The Cherokee–American wars were a series of back-and-forth raids, campaigns, ambushes, minor skirmishes, and several full-scale frontier battles in the Old Southwest from 1776 to 1795 between the Cherokee (Ani-Yunwiya, Tsalagi) and the Americans on the frontier. Most of the events took place in the Upper South. While their fight stretched across the entire period, there were times, sometimes ranging over several months, of little or no action.
The Cherokee leader Dragging Canoe, whom some historians call “the Savage Napoleon”, and his warriors and other Cherokee fought alongside and in conjunction with Indians from a number of other tribes both in the Old Southwest and in the Old Northwest, most often Muscogee (Muskokulke) in the former and the Shawnee (Saawanwa) in the latter. During the Revolution, they also fought alongside British troops, Loyalist militia, and the King’s Carolina Rangers.
Open warfare broke out in the summer of 1776 along the frontier of the Watauga, Holston, Nolichucky, and Doe rivers in East Tennessee, as well as the colonies (later states) of the Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. It later spread to those along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee and in Kentucky.
The wars of the Cherokee and the Americans divide into two phases.
In the first phase, lasting 1776-1783, the Cherokee also fought as allies of the Kingdom of Great Britain against its rebellious colonies. This first part of this phase, from summer 1776 to summer of 1777, involved the all sections of the entire Cherokee nation, and is often referred to as the “Cherokee War of 1776”. At the end of 1776, the only militant Cherokee were those who migrated with Dragging Canoe to the Chickamauga towns, for which they were known to the frontierspeople as the "Chickamauga" or "Chickmauga Cherokee".
In the second phase, lasting 1783-1794, the Cherokee also served as proxies of the Viceroyalty of New Spain against the new United States of America. Because of their relocation westward to new homes initially known as the "Five Lower Towns", they then became known as the Lower Cherokee, a moniker which persisted well into the nineteenth century. In 1786, the Lower Cherokee became founding members of the Native Americans' Western Confederacy organized by the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, and took an active part in the Northwest Indian War.
The conflict in the Southwest ended in November 1794 with the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse. The Northwest Indian War, which the Cherokee were also involved in, ended with the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.