In the first decade of the eighteenth century the Tuscaroras, an Iroquoian tribe, inhabited eastern North Carolina in fifteen towns with 1,200 warriors and a population of about 4,800 people. Increased European settlement threatened Tuscarora autonomy and put great pressure on resources. In 1710 Baron Christophe von Graffenreid established a settlement of Swiss and Palatine Germans at New Bern, in territory formerly reserved for the Tuscaroras and smaller eastern tribes. In addition, during 1711 the political insurrection called Cary’s Rebellion preoccupied the attentions of white Carolinians. Chief Hancock and other Tuscarora leaders seized the opportunity to raid white settlements. They struck on September 22, 1711, killing more than 120 settlers and capturing von Graffenreid and John Lawson, explorer and author of A New Voyage to Carolina. Lawson was tortured and killed, but Graffenreid was released. He and Chief Hancock negotiated a treaty that would spare the Swiss and German settlers but offered no full guarantees of peace. North Carolina governor Edward Hyde called upon Virginia and South Carolina for assistance.

South Carolina dispatched Colonel John Barnwell and a force of about five hundred European and Indian troops to defeat the Tuscaroras. In January 1712 Barnwell and his force converged on Narhantes, also called Fort Hancock, west of New Bern. The Tuscaroras’ fort was well constructed, using approved European engineering techniques (one source reported that the fort had been designed and built under the direction of a fugitive South Carolina slave named Harry). Barnwell’s force established a siege in March. They isolated the fort, dug trenches, and engaged the Tuscarora defenders in skirmishes. The siege lasted until April 17, when Hancock’s warriors capitulated. The fort was demolished, the Tuscaroras agreed to pay annual tribute, and the hunting ranges of their tribal lands were diminished. Barnwell returned to South Carolina, but on the march his troops encountered and attacked a group of Tuscaroras. More than fifty were killed, and nearly two hundred Tuscarora women and children were carried back to Charleston and enslaved. This action broke the peace, and the Tuscaroras resumed their warfare.

A second South Carolina expedition, led by Colonel James Moore, Jr., future governor of the colony, arrived in North Carolina in March 1713. This force attacked Fort Nohoroco (Neoheroka), capturing the fort and Chief Hancock. He was executed, and the Tuscaroras were forced to sign a treaty that restricted them to a small reservation on the Roanoke River. In 1715 remnants of the Tuscarora tribe migrated to New York. They joined the Iroquois Confederacy and in 1722 became the sixth nation of that famous Native American confederation.

[Barnwell, John.] “The Tuscarora Expedition: Letters of Colonel John Barnwell.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 9 (January 1908): 28–54.

Barnwell, Joseph W. “The Second Tuscarora Expedition.” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 10 (January 1909): 33–48.

Lawson, John. A New Voyage to Carolina. 1709. Reprint, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967.

Parramore, Thomas C. “Tuscarora War (1711–1713).” In Colonial Wars of North America, 1512–1763: An Encyclopedia, edited by Alan Gallay. New York: Garland, 1996.

———. “With Tuscarora Jack on the Back Path to Bath.” North Carolina Historical Review 64 (April 1987): 115–38.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Tuscarora War
  • Author Alexander Moore
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/tuscarora-war/
  • Access Date May 30, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 28, 2016
  • Date of Last Update August 1, 2017