The Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794) were a series of back-and-forth raids, campaigns, ambushes, minor skirmishes, and several full-scale frontier battles which were a continuation of the Cherokee (''Ani-Yunwiya'', ''Ani-Kituwa'', ''Tsalagi'', ''Talligewi'') struggle against encroachment into their territory by American frontiersmen from the former British colonies, and, until the end of the American Revolution, their contribution to the war effort as British allies.
After 1786, they also fought along with and as members of the Western Confederacy
Open warfare broke out in the summer of 1776 between the Cherokee led by Dragging Canoe (a group first called the "Chickamauga" or "Chickamauga-Cherokee" by the colonials, and later the "Lower Cherokee") and frontier settlers along the Watauga, Holston, Nolichucky, and Doe Rivers in East Tennessee. It later spread to those along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee and in Kentucky, as well as the colonies (later states) of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia, Province of North Carolina,Province of South Carolina, and Province of Georgia.
The earliest phase of these conflicts, ending with the treaties of 1777, is sometimes called the "Second Cherokee War", a reference to the earlier Anglo-Cherokee War. Since Dragging Canoe (Tsiyugunsini) was the dominant leader in both phases of the conflict, referring to the period as "Dragging Canoe's War" would be more accurate.
Dragging Canoe and his warriors fought alongside and in conjunction with Indians from a number of other tribes both in the South and in the Old Northwest (most often Muscogee [Muskokulke] in the former and Shawnee [Saawanwa] in the latter); enjoyed the support of, first, the British (often with participation of British agents and regular soldiers), and, second, the Spanish; and were founding members of the Native Americans' Western Confederacy.
Though the Americans used “Chickamauga” as a label to define the Cherokee followers of Dragging Canoe, as distinct from Cherokee who abided by the peace treaties of 1777, there was never a separate tribe of "Chickamauga".
The mixed-race man, Richard Fields, explained this to the Moravian missionary Brother Steiner, when the latter met with him at Tellico Blockhouse.
If the scholar James Mooney is correct, the first conflict of the Cherokee with the British occurred in 1654 when a force from Jamestown Settlement supported by a large party of Pamunkey attacked a town of the “Rechaherians”. (The settlement was recorded as “Rickohakan” German traveller James Lederer when he passed through in 1670.) Although the English had about 600–700 Pamunkey warriors, the Cherokee drove them off.
Mooney reports that the last town of the Cherokee living in the upper Ohio region was destroyed by the in 1708, with its people driven south to join their fellow tribespeople.
When the Province of Carolina first began trading with the Cherokee in the late 17th century, their westernmost settlements were the twin towns of Great Tellico (Talikwa Egwa) and Chatuga (Tsatugi) at the current site of Tellico Plains, Tennessee.
After siding with the Province of South Carolina in the Tuscarora War of 1711–1715, the Cherokee turned on their erstwhile British allies in the Yamasee War of 1715–1717. Midway, they turned against their former allies the Yamasee, which ensured the latter's defeat.
At the outbreak of the French and Indian War (1754–1763), the Cherokee were staunch allies of the British, taking part in such far-flung campaigns as those against the French at Fort Duquesne (at modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and the Shawnee of the Ohio Country. In 1755, a band of Cherokee 130-strong under Ostenaco (Ustanakwa) of Tomotley (Tamali) took up residence in a fortified town at the mouth of the Ohio River at the behest of fellow British allies, the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee).
For several years, French agents from Fort Toulouse had been visiting the Overhill Cherokee, especially those on the Hiwassee and Tellico Rivers, and had made in-roads into those places.
The strongest pro-French sentiment among the Cherokee came from Mankiller (Utsidihi) of Great Tellico (Talikwa), Old Caesar of Chatuga (Tsatugi), and Raven (Kalanu) of Great Hiwassee (Ayuhwasi Egwa). Stalking Turkey (Kanagatucko; called 'Old Hop' by the whites), the First Beloved Man (Uku) of the nation, or was very pro-French, as was his nephew Standing Turkey (Kunagadoga), who succeeded at his death in 1760.
In 1759 a Muscogee contingent under the chief named Big Mortar (Yayatustanage) occupied the former site of Coosa. It had been long deserted since Spanish explorations in the 16th century. He reoccupied the site in support of his pro-French Cherokee allies in Great Tellico and Chatuga.
The occupation was also a step toward an alliance with other Muscogee, Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw (Chikashsha), and Catawba (Nieye) warriors. His plans were the first of their kind in the South, and set the stage for the alliances that Dragging Canoe would later build.
After the end of the French and Indian War, Big Mortar rose to be the leading chief of the Muscogee.
The Anglo-Cherokee War was initiated in 1758 in the midst of the Seven Years War (known in the colonies as the French and Indian War) by Moytoy (Amo-adawehi) of Citico. He was retaliating for British and colonial mistreatment of Cherokee warriors. The war lasted from 1758 to 1761.
During its course, Cherokee hostages were murdered at Fort Prince George near Keowee (Kiawiyi), and other Cherokee massacred the garrison of Fort Loudoun near Chota (Itsati).
Those two connected events catapulted the whole Cherokee nation into war until the fighting ended in 1761. The Cherokee were led by chiefs Oconostota (Aganstata) of Chota (Itsati); Attakullakulla (Atagulgalu) of Tennessee (Tanasi); Ostenaco of Tomotley; Wauhatchie (Wayatsi) of the Lower Towns; and Round O of the Middle Towns.
The peace between the Cherokee and the colonies was sealed by separate treaties with the Colony of Virginia (Treaty of Long-Island-on-the-Holston,1761) and the Province of South Carolina (Treaty of Charlestown, 1762). Standing Turkey was deposed and replaced with pro-British Attakullakulla.
John Stuart, the only officer to escape the Fort Loudoun massacre, became British Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Southern District out of Charlestown, South Carolina. He served as the main contact for the Cherokee with the British government.
His first deputy, Alexander Cameron, lived among them, first at Keowee, then at Toqua (Dakwayi) on the Little Tennessee River. His second deputy, John McDonald, set up a hundred miles to the southwest on the west side of Chickamauga River, where it was crossed by the Great Indian Warpath.
During the war, the British forces under general James Grant destroyed a number of major Cherokee towns, which were never reoccupied. These were most notably Kituwa, whose inhabitants migrated west and took up residence at Great Island Town on the Little Tennessee River among the Overhill Cherokee.
In the aftermath of the Seven Years War, France in defeat ceded that part of the Louisiana Territory east of the Mississippi River and Canada to the British. Spain took control of Louisiana west of the Mississippi, in exchange for ceding La Florida to Great Britain. The British created the jurisdictions of East Florida and West Florida.
Mindful of the recent war and after the diplomatic visit to London of Henry Timberlake and three Cherokee leaders: Ostenaco, Standing Turkey, and Wood Pigeon (Ata-wayi), 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 Americans. Many colonials resented any interference with their drive to the west, and the proclamation was a major irritant contributing to the American Revolution.
Treaty of Fort Stanwix
After Pontiac's War (1763–1764), the Iroquois Confederacy 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), to which several other tribes north and south also lay claim, in the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.
The land in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions (the Illinois Country or, formerly, Upper Louisiana), meanwhile, later known to the fledgling independent American government as the Northwest Territory, was originally planned as a British colony that was to be called Charlotiana.
Plans for the new colony, however, were scuttled by the Royal Proclamation, and in 1774 the lands became part of the Province of Quebec. However, these events initiated much of the conflict which followed in the years ahead.
The earliest colonial settlement in the vicinity of what became Upper East Tennessee was Sapling Grove, the first of the North-of-Holston (River) settlements, founded by Evan Shelby, who purchased the land from John Buchanan, in 1768. Jacob Brown began another on the Nolichucky River and John Carter 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.
All these groups believed they were in the territorial limits of the colony of Virginia. After a survey proved their mistake, Deputy Superintendent for Indian Affairs Alexander Cameron ordered them to leave. However, Attakullakulla, now First Beloved Man, interceded on their behalf, and they were allowed to remain, provided there was no further encroachment.
In May 1772, the settlers on the Watauga signed the Watauga Compact to form the Watauga Association, and in spite of the fact the other settlements were not parties to it, all of them are sometimes lumped together as “Wataugans”.
The next year, in response to the first attempt to establish a permanent settlement inside the hunting grounds of Kentucky in 1773 by a group under Daniel Boone, the Shawnee, Lenape (Delaware), Mingo (Mingwe), and some Cherokee attacked a scouting and forage party that included Boone's son James (who was captured and tortured to death along with Henry Russell), beginning Dunmore's War (1773–1774).
One year later, in 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, chief of whom were Oconostota and Attakullakulla, surrendering the claim of the Cherokee to the Kain-tuck-ee (Ganda-giga'i) lands and supposedly giving the Transylvania Land Company ownership thereof in spite of claims to the region by other tribes such as the Lenape, Shawnee, and Chickasaw.
Dragging Cano, headman of Great Island Town (Amoyeliegwayi) and son of Attakullakulla, refused to go along with the deal and 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 Watauga treaty was quickly repudiated by the governors of Virginia and North Carolina, however, and Henderson had to flee to avoid arrest. Even George Washington 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.