This is the continuation of an article I originally wrote for Wikipedia. The article is quite lengthy and is therefore necessarily divided into nine parts.
Peak of Lower Cherokee power and influence (cont.)
Invasion and counter-invasion
Later in August 1788, 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
), 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.
The army of Cherokee warriors Dragging Canoe raised in response reached three thousand in total, split into warbands hundreds strong each. One of these warbands was headed by John Watts (Kunnessee-i; aka “Young Tassel”) with Bloody Fellow, Kitegisky, and The Glass, and included a young warrior named or Pathkiller (Nunnehidihi), later known as The Ridge (Ganundalegi).
In October of that year, the 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. Afterwards, the warband wintered at an encampment on the Flint River in present day Unicoi County, Tennessee as a base of operations.
In return, punishment attacks by the settlers’ militia increased. Troops under Sevier destroyed the Valley Towns in North Carolina.
At Ustalli, on the Hiwassee, the population had been evacuated by Cherokee warriors led by Bob Benge, who left a rearguard to ensure their escape. After lighting the town, Sevier and his group pursued its fleeing inhabitants, but were ambushed at the mouth of the Valley River by Benge's party.
From there they went to the village of Coota-cloo-hee (Gadakaluyi) and proceeded to burn down its cornfields, but were chased off by 400 warriors led by John Watts.
One result of the above destruction is that the Overhill Cherokee and the refugees from other parts of the nation among them all but completely abandoned the settlements on the Little Tennessee and dispersed south and west, with Chota being virtually the only town left with any inhabitants.
The Flint Creek band/Prisoner exchange
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.
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.
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.
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, Sauk (Azakiwaki), and Ojibwa.
The Mohawk, the Shawnee, the Miami (Myaamiaki), 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.
Chiksika's band of Shawnee
In early 1789, 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 April, resulting in Tecumseh becoming leader of the small Shawnee band, gaining his first experiences as a leader in warfare.
The band remained at Running Water until late 1790, then returned north, having been long gone.
The “Miro Conspiracy”
Starting in 1786, the leaders of the State of Franklin and the Cumberland District began secret negotiations with Esteban Rodriguez Miro, 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 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 Browne), and James Wilkinson 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 Diego de Gardoqui. Gardoqui’s negotiations with Wilkinson, initiated by the latter, to bring Kentucky 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 District” out of 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 McGillivray, with Roberston and Bledsoe writing him of the Mero District's peaceful intentions toward the Muscogee and simultaneously sending White as emissary to Gardoqui to convey news of their overture.
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. Of note is the fact that under the new regime the Mero District kept its name.
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.
The opposite end of Muscle Shoals from Coldwater Town, mentioned above, was occupied in 1790 by a roughly forty-strong party under the infamous 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 that of the former Coldwater Town, Doublehead’s Town was mixed, with Cherokee, Muscogee, Shawnee, and a few Chickasaw, and quickly grew beyond the initial forty warriors, who carried out many small raids against the Cumberland and into Kentucky.
During one of the more notable of these forays in June 1792, his warriors ambushed a canoe carrying the three sons of Valentine Sevier (brother of John) and three others out on a scouting expedition searching for his party, killing the three Seviers and another of the expedition, with two escaping.
Doublehead conducted his operations largely independent 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
Dragging Canoe’s long-time ally among the Muscogee, Alexander 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”.
However, though the treaty signified the end of the involvement of McGillivray (who was made an America brigadier general) in the wars, the signers did not represent even half the Muscogee Confederacy, and there was much resistance to the treaty from the peace faction he had attacked after the Treaty of Augusta as well as the faction of the Confederacy who wished to continue the war and did so.
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.
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
The Treaty of Holston, signed in July 1791, required from the Upper Towns more land in return for continued peace because the government proved unable to stop or roll back illegal settlements. However, it also seemed to guarantee Cherokee sovereignty and led the Upper Cherokee chiefs to believe they had the same status as states.
Several representatives of the Lower Cherokee 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 of the Shawnee, Little Turtle (Mishikinakwa) of the Miami, and Buckongahelas of the Lenape. While they were there, word arrived that St. Clair 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 Indians upon the American military, the body count of which far surpassed that at the more famous Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876.
After the battle, Little Owl, The Badger, and Turtle-at-Home returned south with most of the warriors who'd 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.