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Cherokee War of 1776

Cherokee War of 1776

CHEROKEE WAR OF 1776. As the Revolutionary War began, the British attempted to restrain the Cherokee from attacking the backcountry settlements while keeping them loyal to England. In June, however, combined Cherokee and Loyalist forces attacked settlements in South Carolina and Tennessee. Quickly, the colonial governments of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia organized retaliatory expeditions. Colonel Samuel Jack was in the field by July, burning Cherokee villages in northern Georgia. In August, Colonel Andrew Williamson, with 1,800 troops and some Catawba scouts, marched into northwestern South Carolina, burning more Cherokee villages as they went. From South Carolina, Williamson pushed into western North Carolina to rendezvous with General Griffith Rutherford.

Rutherford left Davidson's Fort (present day Old Fort, North Carolina) on 1 September with some 2,500 North Carolina militia and drove west through rugged Appalachian country to the Middle Cherokee villages along the Little Tennessee River. Not finding Williamson, Rutherford split his force, leaving 800 at Nuquassee (now Franklin, North Carolina). With the rest he marched further west to attack the Valley towns. Williamson eventually found Rutherford's reserve and, taking a different route west, rendezvoused with Rutherford at Hiwassee (now Murphy, North Carolina). Having burned all the villages along their routes, they returned home. A third column of 2,000 Virginia and North Carolina militia, under Colonel William Christian came down the Holston River from the north (Over Mountain Men territory) and burned out the Overhill Cherokee. Dispirited, and realizing the British would provide little assistance, the Indians started suing for peace. In the treaties of Dewitt's Corner, South Carolina, signed on 20 May 1777 with South Carolina and Georgia, and of the Long Island of Holston, in modern Tennessee, signed on 20 July 1777, the Cherokee ceded all their lands east of the Blue Ridge and dropped their claims to land north of the Nolachucky River. Some moved west to continue the struggle against white settlement and expansion.

SEE ALSO Indians in the Colonial Wars and the American Revolution.


Dickens, Roy S. Jr., "The Route of Rutherford's Expedition Against the North Carolina Cherokee," Journal of Southern Indian Studies XIX (1967): 3-24.

Lumpkin, Henry. From Savannah To Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1981.

                              revised by Steven D. Smith

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