Chickamauga Cherokee Wars (1776-1794) - part 8 of 9

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 - by Chuck Hamilton

End of the Chickamauga Wars

 In late June 1794, the federal government signed yet another treaty with the Cherokee, the Treaty of Philadelphia, which essentially reaffirmed the land cessions of the 1785 Treaty of Hopwell and the 1791 Treaty of Holston. Of note is that fact that it was signed by both Doublehead and Bloody Fellow.

 Muscle Shoals Massacre

 Later in the summer, a party of Cherokee under George Fields overtook a river party under one William Scott at Muscle Shoals, killing its white passengers, looting its goods, and taking the slaves captive.

 Final engagements

 In August of that year, Thomas Browne (now working as Indian Agent to the Chickasaw for the United States) sent word from Chickasaw territory to General Robertson of the Mero District, as the Cumberland region was then called, that the Cherokee and Muscogee were about to launch attacks all along the river.

 One 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 actually began on their way to make the attacks, but dissension in the larger mixed Muscogee-Cherokee overland party caused by the actions of Hanging Maw against the party of Lesley in the Holston region broke them up before they reached the area, and only three small parties made it to the Cumberland, operating into at least September.

 The Nickajack Expedition

 Desiring to end the wars once and for all, Robertson sent a detachment of U.S.

regular troops, Mero militia, and Kentucky volunteers to the Five Lower Towns under U.S. Army Major James Ore. Guided by those who knew the area, including former captive Joseph Brown, Ore's army travelled down the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail toward the Five Lower Towns.

 On 13 September, the army attacked Nickajack without warning, slaughtering many of the inhabitants, including its pacifist chief The Breath, then after torching the houses proceeded upriver to burn Running Water, whose residents had long fled. Brown took an active part in the fighting but is known to have attempted to spare women and children.

 The actual Cherokee casualties were much lighter than they might have been because the majority of both towns were in Willstown attending a major stickball game.

 Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse

 The destruction of the two towns combined with the death of Bob Benge in April and the recent defeat of the Western Confederacy by General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s army at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (at which over a hundred Cherokee warriors fought) in August of that year, plus the fact that the Spanish could not support the Cherokee war due to problems they were having with Napoleon I of France in Europe, convinced Watts to end the fighting once and for all.

 Two months later, 7 November 1794, the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse 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 those of the Holston treaty, which led to a period of relative peace into the 19th century.

 Muscogee-Chickasaw 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 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, also begun partly at the behest of the Shawnee to punish the Chickasaw for joining the Army of the Northwest at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, 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. The Muscogee signed their own peace treaty with the United States in June 1796.

 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.


Counting the previous two years of all the Cherokee fighting openly as British allies, the Chickamauga Wars lasted nearly twenty years, one of the longest-running conflicts between Indians and the Americans, 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, one of two permanent garrisons in the territory of the new country was placed at Fort Southwest Point at the confluence of the Tennessee and Clinch Rivers, the other being Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania. No less under-rated are Dragging Canoe's abilities as a war leader and diplomat, and even today he is scarcely mentioned in texts dealing with conflicts between “Americans” and “Indians."


 Following the peace treaty, there was no further separation of the main Cherokee nation and the Lower Cherokee, at least on paper. 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;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 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.

 Post-war settlements of the Cherokee

 Many of the former warriors returned to several of the original settlements in the Chickamauga area, some of which had already been reoccupied, establishing new towns in the area as well, plus several in North Georgia, aside from moving into those previously established by those forcibly removed from the Lower Towns in western South Carolina (such as Itawa, or Etowah). 

 They were known as the Upper Towns, with their center at Ustanali in Georgia and with the former warriors James Vann and his proteges The Ridge and Charles R. Hicks (yet another Pathkiller) as their top leaders, along with John Lowery, George Lowery, Bob McLemore, John Walker, Jr., George Fields, and others. 

 The leaders of these towns were the most progressive, favoring extensive acculturation, formal education, and modern methods of farming.

 For a decade of more after the end of the wars, the northern section of the Upper Towns had their own council and acknowledged the top headman of the Overhill Towns as their leader, but they were gradually driven south by land cessions.

 John McDonald returned to his old home on the Chickamauga River, across from Old Chickamauga Town, and lived there until selling it in 1816 to the Boston-based American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions upon which to establish Brainerd Mission. Brainerd served as both a church (named the Baptist Church of Christ at Chickamauga) and a school offering both academic and vocational training.

 McDonald’s daughter Mollie and son-in-law Daniel Ross made a farm and trading post near the old village of Chatanuga from the early days of the wars; along with them came sons Lewis and Andrew, a number of daughters, and another son born at Turkey Town, later to become the most famous, named John.

 The majority of the Lower Cherokee remained in the towns they inhabited in 1794, with their seat at Willstown, known as the Lower Towns.  Their leaders were John Watts, Bloody Fellow, Doublehead, Black Fox, Pathkiller, Dick Justice, The Glass, Tahlonteeskee, John Jolly (Ahuludiski; his nephew and adopted father of Sam Houston), John Brown (owner of Brown's Tavern, Brown’s Landing, and Brown's Ferry, as well as judge of the Chickamauga District of the Cherokee Nation), Young Dragging Canoe, Richard Fields, and red-headed Will Weber, for whom Titsohili was called Willstown, among others.

 The former warriors of the Lower Towns dominated the political affairs of the Nation for the next twenty years and were in many ways more conservative, adopting many facets of acculturation but keeping as many of the old ways as possible.

 Roughly speaking, the Lower Towns were south and southwest of the Hiwassee River along the Tennessee down to the north border of the Muscogee nation and west of the Conasauga and the Ustanali in Georgia while the Upper Towns were north and east of the Hiwassee and between the Chattahoochee and the Conasauga. This was approximately the same area as the later Amohee, Chickamauga, and Chattooga Districts of the Cherokee Nation East.

 The settlements of the Cherokee remaining in the highlands of western North Carolina which had become known as the Hill Towns, with their seat at Quallatown, and the lowland Valley Towns, with their seat now at Tuskquitee, were more traditional, as was the Upper Town of Etowah, notable for being inhabited mostly by full-bloods and for being the largest town in the Nation. In addition, the Overhill Towns remaining along the Little Tennessee remained more or less autonomous, with their seat, naturally, at Chota.

 All five regions had their own councils, which predominated in importance over the nominal nation council until the reorganization in 1810 after the council that year at Willstown.

 Leaders of the Lower Towns in peacetime

 John Watts remained the head of the council of the Lower Cherokee at Willstown until his death in 1802. Afterwards, Doublehead, already a member of the triumvirate, moved into that position and held it until his death in 1807 at the hands of The Ridge, Alexander Saunders (best friend to James Vann), and John Rogers, a white former trader who had first come west with Dragging Canoe in 1777 and was now considered a member of the nation, even sitting on the council. He was succeeded by The Glass, who was also assistant principal chief of the nation to Black Fox, and remained at the head of the Lower Towns council until the unification council in 1810.

 By the time of the visit to the area by John Norton, a Mohawk of Cherokee and Scottish ancestry, in 1809–1810, many of the formerly militant Cherokee were among the most acculturated members of the Cherokee Nation.

 James Vann, for instance, was a plantation owner with over a hundred slaves and one of the wealthiest men east of the Mississippi. Norton became a personal friend of Turtle-at-Home as well as John Walker, Jr. and The Glass, all of whom were involved in business and commerce. At the time of Norton's visit, Turtle-at-Home himself owned a ferry on the Federal Road between Nashville and Athens, Georgia, where he lived at Nickajack, which had itself spread not only down the Tennessee but across it to the north as well, eclipsing Running Water.

 When pressure began to be applied to the Cherokee Nation for its members to emigrate westward across the Mississippi, leaders of the Lower Towns, such as Tahlonteeskee, Degadoga, John Jolly, Richard Fields, John Brown, Bob McLemore, John Rogers, Young Dragging Canoe, George Guess (Tsiskwaya, or Sequoyah) and Tatsi (aka Captain Dutch) spearheaded the way. These men established in Arkansas Territory what later became the Cherokee Nation West, which moved to Indian Territory after the treaty in Washington of 1828 between their nation and the federal government, becoming the “Old Settlers”.

 Likewise, the remaining leaders of the Lower Towns proved to be the strongest advocates of voluntary westward emigration, even as they were most bitterly opposed by those former warriors and their offspring who led the Upper Towns.

 Many of the latter, such as Major Ridge (as The Ridge had been known since his military service during the Creek and First Seminole Wars), his son John Ridge, his nephews Elias Boudinot (aka Buck Watie) and Stand Watie, ultimately switched sides to join westward emigration advocates John Walker, Jr., David Vann, and Andrew Ross (brother of then Principal Chief John Ross) leading to the Treaty of New Echota in 1835 and Cherokee removal in 1838–1839.

Chuck Hamilton

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