Yamasee War

1715–1717

The Yamasee War was fought by a coalition of Native American Indian tribes, led by the Yamasee, and the South Carolina Militia. South Carolina won the war, gained control of land, and formed an alliance with the Iroquois Confederacy.

Yamasee War, 1715, Illustration

This illustration by Peter Schenk depicts a battle between the South Carolina Militia and the Yamasee in April 1715.

Yamasee War Facts

The following facts and details provide an overview of the Yamasee War.

  • Location — Southeastern South Carolina.
  • Date — 1715–1717.
  • Combatants — South Carolina Militia and the Yamasee.
  • Outcome — The South Carolina Militia won the war, with the help of Cherokee allies.

The Yamasee and Carolina Merchants

  • The Yamasee Tribe lived along the Savannah River and had a strong trading relationship with the Carolina Colony, one of the Southern Colonies.
  • The increased presence of English hunters helped deplete the deer in the region, reducing the food supply.
  • The Yamasees responded by carrying out raids on Indian tribes in Florida, including the Apalachee.
  • The Yamasees often took Indians as captives and sold them to Carolina merchants as slaves.
  • Carolina merchants took advantage of the Yamasees, who fell into debt with the merchants.
  • In 1707, South Carolina established the Board of Indian Commissioners to regulate trade with the Yamasees and other Indians.
  • Despite the Commission, the Yamasee’s debt continued to grow. To pay their debt, Yamasee men were forced to work for the merchants.
  • In 1712, the Yamasees joined South Carolina in an expedition against the Tuscarora, during the Tuscarora War.
  • This led to retaliation by the Tuscarora against the Yamasees.

Pocotaligo Massacre — April 15, 1715

  • In the spring of 1715, rumors of a Yamasee uprising spread through South Carolina.
  • On April 14, William Bray, Samuel Warner, Thomas Nairne, and others met with Yamasee leaders at Pocotaligo Town, southwest of Charleston, in an attempt to ease tension.
  • On April 15, which was Good Friday, the Yamasees decided to resort to violence They killed Bray and Warner and tortured Nairne, who died a few days later.
  • Afterward, the Yamasees sent war parties out to carry out raids against settlements and plantations along the South Carolina coast.
  • Other tribes, including the Ochese Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Catawba followed suit by killing their merchant trading partners and carrying out raids.

The Yamasee War Spreads

  • The initial attacks were successful and threatened the existence of the colony.
  • South Carolina settlers fled from the frontier settlements to the safety of Charleston.
  • Governor Charles Craven formed militia forces that included armed slaves. At the time, there were roughly 1,500 settlers (not slaves) who were of fighting age and available to Craven.
  • Craven asked the other colonies for help:
  • Raids, skirmishes, and battles took place intermittently for three years as English colonists struggled to suppress the Indians.
  • Throughout the war, rumors were spread that the French or Spanish were responsible for instigating the Yamasee uprising.

Yamasees Driven South

  • The Yamasees were driven off by South Carolina forces at Port Royal and Salkehatchie.
  • At the Daufuskie Fight, militia ambushed a Yamasee contingent and inflicted heavy casualties.
  • Afterward, the Yamasee moved south toward the Altamaha River.

The Yamasee Coalition Breaks Down

  • Initially, the Yamasee coalition was strong but eventually started to break down.
  • The Creek tribes were not unified, as the Ochese Creeks supported the Yamasees but the  Upper Creeks preferred to retain their trade relationship with British merchants.

The South Carolina-Cherokee Alliance

  • The Lower Cherokee decided to side with South Carolina in 1716 against the Creek tribes that continued to fight.
  • The Cherokee wanted to protect their trade relationship with South Carolina and saw an opportunity to increase their share.
  • The alliance allowed South Carolina to decisively defeat the Yamasees, who were driven into Florida and sought refuge with the Spanish, who controlled the territory.

Fate of the Creek and Catawba

  • The Creek and Catawba remained intact as a people, but they were driven away from established English settlements. 
  • To protect themselves further, South Carolina entered into an alliance with the Iroquois Confederacy.
  • For the next 10 years, the Iroquois carried out attacks on the Catawba.

Effects of the Yamasee War on South Carolina

  • The war damaged South Carolina’s profit from the Fur Trade, and it was not fully restored until 1722.
  • Hundreds of settlers were killed and their land was left unattended.
  • Some historians believe the Yamasee War was the closest any English colony came to being eradicated by Indians.

Aftermath of the Yamasee War

  • South Carolina assigned government agents to deal with the Indian tribes.
  • A ranger company was established to patrol the Backcountry.
  • A small fleet of ships was organized to patrol the southern coastline of South Carolina, to keep watch for Indian raiding parties.
  • During the Yamasee War, the Lords Proprietors failed to provide support. This contributed to their downfall and South Carolina’s transformation to a Royal Colony under Crown control.

Yamasee War Significance

The Yamasee War is important to American History because it allowed South Carolina to survive and expand. Some Indian tribes were forced to flee to Florida, where they joined the Seminole or Hitchiti. The devastating effects of the war contributed to South Carolina becoming a Royal Colony in 1719.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations, including APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style.

  • Article Title Yamasee War
  • Date 1715–1717
  • Author
  • Keywords Yamasee War, South Carolina Colony
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update May 28, 2024

Taxonomies