Skip to content Chickamauga Wars (1776–1794)

These were an almost non stop series of frontier conflicts that began with Cherokee involvement in the American Revolutionary War and continued until late 1794. The so-called “Chickamauga Cherokee”, later called “Lower Cherokee”, were those, at first from the Overhill Towns and later from the Lower Towns, Valley Towns, and Middle Towns, who followed the war leader Dragging Canoe southwest, first to the Chickamauga (Chattanooga, Tennessee) area, then to the Five Lower Towns. There they were joined by groups of Muskogee, white Tories, runaway slaves, and renegade Chickasaw, as well as by well over one hundred Shawnee, in exchange for whom a hundred Chickamauga-Cherokee warriors went north, along with another seventy a few years later. The primary objects of attack were the colonies along the Watauga, Holston, and Nolichucky rivers and in Carter’s Valley in upper East Tennessee, as well as the settlements along the Cumberland River beginning with Fort Nashborough in 1780, even into Kentucky, plus against the colonies, later states, of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The scope of attacks by the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee and their allies ranged from quick raids by small war parties of a handful of warriors to large campaigns by four or five hundred, and once over a thousand, warriors. The Upper Muskogee under Dragging’s Canoe’s close ally Alexander McGillivray frequently joined their campaigns as well as operating separately, and the settlements on the Cumberland came under attack from the Chickasaw, Shawnee from the north, and Delaware as well. Campaigns by Dragging Canoe and his successor, John Watts, were frequently conducted in conjunction with campaigns in the Northwest. The response by the colonists were usually attacks in which Cherokee towns in peaceful areas were completely destroyed, though usually without great loss of life on either side. The wars continued until the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse in November 1794.

The Chickamauga wars were in reality a continuation of what some historians call the Second Cherokee War, fought between the whole Cherokee nation and the colonies as allies of the British in the years 1776 and 1777, waged by those who did not wish to stop resisting frontier encroachments.