Tag: North Carolina

The Tuscarora War and the Battle of Narhantes Fort 30 Jan 1712

On January 30 1712, a force under South Carolinian Colonel John Barnwell, attacked the Tuscorora Indian village cum fort of Narhantes (also known as Torhunta), near New Bern, North Carolina. Barnwell had been sent by the South Carolina authorities in response to a call for help from North Carolinian settlers after they had been attacked by the southern part of the Tuscarora Indians, under the leadership of Chief Hancock.

Background to the Tuscarora War

The Tuscarora War is one of the saddest of the Indian wars, both because there were truly good relations between Indians and whites for a long time before the fighting started and because it was one the first such problems in the southern colonies. The Tuscarora, along with smaller tribes of Coree, Matchapunga, Pamlico, Bear River and Neusioc had lived and hunted in the area since before the settlers arrived. Some of the smaller tribes had even moved inland already due to the earlier expansion of the European settlers. The settlers, mainly English, Swiss, and German, had been spreading out from their Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds landing areas for fifty years. They were becoming more prosperous, but also more greedy for land. Their sprawl was tolerated at first, but eventually it began to encroach on Tuscarora hunting grounds along the Neuse, Pamlico, Trent and Roanoke Rivers. What was to become the all too familiar complaints in later Indian wars caused the Tuscarora to attack. They felt that they had been taken by duplicitous European traders, had their people enslaved by the same, and were increasingly being encroached upon by the European settlers. The northern part of the Tuscarora tribe, led by Chief Tom Blunt, had felt better treated, so had sided, albeit incompletely, with the settlers. The southern tribes, led by Chief Hancock had decided that force was the only way to regain their way of life.

On 22 September 1711, the southern Tuscarora struck the European settlers ferociously in multiple places in between the Neuses and Pamlico Rivers. The settlers were divided already due to a armed dispute between rival leaders of the settlers. They had not prepared defenses and took heavy losses. The Tuscarora killed, tortured, burned, and pillaged their way through the area. The settlers had no forts, but began to gather in some of the bigger plantations homes to fight off the Tuscarora. The North Carolina settler Deputy Governor, Edward Hyde, sent out pleas for help to Virginia and South Carolina. Colonel Barnwell, with a force of a few whites and several hundred Indians (mainly Yamasee, but also Cape Fear, Catawba, Muskhogean, Saraw, Wateree and Wynyaw) was South Carolina’s answer.

The Battle of Narhantes Fort – 30 January 1712

Barnwell made his way north from South Carolina and arrived in the Neuses River area in late January 1712. Barnwell did not find the promised North Carolina help, but decided to attack the nearby Narhantes  (Torhunta) anyway. He struck to find the village largely open, but with several small, non-supporting fortifications. There was some fierce opposition including from the women of the village, but Barnwell had taken the village within a few hours. Those not killed were taken prisoner. Barnwell had recruited plenty of his Indian allies with the promise of scalps and plunder, so it was unsurprising to see some of those captured were taken by Barnwell’s Indians and they had quietly slipped away with their booty. Barnwell stayed in the area for several days, eventually destroying Narhantes Fort totally.

Barnwell would spend the remainder of the winter stomping through other Tuscaroran villages as he worked the area. However, Barnwell met his match in ferociousness with Chief Hancock, who eventually convinced Barnwell to treat by threatening to kill all of the previously captured settlers, if Barnwell continued his attacks. In the Spring, a comprehensive, but short-lived peace was agreed, but as with so many of these, the terms were not to the long term liking of either party, so they collapsed. This was not the first, nor the last of these battles or treaties, but it was defintely the most savage in this area and it was to poison relations thereafter.

The Tuscaroras moved north a few year later to join their Iroquoian cousins in the New York area. Ironically, but not unpredictably, the Yamasee got the same treatment soon thereafter and had to move south into Florida to avoid being wiped out.

Battle of Narhantes Fort Motorcycle Ride

Try this run from Windsor through eastern North Carolina’s multiple National Wildlife Refuges (Roanoke, East Dismal Swamp, Pocosin Lakes, Alligator River, Mattamuskeet and Swanquarter) to Roanoke Island and down to New Bern and up to the historical marker about Narhantes / Torhunta to get a good feel for this area that was developing quickly in the early 1700s. The area is great for wildlife, but be careful on a bike, I’ve had various critters run out in front of me on these roads, including a black bear.

Battle of Fort Fisher (Part 2 The Assault) 15 January 1865

The Union Navy under Porter continued a relentless bombardment from 13 January to the early afternoon of 15 January. When the bombardment stopped, a force of sailors and marines landed and attacked with pistols and cutlasses. This attacked was repulsed by the Confederates who had re-occupied the earthen works. However, the focus on the amphibious landings caused the Confederates to leave too little on the up river side where General Terry had landed on the 13th of January.
Terry’s force worked its way into the land-side walls and turned the position one pit at a time. The Confederates of Colonel Lamb fought valiantly, but the “Gibraltor of the South” was lost and the last port for large scale re-supply of the southern cause was now in Union hands.

Motorcycle Ride

Start at the Fort Fisher, NC Historic Site on the north side of the Cape Fear. Take the ferry to Southport. Follow North Carolina State Route 211 to US 17 and follow the coast south to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Battle of Fort Fisher (Part 1 The Landings) 13 January 1865

By the end of 1864, the Confederacy had only one major port remaining to run goods in and out to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Nova Scotia for much needed supplies. That port was Wilmington, North Carolina and it was protected by Fort Fisher. Fort Fisher sat at the mouth of the Cape Fear River’s entrance into the Atlantic. Fort Fisher was a formidable obstacle, not just for its position, but for the extended earthen works as well. Such was its strength that it was often referred to as the “Gibralter of the South.” Naturally, it became a prime objective for the North as they tried to choke of the remaining supply lines to the South.

On Christmas Day 1864, General Benjamin Butler and Admiral David Porter led a combined force that was to attempt an amphibious assault on Fort Fisher. Porter played his part with one of the fiercest bombardments that the Union Navy had conducted to date. However, Butler lost his nerve after his initial attack was rebuffed and cancelled the ground attack and departed. Porter and Union commander, U.S. Grant were disgusted with the lack of Butler’s resolve. Grant relieved Butler, replacing him with Alfred H. Terry (who was later to become one of the best known Indian fighters of the West). Porter was to give a reprise of his successful bombardment. Terry had previously been in charge of the Siege of Charleston and knew that he had to co-ordinate heavily with Porter for the complex mission to succeed.

On January 13th, 1865, under covering fire by Porter, Terry landed a force up river from the fort to block a Confederate re-enforcement of the fort once the amphibious assault began. Union forces probed the fort’s defenses and Terry decided that the fort was vulnerable from the river side. In the mean time, Porter continued his bombardment and prepared an amphibious assault of sailors and marines on the ocean side. With the fort now cut off from land side support and no naval protection to speak of, the Confederate forces, under General Whiting and Colonel Lamb, hunkered down under a remorseless bombardment by Porter over the next two days. The damage to the earthen works could not be repaired due to the ceaseless nature of the fire.

The stage was now set for the final assault on the 15th of January.

Motorcycle Ride

Start in Southport, North Carolina on the south side of the Cape Fear. Take the ferry to Fort Fisher. Then follow the coast from Fort Fisher to Camp Lejeune, NC. Check out Fort Fisher, NC Historic Site.

North Carolina and the American Revolution

Besides being a great place to ride with mountains, country roads, and seaside, North Carolina holds some of the coolest battlefield riding in such a compact area. Check out A Student of History’s dissertaion summary on North Carolina and the Revolutionary War.
Battlefield Biker rides; Moore’s Creek Bridge, Guilford Courthouse and nearby in South Carolina, Cowpens.
And for those of you who only think of the Civil War, Fort Fisher landings and assault.

Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina 15 March 1781

The early part of the American Revolutionary War was fought mostly in the North of the colonies, but after a series of defeats, the British decided to focus on the southern colonies in their persistent belief that Loyalist sympathies ran deeper there than the North. The British had built up a string of victories in the south by early 1781 by chasing down southern militias and defeating them one by one. General Washington sent one of his best Generals, Nathaniel Greene south to revive the Patriot effort. Greene had tried to separate his forces and hoped to catch the British off guard by making them attack him piecemeal. This had had some success, namely at Cowpens two months earlier, but it was getting harder and harder to avoid a major showdown with the British main force. After strategically retreating across South and North Carolina and preserving his force, Greene decided to turn and face his pursuer, Redcoat General Lord Cornwallis. Cornwallis was sure that if he could corner Greene’s force and inflict a decisive defeat on the Rebels, he could soon claim the American south for the British cause. The field for this critical battle was in the small hamlet of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina.

On the cold morning of 15 March 1781, Greene deployed his mixed militia and Continental Army force of approximately 4,500 in three lines in depth. The first line was North Carolina militia, the second Virginia militia and the final line was mainly Continentals. Cornwallis took his 1,900 British and German professional soldiers and attacked head on, breaking through the first line quickly, but with serious losses that he could ill afford. The second line held longer and bled the British further. However, the British broke through and finally reached the Continentals where a fierce give and take erupted with attacks and counter-attacks. The resulting mass of fighting men confused the situation to the point that Cornwallis felt that he needed to break up the two armies with grape shot fired into the middle of it. The artillery killed indiscriminately, but had the intended effect of separating the armies. At this point, Greene decided to pull away and save his force. Cornwallis stood victorious on the field, but strategically hamstrung.

From this victory, Cornwallis headed for the coast for re-supply for his depleted force. The condition of his army led him to begin his doomed Virginia campaign which would end later in the year with his surrender at Yorktown.

Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out this ride that leads to the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park through the Colonial Heritage Byway.

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