Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)

Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)

The Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794) were a series of 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 by American frontiersmen from the former British colonies. Until the end of the American Revolution, the Cherokee fought in part as British allies. After 1786, they also fought along with and as members of the Western Confederacy, organized by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, in an effort to repulse European-American settlers from the area west of the Appalachian Mountains.

"The Cherokees are Coming," an illustration depicting a scout warning the residents of Knoxville, Tennessee, of the approach of a large Cherokee force in September 1793.

Open warfare broke out in the summer of 1776 between the Cherokee led by Dragging Canoe and frontier settlers along the Watauga, Holston, Nolichucky, and Doe rivers in East Tennessee. (The colonials first referred to these Cherokee as the "Chickamauga" or "Chickamauga-Cherokee," and later as the "Lower Cherokee".) The warfare spread to settlers along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee and in Kentucky, as well as to the colonies (later states) of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

The earliest phase of the 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 was the dominant leader in both phases of the conflict, the period is sometimes called "Dragging Canoe's War."

Dragging Canoe and his forces fought alongside with American Indians from several other tribes, both in the South and in the Northwest: Muscogee Creek and Shawnee, respectively. They had the support of, first, the British (often with participation of British agents and regular soldiers) and, second, the Spanish. The Cherokee were among the founding members of the Native Americans' Western Confederacy.

Though the Americans used "Chickamauga" to refer to the followers of Dragging Canoe, as distinct from Cherokee who abided by the peace treaties of 1777, there was no separate tribe or band of "Chickamauga".[1]



The early 20th-century anthropologist James Mooney wrote that the first conflict of the Cherokee with the British occurred in 1654, when a force from Jamestown, Virginia, supported by a large party of Pamunkey, attacked a town of the "Rechaherians". (The settlement was recorded as "Rickohakan" by the German traveler James Lederer when he passed through in 1670.) Although the English had about 600–700 Pamunkey warriors, the Cherokee drove them off.[2] The last town of the Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee in the upper Ohio River region was destroyed by the Algonquian-speaking Lenape in 1708. The Cherokee moved south to present-day Tennessee and the Carolinas to join other of their people.[3]

After siding with the Province of South Carolina in the Tuscarora War of 1711–1715, the Cherokee turned on the British in the Yamasee War of 1715–1717. Midway, the Cherokee changed sides and turned against the Yamasee, which ensured the latter's defeat.

Anglo-Cherokee War

At the outbreak of the French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War) (1754–1763), the Cherokee were allies of the British. They fought in distant campaigns, such 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 Tamali (Tomotley), took up residence in a fortified town at the mouth of the Ohio River on the Mississippi at the behest of fellow British allies, several nations of the Iroquois.[4]

For several years, French agents from Fort Toulouse had been visiting the Overhill Cherokee, especially those on the Hiwassee and Tellico rivers. They had built some alliances. 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). The Principal Chief Kanagatucko or "Stalking Turkey", was very pro-French, as was his nephew Kunagadoga (Standing Turkey), who succeeded at his death in 1760.[5]

A commander of Fort Patrick Henry sent Henry Timberlake as a token of friendship after the Anglo-Cherokee War. Timberlake later took three Cherokee to London, 1763.

The Anglo-Cherokee War was initiated in the colonies in 1758 in the midst of the Seven Years 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.

In 1759 a Muscogee contingent under the chief named Big Mortar (Yayatustanage) occupied the former site of the Coosa chiefdom. 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, and Catawba warriors. His plans were the first recorded of an intertribal alliance in the South. They were a precursor of the alliances of Dragging Canoe. After the end of the French and Indian War, Big Mortar rose to be the leading chief of the Muscogee.

During the Anglo-Cherokee War, the British murdered Cherokee hostages at Fort Prince George near Keowee. In retaliation, Cherokee attacked and massacred the garrison of Fort Loudoun near Chota. 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 Tanasi; Ostenaco of Tomotley; Wauhatchie (Wayatsi) of the Lower Towns; and "Round O" of the Middle Towns.

The Cherokee made separate peace 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 by Attakullakulla, who was pro-British.

John Stuart, the only officer to escape the Fort Loudoun massacre, became the 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 the Cherokee at Keowee, followed by Toqua on the Little Tennessee River. His second deputy, John McDonald, set up a base one 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. Kituwa was abandoned, and its former residents migrated west; they took up residence at Great Island Town on the Little Tennessee River among the Overhill Cherokee.[6]

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 Americans. Many colonials resented the interference with their drive to the vast western lands. The proclamation was a major irritant that contributed to the American Revolution.

Treaty of Fort Stanwix

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.

The British had planned a colony to be called Charlotina in the lands of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes regions. (The French formerly claimed this as part of Upper Louisiana); it was also known as the Illinois Country.) The newly independent American government referred to it as the Northwest Territory. In 1774 the British claimed those lands as part of the Province of Quebec.

Watauga Association

The earliest colonial settlement in the vicinity of what became Upper East Tennessee was Sapling Grove. 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 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 in 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), interceded on their behalf. The settlers were allowed to remain, provided no additional people joined them.

Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap, George Caleb Bingham, oil on canvas, 1851–52

In May 1772, the settlers on the Watauga signed the Watauga Compact to form the Watauga Association. Although the other settlements were not parties to it, all of them are sometimes referred to as "Wataugans". [7] 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. This was the beginning of Dunmore's War (1773–1774).

Henderson Purchase

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; 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.

The Wilderness Road and the Transylvania purchase.

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".[8] 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.

The "Second Cherokee War"

Henderson and frontiersmen thought the outbreak of the Revolution superseded the judgements of the royal governors. The Transylvania Company began recruiting settlers for the region they had "purchased".

Stuart was besieged by a mob at his house in Charlestown and had to flee for his life. His first stop was St. Augustine in East Florida,[9] from where he sent his deputy, 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 packtrain. He met Henry Stuart and Cameron, his adopted brother, at Mobile on 1 March 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.

When the two arrived at Chota, Henry Stuart sent out letters to the trespassers of the Washington District (Watauga and Nolichucky), Pendelton District (North-of-Holston), and Carter's Valley (in modern Hawkins County). They informed the settlers they were illegally on Cherokee land and gave them 40 days to leave. 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.[10]

The British colonies in North America at the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775, including the locations of the proposed colonies of Charlotiana, Transylvania, and Vandalia

Visit from the northern tribes

In May 1776, partly at the behest of Henry Hamilton, the British governor in Detroit, the Shawnee chief Cornstalk led a delegation from the northern tribes (Shawnee, Lenape, Iroquois, Ottawa, others) to the southern tribes (Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw, Choctaw). 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. The northerners met with the Cherokee leaders at Chota. 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, while Savanukah, the Raven of Chota, accepted the belt from the Lenape. The northern emissaries also offered war belts to Stuart and Cameron, but they declined to accept.

The plan was for Middle, Out, and Valley Towns of what is now western North Carolina to attack South Carolina. Alexander Cameron would lead warriors of the Lower Towns of western South Carolina and North Georgia to attack 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 Pendelton District, Abraham one against the Washington District, and Savanukah one against Carter's Valley.

Dragging Canoe led a small war party into Kentucky and returned with four scalps to present to Cornstalk before the northern delegation departed.[11]

Jemima Boone and the Calloway sisters

The Abduction of Daniel Boone's Daughter by the Indians by Charles Ferdinand Wimar (1853)

Shortly after the visit from the northern tribes, the Cherokee began raiding into Kentucky, often in conjunction with the Shawnee. In one of these raids, a war party of five, two Shawnee and three Cherokee led by Hanging Maw (Skwala-guta) of Coyatee (Kaietiyi), captured three teenage girls in a canoe on the Kentucky River. The girls were Jemima Boone, daughter of the explorer; and Elizabeth and Frances Callaway, daughters of Richard Callaway. The war party hurried toward the Shawnee towns north of the Ohio River, but were overtaken by Boone and his rescue party after three days. After a brief firefight, the war party retreated and the girls were rescued. They were unharmed and Jemima said they had been treated reasonably well.

The incident was believed to have inspired James Fenimore Cooper's similar scene in his novel The Last of the Mohicans. Lieutenant-Colonel George Munro, the book's protagonist Hawkeye (Natty Bumppo), his adopted Mohican elder brother Chingachgook, Chingachgook's son Uncas, and David Gamut follow and overtake a Huron war party of Magua in order to rescue the sisters, Cora and Alice Munro.

The attacks

The squatters in Upper East Tennessee were warned of the impending Cherokee attacks by traders. 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, particularly those going up against the Holston settlements.

Finding Heaton's Station deserted, Dragging Canoe took his force up the Great Indian Warpath, where he had a small skirmish with 20 militia. Pursuing them and intending to take Fort Lee at Long-Island-on-the-Holston, his force advanced. They encountered a larger force of militia six miles from Fort Lee. It was about half the size of his own but desperate and in a stronger position. During the "Battle of Island Flats," Dragging Canoe was wounded in his hip by a musket ball, and his brother Little Owl (Uku-usdi) was hit eleven times, but survived. His force withdrew, raiding isolated cabins on the way, and returned to the Overhill area with plunder and scalps, after raiding further north into southwestern Virginia.

The following week, Dragging Canoe led the attack on Black's Fort on the Holston (today Abingdon, Virginia). One of the settlers, Henry Creswell, who had just returned from fighting at Long Island Flats, was killed on July 22, 1776, outside the stockade.[12] More attacks continued the third week of July, with support from the Muscogee and Tories.

Abraham of Chilhowee was likewise unsuccessful in his attempt to take Fort Caswell on the Watauga, his attack being 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 Loudoun, but gave that up after two weeks. Savanukah raided from the outskirts of Carter's Valley far into Virginia, but those targets contained only small settlements and isolated farmsteads so he did no real military damage.

After the failed invasion of the Holston, despite his wounds, Dragging Canoe led his warriors to South Carolina to join Alexander Cumming and the Cherokee from the Lower Towns.

Colonial response

The colonials quickly gathered militia who moved against the Cherokee. North Carolina sent General Griffith Rutherford with 2400 militia to scour the Oconaluftee and Tuckasegee rivers, s 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. In all, they destroyed more than 50 towns, burned the houses and food stores, destroyed the orchards, slaughtered livestock, and killed hundreds. They sold captured survivors into slavery.

Map of the Cherokee invasion of the Washington District, Pendleton District, and Carter's Valley

Virginia sent a large force accompanied by North Carolina volunteers, led by William Christian, to the lower Little Tennessee valley. By this time, Dragging Canoe and his warriors had 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 path. Oconostota sent word to the approaching 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 away land for an ephemeral safety. He concluded, "As for me, I have my young warriors about me. We will have our lands." [13][14] 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.

Christian's Virginia force found Great Island, Citico (Sitiku), Toqua (Dakwayi), Tuskegee (Taskigi), Chilhowee, and Great Tellico virtually deserted. Only the older leaders remained. Christian limited the destruction in the Overhill Towns to the burning of the deserted towns.

The Southeast

The paramount mico Emistigo lead 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), the mixed-blood son of a Coushatta woman and a Scots-Irish American trader. He was mico of the Coushatta, former colonel in the British Army, and one of John Stuart's agents. Although the majority of the Lower Muscogee chose to remain neutral, Loyalist Capt. William McIntosh, another of Stuart's agents, recruited a sizable unit of Hitchiti warriors to fight on the British side.

The Treaties of 1777

The next year, 1777, the Cherokee in the Hill, Valley, Lower, and Overhill towns signed the Treaty of Dewitt's Corner with Georgia and South Carolina (Ostenaco was one of the Cherokee signatories) and the Treaty of Fort Henry with Virginia and North Carolina promising to stop warring, with those colonies promising in return to protect them from attack. Dragging Canoe responded by raiding within fifteen miles of Fort Henry during the negotiations. One provision of the latter treaty required that James Robertson and a small garrison be quartered at Chota on the Little Tennessee.[15] Neither treaty actually halted attacks by frontiersmen from the illegal colonies, nor stop encroachment onto Cherokee lands. The peace treaty required the Cherokee give up their land of the Lower Towns in South Carolina and most of the area of the Out Towns.

First migration, to the Chickamauga area

In the meantime, 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). When led by Big Fool, it became known as the Chickamauga (Tsikamagi) Town. Since Dragging Canoe made that town his seat of operations, frontier Americans called his faction the "Chickamaugas".

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 and blood brother to Dragging Canoe, accompanied him to Chickamauga. Nearly all the whites legally resident among the Cherokee were part of the exodus.

The eleven towns in the Chickamauga area, along with the Hiwassee towns and the towns on the Tellico

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 Cayuga (Cayoka) on Hiwassee Island; Black Fox (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 land used by the Cherokee was once the traditional location of the Muscogee, who had withdrawn in the early 18th century to create a buffer zone with the Cherokee. In the intervening years, the two tribes used the region as hunting grounds. When the Carolina began trading with the Cherokee in the late 17th century, their westernmost settlements were the twin towns of Great Tellico (Talikwa and Chatuga (Tsatugi) at the current site of Tellico Plains, Tennessee. The Coosawattee townsite (Kuswatiyi, for "Old Coosa Place"), reoccupied briefly by Big Mortar's Muscogee as mentioned above, was among the sites settled by the Cherokee migrants.

Many Cherokee resented the (largely Scots-Irish) settlers moving into Cherokee lands, and agreed with Dragging Canoe. The Cherokee towns of Great Hiwassee (Ayuwasi), Tennessee (Tanasi), Chestowee (Tsistuyi), Ocoee (Ugwahi), and Amohee (Amoyee) in the vicinity of Hiwassee River supported those rejecting the settlers from moving into their lands. were wholly in the camp of the rejectionists of the pacifism of the old chiefs, 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. The Yuchi in the vicinity of the new settlement, on the upper Chickamauga, Pinelog, and Conasauga Creeks, likewise supported Dragging Canoe's policies.

In July 1776 Dragging Canoe had learned that guerrilla warfare was more suitable for his warriors than fighting like English regular troops. 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 the isolated 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.


In 1778–1779, Savannah (see: Capture of Savannah) and Augusta, Georgia, were captured by the British with help from Dragging Canoe, John McDonald, and the Cherokee, along with McGillivray's Upper Muskogee force and McIntosh's band of Hitichiti warriors, who were being supplied with guns and ammunition through Pensacola and Mobile, and together they were able to gain control of parts of interior South Carolina and Georgia. In addition, the remaining neautral towns of the Lower Muscogee now threw in their lot with the British side, at least nominally.

First invasion of the Chickamauga Towns

In early 1779, James Robertson of Virginia received warning from Chota that Dragging Canoe's warriors were going to attack the Holston area. In addition, he had received intelligence that John McDonald's place was the staging area for a conference of Indians Governor Hamilton was planning to hold at Detroit, and that a stockpile of supplies equivalent to that of a hundred packhorses was stored there.

In response, he ordered a preemptive assault under Evan Shelby (father of Isaac Shelby, first governor of the State of Kentucky) and John Montgomery. Boating down the Tennessee in a fleet of dugout canoes, they disembarked and destroyed the eleven towns in the immediate Chickamauga area and most of their food supply, along with McDonald's home and store. Whatever was not destroyed was confiscated and sold at the point where the trail back to the Holston crossed what has since been known as Sale Creek.

In the meantime, Dragging Canoe and John McDonald were leading the Cherokee and fifty Loyalist Rangers in attacks on Georgia and South Carolina, so there was no resistance and only four deaths among the towns' inhabitants. Upon hearing of the devastation of the towns, Dragging Canoe, McDonald, and their men, including the Rangers, returned to Chickamauga and its vicinity.

Timberlake's "Draught of the Cherokee Country", showing the location of the Overhill towns from south to north

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".[16] 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.

Concord between the Lenape and the Cherokee

In spring 1779, Oconostota, Savanukah, and other non-belligerent Cherokee leaders travelled 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.[17][18]

Death of John Stuart

About this same time, John Stuart, Indian Affairs Superintendent, died at Pensacola. The British assigned his deputy, Alexander Cameron, to work with the Chickasaw and Choctaw further west. His replacement, Thomas Browne, was assigned to the Cherokee, Muscogee, and Catawba. But, Cameron never went west, and he and Browne worked together until the latter departed for St. Augustine.

The Chickasaw

The Chickasaw came into the war on the side of the British and their Indian allies in 1779. The colonist George Rogers Clark and a party of over 200 built Fort Jefferson and a surrounding settlement near the mouth of the Ohio River, inside the Chickasaw hunting grounds. 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 along the Cumberland River and into Kentucky through the following year, making their last raid together with Dragging Canoe's Cherokee. Former animosities from the Cherokee-Chickasaw war of 1758–1769 were forgotten in the face of the common enemy.

Cumberland Settlements

Later that year, 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.

Early in 1780, Robertson and a group of fellow Wataugans left the east down the Kentucky Road headed for Fort Nashborough. Meanwhile, 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. Eventually, the group did reach its destination, but only after being ambushed several times.

In the first encounter near Tuskegee Island, the Cherokee warriors under Bloody Fellow focused their attention on the boat in the rear whose passengers had come down with smallpox. There was only one survivor, later ransomed. The victory, however, proved to be a Pyrrhic one for the Cherokee, as the ensuing epidemic wiped out 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), the party losing one with several 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.

Shortly after the party's arrival at Fort Nashborough, Donelson, Robertson and others formed the Cumberland Compact.

John Donelson eventually moved to the Indiana country after the Revolution, where he and William Christian were captured while fighting in the Illinois country in 1786 and were burned at the stake by their captors.[19]

Augusta and Kings Mountain

That summer, the new Indian superintendent, Thomas Browne, planned to have a joint conference between the Cherokee and Muscogee to plan ways to coordinate their attacks, but those plans were forestalled when the Americans made a concerted effort to retake Augusta, where he had his headquarters. The arrival of a war party from the Chickamauga Towns, joined by a sizable number or warriors from the Overhill Towns, prevented the capture of both, and they and Brown's East Florida 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, in which loyalist militia under Patrick Ferguson moved south trying to encircle Clarke and were defeated by a force of 900 frontiersmen under Sevier and William Campbell referred to as the Overmountain Men.[16]

Alexander Cameron, aware of the absence from the settlements of nearly a thousand men, urged Dragging Canoe and other Cherokee leaders to strike while they had the opportunity. With Savanukah as their headman, the Overhill Towns gave their full support to the new offensive. Both Cameron and the Cherokee had been expecting a quick victory for Ferguson and were stunned he suffered such a resounding defeat so soon, but the assault was already in motion.

Hearing word of the new invasion from Nancy Ward, her second documented betrayal of Dragging Canoe, Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson sent an expedition of seven hundred Virginians and North Carolinians against the Cherokee in December 1780, under the command of Sevier. It met a Cherokee war party at Boyd's Creek, and after the battle, joined by forces under Arthur Campbell and Joseph Martin, 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. Afterwards, the Overhill leaders withdrew from further active conflict for the time being, though the Hill and Valley Towns continued to harass the frontier.

In the Cumberland area, the new settlements lost around forty people in attacks by the Cherokee, Muscogee, Chickasaw, Shawnee, and Lenape.[20]

Second migration and expansion

By 1781, Dragging Canoe was working with the towns of the Cherokee from western South Carolina relocated on the headwaters of the Coosa River, and with the Muscogee, particularly the Upper Muscogee. The Chickasaw, Shawnee, Huron, Mingo, Wyandot, and Munsee-Lenape (who were the first to do so) were repeatedly attacking the Cumberland settlements as well as those in Kentucky. Three months after the first Chickasaw attack on the Cumberland, the Cherokee's largest attack of the wars against those settlements came in April of that year, and culminated in what became known as the Battle of the Bluff, led by Dragging Canoe in person. Afterwards, settlers began to abandon the settlements until only three stations were left, a condition which lasted until 1785.[21]

Loss of British supply lines and territory

In February 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. When they next moved against Pensacola the following month, McIntosh and McGillivray rallied 2000 Muscogee warriors to its defense. A British fleet arrived before the Spanish could take the port. A year later, the Spanish reappeared with an army twice the size of the garrison of British, Choctaw, and Muscogee defenders, and Pensacola fell two months later. Shortly thereafter, Augusta was also retaken by the revolutionaries when the Lower Muskogee relief force led by McIntosh was unable to arrive in time. The British and Muskogee garrison at Savannah fell to the Patriots in 1782. Emistigo was leading the Upper Muscogee attempt 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. Also in 1782, a successful campaign by Brigadier General Andrew Pickens led to a treaty forcing cessions of land between the Savannah and Chattachooche Rivers to the State of Georgia in the Treaty of Long Swamp Creek.[22]

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 year or so, the Overhill Cherokee openly, as they had been doing covertly, supported the efforts of Dragging Canoe and his militant Cherokee. In the fall of 1782, however, the older pacifist leaders replaced him 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.[23] 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.

Cherokee in the Ohio region

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.[24]

By 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.[24] 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.[25]

Second invasion of the Chickamauga Towns

In September 1782, an expedition under Sevier once again destroyed the towns in the Chickamauga vicinity, though going no further west than the Chickamauga River, and those of the Lower Cherokee down to Ustanali (Ustanalahi), including what he called Vann's Town. 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.

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. 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.[26] 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.

The "Five Lower Towns" and some of the old Chickamauga Towns

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 Alexander McGillivray, the major Muscogee leader in the area, to gain their permission to do so. When he and his followers moved their base, so too did the British representatives Cameron and McDonald, making Running Water the center of their efforts throughout the Southeast. The Chickasaw were in the meantime trying to play off the Americans and the Spanish against each other with little interest in the British. 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.

Cherokee continued to migrate westward to join Dragging Canoe's followers, whose ranks were further swelled by runaway slaves, white Tories, Muscogee, Koasati, Kaskinampo, Yuchi, Natchez, and Shawnee, as well as a band of Chickasaw living at what was later known as Chickasaw Old Fields across from Guntersville, plus a few Spanish, French, Irish, and Germans.

Later major settlements of the Lower Cherokee (as were they called after the move) 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.

This expansion came about largely because of the influx of 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 Lower Towns in northeast Georgia and western South Carolina. 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. Another town, Coosada, was added to the coalition when its Koasati and Kaskinampo inhabitants joined Dragging Canoe's confederation. 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, with he and his lieutenants remaining in the leadership.

Another visit from the North

In November 1782, twenty representatives from four northern tribes--Wyandot, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potowatami--travelled 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.[24]

After the Revolution

Eventually, Dragging Canoe realized the only solution for the various Indian nations to maintain their independence was to unite in an alliance against the Americans. In addition to increasing his ties to McGillivray and the Upper Muscogee, with whom he worked most often and in greatest numbers, he continued to send his warriors to fighting alongside the Shawnee, Choctaw, and Lenape.

In January 1783, Dragging Canoe travelled to St. Augustine, the capital of East Florida, for a summit meeting with a delegation of northern tribes, and called for a federation of Indians to oppose the Americans and their frontier colonists. Browne, 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. In June, Browne received orders from London to cease and desist.[22]

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. What made this possible was that fact that the Spanish governor of Louisiana Territory in New Orleans had taken advantage of the British setback to seize those ports. Dragging Canoe maintained relations with the British governor at Detroit, Alexander McKee, through regular diplomatic missions there under his brothers Little Owl and The Badger (Ukuna).

Chickasaw and Muscogee treaties

In November, the Chickasaw signed the Treaty of French Lick with the new United States of America that year 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.[27] That same month, the pro-American camp in the Muscogee nation signed the Treaty of Augusta with the State of Georgia, enraging McGillivray, who wanted to keep fighting; he burned the houses of the leaders responsible and sent warriors to raid Georgia settlements.[28]

Treaties of Hopewell and Coyatee

The Cherokee in the Overhill, Hill, and Valley Towns also signed a treaty with the new United States government, the 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. None of the Lower Cherokee, however, had any part in the Treaty of Coyatee, which new State of Franklin forced Corntassel and the other Overhill leaders to sign at gunpoint, ceding the remainder of the lands north of the Little Tennessee. Nor did they have any part in the Treaty of Dumplin Creek, which ceded the remaining land within the claimed boundaries of Sevier County. The colonials could now shift military forces to Middle Tennessee in response to increasing frequency of attacks by both Chickamauga Cherokee (by now usually called Lower Cherokee) and Upper Muscogee.

State of Franklin

State 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.

Attacks on the Cumberland

In 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. John Sevier responded with a punitive raid on the Overhill Towns. 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.

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 attended and took an active role in a grand council of northern tribes (plus some Muscogee and Choctaw in addition to the Cherokee contingent) resisting the American advance into the western frontier which took place in November–December 1786 in the Wyandot town of Upper Sandusky just south of the British capital of Detroit.[24]

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 that The Glass formed a friendship with his adopted father that lasted well into the 19th century.[29] 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.

Coldwater Town

The settlement of Coldwater was founded by a party of French traders who had come down for 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, close the site of the modern Tuscumbia, Alabama. For the next couple of years, trade was all the French did, but then the business changed hands. Around 1785, the new management began covertly gathering Cherokee and Muscogee warriors into the 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.

Cumberland River Watershed

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 offguard 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.[30]

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.

Muscogee council at Tuckabatchee

In 1786, McGillivray had convened a council of war at the dominant Upper Muscogee town of Tuckabatchee about recent incursions of Americans into their territory. The council 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.

The following year, because of the perceived insult of the incursion Cumberland against Coldwater so near to their territory, the Muscogee also took up the hatchet against the Cumberland settlements. 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.

Peak of Lower Cherokee power and influence

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.

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.

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 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.

The various hazards of the Tennessee River Gorge, also known as Cash Canyon or The Suck

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 Alexander 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.[31]

Murders of the Overhill chiefs

At the beginning of June 1788, John Sevier, now no longer governor of the State of Franklin, raised a hundred volunteers in June of that year 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. Returning to Chota, Sevier send a detachment under James Hubbard to Chilhowee to punish those responsible for the Kirk massacre, John Kirk Jr. among them. Hubbard brought along Corntassel and Hanging Man from Chota.

At Chilhowee, Hubbard raised a flag of truce, took Corntassel and Hanging Man to the house of Abraham, still headman of Chilhowee, who 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 and resulted in those previously reluctant taking the warpath, an increase in hostility that lasted for several months. Doublehead, Corntassel's brother, was particularly incensed.

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, along with the election of Little Turkey (Kanagita) as First Beloved Man, an election contested by Hanging Maw of Coyatee (who had been elected chief headman of the traditional Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River), to succeed the murdered chief. Interestingly, both men had been among those who originally followed Dragging Canoe into the southwest of the nation, with Hanging Maw known to have been on the warpath at least as late as 1786.

Dragging Canoe's presence at the Ustanali council and the council's meetings now held in what was then the area of the Lower Towns (but to which Upper Cherokee from the Overhill towns were migrating in vast numbers), as well as his acceptance of the election of his former co-belligerent Little Turkey as principal leader over all the Cherokee nation, are graphic proof that he and his followers remained Cherokee and were not a separate tribe as some, following Brown, allege.

Houston's Station

In early August, 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.

Invasion and counter-invasion

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.[32] One of the participants later referred to the spot as "the place where we made the Virginians turn their backs".[33] 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.[34]

Lookout Mountain from Moccasin Bend

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).

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 28 women and children prisoner. They proceeded to attack White's Fort and Houston's Station, only to be beaten back.[35][36] Afterward, the warband wintered at an encampment on the Flint River in present-day Unicoi County, Tennessee as a base of operations.[37]

In return, the settlers increased their retaliatory attacks. Troops under Sevier destroyed the 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).[38][39]

Because of the destruction, 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 town left with many 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.[40]

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.[41] Among those captured at Flint Creek were Bloody Fellow and Little Turkey's daughter.[42]

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.[38] 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.[43]

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.[44]

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.[45][46]

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.

Coat-of-Arms of the Kingdom of Spain

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.[47]

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.[48]

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.

Muscle Shoals

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.[49]

The primary areas of operations during the Chickamauga Wars

Bob Benge

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.[38]

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 (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.

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.

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 in West Tennessee 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 in June 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.[50]

The final years

The last years of the Chickamauga Wars saw John Watts, who had spent much of the wars affecting friendship and pacifism towards his American counterparts while living most of the time among the Overhill Cherokee, drop his facade as he took over from his mentor, though deception and artifice still formed part of his diplomatic repertoire.

John Watts

At his own previous request, the old warrior was succeeded as leader of the Lower Cherokee by John Watts (Kunokeski), although The Bowl (Diwali) succeeded him as headman of Running Water,[51] 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 junction 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") travelled 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.[52] Upon returning north, Watts moved his base of operations to Willstown in order to be closer to his Muscogee allies and his Spanish supply line.

Tennessee River Gorge from Snooper's Rock

Watts at the time of Dragging Canoe's death had been serving as an interpreter during negotiations in Chota between the American government and the Overhill Cherokee. Throughout the wars, up until the time he became principal chief of the Lower Cherokee, he continued to live in the Overhill Towns as much as much as in the Chickamauga and Lower Towns, and many whites mistook him for a non-belligerent, most notably John Sevier when he mistakenly contracted Watts to guide him to Dragging Canoe's headquarters in September 1782.

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.

That summer, the band of Shawnee Warrior and the party of Little Owl began joining the raids of the Muscogee on the Mero District. In late June, they attacked a small fortified settlement called Ziegler's Station, swarming it, killing the men and taking the women and children prisoner.[53]

Buchanan's Station

In September 1792, Watts orchestrated a large campaign intending to attack the Holston 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 Nashville instead.

The army Watts led into the Cumberland region was nearly a thousand strong, including a contingent of cavalry. It was to be a four-pronged attack in which Tahlonteeskee (Ataluntiski; Doublehead's brother) and Bob Benge's brother The Tail led a party to ambush the Kentucky Road, Doublehead with another to the Cumberland Road, and Middle Striker (Yaliunoyuka) led another to do the same on the Walton Road, while 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 30 September, Watts's combined force came upon a small fort known as Buchanan's Station. 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 for 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. Middle Striker's party was more successful, ambushing a large armed force coming to the Mero District down the Walton Road in November and routing it completely without losing a single man.[54][55]

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.[56]

Joseph, of the Brown family discussed above, was a member of the station's garrison but had been at his mother's house three miles away at the time of the battle. When he learned of the death of his friend Kitegisky, he is reported to have mourned greatly.

Muscogee attack the Holston and the Cumberland

Meanwhile, a party of Muscogee under a mixed-breed named Lesley invaded the Holston region and began attacking isolated farmsteads. Lesley's party continued harassment of the Holston settlements until the summer of 1794, when Hanging Maw sent his men along with the volunteers from the Holston settlements to pursue them, killing two and handing over a third to the whites for trial and execution.[57]

After the failed Cherokee attack on Buchanan's Station, the Muscogee increased their attacks on the Cumberland in both size and frequency. Besides scalping raids, two parties attacked Bledsoe's Station and Greenfield Station in April of 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.[58]

Attack on a Cherokee diplomatic party

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.

Upper East Tennessee

Shortly after a delegation of Shawnee stopped in Ustanali in that spring on their way to call on the Muscogee and Choctaw to punish the Chickasaw for joining St. Clair's army in the north, 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.

The 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, and entered the town shooting indiscriminantly. 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.[59][60]

Invasion and Cavett's Station

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 esparately, 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. 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". His force defeated their opponents soundly, then went on to destroy several Cherokee villages to the west before retiring to the Southwest Territory. This was the last pitched battle of the Chickamauga Wars.

End of the Chickamauga Wars

In late June 1794, the federal government the Treaty of Philadelphia with the Cherokee. It reaffirmed their land cessions of the 1785 Treaty of Hopwell and the 1791 Treaty of Holston. Both the chiefs Doublehead and Bloody Fellow signed it.

Muscle Shoals massacre

Later in the summer, 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.

Final engagements

In August of that year, Thomas Browne (now working as 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. Browne 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, but there was much dissension in the larger mixed Muscogee-Cherokee overland party. They had divided over the actions of Hanging Maw, who had attacked the Lesley party in the Holston region. They divided their forces before reaching the settlements; only three small parties made it to the Cumberland area and they operated 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, Miro 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 13 September, 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 was 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

The Tellico Blockhouse site, with posts and stone fill showing the original layout

Watts finally decided to call for peace: he was discouraged by the destruction of the two towns, 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. 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 7 November 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.


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. 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. Because the conflict has been overlooked, many historians have failed to include Dragging Canoe as one of the notable Native American war chiefs and diplomats. He is often 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 (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 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), and joining with the remnant of the Overhill towns on the Little Tennessee River were referred to as the Upper Towns, with their center at Ustanali in Georgia and with the former warriors James Vann and his proteges The Ridge (Ganundalegi; formerly known as Pathkiller, or Nunnehidihi) and Charles R. Hicks (also named Nunnehidihi in Cherokee) 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.

The Ridge (Ganundalegi), formerly known as Pathkiller (Nunnehidihi)

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, which served as both a church (named the Baptist Church of Christ at Chickamauga) and a school offering both academic and vocational training. His daughter Mollie and son-in-law Daniel Ross made a farm and trading post near the old village of Chatanuga (Tsatanugi) 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 (brother of Doublehead), 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.[61]

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.[62]

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.

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.[63]

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.[64] 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.

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 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 the Cherokee removal in 1838–1839.

Tecumseh's return and later events

Before beginning his great campaign, Tecumseh returned to the South in November 1811 hoping to gain the support of the southern tribes for his crusade to drive back the Americans and re-establish the old ways. He was accompanied by representatives from the Shawnee, Muscogee, Kickapoo, and Sioux. Tecumseh's exhortations in the towns of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Lower Muscogee found no traction, the exception being the Upper Muscogee, and even then only among a sizable faction of the younger warriors, the Upper Muscogee headman, The Big Warrior, having repudiated Tecumseh before the assembly.

A depiction of Tecumseh in 1848

There was so much opposition from the Cherokee delegation under warrior The Ridge that visited his council at Tuckabatchee that Tecumseh cancelled plans to visit the Cherokee Nation (The Ridge told him if he showed his face in the Cherokee Nation he would kill him). However, throughout his time in the South, he was accompanied by an enthusiastic escort of 47 Cherokee and 19 Choctaw, who presumably went north when he left the area.[65][66]

The Creek War

Tecumseh's mission did spark a religious revival which is referred to by James Mooney as the "Cherokee Ghost Dance" movement[67] and was led by another former Chickamauga warrior, the prophet Tsali of Coosawatee, who later moved to the western North Carolina mountains where he was executed for violently resisting Removal in 1838. In Tsali's meeting with the national council at Ustanali, many of the leaders were moved enough to support his cause, until The Ridge spoke even more eloquently in rebuttal, calling instead for support for the Americans in the coming war with the British and Tecumseh's alliance. This ultimately resulted in over five hundred Cherokee warriors volunteering to serve under Andrew Jackson in helping put down their former Upper Muscogee allies in the Creek War, but only after the Lower Muscogee under William McIntosh, who opposed the war of the "Red Sticks", asked for their help.[68][69]

A few years later, a troop of Cherokee cavalry under Major Ridge attached to the 1400-strong contingent of Lower Muscogee warriors under McIntosh accompanied the force of U.S. regulars, Georgia militia, and Tennessee volunteers into Florida for action in the First Seminole War against the Seminoles, refugee Red Sticks, and escaped slaves fighting against the United States.[70]

Following that war, Cherokee warriors were not seen on the warpath in the Southeast until the time of the American Civil War, when William Holland Thomas raised the Thomas Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders to fight for the Confederacy, though warriors from the Cherokee Nation East did travel to the lands of the Old Settlers (or Cherokee Nation West) in Arkansas Territory to assist them in their wars against the Osage during the Cherokee-Osage War of 1817–1823.

With one notable exception: in 1830, the State of Georgia seized land in its south that had belonged to the Cherokee since the end of the Creek War, land separated from the rest of the Cherokee Nation by a large section of Georgia territory, and began to parcel it out to settlers. Major Ridge dusted off his weapons and led a party of thirty south, where they drove the settlers out of their homes on what the Cherokee considered their land, and burned all buildings to the ground, but harmed no one.[71]

On the "Chickamauga" or "Lower Cherokee" as a separate tribe

When a representative of the Moravian Brethren, Brother Steiner, met with Richard Fields at Tellico Blockhouse in 1799, the former Lower Cherokee warrior whom he had hired to serve as his guide and interpreter. Br. Steiner had been sent south by the Brethren to scout for a location for a mission and school they planned to build in the Nation, ultimately located at Spring Place on land donated by James Vann. On one occasion, Br. Steiner asked his guide, "What kind of people are the Chickamauga?". Fields laughed, then replied, "They are Cherokee, and we know no difference."[1]

In truth, the Chickamauga Towns and the later Lower Towns were no different vis-a-vis the rest of the Cherokee than were the Middle Towns, Out Towns, (original) Lower Towns, Valley Towns, or Overhill Towns into which the Cherokee were grouped when the Europeans first encountered them. The groupings did not constitute separate political entities as much as groupings for geographic convenience. The only real government among the Cherokee was by town and clan, and though there were regional councils, these had no binding powers. The Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee were no more a separate tribe from the rest of the Cherokee than were the Overhill Cherokee, the Valley Cherokee, etc.

The only "national" position which existed before 1788 was First Beloved Man, which was in reality nothing more than a chief negotiator from the boondocks towns of the Cherokee farthest from the reach of the intruders. Yes, after 1788 there was a national council of sorts, but it met irregularly and at the time had no prescriptive or proscriptive powers. Even after the peace of 1794, the Cherokee were broken up into five groups: the Upper Towns (formerly the Lower Towns of western Carolina and northeastern Georgia), the Overhill Towns, the Hill Towns, the Valley Towns, and the (new) Lower Towns, each with their own regional councils more important than the "national" council at Ustanali.

It should be apparent from the number of times which Dragging Canoe spoke to the National Council at Ustanali and the fact that he publicly acknowledged Little Turkey as the senior leader of all the Cherokee, along with the fact that he was memorialized at the council following his death in 1792, that the "Chickamauga" were exactly as Richard Fields said, Cherokee. If that is not enough, there is the constant communication between leaders of the "Chickamauga" with the Cherokee of other regions, the number of times warriors from the Overhill Towns and other groups participating in the warfare, and the number of "Chickamauga" who signed treaties with the federal government along with other leaders of the Cherokee as Cherokee.

Scots (and other Europeans) among the Cherokee

St. Andrew's Cross

The traders and British government agents dealing with the Southern tribes in general and the Cherokee in particular were nearly all of Scottish extraction, especially from the Highlands, though a few were Scots-Irish, English, French, even German (see Scottish Indian trade). Many of these married women from their host people and remained after the fighting had ended, some fathering children who would later become significant leaders. Notable traders, agents, and refugee Tories among the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee included John Stuart, Henry Stuart, Alexander Cameron, John McDonald, Clement Vann, James Vann, John Joseph Vann, Daniel Ross (father of John Ross), John Walker Sr., John McLemore (father of Bob), William Buchanan, John Elliot, John Watts (father of the chief), James Grant, John D. Chisholm, John Benge (father of Bob Benge), Thomas Brown, Arthur Coody, John Fields, John Thompson, Richard Taylor, Edward Adair (Irish), John Rogers (Welsh), John Gunter (German), Ned Sizemore (English), Peter Hildebrand (German), and William Thorp (English), among many others, several attaining the status of minor chiefs and/or members of significant delegations.

In contrast, a large portion of the settlers encroaching on their territories and against whom the Cherokee (and other Indians) took most of their actions were Scots-Irish, Irish from Ulster of Scottish descent, a group which also provided the backbone for the forces of the Revolution (a famous example of a Scots-Irishman doing the reverse is Simon Girty). It is a historical irony that those from a group seen as rebels or "Whigs" back home in the Isles became Tories in the Americas while those from a group now considered one of the most "Tory" in regards to the United Kingdom became Whigs in the Americas.

Possible origins of the words "Chickamauga" and "Chattanooga"

According to Mooney, the word "Chickamauga", pronounced Tsi-ka-ma-gi in Cherokee, was the name of at least two places: a headwater creek of the Chattahoochee River, and the above-mentioned region near Chattanooga, but the word is not Cherokee. He states that Chickamauga may be derived from Shawnee,[72] and indeed there is/was a small town on the coast of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras (noted for a small battle that took place there early in the American Civil War) called Chicamacomico (meaning "dwelling place by the big water"), which is also the name of a river in Maryland. Both these areas were originally inhabited by tribes speaking variations of the Algonquian family of languages, of which Shawnee is one example. The Shawnee connection to the area should not be taken lightly, as the crossing of the Hiwassie River near Hiwassie Old Town in Polk County, Tennessee is known as Savannah Crossing, "Savannah" being a corruption of "Shawnee" as well as the name of the Shawnee village on the Savannah River from which the river, as well as the city of Savannah, Georgia, gets its name.

City of Chattanooga from East Brow of Lookout Mountain

In addition to the Tennessee city of Chattanooga, which gets its name from a non-Cherokee word for Lookout Mountain, a community named Chattanooga Valley in Georgia lies just south of the Tennessee city. There is a community of Chattanooga in Mercer County, Ohio, possibly a legacy of the Cherokee who lived there and fought alongside the Shawnee, but more likely a legacy of the Lenape or later Shawnee who lived much longer in that area. True, there is also a town called Chattanooga in the former territory of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, not surprising since southeast Tennessee was the last home of the Cherokee in the East, but there is also a town called Chattanooga in Colorado, a legacy of the Silver Rush, which has no connection to the Cherokee but does lie in the later territory of the Cheyenne confederacy of three Algonquin tribes.

A logical conclusion from all the above is that both place-names in Hamilton County, Tennessee—Chickamauga and Chattanooga—derive from the Algonquin language of the Shawnee.

On the other hand, Brown states that Chickamauga comes from the Muscogean "Chukko-mah-ko" for "dwelling place of the warchief", and Evans seems to agree, stating "The name comes from the Cherokee attempt to say Muscogee "Chiaha Olamico" which means 'The Upper Chiefdom'", and that "Tsika-magi was the way the Cherokees attempted to pronounce the Muscogee words."

See also

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  1. ^ a b Allen Manuscript. Note: Richard Fields, a mixed-race Cherokee, explained this to the Moravian missionary Brother Steiner, when they met at Tellico Blockhouse.
  2. ^ Mooney, Myths and Sacred Formulas, pp. 29–31
  3. ^ James Mooney, Myths and Sacred Formulas, p. 378
  4. ^ Tanner, p. 95
  5. ^ Brown, Eastern Cherokee Chiefs
  6. ^ Klink and Talman, p. 62
  7. ^ "Watauga Petition". Ensor Family Pages
  8. ^ Evans, Dragging Canoe, p. 179
  9. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 138
  10. ^ Evans, Dragging Canoe, pp. 180–182
  11. ^ Hoig, p. 59
  12. ^ "the Killing of William [sic] Henry Creswell"
  13. ^ Alderman, p. 38
  14. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 161
  15. ^ Moore and Foster, p. 168
  16. ^ a b Evans, Dragging Canoe, p. 184
  17. ^ Tanner, p. 98
  18. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 205–207
  19. ^ Hoig, p. 68
  20. ^ Moore, p. 175
  21. ^ Moore, pp. 180–182
  22. ^ a b Evans, Dragging Canoe, p. 185
  23. ^ Mooney, Myths and Sacred Formulas, p.60
  24. ^ a b c d Tanner, p. 99
  25. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 204–205
  26. ^ Moore, p. 182
  27. ^ Moore, p.182
  28. ^ Braund, p. 171
  29. ^ Klink and Talman, p. 49
  30. ^ Moore, pp. 182–187
  31. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 272–275
  32. ^ Evans, Last Battle, 30–40
  33. ^ Klink and Talman, p.48
  34. ^ Draper Mss. 16
  35. ^ Moore, p. 204
  36. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 293-295
  37. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 297
  38. ^ a b c Evans, Bob Benge, p. 100
  39. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 286–290
  40. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 297–299
  41. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 275
  42. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, p. 299
  43. ^ Moore, p. 201
  44. ^ Wilson, pp. 47–48
  45. ^ Drake, Chapt. II
  46. ^ Eckert, pp.379–387
  47. ^ Henderson, Chap. XX
  48. ^ Moore, pp. 233
  49. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 318–319
  50. ^ American State Papers, Vol. I, p. 263
  51. ^ Starr, p. 35
  52. ^ Starr, p. 36
  53. ^ Moore, pp. 205–211
  54. ^ Brown, Old Frontiers, pp. 344–366
  55. ^ Hoig, p. 83
  56. ^ Evans, Bob Benge, p. 101-102
  57. ^ Moore, p. 225-231
  58. ^ Moore, p. 215-220
  59. ^ Moore, pp. 220–225
  60. ^ Evans, Bob Benge, pp. 103–104
  61. ^ McLoughlin, pp. 33–47
  62. ^ McLoughlin, pp. 58
  63. ^ Moore, pp. 244–250
  64. ^ American State Papers, p. 536
  65. ^ Eckert, pp. 655–665
  66. ^ McLoughlin, pp. 168–185
  67. ^ Mooney, Ghost Dance Religion, pp. 670–677
  68. ^ McLoughlin, pp. 186–205
  69. ^ Wilkins, pp. 52–80
  70. ^ Wilkins, pp.114–115
  71. ^ McLoughlin, pp. 209–215
  72. ^ Mooney, p. 413


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