Reflections on the Neyuheruke 300 Conference and Tuscarora Conflict

Mitchell Map, Eastern North Carolina Section, c. 1750

Mitchell Map, Eastern North Carolina Section, c. 1750

From 2012 to 2013, I participated in the recognition of the tercentenary of an historical event.  Before 2012, I knew little of the Tuscaroras, the Tuscarora conflict from 1711-1715, and the siege and battle of Neyuheruke.  The history of this event receives limited attention.  There are select groups who will know of this conflict, such as some North Carolina students, academics who study pre-American Revolutionary War colonial history or the history of the American Indian, and the Tuscaroras themselves that still live on today.  Thanks to a pair of conferences held at East Carolina University, in particular the one held in 2013, I am more aware of an event that deserves more attention in early American history.

Neyuheruke (or Neoheroka, there are several spellings) was an American Indian community located along the Contentnea Creek, near the present town of Snow Hill, North Carolina.  While it might be easier to call Neyuheruke a village or town, it does not fit the concept of a settlement with a central cluster of buildings.  There may have been a central plaza, but Neyuheruke and other Contentnea Creek communities featured scattered dwellings instead of a central group of buildings clustered close together.  During the Tuscarora conflict, Neyuheruke allied with several other Tuscarora communities against the Europeans (and their American Indian allies).  After a campaign led by Colonel Barnwell against the Tuscarora in early 1712, the people of Neyuheruke constructed a fort sometime between February and November.  In March of 1713, another expedition against the Tuscarora laid siege to this fort around March 1.  This force, under the command of Colonel Moore, consisted of 108 Europeans and 750 Cherokee, Yamassee, and other American Indian allies.  Inside the fort resided some 850 to 1,000 Tuscaroras.  After a three-week siege, the final assault occurred over a three-day battle from March 20 to the morning of March 22.  The hard-fought battle resulted in the Tuscaroras suffering between 350 to 450 deaths.  At least 400 remaining Tuscaroras became prisoners. Moore’s forces suffered 139 dead or wounded.  The Tuscarora prisoners returned with Moore’s men to South Carolina as slaves.  Many found themselves for sale in Charleston, and from there exported to various other parts of the Western Hemisphere, including Boston.  The capture of Neyuheruke’s fort marked the breaking of the opposition to the North Carolina Europeans, though smaller raids occurred until 1715.  In the long term, the conflict resulted in many of the remaining Tuscaroras traveling north to reunite with the Iroquois Confederacy and resume their status as the sixth Iroquois tribe. Continue reading