Tuscarora War

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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 Tuscarora people and their allies on one side and European American settlers, the Yamassee, and other allies on the other. This was considered the bloodiest colonial war in North Carolina.[1] The Tuscarora signed a treaty with colonial officials in 1718 and settled on a reserved tract of land in Bertie County, North Carolina.

The first successful settlement of North Carolina began in 1653. The Tuscarora lived in peace with the settlers for more than 50 years, while nearly every other colony in America was involved in some conflict with Native Americans. Most of the Tuscarora migrated north to New York after the war, where they joined the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy as the sixth nation.


The Tuscarora were an Iroquoian-speaking people who had migrated from the Great Lakes area into the Piedmont centuries before European colonization. Related peoples made up the Iroquois Confederacy based in New York. There were two groups in North Carolina in the early 18th century, a northern group led by Chief Tom Blount and a southern group was led by Chief Hancock. Blount occupied the area around Bertie County on the Roanoke River; Hancock was closer to New Bern, occupying the area south of the Pamlico River. Blount became close friends with the influential Blount family of the Bertie region, but Hancock's people had suffered raids and kidnappings by slave traders.

Hancock's tribe began to attack the settlers, but Blount's tribe did not become involved in the war at this point. Some historians including Richard White and Rebecca Seaman have suggested that the war grew out of misunderstandings between the colonists and the Tuscaroras.[2] The Southern Tuscaroras led by Hancock allied with the Pamplico, Cothechney, Coree, Mattamuskeet and Machapunga to attack the settlers in a wide range within a short time period. They attacked homesteads along the Roanoke, Neuse, and Trent rivers and in the city of Bath beginning on September 22, 1711 and killed hundreds of settlers, including several key colonial political figures, such as John Lawson of Bath, while driving off others. Christoph von Graffenried was a prisoner of the Tuscarora during the raids, and he 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 Governor Edward Hyde asked South Carolina for assistance. South Carolina sent Colonel John Barnwell with a force of 30 white officers and about 500 Native Americans from South Carolina, including Yamasee, Wateree, Congaree, Waxhaw, Pee Dee, and Apalachee. Barnwell's expedition traveled over 300 miles and arrived in January 1712. There the force was supplemented by 50 local militiamen and attacked the Tuscarora, who retreated to Fort Neoheroka in Greene County. The Tuscarora negotiated a truce and released their prisoners.[4]

Barnwell's expedition did not win the war. Barnwell left for South Carolina, displeasing the North Carolina settlers who wished for a total victory over the Tuscarora. The South Carolinians were unhappy that there was no payment for their help. Additionally, some South Carolina officers retained Tuscarora to sell as slaves, which incited the Tuscarora into a new wave of attacks. These attacks came amid a yellow fever outbreak that weakened the North Carolina colony; the combined pressure caused many settlers to free. Governor Thomas Pollack requested the aid of South Carolina.[4]

Chief Blount and the Moore expedition[edit]

South Carolina dispatched Colonel James Moore with a force of 33 colonists and nearly 1,000 Native Americans, which arrived in December 1712.[4] The settlers offered Blount control of the entire Tuscarora tribe if he assisted them in defeating Hancock. Blount captured Hancock, and the settlers executed him in 1712. In 1713, the Southern Tuscarora lost their Fort Neoheroka 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]

Following the decisive defeat, many Tuscarora began a migration to New York. There they joined the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and were accepted as the sixth tribe. Some Tuscarora bands remained in North Carolina with Blount for decades, with the last leaving for New York in 1802.[4]

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. ^ a b c d Shamlin, Jim. "The Tuscarora War." North Carolina Literary Review, Volume 1, Number 1, Summer 1992.
  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]