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Home > History > Cherokee Wars

Cherokee Wars

This article describes the wars between the United States Government and the Cherokee people.

Trail of Tears

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Cherokee Wars

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Chickamauga Wars:

The Chickamauga Wars were a series of battles, ambushes, and massacres staged between Cherokee forces under Dragging Canoe and the many militias comprised of Scotch-Irish settlers in Kentucky, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia during and after the Revolutionary War. By the 1780's, the Chickamauga Wars had sort of spread and merged with other wars being fought between Indian nations and settlers throughout much of America.

Like most of the Indian Wars, the Chickamauga Wars occurred with increased White encroachment on Indian lands. The Chickamauga Wars coincided with the Revolutionary War. As a result, American forces were forced to fight the combined forces of the British, Cherokees, and many other united tribes in the war's southern theater and in the western territories. As the Americans gained ground in the southern colonies, military detachments were sent that annihilated Cherokee villagers, villages, crops, orchards, and livestock along the Chickamauga River in Tennessee and Georgia in 1777 and 1778. While the Cherokees were successful in staging raids and ambushes on settlements and along the various trails established to guide settlers into the region, they were eventually overwhelmed by the American presence and many lost the will to continue the fight. Near the end of the Revolution, Dragging Canoe and his supporters were forced to move west and merge with other tribes to maintain the resistance, without the arms and financing of the defeated British. Meanwhile, other Indian tribes that had banded together fought the settlers in more northern latitudes. The Chickamauga Wars soon spread throughout the south and into the Midwest where the Cherokees, Shawnee, Miami, Muskogee, and dozens of other tribes united in the fight. By the early 1790's, and through the first and second decades of the 19th century, wars, battles, ambushes, and guerrilla warfare between the Indians and settlers scarred much of the interior of America. Tens of thousands of Indians and natives were killed in the skirmishing. Along with Dragging Canoe, many other incredible native leaders emerged in the conflict such as Blue Jacket, Little Turtle, and eventually, the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh. While many nations and tribes resisted for years to come, they were eventually overwhelmed by the sheer number of settlers and the quest for expansion initiated by the U.S. Government.

Trail of Tears

America’s population was booming and spreading west in the early 1800’s. Westward expansion came mostly at the expense of the Indians who were often forced to move from their native lands.

In the state of Georgia, the population increased 600 percent in the matter of 40 years. As a result, many of its native tribes were pushed out. The Cherokee Indians, of western Georgia had managed to keep their land until gold was discovered in their territory in 1828. In 1830, however, president Andrew Jackson authorized the Indian Removal Act. The Cherokees fought the law, and it was overturned by chief justice John Marshall two years later.

Just three years later, however, in 1835, the Treaty of New Echota was signed. The “Treaty” was not authorized by the Cherokee Nation, but rather, a small group of Cherokee radicals led by John Ridge. Under the “Treaty”, the Cherokee were to leave Georgia and the government would compensate them at a price determined to be about 5 percent of the value of the land. The majority of the Cherokee Nation would never had agreed to the “Treaty”, but the U.S. government ratified it anyway. John Ridge was thus seen as a traitor by the Cherokees – and would later pay with his life. The Georgia government then staged a “land lottery” in which Cherokee land was divided into 160 equal portions. They were sold to anyone who had $4.00 and who had won a chance to own land.

In 1838, General Winfield Scott and 7,000 troops invaded Cherokee land. Men, women, and children were forced to walk westward from Georgia nearly 1,000 miles with minimal facilities and food, to reservations set up for them in Oklahoma. Cherokee chief John Ross, eventually was able to convince Winfield Scott that his people should lead the tribe west. Scott agreed and Ross divided the people into smaller groups so they could forage for food on their own. Although Ross may have save countless lives, nearly 4,000 Indians died walking this Trail of Tears.




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