Tennessee's Indians in the Historical Era, Part 4 of 5

Monday, May 20, 2013 - by Chuck Hamilton

Wars and rumors of wars

Certainly by the dawn of the 18th century, the Rechaherian/Richohokan/Cherokee, who had for some time occupied the mountains of the North Carolina-East Tennessee border and the headwaters of the Savannah River, had spread to the Little Tennessee Valley and Tellico River. 

Just as certainly, the Chickasaw had spread from northern Mississippi into southwestern Tennessee, either absorbing or wiping out the Quizquiz/Aganahali.

French maps from the early 18th century, when they were exploring their newly-claimed territory of La Louisiane, show the following on the middle to upper course of the Tennessee:  Chickasaw, Yuchi, Tali, Kaskinampo, Koasati, and Tuskegee.  The same maps show Shawnee villages above those, but these were likely misplaced since the same maps show the Cumberland River bearing the name Shawnee River.

At the turn of the century, the Tuskegee likely remained in their home on Moccasin Point (the Mouse Creek Phase site called Hampton Place), though they may have shifted to Williams Island which for a long time was called Tuskegee Island.  Shortly thereafter, in the second of third decade, they split, one group heading south to the Creek Confederacy and another to the Cherokee along the Little Tennessee River.

The Koasati and the Kaskinampo occupied towns at opposite ends of Long-Island-on-the-Tennessee (Marion County, Tennessee and Jackson County, Alabama), apparently being on good terms.

The Tali at the time were probably on Pine Island, or else on one of the banks on either side.

 We know from other contemporary sources that there was a band of Yuchi on the Great Bend of the Tennessee River, just above the Muscle Shoals (which extended roughly from Browns Island eleven miles below Decatur to Florence).  In the Hiwassee Valley, Yuchi occupied Chestowee on South Mouse Creek, Hiwassee Island, Euchee Old Fields in Rhea County, possibly the Mouse Creek site in Roane County, and the later site of Old Tennessee Town in Polk County.

 At this time and at least until 1769, the Chickasaw had a town at Ditto Landing in Madison County, Alabama, downstream from Hobbs Island, later known as Chickasaw Old Fields.

 According to ethnologist James Mooney, the last “Cherokee” town in the Great Lakes region was destroyed by the Lenape in 1708.  His information came from Cherokee sources.  If true, it is most likely they who built the town of Tomotley on the Little Tennessee River, since the structure of its dwellings is more northern-style longhouse than the other Overhill Towns. 

 Early in the century, Cherokee Overhill Towns included Mialoquo (Great Island), Tuskegee, Tomotley, Toqua, Tanasee, Chota, Citico, “Halfway Town”, Chilhowee, and Telassee along the Little Tennessee River, and Great Tellico and Chatuga on the Tellico River.

 In the early 1700’s, a large portion of the Hathawekela band of Shawnee, who were then living on the Savannah River, moved from there to join their cousins in the Cumberland Valley.  This additional influx of manpower and resource stress upset the balance of power in the area, so the Chickasaw and the Cherokee formed a loose alliance to drive them out, with hostilities lasting 1710-1715, though some Shawnee remained until 1721. 

 Instead of migrating north, one group of the Kispoko Shawnee relocated south to the Great Bend of the Tennessee and the protection of the Chickasaw and Creek.  The parents of the noted warriors Chiksika and Tecumseh were among them.  Chiksika was probably born there, and his brother may have been also.

 Induced by two English traders from Charlestown then living on the Little Tennessee River, the Cherokee attacked and destroyed the Yuchi town at the Chestowee site at the mouth of South Mouse Creek in 1714.  French cartographer Guillaume Delisle’s « Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi » published in 1718 showed one band of Yuchi on Hiwassee Island and another on the Ohio River, probably refugees. 

 We also know from Mooney that Yuchi were living along Cohutta, Chickamauga, and Pinelog Creeks in North Georgia until Removal, probably seeking refuge here at the time.  Meanwhile, the Cherokee occupied Great Hiwassee, Old Tennessee Town, Ocoee, Chestowee, and Amoyee (on Ledford Island).

 After the Cherokee of the Lower Towns massacred a Creek peace delegation in Tugaloo town on the river of the same name in 1715, the two peoples began hostilities that lasted until the Battle of Taliwa in North Georgia in 1755.  Naturally, this conflict led the Muskogean-speakers still living on river in East Tennessee to migrate and join what became the Creek Confederacy.  Even the formerly great town of Coosa was abandoned, its people merging with the Abihka.

 In 1730, the French and their Choctaw allies destroyed the large town of the Natchez, the last people to maintain the culture of the Mississippi period.  The British-allied Chickasaw took in the majority of the survivors, but a portion took refuge with the Cherokee in the Overhill area, where they established a town on Notchy Creek.  Some Natchez fled as far away as Murphy, North Carolina.

 By invitation of the Cherokee in the Overhills, a group from the Piqua band of Shawnee settled on the Cumberland River in 1746 as had their cousins before.  After tolerating their presence for a decade, the Chickasaw began attacking and drove them out in 1756.  The Cumberland River was called the Shawnee River on maps as late as 1763.  The Chickasaw attack on these Shawnee was one of the main irritants which led to the Chickasaw-Cherokee War of 1758-1769.  This is the war which ended at the Battle of Chickasaw Old Fields.

 In the meantime, the colony of South Carolina ended its slave trade with the Cherokee in 1748.

 The French and the British and their respective Indian allies launched the French and Indian War, which lasted 1754-1763.  The French had a forward outpost in the center of on Long-Island-on-the-Tennessee, between the towns of Koasati and Kaskinampo, and may have also had another, smaller post on the Chickamauga at the later Brainerd Mission.  Their Creek allies, meanwhile, reinhabited their old town of Coosa, in support of the pro-French Cherokee at Tellico and Chatuga.  When the Cherokee entered the war in the connected conflict known as the Anglo-Cherokee War (1758-1761), it led to nearly all the towns in the nation being devastated.

 At the close of the French and Indian War, the two towns on Long Island relocated south to the later Larkin’s Landing just below Scottsboro, Alabama, merging as Coosada.

 With the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the related conflicts of the Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794) and the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), Shawnee returned to Tennessee, maintaining a presence of a hundred warriors in the area, at the invitation of their Cherokee allies, who in return sent a hundred warriors north.

 After their initial defeat in 1776, the militant Cherokee removed southwest to the Chattanooga area, with the chief town of their reported eleven, “Old Chickamauga Town”, across the South Chickamauga Creek (then called Chickamauga River) from the commissary of British Assistant Superintendent for Southern Indian Affairs John McDonald.  They abandoned all eleven towns in 1782, relocating southwest, with their chief town of Running Water in the vicinity of the current Whiteside, Tennessee, and another at Nickajack, or Shellmound, Tennessee.  Their other towns were in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.

 When the Cherokee ceased fighting at the end of 1794, the Creek continued on, targeting white settlements mostly in the Cumberland Basin.  This brought them into conflict with the Chickasaw, now allied with the Americans, who in turn earned the wrath of the Creek by joining the American army in the Northwest.  The conflict between the two nations ended in June 1796.  It was the last time native warriors fought in Tennessee until the Civil War, when the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders was often the main Confederate force in the Department of East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, which included Western North Carolina.

 After the end of the wars, the Shawnee returned north and some of the Cherokee returned to the “Chickamauga towns” in the Chattanooga area.  Besides Chickamauga and Chatanuga along the creek by the same name, there was Toqua at the mouth of South Chickamauga Creek, Opelika in the East Brainerd-Graysville area, Buffalo Town near the present Ringgold, Georgia, Cayoka on Hiwassee Island (later home of John Jolly and Sam Houston), Black Fox in Bradley County, Ooltewah, Sawtee on Laurel (North Chickamauga) Creek, Citico along the creek of the same name, and Tuskegee in Lookout Valley.

 The Chickasaw “voluntarily” removed themselves west of the Mississippi in 1837.  They gathered in Chickasaw Bluffs (Memphis, Tennessee), and crossed the river there.

 The following year, the Cherokee were rounded up into concentration camps from which they were forcibly removed to Indian Territory.  Their last lands in Tennessee formed the Ocoee District, comprising the land south of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers to the Georgia and Alabama borders in the south and the North Carolina border in the east.  With their departure, the last native culture disappeared from Tennessee.

 Chuck Hamilton



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