The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South

The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South

The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South

The Yamasee War: A Study of Culture, Economy, and Conflict in the Colonial South

Synopsis

William L. Ramsey provides a thorough reappraisal of the Yamasee War, an event that stands alongside King Philip's War in New England and Pontiac's Rebellion as one of the three major "Indian wars" of the colonial era. By arguing that the Yamasee War may be the definitive watershed in the formation of the Old South, Ramsey challenges traditional arguments about the war's origins and positions the prewar concerns of Native Americans within the context of recent studies of the Indian slave trade and the Atlantic economy. The Yamasee War was a violent and bloody conflict between southeastern American Indian tribes and English colonists in South Carolina from 1715 to 1718. Ramsey's discussion of the war itself goes far beyond the coastal conflicts between Yamasees and Carolinians, however, and evaluates the regional diplomatic issues that drew Indian nations as far distant as the Choctaws in modern-day Mississippi into a far-flung anti-English alliance. In tracing the decline of Indian slavery within South Carolina during and after the war, the book reveals the shift in white racial ideology that responded to wartime concerns, including anxieties about a "black majority," which shaped efforts to revive Anglo-Indian trade relations, control the slave population, and defend the southern frontier. In assessing the causes and consequences of this pivotal conflict, The Yamasee War situates it in the broader context of southern history.

Excerpt

On April 14,1715, the Yamasee Indians welcomed a group of South Carolinians in their principal town of Pocotaligo, south of Charles Town (now Charleston) byabout sixty miles. Alarmed at reports of Yamasee unrest, the English had come to reassure the Indians of their friendship and alliance, and the talks appeared to have gone well. Everyone went to bed that evening amicably, “as if seeming well pleased.” in the morning, however, Good Friday, the Yamasees killed the majority of the British negotiators. They spent the remainder of the day torturing those unfortunate enough to have survived the massacre at dawn. When the Carolinians cried out in agony, “My God,” Yamasee warriors danced about repeating, “My God, my God.” Thomas Nairne, as Indian agent for the colony, received special attention. He was “loaded” with wood and roasted for several days “before he was allowed to die.” Clearly, the Carolinians had neglected an important step in the dialogue.

In the weeks following, it became apparent that the English had neglected a great deal across the entire region. Warriors from virtually every nation in the South, from the Catawbas and their piedmont neighbors in the Carolinas to the Choctaws of Mississippi (see map 1), joined together in one of the most potent native coalitions ever to oppose the British in colonial North America. Southeastern Indians destroyed most of South Carolina's plantation districts and came within a few miles of Charles Town itself during the first year of the war. Shocked and bewildered, South Carolinians found themselves surrounded and under attack “on every side but the sea-side.”

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