Cherokee War

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


CHEROKEE WARS (1776–1781). The Cherokee Indians had generally been friendly with the British in America since the early 1700s, siding with them against the French in the French and Indian Wars. Colonial encroachment by settlers provoked them into a two-year war with South Carolina (1759–1761), and the land cessions that ended the war fueled resentment that came to a head with the outbreak of the American Revolution.

Restless because of the continued encroachment on their lands by the colonists, encouraged and supplied with ammunition by British agents, and incited by Shawnee and other northern Indians, the Cherokee sided with the British during the Revolution. Cherokee raids against Patriot settlements in the summer of 1776 incited militias from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia to respond in kind. Lacking anticipated support from the Creek Indians and the British, the Cherokees were decisively defeated, their towns plundered and burned. Several hundred Cherokees fled to British protection in Florida. Cherokee leaders sued for peace with revolutionary leaders in June and July 1777, ceding additional Cherokee lands.

Those unwilling to settle for peace split off from the majority of Cherokees and migrated down the Tennessee River to Chickamauga Creek. Under the leadership of Dragging Canoe, the Chickamauga group continued raiding frontier settlements for the next four years. Although the Cherokees suffered additional defeats at American hands, some Chickamaugas refused to make peace, instead moving further downstream in the early 1780s. Most Cherokee fighting ended with the Treaty of Hopewell in 1785, and the treaty's additional land cessions discouraged Cherokees from joining other conflicts between Indians and whites in succeeding decades.


Calloway, Colin G. The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Hatley, M. Thomas. The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Woodward, Grace S. The Cherokees. The Civilization of the American Indian Series, no. 65. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963.

Kenneth M.Stewart/j. h.

See alsoIndian Treaties, Colonial ; Indians in the Revolution ; Revolution, American: Military History .

views updated

Cherokee War (1759–61).The Cherokee War consisted of three campaigns from South Carolina against the Cherokees Indian nations. Colonial ambitions, backcountry misunderstandings that caused killings on both sides, and the undertow of French and Indian War hostilities to the north, all tangled, leading South Carolina to act against its neighbor and trading partner in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The first campaign saw colonial regiments march resistantly under an arrogant royal governor, only to be turned back by an outbreak of smallpox. The second and third, in 1760 and 1761, saw British regulars lead resentful militiamen. The Cherokees successfully rebuffed attack in 1760; this was followed by an equivocal concession in 1761. Meanwhile, the Cherokees fought sporadic engagements against other native peoples on their western and northern mountain flanks. The campaigns left deep scars and provoked anxieties with the young generation of both colonists and Cherokees alike.

The Cherokee War, on the colonial side, was a revolt against the idea of the Cherokees as the “key” to westward expansion, and a response to Carolinians' own weak place within the empire. For the Cherokees, the scorched‐earth campaigns and disease besieged their economy, destabilized conventional intertribal politics, and split their towns. The “Indian War” of 1775, led by South Carolina, ended over a decade of trouble between the Cherokee War and the Revolutionary War. The Cherokee War and its decade marked the removal of the Cherokees from the pivot of regional geopolitics, and the beginning of a revolutionary era of change for both peoples.


Tom Hatley , The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians Through the Era of Revolution, 1993.

Tom Hatley

More From