Tuscarora War

The rapid encroachment of the whites on the lands of the Tuscarora and their Indian neighbors for a period of sixty years after the first settlements, although there was an air of peace and harmony between the two races, there were wrongs which dwarfed in comparison with the continued practice of kidnapping their young to be sold into slavery. This was the true cause of the so-called Tuscarora war in 1711-13. This phase of the question is overlooked or quite disregarded by most historians; but years before the massacre of 1711, Tuscarora Indians were brought into Pennsylvania and sold as slaves, a transaction that excited grave apprehension in the minds of the resident Indian tribes. To allay as much as possible this growing terror among there, the provincial council of Pennsylvania enacted in 1705 that, ” Whereas the importation of Indian slaves from Carolina, or other places, hath been observed to give the Indians of this province some umbrage for suspicion and dissatisfaction,” such importation be prohibited after Mar. 25, 1706. This enactment was based solely on expediency and self-interest, since it was evident that the Indians to the southward were in a general commotion. During the Tuscarora war an act was passed, June 7, 1712, forbidding the importation of Indians, but providing for their sale as slaves to the highest bidder in case any should be imported for that purpose. It is known that the prisoners of Col. Barnwell and Col. Moore were all sold as slaves, even the northern colonies being canvassed for a market for them; indeed, the Boston News Letter of 1713 contained an advertisement offering these very Indians for purchase.

According to De Graffenried, Surveyor-General Lawson in 1709-10 settled his people, the Swiss and Palatines, on the south bank of Trent river, on a tongue of land called Chattawka, formed by the Trent and the Neuse in North Carolina, in a hot and unhealthful situation. De Graffenried bitterly complained that the Surveyor-General was dishonest for having charged him a “heavy price” for it, and for the consequences of his not knowing that Lawson had no title to the land and that the place was still inhabited by the Indians, although the Surveyor-General had attested that the land was free of encumbrance and unoccupied. This encroachment on the Indian lands was one of the fundamental causes of the so called Tuscarora war. It is well known that the Coree, together with their close allies, the hostile Tuscarora, in 1711 took vengeance on the Swiss and Palatines settled on Trent river, killing about 70 of them, wounding many others, and destroying much of their property. De Graffenried says that one of the several causes of the war was the “rough treatment of some turbulent Carolinians, who cheated those Indians in trading, and would not allow them to hunt near their plantations, and under that pretense took away from them their game, arms, and ammunition,” and that the despised Indians being “insulted, in many ways by a few rough Carolinians, more barbarous and inhuman than the savages themselves, could not stand such treatment any longer, and began to think of their safety and of vengeance. What they did they did very secretly.”

In a letter of Maj. Christopher Gale to his brother, Nov. 2, 1711, he describes a condition, fairly representative of the times, as to the relations between the whites and the Indians around them. During an attack on one of the many small garrisons maintained for the protection of the settlements, “a number of Indian prisoners of a certain nation, which we did not know, whether they were friends or enemies, rose in the garrison, but were soon cut to pieces, as those on the outside repelled. In the garrison were killed 9 men, and soon after 39 women and children sent off for slaves.” This shows that for the purposes of slavery little distinction, if any, was made between one tribe and another.

De Graffenried while a captive among the hostile Tuscarora, negotiated, subsequent to the execution of the unfortunate Lawson, a private treaty with them by offering to every one of the chiefs of the 10 villages of the hostiles a cloth jerkin, 2 bottles of powder, 500 grains of small shot, 2 bottles of rum, and something more to the head chief for his own ransom. Among other things he agreed to remain neutral during the continuance of the war, and that he, the “said Governor of the German colony promises to remain within his limits and to take no more lands from them without due warning to the king [head chief] and his nation.” Thus De Graffenried admitted taking Indian lands without consulting the Indians, although he says elsewhere, “It must be observed that it was neither I, nor my colony, who were the cause of that terrible slaughter or Indian war,” apparently overlooking the fact that the greatest massacre was among his own Swiss and Palatines, indicating that the Indians thus resented the wrongs committed by him and his people.

In order to secure the aid of the Catawba (“Flatheads”) against the hostile Tuscarora, the Carolina authorities promised them that in the event of success in the war the Indians were to obtain goods “cheaper than formerly.” But after faithfully aiding the Carolinians in 1711-13 in dispersing the hostile Tuscarora, the Catawba were deceived as to the promised reduction in the price of goods sold to them, and from this misunderstanding arose the troubles leading later to the Catawba war in 1714-15 1.

The chiefs of the Five Nations, in conference with Gov. Hunter at Albany, Sept. 25, 1714, acquainted him with the fact that the Tuscarora Indians are come to shelter themselves among the Five Nations; they were of us and went from us long ago, and now are returned and promise to live peaceably among us. And since there is peace now everywhere, we have received there. Do give a belt of wampum. We desire you to look upon the Tuscarora that are come to live among us as our children, who shall obey our commands and live peaceably and orderly” 2 This proposal, for it was practically such, was not yet accepted by the New York Government in 1715 3

On June 23, 1712, Gov. Hunter, of New York, wrote to the Lords of Trade that “the war betwixt the people of North Carolina and the Tuscarora Indians is like to embroil us all,” and expressed the fear that under French instigation the Five Nations would fulfill their threat to join the Tuscarora (ibid., 343). Again, on Sept. 10, 1713, Hunter wrote to Secretary Popple that “the Five Nations are hardly to be diswaded from sheltering the Tuscaruro Indians, which would embroil us all,” and expressed regret that he had no funds with which to buy presents to be employed in dissuading them from forming an alliance with the Tuscarora.

On Sept. 10, 1713, an Onondaga chief, in conference with commissioners from Gov. Hunter at Onondaga, said: “Brother Corlaer says the Queen’s subjects towards the South are now at war with the tus Carorase Indians. These Indians went out heretofore from us, and have settled themselves there; now they have got into war and are dispersed. They have abandoned their Castles and are scattered hither and thither; let that suffice; and we request our Brother Corlaer to act as mediator between the English of Carrelyna and the tuskaroras that they may no longer be hunted down, and we assure that we will oblige them not to do the English any more harm, for they are no longer a Nation with a name, being once dispersed” 4 .

In 1717 Gov. Hunter, of New York, informed the Five Nations that there were Virginia traders who still bartered with the Tuscarora, thus showing that, contrary to the common opinion, there were still a part of these Indians in Carolina and south Virginia.

In a letter dated at Narhantes Fort, Feb. 4, 1712, Col. Barnwell gives a list of the various tribes of Southern Indians who composed his motley army. In his own spelling these were:

  • Yamasses
  • Hog Logees
  • Apalatchees
  • Corsaboy
  • Watterees
  • Sagarees
  • Catawbas
  • Suterees
  • Waxams
  • Congarees
  • Sattees
  • Pedees
  • Weneaws
  • Cape Feare
  • Hoopengs
  • Wareperes
  • Saraws
  • Saxapahaws

Ft Narhantes, according to Barnwell, was the largest and most warlike town of the Tuscarora. It was situated about 27 miles below a former settlement of the Saxapahaw or “Shacioe Indians,” which these Indians had been forced to abandon along with others at the beginning of Feb. 1712, by the Narhantes Tuscarora who had fallen upon them and had killed 16 persons, owing to the refusal of the Saxapahaw to join the Tuscarora against the English. The Saxapahaw had just reached the Wattomas when Barnwell arrived there. After reaching Neuse river Barnwell numbered his men before crossing, and found that he had 498 Indians and 33 white men. He complained that there was a great desertion of the Indians; that only 67 remained of Capt. Bull’s 200. On taking Ft Narhantes, “head Town of ye Tuscaruros,” on Jan. 30, 1712, he and his men were greatly surprised and puzzled to find within two log houses much stronger than the outer fort. After gaining an entrance, he says, while “we were putting the men to the sword, our Indians got all the slaves and the plunder, only one girl we gott.” This was the strongest fort in that part of the country. His loss was 7 white men killed and at least 32 wounded; the Indian loss was 6 killed and 28 wounded; the Tuscarora loss was 52 men killed and at least 10 women, and 30 prisoners. Barnwell was much chagrined at his great loss, “with no greater execution of ye enemy.” De Graffenried, in speaking of this encounter, says he “marched against a great Indian village, called Core, about 30 miles distant from Newbern, drove out the King and his forces, and carried the day with such fury, that, after they had killed a great many, in order to stimulate themselves still more, they cooked the flesh of an Indian ‘in good condition’ and ate it.” So it appears that Narhantes was a Coree village, whose King was called Cor Tom. Barnwell then advanced on Catechna, or King Hencock’s town, in which had taken refuge a medley of Indians from the Weetock, Bay, Neuse, Cor, Pamlico, and a portion of the Tuscarora tribe. After two assaults, which the Indians successfully repulsed, Barnwell, in order to save from massacre the white prisoners within the fort, induced the Indians to enter into a truce with him on condition that the white prisoners be liberated; and he returned to Newbern with his small army for refreshment. Barnwell had hoped for great honors and gifts from North Carolina, but being disappointed in this hope, and wishing to return home with his forces with some profit, he lured, under pretence of peace, a large number of the Indians to the neighborhood of Cor village and then broke the truce by capturing them and carrying them away to be sold into slavery. This naturally incensed the Tuscarora and other Carolina Indians, and caused them to lose all confidence in the word of a white man. This change of affairs resulted in repeated raids by the Indians along Neuse and Pamlico rivers., and “the last troubles were worse than the first.”

Solicitations by the North Carolina authorities were made to the Government of South Carolina for new aid, which was granted, under Colonel Moore, with a body of 33 white men and more than 900 Indian allies, who were probably re-enforced by North Carolina recruits. His objective point was the palisaded town of Catechna, or Hencock’s village. In a letter dated Mar. 27, 1713, to President Pollock of North Carolina, just after he had taken the palisaded town of “Neoheroka” in Greene county, N. C., which lay on his route to Catechna, he reported that the attack was begun on the 20th and that on the morning of the 23d “wee had gott ye fort to ye ground.” He states that the prisoners taken were 392, that the scalps taken in the fort numbered 192, that there were 200 killed and burned in the fort, and 166 persons killed and taken out of ye fort on ye Scout,” a total of 950. His own loss was 22 white men killed and 36 wounded; the loss of his Indians was 35 killed and 58 wounded. This severe loss so awed the Tuscarora that they abandoned fort “Cohunche,” situated at Hencock’s town, and migrated northward toward the territory of the Five Nations.

Prior to the arrival of Col. Moore, President Pollock had entered into an arrangement with Tom Blunt, the leading chief of the “Northern Tuscarora,” to seize chief Hencock, who was the reputed head of the hostile Tuscarora, and to bring him alive to the President for the purpose of adjusting their mutual difficulties and to negotiate peace. Blunt’s Tuscarora were to destroy the hostiles who had taken part in the massacre and to deliver hostages for their own good behavior-this arrangement was to continue only until the new year. After the defeat of the Tuscarora by Moore, another treaty was made with Tom Blunt and his Tuscarora, thus leaving as hostile only the small tribes of the Coree, Matamuskeet, and Catechna. All of Moore’s Indians except about 180 returned to South Carolina to sell their captives into slavery. With the remaining forces Moore soon reduced and drove away the few remaining hostiles.

The date of the adoption of the Tuscarora into the council board of the League of the Iroquois, through the Oneida, their political sponsors, is indefinite, judging from the differing dates, ranging from 1712 to 1715, given by various well informed writers. In their forced migration northward the Tuscarora did not all decamp at once. The hostiles and their most apprehensive sympathizers were most probably the first to leave their ancient homes in North Carolina. On the total defeat and dispersion of the hostile Tuscarora and their allies in 1713, the scattered fragments of tribes fled and sought an asylum with other tribes, among whom their identity was not always maintained. Although the Five Nations gave asylum to the fugitive Tuscarora, there is also abundant evidence that, for political reasons perhaps, the Tuscarora were not for many years after their flight from North Carolina formally admitted into the Council Board of the League of the Five Nations as a constitutive member. The fact is that the Tuscarora were 90 years in removing from their North Carolina home to more friendly dwelling places in the north, and there is no evidence that they were formally incorporated into the confederation of the Five Nations, as a coequal member, before Sept. 1722. On Sept. 6, 1722, Gov. Burnet held a conference with the Five Nations at Albany, at which Governor Spotswood of Virginia was present. For the purpose of preventing forays between the Five Nations and their allies on the one hand, and the Southern Indians on the other, Spotswood induced the Five Nations to consent to the running of a dividing line along the Potomac and the high ridge of the Allegany mountains. This agreement was made in the name of the Five Nations and the Tuscarora, indicating that the latter had become a factor in the councils of the League of the Iroquois. In closing the conference, it is stated that the Indians “gave six shouts-five for the Five Nations and one for the castle of Tuscarora, lately seated between the Oneidas and Onondagas.” The record continues that at the conclusion of this conference, on Sept. 13, the Five Nations sought a special interview with the Governor of Pennsylvania, and that on Sept. 14 the governor received “the ten chiefs of the Five Nations, being two from each, together with two others, said to be of the Tuscororoes.” This appears to be the first official mention of the Tuscarora as taking part in the management of the public affairs of the League. The Tuscarora mentioned here, however, did not include those who dwelt on the Juniata and on the Susquehanna at Oquaga and its environs, nor those still in North Carolina.

In a petition of John Armstrong for land lying in Tuscarora valley on Juniata river, Pa., about 6 miles from the mouth of Tuscarora creek, the Indians living there at that time are called Lakens; this land was taken up by Armstrong on Feb. 3, 1755. On the same day, George Armstrong obtained a warrant for land situated on the south side of Tuscarora creek, “opposite to the settlement of the Indians called Lackens.” It would thus appear that at this date this band of Tuscarora were known, at least locally, as Lakens or Lackens.

Elias Johnson, in his Legends, says that it was the Seneca who first adopted the Tuscarora as a constituent member of the League. This, however, is at variance with the common but authentic traditions of all the tribes and with the official statement of Col. (afterward Sir) William Johnson to the Oneida, made at Mt Johnson, Sept. 8, 1753. He said, “Brethren of Oneida. My best advice is to have your castles as near together as you conveniently can with the Tuscarora, who belong to you as children, and the Scanihaderadighroones lately come into your alliance or families, which makes it necessary for me to fix a new string to the cradle which was hung up by your forefathers when they received the Tuscarora, to feed and protect.”Citations:

  1. N. Y. Doe. Col. Hist., v, 444, 1855[]
  2. N. Y. Doc. Col. Hist., v, 387, 1855.[]
  3. ibid., 413.[]
  4. N. Y. Doc. Col. Hist., v, 376, 1855[]

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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