Yamassee War of 1715
Living along the southern bank of the Savannah River the Yamassee
Indians had maintained good relationships with the South Carolina
One of the oldest known Southeastern tribes, the Yamassee controlled
much of lower Savannah River inland to the confluence of the Ocmulgee
and Oconee. They were widespread but a relatively small group of Creek
Indians. According to Ranjel, chronicler of deSoto's travels, the
visited the Yamassee town of Altamaha in 1540
As with most wars, the causes of the Yamassee War begin well before
the start of the conflict. Shortly after the completion of Queen Anne's
War, the Creek began to get agitated with the English traders on the
border of their nation. These traders had made the Indians dependent
upon the goods they supplied. Guns, for example, made it easier for
the Indians to hunt, increasing the amount of goods they had to trade.
The Creek were unhappy with traders who seemed to be supplementing their
slave trade income by occasionally taking a Creek warrior.
Other business practices were questioned by the Creek as well. The
English would get the Creek Indians intoxicated and then defraud them,
cheat them in trade, and take liberties with Creek women (Rape was a
concept introduced to Native Americans by the English, and later, the
Americans). Members of the Creek tribe complained to South Carolina
authorities, who tried to control the traders with a licensing system.
The plan failed miserably, so the Creek decided to take matters into
their own hands.
First, members of Creek tribes killed all the English traders. Then,
on April 15, 1715, Yamassee Indians, supported by the Creek, Catawba,
Appalachee, Governor of New France, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de
Bienville in Mobile, and the Spanish regime in St. Augustine began to
attack settlers on a broad front along the southern and western borders
of South Carolina. Settlers began to flee. Some halted in Charles Town,
South Carolina, but many kept going to Virginia and North Carolina.
As the Indians approached Port Royal, the entire town fled. In Charles
Town, Governor Cravens, who was also a Colonel, began to establish a
perimeter of irregulars and militia. The state was close to collapse;
in August, 1715, South Carolina turned to the Cherokee for support.
For many years the Cherokee and Creek had been enemies, so the Cherokee
were only too happy to join the war on the side of the South Carolinians.
Mush to the surprise of the Cherokee, however, shortly after agreeing
to support the English settlers, Creek chiefs approached the Cherokee
about joining the Creek in waging war. The Cherokee invited the Creek
to a council where the Cherokee killed the Creek chiefs. Meanwhile,
South Carolina forces had advanced from Charleston and met a large body
of Indians at Salkehatchie, sometimes called "Saltcatchers."
The combination of these two events was the turning point of the war.
The Creek/Yamassee thrust into South Carolina halted, and the Indians
withdrew. Afraid of retaliation, Creek villages in the area relocated
to the west and south and the Yemassee withdrew to the vicinity of St.
Augustine, hoping for protection from their Spanish friends. Carolina
raiders found the village, routed the residents and destroyed the homes.
The remaining Yamassee were absorbed into the Seminole tribe.
The Yamassee War and Georgia
After the Creek withdrew the area south of the Savannah River remained
free of Indians for a number of years. The Yamacraw tribe that greeted
James Oglethorpe in 1733 had been nomadic, only recently settling near
the trading post of John Musgrove and his Creek wife Mary.
More importantly, the government realized how tenuous their position
was. The Tuscarora War had just ended on February 11, 1715 and the Yamassee
War began two months later. Having had to depend on the Cherokee to
support their existence was abhorrent. Pleas went across the Atlantic
for support, with little response. Attempts were made to fortify the
coast, including building Ft. King George near the present-day town
of Darien, but these attempts would have been ineffectual in the eyes
of the South Carolina government. They became staunch supporters of
a colony to the South of the Savannah River.