Tybee History Series – Part II

September 12, 2010 by  
Filed under History & Folklore, Reginald Frazier

Tybee Island Series, Part II
by Reginald Frasier

During the 17th and 18th centuries the island was frequented by pirates who used it to hide from their pursuers. Pirates later used the island’s inland waterways for a fresh water source. After the founding of South Carolina in 1670, warfare increased between the English and their pirate allies and the Spanish and their Native American allies.

In 1702, James Moore of South Carolina led an invasion of Spanish Florida with an Indian army and a fleet of pirates. The invasion failed to take the capital of Florida, St. Augustine, but did destroy the Guale and Mocama missionary provinces.

The English Settlements
After another invasion of Spanish Florida by South Carolina in 1704, the Spanish retreated to St. Augustine and Pensacola; the Sea Islands were depopulated, allowing the establishment of new English settlements. The Euchee who remained on Tybee after this depopulation eventually blended with the Yamasee and settled further south, into the sea Islands and middle coastal Georgia area.

The coast of Georgia was occupied by British-allied Indians such as the Yamasee until the Yamasee War of 1715-1717, after which the region was again depopulated, opening up the possibility of a new British colony. In 1724, it was first suggested this British colony be called the “Province of Georgia” in honor of King George II.

The Yamasee War
The Yamasee War (1715–1717) was a conflict between British settlers of colonial South Carolina and various Native American Indian tribes, including the Yamasee, Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Catawba, Apalachee, Apalachicola, Euchee, Savannah River Shawnee, Congaree, Waxhaws, Pee Dee, Cape Fear, Cheraw, 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.

They killed hundreds of colonists and destroyed many settlements. Traders “in the field” were killed throughout the American southeast. Abandoning settled frontiers, people fled northward 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 of South Carolina 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 Yamasee War marked the end of the early colonial era of the American South, and its aftermath contributed to the emergence of new Indian confederated nations, such as the Creek and Catawba.

The origins of this war were very complex as the reasons for fighting differed among the many Indian groups who participated, as well as their levels of commitment. Factors included land encroachment by Europeans, trading abuses, the Indian slave trade, the depletion of wildlife, increasing Indian debts in contrast to increasing colonial wealth, and the spread of the rice plantation agriculture. French power in Louisiana also offered an alternative to British trade, and there were long-established Indian links to Spanish Florida, plus Indian groups often vyied for power among themselves.

James Oglethorpe
In 1733 English settlers led by James Oglethorpe settled on Tybee Island before moving to settle eventually in Savannah and points beyond throughout Georgia, which had been established as the last of the original thirteen colonies the year before. When Tybee became depopulated after the English defeated the Spanish and drove them out, it remained virtually uninhabited, except by pirates, until Oglethorpe established the first continuing English settlement there. It has been inhabited ever since.


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