north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     European colonists encroached on Native American lands as the colony of North Carolina grew; consequently tensions escalated between the two groups. In 1711, the Tuscarora, who controlled most of the land between the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers, began a war with the colonists. In September of that year, the Tuscarora captured and killed John Lawson, whom they believed was the governor. Lawson’s capture signaled the beginning of a three-day rampage that left at least 120 colonists dead in Bath and the surrounding countryside. Men, women and children were killed and their bodies mutilated throughout the region. Houses, stock, and barns were destroyed.

     Colonial leaders failed to formulate a strategy for protection and, instead, sent pleas for assistance to Virginia and South Carolina. In response, South Carolina sent Colonel John Barnwell fortified with white militia and a large army of Native American allies from the Yamassee tribe who were hostile to the Tuscarora. Upon his arrival in January 1712, Barnwell expected reinforcements from North Carolina but received little assistance. He continued his attack into Tuscarora territory and first marched into modern Wayne County into an open village made of a network of farms scattered over several miles. The area was protected by nine forts spaced about a mile apart. Barnwell attacked the largest, Torhunta, and killed over fifty Tuscarora, including women. (Contemporary accounts, including Barnwell's, refer to the fort as Narhantes.) Barnwell’s men suffered few casualties and, once inside the fort, they discovered much of the plunder taken from colonists by the natives. Barnwell destroyed all of the remaining forts and villages in the region before leaving the area.

     Barnwell continued his trek through North Carolina in efforts to put an end to Tuscarora strength and opposition. His next target was another palisade fort at Catechna where he encountered well armed warriors who were prepared to fight to the death. Barnwell was forced to call a truce at this battle and drew back to construct his own fort nearby to force a peace. Barnwell left the colony in disarray later in 1712 and Native Americans continued to attack colonists.

     North Carolina again appealed to South Carolina and another force under the command of Colonel James Moore entered the colony. Moore, commanding South Carolina militia, North Carolina militia and allied Native Americans, soundly defeated warriors at Fort Nooherooka in March, 1713. By the end of the Tuscarora War, approximately 200 whites and 1,000 natives were killed with about 1,000 Tuscarora sold into slavery and over 3000 forced from their homes, many eventually migrating northward to Pennsylvania and New York. With the threat of violence from hostile Native Americans removed, white colonists flooded into the backcountry and extended the frontier farther west.

Theda Perdue, Native Carolinians: The Indians of North Carolina (1985)
E. Lawrence Lee, Indian Wars in North Carolina, 1663-1763 (1968)
H. Trawick Ward and R. P. Stephen Davis, Jr. Time Before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina (1999)
Map of Tuscarora War from The Way We Lived:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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