Skip to content Nickajack Expedition (1794)

Following a peace treaty between Cherokee and white settlers in 1777, during the midst of the American Revolutionary War, followers of the Native American chief Dragging Canoe, all of whom opposed the peace, separated from the tribe and relocated to East Tennessee. They were joined by groups of Shawnee and Creek at their new home upon Chickamauga Creek, which would become their new namesake. The Chickamauga engaged in numerous raids on the white settlers for several years. A short period of peace took place in the aftermath of the Revolution, during which time they moved west of Lookout Mountain, using Nickajack Cave as their stronghold. However, violence between the two sides flared up once more in 1792. Settlers in the Cumberland region feared for their lives, but Territorial Governor William Blount continued with peace negotiations. When the sons of Colonel Anthony Bledsoe, as well as Major General George Winchester turned up dead in 1794, Blount turned to a military solution.

Panoramic View from Lookout Mountain in 1864
Panoramic View from Lookout Mountain in 1864

Governor Blount appointed Major James Ore to head the expedition. Col. John Montgomery commanded territorial militia, and Col. William Whitley of Kentucky commanded his 6th Regiment of militia, whose state had long felt the brunt of attacks in their southward which had been launched from this area of Tennessee by the Cherokee. Col. Montgomery commanded the left, and Col. Whitley commanded the right, while Maj. Ore retained command from the centre. They singled out two Chickamauga villages, Nickajack and Running Water, as the point of attack. These villages were the source of many raiding parties. The army came upon Nickajack in mid-August, finding only a hundred or so warriors. Many villagers heard of the army’s approach and fled to Running Water before Ore’s men had come upon the village. Warriors from Running Water were also on their way to Nickajack to investigate the activity and found the fleeing villagers halfway. Whatever warriors that were with the Nickajack group merged with the Running Water group, and all proceeded back to the village.

By this time the army had already begun pursuit of the fleeing villagers. The two sides met at the Narrows and engaged in battle. It proved to be a disaster for the Chickamauga. They were quickly routed, having managed to wound only three whites, and killing none. The army quickly destroyed both villages, leaving seventy dead. It is said that Col. Whitley personally shot a warrior out of a moving canoe at some distance after his men had failed to make the deadly shot.

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