The Tuscarora War was fought in North Carolina from the fall of 1711 to February 11, 1715 between British, Dutch, and German settlers and the native Tuscarora. The Europeans were allied with the Yamasee and Cherokee, and the Tuscarora also had numerous Indian allies. It is considered North Carolina”s bloodiest war. Defeated, the Tuscarora signed a treaty with colonial officials in 1718, and settled on a reservation in what is now Bertie County.
The first permanent European settlement in North Carolina was established in 1653. The Tuscarora lived in peace with the European settlers who came to North Carolina for over 50 years at a time when almost every other colony settlement was in conflict with Native Americans. The settlers increasingly invaded Tuscarora lands, raided their villages to retrieve slaves, and introduced epidemic diseases. After their defeat, the Tuscarora moved north to New York, where they joined their Iroquois-speaking cousins, the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. They were accepted as a sixth nation. Their chief said that the Tuscarora who remained in the south after 1722 were no longer considered members of the tribe.
The Tuscarora were an Iroquois-speaking people who migrated from the Great Lakes region in the centuries before contact with Europeans. Peoples related to them formed the Iroquois Confederacy in present-day New York State.
In the early 18th century there were two groups in North Carolina: a northern group commanded by Chief Tom Blount and a southern group with Chief Hancock. Chief Blount occupied the area of present-day Bertie County on the Roanoke River, while Chief Hancock was located near New Bern, and occupied the area south of the Pamplico (now Pamlico) River. Chief Blount became great friends with the influential Blount family of the Bertie region. Chief Hancock and his people suffered European raids on their villages and kidnappings carried out by slave traders who sold the Tuscarora as slaves. The two groups were both affected by diseases introduced by the Europeans, against which they had no defense, and both were having their land stolen by encroaching settlers.
Chief Hancock decided that he had to fight and attack the settlers in an attempt to remove them from their area. Tom Blount was not involved in the war at this time. Some historians including Richard White and Rebecca Seaman have speculated that the war broke out over misunderstandings between the settlers and the Tuscarora.
The Southern Tuscarora led by Chief Hancock allied with the Pamplico, Cothechney, Core, Mattamuskeet, and Matchepungoe to attack the settlers in many places in a short time. The main targets were the plantations along the Roanoke, Neuse, and Trent rivers and the city of Bath. The first attack occurred on September 22, 1711 and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of colonists, including many important political figures such as John Lawson of Bath.
Governor Edward Hyde called in the North Carolina militia and secured the assistance of the South Carolina legislature. He recruited 600 militia and 360 Indians under John Barnwell. In 1712 they attacked the southern Tuscarora and other tribes in Craven County at Fort Narhantes on the banks of the Neuse. The Tuscarora were soundly defeated. Over 300 natives lost their lives, and 100 were taken prisoner, mostly women and children who were sold into slavery.
The British offered Chief Blount control of the entire Tuscarora territory if they would help the colonists defeat Chief Hancock. Chief Blount captured Chief Hancock, and the colonists executed him in 1712. In 1713 the southern Tuscarora lost Fort Neoheroka, located in Greene County. About 950 people died or were taken prisoner by Colonel Moore and his South Carolina troops. His men consisted of 33 whites and over 900 Indians, mostly Yamasee and Cherokee, historical enemies of the Tuscarora.
At this point the majority of the southern Tuscarora survivors began migrating to New York to escape the North Carolina settlers. Their chief declared that those who remained south after 1722 were no longer members of the tribe. They joined the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy, and were accepted as a sixth nation.
The remaining Tuscarora signed a treaty with the colonists in June 1718. This charter granted them a tract of land along the Roanoke River in what is now Bertie County. It was the area formerly occupied by Tom Blount, and measured 227 square miles. Tom Blount was recognized by the North Carolina legislature as King Tom Blount. The rest of the southern Tuscarora were driven from their homes on the Pamlico River and forced to move to Bertie. In 1722 the colony granted Bertie County. Over the next few decades the remaining Tuscarora lands continued to decline due to the continued sale of plots made by the tribe.