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Massacre at Bath (1711)

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1711 Massacre at Bath

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 of North Carolina. Over the following days, they destroyed hundreds of farms, killed at least 140 men, women, and children, and took about 40 captives. So began the Tuscarora War, North Carolina's bloodiest colonial war and surely one of its most brutal.

People involved

  • Ernest Earnest, John and William Bartram, Botanists and Explorers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940), 6. William Bartram, father of botanist John, moved with his wife Elizabeth and their two children to a plantation called “Whiteoc,” evidently on Whiteoak (or Weetock) River, from Philadelphia in the opening years of the eighteenth century. William was killed by Indian assailants, apparently in the 1711 attacks, and his family taken captive and later ransomed by the “Whiteoc” (Weetock) Indians. One of the children, William, subsequently became a resident of the White Lake area of Bladen County, formerly known as Lake Bartram.


From In Which Our Hero Dies Before We Even Get Started 9/18/2014

I have the terrible duty today, anniversaries being as they are, to share the story of the death of John Lawson, which occurred 303 years ago, right around today. It wasn't a super pleasant death. Lawson himself said: "The Small-Pox and Rum have made such a Destruction amongst them, that, on good grounds, I do believe, there is not the sixth Savage living within two hundred Miles of all our Settlements, as there were fifty Years ago. These poor Creatures have so many Enemies to destroy them, that it's a wonder one of them is lest alive near us," and he doesn't even bring up the nasty habit of the European settlers of selling the Indians into slavery -- by 1720, of a colonial population of about 17,000, some 1,500 (about one in 11 people) were Indian slaves. Though the Indians themselves practiced slavery, at some point a people is going to say "enough is enough," and Lawson not only helped bring about the event that pushed the Tuscaroras to the limit and started the Tuscarora War, he turned out, quite accidentally, to be the first target of their wrath.
Lawson describes the Indians in open and honest terms, admitting that most of the troubles between the two peoples come from the poor treatment of the Indians by the settlers: They are really better to us, than we are to them; they always give us Victuals at their Quarters, and take care we are arm’d against Hunger and Thirst: We do not so by them (generally speaking) but let them walk by our Doors Hungry, and do not often relieve them. We look upon them with Scorn and Disdain, and think them little better than Beasts in Humane Shape, though if well examined, we shall find that, for all our Religion and Education, we possess more Moral Deformities, and Evils than these Savages do, or are acquainted withal.
More and more settlers came; those that came shared drink and disease and enslaved their children. The Tuscarora saw where this was all leading and tried to move away: in 1710 they applied to the governor of Pennsylvania for amnesty in one of the most hearbreakingly plaintive letters of all time, saying they wanted to get away from the North Carolina settlers, requesting among other things that for their children "Room to sport & Play without danger of Slavery, might be allowed them" and, for the people in general, "to intreat a Cessation from murdering & taking them, that by the allowance thereof, they may not be affraid of a mouse, or any other thing that Ruffles the Leaves." The government of Pennsylvania, cautious, said they were welcome so long as they could provide a testimonial to their good behavior from the Carolina government. No such recommendation came from North Carolina.
Unable to stay and with nowhere to go, in 1711 the Tuscarora determined to fight back, choosing September 22 as the day for their attack. A week or so beforehand, Lawson and von Graffenried and a small party sallied upstream on the Neuse River, hoping to find a good route to trade with the Colony of Virginia. One of their scouts stumbled into a party of the Tuscarora, who then surrounded Lawson's party.
The Tuscarora killed Lawson, either by slitting his throat or, perhaps, in a fashion Lawson had himself described: The Fire of Pitch-Pine being got ready, and a Feast appointed, which is solemnly kept at the time of their acting this Tragedy, the Sufferer has his Body stuck thick with Light-Wood-Splinters, which are lighted like so many Candles, the tortur'd Person dancing round a great Fire, till his Strength fails, and disables him from making them any farther Pastime
In any case, the man who in his journal only one page before this description of torture had described Carolina as "a delicious Country, (none that I ever saw exceeds it)," was dead.
Von Graffenried stayed captive for weeks, forced to, in the words of Marjorie Hudson, "watch helplessly as warriors headed out to massacre his Palatines, bringing back captives who told him the grisly details — women impaled on stakes, more than 80 infants slaughtered, more than 130 settlers killed. New Bern was almost wiped out."


  • Eighteenth-Century North Carolina Timeline
  • link to New Bern: Historical Overview
  • link to Historic Bath: The Tuscarora War (1711-1715) - The Indians Retaliate . . .
  • link to The Tuscarora War. Indians, Settlers, and the Fight for the Carolina Colonies By David La Vere google books
  • Tuscarora people Wikipedia
  • link to Fast Facts about King Hancock
  • link to Tuscarora War Documents - East Carolina University
  • link to “Indians of North Carolina”
  • link to “With Tuscarora Jack on the Back Path to Bath”
  • John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina; containing the exact description and natural history of that country; together with the present state thereof. And a journal of a thousand miles travel’d thro’ several nations of Indians. Giving a particular account of their customs, names, &c. By John Lawson, gent., surveyor-general of North Carolina (London: n.p., 1709).
  • Vincent H. Todd (ed.), Christoph von Graffenried’s Account of the Founding of New Bern (Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission, 1920), 83, 282, 332,