Indian Wars of Carolina – Previous to the Revolution

When the English settled in South Carolina, it was found that the State was inhabited by about twenty different tribes of Indians. The whites made gradual encroachments without meeting with any opposition from the Indians, until the latter saw that if these advances were continued, they would be completely driven from their country. A struggle was immediately begun, in which the colonists suffered so much from the number and fury of their enemies that a price was fixed upon every Indian who should be brought captive to Charleston, from whence they were sold into slavery for the West Indies.

The hostility of the southern Indians was instigated by the Spaniards, who supplied them with arms and ammunition. In the year 1702, Governor Moore marched into the country of the Appalachian Indians, took a great number of prisoners, and compelled the remainder to submit to the supremacy of the English government. A more important contest occurred in 1712. The Tuscaroras, and other powerful tribes, whose country extended from Cape Fear River to the peninsula of Florida, united in a league, the object of which was, to wage a war of extermination against the whites.

Every part of the design was laid with secrecy and ingenuity. They fortified their principal village, in order to shelter their women and children, and there the warriors met and matured their scheme. When the favorable moment arrived, they scattered in small bands, and entering the houses of the planters, demanded something to eat. They then murmured at the provisions set before them, and pretending to be angry, they immediately began to murder men, women, and children without discrimination. One hundred and thirty settlers were slaughtered in the neighborhood of Roanoke, and but few escaped to give the timely warning to the remainder of the colonists.

The government immediately commenced active operations against their merciless foes. The Assembly voted four thousand pounds towards the war. A body of six hundred men was collected, and, under command of Colonel Barnwell, marched against the enemy. Several friendly tribes sent their warriors to aid the English, which swelled the number of Colonel Barnwell’s force to one thousand men. After marching through a wilderness, and suffering all the hardships incident to such marches, he came up with the enemy, and a furious battle ensued. About three hundred Indians were killed, and one hundred wounded. The remainder of their force retreated to the fortified town. The forces of Barnwell surrounded this place, and so resolutely prosecuted the attack, that a great number were killed, and the remainder compelled to sue for peace. Besides a large number of the other tribes in the league, it is computed that one thousand Tuscaroras were killed in this expedition. The survivors left their country, and going northward, joined the Five Nations.

Three years after this war, another plot for the extermination of the English was formed by the powerful Yamassees, of South Carolina. This tribe occupied considerable territory on the northeast side of the Savannah River. Many others were joined with them in the plot.

On the 15th of April, at the dawn of day, the Indians fell on the defenseless settlers, unapprehensive of danger, and, in a few hours, massacred above ninety persons, in Pocotaligo. One man escaped to Port Royal, and alarmed the town. The inhabitants of it generally fled to Charleston. While the Yamassees were laying waste the southern frontiers of Carolina, other tribes, from the northward, were perpetrating similar devastations, in that quarter. The southern division of the enemy consisted, by computation, of six thousand bowmen; and the northern, between six hundred and a thousand. The planters, thus taken by surprise, were so dispersed, that they could not assemble together, nor act in concert. They generally fled to Charleston. The intelligence they brought, magnified the danger, so as to induce doubts of the safety even of the capital; for, at that time, it contained on the muster roll, no more than twelve hundred men fit to bear arms. A party of four hundred Indians came to Goose Creek, about twenty miles from Charleston. Every family there had fled to town, with the exception of seventy white men and forty blacks, who, having surrounded themselves with a slight breastwork, resolved on defense. After they had resisted for some time, they incautiously agreed to terms of peace. The faithless Indians, being admitted within their works, butchered the garrison.

The invaders spread destruction through the parish of St. Bartholomew, and, advancing as far as Stono, burned the church, and every house on the plantations by the way. Similar ravages were committed in several other places. In this time of general calamity, Governor Craven, of South Carolina, acted with spirit. He proclaimed martial law, laid an embargo on all vessels in the harbor, and marched out of town, at the head of the militia, to attack the Yamassee invaders. He guarded himself against their mode of fighting from thickets, and behind trees; and took every precaution to prevent a surprise. He knew, full well, that his followers must either conquer or die, most probably by torture. The fate of the province depended on the success of his arms. The event of the expedition would decide, whether Carolina should remain a British province, or be annexed to Florida, in the occupation of the aborigines. There was no back country, then settled with friendly white inhabitants, to whom the settlers below might fly for refuge, or from whom they might look for relief. Virginia was the nearest place, from which effectual aid could be expected.

As Governor Craven marched through the country, straggling parties of the Indians fled before him, till he reached Salt catchers, where they had pitched their great camp. Here a sharp and bloody contest took place. The Indians fought from behind trees and bushes, alternately retreating and returning to the charge. The militia, with the governor at their head, kept close to the enemy, improved every advantage, and drove them from their lurking places. The pursuit was continued till the invaders were expelled from Carolina, and forced to retreat over Savannah River. The number of the militia lost in this expedition, or of the Indians killed therein, is not known; but, in the course of the war, four hundred of the inhabitants of Carolina were murdered, by the invading Indians.

The Yamassees, after their defeat and expulsion from Carolina, went directly to the Spanish garrison, St. Augustine, where they were received with so much hospitality and kindness, and had such ample encouragement given them to settle in Florida, as confirmed the suspicions previously entertained, that their late conspiracy was contrived by Spaniards, and carried on by their encouragement.

This victory raised the inhabitants of South Carolina from the depths of despair to the highest pitch of joy. The expedition had disconcerted the greatest conspiracy ever formed against the colony, and given it a security which the inhabitants could not before feel in the presence of such a formidable foe as the Yamassees.

When, during the war which led to the conquest of Canada (French and Indian War), the French had been compelled to abandon Fort Duquesne, they retreated down the Ohio River, and in revenge, endeavored to excite the Cherokees to war against the colonists of Carolina, in this they were aided by the occurrence of a quarrel between the Indians and the colonists. It had always been the custom for both parties to seize the horses that run wild in the woods. A party of Cherokees, returning from Fort Duquesne, where they had been in the service of the English, seized some stray horses, and made use of them to hasten home. But, it seems, that the horses belonged to the whites, who, instead of seeking redress legally, pursued the Cherokees and killed a considerable number of them. This, very naturally, enraged the Indians, and they immediately attacked several of the frontier settlements of Carolina.

The Cherokees could, at this time, bring about three thousand men into the field. Upon receiving information of these hostile acts, Governor Lyttleton made great preparation to invade the Cherokee country. Fearing his power, the Indians sent thirty-two chiefs to make a treaty with the whites. But the governor, detaining the chiefs as captives, marched for Port Prince George, on the banks of the Savannah. Upon reaching the Congaree, he received a reinforcement, which increased his army to fourteen hundred men.


When Governor Lyttleton arrived at Fort Prince George, he found his troops mutinous and himself in very bad repute among them. He then saw the necessity of a peace, and invited Attakullakulla, the wisest of the Cherokee chiefs, to a conference. A treaty was concluded, which the Indians never meant to observe since Lyttleton had violated all laws of nations, by making their ambassadors prisoners. By the treaty, Ockonostota, a great war chief, and Fiftoe, were set at liberty, while the other chiefs were retained at the fort on the Savannah. The affair being thus arranged, Lyttleton returned to Charleston, where he was received as a conqueror, although he had done nothing to merit the title. The remaining incidents of this war, are thus related by Mr. Drake.

“Ockonostota, for good reason, no doubt, entertained a deep-rooted hatred against Captain Cotymore, an officer of the garrison, and the army had but just left the country, when it was found that he was hovering about the garrison with a large number of warriors. But it was uncertain, for some time, whether they intended to attack the fort, or whether they wished to continue near their friends, who were imprisoned in it. However, it is said, that, by some means, a plan was concerted between the Indians without and those confined within the fort, for surprising it. Be this as it may, Ockonostota, on the 16th of February, 1760, practiced the following wile to effect the object. Having placed a party of his warriors in a dark cane brake near at hand, he sent a squaw to the garrison to invite the commander to come out, for he had something of importance to communicate to him. Captain Cotymore imprudently went out, accompanied by two of his officers, and Ockonostota appeared upon the opposite bank of the Savannah, with a bridle in his hand, the better to conceal his intentions. He told the captain he was going to Charleston to effect the release of the hostages, and requested that a white man might accompany him; and that, as the distance was great, he would go and try to catch a horse. The captain promised him a guard, and hoped he would succeed in finding a horse. Ockonostota then quickly turned himself about, and swinging his bridle thrice over his head, which was the signal to his men, and they promptly obeying it, about thirty guns were discharged upon the officers at the same moment. Captain Cotymore received a shot in his left breast, from which he died in two or three days after, and both the others were wounded. On recovering the fort, an attempt was made to put the hostages in irons. An Englishman, who laid hold on one of them for that purpose, was stabbed and slain; and, in the scuffle, two or three more were wounded, and driven out of the place of confinement. The tragedy in the fort had now only commenced; the miserable prisoners had repelled their assassins for the moment and, doubtless, hoped for deliverance from their friends without, who had now closely besieged the place. But, unfortunately for these poor wretches, the fort was too strong to be carried by their arts of war, and the dastardly whites found time and means to murder their victims, one by one, in a manner too horrible to relate. There were few persons among the Cherokees who did not lose a friend or relation by this massacre; and, as one man, the nation took up the hatchet, and desolations quickly followed.

“Meanwhile, singular as it may appear, Attakullakulla remained the fast friend of the whites, and used all his arts to induce his countrymen to make peace. But it was in vain he urged them to consider that they had more than revenged themselves; they were determined to carry all before them. Attakullakulla was now an old man, and had become much attached to the English, from several causes. On the other hand, Ockonostota was a stern warrior, in the vigor of manhood, and, like the renowned Pontiac, was determined to rid his country of his barbarous enemies.

The leaders in every town seized the hatchet, telling their followers that the spirits of murdered brothers were flying around them, and calling out for vengeance. All sung the war song, and, burning with impatience to imbrue their hands in the blood of their enemies, rushed down among innocent and defenseless families on the frontiers of Carolina, where men, women, and children, without distinction, fell a sacrifice to their merciless fury. Such of the whites as fled to the woods, and escaped the scalping knife, perished with hunger. Every day brought fresh accounts to the capital of their ravages and desolations. But, while the back settlers impatiently looked to their governor for relief, the small pox raged to such a degree in town, that few of the militia could be prevailed on to leave their distressed families to serve the public. In this extremity, an express was sent to General Amherst, the commander-in-chief in America, for assistance, in terms too pressing to be denied. Accordingly, he ordered a battalion of Highlanders, and four companies of Royal Scots, under the command of Colonel Montgomery, afterwards Earl Eglinton, to embark at New York for Carolina. In the mean time, Littleton, having been appointed governor of Jamaica, William Bull succeeded him; a change much to the advantage of the province.

“Colonel Montgomery arrived in Carolina towards the end of April, to the great joy of the people, who had taken measures to co-operate with him to the best advantage; but, as the conquest of Canada was the grand object now, General Amherst had ordered Colonel Montgomery to strike a sudden blow for the relief of the Carolinians, and then to return to headquarters at Albany, without loss of time; and we have scarce an example in military history, where an officer fulfilled his commission with greater promptitude. He soon after rendezvoused at Congaree; and, being joined by many gentlemen of distinction as volunteers, besides the principal strength of the country, he marched for the heart of the Cherokee country. After reaching a place called Twelve Mile River, he encamped upon advantageous ground, and marched with a party to surprise Estatoe, about twenty miles from his camp. In the way, he took Little Keowee, and put every man to the sword. Estatoe he found abandoned, except by a few that could not escape, and it was reduced to ashes, as was Sugar Town, and every other settlement in the lower nation. About sixty Indians were killed, and forty taken prisoners; but the warriors had generally escaped to the mountains and deserts. Thus far, the campaign had been prosperous with the whites, but three or four men having been killed; but it had no other effect upon the Indians than to increase their rage.

“Meanwhile, Fort Prince George had been closely invested, and Colonel Montgomery marched to its relief. From this place, two friendly chiefs were dispatched to the middle settlements, to offer peace to the people there, and orders were sent to those in command at Fort Loudon, to use means to bring about an accommodation with the Upper Towns; but the Indians would not here to any terms, and Colonel Montgomery was constrained to march again to find the enemy. He had now the most difficult part of his service to perform. The country through which he had to march was covered by dark thickets, numerous deep ravines, and high river banks; where a small number of men might distress and wear out the best appointed army.

“Having arrived within five miles of Etchoe, the nearest town of the middle settlements, the army was attacked on the 27th of June, in a most advantageous place for the attacking party. It was a low valley, in which the bushes were so thick, that the soldiers could see scarcely three yards before them; and in the bottom of this valley flowed a muddy river, with steep clay banks. Through this place the army must march. Rightly judging, the enemy had not omitted so important a pass, Colonel Montgomery ordered out a company of rangers, under Captain Morrison, to enter the ravine and make discovery. No sooner had he entered it, than the fierce war whoop was raised, and the Indians darted from covert to covert, at the same time firing upon the whites. Captain Morrison was immediately shot down, and his men closely engaged; but, being without delay supported by the infantry and grenadiers, they were able to maintain their ground, and the battle became obstinate; nor could the Indians be dislodged, until after an hour of hard fighting. In the mean time, the Royal Scots took possession of a place between the Indians and a rising ground on their right, while the Highlanders sustained the light infantry and grenadiers on the left. As the left became too warm for them, and not well understanding the position of the Royal Scots, the Indians, in their retreat, fell in with them, and were sharply encountered; but they soon effected their retreat to a hill, and could no more be brought to action. In this fight, ninety-six of the whites were killed and wounded, of whom twenty were of the former number. Of the Cherokees, forty were said to have been killed.

“The Indians had now been driven from one ravine, with a small loss; but Colonel Montgomery was in no condition to pursue his advantage farther, and he, therefore, after destroying s much of his provisions as would afford horses for the wounded, began his retreat out of the Indian country, and, in obedience to his commission, soon after returned to New York; not, however, without leaving four hundred men for the security of the province. But it was soon seen, that what had yet been done only increased the rage of the Indians, and their depredations continued at the very heels of the retreating army. They immediately cut off all communication with Fort Loudon, which was garrisoned with two hundred men. Ockonostota, with his numerous warriors, kept strict watch, insomuch, that there was no means of escape. At length, the garrison having miserably subsisted, for some time, upon poor famished horses, dogs, &c., many of them became resolved to throw themselves into the power of the Indians, wishing rather to die by their hands, than miserably to perish within their fortress. Captain Stewart, an officer among them, was well known to the Indians, and possessed great address and sagacity. He resolved, at this crisis, to repair to Chote, the residence of Ockonostota, and make overtures for the surrender of the garrison. He, accordingly, affected his object, and returned with articles of capitulation agreed upon. Besides the names of Ockonostota and Paul Demere, the commander of the garrison, the name of another chief was subscribed to the articles, called Cunigacatgoae. The articles stipulated, that the garrison should march out with their arms and drums, each soldier having as much powder and ball as his officers should think necessary, and that they should march for Virginia unmolested.

“Accordingly, on the 7th of August, 1760, the English took up their march for Fort Prince George. They had proceeded but about fifteen miles, when they encamped, for the night, upon a small plain near Taliquo. They were accompanied thus far by Ockonostota in person, and many others, in a friendly manner, but at night they withdrew without giving any notice. The army was not molested during the night, but, at dawn of day, a sentinel came running into camp with the information that a host of Indians were creeping up to surround them. Captain Demere had scarce time to rally, before the Indians broke into his camp with great fury. The poor emaciated soldiers made but feeble resistance. Thirty of their number fell in the first onset, among whom was their captain. Those that were able, endeavored to save themselves by flight, and others surrendered themselves upon the place. This massacre, it will not be forgotten, was in retaliation for that of the hostages, already related. Among the prisoners was Captain Stewart. They were conducted to Fort Loudon, which now became Ockonostota’s headquarters.

“Attakullakulla, learning that his friend Stewart was among the captives, preceded immediately to Fort Loudon, where he ransomed him at the expense of all the property he could command, and took care of him with the greatest tenderness and affection.

“The restless Ockonostota next resolved to invest Fort Prince George. He was induced to undertake that project, as fortune had thrown in his way some of the means for such an undertaking, hitherto beyond his reach. Before leaving Fort Loudon, the English had hid in the ground several bags of powder. This his men had found. Several cannon had also been left behind, and he designed to force his English prisoners to get them through the woods, and manage them in the attack upon Fort Prince George. But Attakullakulla defeated these operations, by assisting Captain Stewart to escape. He even accompanied him to the English settlements, and returned loaded with presents.”

As the Indians were now masters of the field, application was again made to General Amherst for aid, and he quickly gave it. Sir James Grant arrived in South Carolina in 1761, and took the field with a force of twenty-six hundred Englishmen and Indians. He traversed the Cherokee country, and subdued that people in a hard fought battle, near the same place where Colonel Montgomery had been attacked the year before. The fight lasted three hours, and about sixty whites were killed and wounded. The loss of the Indians was not known. Colonel Grant then destroyed fifteen of the Cherokee towns. Peace was at length restored by the mediation of Attakullakulla, who had, during the whole contest, shown himself, to be a wise, humane, and peace loving man.

Frost, John, LL. D. Frost's Pictorial History of Indian Wars and Captivities, From the Earliest Record of American History to the Present Time; Nearly 200 Engravings from Original Designs, by Distinguished Artists. New York: Wells Publishing Company. Vol. 1. 1873.

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