The Yamasee War (1715–1717) was a conflict between British settlers of South Carolina and various Native American tribes, including the Yamasee and others. Some of the Native American Indian groups played a minor role while others launched attacks throughout South Carolina in an attempt to destroy the colony.
The Native Americans were made up of the Yamasee, Muscogee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Catawba, Apalachee, Apalachicola, Yuchi, Savannah River Shawnee, Congaree, Waxhaw, Pee Dee, Cape Fear, and Cheraw tribal groups. They killed hundreds of colonists and destroyed many settlements. Traders “in the field” were killed throughout what is now southeastern United States. Abandoning settled frontiers, people fled to Charles Town, where starvation set in as supplies ran low. The survival of the South Carolina colony was in question during 1715. The tide turned in early 1716 when the Cherokee sided with the colonists against the Creek, their traditional enemy. The last of South Carolina’s major Native American foes withdrew from the conflict in 1717, bringing a fragile peace to the colony.
The Yamasee War was one of the most disruptive and transformational conflicts of colonial America. It was one of the American Indians’ most serious challenges to European dominance. For over a year the colony faced the possibility of annihilation. About 7% of South Carolina’s white citizenry was killed, making the war bloodier than King Philip’s War, which is often cited as North America’s bloodiest war involving Native Americans. The geopolitical situation for British, Spanish, and French colonies, as well as the Indian groups of the southeast, was radically altered. The war marks the end of the early colonial era of the American South. The Yamasee War and its aftermath contributed to the emergence of new Indian confederated nations, such as the Muscogee Creek and Catawba.
The origin of the war was complex. Reasons for fighting differed among the many Indian groups who participated. Commitment differed as well. Factors included land encroachment by Europeans, the trading system, trader abuses, the Indian slave trade, the depletion of deer, increasing Indian debts in contrast to increasing wealth among some colonists, the spread of rice plantation agriculture, French power in Louisiana offering an alternative to British trade, long-established Indian links to Spanish Florida, the vying for power among Indian groups, as well as an increasingly large-scale and robust inter-tribal communication network, and recent experiences in military collaboration among previously distant tribes.