the Oconee Country. In return the federal government upheld Muscogee rights to all of the Tallassee Country.
Although intended to end the Oconee War, it angered the American settlers expelled from the Tallassee Country and Muscogee who wanted to keep the Oconee Country, so the war continued. The treaty also marked the beginning of the decline of McGillivray's influence in the Muscogee Confederacy and the rise of that of William Augustus Bowles, a bitter rival dating back to the Spanish campaign against Pensacola. By mid-1791, Bowles wielded enough influence to send large war parties raiding the Cumberland once again despite the treaty.
Muscle Shoals settlement
In January 1791, a group of land speculators named the Tennessee Company from the Southwest Territory led by James Hubbard and Peter Bryant attempted to gain control of the Muscle Shoals and its vicinity by building a settlement and fort at the head of the Shoals. They did so against an executive order of President Washington forbidding it, as relayed to them by the governor of the Southwest Territory, William Blount. The Glass came down from Running Water with sixty warriors and descended upon the defenders, captained by Valentine Sevier, brother of John, told them to leave immediately or be killed, then burned their blockhouse as they departed.
Bob Benge's war
Starting in 1791, Benge and his brother The Tail (Utana; aka Martin Benge), based at Willstown, began leading attacks against settlers in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Kentucky, often in conjunction with Doublehead and his warriors from Coldwater. Eventually, he became one of the most feared warriors on the frontier.
Meanwhile, Muscogee scalping parties began raiding the Cumberland settlements again, though without mounting any major campaigns.
Treaty of Holston (1791)
The Treaty of Holston, signed in July 1791, required the Upper Towns to cede more land in return for continued peace because the US government proved unable to stop or roll back illegal settlements. As it appeared to guarantee Cherokee sovereignty, the chiefs of the Upper Cherokee believed they had the same status as states. Several representatives of the Lower Cherokee participated in the negotiations and signed the treaty, including John Watts, Doublehead, Bloody Fellow, Black Fox (Dragging Canoe's nephew), The Badger (his brother), and Rising Fawn (Agiligina; aka George Lowery).
Battle of the Wabash
Later in the summer, a small delegation of Cherokee under Dragging Canoe's brother Little Owl traveled north to meet with the Indian leaders of the Western Confederacy, chief among them Blue Jacket (Weyapiersenwah) of the Shawnee, Little Turtle (Mishikinakwa) of the Miami, and Buckongahelas of the Lenape. While they were there, word arrived that Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, was planning an invasion against the allied tribes in the north. Little Owl immediately sent word south to Running Water.
Dragging Canoe quickly sent a 30-strong war party north under his brother The Badger, where, along with the warriors of Little Owl and Turtle-at-Home they participated in the decisive encounter in November 1791 known as the Battle of the Wabash, the worst defeat ever inflicted by Native Americans upon the American military, the American military body count of which far surpassed that at the more famous Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
Fighting on the other side were a company of militia from the Washington District of Southwest Territory and Chickasaw scouts.
After the battle, Little Owl, The Badger, and Turtle-at-Home returned south with most of the warriors who had accompanied the first two. The warriors who'd come north years earlier, both with Turtle-at-Home and a few years before, remained in the Ohio region, but the returning warriors brought back a party of thirty Shawnee under the leadership of one known as Shawnee Warrior that frequently operated alongside warriors under Little Owl.
Death of the "Savage Napoleon"
Inspired by news of the northern victory, Dragging Canoe, embarked on a mission to unite the native people of his area as had Little Turtle and Blue Jacket, visiting the other major tribes in the region. His embassies to the Lower Muscogee and the Choctaw were successful, but the Chickasaw living to the west refused his overtures. Upon his return, which coincided with that of The Glass and Dick Justice (Uwenahi Tsusti), and of Turtle-at-Home, from successful raids on settlements along the Cumberland (in the case of the former two) and in Kentucky (in the case of the latter), a huge all-night celebration was held at Stecoyee at which the Eagle Dance was performed in his honor.
By morning, March 1, 1792, Dragging Canoe was dead. A procession of honor carried his body to Running Water, where he was buried. By the time of his death, the resistance of the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee had led to grudging respect from the settlers, as well as the rest of the Cherokee nation. He was even memorialized at the general council of the Nation held in Ustanali on June 28, 1792, by his nephew Black Fox (Inali):
The Dragging Canoe has left this world. He was a man of consequence in his country. He was friend to both his own and the white people. His brother [Little Owl] is still in place, and I mention it now publicly that I intend presenting him with his deceased brother's medal; for he promises fair to possess sentiments similar to those of his brother, both with regard to the red and the white. It is mentioned here publicly that both red and white may know it, and pay attention to him.
The minutes of the council list Little Turkey as “Great Beloved Man of the whole Nation”, Hanging Maw as “Beloved Man of the Northern Division” (Overhill Towns), and The Badger as “Beloved Man of the Southern Division” (Upper Towns in North Georgia).
Such was the respect for him as a leader and patriot of his people that Gov. Blount, leader of his greatest enemies, remarked upon hearing of his death that, "Dragging Canoe stood second to none in the Nation".
Post-Revolution: the Watts years (1792–1795)
With the death of the great war chief, the Cherokee needed new leaders to take over, and several stepped in to fill his shoes. One, however, presided over them all.
At his own previous request, Dragging Canoe was succeeded as leader of the Lower Cherokee by John Watts (Kunokeski), although The Bowl (Diwali) succeeded him as headman of Running Water, along with Bloody Fellow and Doublehead, who continued Dragging Canoe's policy of Indian unity, including an agreement with McGillivray of the Upper Muscogee to build joint blockhouses from which warriors of both tribes could operate at the confluence of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers, at Running Water, and at Muscle Shoals.
Watts, Tahlonteeskee, and 'Young Dragging Canoe' (whose actual name was Tsula, or "Red Fox") traveled to Pensacola in May at the invitation of Arturo O'Neill de Tyrone, Spanish governor of West Florida. They took with them letters of introduction from John McDonald. Once there, they forged a treaty with O'Neill for arms and supplies with which to carry on the war. Upon returning north, Watts moved his base of operations to Willstown.
Meanwhile John McDonald, now British Indian Affairs Superintendent, moved to Turkeytown with his assistant Daniel Ross and their families. Some of the older chiefs, such as The Glass of Running Water, The Breath of Nickajack, and Dick Justice of Stecoyee, abstained from active warfare but did nothing to stop the warriors in their towns from taking part in raids and campaigns.
Southwest Territory Indian War, 1792–1795
The Trans-Appalachian communities formerly of North Carolina became the Southwest Territory of the United States in 1790. For administrative purposes, the territorial government grouped the counties in the Overmountain region together as the Washington District while those in the Cumberland region became the Miro District, already the name for its judicial district since 1788.
Raiding season, spring and summer 1792
Emboldened by the American loss at the Wabash River, Cherokee and Muscogee warriors and their Shawnee guests began raiding both districts of the Southwest Territory. The Miro District had it worse, suffering at least one a week, often more.
In April 1792, a Cherokee-Shawnee war party led by Bob Benge and Shawnee Warrior invaded the Holston region and began raids all over the vicinity.
Though they didn't stop, the raids slowed down to a handful in the summer. However, one of those raids served as one of the most notorious incidents of the period.
In the summer of 1792, a war party from Running Water led by Little Owl and the Shawnee Warrior joined them in their raids. On June 26, the same day that Dragging Canoe was being memorialized at the national council in Ustanali, the combined group of Cherokee, Shawnee, and a few Muscogee destroyed Zeigler’s Station in Sumner County. This action led the governor of Miro District, James Robertson, to call up a battalion of troops to spread throughout the region as guards.
Invasion of the Miro District
On September 7 or 8, a council of Cherokee meeting at Running Water formally declared war against the United States, or at least against the Southwest Territory.
Watts orchestrated a large campaign intending to attack the Washington District (Overmountain region) with a large combined army in four bands of two hundred each. When the warriors were mustering at Stecoyee, however, he learned that their planned attack was expected and decided to aim for the Miro District (Cumberland region) instead.
The army Watts led into the Cumberland region was nearly a thousand strong, including a contingent of cavalry.
From their launch point, Tahlonteeskee (Ataluntiski; Doublehead's brother) and Bob Benge's brother The Tail led a party to ambush the Kentucky Road. Doublehead led another to the Cumberland Road. Middle Striker (Yaliunoyuka) led his party to do the same on the Walton Road.
Watts himself led the main force, made up of 280 Cherokee, Shawnee, and Muscogee warriors plus cavalry, intending to go against the fort at Nashville. He sent out George Fields (Unegadihi; "Whitemankiller") and John Walker, Jr. (Sikwaniyoha) as scouts ahead of the army, and they killed the two scouts sent out by James Robertson from Nashville.
Near their target on the evening of September 30, Watts's combined force came upon a small fort known as Buchanan's Station, commanded by John Buchanan, son of the original owner of Sapling Grove. Talotiskee, leader of the Muscogee, wanted to attack it immediately, while Watts argued in favor of saving it for the return south. After much bickering, Watts gave in around midnight. The assault proved to be a disaster for Watts. He himself was wounded, and many of his warriors were killed, including Talotiskee and some of Watts' best leaders; Shawnee Warrior, Kitegisky, and Dragging Canoe's brother Little Owl were among those who died in the encounter.
Doublehead's group of sixty ambushed a party of six and took one scalp then headed toward Nashville. On their way, they were attacked by a militia force and lost thirteen men, and only heard of the disaster at Buchanan's Station afterwards.
Tahlonteeskee's party, meanwhile, stayed out into early October, attacking Black's Station on Crooked Creek, killing three, wounding more, and capturing several horses.
Small parties continued raiding into the winter.
In revenge for the deaths at Buchanan's Station, Benge, Doublehead, and his brother Pumpkin Boy led a party of sixty into southwestern Kentucky in early 1793 during which their warriors, in an act initiated by Doublehead, cooked and ate the enemies they had just killed. Afterwards, Doublehead's party returned south and held scalp dances at Stecoyee, Turnip Town, and Willstown, since warriors from those towns had also participated in the raid in addition to his and Benge's groups.
In early 1793, Watts began rotating large war parties back and forth between the Lower Towns and the North at the behest of his allies in the Western Confederacy, which was beginning to lose the ground to the Legion of the United States that had been created in the aftermath of the Battle of the Wabash. With the exception of the 1793 campaign against the Holston, his attention was more focused on the north than on the Southwest Territory and its environs during these next two years.
A party of Shawnee came down from the north on January 12 to reinforce ties with the Cherokee and the Muscogee and to encourage them to punish the Chickasaw for joining St. Clair’s army in the north. They stopped at Ustanali, then Running Water, before proceeding to the Muscogee town of Broken Arrow, home of their leader Talotiskee who had died at Buchanan's Station.
The Muscogee-Chickasaw War began with an attack by the Muscogee upon a Chickasaw hunting party on February 13, 1793, the Muscogee fighting as members of the Western Confederacy, the Chickasaw as allies of the United States.
Death of an ally
The leading chief of the Muscogee Confederacy, Alexander McGillivray, died in Pensacola on February 17, 1793, and was buried there. The confederacy elected his son-in-law, Charles Weatherford, in his place.
Spring and summer campaigns, 1793
A party of Muscogee under a mixed-race warrior named Lesley the Washington District and the recently established Hamilton District (carved out of the former) and began attacking isolated farmsteads. Lesley's party continued harassment of the Holston settlements until the summer of 1794.
Lesley's group was not the only Muscogee party, nor were the Muscogee alone. Warriors from the Upper Towns and some from the Overhill and Valley Towns, also raided the eastern districts in spring and summer 1793.
In the Miro District, besides scalping raids, two parties attacked Bledsoe's Station and Greenfield Station in April 1793. Another party attacked Hays' Station in June. In August, the Coushatta from Coosada raided the country around Clarksville, Tennessee, attacking the homestead of the Baker family, killing all but two who escaped and one taken prisoner who was later ransomed at Coosada Town. A war party of Tuskeegee from the Muscogee town of that name was also active in Middle Tennessee at this time.
After the visit of the Shawnee, Watts sent envoys to Knoxville, then the capital of the Southwest Territory, to meet with Governor William Blount to discuss terms for peace. Blount in turn passed the offer to Philadelphia, which invited the Lower Cherokee leaders to a meeting with President Washington. The party that was sent from the Lower Towns that May included Bob McLemore, Tahlonteeskee, Captain Charley of Running Water, and Doublehead, among several others. They met at Henry's Station on February 4, 1793, and Blount invited the Lower Cherokee to send a delegation to the capital to meet with President Washington.
Attack on the diplomatic party
The meeting in Philadelphia with Washington was scheduled for June 1793. On the way, the diplomatic party from the Lower Towns stopped in Coyatee because Hanging Maw and other chiefs from the Upper Towns were going also and had gathered there along with several whites who had arrived earlier.
A large party of Lower Cherokee (Pathkiller aka The Ridge among them) had been raiding the Upper East, killed two men, and stolen twenty horses. On their way out, they passed through Coyatee, to which the pursuit party tracked them. The militia violated their orders not to cross the Little Tennessee, then the border between the Cherokee nation and the Southwest Territory, firing indiscriminately.
In the ensuing chaos, eleven leading men were killed, including Captain Charley, and several wounded, including Hanging Maw, his wife and daughter, Doublehead, and Tahlonteeskee; one of the white delegates was among the dead.
The Cherokee, even Watts’ hostile warriors, agreed to await the outcome of the subsequent trial, which proved to be a farce, in large part because John Beard, the man responsible, was a close friend of John Sevier.
Invasion of the Eastern Districts
Watts responded to Beard's acquittal by invading the Holston area with one of the largest Indian forces ever seen in the region, over one thousand Cherokee and Muscogee, plus a few Shawnee, intending to attack Knoxville itself. The plan was to have four bodies of troops march toward Knoxville separately, converging at a previously agreed on rendezvous point along the way.
In August, Watts attacked Henry's Station with a force of two hundred, but fell back due to overwhelming gunfire coming from the fort, not wanting to risk another misfortune like that at Buchanan's Station the previous year.
The four columns converged a month later near the present Loudon, Tennessee, and proceeded toward their target. On the way, the Cherokee leaders were discussing among themselves whether to kill all the inhabitants of Knoxville, or just the men, James Vann advocating the latter while Doublehead argued for the former.
Further on the way, they encountered a small settlement called Cavett's Station on September 25. After they had surrounded the place, Benge negotiated with the inhabitants, agreeing that if they surrendered, their lives would be spared. However, after the settlers had walked out, Doublehead's group and his Muscogee allies attacked and began killing them all over the pleas of Benge and the others. Vann managed to grab one small boy and pull him onto his saddle, only to have Doublehead smash the boy's skull with an axe. Watts intervened in time to save another young boy, handing him to Vann, who put the boy behind him on his horse and later handed him over to three of the Muscogee for safe-keeping; unfortunately, one of the Muscogee chiefs killed the boy and scalped him a few days later.
Because of this incident, Vann called Doublehead "Babykiller" (deliberately parodying the honorable title "Mankiller") for the remainder of his life; and it also began a lengthy feud which defined the politics of the early 19th century Cherokee Nation and only ended in 1807 with Doublehead's death at Vann's orders. By this time, tensions among the Cherokee broke out into such vehement arguments that the force broke up, with the main group retiring south.
Battle of Etowah
Sevier countered the invasion with an invasion and occupation of Ustanali, which had been deserted; there was no fighting there other than an indecisive skirmish with a Cherokee-Muscogee scouting party. He and his men then followed the Cherokee-Muscogee force south to the town of Etowah (Itawayi; near the site of present-day Cartersville, Georgia across the Etowah River from the Etowah Indian Mounds), leading to what Sevier called the "Battle of Hightower" on October 17, 1793. His force defeated their opponents soundly, then went on to destroy several Cherokee villages to the west before retiring to the Southwest Territory.
The Battle of Etowah was the last pitched battle of the wars between the Cherokee and the American frontier people.
Southwest Point Blockhouse
Built on direction of John Sevier in November 1793, this blockhouse at the confluence of the Clinch and Holston Rivers was garrisoned initially by Southwest Territory militia. Federalized and expanded into Fort Southwest Point in 1797, it then housed a small contingent of fifteen regular army troops that grew into six hundred forty-five before the agency transferred to Hiwassee Garrison at the modern Calhoun, Tennessee in 1807.
In January 1794, Overhill Towns headman Hanging Maw requested and Governor Blount approved the building of a blockhouse in which to station a garrison of federal troops. John McKee, newly appointed federal agent to the Cherokee, was stationed there as well.
Another Spanish treaty
Using John McDonald, who had remained in communication with Alexander McKee in Canada, as their emissary, the four nations (Cherokee, Muscogee, Choctaw, Seminole; the Chickasaw were left out) negotiated a treaty of military protection with the Spanish government in New Orleans that was signed at Walnut Hills on April 10, 1794.
Spring and summer 1794
Between January and September 1794, there were more than forty raids by war parties of both Cherokee and Muscogee on the Miro District. On the part of the Cherokee, these were mostly carried out by Doublehead. These raids precipitated the Nickajack Expedition in September which ended the Cherokee–American wars once and for all.
Meanwhile, his nephew Bob Benge attacked Washington District and Southwest Virginia, finally losing his life in the latter on April 6, 1794. The militia sent his red-haired scalp to the governor, Henry Lee III, father of Robert E. Lee.
Benge was not alone in raiding the Eastern Districts. Fifty horses were stolen in the region that same month. Twenty-five warriors attacked the Town Creek blockhouse. An entire family save one was massacred south of the French Broad. There were many other attacks.
Frustrated with the governor's call for restraint, John Beard, leader of the chase group that attacked the diplomatic party, organized a party of one hundred fifty men in the Washington District and attacked the Hiwasee Towns, burning two, including Great Hiwassee, and killing several Cherokee.
Against orders, George Doherty of the Hamilton District militia mustered his men and attacked Great Tellico, burning it to the ground, then crossed the mountains into the Valley Towns, in which they burned at least two towns and several acres of crops.
On June 9, 1794, a party of Cherokee under Whitemankiller (Unegadihi; aka George Fields) overtook a river party under William Scott at Muscle Shoals. They killed its white passengers, looted the goods, and took the African-American slaves as captives.
Treaty of Philadelphia (1794)
The federal government signed the Treaty of Philadelphia, which essentially reaffirmed the land cessions of the 1785 Treaty of Hopwell and the 1791 Treaty of Holston, with the Cherokee on June 26. Both the chiefs Doublehead and Bloody Fellow signed it.
End of Lesley’s war party
In July 1794, Hanging Maw sent his men along with the volunteers from the Holston settlements to pursue Lesley’s Muscogee war party, killing two and handing over a third to the whites for trial and execution on August 4.
Two days later, a small war party of Muscogee crossed the Tennessee River at Chestua Creek in modern Bradley County. Hanging Maw called up his warriors, fifty of whom, led by his son Willicoe and Middlestriker of Willstown, joined with federal troops in pursuit while the rest guarded Coyatee. They caught up with the party they were pursuing on August 12 near Craig’s Station and defeated them in battle.
Different Muscogee war parties, however, escaped their pursuers and attacked the Holston frontier for the rest of the month.
Battle of Fallen Timbers
The Indian force of fourteen hundred led by Bluejacket of the Shawnee, Little Turtle (Michikinikwa) of the Miami, and Buckongahela of the Lenape had warriors from those nations and included over a hundred Cherokee, plus Wyandot, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potowatomi, Mingo, and Muscogee warriors, and a company of Canadian militia under Alexander McKillop.
The short battle ended in a complete rout of the Indian force by the Legion more than twice its size and sounded the death knell of the Western Confederacy.
Aborted invasion of the Miro District
In August 1794, the US Indian Agent to the Chickasaw sent word from Chickasaw territory to General Robertson of the Miro District, as the Cumberland region was then called, that the Cherokee and Muscogee were going to attack settlements all along the river. He reported that a war party of 100 was going to take canoes down the Tennessee to the lower river, while another of 400 was going to attack overland after passing through the Five Lower Towns and picking up reinforcements.
The river party began the journey toward the targets. In the larger mixed Muscogee-Cherokee overland party, however, there was much dissension over the actions of Hanging Maw regarding Lesley's war party. The large war party broke up before reaching the settlements. Only three small parties made it to the Cumberland area, each going to one of the three counties that existed at the time, and they operated into at least September.
In May 1794, Revolutionary War hero Elijah Clarke led a party of fellow Georgians across the Oconee River to settle the west side, annexation by occupation. This came about after a French-backed scheme to invade East Florida fell through. After Clarke and his followers ignored the governor's orders to leave, a combined force of federal troops and state militia destroyed their fort and homesteads in September.
Desiring to end the wars once and for all, Robertson sent a detachment of U.S. regular troops, Miro District militia, and Kentucky volunteers to the Five Lower Towns under U.S. Army Major James Ore. Guided by knowledgeable locals, including former captive Joseph Brown, Ore's army traveled down the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail toward the Five Lower Towns.
On September 13, the army attacked Nickajack without warning, slaughtering many of the inhabitants, including its pacifist chief The Breath. After torching the houses, the soldiers went upriver and burned Running Water, whose residents had long fled. Joseph Brown fought alongside the soldiers, but tried to spare women and children. The Cherokee casualties were relatively light, as the majority of the population of both towns were in Willstown attending a major stickball (similar to lacrosse) game.
Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse (1794)
Watts finally decided to call for peace: he was discouraged by the destruction of the two towns, the death of Robert Benge in April, and the recent defeat of the Western Confederacy by General "Mad Anthony" Wayne's army at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. More than 100 Cherokee had fought there.
The loss of support from the Spanish, who had their own problems with Napoleon I of France in Europe, convinced Watts to end the fighting. Two months later, on November 7, 1794, he made the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse. It was notable for not requiring any more land cessions by the Cherokee, other than finally ended the series of conflicts, which was notable for not requiring any further cession of land other than requiring the Lower (or Chickamauga) Cherokee to recognize the cessions of the Holston treaty. This led to a period of relative peace into the 19th century.
Muscogee continue the war
The Muscogee kept on fighting after the destruction of Nickajack and Running Water and the following peace between the Lower Cherokee and the United States. In October 1794, they attacked Bledsoe's Station again. In November, they attacked Sevier's Station and massacred fourteen of the inhabitants, Valentine Sevier being one of the few survivors.
In December 1794, a force of Cherokee warriors from the Upper Towns stopped a Muscogee campaign against the frontier settlements of the state of Georgia and warned them to cease attacking the Southwest Territory's Eastern Districts as well.
In early January 1795, however, the Chickasaw, who had sent warriors to take part in the Army of the Northwest, began killing Muscogee warriors found in Middle Tennessee as allies of the United States and taking their scalps, so in March, the Muscogee began to turn their attentions away from the Cumberland to the Chickasaw, over the entreaties of the Cherokee and the Choctaw.
The Muscogee-Chickasaw War ended in a truce negotiated by the U.S. government at Tellico Blockhouse in October that year in a conference attended by the two belligerents and the Cherokee.
Treaty of Greenville
The northern allies of the Lower Cherokee in the Western Confederacy signed the Treaty of Greenville with the United States in August 1795, ending the Northwest Indian War. The treaty required them to cede the territory that became the State of Ohio and part of what became the State of Indiana to the United States and to acknowledge the United States rather Great Britain as the predominant ruler of the Northwest.
None of the Cherokee in the North were present at the treaty. Later that month, Gen. Wayne sent a message to Long Hair (Gitlugunahita), leader of those who remained in the Ohio country, that they should come in and sue for peace. In response, Long Hair replied that all of them would return south as soon as they finished the harvest. However, they did not all do so; at least one, called Shoe Boots (Dasigiyagi), stayed in the area until 1803, so it's likely others did as well.
Treaty of Coleraine
At the trading post of Coleraine in what's now South Georgia, the Muscogee signed a peace treaty with the United States on June 29, 1796, effectively ending the Southwest Indian War.
Treaty of San Lorenzo
Also known as Pinckney’s Treaty, Spain and the United signed this treaty on October 27, 1795, setting the boundary between American territory and Spanish West and East Florida at the 31st parallel. Furthermore, Spain agreed to allow the U.S.A. unobstructed use of the Mississippi River and to dismantle Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas at Chickasaw Bluffs. Both parties agreed to cease stirring up the Indian tribes against each other.
Aftermath and Assessment
Following the peace treaty, leaders from the Lower Cherokee were dominant in national affairs. When the national government of all the Cherokee was organized, the first three persons to hold the office of Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation – Little Turkey (1788–1801), Black Fox (1801–1811), and Pathkiller (Nunnehidihi; 1811–1827) – had previously served as warriors under Dragging Canoe, as had the first two Speakers of the Cherokee National Council, established in 1794, Doublehead and Turtle-at-Home.
The domination of the Cherokee Nation by the former warriors from the Lower Towns continued well into the 19th century. Even after the revolt of the young chiefs of the Upper Towns, the Lower Towns were a major voice, and the "young chiefs" of the Upper Towns who dominated that region had themselves previously been warriors with Dragging Canoe and Watts.
From 1776 to 1795, the Cherokee–American wars lasted nearly twenty years, one of the longest-running conflicts between Indians and the Americans. It has been often overlooked for its length, its importance at the time, and its influence on later Native American leaders (or considering that Cherokee had been involved at least in small numbers in all the conflicts beginning in 1758, that number could be nearly forty years).
Because of the continuing hostilities that followed the Revolution, the United States placed one of the two permanent garrisons of the new country at Fort Southwest Point at the confluence of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers; the other was at Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania. Most historians, overlooking these conflicts, have failed to include Dragging Canoe as one of the notable Native American war chiefs and diplomats. Some texts dealing with conflicts between "Americans" and "Indians" often barely mention him.
- Timeline of Cherokee removal
- Historic treaties of the Cherokee
- Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
- United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians
- Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
- Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee
- Flora, MacKethan, and Taylor, p. 607 | "Historians use the term Old Southwest to describe the frontier region that was bounded by the Tennessee River to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the South, the Mississippi River to the west, and the Ogeechee River to the east"
- Goodpasture, p. 27
- Phelan, p. 43
- Alderman, p. 37
- Klink and Talman, p. 62
- O'Donnell, p. 18
- Lavender, p. 4
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 22
- Flint, p. 108
- Evans (1977), "Dragging Canoe," p. 179
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 138
- Evans (1977), "Dragging Canoe", pp. 180–182
- Murphy, p. 523
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 141–146
- Calloway, pp. 194–197
- Hoig, p. 59
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 148–149
- O'Donnell, p. 40
- Milling, pp. 314–316
- Milling, p. 318
- Milling, pp. 316–317
- Milling pp. 318
- Hunter, p. 176
- Mays, p. 65
- O'Donnell, p. 47
- O'Donnell, p. 47
- O'Donnell, p. 46
- Alderman, p. 38
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 161
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 157
- Moore and Foster, p. 168
- O'Donnell, pp. 57–59
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, p. 20
- Calloway, pp. 261–264
- Gilmore, "Alexander McGillivray", pp. 118–119
- O'Donnell, pp. 69–79
- O'Brien, pp. 125–129
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 161, 163
- Anderson and Lewis, pp. 157–158
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 163–164
- Mooney, p. 63
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 161–172
- Brown, pp. 162–163
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 160
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 160
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 163
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 163
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 164
- Goodpasture, p. 37
- O'Donnell, pp. 95–108
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 172–173
- O'Donnell, p. 89
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 166
- O'Donnell, pp. 83–84
- Ramsey, p. 186
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 173
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 174
- Evans, "Dragging Canoe", p. 184
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 193
- O'Donnell, pp. 84–85
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 25
- Tanner, p. 98
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 205–207
- O'Donnell, pp. 96–97
- Hoig, p. 68
- O'Donnell, pp. 103–104
- O'Donnell, pp. 105–106
- Mooney, pp. 57–58
- O'Donnell, p. 107
- Moore, p. 175
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 196
- Mooney, pp. 58–59
- Mooney, p. 59
- O'Donnell, p. 111
- O'Donnell, pp. 113–114
- Moore, pp. 180–182
- Summers, pp. 361–443
- O'Donnell, p. 114–115
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 21
- Tanner, p. 99
- O'Donnell, p. 123
- O'Donnell, p. 135
- Moore, p. 182
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 175
- Mooney, p. 59–60
- O'Donnell, pp. 126–127
- Tanner, pp. 101
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 204–205
- Calloway, p. 264
- Evans, "Dragging Canoe", p. 185
- Mooney, Myths and Sacred Formulas, p. 60
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 270
- Ramsey, p. 280
- Braund, p. 171
- Moore, pp. 182–187
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 240–241
- Roosevelt, p. 50
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 245–246
- Tanner, pp. 95–105
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 215
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 251
- Green, pp. 120–138
- Ramsey, pp. 523–540
- Henderson, Chap. XX
- Ramsey, p. 341–342
- Gilmore, John Sevier, pp. 75–84
- Faulkner, pp. 23, 107
- Goodpasture, pp. 140–141
- Williams, History of the Lost State of Franklin, p. 103
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, p. 8
- Roosevelt, p. 51
- Klink and Talman, p. 49
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, pp. 46–48
- Roosevelt, pp. 203–205
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 265–269
- Heard, p. 138
- Drake, Chapt. II
- Eckert, pp. 379–387
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 271
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, p. 47
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 272
- Haywood, p. 197
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 272–275
- Haywood, pp. 194–196
- Roosevelt, p. 212
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 309
- Evans, "Last Battle", 30–40
- Klink and Talman, p. 48
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 284
- Draper Mss. 16: DD-59
- Moore, p. 204
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 293–295
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 297
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 285–286
- Evans, "Bob Benge", p. 100
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 286–290
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 297–299
- Durham, pp. 22–23
- Wilson, pp. 47–48
- Mastromarino, pp. 291–294
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 275
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 299
- Moore, p. 201
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, pp. 34, 48
- Moore, pp. 233
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 270
- Goodpasture, p. 178
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 318–319
- Evans, "Bob Benge", p. 100
- Durham, pp. 65–66
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, pp. 271–272
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, p. 271
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, p. 263
- Goodpasture, p. 186
- Starr, p. 35
- Durham, p. 87
- Starr, p. 36
- Lowrie and Clarke, Foreign Relations, pp. 285–286
- Durham, pp. 80–81
- Durham, p. 82
- Moore, pp. 205–211
- Durham, p. 83
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 344–366
- Lowrie and Clarke, Indian Affairs, pp. 294–295
- Hoig, p. 83
- Durham, pp. 84–85
- Evans, "Bob Benge", p. 101–102
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 367–368
- Durham, pp. 112–114
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 370–371
- Moore, p. 225–231
- Durham, pp. 118–122
- Moore, p. 215–220
- Durham, p. p. 117
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 366
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 369–370
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 387
- Moore, pp. 220–225
- Evans, "Bob Benge", pp. 103–104
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 389
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 389–390
- Faulkner, p. 63
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 390–391
- Wilkins, pp. 25–26
- Faulkner, pp. 76–80
- Ramsey, p. 581
- Ehle, pp 44–46
- Miles, p. 36
- Wilkins, p. 26
- Wilkins, p. 26
- Faulkner, p. 134
- Anderson and Lewis, p. 4
- Brown,Old Frontiers, 418
- Brown,Old Frontiers, p. 397–398
- Durham, p. 166
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 400–402
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 402–403
- Durham, 166–167
- Durham, pp. 135–137
- Durham, pp. 137–138
- Mooney, p. 77
- Evarts, pp. 30–31
- Haywood, p. 323
- Haywood, pp. 323–325
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 421
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 421–422
- Mooney, p. 78
- Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 422
- Mooney, pp. 78–79
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 421–431
- Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 433–436
- Durham, p. 189
- Moore, pp. 244–250
- Royce, p. 36, note 1
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