The Tuscarora War: A Primer


The Tuscarora War, North Carolina’s bloodiest colonial war


22 September 1711 to February 1715


In North Carolina, mainly between the Neuse River and its tributaries and the Pamlico River, with some action taking place around Lake Mattamuskeet and along the White Oak River.


The Indians fought to right the relationship they had with the North Carolina settlers and colonial government. They had been insulted, abused, enslaved, and cheated by traders. They lost land. And their complaints fell on deaf ears.


Taking action, the Indians captured Surveyor General John Lawson and Baron Christophe de Graffenried while they were on a land reconnaissance mission and executed Lawson. Then, at dawn on September 22, 1711, more than 500 Tuscarora, Core, Neuse, Pamlico, Weetock, Machapunga, and Bear River Indian warriors swept down on the unsuspecting European settlers living along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, starting the war.


Indian nations including Tuscaroras (“Lower” Tuscaroras mainly along Contentnea Creek), Cores, Bear River Indians, Neuse Indians, Machapungas (Mattamuskeets), and Weetocks.


English, German, and Swiss settlers/militia and such Indian allies as “Upper” Tuscaroras from the Roanoke River in North Carolina, and in addition to some South Carolina militia, their Indian allies: Catawbas, Santees, Waterees, Cusabos, Yamasees, Cherokees, and others.

Key figures

Christophe de Graffenried—led German settlers to Indian lands on Neuse River
Hancock—Tuscarora chief of Catechna town who led Indian attacks on English
Core Tom—Core Indian chief who demanded war against the English
William Brice—English settler and slave taker on Trent River who counterattacked first
Col. John Barnwell—led the first South Carolina expedition against Tuscaroras which failed
Thomas Pollock—North Carolina governor who demanded breaking of Tuscaroras
Tom Blount—Upper Tuscarora chief who eventually sided with the English
Col. James Moore—led second South Carolina expedition and defeated Tuscaroras

Learn More

The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies, by David La VereIn his gripping account, David La Vere examines the war through the lens of key players in the conflict, reveals the events that led to it, and traces its far-reaching consequences. He details the innovative fortifications produced by the Tuscaroras, chronicles the colony’s new practice of enslaving all captives and selling them out of country, and shows how both sides drew support from forces far outside the colony’s borders. In these ways and others, La Vere concludes, this merciless war pointed a new direction in the development of the future state of North Carolina. The Tuscarora War: Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies is now available.