Tuscarora War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Tuscarora War
Part of the American Indian Wars
DateSeptember 22, 1711- February 11, 1715

Colonial government victory

  • Power of Tuscaroras broken
  • Tuscaroras retreat from the coast
  • Southern Tuscaroras migrate to New York
Colonial militia of Carolina
Provincial garrison troops and rangers
Northern Tuscarora
Southern Tuscarora
Commanders and leaders
Edward Hyde
Col. John Barnwell
Col. James Moore
Chief Tom Blunt
Chief Hancock

The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina from September 22, 1711 until February 11, 1715 between the British, Dutch, and German settlers and the Tuscarora Native Americans. The Europeans enlisted the Yamasee and Cherokee as Indian allies against the Tuscarora, who had amassed several allies themselves. This was considered the bloodiest colonial war in North Carolina.[1] Defeated, the Tuscarora signed a treaty with colonial officials in 1718 and settled on a reserved tract of land in what became Bertie County.

The first successful and permanent settlement of North Carolina by Europeans began in earnest in 1653. The Tuscarora lived in peace with the European settlers who arrived in North Carolina for over 50 years at a time when nearly every other colony in America was actively involved in some form of conflict with Native Americans. However, the settlers increasingly encroached on Tuscarora land, raided villages to take slaves, and introduced epidemic diseases. After their defeat, most of the Tuscarora migrated north to New York where they joined their Iroquoian cousins, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. They were accepted as the sixth nation. Their chief said that Tuscarora remaining in the South after 1722 were no longer members of the tribe.


The Tuscarora were an Iroquoian-speaking people who had migrated from the Great Lakes area into the Piedmont centuries before European encounter. Related peoples made up the Iroquois Confederacy based in present-day New York.

In the early 18th century, there were two groups in North Carolina: a Northern group led by Chief Tom Blount (pronounced Blunt) and a Southern group led by Chief Hancock. Chief Blount occupied the area around what is present-day Bertie County on the Roanoke River; Chief Hancock was closer to New Bern, North Carolina, occupying the area south of the Pamplico River (now the Pamlico River). Chief Blount became close friends with the influential Blount family of the Bertie region. But Chief Hancock and his people suffered raids and kidnappings by slave traders, who sold the Tuscarora into slavery. Both groups were adversely affected by the introduction of European diseases, to which they had no immunity and suffered high fatalities. They were also resentful of colonial encroachment on their lands.

Chief Hancock decided they needed to attack the settlers in an effort to drive them out of the area. Tom Blount did not become involved in the war at this point. Historians including Richard White and Rebecca Seaman have suggested the war grew out of misunderstandings between the colonists and the Tuscarora.[2]

The Southern Tuscarora, led by Chief Hancock, allied with the Pamplico people, the Cothechney, the Coree, the Mattamuskeet and the Machapunga to attack the settlers in a wide range of locations within a short time period. Principal targets were the planters along the Roanoke, Neuse, and Trent rivers and the city of Bath. They mounted their first attacks on September 22, 1711, and killed hundreds of settlers, including several key colonial political figures, such as John Lawson of Bath, plus driving off others. Baron Von Graffenried, who was a prisoner of the Tuscarora during their raids recounted stories of women impaled on stakes, more than 80 infants slaughtered, and more than 130 settlers killed in the New Bern settlement.[3]

Barnwell's Expedition[edit]

In 1711 the North Carolina colony had been weakened by Cary's Rebellion and so when the Tuscarora War broke out, Governor Edward Hyde asked the Legislature of South Carolina for assistance. It recruited and sent 528 men under Col. John Barnwell.[4] His force was broken into 3 companies under the command of a Major Mackay, a Native American man whose name is given simply as Captain Jack, and the future governor William Bull who at that time was a captain. Of the 528 men who took part in the expedition only 30 were European colonists. The majority of Barnwell's force consisted of Native Americans. He split his force in two, with one portion under the command of Captain Bull and the other under his own, and they traveled in that fashion from the Pedee River to the Cape Fear River. Upon arriving in Tuscarora territory they found numerous freshly built forts and the first major engagement took place at one of these forts named Narhantes on January 29, 1712 where Barnwell threw his standard on top of a fortified house and ordered his men to retrieve it as a way of encouraging them. After that battle he crossed the Neuse River and many of the Native Americans in his force took the opportunity to abandon him and go south to sell the slaves they had captured. This left Barnwell heavily dependent upon the Yamasee warriors who had, for the most part, remained with him. It wasn't until February 26 at New Bern that he received reinforcements from 67 North Carolinians, and he complained that most of them were poorly armed. On March 1 he finally arrived at Fort Hancock, the Tuscarora's primary fortification. By then the number of Native Americans with him had been reduced by death and desertion to 148 while the number of Europeans had increased to 94. In preparing to assault the fort he was informed that the Tuscarora had been taught to build earthworks by an escaped African slave named Harry, who had previously belonged to someone named Dove Williamson. By March 7 Barnwell had Fort Hancock surrounded and the Tuscarora responded by beginning to torture their prisoners within earshot of Barnwell's men and Barnwell claimed that one of the prisoners killed was an 8 year old girl. Faced with a growing number of wounded, a depleted force, and low ammunition, Barnwell arranged for a truce. Under the terms of the truce he would lift the siege in exchange for the Tuscarora immediately releasing 12 captives and then release the rest 12 days later at a spot near New Bern where a meeting would be held to discuss a long term peace agreement.

Barnwell faced tremendous criticism for lifting the siege and when the peace talks broke down and fighting broke out again it was decided that a new expedition, under the command of James Moore, be sent in Barnwell's place

Chief Blount and the Moore Expedition[edit]

The English offered Chief Blount control of the entire Tuscarora tribe if he assisted the settlers in defeating Chief Hancock. Chief Blount captured Chief Hancock, and the settlers executed him in 1712. In 1713 the Southern Tuscarora lost their Fort Neoheroka, located in Greene County.[5] About 950 people were killed or captured and sold into slavery in the Caribbean or New England by Colonel Moore and his South Carolina troops.[6] His forces were made up of 33 white men and more than 900 Native American allies, mostly Yamasee and Cherokee, historic competitors to the Tuscarora.

At this point, the majority of the surviving Southern Tuscarora began migrating to New York to escape the settlers in North Carolina. Their leader declared that those remaining in the South after 1722 were no longer members of the tribe. They joined the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy, and were accepted as the sixth nation.

The remaining Tuscarora signed a treaty with the settlers in June 1718. It granted them a tract of land on the Roanoke River in what is now Bertie County. This was the area already occupied by Tom Blount, and was specified as 56,000 acres (227 km²); Tom Blount was recognized by the Legislature of North Carolina as King Tom Blount. The remaining Southern Tuscarora were removed from their homes on the Pamlico River and forced to Bertie. In 1722 the colony chartered Bertie County. Over the next several decades, the remaining Tuscarora lands continually diminished as the tribe sold off land in deals which speculators designed to take advantage of them.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David La Vere. The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013; pg. ???
  2. ^ Seaman, Rebecca M. "John Lawson, the Outbreak of the Tuscarora Wars, and "Middle Ground" Theory", Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians; April 2010, Vol. 18, p9
  3. ^ Von Graffenried and Todd, Christoph Von Graffenried's Account of the Founding of New Bern, 238.
  4. ^ Barnwell, John (1908). "The Tuscarora Expedition. Letters of Colonel John Barnwell". The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine. 9 (1): 28–54. JSTOR 27575182.
  5. ^ North Carolina Archaeology: FORT NEOHEROKA, Arcaheology, Department of Cultural Resources
  6. ^ A People and A Nation, Seventh Edition, 2005

Further reading[edit]

  • David La Vere. The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2013
  • Wayne E. Lee, "Fortify, Fight, or Flee: Tuscarora and Cherokee Defensive Warfare and Military Culture Adaptation." Journal of Military History 68 (2004): 713-70.
  • Rebecca M. Seaman "John Lawson, the Outbreak of the Tuscarora Wars, and "Middle Ground" Theory"], Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians; April 2010, Vol. 18, p9

External links[edit]