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Chapter 4

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Indian Wars in North Carolina

E. Lawrence Lee

The Carolina Charter
Tercentenary Commission
Raleigh, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 6
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p32  Chapter V

The Tuscarora War;
The Moore Expedition 1712‑1715

Soon after Barnwell and his men returned to South Carolina the horror of Indian war once again swept through the Neuse and Pamlico regions. The hostiles, hungry and seeking food, roamed the country taking what they wanted and destroying all else. Many of the inhabitants who ventured back to their plantations were killed. Others went to bed each night with little confidence they would live to see the dawn. The wiser people returned to the security and confinement of fortified garrisons, but even they were not free from attack. Only the generosity of the people of Albemarle County relieved a serious shortage of food in the stricken areas. Under these conditions, inhabitants began to leave the colony. Efforts were made to protect those that remained, but the efforts were not enough.

Barnwell left behind twenty of his Yamassee warriors to patrol the area of recent conflict, and a small armed company was stationed on both the Pamlico and Neuse. A marine company was organized to watch over the waters of Pamlico and Core Sounds. These, however, were only defensive measures that did nothing to end the war. The attempt of the North Carolina officials to encourage military enlistment by imposing a fine was a failure as few men offered their services. The government was not able to raise enough men to rid the colony of the enemy. The troops requested from Virginia never came. With its own frontier also endangered by the same enemy, Virginia was willing to send the men provided North Carolina furnished them with food. North Carolina was too distressed to do so. Later, Virginia sent badly needed  p33 clothing for North Carolinians in service, and after offered to send troops provided they were fed. Again, the offer was declined. In the meantime, North Carolina had once more turned to South Carolina for help and received it.

In June, 1712, an agent left North Carolina for Charles Town to request South Carolina to send 1,000 Indians with a few whites and a commander other than Barnwell. In early October, the agent returned with news that the troops were on the way, under the command of Colonel James Moore. Anticipating his aid, North Carolina had already gathered a company of some 140 men on the Neuse River to join the South Carolina troops when they should arrive. This action proved unwise. Moore did not arrive for many weeks and the North Carolinians, too few to attack alone, waited in idleness. Finally, in November, they disbanded and returned to their homes. Their only contribution had been to eat the food that had been sent to the Neuse for the coming expedition. As a result, when the South Carolina army arrived in December, North Carolina was again unprepared. In addition to 33 white men, Moore's army consisted of some 850 Indians. Among these were over 300 Cherokee and 50 Yamassee. The balance included warriors of the various Siouan tribes of the Carolinas. Among the officers was Colonel Moore's brother, Captain Maurice Moore, with the Yamassee Company. To feed such a large body of men was no small problem. Because food was more plentiful in Albemarle County, the men marched there until adequate supplies could be shipped around to the Neuse.

There was also another reason for diverting Moore's forces to Albemarle County. Fear persisted that the Five Nations and the upper Tuscarora would join the enemy. Enemy captives had told Barnwell that the beginning of the war had resulted from the prodding of visiting warriors of the  p34 Five Nations. They had taunted the Tuscarora over their failure to avenge the mistreatment of a drunken Indian by the whites. In the summer of 1712, information was received from the governor of New York that the French in Canada had persuaded the Five Nations to send warriors south to aid the hostile Tuscarora in their war against the English. This concern subsided the following autumn with receipt of information that the New York government had persuaded the Five Nations not to go south. They went to war against the French Indians instead.

The status of the upper Tuscarora, however, remained uncertain. They had not joined the hostiles but neither had they come to the aid of the whites. The government had attempted to persuade them to end the conflict by going to war against the enemy Indians, but they had not done so. King Blount came into the settlements from time to time to declare his continued friendship for the whites, and he alone of the chiefs of the upper towns was trusted. But he could speak for his town only. The government, nevertheless, sought to use his influence with the chiefs of the other towns to persuade them to cooperate with the whites. It was hoped that their desire for the resumption of trade would be sufficient to win them over. The government, however, hesitated to force the issue for fear of driving them to join the hostiles while the colony was in such a weakened condition. The coming of Moore and his army to North Carolina gave its officials the confidence they needed. On a visit to Thomas Pollock, acting governor of North Carolina after the death of Hyde in early September, 1712, Chief Blount expressed his desire for the resumption of trade with his people. He was told that this would be done if they would bring in King Hancock and the scalps of the other hostiles. The offer was accepted after consultation with the headmen  p35 of the other neutral towns and King Hancock was delivered and executed. Blount and his people were given until January 1st to bring in the enemy scalps. This allotment of time for the fulfillment of Blount's agreement was permitted by the diversion of Moore's troops to Albemarle County. If Blount succeeded, peace would have been won for the whites. If he failed, Moore could then move out to accomplish the same goal.

If the stay of Moore's forces in Albemarle County solved one problem, it created another. At first his Indians were confined to a designated area where they consumed what food they could find. Then the hungry horde began to spread out over the surrounding country, killing cattle and taking corn. The people of Albemarle County became so disturbed that many of them seemed "more ready to Fall upon the South Carolina Indians, than march against the enemy." They were not only angry but worried also. The danger of using Indians for purposes of war was clearly apparent. The little control that could be exercised over the Indians came from the authority of a single individual, their leader. Some of the more thoughtful people began to consider the possible consequences of the death of this single individual, Colonel Moore. Without a leader, and made up of various tribes and language groups, his Indians would be unrestrained. Such a disorderly band could be as destructive as the enemy it came to fight. January 1st came and Blount had not brought in the scalps of the enemy. Moore then made ready to march against the hostiles. By the middle of the month food had been shipped around to Fort Barnwell, the supply base on the Neuse. On January 17th, Moore's army, enlarged by the addition of some eighty-five North Carolinians, left Albemarle County to the great relief of its inhabitants.

 p36  After crossing over Albemarle Sound, Moore headed into the country of the lower Tuscarora where the hostile Indians had already fled to the protection of their forts. Reports indicated the largest concentration of warriors was gathered in Fort Neoheroka, located on a branch of Contentea Creek, a few miles above Hancock's Fort. Accordingly, Neoheroka was the destination of Moore's expedition as it pushed forward through the harsh cold of winter. Progress was slow because of supply difficulties combined with bad weather and deep snow.

Fort Neoheroka was an irregularly shaped enclosure of one and one‑half acres contained within a palisaded wall. Along this wall, at strategically located points, were bastions and blockhouses. Within the enclosure were houses and caves. An enclosed passageway, or "waterway," led to the nearby branch of Contentea Creek. When Colonel Moore arrived before this impressive fortification, he began careful preparations to destroy it. Three batteries were constructed nearby and from the Yamassee Battery facing the fort, a zig‑zag trench was dug to within a few yards of the front wall. This trench provided protective cover for men to approach and build a blockhouse and battery near the fort. Both of these structures were higher than the walls of the fort so that the enemy within might be subjected to direct fire. A tunnel also extended from the trench to the front wall so that it might be undermined with explosives. On the morning of March 20th, every man was at his post when a trumpet sounded the signal for the attack. Three days later Fort Neoheroka lay a smouldering ruin and the enemy acknowledged defeat. The enemy loss was 950, about half killed and the balance taken into slavery. Moore's loss was fifty-seven killed and eighty‑two wounded. With this one crushing blow, the power of the Tuscarora nation was broken.

 p37  Following their defeat, most of the enemy Tuscarora who escaped fled north to live among the Five Nations Confederation which afterwards became the Six Nations. Some thought was given to ridding the colony of all members of the tribe but was abandoned. For one thing, there was not sufficient food available to maintain the troops in service. Too, it was felt that some friendly natives on the frontier would protect the settlements against hostiles. For these reasons, a treaty of peace was finally concluded with King Blount and the upper Tuscarora. By the terms of this treaty, Blount was acknowledged chief of all the Tuscarora and of all other Indians south of the Pamlico River. All who accepted Blount's leader­ship became tributary Indians under the protection of the government of North Carolina and were assigned a reservation on the Pamlico River. All who rejected him were considered enemies of the government. These included only a small number of the hostile Tuscarora who remained in the colony and a few Coree and Matchapunga, or Mattamuskeet.

At first there were only about fifty of the hostiles, but they proved to be an elusive enemy. A few lurked about Core Sound, but the balance hid out in the Great Alligator Swamp, a vast and almost impenetrable region of lakes and cane swamps lying between the Matchapunga River and Roanoke Island. From this hiding place, they raided the outlying settlements. In the spring of 1713, twenty settlers on the Alligator River were killed. A short while later, twenty-five more met the same fate on Roanoke Island. Many others were killed in frequent and less dramatic raids involving no more than two or three families. After their attacks, the Indians retreated back into their swamp world where it was almost impossible to follow them. Colonel Moore, with more than a hundred of his Indians, remained in  p38 North Carolina for some time in a futile effort to seize them. Blount and his Tuscarora finally came to the aid of the colonists and were more successful. By the autumn of 1713, they had brought in about thirty hostile scalps. However, other warriors joined the enemy from time to time. This nagging problem had dragged on for almost two years when the government finally turned from a policy of extermination of the hostiles to one of peaceful agreement. On February 11, 1715, a treaty of peace was made with the surviving hostiles and they were assigned a reservation on Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. This was the final act of the Tuscarora War.

Page updated: 9 Jun 13