(Editor's note: Fifth in a series)
The late Dr. James Livingood, the UTC distinguished history professor, wrote about the extended war of U.S. militias against the Chickamauga Indians in the late 1780s and 1790s in "Chattanooga, An Illustrated History." Below are excerpts:
"The war, however, did not end for the Chickamaugas; no peace treaty was made that included Dragging Canoe, whose military aims remained unchanged. The struggle for possession of the native hills went on. Now the state of North Carolina claimed all of the Tennessee country, and its political leaders generously made land to soldiers and attractive proposals to speculators. More and more settlers moved into the transmontane region.
"When the British could no longer furnish help to the Indians, they turned to Spain, which had gained possession of Florida in 1783. John McDonald, who had remained with Dragging Canoe, became a Spanish agent and was supported with an annual pension. McDonald's influence among the Indians steadily mounted; they found him honest and they respected him for his skillful use of their language. Tennessee's territorial governor, William Blount, also considered him very able, stating that he has as much or more influence with the lower Cherokees, than any other man who resides them.
"Although the new United States government sought to create a foreign policy based on conciliation with the Chickamaugas, the Indians kept up their widespread offensive and maintained their control of navigation on the Tennessee River. Isolated traders continued to brave the journey through the region, however, and one in particular had an experience with totally unforeseen consequences.
"In 1785 a trading expedition with Baltimore connections ventured down the Tennessee. The boat, which was stopped by the Indians near Lookout Mountain, caused a big stir among the natives. On board they found inviting trade goods, an unfriendly Indian chief, and a young Scot, recently from Sutherlandshire [and more recently from Charleston, S.C., where he had arrived at 19 years of age.] John McDonald rescued his countryman with the fresh brogue and made the newcomer a business associate. Before long his daughter, Molly, married this man, whose name was Daniel Ross. He and his wife lived at various places in the Indian country and raised a family of nine. On October 3, 1790, their third child and first son was born, whom they named John; the history of his homeland would center around his career.
"Other river parties also suffered attacks until 1794 from frontier raids carried out from the Five Lower Towns [Running Water Town on the Tennessee 12 miles below the Suck, Nickajack three miles west on the south bank, Long Island near Bridgeport, Crowtown 10 miles distant on a small creek and Lookout Mountain Town near today's Trenton, Georgia.] Although Dragging Canoe had died two years earlier of natural causes, the tribe somehow managed its affairs under new leadership. Many of his followers had interesting careers as well as intriguing names such as Bloody Fellow, the Breath, Doublehead, John Watts, Fool Warrior, the Glass, Turtle at Home, the Bench, and many others.
"In September of 1794, however, a volunteer force from Middle Tennessee under Maj. James Ore slipped into the innermost Chickamauga stronghold, destroyed the major towns, and killed the spirit of resistance of the Chickamaugas. The loss of Spanish support as a consequence of the French Revolutionary wars and the defeat of northern tribesmen at Fallen Timbers [in northwestern Ohio] at the hand of Anthony Wayne contributed to the demise of the Chickamaugas. There was no alternative except to make peace. The Chickamaugas under Dragging Canoe had relied on force to hold back the westward course of pioneer settlement and protect their lands. They had failed.
"The subdued splinter tribe of Chickamaugas returned in the autumn of their defeat to membership in the Cherokee nation amid appropriate ceremony. Although knowledge of their ancestors was dimly maintained in oral tradition, the Cherokee continue to call themselves Ani-Yunwiya, "principal people." Under mounting pressure they had sold much of their homeland and drifted to new locations to the southwest in lower East Tennessee and north Georgia.
"Ross's landing after 1815 became a major economic hub and New Echota, in northern Georgia, the Indian capital in 1788. Under these fluid conditions the Cherokee lifestyle rapidly changed as the natives made a concerted effort to master the culture of the whites. Adapting nimbly to new ideas, they saw their former hunting economy give way to agriculture and trade."
Frank "Mickey" Robbins, an investment adviser at Patten and Patten, edited this Local History article. For more visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org.