Battle of Hightower Rome, Georgia - October 17, 1793
About North Georgia
The story of the battle of Hightower begins eight years before the fighting occurs and 150 miles from the actual location. It is 1785 and the Cherokee sign the Treaty of Hopewell. Named for a South Carolina town, this pact guarantees the Cherokee right to the land they now possessed.
For a number of reasons, but mostly because of the encroachment of settlers on Cherokee land, the Lower Towns (Chickamauga) begin fighting with factions of settlers in the late 1780's. By 1793 the raids can be called a war for our fledgling nation, the United States of America. Officials of the new government, with the approval of President George Washington, make an attempt to negotiate a treaty with the Chickamauga.
Relative position of the Cherokee town of Hightower, centered at present-day Rome, Georgia.
William Blount, provisional governor of Tennessee was intimately involved with the events since Hopewell. He signed the original treaty of Hopewell and the Constitution in 1789. Blount knows of of the negotiations being conducted by the federal government in early 1793.
The governor is also aware that John "Nolichucky Jack" Sevier is preparing to raid the Cherokee 100 miles southwest of Knoxville, in the same approximate area as the treaty negotiations. While there is no proof that Nolichucky Jack knew of these negotiations, Sevier opposed the treaty, feeling that without the treaty he could "wipe out this scourge."
Nolichucky Jack surrounds the small village that holds the federal negotiators and orders Captain John Beard to attack with a detachment of men (probably less than 100). In the attack many Cherokee are killed and James Orr, Daniel Carmichael and Major Thomas King (the federal negotiators) flee. Sevier is gone as quickly as he appeared. President George Washington orders Beard arrested and tried in a United States military court.
The Chickamauga Cherokee know that settlers tried in federal courts are rarely convicted of crimes against Cherokee, and such is the case this time. The man is freed, aggravating both President Washington and the Chickamaugas. Seeking blood vengeance in accordance with Cherokee law, John Watts leads a war party of both Cherokee and Creek to attack Knoxville, Tennessee.
Knoxville is only the final target. As they move deep into Tennessee, raids on settlements cut a swath near Sevier's home. On the French Broad River near the Knoxville Road, Cavett's Station is attacked by the war party and during the initial battle Alexander Cavett and a number of Cherokee warriors are killed. Watts offers clemency to the family of Cavett if they surrender and the survivors agree. However, a faction of the combined Indian forces objects to the truce and attacks when the Cavett family leaves their home.
A bloody battle between the Cherokee breaks out. Doublehead and his men, along with some of the Creek Indians begin killing the members of Cavett's family. The mixed-blood Cherokee James Vann hoists a young boy to his saddle in an attempt to protect him, but Doublehead kills him with a single blow to the head. Another boy is given to a group of Creek Indians for protection during the battle, and he is murdered.
Stories such as these spread throughout the settled portions of Tennessee. John Sevier has no problem raising a larger force of men to battle the invaders and promptly chases away the Chickamaugan Cherokee and their allies before they enter the city of Knoxville. The war party breaks up. Some head north into Kentucky and some East towards North Carolina.
Sevier follows the largest party down to Hightower a large Chickamaugan village of the day at the site of present-day Rome, Georgia. King Fisher and Doublehead know of the approach of their nemisis, Nolichucky Jack. Taking a secure position on Myrtle Hill, the Cherokee and Creek use the Etowah and Coosa Rivers to protect themselves from the Tennesseans.
From the vantage point of Clock Tower Hill Romes Myrtle Hill Cemetery rises at the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula Rivers
In the only written account of the battle, John Sevier describes two attempts to ford the rivers. The successful attempt, about a mile upstream from the confluence of the Oostanaula and Etowah Rivers is met by strong Cherokee resistance. It is during this fighting that the Kingfisher is killed.
The death of Kingfisher is a crucial blow to the Cherokee. The remaining warriors flee. While the Tennesseeans move west down the Coosa River destroying both Creek and Cherokee villages, the Hightower Cherokee not killed in battle move east along the Etowah to present-day Cartersville, Georgia, where they start a new village, also called Hightower.
Today the battle of Hightower is marked by a single stone in the Myrtle Hill Cemetery. John Sevier went on to become the first governor of the state of Tennessee and later U. S. Senator. Hugh Lawson White, the man reputed to have killed King Fisher, begins practicing law in Knoxville in 1796 and becomes Senator White in 1825. His third party run for United States President in 1836 ends with him winning the states of Tennessee and Georgia.
Doublehead became an important Cherokee Chief, but paid the price for attacking the boy in James Vann's saddle. 17 years later Vann would plot his murder as part of the "Revolt of the Young Chiefs." Major Ridge, who was also present, would go on to many powerful positions in the Cherokee Nation.