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What is seldom understood by the general public, and even some historians, is that the ethnic pattern of the Southeast changed starkly between 1700 and 1776. Even the names of rivers changed to reflect socioeconomic changes.
The Tennessee River was originally known as the Calimaco River in the 1600s, which is Itza Maya for “Throne of the King.” In the map above created in 1711 by Edward Crisp, it is labeled the Cusate or Hogeloge River. “Cusate” means “Kusa People” in the Itsati-Creek language. Hogeloge was the name of a branch of the Yuchi’s living in eastern Tennessee. The map shows western Tennessee occupied by the Chickasaws and eastern Tennessee occupied by the Creeks. It makes no mention of the Cherokees. Contemporary French maps accurately show the Chickasaws also living in what is now northern Alabama, central Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.
The famous map of North America published by John Mitchell in 1755 showed the territory of the Cherokee Indians covering all of what is now Tennessee and extending to the Pacific Ocean. The enormous territory was “granted” to the Cherokees in 1754, if they agreed to send warriors to fight the Indian allies of the French in Canada. The Mitchell map does not show the Chickasaws, Creeks or Yuchi living in Tennessee. Mitchell showed northern Georgia to be part of South Carolina and primarily occupied by branches of the Creeks. Mitchell also noted that all the Cherokee villages in the northeastern tip of Georgia and in south of the Snowbird Mountains in western North Carolina were deserted. They had been destroyed the previous year by Koweta Creeks.
These changes were the result of incessant warfare between the newly formed Southeastern mega-tribes. They were often fomented by one of European powers, but continued because the Indian hunters needed increasingly larger swaths of land to find the increasingly declining deer population. Native American slaves declined in value, while deer hides and animal furs became the primary trade item to obtain European manufactured items – especially guns, gunpowder, iron cooking pots and cloth. By this time, the Muskogeans had forgotten how to weave.
1714 – Cumberland Plateau Shawnee vs. Chickasaw & Cherokee War – With a rapidly growing population, the Cherokees needed more hunting lands. They formed an alliance with the Chickasaws. In a brutal pincer attack they drove the Shawnee completely out of the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. All of this land was in the Province of Louisiane.
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1714 – Cherokee-Yuchi War – Cherokees attacked Yuchi towns in the Hiwassee River basin.
(1715-1755) – Creek-Cherokee War – The war began when Creek leaders were murdered in their sleep while attending a diplomatic conference with Cherokee leaders in the town of Tugaloo. (See Part Five.) Creek towns were heavily fortified while those of the Cherokee were not. However, Cherokee villages were more concentrated in mountain river valleys. Cherokee war parties would attack Creek hunters in lands that the Cherokees wanted to annex. Intermittently, large Creek armies would attack the Cherokee heartland. Until 1754 the Cherokees were always warned in advance of Creek attacks by British traders and colonial officials.
Most combat occurred in territory claimed by France, which included all the drainage areas of all rivers feeding into the Gulf of Mexico. However, some Creek war parties did attack Cherokee villages on the headwaters of the Savannah River. Between 1715 and 1730, the Cherokees were able to drive the remaining Creeks and Yuchi out of eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina and northeastern Georgia, west of the Chattahoochee River. However, once the Muskogee and Koweta Creeks became allies of the Colony of Georgia in 1733, a stalemate developed in which the Cherokees were unable to expand their hunting territory.
The Cherokees never were able to occupy the large swath of territory assigned them by Great Britain in the Cumberland Plateau and westward to the Mississippi River. After smallpox plagues killed approximately 25%-33% of their population in 1738 and 1739, the Cherokees rarely launched long distance, large scale attacks on Muskogean tribes.
In 1751 colonial officials from Georgia and South Carolina were able to persuade all branches of the Cherokees and most branches of the Creeks to sign a peace agreement. The Koweta Creeks refused to agree to peace. The mother town of the Kowetas dispatched an army on its on that systematically destroyed all Cherokee settlements in Georgia and the southern half of western North Carolina. Six Cherokee chiefs were captured while hiding in the Nantahala Mountains. They were carried back to Koweta, which was on the Chattahoochee River near Carrollton, GA and burned at the stake. When the Cherokees sent representatives to plead for help from the British Army, Koweta dispatched assassination squads to South Carolina that killed 26 other Cherokee leaders on the roads to Charleston or on the streets of Charleston. Those Cherokees murdered equaled the number of Creek mikkos murdered at Tugaloo in 1715.
1715-1745 – Cherokee & Catawba vs. Iroquois Confederacy War – The Iroquois were outraged by the assistance that the Cherokees and Catawbas gave South Carolina troops during the Tuscarora War. Remember Tuscarora afterward became members of the Confederacy, Even though the members of this confederacy were up to 750 miles away from the Cherokees and Catawba, they were able to attack the southern Indians.
The Cherokees and Catawbas sent war parties up north and did equal damage to the Iroquois. These feats of physical stamina are hard for contemporary Americans to comprehend. The warring nations essentially walked 2/3 the length of the Appalachian Trail with on a minimal amount of supplies to wage war. This war continued as intermittent skirmishes and ambushes until 1745, when the Seneca sent an ambassador to negotiate a peace treaty.
1723 – Chickasaw-Choctaw War – As allies of the French, the Choctaws attacked the Chickasaws. They were decisively defeated. The Chickasaws were furnished weapons and munitions by the British traders.
1733 – The Koweta Creeks sign an alliance with the new Colony of Georgia in 1733. Creek leaders became close friends with General James Edward Oglethorpe, who founded the colony. Georgia’s leaders were somewhat distrustful of the Cherokees because they were long term allies of South Carolina. Both South Carolina and Georgia claimed the upper Savannah River Basin. The Koweta’s immediately gained access to a much more plentiful supply of ammunition and manufactured items.
1738 – Chickasaw-Cherokee War – Both the Chickasaws and Cherokees were British allies. However, extensive hunting and trapping had killed off the deer near the Cherokee homeland at the same time that that branches of the Creek Indians were winning most skirmishes with the Cherokees; thus denying access to hunting lands in Georgia. The Cherokees sent a large army to western Tennessee to attack the Chickasaws and suffered a catastrophic defeat. Few Cherokee warriors returned home. A terrible smallpox epidemic then struck both the Cherokees and the Catawba. Approximately, 1/3 of each tribe was killed by the plague.
1744 – Muskogean-Cherokee War – Armies from the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Upper Creeks and Koweta Creeks coordinated an attack on the Cherokees, which was intended to exterminate them. British traders among the Chickasaws learned of the planned invasion and told colonial officials in Augusta, GA. A British military envoy then rushed to the Cherokees to warn them. The Cherokees abandoned their villages and combined forces in the mountains at a defensible position. The Cherokees were able to repel the invaders, but lost many casualties and several destroyed villages.
1749 – Overhills Cherokees vs. Upper Creeks War ends – These branches of their respective tribe ended hostilities even though some other branches remained at war. A formal peace treaty was signed in 1751. Available archives are not clear as to whether the peace treaty was signed by Upper Creeks allied with Great Britain or with all Upper Creeks.
1754 – French and Indian War begins – Several Cherokee bands sent war parties to New York to assist the British. Creeks or Alabamas, allied with France began to attack Cherokee hunters in Tennessee.
1755 – Battle of Taliwa – Both the official and unofficial histories of the State of Georgia and the Cherokee Indians now describe a battle near the Creek town of Taliwa, in which the Cherokees won all of North Georgia in 1755. There is no archival evidence that the battle was ever fought. Taliwa is an Apalachicola word meaning, “town.” All of northwest Georgia remained occupied by Creek allies of the French until 1763. By 1755, the Koweta Creeks (allies of Great Britain) controlled all of northeast Georgia, plus half of western North Carolina.
Kusa Creeks in northwest Georgia under the leadership of Mikko Drum were allied with France. They attacked and destroyed Overhills Cherokee villages on the Hiwassee River in Tennessee. The Cherokees withdrew to the Little Tennessee River and requested that the British build a fort near Chota.
Part Seven discusses the French and Indian War as it affected French Louisiana and lists Creek and Alabama towns that were located in La Louisiane in 1755.