During the Tuscarora War, which began 1711, many of the tribes sent warriors to help the colonists and the colonial militias. Some of the tribes began communicating amongst themselves. They also could readily see the weaknesses that the colonies had. The aftermath of the Tuscarora War led to some of the difficulties which prompted the Yamasee War.
The Yamasee tribe was native to northern Florida. Spanish settlement and exploration had forced the tribe to move north and they settled along the coast in and around the Savannah River. One of their settlements was at Port Royal.
When the settlers came to the Carolinas, they found numerous tribes in the areas and that slaves from these tribes were plentiful. When the Yamasee tribe was pushed north, they traded deerskins and slaves for firearms and other European goods. As the colonists began settling lands, the deer population shrunk. With the demand for deerskins growing and the supply diminishing, the Yamasee went into debt for European goods and firearms. Some of the tribes began selling their own to pay for their debts.
During the Tuscarora War, the Yamasee tribe had actually sided with the Carolinians. However, fearing an Ochsee Creek uprising, Governor Charles Craven sent a small delegation to Pocotaligo to meet with the Yamasee tribe to arrange a meeting. The delegation consisted of Samuel Warner, William Bray, Thomas Nairne, John Wright, Seymour Burroughs and one unknown individual. Samuel Warner and William Bray were sent by the Board of Commissioners. Thomas Nairne and John Wright were important people in the Indian trading system. They arrived and met with the Yamasee on 14 Apr 1715, the day before Good Friday. The delegation promised to address the Yamasee's concerns. Confident that the meeting had gone well, the delegation spent the night at the Pocotaligo Trading Post run by Bray. After the delegation left the meeting, the Yamasee spent the evening debating amongst themselves and decided on a course of action. The attacked the Post, killing Warner, Bray, Nairne and Wright. Burroughs, although shot twice, escaped toward Port Royal to raise an alarm before he succombed to his wounds. The sixth individual hid in the swamps and witnessed the death-by-torture of Nairne before escaping. This incident started the Yamasee War, one of the bloodiest wars per capita. When considering the population, the Yamasee War, King Philip's War and the Pontiac Rebellion are all in the same class. The date of the massacre was 15 Apr 1715.
The Yamasee quickly organized a couple of war parties, sending one to Port Royal and the other to Saint Bartholomew's Parish. Those not wishing to fight, went south to to makeshift forts for refuge. Seymour Burroughs made it as far as John Barnwell's plantation. However, the alarm was raised and a captured smuggler's ship was docked at Port Royal and many settlers boarded the ship to flee, while some escaped on canoes. However, the second war party invaded Saint Bartholomew's Parish. They killed over a hundred settlers and slaves, burned and pillaged plantations and taking captives. Within a week, a large Yamasee army prepared to face a hastily formed militia.
Although this is called the Yamasee war, it involved more than just the Yamasee tribe, which was actually not a tribe but an amalgamation of early Native American groups. Other tribes included the Ochese Creek (also known as the Lower Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Catawba, Apalachee, Apalachicola, Yuchi, Savannah River Shawnee, Congaree, Waxhaw, Pee Dee, Cape Fear, Cheraw, Wateree and Santee. The Catawba tribe in the north didn't immediately join the war. The Catawba was waiting and watching.
The large Yamasee force met the militia led by Governor Craven near Salkehatchie (English translated it to Saltcatchers). The open terrain battle was what the militia officers desired. The warriors attempted several maneuvers to outflank the Carolinians, but were unsuccessful. After several leaders were killed, the Yamasee retreated. Although the number of casualties was equal for both sides (24), this was a decisive victory for the Carolinians. Some smaller militia forces pursued the Yamasee and won further battles.
Alexander MacKay, led a force south. They encountered a group of about 200 Yamasee in a pallisaded fort encampment which they attacked. The Carolinians made two sorties over the fort's walls and the Yamasee decided to retreat, where they were ambushed by more of MacKay's forces. The Yamasee were decimated at this battle.
In the Daufuskie fight, in the summer of 1715, a Carolinian boat scout crew ambushed a small group of Yamasee, killing 35 with only one casualty. Not long after, the remaining Yamasee moved south along the Altamaha River.
The colonists first concern was their own safety against the Yamasee, the traders along the frontier found themselves caught in the middle. In the first few weeks, of the 100 or so traders in the frontier, more than 90 were killed by the warring tribes.
In the beginning of the War, Carolinians were hoping for help from the Catawba and Cherokee. However, news filtered back that they had disposed of traders, although not as quickly as the southern tribes. In May 1715, approximately 400 Catawba warriors with 70 Cherokee warriors terrorized the northern part of the colony. Captain Thomas Barker led a force of 90 calvary in Jun in response to the attacks. The were ambushed and all of the calvary were killed. Another Catawba-Cherokee war party attacked Schenckingh's Fort, killing most of the garrison. This eliminated any defenses for the Goose Creek area of the colony. Before the Catawba and Cherokee could get to Charles Town, the Cherokee heard that their villages were being targetted and left.
The remaining Catawba forces then faced a hastily organized militia under George Chicken. On 13 Jun 1715, Chicken's forces ambushed a Catawba party and attacked the main force of the Catawba. In the Battle of Ponds, Chicken's forced routed the Catawba, who were not used to direct confrontations.
In Jul 1715, Catawba diplomats met with the British in Virginia to arrange for peace and offer to assist South Carolina militarily.
The Ochese Creek were buffered from the colonial settlers by smaller tribes like the Yuchi, Savannah River Shawnee, Apalachee and Apalachicola. In retrospect, it appears that the Ochese Creek were actually more of the instigators in this War than the Yamasee, although the Yamasee were not entirely innocent. In the summer of 1715, these tribes made quite a few attacks on colonial settlers. Although they became more cautious once the colonists began making their own attacks. The smaller tribes fled the Savannah River area when the colonist's counterattacks proved effective. Many of them sought refuge with the Ochese Creeks.
One of the main issues of the war was trade goods. The Creeks had come to depend on the muskets, gun powder and bullets that they could obtain through South Carolina. During the Yamasee War, they developed closer relationships with the French and Spanish, although the French and Spanish were unable to provide either the quantity or quality that they could get through the British. The Ochese Creeks were also able to get some trade goods through relationships with the Chickasaw and Cherokee. Althought the Chickasaw made peace with the colonial settlers, claiming that any traders that had been killed in their towns were done by the Creeks. South Carolinians accepted that at face value. The Cherokee's position now became very important. If the Cherokee warred, the Creeks would have too. If the Cherokees remained apart, the Creeks may or may not be able to succeed.
The Cherokee were divided. The Lower Cherokee who were closer to the Carolinians were in favor of war and some had assisted in attacks on Santee River settlements. The Overhill Cherokee, furthest away from South Carolina, preferred to war on their rivals the Creeks. One of the proponents of peace with South Carolina, was a Chief of a Middle Cherokee town named Caesar.
Late in 1715, two Carolinians travelled to Cherokee towns and returned to Charles Town with a large Cherokee delegation. An alliance was formed and war plans against the Creeks were made. However, the following month, the Cherokee didn't meet with the South Carolinians at Savannah Town as expected and the South Carolinians travelled through Cherokee villages. The delegation discovered just how divided the Cherokee were. Most wanted peace with the South Carolinians. Few wanted war with the Creeks.
The delegation was told that a flag of truce had been sent to the Creeks and that the Creeks would send a delegation. It was decided that peace would be made with the Creeks at the present time. So the South Carolinians spent the winter persuading the pro-war Cherokee that a truce with the Creeks was just as well.
On 27 Jan 1716, a party of Creeks arrived at Tugaloo and eleven or twelve of them were killed by the Cherokee before the South Carolinians arrived. The Cherokee claimed that the Creek "delegation" was in fact a war party which had nearly ambushed the South Carolinians. The result of the incident at Tugaloo put the Creeks and Cherokees at war with each other and the Cherokee and South Carolina as allies.
The Cherokee had several victorious offensives against the Creek, but the Creeks' counterattacks took the will to fight out of many of the Cherokee. In all, the Creeks and Cherokee continued to attack each other for several more generations.
Early in 1716, the Creeks moved their towns from the Ocmulgee River Basin and the Ochese Creek (where there name came from) back to the Chattahoochee River. The Creeks had left the Chattahoochee River area around 1690 to be closer to trade with South Carolina. The move back to the Chattahoochee River precluded an attack by South Carolina. In 1716 and 1717, no British-Cherokee attack came to the Creeks. They resumed attacking their professed enemies, but were undergoing a severe supply shortage. On the other hand, the Cherokee had no end to weapons and ammunition. Early in 1717, a few emissaries travelled to Creek villages and vice versa as the first steps to peace. Then some Muskogean Creeks travelled to New York to meet with some Iroquois Six Nations. The Iroquois were impressed with the Creeks and send a delegation of 20 of their own back with them. The Iroquois and Creeks were primarily interested in attacking Catawba and Cherokee, but to the colonists, an alliance between the Creeks and the Iroquois was terrifying. In response, South Carolina sent several emissaries with a large trade good present.
After the Yamasee and Catawbas pulled back, the militia reoccupied abandoned settlements and created several makeshift forts. The militia responded well to offensives, but didn't fare as well against raids. By the summer of 1715, many of the militia were deserting, some to care for their families, some to leave entirely. In response, Governor Craven replaced the militia with a paid army. By August, there were 600 South Carolinians, 400 black slaves, 170 friendly warriors, and about 300 from North Carolina and Virginia. This was the first time a professional Army was assembled in South Carolina and the militia disbanded.
After the alliance with the Cherokee, the Army was disbanded as well, since it was relatively ineffectual against the Creeks. Because of the number of tribes involved, there was no definite end to this war. In late 1717, treaties were established with some of the Muskogean and Creek tribes. With some tribes, no treaties were ever established. The Yamasee and Apalachicola tribes moved south, but continued to attack South Carolina settlements into the 1720s. Frontier insecurity continued.
As a direct result of the Yamasee War, the Carolina Colony overthrew the Lords Proprietors and became a crown colony. In 1729, North Carolina and South Carolina were officially Crown Colonies. Also as a direct result, James Oglethorpe was able to negotiate with the Yamasee (which became now know as the Yamacraw) for the land in which he founded his capital city of Savannah. This led to the establishment of the Georgia Colony.
Part of the remnants of the Yamasee with part of the Apalachicola went south to the area of Saint Augustine. Eventually they mixed with the Seminoles. Part of the Yamasee, Apalachicola, Apalachee, and others became a part of the Ochese Creek, which became the Lower Creek. The Catawbas absorbed most of the northern and Piedmont tribes, such as the Congaree, Waxhaw, Pee Dee, Cape Fear, Cheraw, Santee and Wateree. The Catawba force became the most powerful especially after the Tuscarora moved north to join the Iroquois.
© 2010 Jeanne Hicks Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.