Second migration and expansion
By 1781, Dragging Canoe was working with the towns of the Cherokee from western South Carolina relocated on the headwaters of the Coosa River, and with the Muscogee, particularly the Upper Muscogee. The Chickasaw, Shawnee, Huron, Mingo, Wyandot, and Munsee-Lenape (who were the first to do so) were repeatedly attacking the Cumberland settlements as well as those in Kentucky.
Three months after the first Chickasaw attack on the Cumberland, the Cherokee's largest attack of the wars against the settlements came in April of that year, culminating in what became known as the Battle of the Bluff, led by Dragging Canoe in person. Afterwards, settlers began to abandon the settlements until only three stations were left, a condition which lasted until 1785.
Loss of British supply lines and territory
In February 1780, Spanish forces from New Orleans under Bernardo de Galvez, allied to the Americans but acting in the interests of Spain, captured Mobile in the Battle of Fort Charlotte. When they next moved against Pensacola the following month, McIntosh and McGillivray rallied 2000 Muscogee warriors to its defense. A British fleet arrived before the Spanish could take the port.
A year later, the Spanish reappeared with an army twice the size of the garrison of British, Choctaw, and Muscogee defenders, and Pensacola fell two months later.
Shortly thereafter, Augusta was also retaken by the revolutionaries when the Lower Muskogee relief force led by McIntosh was unable to arrive in time.
The British and Muskogee garrison at Savannah fell to the Patriots in 1782. Estimigo was leading the Upper Muscogee attempt to relieve them and died in the attempt; McGillivray, by then his right hand man, succeeded him to become the leading mico of the Upper Towns.
Also in 1782, a successful campaign by Brigadier General Andrew Pickens led to a treaty forcing cessions of land between the Savannah and Chattachoochee Rivers to the State of Georgia in the Treaty of Long Swamp Creek.
Politics in the Overhill Towns
In the fall of 1781, the British engineered a coup d'état that put Savanukah as First Beloved Man in place of the more pacifist Oconostota, who succeeded Attakullakulla.
For the next year or so, the Overhill Cherokee openly, as they had been doing covertly, supported the efforts of Dragging Canoe and his militant Cherokee.
In the fall of 1782, however, the older pacifist leaders replaced him with another of their number, Corntassel (Kaiyatsatahi, aka “Old Tassel”), and sent messages of peace along with complaints of settler encroachment to Virginia and North Carolina. Opposition from pacifist leaders, however, never stopped war parties from traversing the territories of any of the town groups, largely because the average Cherokee supported their cause, nor did it stop small war parties of the Overhill Towns from raiding settlements in East Tennessee, mostly those on the Holston.
Cherokee in the Ohio region
A party of Cherokee joined the Lenape, Shawnee, and Chickasaw in a diplomatic visit to the Spanish at Fort St. Louis in the Missouri country in March 1782 seeking a new avenue of obtaining arms and other assistance in the prosecution of their ongoing conflict with the Americans in the Ohio Valley. One group of Cherokee at this meeting led by Standing Turkey sought and received permission to settle in Spanish Louisiana, in the region of the White River in what became Arkansas.
By 1783, there were at least three major communities of Cherokee in the region. One lived among the Chalahgawtha (Chillicothe) Shawnee. The second Cherokee community lived among the mixed Wyandot-Mingo towns on the upper Mad River near the later Zanesfield, Ohio. A third group of Cherokee is known to have lived among and fought with the Munsee Lenape, the only portion of the Lenape nation at war with the Americans.
Second invasion of the Chickamauga Towns
In September 1782, an expedition under Sevier once again destroyed the towns in the Chickamauga vicinity, though going no further west than the Chickamauga River, and those of the Lower Cherokee down to Ustanali (Ustanalahi), including what he called Vann's Town. The towns were deserted because having advanced warning of the impending attack, Dragging Canoe and his fellow leaders chose relocation westward.
Meanwhile, Sevier’s army, guided by John Watts (Kunokeski), somehow never managed to cross paths with any parties of Cherokee.
Dragging Canoe and his people established what whites called the Five Lower Towns downriver from the various natural obstructions in the twenty-six-mile Tennessee River Gorge.
Starting with Tuskegee (aka Brown’s or Williams’) Island and the sandbars on either side of it, these obstructions included the Tumbling Shoals, the Holston Rock, the Kettle (or Suck), the Suck Shoals, the Deadman's Eddy, the Pot, the Skillet, the Pan, and, finally, the Narrows, ending with Hale’s Bar.
The whole twenty-six miles was sometimes called The Suck, and the stretch of river was notorious enough to merit mention even by Thomas Jefferson. These navigational hazards were so formidable, in fact, that the French agents attempting to travel upriver to reach Cherokee country during the French and Indian War, intending to establish an outpost at the spot later occupied by British agent McDonald, gave up after several attempts.
The “Five” Lower Towns
The Five Lower Towns included Running Water (Amogayunyi), at the current Whiteside in Marion County, Tennessee, where Dragging Canoe made his headquarters; Nickajack (Ani-Kusati-yi, “Koasati place”), eight kilometers down the Tennessee River in the same county; Long Island (Amoyeligunahita), on the Tennessee just above the Great Creek Crossing; Crow Town (Kagunyi) on the Tennessee, at the mouth of Crow Creek; and Stecoyee (Utsutigwayi, aka “Lookout Mountain Town”), at the current Trenton, Georgia. Tuskegee Island Town was reoccupied as a lookout post by a small band of warriors to provide advance warning of invasions, and eventually many other settlements in the area were resettled as well.
Because this was a move into the outskirts of Muscogee territory, Dragging Canoe, knowing such a move might be necessary, had previously sent a delegation under Little Owl to meet with Alexander McGillivray, the major Muscogee leader in the area, to gain their permission to do so. When the Cherokee moved their base, so too did the British representatives Cameron and McDonald, making Running Water the center of their efforts throughout the Southeast.
The Chickasaw were in the meantime trying to play off the Americans and the Spanish against each other with little interest in the British. Turtle-at-Home (Selukuki Woheli), another of Dragging Canoe's brothers, along with some seventy warriors, headed north to live and fight with the Shawnee.
Cherokee continued to migrate westward to join Dragging Canoe's followers, whose ranks were further swelled by runaway slaves, white Tories, Muscogee, Coushatta, Kaskinampo, Yuchi, Natchez, and Shawnee, as well as a band of Chickasaw living at what was later known as Chickasaw Old Fields at the later Ditto's Landing south of Huntsville, plus a few Spanish, French, Irish, and Germans.
Later major settlements of the Cherokee included Willstown (Titsohili) near the later Fort Payne, Alabama; Turkeytown (Gundigaduhunyi), at the head of the Cumberland Trail where the Upper Creek Path crossed the Coosa River near Centre, Alabama; Creek Path (Kusanunnahiyi), near at the intersection of the Great Indian Warpath with the Upper Creek Path at the modern Guntersville, Alabama; Turnip Town (Ulunyi), seven miles from the present-day Rome, Georgia; and Chatuga (Tsatugi), nearer the site of Rome.
This expansion came about largely because of the influx of Cherokee from North Georgia, who fled the depredations of expeditions such as those of Sevier; a large majority of these were former inhabitants of the Lower Towns in northeast Georgia and western South Carolina. Cherokee from the Middle, or Hill, Towns also came, a group of whom established a town named Sawtee (Itsati) at the mouth of South Sauta Creek on the Tennessee.
Another town, Coosada (at the later Larkin's Landing below Scottsboro in Jackson County Alabama), was added to the coalition when its Coushatta and Kaskinampo inhabitants joined Dragging Canoe's confederation. Partly because of the large influx from North Georgia added to the fact that they were no longer occupying the Chickamauga area as their main center, Dragging Canoe's followers and others in the area began to be referred to as the Lower Cherokee, with he and his lieutenants remaining in the leadership.
Another visit from the North
In November 1782, twenty representatives from four northern tribes—Wyandot, Ojibwa (Anishnabeg), Ottawa, and Potowatami (Bodewadmi)—travelled south to consult with Dragging Canoe and his lieutenants at his new headquarters in Running Water Town, which was nestled far back up the hollow from the Tennessee River onto which it opened. Their mission was to gain the help of Dragging Canoe's Cherokee in attacking Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the American settlements in Kentucky and the Illinois country.