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Tuscarora War




Courtesy of Joe A. Mobley, the University of North Carolina Press, and the North Carolina Office of Archives and History; Map by Mark Anderson Moore


The first successful European settlement in North Carolina started in 1653. The Europeans lived in peace with the Native Americans for over 50 years, while other colonies battled the original inhabitants. However, the relationship would not last forever.


There were two branches of the Tuscarora in North Carolina. The Northern group of Tuscarora was led by Chief Tom Blunt (later changed his name to Blount). They occupied the area of present-day Bertie County along the Roanoke River. The Southern group of Tuscarora was led by Chief Hancock. They occupied the area around present-day New Bern south of the Pamplico River (now the Pamlico River). Both groups were deeply affected by the introduction of European diseases and both found their lands shrinking by the increasing European population. While Chief Blunt became associated with the Blount family, Chief Hancock found his villages raided and his people kidnapped and sold into slavery. Chief Hancock felt that his only option was to attempt to remove the European influence from his lands.


Chief Hancock led his southern Tuscaroras. The Pamlico, the Cothechneys, the Corees, and the Matchapungoes joined them. Their area of operations was along the Roanake, Trent and Neuse areas, particularly in and around the city of Bath. The North Carolinians were ill-prepared for battle, particularly after the political chaos created by Cary's Rebellion. Cary's Rebellion concerned the deputy governorship of the Colony of North Carolina. Thomas Cary was the deputy governor until the Lords Proprietor chose Edward Hyde who came by ship from England for the position. Battles were fought while the governing of the colony was ignored.


The final trigger appears to have been the founding of the settlement of New Bern in 1710 by Baron Christoph von Graffenried, a leader of a group of Swiss and Germans. The settlement was established on the Neusioc town of Chattooka or Cartouca. The Neusiocs were paid for their land and left, but were apparently not satisfied. John Lawson, Surveyor-General of the colony (and founder of the city of Bath), chose the spot and told von Graffenreid that the site was uninhabited. When the site was found to be occupied, Lawson apparently recommended that the natives be driven off without payment. Lawson had been sympathetic towards the natives in the past, but shortly after this, he met with a terrible fate.


In mid-September, Lawson invited von Gaffenreid to go with him up the Neuse River to try to find a more efficient trail to Virginia, assuring von Gaffenreid that there would be no harm from natives. Several days after their departure, both men were seized and taken to Catechna (Coltechney), Chief Hancock's town. The men were questioned throughout the first night by a number of neighboring chiefs. They were first told that they would be released the next day. However, when morning came, more chiefs, who hadn't been there for the firt round of questioning, wanted to question the men. An argument between Lawson and several of the chiefs occurred. von Graffenreid was told he would be released, although his departure was delayed. Lawson was executed. His manner of execution has never been for certain, as von Gaffenreid was not a witness to the execution. Some believe Lawson's throat was cut with his own razor. Some believe he was hanged. Some believe he was poked full of touchwood bristles and slowly roasted.


The day after Lawson's execution, von Graffenreid was informed that he would be released, but not until after they had finished what they set out to do. Five hundred warriors from various tribes had gathered at Catechna prepared to do battle. Von Graffenreid secured a promise from the natives not to harm the settlement of New Bern.


Small groups of the warriors went out to various places along the Trent, Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. At sunrise on 22 Sep 1711, the warriors attacked. Survivors who could, fled. After killing, many bodies were mutilated. Without warning, many of the settlers could not defend themselves. Due to the warring between the Hyde and Cary factions, as well as a drought, many of the settlers did not have stores, ammunition or supplies to fend off the attackers. About 130 - 140 settlers were killed over a three-day period, many others wounded. The warriors took some captives, mostly women and children to use as slaves for themselves.


As a result of this attack, eleven forts were hastily built. Governor Hyde called out the North Carolina militia and got the Assembly to vote in a draft of men between the ages of 16 and 60. However, the Quakers refused to bear arms and supplies were limited. Hyde also requested help from Virginia and South Carolina. Virginia eventually sent a few supplies, but their answer was to stop trade with the Natives in Virginia to encourage them to fight against the Southern Tuscarora. South Carolina's answer was to send Col John Barnwell with "six hundred whites and three hundred sixty Indians". Barnwell's troops were a few whites and a large force of natives, made up primarily of Yamasee, but also included Catawba, Saraw, Cape Fear, Muskhogean, Wateree and Wynyaw.


Col Barnwell and his troops travelled north from South Carolina and made their way to the Neuse River area in January. Expecting to meet with a North Carolina force, they were disappointed, but kept travelling without the promised North Carolinian forces. They found Fort Narhantes 30 Jan 1712. He struck the village, finding it open with non-supporting fortifications. They faced fierce opposition, especially from the women, but after a few hours, they had taken the ground. Those not killed were taken captive. Barnwell had bought his allies with the promise of booty, scalps and plunder. Many of them now took what they could (including some captives) and quietly slipped away. Barnwell stayed at Narhantes for several days, destroying it completely.


Barnwell and his remaining forces spent the winter destroying Tuscarora villages in the area. On 27 Feb 1712, Barnwell and his force surrounded Chief Hancock's Fort. They found that all of the captives were being held there. With each attempt to attack the fort, Barnwell's forces were allowed to hear the screams of the captives as they were being tortured. Barnwell's forces requested that Barnwell negotiate for the captives release. The negotiations were that twelve captives would be release immediately and the remaining captives would be released 19 Mar at Batchelours Creek near New Bern. The Tuscarora never showed. Barnwell then established a garrison at Qurhous, across the Pamlico River from Bath Town to keep communications open between Pamlico and Neuse. He also established Fort Barnwell about 30 miles up the Neuse from New Bern.


On 7 Apr 1712, Barnwell with a group of 153 whites and 128 warriors surrounded Catechna. After a ten-day seige, and rather generous terms, The Tuscarora surrendered, offering up Chief Hancock and three others. Because Barnwell accepted these terms of surrender, he was censured by the North Carolinia government. Fearing that he would not receive any award for his efforts, he took several slaves for his bounty and returned to South Carolina.


Since Barnwell's departure with captives which he took for slaves violated the terms of surrender, the Tuscarora returned to the warpath.


Governor Hyde decided that he needed to lead the Albemarle County militia and finish the job started by Barnwell. However, before he could proceed, he was downed by another foe which took many North Carolinians lives the summer of 1712, he died of yellow fever 9 Sep 1712. Thomas Pollock assumed leadership of the North Carolina government. Pollock made efforts to supply the garrison and Bath and maintain the forces already in place.


South Carolina assembled a new force commanded by Colonel James Moore. The troops consisted of 33 whites and more than 900 warriors, mostly Yamasee. They arrived at Fort Barnwell early in Dec 1712. Finding Fort Barnwell low on supplies, he then went onto Bath Town. Finding no supplies at Bath, Moore then marched his troops into Albemarle County, where the North Carolina government attempted to feed more that 900 new mouths. Pollock made every effort to prepare the exhausted colonists for one final attack.


On 17 Jan 1713, Moore led his forces of more than 1000 toward the new Tuscarora stronghold at Fort Neorooka. However, bad weather and deep snows prevented them from getting far and they holed up at Fort Reading on the Pamlico River until 4 Feb. On 1 Mar, Moore's forces reached Fort Neorooka and the battle began. On 20 Mar, the final battle was launched. The last resistance was crushed 23 Mar 1713. Of the Tuscarora, nearly 400 were killed and burned inside the fort. Another 166 were killed outside the fort. Nearly 400 were taken as captives. Those who escaped fled toward the Virginia border and eventually made their way north to New York.


In Jun 1718, the Tuscarora remaining in North Carolina signed a treatie which gave them 56,000 acres in Bertie County. Chief Tom Blunt changed his name to Blount and was recognized by the North Carolina legislature as King Tom Blount. In 1722, the colony chartered Bertie County. Over the next several decades, the tribe losts the lands in Bertie County. They were sold by speculators who took unfair advantage of them. The Tuscarora who made their way to New York joined the Iroquois as the sixth nation. The Catawbas and other southern tribes who had aided the colonists were attacked by the Iroquois Nations for the next thirty years in vengeance.


Perhaps the most ironic thing about this war is that the Southern Tuscarora tribes had applied to Pennsylvania for a place to live in 1710. However, because of Pennsylvania's loosely written "Indian immigration laws", they could not immigrate there without a letter of good behavior from the North Carolina Colonial Government. The tribe had sought such a letter, but were ignored.






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