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Tennessee Historical Commission marker at the north end of McSween Memorial Bridge (US-321) in Newport, Tennessee.
The sign recalls the location of War Ford, 0.2 miles to the east along the Pigeon River.
The ford was an important crossing along the Great Indian Warpath.

The Great Indian Warpath (GIW) — also known as the Great Indian War and Trading Path, or the Seneca Trail — was that part of the network of trails in eastern North America developed and used by Native American which ran through the Great Appalachian Valley . The system of footpath (the Warpath branched off in several places onto alternate routes and over time shifted westward in some regions) extended from what is now upper New Yorkmarker state to deep within Georgiamarker. Various Indians traded and made war along the trails, including the Catawba, numerous Algonquian tribes, the Cherokee, and the Iroquois Confederacy. The British traders' name for the route was derived from combining its name among the northeastern Algonquin tribes, "Mishimayagat" or "Great Trail", with that of the Shawnee and Delaware, "Athawominee" or "Path where they go armed".

The route


In the south, the GIW began at the Gulf of Mexicomarker in the Mobilemarker area and proceeded north by northeast, bisecting another trail known as the Upper Creek Path and crossing the Tennessee River near Guntersvillemarker. It then followed roughly the same route as the Tennessee upriver until reaching the vicinity of the modern Bridgeportmarker. There it crossed the Tennessee once again at the Great Creek Crossing just below the foot of Long Island on the Tennessee, intersecting another path, the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail, which ran from the area of St. Augustine, Floridamarker to that of Nashville, Tennesseemarker.


Several miles upriver from Long Island, the GIW passed through the Nickajack area, so-called by the Cherokee (from Ani-Kusati) because it had once inhabited by the Koasati.

After following the south bank of the Tennessee River, the Warpath proceeded through Running Water Valley to Lookout/Will's Valley, where it met the Cumberland Trail, which came up through the latter valley from its terminus at Gadsden, Alabamamarker on a point along the Upper Creek Path on its way to the Cumberland Gapmarker, the Ohio Valley, and the Great Lakesmarker region. Having met, both trails crossed the foot of Lookout Mountainmarker approximately along the same route as the later Old Wauhatchie Pike.

Once over the mountain, the Warpath crossed lower Chattanooga Valley to what archaeologists refer to as the Citico site, which was for several hundred years the pre-eminent town in the early period of the Mississippian culture in East Tennessee (until around 1200). Afterwards, it ran east along the route of the late Shallowford Road to Missionary Ridge, where it divided, the main branch heading northeast toward the Shallow Ford (which can still be seen) across the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek) and the other branch directly east along the route of Bird's Mill/Brainerd Road to cross at another ford at the site of the later Brainerd Mission and Bird's Mill.

Here, on the east bank, is where Dragging Canoe established his headquarters after leaving the Overhill Cherokee towns on the Little Tennessee Rivermarker (see Chickamauga Wars). From there, it proceeded north along the modern-day Chickamauga Road until reaching the main route again to follow roughly along the later Chattanooga-Cleveland Pike. From the area of Cleveland, Tennesseemarker, the Warpath following much the same line as Lee Highway until reaching the Little Tennessee Rivermarker.

From Old Chickamauga Town, a third branch of the Warpath passed across Hickory Valley, where it intersected a path from the Cisca and St. Augustine Trail in North Georgia to the Tennessee River, which intersected the main route of the Warpath before fording the stream at Harrison, Tennesseemarker to reach the Middle Mississippian town archaeologists call the Dallas site. After crossing that valley, the branch from Chickamauga passed east to Parker's Gap through Whiteoak Mountain and turned northeast, eventually itself reaching the main route again.

In the Overhill Cherokee country it ran from lands to the north to the town of Chotamarker on the Little Tennessee. Here, another important trail, the Warriors' Path, continued south to the town of Great Tellicomarker (present-day Tellico Plainsmarker), following Ball Play Creek, modern Ball Play Road, and the Tellico Rivermarker. At Great Tellico, the Warrior's Path intersected the Trading Path (later called the "Unicoi Turnpike"), which ran east over the mountains. From Great Tellico, the Warrior's Path followed Conasauga Creek to its confluence with the Hiwassee Rivermarker, where the town of Great Hiwasseemarker stood. (Duncan 2003:242-243).


The GIW, meanwhile, continued about the same route as Lee Highway.

West Virginia

In Monroe County, West Virginiamarker, the GIW would later become US Route 219. Proceeding north through present-day Greenbrier, Pocahontas, and Randolph Counties until it reached the vicinity of Elkins, West Virginiamarker and it is from this point north that the GIW was usually known as the Seneca Trail. By way of Shavers Fork of the Cheat River and Cheat Mountain, the path came into present-day Tucker Countymarker near the Fairfax Stonemarker, an 18th century boundary marker between what was then Virginiamarker and Marylandmarker. Another branch (known locally as the Shawnee Trail) crossed the mountains near the headwaters of the Cheat River to Seneca Rocks, and travelled downstream along the South Branch of the Potomac. This trail name has inspired the names many things including a school known as Seneca Trail Christian Academy in Greenbrier County.



New York

Afterwards, the GIW generally followed the Allegheny Mountains into the Mid-Atlantic region, New Englandmarker, and into Newfoundland, where it met its northern terminus.

The trail and white settlers

In the north, the line of the Seneca Trail formed the boundary of "the frontier" by the time of the French and Indian War (1756-63). When King George III issued a proclamation in 1763 forbidding further settlement beyond the mountains and demanding the return of settlers who had already crossed the Alleghenies, a line was designated roughly following the Seneca Trail.


  • Duncan, Barbara R. and Riggs, Brett H. Cherokee Heritage Trails Guidebook. University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill (2003). ISBN 0-8078-5457-3
  • Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, pp. 206-207. (Nashville: Charles and Randy Elder-Booksellers, 1982).

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