North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
Jan-Michael Poff, Editor
Historical Publications Section
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Last Updated 05/21/01


With Tuscarora Jack on the Back Path to Bath


[Vol. 64 (1987), 115-138]

The legislature of South Carolina sat in stunned and terrible silence as Christopher Gale delivered his choking recital of the horrors of recent days. His fearful narrative defined the reality behind the illusion that white men and red lived in a kind of symbiotic self-interest in which the needs of one legitimated the purposes of the other. The dreadful scenes he depicted tore, minute by unrelenting minute, at the nourishing confidence of the colonists that their powerful armaments could always be relied upon to intimidate or, if necessary, shatter the neighboring Indian tribes. The North American continent must always seem, after the conclusion of his speech, a more dangerous and uncertain habitation for Europeans than it had appeared before he began.

In terms that brought tears to the eyes of hardened veterans of Indian campaigns, Gale described what he had heard of the fate of Baron Christophe von Graffenried, late leader of the Palatine settlement in North Carolina, and of John Lawson, the colony’s surveyor general and author of a celebrated natural history of the province.1 Both, as Gale understood it, had been murdered in the previous month—September, 1711—by Tuscarora Indians. The precise fate of the baron was not yet known, but Lawson was reliably reported to have been stuck “full of splinters of torchwood, like hogs’ bristles, and so set ... gradually on fire.”2

Within a few days following this atrocity, the Tuscarora, committing, in Gale’s words, “the greatest piece of villainy that...was ever heard of in English America,” had carried out a surprise and savage assault on the peaceful settlers of the lower Neuse and Pamlico river regions. In some instances, Indian braves had come with smiles on their faces to the houses of whites to whom they were well known and accomplished their fell purpose after being admitted as friends. Within the first two hours of the attack on September 23, the Tuscarora had butchered hundreds of people “after the most barbarous manner that can be expressed, and [used] their dead bodies… with all the scorn and indignity imaginable.”3

The scenes related by the speaker included that of a Negro who had “had his right hand cut off” before being left for dead. A colonist was shot and “his body laid flat upon his wife’s grave.” An old woman named Nevill, after her husband was killed in their home, was murdered and her body propped on her knees against a chair with her hands lifted mockingly in prayer to the Christian God. A son lay dead in the yard with his head on a pillow and “a branch of rosemary laid to his nose.” Yet these horrors were nothing in comparison with the brutal scenes of dead women with “great stakes run up through their bodies” and pregnant mothers whose fetuses were ripped from their wombs and hung on trees.4

There were other tales of horror that might have been recounted by Christopher Gale: the capture, for example, of scores of white hostages, including the Bartram family of Whiteoak River (forebears of naturalists John and William Bartram),5 the Pierces, the Taylors,6 and many more. What might these helpless creatures expect at the hands of such vicious and inhumane captors? How many more would suffer as these first victims of the Indian terror already had?

After his chilling narration, it was scarcely necessary for Gale to add that the very existence of the North Carolina colony was in serious jeopardy. South Carolina, in the name of all that was holy, must find the resources of money and men to rush all possible assistance to her crippled sister colony. Every hour lost must come at the expense of the lifeblood of North Carolina.

The leadership of the South Carolina government, long inured to the travails of Indian wars, was eager and able to make the response for which Gale pleaded. The legislators, having listened to his grim recital, quickly approved a sum of £4,000 for the recruitment and equipping of a relief expedition. A vessel would be promptly laden with arms and supplies and sent with Gale to the rescue of Bath Town and other beseiged communities on the North Carolina sounds. Colonel John Barnwell—a youthful Anglo-Irishman, lately South Carolina’s comptroller, but also a veteran Indian-fighter—was chosen to lead the South Carolina forces. Except for its white officers, this force would consist entirely of friendly Indians and it would be necessary for Barnwell to make a recruiting expedition deep into the Carolina backcountry before proceeding northward.7

While Barnwell hurried to set his own party in motion, Christopher Gale assisted in loading a hired vessel. It was arranged that Gale, as soon as he reached North Carolina, would take command of such militia and irregular forces as might be available. With these he would proceed, evidently by water, from Albemarle Sound to a point on the Neuse River about 120 miles from its mouth. There, probably in what is now southern Wayne County, the North Carolinians would rendezvous with Barnwell. The united forces might then approach the Indian militants from the rear and achieve a victory by means of surprise and greater firepower. By early November, Gale was embarked with the relief ship with good prospects of reinforcing North Carolina within a few days.8

It was not until mid-January, 1712, that John Barnwell was able to complete his backcountry recruiting foray. But the lure of Tuscarora captives who might be sold as slaves, and of substantial booty, had garnered for him an army of upwards of a thousand men. They were an incongruous medley of Wateree, Congaree, Waxhaw, Pee Dee, Apalachee, Yamasee, and other tribes, but they were no less formidable for their disparate origins.9

There was trouble for Barnwell in the opening stages that might have been seen as a warning augury for the expedition. More than half his Indians defected in the course of a difficult crossing of the west branch of the Cape Fear River on January 26. Nearly 500 remained and, with their thirty-three white officers, comprised a powerful force. But a still keener disappointment was that Gale and the North Carolinians failed to make the Neuse River rendezvous. It would be a long time before Barnwell learned that Gale’s sloop had been captured at sea by a French warship— Queen Anne’s War was not yet ended—and was not to be released for months afterward.10 The absence of the North Carolinians also meant that Barnwell must do without provisions that Gale was to bring to victual the combined armies on their sweep into Tuscarora country.

The valiant South Carolinians, boldly resolving to live off the land until their mission was completed, pressed on eastward from the Neuse and, on the night of January 29, halted near the Tuscarora village of Torhunta, in present-day southeastern Wayne,11 perhaps the westernmost of the Tuscarora towns. Barnwell’s intention was to rest his men and attack the village at dawn, taking its occupants by surprise. But this proved to be impracticable when scouts informed him that Torhunta was a sprawling “plantation” settlement covering several square miles and that its inhabitants were already alerted to the approach of the strangers. They had, indeed, taken cover within some nine small recently built forts scattered at intervals of a mile or so about the site.12

With a view toward setting an example that might discourage the defenders of all the forts, Barnwell elected to strike at once at what seemed to be the stoutest stockade, known to his scouts as Fort Narhantes. Directing his Indians at its walls, he waited until the assault showed signs of flagging and then sent forward his English officers. The latter rallied the attackers and breached the walls in three places, only to find within them two blockhouses more stoutly constructed than the walls themselves.13

The defenders struggled furiously for half an hour, “the very women shooting arrows,” as Barnwell noted, “yet they did not yield until most of them were put to the sword.” Nevertheless, the attack was also successful in putting to flight the defenders of all the other forts at Torhunta. Besides fifty-two Tuscarora dead, Barnwell’s men took some thirty prisoners and a good deal of plunder, much of it identifiable as goods lately stolen in the razing of white settlements near the coast.14

Although sizable parties of his own Indians deserted almost at once, taking all the Tuscarora captives except for one girl for sale as slaves in South Carolina, Barnwell was flushed with the quick and solid success of his first action in North Carolina. He wrote excitedly to Governor Robert Gibbes at Charles Town to offer congratulations “for the success of our army hitherto and the honr & glory of virtuous South Carolina....” The victory at Torhunta, he proclaimed, had placed at his disposal “a fine Country full of provisions,” including many fruit trees. The enemy, he could now estimate, probably included some 1,200-1,400 fighting men under a chief named “Hancock,” whose headquarters lay at Catechna Creek, a northern branch of the Neuse some thirty-five miles distant to the east.15

Following the gratifying inauguration of the Tuscarora campaign, Barnwell was forced by bad weather to remain for several days at or near Fort Narhantes. During this period, a group of Tuscarora from Kenta village, some miles to the southeast,16 offered a brief challenge to the invaders, only to be driven off with the loss of nine of their own dead and two captured. The latter, wrote Barnwell matter-of-factly in his letter to Charles Town, “I ordered immediately to be burned alive.”17

The Barnwell expedition departed Torhunta on February 4 after making a circuit of other villages in the vicinity, all of them abandoned. That this was a thickly settled area is indicated by the fact that he burned five deserted towns in the neighborhood with 374 cabins. A few prisoners were taken but they proved to be “foreign”—very likely Seneca from western Pennsylvania.18 Such intelligence as Barnwell could glean from prisoners suggested that Chief Hancock might have one or more “great guns” among his armaments but that the best plan was probably to proceed directly to Catechna and lay seige to the fortifications there.19

Within a day or so of leaving Torhunta, however, Barnwell discovered that so many of his Indians were now deserted that it would be unwise to challenge Hancock. He must depend upon being reinforced by North Carolinians after reaching the coast. His expedition now reduced to 178 loyal Indians and 25 whites, and carrying 25 wounded, Barnwell on February 5 altered his course from east to northeast. He would make a wide arc in that direction so as to avoid hostile country to the east and also stay clear of heavily wooded regions where he might run into ambushes.20 His new destination was Bath Town, understood to be tightly beseiged by Tuscarora if not already fallen.21

The new line of march brought the South Carolinians to the abandoned village of Chunaneets (in what is now western Greene County) on February 6.22 Barnwell’s men methodically laid waste to the place before crossing the Pamlico River near the site of the present Greenville. At this point he was about five miles below the town of Ucouhnerunt, the main village of Chief Tom Blunt, leader of the Upper Towns of the Tuscarora nation.23 Barnwell sent scouts to reconnoiter the place, but, repulsing a Tuscarora war party on the Pamlico’s banks, Barnwell pushed on southeastward and by February 8 was within twenty miles of Bath Town. Scouts, encumbered by swollen creeks from recent heavy rains, reached the town and returned with large canoes. On February 9 the Barnwell expedition reached Bath.24

After 142 days of agonizing isolation, the inhabitants of the little community were in desperate condition. The handful of buildings in the place were packed to the rafters with refugees who, according to Barnwell, “expressed such extremity of mad joy that it drew tears from most of our men.” The gaunt occupants were without provisions or even changes of clothes, so “ill used,” in his words, had they been “by the barbarous enemy’s rage.” They told a sordid tale of how the Albemarle militia had sojourned with them for a few days in October, long enough to consume whatever was edible there, and then returned to Albemarle without accomplishing anything. All in Bath were clamorous in expressing their desire “upon any terms, to transport anywhere for Relief.”25

Barnwell delighted in the role of savior of Bath Town and wrote triumphantly to Governor Gibbes that his recent exploits would surely redound “to the immortal Glory of South Carolina.” Not least among the sources of his satisfaction was that Virginia, as yet unwilling or unable to send assistance to North Carolina, must be “struck with amazement and wonder” at the skill and courage of the South Carolinians.26 The rescue of North Carolina was now virtually assured; those Tuscarora who had not already taken flight must soon experience the heavy hand of retribution so lately visited upon Torhunta and other up-country villages.

Or so, at any rate, it appeared to John Barnwell in February, 1712. It may be worthwhile, however, to turn attention to some puzzling circumstances of his gallant march of the two weeks preceding his gladsome arrival in Bath. To begin with, it is a curious fact that the prisoners he took at Fort Narhantes on January 29 were not at all clear as to what the Tuscarora War was about or, indeed, precisely whom it was being waged against. Barnwell’s interpreters had learned that the Torhunta villagers thought the colonists killed in the September massacre were “outlandish people and not the English.”27 It seems that Torhunta was under the impression that it was only the lately arrived Palatine Germans and Swiss who had been attacked and that there was no conflict with the English settlers.28

Had the Indians at Torhunta, then, not been involved thus far in the war? Had they not heard of the treaty struck between Graffenried (not killed after all but released by the Tuscarora) and Hancock that granted neutrality to the Palatines?29 Barnwell drew no such conclusion, but the evidence is clear that he could have.

In Virginia in subsequent weeks, William Byrd had occasion to interrogate some of Tom Blunt’s neutral Tuscarora and received similar intimations. He was told that the Tuscarora at Torhunta, though astonished to discover that there were English among the raiders who attacked them in January, might easily have driven them off. Instead they had fled because they had information that there were peace negotiations under way in Virginia—as indeed there were with Blunt’s neutrals—that might be ruined if Barnwell were attacked.30

But would treaty negotiations between the Virginia government and Tom Blunt’s neutral villages have been of material significance to the people of Torhunta? Evidently they were.

A further puzzlement arises from what Byrd was told of the mortality at Torhunta on that fateful night. Tom Blunt’s people insisted that the Tuscarora dead had been “no more than 20 old men and women of their people and [that the attackers] had taken about 30 children prisoners.” The attack by Barnwell had taken place, Blunt’s negotiators added, “when all the young men were not at home....”31 Barnwell himself observed that the stockades at Torhunta were of the type “where ye men sleep all night [while] the women & children [sleep] in the woods.”32 But the defenders of Fort Narhantes, it will be recalled, had included many women, ten of whose bodies Barnwell counted when the battle was over.33 There were, by his acknowledgement, also children among the prisoners he took there.34

Had Barnwell’s great victory at Torhunta been achieved against a pathetic band of noncombatants, the representatives of a people who had no part in the Tuscarora War? His letters are silent on this point, but the evidence seems virtually incontestable that it had.

Finally, there is the peculiarity of Torhunta’s location. The town, by Barnwell’s estimate, lay a day and a half west from Hancock’s village at Catechna, which may be presumed to have been a distance of perhaps thirty or thirty-five miles. Before Hancock made his decision in September to execute John Lawson, he had sent out runners to the chiefs of those villages associated with him to seek their opinions on the issue of what should be done with Lawson and Graffenried. The runners had conducted their business and returned to Catechna within a space of less than eight hours.35 The indication is that Hancock’s influence resided entirely within a radius of about twelve miles of his own village. It did not reach nearly so far as Torhunta. The villages of Kenta and Tonorooka, lying to the east of Torhunta, or between Torhunta and Catechna, can be shown from Virginia records to have been allies of Tom Blunt and parties to the peace negotiations between the neutral Tuscarora and the Virginia government.36

Was Torhunta, then, even associated with Hancock’s militant Lower Towns? It appears to be conclusive that it was not.

To sum up, Barnwell achieved his immortality at Fort Narhantes with 500 warriors over a group of fifty or so women, children, and superannuated men. These people were not involved in Hancock’s raids, had had no part in the fighting against the whites, and did not even realize that there was a war in progress between some Tuscarora and the English colonists. They were, in addition, apparently party to the treaty negotiations being conducted between the Virginia government and the neutral Tuscarora towns. And yet, it is notably for his triumph at Torhunta that John Barnwell was to wear proudly for the rest of his life the sobriquet “Tuscarora Jack.” It was chiefly for this victory that “the honr & glory of virtuous South Carolina” was proclaimed and that Virginia must be “struck with amazement and wonder.”

Moreover, a glance at the map of Barnwell’s course through the North Carolina up-country from Torhunta to Bath Town will show that his route took him somewhat to the west and north of all the Tuscarora towns associated in the Tuscarora War.37 Probably all of the Indians that he reported having killed or captured were neutral Indians not concerned with the machinations of those commanded by Hancock. Barnwell’s victims were killed or captured at Torhunta, at neighboring villages a few days later, at a skirmish with Tuscarora from Kenta (including two burned alive), at a crossing of the Pamlico River on February 6, and at a fight within twenty miles of Bath on February 8.38 That Barnwell found white scalps and stolen articles at some of these sites is probably owing to the fact that such items entered quickly into the Indian trade once they came into Tuscarora hands.

It is pertinent at this point to note that Christopher Gale, in delivering his heart-wrenching soliloquy before the South Carolina legislature in October, 1711, blamed the September massacre on “the whole Nation of the Tuscaroras (though some of them may not yet be actors).”39 Barnwell, therefore, apparently did not learn until he reached Bath Town in February that the Upper Towns of the Tuscarora were not supporting the militants and were seeking to put diplomatic distance between themselves and Hancock’s towns. It is not certain that the possession of such knowledge would have prevented him from assaulting Torhunta and other neutral towns along his route; but every strike by Barnwell before he reached Bath represented one more excuse for Tom Blunt to break off the delicate peace talks and join forces with Hancock. There seems little doubt that, had he done so, and inflicted upon Albemarle County such wrath as Hancock had visited upon Bath County, the colony of North Carolina would have been abandoned by the English.40

It remains arguable that Barnwell’s fiery trek through the up-country, even though directed at neutrals, may have left such a trail of destruction as to prevent any contemplated union of Tom Blunt with Hancock. But there is no evidence that Blunt ever considered collaborating with the militants or that he was ever privy to their plans.41 Unlike Hancock, Blunt and his Upper Towns had been for over half a century in close contact with the whites of Virginia and North Carolina. They had built elaborate trading connections with the James River and Albemarle settlements and probably found these essential to their continued existence.42 It can be shown that the Tuscarora of the Upper Towns had become partially acculturated to colonial life through instances of intermarriage,43 the use of horses,44 and the adoption of other English practices apparently unknown to the Lower Towns.45 All things considered, there is ample reason to suppose that Blunt was bitterly opposed to the militants and horrified by the danger they represented to the livelihood of his own people.

Nor does it appear that Hancock suffered any defections from his own ranks as a consequence of Barnwell’s descent into North Carolina. The most that can be supposed is that some of the more hot-blooded of Tom Blunt’s young men who had not already gone, against the counsel of their leader, to join Hancock during the first five months of the Tuscarora War, may have found cause after Barnwell’s invasion to desist from enrolling among the militants. Conversely, many who refused to join at first may have been roused to cast their lot with Hancock by the spectacle of Barnwell’s scourging of innocent villages and especially his brutality against noncombatants and prisoners. In short, it seems clear that Barnwell had accomplished far more harm than good in his two weeks in North Carolina. He had transformed a conflict of intermittent skirmishes and peace initiatives46 into a desperate war of survival, a fight to the bloody finish of one side or the other.

The foregoing observations relate, of course, only to the first eleven days of Barnwell’s sojourn in North Carolina, which was destined to last for some four months more. In briefly reviewing his activities during this latter period, one may ask whether what he accomplished after arriving at Bath Town in some measure atoned for the counterproductive blundering of his up-country gasconade.

It was partly owing to the unexpected miracle of the arrival of the South Carolinians in Bath that the government of Edward Hyde, catatonically inactive in the preceding five months, finally began taking some steps toward organized counterattack against Hancock’s forces.47 For the first time, orders were now issued for a boatload of corn to be sent from Albemarle to Bath, the raising of 200 troops, and the construction of magazines at such places as Barnwell might direct on the Neuse and Pamlico rivers. There was also a revival of hope that Virginia might be persuaded to forward some little aid to its battered neighbor.48 The Barnwell expedition, then, may be credited with breathing a measure of hope into the demoralized soul of North Carolina. If Tom Blunt had not been so far provoked by the South Carolinians to rise, perhaps he never would.

John Barnwell, after resting his men at Bath Town for two weeks, left the place on February 27 with the intention of carrying the war to Catechna. With some of his wounded recovered, and reinforced by sixty-seven North Carolinians, Barnwell made his first priority that of ransacking the nearby Indian country for food for his men, North Carolina having provided none.49 The 242 men comprising his expedition reached Catechna Creek, some twenty miles above New Bern, on March 2 and were relieved to find Hancock’s village deserted and a large supply of Indian corn left behind.

A captured Tuscarora revealed that Hancock had withdrawn to a strong fort further up the creek and on the opposite or west side. Barnwell pushed on toward the place and before daybreak on March 5 was in position within perhaps a few score yards of its walls. An examination through a “prospective glass” convinced him that Fort Hancock was a model of its kind. Built under the direction of a fugitive South Carolina slave named Harry, the structure was described by Barnwell as “strong as well by situation on the riverbank as Workmanship, having a large Earthern Trench thrown up against the puncheons [or split logs] with 2 teer of port holes,” the lower tier furnished with plugs for the holes. A maze of large tree limbs blocked any approach, with sharpened reeds and canes placed among them “to run into peoples’ legs.” The structure also had four circular “Bastions or Flankers” (meaning projecting outworks) to facilitate firing in several directions at once.50

Believing he had “all the principal murderers in a pen,” including elements of Hancock’s allied Neusiok, Coree, Bear River, Pamlico, and Weetock, Barnwell prepared for an all-out assault. His men covered themselves for protection with cylindrical bundles of sticks, called fascines, and moved slowly forward toward the fort’s walls under a heavy barrage of arrows and musketry. The attackers soon broke, however, the defenders of Fort Hancock managing, in Barnwell’s words, to shoot “sevll of them in their arses” as they fled.51

Next day Barnwell led a party down to the mouth of the creek in the hope of sending to New Bern for reinforcements but found that large numbers of enemy Coree and Neusiok were camped on the opposite side of Neuse River from the creek’s mouth and that no communication with New Bern was to be had. He returned again to Fort Hancock and began drawing his lines once more close in around the walls but was stymied this time by the Tuscarora inside, as he claimed, torturing to death an eight-year-old white girl and threatening to kill other prisoners if he came closer. Agreeing at last to negotiations with Hancock, Barnwell accepted the Tuscarora’s proposals that twelve white captives be released immediately, along with two large canoes. Another twenty-two whites and twenty-four Negroes would be delivered within twelve days at Bachelor’s Creek, six miles above New Bern, provided that Barnwell’s forces withdrew from the region immediately. A cease-fire would prevail during the twelve-day interval, at the end of which Barnwell would meet Hancock’s emissaries at Bachelor’s Creek and conclude a formal treaty of peace.52

By March 10 Barnwell and his men were in New Bern. From there he wrote Governor Gibbes to complain, in response to anticipated criticism of his agreement with Hancock, of a variety of problems. The administration of Governor Hyde had failed to provide him with needed provisions; he had little ammunition left; his own men, red and white, were growing unreliable; outsiders, including neutral Tuscarora or even Seneca, might intervene on Hancock’s side.53

During the next few days, Barnwell and many of his men became ill so that, on March 19 when he was supposed to go to Bachelor’s Creek, he had to send a Swiss officer, Francis Michel, in his stead. But Michel found no Tuscarora at the intended rendezvous,54 perhaps because Hancock mistrusted Barnwell’s intentions in going to New Bern. Hancock had released Baron Graffenried in September on the promise of the latter to arrange a general cease-fire and desist from aiding the North Carolina government in the war.55 That Barnwell had retired into the Palatine settlement may have seemed ominously to betoken a new understanding between the English and Palatines.

Barnwell responded to Hancock’s failure by sending his Yamasee on a raid to Core Town, a Neuse River village of Hancock’s Coree allies. The raiders drove off the inhabitants and, according to Graffenried’s account, “got into such a frenzy over it that they cooked and ate the flesh of one of the Carolinian Indians that had been shot down.”56

With any thought gone that a peace might be concluded on the strength of the March 6 agreement, Barnwell on the twenty-ninth moved his force back up the Neuse to test the disposition of Hancock and look for corn. Fort Hancock, he found, was by this time enlarged with new walls and a large ditch or moat dug around it. He encamped his men six miles south at the abandoned Core Town, opposite the mouth of Catechna Creek, and was there informed by courier on April 1 that the Hyde government had sufficiently collected its wits to dispatch a force of North Carolinians and two sloops loaded with supplies for his assistance.57

The arrival of these reinforcements on the appointed day brought Barnwell’s strength to 153 white men besides his 128 Yamasee. But even with the added munitions he was able to provide his troops with no more than seven rounds of ammunition each. Moreover, the seventy new North Carolina recruits were a dubious asset, described by Barnwell as “the most impertinent, imperious, cowardly Blockheads that ever God created....” To control them, the South Carolinian found it necessary to tie one of their officers hand and foot and have him whipped at every act of disobedience from the recruits.58

A major addition to Barnwell’s strength, however, was the arrival by ship at Core Town, or “Fort Barnwell,” as it was known hereafter, of a pair of old three-pounder cannon that Graffenried, now openly aiding the English, had ordered sent from Governor Hyde’s Albemarle Sound residence.59 These were probably the same guns Hyde had used in the preceding summer to drive off Thomas Cary and his rebels.60

By daybreak on April 7, Barnwell’s men had encircled Fort Hancock. Francis Michel was able to construct a battery that allowed the three-pounders to be brought up well within firing range of the battlements. The English dug trenches of their own diagonal to the Tuscarora moat and managed to work their way through them to the moat itself. Efforts to dig still closer, perhaps tunneling under the fort’s walls, were halted by a heavy fire from within the fort, but the resourceful Michel had an eleven-yard interval between the moat and fort walls filled with wood and tree limbs so that it might be set ablaze and burn the walls.61

The seige lasted for ten days, a period marked, in Barnwell’s view, “for variety of action, salleys, attempts to be relieved from without” and “such bold attacks as they made at our trenches” as had ever been seen in Indian war. In the meantime, however, his own men reached a point of “extreme famine” and were rapidly losing any resolution they may have had for storming the great fort. The Tuscarora sallies had cost him many casualties, and rumor had it that Hancock had been furnished by Virginia traders with ammunition worth 400 buckskins.62

Acting upon these adverse circumstances, Barnwell on April 17 sent in proposals for another cease-fire. As new terms of peace, he proposed that the Tuscarora turn over Hancock and several of his leading cohorts within ten days as hostages for the future good conduct of the Lower Towns. In addition, the fort must be demolished and all white and black hostages handed over to the English by the end of the ten-day cease-fire. For the future, the hostiles should pay annual tribute to North Carolina, confine their planting to Neuse River and Catechna Creek, restrict themselves to the region between the Neuse and Pamlico, and hunt and fish no longer between the Neuse and Cape Fear rivers. That these conditions were accepted by Hancock suggests that his own people were in extremities worse than those of the attackers.63

Barnwell was soon able to inform Governor Gibbes that the Tuscarora and their allies appeared to be performing, for the most part, according to the peace terms. Thirty-two white and black hostages were promptly delivered up to Barnwell, and several of the militant leaders were also handed over to the English. Hancock, said to have “gone to Virginia,” was not among them, but it was promised that he and others demanded by Barnwell soon would be forthcoming.64

John Barnwell was now persuaded that his services were no longer needed by North Carolina. He led his men back to New Bern in late April and made preparations for marching on to South Carolina. But he had ignored the fact that the Hyde government was on record as being unwilling to accept any treaty with the Tuscarora.65 He may have counted on the extent of the concessions wrung from Hancock to change the minds of Hyde and his council, for whom by now he had developed a withering contempt. He wrote to Gibbes that Hyde and his council, on learning of Barnwell’s arrival at Bath in February, had toasted the South Carolinian for such an extended period that at length the whole group

strip’d stark naked & boxt it fairly two & two,... Gov’r Hyde with Collo. Boyd..., the only ragged gown parson with Mr Speaker, the Provost Marshall with another honble member and so round it went.... I have heard such a tale of barefaced villainys daily committed here as will make yr honr for the future use this country as Virginia does.66

Although Barnwell fails to support this characterization of the North Carolina government with further specifics, it is not unlikely that he could have done so at length. Even as he was writing to Gibbes, Governor Hyde was sending Alexander Spotswood his conditions for the acceptance of 200 troops Virginia was recruiting for North Carolina service. North Carolina, Hyde conceded, would be able to furnish no provisions for the promised troops but would be compelled by law to levy at 10 percent on any provisions brought with them from Virginia.67 Spotswood, enraged that his colony should be required to pay for the privilege of aiding North Carolina, immediately countermanded his order for troops and gave his southern neighbor up for lost, or, at least, not worth saving.68

But the administrations of North Carolina and Virginia were as one in condemning the peace agreed upon by John Barnwell.69 Hyde informed the Virginian that Barnwell had been “so weak as to clap up a peace with the Indians upon very unaccountable conditions,” allowing 160 to flee Fort Hancock after they had been reduced to the “last extremity.”70 Thomas Pollock, a council member under Hyde, felt that the Indians at the fort would have surrendered on any terms whatever.71 Spotswood reported to the Board of Trade in England that no one believed the Tuscarora would honor the peace “any longer than they see an apparent advantage,” and “I expect to hear of some sudden blow from them, either here or in Carolina, and am taking all the care I can to guard our Frontiers.”72

But the greater danger to the peace was the author of its terms. Barnwell, preparing for his march from New Bern to South Carolina, fretted over Hyde’s failure to furnish his people with provisions either during their five-months’ service in the colony or for their trek homeward.73 He may also have been angered at Hyde for having seized title to the extraordinarily valuable site of Core Town, which Barnwell hoped might be his own in reward for his services to North Carolina.74 Finally, there was the matter of money expended personally by Barnwell for building his fort at Core Town, the purchase of certain supplies for his men, and the loss of five of his horses in the campaign.75

Persuaded that both he and his men required some sort of compensation, Barnwell in early June issued an invitation for representatives of the Tuscarora Lower Towns and their allied tribes to meet him at Core Town—ostensibly to receive rewards for the safe return by them of captive whites and Negroes. A “goodly number” accepted the invitation but, upon arriving at Core Town, were set upon by the South Carolinians, white and red. In the ensuing struggle, some forty or fifty Coree, Bear River, Neusiok, and Mattamuskeet men were killed. Nearly 200 of their women and children were seized as prisoners and promptly spirited away in the direction of Charles Town to be sold as slaves.76

Did John Barnwell actually commit this brutal act of betrayal against the principles of humanity and his own peace treaty? It has been argued in recent years that the charges against him in this regard are the malicious fabrications of his North Carolina enemies. A fair reading of the records, it is alleged, will show that the massacre occurred after Barnwell had departed New Bern on June 28, sustained accidental injury en route home, and boarded a sloop in Cape Fear River on July 2 for the final leg of his trip to Charles Town.77

But the earliest extant reference to the Core Town massacre is contained in instructions prepared by Edward Hyde for an agent he sent to Charles Town in June to solicit additional aid, the war already having been renewed in all its fury before that month was ended. On the strength of internal evidence that the instructions were issued in June before the agent left for Charles Town, it seems clear that the massacre took place before Barnwell himself had left North Carolina.78 Graffenried, who sided with Governor Hyde in little else, agreed emphatically with the governor that the massacre was directed by Barnwell.79

North Carolinians of all persuasions were appalled by Barnwell’s mocking treachery in breaching his own treaty. Graffenried echoed a widely felt opinion that “Whatever before this he did worthy of praise, was flung away by this action.”80 In Virginia, Spotswood announced that Barnwell had left North Carolina “in a worse condition than he found” it.81

The Tuscarora and their allies renewed the war in the late spring, attacking and slaughtering additional white families on the Pamlico and in other areas. It required almost an entire year for a second South Carolina expedition under the command of Colonel James Moore to be raised, sent to North Carolina, and brought into action. Hancock’s forces were surrounded at Fort Nehucke on Catechna Creek in March, 1713, and smashed with finality by Moore’s army.82 In the meantime, Hyde had died of yellow fever, and Hancock, seized by Tom Blunt, was handed over to North Carolina authorities who apparently murdered him on the spot.83 Fugitive Tuscarora from both the Upper and Lower Towns poured northward during 1712 and 1713, most of them eventually settling with the Iroquois Confederacy in New York or in eastern Canada.84 Sporadic fighting between whites and small independent bands of militants continued for several years in North and South Carolina.85 But some of Tom Blunt’s people remained in North Carolina and were rewarded with a reservation on Roanoke River.86

What, then, can be said in assessment of the Barnwell expedition into North Carolina? Thomas Pollock, assuming the reigns of government following Hyde’s death in the fall of 1712, could learn of no more than perhaps thirty casualties among the Tuscarora militants besides the members of allied or neutral tribes destroyed by Barnwell’s men by one device or another. Apart from this inconsiderable damage, Pollock felt that the Tuscarora were “little or nothing weakened or discouraged” by Barnwell’s activity during the whole five months.87

It is true that many Tuscarora left North Carolina permanently in consequence of the uproar surrounding Barnwell’s marches, but it would be difficult to show that Hancock had suffered for this reason any diminution of his fighting strength or resolve. What Barnwell had done was to complicate and perhaps delay the effecting of a formal peace between the whites and Tom Blunt’s towns, only reached some six months after Barnwell’s departure.88 He had rendered untenable any prospect that Graffenried could arrange a cease-fire or peace, which he promised to pursue upon his release by Hancock.89 Barnwell’s treacherous violation of the Fort Hancock treaty meant that a respite of no more than a few weeks was achieved and that the war resumed with redoubled fury.

The fiery trail blazed by “Tuscarora Jack” through North Carolina in 1712, from misdirected start to perfidious conclusion, was a tragic fiasco. The prospect that North Carolina might live again in concord or even mutual sufferance with the Tuscarora militants was, as Barnwell departed for South Carolina in the summer of 1712, gone forever.


* Dr. Parramore is associate professor, Department of History, Meredith College, Raleigh. An earlier version of this article was presented by Dr. Parramore as his presidential address to the Historical Society of North Carolina at East Carolina University on October 25, 1985.

1 John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina; containing the exact description and natural history of that country; together with the present state thereof. And a journal of a thousand miles travel’d thro’ several nations of Indians. Giving a particular account of their customs, names, &c. By John Lawson, gent., surveyor-general of North Carolina (London: n.p., 1709).

2 William L. Saunders (ed.), The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 10 volumes, 1886-1890), I, 825-829, hereinafter cited as Saunders, Colonial Records.

3 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 827-828.

4 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 827.

5 Ernest Earnest, John and William Bartram, Botanists and Explorers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940), 6. William Bartram, father of botanist John, moved with his wife Elizabeth and their two children to a plantation called “Whiteoc,” evidently on Whiteoak (or Weetock) River, from Philadelphia in the opening years of the eighteenth century. William was killed by Indian assailants, apparently in the 1711 attacks, and his family taken captive and later ransomed by the “Whiteoc” (Weetock) Indians. One of the children, William, subsequently became a resident of the White Lake area of Bladen County, formerly known as Lake Bartram.

6 John Barnwell, “Journal of John Barnwell,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, V (April, 1898), Part 1, 391-402; VI (July, 1898), Part 2, 42-55 (citation is to p. 46), hereinafter cited as Barnwell, “Journal,” with appropriate volume number and pages.

7 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 391-394.

8 Herbert R. Paschal, Jr., “The Tuscarora Indians in North Carolina” (unpublished master’s thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1953), 72, hereinafter cited as Paschal, “The Tuscarora Indians.”

9 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 393-394.

10 Paschal, “The Tuscarora Indians,” 72.

11 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 394. Torhunta is variously rendered in colonial records as Norhunta, Naur-hegh-ne, Tarhunta, and so on. The name survives as that of Norhunta Swamp in the present Greene and Wayne counties. Charles R. Holloman has tentatively identified the townsite as having stood on the Lemley Lancaster property near Wildlife Pond on Old Snow Hill highway, about two miles north of Saulston. See Charles R. Holloman, “Expeditionary Forces in the Tuscarora War,” We the People of North Carolina, XXIII (March, 1966), 17, hereinafter cited as Holloman, “Expeditionary Forces in the Tuscarora War.” See also Goldsboro (N.C.), News-Argus, August 7, 1966.

12 Barnwell “Journal,” V, 394-395.

13 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 395.

14 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 396.

15 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 397. Barnwell was told by Indians that Hancock’s fort was “a day & ½ march from me.” Early maps show the site as lying on Catechna Creek, a few miles above its confluence with the Neuse River. The creek is today known as Contentnea Creek.

16 Charles R. Holloman tentatively identifies Kenta with a site on Falling Creek, in Lenoir County, southeast of the town of Institute. See Holloman, “Tuscarora Towns in Bath County,” We the People of North Carolina, XXIII (February, 1966), 30. Kenta is evidently the same place known to John Lawson as Kentanuska. See John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, edited by Hugh Talmage Lefler (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 242, hereinafter cited as Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina.

17 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 396.

18 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 397. Barnwell mentions several times the encountering of Seneca in the Tuscarora country. See, for example, pp. 397 and 398.

19 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 397.

20 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 399.

21 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 399. Barnwell understood that there were two routes to Bath, a short one through the woods and another “a round about way thro’ their Indian Settlement.”

22 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 400. Barnwell renders the name of the village as Innannits but it is apparently the one cited by Lawson as Chunaneets. See Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, 242.

23 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 401. Lawson gives the name as Oonossoora. It was situated on the south bank of Pamlico River not far below the present town of Greenville. Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, 242.

24 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 402.

25 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 42.

26 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 400.

27 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 398. The Tuscarora militants had confined their attacks in September, 1711, largely to English settlements, having previously made with Baron Graffenried an agreement to spare those Palatines who identified their homes with a large “N” painted on them. See Vincent H. Todd (ed.), Christoph von Graffenried’s Account of the Founding of New Bern (Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission, 1920), 83, 282, 332, hereinafter cited as Todd, Graffenried’s Account.

28 The Germans and Swiss had first reached the colony in the summer of 1710. See Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 50-52.

29 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 281-282.

30 Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling (eds.), The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712 (Richmond: Dietz Press, 1941), 499, hereinafter cited as Wright and

Tinling, The Secret Diary of William Byrd. For Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood’s efforts to arrange a peace, see R. A. Brock (ed.), The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia (Richmond: Virginia State Library, two volumes, 1882), I, 116-121, hereinafter cited as Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood.

31 Wright and Tinling, The Secret Diary of William Byrd, 499.

32 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 394.

33 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 395.

34 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 395.

35 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 269. Graffenried states that a council as to his fate was convened one evening at Catechna “as the sun was going down.” Following addresses by Graffenried and a Neusiok acquaintance in his behalf, the council decided to canvass “the neighboring Tuscarora villages,” presumably those towns allied with Hancock. Agents sent for this purpose, Graffenried wrote, returned in “the morning about three or four o’clock” with the desired responses.

36 Henry R. McIlwaine (ed.), Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 6 volumes, 1925-1932), III, 294, hereinafter cited as McIlwaine, Executive Journals. “Kintaigh” and “Touhairouka” (Tonorooka) are here cited as two of the eight Tuscarora towns involved in peace negotiations with Virginia. Barnwell’s men passed through both Kenta and Tonorooka (the latter described as being on a branch of Neuse River) within a day after leaving Fort Narhantes in the direction of Bath Town. See Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 398.

37 Upon learning that there were two roads to the English settlements, “one a short road through the woods, the other a round about way thro’ their Indian Settlement,” Barnwell chose “the Road thro’ the [Indian] settlements for several Reasons too long to recite....” This statement suggests that there may have been an unsettled woodland separating the Upper and Lower Tuscarora towns. See Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 400. For Barnwell’s route to Bath, see Holloman, “Expeditionary Forces in the Tuscarora War,” 16-17. Holloman reproduces Barnwell’s manuscript map from the British Public Record Office.

38 Barnwell, “Journal,” V, 402.

39 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 828.

40 Soon after becoming governor of North Carolina upon the death of Edward Hyde in 1712, Thomas Pollock wrote Spotswood that North Carolina was “rendered not only incapable of carrying on an Offensive but even a Defensive War....” Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 888-889. Despite a measure of hyperbole here, there can yet be little doubt that North Carolina was at that time in the last extremity of self-defense. The Tuscarora Upper Towns of Tom Blunt were more numerous than Hancock’s Lower Towns and physically adjacent to embattled Albemarle County. An assault by Blunt on Albemarle must almost necessarily have decimated the northern settlements as much or more than Hancock had already mangled the southern ones.

41 Both Virginia and North Carolina authorities suspected that Blunt had a secret understanding with Hancock, but Blunt had a persuasive reason for not joining the militants, namely, the protection of his trade with both colonies. Baron Graffenried believed that the Upper Towns remained loyal to the English “on account of trade.” See Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 276.

42 On Tuscarora trade, see Thomas C. Parramore, “The Tuscarora Ascendancy,” North Carolina Historical Review, LIX (October, 1982), 311-313, hereinafter cited as Parramore, “The Tuscarora Ascendancy.”

43 Chowan County deed records indicate the marriage of a Chowan planter named Daniel Leigh (or Lee) to an Indian woman, apparently Tuscarora, and the apprenticeship of her son, Peter Gansett, an “Indian,” to Robert West. Margaret M. Hofmann (ed.), Chowan Precinct, North Carolina, 1696 to 1723: Genealogical Abstracts of Deed Books (Weldon, N.C.: Roanoke News Co., 1972), 8, 25-26. See the same reference for the sale to Peter Gansett of 100 acres on Cashie River by “Peter Cornelas of Chowan Prect., Indian.” Cornelius was a well-known patronymic among the Tuscarora. The exchange of property between Indians by deed was unusual and indicates the advance of acculturation at least in the lower Chowan and Roanoke river areas.

44 On the use of horses by the Upper Towns, see Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 272. Graffenried mentions no corresponding use of horses by the Lower Towns.

45 See note 43 above on resort by Tuscarora to legal and court procedures of Chowan County.

46 Parramore, “The Tuscarora Ascendancy,” 323-325. Hancock evidently meant to accomplish his purpose of restricting white settlement by means of a brief series of punitive raids on white settlements. He does not seem to have envisioned a prolonged conflict.

47 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 243; Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 48-49. At its November session, the only one recorded between the outbreak of the war and February, 1712, the North Carolina Executive Council’s sole action relating to Indian affairs was to authorize the governor, at his discretion, to demand tribute from any “country Indians.” Robert J. Cain (ed.), Records of the Executive Council, 1664-1734, Volume VI of Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series, edited by Mattie Erma Edwards Parker and others (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, [projected multivolume series, 1963—], 1984), 8, hereinafter cited as Cain, Records of the Executive Council.

48 The Virginia government in late 1711 voted £20,000 for war preparations against the militants and drew up a draft treaty with the Upper Towns, including Blunt’s agreement to make war on the Lower Towns. By February, 1712, Blunt had still not appeared at Williamsburg to sign the treaty, but Spotswood now sent an Indian trader into the territory of the Upper Towns in the hope of persuading Blunt to do so. Mcllwaine, Executive Journals, III, 293-295, 300-301.

49 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 43.

50 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 44-45.

51 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 45.

52 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 47.

53 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 48.

54 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 48.

55 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 281.

56 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 243; Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 48.

57 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 50-51.

58 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 51.

59 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 51; Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 244.

60 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 231. The Cary Rebellion, named for Thomas Cary, chief executive of North Carolina, ca. 1705-1710, occurred in 1711 when the displaced Cary and a group of followers rebelled against the authority of the colony’s chief executive Edward Hyde.

61 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 51-52.

62 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 52.

63 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 52-54.

64 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 53.

65 Hyde and his council had resolved in February that “no peace, or any terms whatsoever be agreed with” the “towns actually joining with Handcock in the massacre” and that it was the government’s intention “entirely to extirpate them according to the laudable custom of South Carolina.” Cain, Records of the Executive Council, 9.

66 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 49.

67 Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 170.

68 Brock Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 171-172.

69 Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 170-171.

70 Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 150.

71 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 843, 862.

72 Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 147.

73 Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 55.

74 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 878. Barnwell had praised the site as “the most lovely, pleasantest, Richest piece of land in either Carolina upon a navigable River.” Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 47.

75 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 904.

76 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 245; Barnwell, “Journal,” VI, 48; Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 900; Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 173.

77 Hugh T. Lefler and William S. Powell, Colonial North Carolina: A History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), 78.

78 Hyde had concluded by June 2, when he acquainted his Executive Council with it, to send an agent to South Carolina to solicit additional forces for use against the Indians. An undated copy of orders subsequently issued by Hyde to John Foster includes reference to Barnwell’s having broken his treaty “by killing & taking several of the Indians since, who being along with Tusqueroras in Hancock Fort, were equally concerned in the peace with them.” Hyde adds that the Tuscarora “have planted great quantities of ____________ which is generally ripe next month, as also generally here their is appearance of good crops of wheat which if safe got in... will be sufficient to maintain them.” Hyde evidently issued these orders in June and presumably refers here to the May planting, which was harvested in July, May being the earliest opportunity for planting after the April treaty. For Hyde’s orders to Foster, see Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 851, 898-901. For Indian planting cycles, see Arthur Barlowe’s narrative in David B. Quinn and Alison M. Quinn (eds.), The First Colonists: Documents on the Planting of the First English Settlements in North America, 1584-1590 (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, Department of Cultural Resources, 1982), 7.

79 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 245.

80 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 245.

81 Brock, Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, I, 173.

82 Joseph W. Barnwell, “The Second Tuscarora Expedition,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, X (January, 1909), 34-47.

83 Saunders, Colonial Records, II, 48.

84 F. Roy Johnson, The Tuscaroras: History, Traditions, Culture (Murfreesboro, N.C.: Johnson Publishing Co., two volumes, 1968), II, 201-215.

85 Paschal, “The Tuscarora Indians,” 114-134.

86 Paschal, “The Tuscarora Indians,” 117-122.

87 Saunders, Colonial Records, I, 875.

88 Paschal, “The Tuscarora Indians,” 110-111.

89 Todd, Graffenried’s Account, 281-282.

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