The Yamasee War

In 1715 the Yamasee war broke out, the most disastrous of all those which the two Carolina settlements had to face. The documents of South Carolina show clearly that the immediate cause of this uprising was the misconduct of some English traders, but it is evident that the enslavement of Indians, carried on by Carolina traders in an ever more open and unscrupulous manner, was bound to produce such an explosion sooner or later. The best contemporary narratives of this revolt are to be found in “An Account of Missionaries Sent to South Carolina, the Places to Which They Were Appointed, Their Labours and Success, etc.,” and in “An Account of the Breaking Out of the Yamassee War, in South Carolina, extracted from the Boston News, of the 13th of June, 1715,” both contained in Carroll’s Historical Collections of South Carolina. 1 The following is from the first of these documents:

In the year 1715, the Indians adjoining to this colony, all round from the borders of Fort St. Augistino to Cape Fear, had formed a conspiracy to extirpate the white people. This war broke out the week before Easter [actually on April 15]. The parish of St. Helen’s had some apprehensions of a rising among the adjoining Indians, called the Yammosees. On Wednesday before Easter, Captain Nairn, agent among the Indians, went, with some others, to them [and it appears by direct commission of Governor Craven who had rumors of trouble], desiring to know the reason of their uneasiness, that if any injury had been done them, they might have satisfaction made them. The Indians pretended to be well content, and not to have any designs against the English. Mr. Nairn therefore and the other traders continued in the Pocotaligat-Town, one of the chief of the Yammosee nations. At night they went to sleep in the round-house, with the King and chief War-Captains, in seeming perfect friendship; but next morning, at break of day, they were all killed with a volley of shot, excepting one man and a boy, who providentially escaped (the man much wounded) to Port-Royal, and gave notice of the rising of the Indians to the inhabitants of St. Helen’s. Upon this short warning, a ship happening to be in the river, a great number of the inhabitants, about 300 souls, made their escape on board her to Charles-Town, and among the rest, Mr. Guy, the society’s missionary; having abandoned all their effects to the savages: some few families fell into their hands, who were barbarously tortured and murdered.

The Indians had divided themselves into two parties; one fell upon Port-Royal, the other upon St. Bartholomew’s parish; about 100 Christians fell into their hands, the rest fled, among which [was] the Reverend Mr. Osborn, the society’s missionary there. The women and children, with some of the best of their effects, were conveyed to Charles-Town; most of the houses and heavy goods in the parish were burnt or spoil’d. The Yammosees gave the first stroke in this war, but were presently joined by the Appellachee Indians. 2 On the north side of the province, the English had at first, some hopes in the faithfulness of the Calabaws [Catawbas] and Creek Indians, but they soon after declared for the Yammosees.

Upon news of this rising, the governor (the Honourable Charles Craven, Esq.), with all expedition, raised the forces in Colleton county, and with what assistance more could be got presently, put himself at their head, and marched directly to the Indians, and the week after Easter came up with them and attacked them at the head of the river Cambahee; and after a sharp engagement put them to flight, and stopped all farther incursions on that side. 3

The narrative in the Boston News is as follows:

On Tuesday last arrived here His Majesty’s ship Success, Captain Meade, Commander, about 12 days’ passage from South Carolina, by whom his excellency, our Governor, had a letter from the Honourable Gov. Craven, of South Carolina, acquainting him that all their Indians, made up of many various Nations, consisting of between 1000 to 1200 men, (lately paid obedience to that Government) had shaken of their fidelity, treacherously murdering many of His Majesty’s subjects.

Gov. Craven hearing of this rupture, immediately despatched Captain Nairn and Mr. John Cockran, gentlemen well acquainted with the Indians, to know the cause of their discontent, who accordingly on the 15th of April, met the principal part of them at the Yamassee Town, about 130 miles from Charlestown, and after, several debates, pro and con, the Indians seemed very ready to come to a good agreement and reconciliation, and having prepared a good supper for our Messengers, all went quietly to rest; but early next morning their lodging was beset with a great number of Indians, who barbarously murdered Captain Nairn and Messieurs John Wright, and Thomas Ruffly, Mr. Cockran and his wife they kept prisoners, whom they afterwards slew. One Seaman Burroughs, a strong robust man, seeing the Indians’ cruel barbarity on the other gentlemen, made his way good through the middle of the enemy, they pursuing and firing many shot at him. One took him through the cheek (which is since cured) and coming to a river, he swam through, and alarmed the plantations; so that by his escape, and a merchantman that lay in Port Royal River, that fired some great guns on the Enemy, several Hundreds of English lives were saved.

At the same time that Governour Craven despatched Captain Nairn and Mr. Cockran to make enquiry of the rupture between us and the Indians, he got himself a party of horse, and being accompanied with several gentlemen volunteers, intended for the Yamassee Town, in order to have an impartial account of their complaints and grievances, to redress the same, and to rectify any misunderstanding or disorders that might have happened. And on his journey meeting with certain information of the above Murder, and the Rebellion of the Enemy, he got as many men ready as could be got, to the Number of about two hundred and forty, designing to march to the Enemies’ Head Quarters, and engage them.

At the same time the Governour despatched a Courier to Colonel Mackay, with orders forthwith to raise what forces he could, to go by water and meet him at Yamassee Town. The Governour marched within sixteen miles of said town, and encamped at night in a large Savanna or Plain, by a Wood-side, and was early next morning by break of day saluted with a volley of shot from about five hundred of the enemy; that lay ambuscaded in the Woods, who notwithstanding of the surprise, soon put his men in order, and engaged them so gallantly three quarters of an hour, that he soon routed the enemy; killed and wounded several of them; among whom some of their chief Commanders fell, with the loss on our side of several men wounded, and only John Snow, sentinel, killed. The Governour seeing the great numbers of the enemy, and wanting pilots to guide him over the river, and then having vast woods and swamps to pass through, thought best to return back.

Captain Mackay, in pursuit of his orders, gathered what force he could, and embarked by water, and landing marched to the Indian Yamassee town; and though he was disappointed in meeting the Governour there, yet he surprised and attacked the enemy, and routed them out of their town, where he got vast quantities of provision that they stored up, and what plunder they had taken from the English. Colonel Mackay kept possession of the Town; and soon after hearing that the enemy had got into another fort, where were upwards of 200 Men, he detached out of his Camp about 140 Men, to attack it and engaged them. At which time a young Strippling, named Palmer, with about sixteen Men, who had been out upon a Scout, came to Colonel Mackay’s assistance, who, at once, with his men, scaled their walls, and attacked them in their trenches, killed several, but meeting with so warm a reception from the enemy that he was necessitated to make his retreat; yet on a second re-entry with men, he so manfully engaged the enemy as to make them fly their fort. Colonel Mackay being without, engaged them on their flight, where he slew many of them. He has since had many skirmishes with them.

The Governour has placed garrisons in all convenient places that may be, in order to defend the country from depredations and incursions of the enemy, till better can be made. We had about a hundred traders among the Indians, whereof we apprehend they have murdered and destroyed about nintety Men, and about forty more Men we have lost in several skirmishes. 4

Meanwhile the Indians to the north of the colony had not been idle, and the missionary account already quoted has the following regarding their activities:

In the mean time, on the northern side, the savages made an inroad as far as the plantation of Mr. John Herne, distant 30 miles from Goosecreek; and treacherously killed that gentleman, after he had (upon their pretending peace) presented them with provisions. Upon news of this disaster, a worthy gentleman, Captain Thomas Barker, was sent thither with 90 men on horseback; but by the treachery of an Indian whom he trusted, fell into an ambuscade, in some thick woods, which they must necessarily pass. The Indians fired upon them from behind trees and bushes. The English dismounted, and attacked the savages, and repulsed them; but having lost their brave commanding officer, Mr. Barker, and being themselves in some disorder, made their retreat.

Upon this advantage, the Indians came farther on toward Goosecreek, at news of which, the whole parish of Goosecreek became deserted, except two fortified plantations: and the Reverend Dr. Le Jeau, the society’s missionary there, fled to Charles-Town.

These northern Indians, being a body of near 400 men, after attacking a small fort in vain, made proposals of peace, which the garrison unwarily hearkening to, admitted several of them into the fort, which they surprised and cut to pieces the garrison, consisting of 70 white people and 40 blacks; a very few escaped. After this they advanced farther, but on the 13th of June, Mr. Chicken, the Captain of the Goosecreek Company, met and attacked them, and after a long action, defeated them, and secured the province on that side from farther ravages. 5

The northern hostiles probably consisted principally of the Indians of the small Siouan tribes, the Cheraw in particular having been long at odds with the settlers.

In a letter to the Spanish king, already quoted, the monk Escudero says regarding this war:

About seventeen or eighteen years ago the said Indians Llamapas [Yamassas], while being settled at their towns, living quietly and feared by all around these provinces, four English Captains with a body of soldiers descended upon the towns of the said Llamapas, and wanted to count the number of Indians that each town contained. Which upon being noticed by the said Indians they judged that the object of the English was to make slaves of them and one night they revolted against the English, and after having killed them all, captains and soldiers, they went to other English settlements and killed everyone of them, sparing only the women that could be of service to them and the negroes to sell to the Spaniards. Their fury and cruelty was such that they did not even spare the children. 6

Escudero then passes over the specific events of the war and refers to the removal of the Yamasee to Florida and the reception given them. He is not accurate in all of his statements by any means, but it is interesting to note that a census of all of the Indian tribes, including among them the Yamasee, was actually made a few months before the outbreak. It is to be feared, from the general conduct of the settlers of our Southern States toward the Indians during that period, that their inference from this was only too well justified.

This grand conspiracy of Indian tribes has never been given enough attention by our historians. It was a movement of the same order as the conspiracies of Opechancanough in Virginia, King Philip in New England, the Natchez in Louisiana, and, although on a smaller scale, of Pontiac and Tecumseh, individualism’s tribute to cooperation in time of adversity, inspired by a broader insight into the movement of events for the time being, and failing because the unifying tendency is too late, the individualistic instinct too normal and too deep-seated. From what we learn of this particular uprising, from both French and English sources, we know that it was the result of a conspiracy shared by the Creeks, the Choctaw, the Catawba and other Siouan tribes, and probably by the Cherokee. Apparently the only exceptions were the Chickasaw and a few small bands of Indians within the colony of South Carolina itself. Fortunately the greater tribes were at a distance and rested satisfied when they had killed the traders among them and plundered their stores. Fortunately too, the governor of South Carolina and his subordinates acted with promptness and complete success. The Yamasee were handled so severely that they left the country and settled for the most part in Florida, whither their women and children had preceded them. The Indians attacking from the north, probably small tribes only, were driven back. This removed the first line of Indian attack on the colony in short order, and either the more remote hostiles must be prepared to bear the brunt of the fighting if the original project was to be carried out or they must get out of danger. It was one thing to take the part of passive conspirators behind the backs of the Yamasee, but quite another to be the principal performers, especially after the impressive and rapid manner in which their allies had been routed. As a result the more distant tribes immediately quieted down. The Catawba ever after remained staunch friends of the colonists, and the Cherokee resumed peaceful relations with them. To secure themselves against possible reprisals many of the other tribes moved farther from the borders of Carolina, the Apalachee, Oconee, Apalachicola, and part of the Yuchi and Savannah falling back to the Ocmulgee and thence to the Chattahoochee, while the great body of Lower Creeks, who were then living on the Oomulgee and its branches, also fell back to the Chattahoochee, some of them, apparently, removing as far as the Tallapoosa. Aside from its immediate effects on the colony of South Carolina the Yamasee war is thus of great importance in tracing the history of the Indian tribes of the Southeast, marking as it does a great step in their progressive decline and fall.

From what Escudero says it may be inferred that another cause of the lukewarmness of the Creeks was jealousy of the Yamasee, and, as we shall see when we come to consider the part played in this dis-turbance by the Apalachee, there was an English as well as a Spanish faction in the Creek Nation. The former apparently obtained control shortly after the beginning of the war.

The part played by the Spaniards in all this was perhaps nothing more than that of passive sympathizers. They may or may not have been aware that a massacre was coming when they received the women and children of the Yamasee, for it was a natural measure of precaution preceding the change of allegiance. Some light is thrown on the events of the time by Juan de Ayala’s letter to the Spanish ambassador. He says:

The Governor and Captain General of these provinces [of Florida] at that time reported to H. M. that on the 27th of May of last year [1715?], there had appeared before him, four Indian Caciques of the revolted towns [i. e., those which had previously revolted from the Spaniards], soliciting pardon and permission to return under the dominion of H. M., and to become his subjects, representing one hundred and sixty of their towns [!!]. And that the Governor had granted them pardon in the name of H. M. , designating to them the territory they should occupy in order that they might resume the cultivation of their lands in peace and quietness, as they had lived before.

Of their reception in Florida after they had been driven from Carolina, Escudero says:

They came to the provinces of Florida occupied by us, asking to be admitted into the service of our King, which was granted them by that Governor, amidst great rejoicing by the people of that city [St. Augustine]. They founded their towns at a distance of ten and twelve leagues from the said city and were maintained by Y. E. that first year with an abundance of everything, and afterwards by allowing them whatever they asked for to the present day [1734]. 6

Escudero thus sketches the history of these returned Yamasee during the first few years:

Of these Indians, seven or eight of their caciques, not having sufficient confidence in the Spaniards, remained in the depopulated province of Apalache, about a hundred and fifty leagues from St. Augustine, but having heard of the good reception and kind treatment that their companions had received from the Spaniards, asked the governor to send to their towns a few missionary fathers, as they desired to become Christians and subjects of our king.

Missionaries were asked from Spain, and about thirteen years ago, twelve of them were sent to that province of Florida. Upon their arrival in St. Augustine, I was selected, together with ten other clergymen, for that mission. I remained among them, in those deserts, during three years, at which time they had all become Christians.

Just then the Vehipes 7 [Creek] Indians, instigated by the English, came down upon us, but after the loss of some men, I succeeded with my Indians in withdrawing from those woods and falling back upon St. Augustine, where we joined the other Indians of the same nation, so that united we could resist the attacks of the enemy. We formed our towns in that province of Florida, but about seven or eight years ago the enemy again hunted us up and killed many Indians. 8

A few Yamasee may have gone to live with their northern allies, since Adair mentions their language as one of those spoken in the Catawba confederacy in 1743. 9 Just after the Yamasee war we also hear of Yamasee on “Sapola River” 10 but we do not know whether this settlement was one of long standing or whether it was a position occupied by some of these people during their retreat to Florida. At any rate, all of those who continued in the Spanish interest were soon united near St. Augustine. Immediately after their removal the English colonists learned that the Huspaw king, a Yamasee chief, had been made general in chief by the Spaniards over 500 Indians who were to be sent against Carolina. 11 In 1719 a captive taken by the English testified that there were 60 Yamasee near St. Augustine. 12 In 1722 it is said that they were expelled from St. Augustine because they would not work in the way the Spaniards wished.

From Tobias Fitch’s journal we learn that the head chief of the Lower Creeks, whom he calls “Old Brinins” “Old Brunins” or “Old Brmins” sent an expedition against the Yamasee in Florida in 1725. While Fitch was still with him two runners came back and gave the following account of this expedition:

The Pilot that we had, Called us to a Fort in a Town Where we thought the Yamasee were, and we fired at the Said Fort, Which alarmed ten Men that was Placed To Discover us which we past when they were asleep. Our fireing awaked them and they Ran round us and gave Notice to the Yamasees Who was Removed from this town Nigher the Sea and had there Build a new fort which we found and Attacked but with litle Success through it happen’d the Huspaw Kings Family was not all got in the fort and we took three of them and fired Several Shott at the Huspaw king and are in hopes have killed him. There Came out a party of the Yamases who fought us and we took the Capt. We waited three days about there Fort, Expecting to get ane opportunity to take Some More but to no purpose. We then Came away and the Yamases pursued us. We fought them and gained the Batle. We drove the Yamases unto a pond and was Just Runing in after them where we Should a had a great advan-tage of them but we discover’d about fourty Spanyards armed on horse Back Who made Toward us wt a White Cloth before them and as they advanced toward us They made Signes that we Should fforbear fireing. Some of our head men gave Out orders not to fire, But Steyamasiechie or Gogel Eys Told them it was spoilt and to fire away. According we did, and the Spanyards fled. After that the Yamases pursued us [and] gave us ane other Batle in which they did us the most Damnadge. We have killed Eight of the Yamases, on of which is the huspaw kings head Warriour and have Brought off all their Scalps. We have likewise Taken nine of them a Live, Together with Several Guns, Some Cloth, and Some plunder Out of there Churches, Which you will See When the Warriours Come in. 13

Fitch adds that the Creeks lost on their side five men killed and six wounded. 14 In the “Introduction to the Report on General Oglethorpe’s Expedition to St. Augustine” we read that in 1727 —

A Party of Yamasee Indians, headed by Spaniards from St. Augustine, having murdered our Out-Scouts, made an incursion into our Settlements, within Ten Miles of Ponpon, where they cut off one Mr. Micheau, with another White-man on the same plantation, and carried off a Third Prisoner, with all the Slaves, Horses, &c. But being briskly pursued by the Neighbours, who had Notice of it, they were overtaken, routed, and obliged to quit their Booty.

The Government [the narrative goes on to say], judged it Necessary to chastise (at least) those Indians, commissioned Col. Palmer for that Purpose instantly; who with about One Hundred Whites, and the like Number of our Indians, landed at St. Juan’s, and having left a sufficient Number to take care of the Craft, marched undiscovered to the Yamasee Town, within a Mile of St. Augustine. He attack’d it at once, killed several of those Indians, took several Prisoners, and drove the Rest into the very Gates of St. Augustine Castle; where they were sheltered. And having Destroyed their Town, he returned.

In the beginning of 1728, a Party of those Yamasees having landed at Daffuskee surprised one of our Scout-Boats, and killed every Man but Capt. Gilbert, who commanded her. One of the Indians, seizing him as his Property, saved his Life. In their Return back to St. Augustine a debate arose that it was necessary to kill him, for that the Governor would not have them to bring any one Alive. But Capt. Gilbert, pleading with the Indian that claim’d him was protected by him; and upon coming to St. Augustine was after some Time released by the Governor. 15

In a letter dated Habana, August 27, 1728, Gov. Dionisio de la Vega gives an account of the decline of the Florida missions from the time of the first English invasions. He states that before the English raid under Palmer there were four Indian settlements near St. Augustine, named Nombre de Dios, Tolemato, Palica [probably Patica], and Carapuyas, but the occupants of these spoke several different languages and it is impossible to say which were occupied by Yamasee. Tolemato was, of course, named from the old Guale town, but in the changes that had taken place there is no certainty that any of the original population remained. The Patica are referred to by Bartram as a former Carolina tribe, but again no certain connection can be established between the name and the later population. Nombre de Dios, or Chiquito as it is also called, was originally a Timucua settlement and may have remained such in part; but as we have seen, 16 it had now received a new name from the Yamasee who constituted at least the larger part of the population. De la Vega says of the above mentioned attack:

A body of two hundred English having penetrated into that town on the aforesaid day, the 20th of March, (1728), together with as many Indians, they plundered and pillaged it and set the whole town on fire. They robbed the church and the convent and profaned the images, killing six and wounding eight Indians, a lieutenant and a soldier of infantry. They also took several prisoners with them and withdrew without further action. In view of this the governor had the church blown up by means of powder, withdrawing the Indians who had remained there to the shelter of this city [St. Augustine], leaving only the town of Pocotabaco under the protection of the guns of this Fort.

It would appear, then, that after this raid the four towns were reduced to one close to St. Augustine, and the fact that its name preserves that of the leading upper Yamasee town shows the primacy of that tribe among the remnants gathered there. This name should be Pocotalaco; the l has been miscopied b. However, the town certainly embraced several villages, as appears from a number of documents. One speaks of a Yamasee village called Tachumite existing about 1734, 17 and another gives an enumeration, not only of the villages but the names and ages of the warriors as well. This latter, a copy of which is in the Ayer collection, is entitled: “List of Indians capable of bearing arms divided according to their towns who are at the service of the Presidio of San Agustin do la Florida.” 18 It is as follows:

Editor’s Note: The number following the name is the approximate age of the Indian.

Pueblo De Potalaca

El Cacique Clospo        60
El Cacique Antonio       20
Juan Sanchez              30
Francisco                    60
Pedro Huse                 60
Ygnacio                      60
Asencio Arapa             20
Chislada                     30
Francisco el Largo        30
PedroTusque               30
Antonio Rimendo         30
Bernardo de la Cruz     20
Francisco Sarqueno      30
Manuel                       20
Antonio Yinquichate     25
Juan Chislada             15
Juan Solana                20
Francisco Arlana          19
Juan. Ygnacio              35
Juanillo                      12
Sanchez                     12
Antonio Yuta              25
Antonio Benavidee      14

Pueblo De Chiquito 19

El Cacique Yuta              40
El Cacique Juan Sanchez  30
Yfallasquita                   30
Marcos Rendon               30
Juan Gregorio                 25
Lorenzo Santiago            25
Baltasar                        20
Diego de Asuela             65
Antonio Clara                 16
Luis Santa Fee               16
Joseph su cuñado           12
Esteban                        19
Juan Pasqua                  25
Felipe                           25

Pueblo de San Nicolas

El Cacique Manuel              60
El Cacique Domingo Gacho  60
Juan Joseph                      55
Geronimo                          20
Agustin Nicolas                 30
Miguel                             14
Rafael                             14
Joseph Antonio                 30
Dionisio                           20
Bentura                           15

Pueblo de Tolomato

El Cacique Bernardo           40
Domingo                          45
Luis Gabriel                      45
Lorenzo                            20
Felipe                              30
Antonio Cagelate               25
Lasaro                             16
Martin                              16
Diego el Mestiro                40

Mas Dentro del Lugar

El Cacique Fuentes            60
Juan Sanchez                    30
Tomás                             25
Juan                                17

Pueblo de la Costa

El Cacique Costa                45
Luis                                 20
Juan Sanchez                     20
Pablo                                25
Juan Joseph                       30
Lorenzo Nieto                    25
Romualdo                          25
Antonio                             14
Vicente                             20
Antonio Puchero                 20


EI Cacique Lorenza           80
El Cacique Juan Ximenez   60
Ygnacio                           80
Joseph                            80
Andres                            45
Juan Bautista                   18
Lorenzo                           20
Juan Savina                      25
Miguel                             20
Manuel                            12
Juan Pufe                         14
Tomas                             40
Pedro de la Cruz               35
El Cacique Marcos             60
Juan Melchor                    11
Juan el Apalachino            80
Francisco del Maral            50

La Punta

El Cacique Juan                80
Francisco                         70
Pedro del Sastre               60
Antonio el Mison              35
Francisco Luis                  35
Crisostomo                      25
Joseph Atase                   20
Joseph                            20
Juan del Costa                 25
Juan Joseph                     14
Sanchez                          12
Joseph Satagane              30
Joseph el Apalachino         19
Antonio Cachimbo             19
Agustin                           25
Arguelles                         60
Juan Casapueva                50

Pueblo de Timucua

“El Cacique Alucatesa”       80
Riso                                60
Crisostomo                       50
Juan Bautista                   50
Gaspar                            25
Santiago Baquero              40
Bartolo                            40
Miguel Mototo                   60
Manuel Mototo                  60
Miguel                             12
Benito                             12
Antonio                            12
Juan Chirico                      50
Santiago                           30
Solana                             20
Miguel                             25

Total number, 122, 20

So that the eight towns contain in all a hundred and twenty-two men 20 capable of bearing arms, having in all of women and children two hundred and ninety-five, which added to the hundred and twenty-two make four hundred and seventeen, the remains of about thirty thousand which were formerly at the service of Spain within the jurisdiction of Florida.

This was written November 27, 1736, at Habana. The “Pueblo de Timucua” probably contained the remnants of the Timucua people, the rest the descendants of the Yamasee proper and the old people of Guale. Apalachee do not appear to have settled near St. Augustine in any number, although two individuals in the above list bear the name of that tribe.

In a letter written at St. Augustine, August 30, 1738, and preserved among the Spanish Archives of the Indies, 21 is an interesting relation of the adventures of “the Indian Juan Ignacio de los Reyes, of the Yguaja Nation, one of the villages which compose the town of Pocotalaca, in the neighborhood of this place.” This man, under orders from the governor of Florida, Don Manuel de Montiano, visited the English posts on Cumberiand Island and in St. Andrews and St. Simons Sounds during the months of July and August, 1738, and brought back valuable information regarding their condition and regarding the English projects with reference to St. Augustine.

Some Yamasee evidently accompanied the Apalachee to Pensacola and Mobile. Under date of 1714 Barcia notes that the chief of the Yamasee and some of his people, along with the chief of the Apalachee, visited the commandant of Pensacola, and we find the legend “Yamase Land,” on the northeast shore of Pensacola Bay, in Jefferys’ map of Florida which stands opposite the title page of John Bartram’s Description of East Florida. 22 From the parish registers of Mobile we learn of the baptism in 1728 of a “Hiamase” Indian, Francois, and a map of 1744 shows, at the mouth of Deer River, near Mobile, a settlement of “Yamane,” the name evidently intended for this tribe. 23

Under date of July, 1754, the Colonial Records of Georgia speak of the Yamasee as still allied with the Spaniards, 24 and about the year 1761 we hear of “a few Yamasees, about 20 men, near St. Augus-tine.” 25

Meantime, however, they were bemg harrassed continually by the Creek Indians in alliance with the English, and presently some Creeks began to move into the peninsula and make permanent homes there. Bartram, who visited Florida in 1777-78, speaks of the Yamasee Nation as entirely destroyed as a distinct body, and he thus describes the site on St. Johns River of what he terms “the last decisive battle”:

In the morning I found I had taken up my lodging on the border of an ancient burying ground, containing sepulchres or tumuli of the Yamaseee, who were here slain by the Creeks in the last decisive battle, the Creeks having driven them into the point, between the doubling of the river, where few of them escaped the fury of the conquerors. These graves occupied the whole grove, consisting of two or three acres of ground. There were nearly thirty of these cemeteries of the dead, nearly of an equal size and form, being oblong, twenty feet in length, ten or twelve feet in width, and three or four feet high, now overgrown with orange trees, live oaks, laurel magnolias, red bays, and other trees and shrubs, composing dark and solemn shades. 26

He saw Yamasee slaves living among the Seminole; 27 but from other data it is evident that free bands, in whole or in part Yamasee, still existed. One of these will be mentioned later. Several writers on the Seminole state that the Oklawaha band was said to be descended from this tribe, 28 and it appears probable since that band occupied the region in which most maps of the period immediately preceding place the Yamasee. According to the same writers their complexion was somewhat darker than that of the other Seminole. The noted leader Jumper is said by some to have been of Yamasee descent, 29 but Cohen sets him down as a refugee from the Creeks. 30 In the long war with the Americans which followed, whatever remained of the tribe became fused with one of the larger bodies, very likely with the Mikasuki, whose language is supposed to have been nearest to their own. We do not know whether those Yamasee who went to Pensacola and Mobile with the Apalachee remained with them or returned to east Florida, but the former supposition is the more likely.

Another part of the Yamasee evidently settled among the Creeks, though for our knowledge of this fact we are almost entirely dependent upon maps. The late Mr. H. S. Halbert was the first to call my attention to the evidence pointing to such a conclusion. On the Covens and Mortier map compiled shortly after the Yamasee war the name appears in the form “Asassi” among the Upper Creeks. An anonymous French writer, of the middle of the eighteenth century or earlier, adds to his enumeration of the Creek villages this statement:

There are besides, ten leagues from this last village [a Sawokli town], two villages of the Iamasé nation where there may be a hundred men, but this nation is attached to the Spaniards of St. Augustine. 31

On the Mitchell map of 1755 we find “Massi,” probably intended for the same tribe, placed on the southeast bank of the Tallapoosa River between Tukabahchee and Holiwahali. 32 The name appears also on several later maps, such as those of Evans, 1771, and D’Anville, 1790, but it was probably copied into them from Mitchell. Without giving any authority Gatschet quotes a statement to the effect “that the Yemasi band of Creeks refused to fight in the British-American war of 1813.” 33

There is reason to think that this band subsequently moved down among the Lower Creeks and thence into Florida. Into his report of 1822 Morse copies a list of “Seminole” bands from the manuscript journal of a certain Captain Young, and among these we find the “Emusas” consisting of only 20 men and located 8 miles above the Florida boundary. 34 Their name is probably preserved in that of Omusee Creek, in Henry and Houston Counties, Alabama. What is evidently the same band appears again in a list of Seminole towns made in 1823, where it has the more correct form “Yumersee.” They had then moved into Florida and were located at the “head of the Sumulga Hatchee River, 20 miles north of St. Mark’s.” The chief man was “Alac Hajo,” whose name is Creek, properly Ahalak hadjo, “Potato hadjo.” 35 It may be surmised that these people were subsequently absorbed into the Mikasuki band of Seminole.

Connected intimately with the Yamasee were a small tribe found on the site of what is now Savannah by Governor Oglethorpe in 1733, when he founded the colony of Georgia. They are called Yamacraw by the historians of the period, and their town was on a bluff, which still bears their name, in what is now the western suburb of the city. This name is a puzzle, since no r occurs in the Muskhogean tongues. It suggests Yamiscaron, the form in which the tribal name of the Yamasee first appears in history through Francisco of Chicora, but as I have shown elsewhere there is every reason to believe that the ending -ron is Siouan. 36 Its first definite appearance is in the later (1680) name of the Florida mission Nombre de Dios de Amacarisse, also given as Macarisqui or Macarizqui. We may safely assume that the leaders of the later Georgia Yamacraw came from this place, but the name itself remains as much of a mystery as before. They seem to be mentioned in the Public Records of South Carolina a few years before the Yamasee war as the “Amecario,” or “Amercaraio,” “above Westoe [i. e.. Savannah] River.” 37 From the conference which Oglethorpe held with these people and the Creeks and the speeches delivered at that conference we obtain some further information regarding the history of the town. It was settled in 1730 by a body of Indians from among the Lower Creeks, numbering 17 or 18 families and 30 or 40 men, under the leadership of a chief named Tomochichi. These are said to have been banished from their own country for some crimes and misdemeanors. Tomochiclii himself had “tarried for a season with the Palla-Chucolas” before settling there, and it must be remembered that before the Yamasee war the Apalachicola tribe had been located upon Savannah River some 50 miles higher up. It is therefore likely that he belonged to some refugee Yamasee among the Apalachicola, and his occasion for settling in this place may have been as much because it was the land of his ancestors as because he had been “outlawed.” Indeed he says as much in his speech to Oglethorpe. In 1732 the Yamacraw asked permission of the government of South Carolina to remain in their new settlement and it was accorded them. When Oglethorpe arrived they are said to have been the only tribe for 50 miles around . They received the settlers in a friendly manner and acted as intermediaries between them and the Creeks. From the negotiations then undertaken it would seem that both the Yamacraw and the Yamasee were reckoned as former members of the Creek confederacy. At least the confederacy arrogated to itself at that time the right to dispose of their lands, all of which, except the site of Yamacraw, a strip of land between Pipemakers Bluff and Pally-Chuckola Creek, and the three islands, Ossabaw, Sapello, and St. Catherines, were ceded to Oglethorpe. Tomochichi, his wife, nephew, and a few of his warriors went to England in 1734, where they received much attention. A painting of Tomochichi and his nephew, Tonahowi, was made by Verelst, and from this engravings were afterwards made by Faber and Kleinschmidt. 38 Tomochichi died October 5, 1739, 39 and the Yamacraw population declined rather than increased. After a time they moved to another situation later known as New Yamacraw, 40 but ultimately those that were left probably retired among their kindred in the Creek Nation, and we may conjecture that they united with the Creek band of Yamasee mentioned above.

The Yamasee made a considerable impression on Creek imagination and are still remembered by a few of the older Creek Indians. According to one of my informants, a Hitchiti, they lived north of the Creeks, which was in any sense true of them only when they were located in South Carolina. It was from this tribe, according to the same informant, that many of the Creek charms known as sabia came.

Swanton, John Reed. Early History of the Creek Indians and Their Neighbors. US Government Printing Office. 1902.

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  1. Vol. II, pp. 538-576.[]
  2. That part of the Apalachee settled near Augusta by Governor Moore in 1703. See p. 124.[]
  3. Carroll, op, cit., pp, 548-549.[]
  4. Carroll, op. cit., pp. 570-572.[]
  5. Carroll, op. cit., pp. 549-550.[]
  6. Brooks, MSS.[][]
  7. Probably misread from Ochisses.[]
  8. Brooks, MSS. The attack referred to in the last sentence must have been that by Palmer, detailed farther on.[]
  9. Adair, Hist. Am. Inds., p. 225.[]
  10. Pub. Rec. S. C, MS., VI, p. 119.[]
  11. Pub. Rec. S. C, MS., VII, p. 186.[]
  12. Ibid., VIII, p. 7.[]
  13. Mereness, Travels in the American Colonies, pp. 204-205.[]
  14. Ibid., p. 205.[]
  15. Carroll, S. Car. Hist. Soc. Colls., II, pp. 355-356. De la Vega seems to date this attack a year later (see below).[]
  16. See p. 96.[]
  17. MS. in Ayer Collection, Newberry Library.[]
  18. MS. In Ayer Collectian, Newberry Library.[]
  19. Also known as Nombre de Dios[]
  20. This should be 123 if there is no error in the lists on which it is based.[][]
  21. Serrano y Sanz, Doc. Hist., pp. 260-264.[]
  22. John Bartram, quoted by Gatschet, Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 65.[]
  23. Hamilton, Col. Mobile, p. 113.[]
  24. Col. Rec. Ga., VII, p. 441.[]
  25. Description of South Carolina, p. 63.[]
  26. Bartram, Travels, p. 137.[]
  27. Ibid., pp. 183-184, 390.[]
  28. See Cohen, Notices of Florida, p. 33.[]
  29. Williams, Terr, of Florida, p. 272, 1837.[]
  30. Cohen, Notices of Florida, p. 237.[]
  31. MS., Ayer Lib.[]
  32. See plate 6.[]
  33. Gatschet, Creek Mig. Leg., I, p. 65.[]
  34. Morse, Rept. on Indian Affairs, p. 364; see p. 409.[]
  35. Amer. State Papers, Ind. Affairs, II, p. 439; see p. 411.[]
  36. See p. 37 et seq.[]
  37. Pub. Rec. S. C, II, pp. 8-9, MS.[]
  38. See Jones, Hist. Sketch of Tomo-chi-chi; Tailfer, a true and hist. narr. of the colony of Georgia.[]
  39. Jones, Ibid., p. 121.[]
  40. Tailfer, op. cit., p. 74.[]

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