Doublehead (1744–1807) or Incalatanga (Tal-tsu’tsa in Cherokee), was one of the most feared warriors of the Cherokee during the Cherokee–American wars. In 1788, his brother, Old Tassel, was chief of the Cherokee people, but was killed under a truce (negotiating peace) by frontier rangers. In 1791 Doublehead was among a delegation of Cherokees who visited U.S. President George Washington in Philadelphia. After the peace treaty at the Tellico Blockhouse in 1794, Doublehead served as one of the leaders of the Chickamauga Cherokee (or “Lower Cherokee”). Upon the death of his nephew, Principal Chief John Watts, in 1802, Doublehead was chosen as leader of the Chickamauga (taking on the title Chuqualataque).
It is thought that Doublehead’s father was Great Eagle (or Willenewa), a nephew of Chief Old Hop and a cousin of Chief Attakullakulla (or Little Carpenter). One of his brothers was Old Tassel, killed while treating with the lost State of Franklin. Two of his relatives, Tahlonteeskee and John Jolly, were also leaders among the Chickamauga and both later became Principal Chiefs of the Cherokee Nation. Doublehead’s last wife was Nancy Drumgoole. Their youngest son, Bird Doublehead, was only twelve years old at the time of Doublehead’s assassination.
Living in the Overhill Towns on the Little Tennessee River, he took only sporadic part in the campaigns of Dragging Canoe, until the murder of his brother, and another pacifist chief, Abraham of Chilhowee, under a flag of truce during an embassy to the State of Franklin in 1788. Thereafter, he became one of the most vicious fighters —and able leaders —of the Cherokee at war.
Beginnings as a war leader
His first act in his new crusade was to lead a party of warriors in concert with those of Dragging Canoe in an assault on White’s Fort in East Tennessee that same year. Thereafter, he and his warriors operated somewhat independently, though occasionally joining Dragging Canoe’s campaigns, operating from his new settlement of Coldwater at the head of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River in what is now the state of Alabama. The location at the time was within the territory claimed by the Chickasaw, but Doublehead solved that problem by marrying two daughters to George Colbert, the chief of the Chickasaw town at the foot of the Shoals. Doublehead’s band included not only Cherokee, but Muskogee, Shawnee, and renegade Chickasaw (whose council and chiefs were adamantly opposed to the wars).
Activities in later years of the wars
Beginning in 1791, he began operating closely with the parties of his great-nephew, Bob Benge, who was to become one of the most feared warriors on the frontier, and Benge’s brother, The Tail, who were then based in Willstown. Following the death of Dragging Canoe in 1792, he became part of a triumvirate of leaders among the Chickamauga, along with Bloody Fellow and his nephew, John Watts, who was recognized as the chief of them.
In September 1792, Watts orchestrated a large campaign into the Cumberland region of combined Cherokee and Muskogee forces which included a contingent of cavalry. It was to be a three-pronged attack in which Tahlonteeskee (or Talotiskee) of the Muskogee (who was either a Creek chief or a relative of Doublehead by that name) led a force to ambush the Kentucky road; Middle Striker led another to do the same on the Walton road; while Watts himself led the main army which was made up of 280 Cherokee, Shawnee, and Muskogee warriors and cavalry, against a settlement on the Cumberland River known as Buchanan’s Station on Sept. 30, 1792. Among the attackers were the Shawnee Warrior (also known as Chiksika, or Cheeseekau), Tahlonteeskee, and Dragging Canoe’s brother, Little Owl, all of whom died in the encounter. Also killed in the attack was Pumpkin Boy, a younger brother of Doublehead.
One an earlier occasion, Doublehead, Pumpkin Boy, and their nephew Bob Benge, had led a raid into southwestern Kentucky during which their warriors, in an act initiated by Doublehead, cannibalized the enemies they had just killed. Their act was in imitation of the Iroquois, particularly the Mohawk, who were alleged to have done so to intimidate their enemies (especially during the Beaver Wars). Though every warrior present partook, Benge never operated with Doublehead afterward, sickened at his actions and at his own, nor did the later leader, The Ridge, who also took part.
Beginning of his troubles with James Vann
In 1793, a delegation of Shawnee stopped in Ustanali, the principal city of the Cherokee, on their way to call on the Muskogee and Choctaw to punish the Chickasaw for joining St. Clair’s army in the north. Watts sent envoys to Knoxville, then the capital of the Southwest Territory, to meet with Governor William Blount to discuss terms for peace. This party, which included Bob McLemore, Tahlonteeskee, Captain Charley of Running Water, and Doublehead, along with the white delegation, was attacked by militia during a stop at the Overhill town of Coyatee. Hanging Maw (one of two men claiming the title of “First Beloved Man”) was wounded, and several others, including his wife, daughter, and one of the white delegates, were killed. The Cherokee (and, amazingly, Watts’ hostile Chickamauga warriors) agreed to await the outcome of the subsequent trial, which proved to be a farce. This was in large part because the man responsible was a close friend of John Sevier.
Watts responded by invading the Holston area with one of the largest Indian forces ever seen in the region —over one thousand Cherokee, Muskogee, and Shawnee —intending to attack Knoxville itself. On the way, the Cherokee leaders were discussing among themselves whether to kill all the inhabitants of Knoxville, or just the men, James Vann advocating the latter while Doublehead argued for the former. Further on the way, they encountered a small settlement called Cavett’s Station. After they had surrounded the place, Benge negotiated with the inhabitants, agreeing that if they surrendered, their lives would be spared. However, after the settlers had walked out, Doublehead’s group and his Muskogee allies attacked and began killing them over the pleas of Benge and the others. Vann managed to grab one small boy and pull him onto his saddle, only to have Doublehead smash the boy’s skull with an axe. Watts intervened in time to save another young boy, handing him to Vann, who put the boy behind him on his horse and later handed him over to three of the Muskogee for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, one of the Muskogee chiefs killed the boy and scalped him a few days later.
Because of the above incident, Vann called Doublehead “Babykiller” for the remainder of his life. This incident also began a lengthy feud which defined the politics of the early 19th-century Cherokee Nation.
After the wars
Doublehead, as well as being one of the leaders of the Lower Towns, was elected first Speaker of the Cherokee National Council, when the Cherokee formed its first nascent national government, in 1794. He became one of the foremost advocates of acculturation and one of the richest men in The Cherokee Nation —the Lower Towns then being the wealthiest section of the entire country. He was also a chief advocate of land sales, along with several older chiefs in the Lower Towns, whose number included Dragging Canoe’s brother, Turtle at Home. This only increased the enmity between him and his chief rival, James Vann, who was the richest man in “The Nation.”
In August 1807, because of his ongoing machinations with U.S. Indian Affairs Commissioner Return J. Meigs, Jr. regarding under-the-table land deals, as well as personal animosity going back nearly two decades, several of the younger leaders of the Nation, led by James Vann, conspired to assassinate Doublehead. Meanwhile, Doublehead lost part of his thumb in a scuffle with a Cherokee named Bone Polisher. Vann, because of his personal animosity toward Doublehead going back nearly two decades, had initially planned to lead the assault, but had become too drunk to take part.
The Ridge (later known as Major Ridge) and Alexander Sanders, shot the injured chief in McIntosh’s Tavern at the Hiwassee Garrison near the Cherokee Agency (now Calhoun, Tennessee). The badly wounded Doublehead sought safety in the attic of schoolmaster Jonathan Blacke’s house, where the assassins finished the job with knives and tomahawks.
Thomas Clark was a close friend of the Cherokee Indian Chief Doublehead, and when a treaty was signed on 25 October 1805 for the location of a Fort opposite and below the mouth of the Hawassee River and on the North Bank of the Tennessee River. The Hiwassee Garrison, 1805 to 1817, as part of this treaty, a secret article was applicable to a small tract of land at and below the mouth of the Clinch River, to the one mile square at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains, and to the one square mile on the north bank of the Tennessee River where Cherokee Talootiske lived. The first mentioned tract was also intended for the benefit of Chief Doublehead, who leased it on 19 February 1806 to Thomas Clark for 20 years. When Chief Doublehead was killed at the site of the Hawassee Garrison in August 1807 by rivals who accused him of being a traitor to the Cherokees, the State of Tennessee assumed to grant the tract to Thomas Clark on 10 December 1820. At the time of the murder of Chief Doublehead, Thomas Clark, John D. Chisholm, and Major Return J. Meigs had been appointed the executors of the estate by Chief Doublehead, and he wished that his estate be disposed of in the manner of white people and his wishes were read and approved by the Cherokee Council. Chief Doublehead’s son Birdsong Doublehead, who was twelve years old and living in the Clarks’ home at the time of his father’s murder, stayed there until his father’s estate could be settled, and then Clark took him down to Mussel Shoals Alabama to be with his mother Nancy Drumgoole, last wife of Chief Doublehead.
A historical irony deserves mention here. Walker’s Ferry on the Hiwasssee River was owned by John Walker, Jr., a mixed blood who was one of Vann’s associates. In July 1834, because of his advocacy of removal in the years leading up to the Treaty of New Echota, Walker was assassinated on the road home from Red Clay, TN after a meeting of the Cherokee National Council. His killers were James Foreman and his half brother Anderson Springston. In June 1839, after the Cherokee Removal to Indian Territory, Major Ridge, his son John Ridge, and nephew Elias Boudinot (Cherokee) were accused of the same crime as that of Doublehead and themselves became the targets of assassins. Among the killers of Major Ridge were James Foreman, Anderson Springston, Isaac Springston, and Bird Doublehead. They were all maternal half-brothers whose mother was Nancy Drumgoole, last wife of Doublehead. Their son, Bird Doublehead, was twelve years old and residing at the home of Thomas Clark when his father, Doublehead, was killed by the Cherokee assassins, Alexander Sanders and Major Ridge.
A fictional version of his execution is in Dee Brown‘s novel Creek Mary’s Blood.
- Starr, Sharon (2009-04-13). “The James Scrolls: Chief Chuqualataque Doublehead”. Thejamesscrolls.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2015-03-29.
- Langguth, p. 31
- Hicks, pp. 20-24
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|Leader of the Chickamauga/Lower Cherokee