The European Migration

Religious wars plagued Christian Europe beginning in 1518 when a Roman Catholic priest named Martin Luther, published a treatise against some questionable practices of the Catholic Church. “On October 31, 1517, Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Mainz and Magdeburg, protesting the sale of indulgences – a lucrative side business for the clergy of the day. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences“, which came to be known as the “95 Theses”. (Incidentally, the “95 Theses” were never nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral.)

Albert’s superior, Archbishop Albrecht, did not reply to Luther’s letter containing the “95 Theses“. He had the theses checked for heresy and in December 1517 forwarded them to Rome. It was not until January 1518 that friends of Luther translated the 95 Theses from Latin into German and printed and widely copied them, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press. Within two weeks, copies of the theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months, they had spread throughout Europe.

On June 15, 1520, the Pope warned Luther with the papal bull (edict) Exsurge Domine that he risked excommunication unless he recanted 41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the 95 Theses, within 60 days. That autumn, Johann Eck proclaimed the bull in Meissen and other towns. Karl, a papal nuncio, attempted to broker a solution, but Luther, who had sent the Pope a copy of On the Freedom of a Christian in October, publicly set fire to the bull at Wittenberg on December 10, 1520.

On April 18, 1521, Luther appeared as ordered before the Diet of Worms. This was a general assembly of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire that took place in Worms, a town on the Rhine. It was conducted from January 28 to May 25, 1521, with Emperor Charles V presiding. Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, obtained a safe conduct for Luther to and from the meeting. Johann Eck, speaking on behalf of the Empire as assistant to the Archbishop of Trier, presented Luther with copies of his writings laid out on a table and asked him if the books were his, and whether he stood by their contents. Luther confirmed he was their author, but requested time to think about the answer to the second question. He prayed, consulted friends, and gave his response the next day:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.

He was subsequently excommunicated from the Church and went on to write and preach against the Catholic Church for the rest of his life and to spark a religious and social upheaval in Europe that became known as the “Reformation”. Numerous religious sects, usually inspired by some charismatic religious philosopher and generally referred to as “protestants”, sprung up around Europe in the following decades, sparking long and bloody wars between Protestant and Catholic Christians -acting very unchristian-like indeed.

In the spring of 1525 he married a former nun, Katherina von Bora [- whom he had helped escape from her convent – through a window]. His last sermon was delivered at Eisleben, his place of birth, on February 15, 1546, three days before his death. It was “entirely devoted to the “obdurate Jews”, whom it was a matter of great urgency to expel from all German territory”.

Historian James Mackinnon writes that it concluded with a “fiery summons to drive the Jews – bag and baggage – from their midst, unless they desisted from their calumny and their usury and became Christians.” Luther said, “We want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert,” but also that they are “our public enemies … and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do.” Luther often expressed antagonistic views toward Jews, writing that Jewish synagogues and homes should be destroyed, their money confiscated, and liberty curtailed. These statements and their influence on anti-Semitism have contributed to his controversial historical status and actually came true during the 20th Century Nazi Holocaust.

It was from these conflicts that many of the early Colonial settlers were fleeing. One of these wars, The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) in central Europe is considered the proximate cause of the European Enlightenment.

In general, European settlers and their families came to the American colonies in the 17th Century seeking peace from religious conflicts, or as farmers seeking land to cultivate, or as merchants seeking to meet demands of affluent kingdoms, or as indentured servants working off a seven-year servitude. Early on, they were confronted with, for most, unexpected violence by the aboriginal inhabitants.

Mathew Moton, in his book, Between War and Peace, describes how on April 21, 1607, British captain Christopher Newport led a small group of the first permanent English settlers ashore near where the Jamestown Colony would be built. They explored quietly for more than eight hours without seeing another human being. As they approached the beach to leave and return to their ship, taking any imminent threat to the local inhabitants with them, they were ambushed and two were wounded by arrows. This was the first recorded encounter between English settlers and local tribesmen and it had been deadly violent. The dye was cast that would eventually lead to the elimination of the aboriginal tribes from free range in much of North America.

“On Friday, March 22, 1622, Captain John Smith, though he had not been in Virginia since 1609 and was not a firsthand eyewitness, related in his History of Virginia that braves of the Powhatan Confederacy “…came unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us”.

The Powhatan however, grabbed any tools or weapons available and killed all English settlers they found, including men, women and children of all ages. Chief Opechancanough led a coordinated series of surprise attacks of the Powhatan Confederacy that killed 347 people, a quarter of the English population of Jamestown in what is known as the Jamestown Massacre.

The colonists would go on to survive numerous wars with various aboriginal tribes and confederations of tribes arrayed against isolated villages and hamlets – wars like the Pequot War, King Phillip’s War and the French and Indian War. Keep in mind that these conflicts were fought between North American aboriginals and British citizens – there was no America until 1776 but these wars were formative in the making of America.”

“The Pequot War was a short, vicious war from 1634-38 between the Pequot tribe – who were members of a powerful tribe of Algonquian-speaking inhabitants of present day Connecticut – against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and Plymouth English colonies – with their tribal allies, the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes.

The war began because of the death of Captain John Stone who was killed by the Western Niantic, allies of the Pequot, in retaliation for atrocities committed earlier by the Dutch and Stone. Brutal massacres occurred on both sides until 1638 when the Pequot were dealt a crushing defeat in what became known as the Great Swamp Fight after which they were forced to sign the Treaty of Hartford declaring the Pequot nation be dissolved.

The significance of the Pequot War in history was that it tipped the balance of military power to the English, instead of the Dutch, opening the way to Southern New England’s settlement.”

The Dutch had been headquartered in what is now New York City since 1624 (They called it New Amsterdam and, influenced by their namesake in Europe, created a community of tolerance that welcomed Germans, Italians, Jews and others, a community that foreshadowed today’s “diverse” America – in contrast to the closed society created by the Puritans in Massachusetts. New York City’s Brooklyn, the Bronx and the Bowery are all Dutch names.). They finally were driven out of New York by the British in 1664.

“The penalties of fighting in the Pequot War brought the wrath of the English and their allies on to the Pequot people. The Treaty of Hartford stated that survivors of the Great Swamp Fight were to be divided as slaves among the tribal allies of the English. This was a familiar tradition for the aboriginals in their wars with neighboring tribes – it was not an English tradition. Its inclusion undoubtedly came at the insistence of the British allies.

The Hartford Treaty also stated that no Pequot could inhabit former Pequot territory. And finally the name Pequot was to be erased and any Pequot slaves had to take names of tribes to which they are enslaved.

So cruel and devastating was the outcome of this war that no Connecticut tribe challenged the colonies again for nearly forty years, when, in 1675, King Philip’s War erupted.”

King Philip’s War (1675-76) marked the last major effort by the tribes of southern New England to drive out the English settlers. In the early 1670s, 50 years of peace between the Plymouth Colony and the local Wampanoag Indians began to deteriorate when the rapidly expanding settlement forced “land sales” on the tribe – who did not have any concept of “ownership” of land.

“Tensions began to spill over following the collapse of trade partnerships and aggressive expansion of colonial territories. They had become increasingly dependent on English goods, food, and weapons and their bargaining power diminished as the fur trade faltered, tribal lands were sold, and leaders were forced by the colonists to recognize English sovereignty [a sovereignty that originated in London with the King – a concept the tribes did understand].

Rather than accommodate the settlers any further, some of the Indians took up arms. Others, including the Mohegan, Pequot, Nauset and Massachusetts tribes sided with the English. Pokunoket Chief Metacom – a.k.a. King Philip – led a bloody uprising of the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Pocumtuck and Narragansett tribes [against the English].

Reacting to increasing tribal hostility, the English met with King Philip and demanded that his forces surrender their arms. The Wampanoag did so, but in 1675 a Christian tribal member, who had been acting as an informer for the English, was murdered, and three Wampanoag were tried and executed for the crime.

King Philip’s War began when a band of Wampanoag warriors raided the border settlement of Swansea, Massachusetts in retaliation for the executions, and massacred the English colonists there. This set off a series of Wampanoag raids in which several settlements were destroyed and scores of colonists massacred. The colonists retaliated by destroying a number of tribal villages. The [mistaken] destruction of a Narragansett village by the English brought the Narragansett into the conflict on the side of King Philip, and within a few months several other tribes and all the New England colonies were involved.

In early 1676, the Narragansett were defeated and their chief killed, while the Wampanoag and their other allies were gradually subdued. King Philip’s wife and son were captured, and on August 12, 1676, after his secret headquarters in Mount Hope, Rhode Island, was discovered, Philip was assassinated by a tribal member in the service of the English. The English drew and quartered Philip’s body and publicly displayed his head on a stake in Plymouth.

The Puritans interpreted their victory as a sign of God’s favor, as well as a symbolic purge of their spiritual community. Some of King Philip’s supporters escaped to Canada, while others who surrendered were sold into slavery in the West Indies. The tribal members who remained faced servitude, disease, cultural disruption and the loss of their use of territory traditionally used for hunting, foraging and camp sites.

King Philip’s War, which was extremely costly to the colonists of southern New England, ended the [significant] tribal presence in the region and inaugurated a period of unimpeded colonial expansion.”

Further to the south, the Tuscarora War and its lengthy aftermath played a major role in the outbreak of the Yamasee War. The Tuscarora, an Iroquoian-speaking tribe of the interior, began attacking colonial settlements of North Carolina in 1711. South Carolina settlers mustered armies and campaigned twice against the Tuscarora, in 1712 and 1713. These armies were made up mainly of allied tribal troops.

“The Yamasee had been strong military allies of South Carolina colonists for many years. Yamasee warriors made up the core of both Carolina armies. Other tribal members were recruited over a large area from diverse tribes that in some cases were traditional enemies of one another. Tribes that sent warriors to South Carolina’s armies included the Yamasee, Catawba, Yuchi, Apalachee, Cusabo,Wateree, Sugaree, Waxhaw, Congraree, Pee Dee, Cape Fear, Cheraw, Sissipahaw, Cherokee, and various proto-Creek groups.

This military collaboration brought tribes of the entire region into closer contact with one another. The tribal members saw the disagreements and weaknesses of the British colonies, as South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia bickered over various aspects of the Tuscarora War. Essentially all of the tribes that helped South Carolina during the Tuscarora War joined in attacking settlers in the colony during the Yamasee War, just two or three years later. The Yamasee, while often described as a tribe, were actually an amalgamation of the remnants of earlier tribes and chiefdoms that they had conquered over generations, such as the Guale and groups originating in the provinces of Tama and Ocute in interior Georgia. The Yamasee emerged during the 17th Century in the contested frontier between South Carolina and Spanish Florida.

At first allied with the Spanish, the Yamasee moved north in the late 17th Century and soon became South Carolina’s most important tribal ally. They lived near the mouth of the Savannah River and around Port Royal Sound. For years, the Yamasee profited from their relation with the British. By 1715 however, they found it difficult to obtain the two trade items most desired by the British – deerskins and tribal slaves.

When the warnings about a possible Ochese Creek uprising reached the South Carolina government, they listened and acted. The government sent a delegation to the main Upper Yamasee town of Pocotaligo (near present-day Yemassee, South Carolina). They hoped to obtain Yamasee assistance in arranging an emergency summit with the Ochese Creek leaders. The delegation’s visit to Pocotaligo triggered the start of the war.

The delegation that visited Pocotaligo consisted of Samuel Warner and William Bray, sent by the Board of Commissioners. They were joined by Thomas Nairne and John Wright, two of the most important people of South Carolina’s tribal trading system. Two others, Seymour Burroughs and an unknown South Carolinian, also joined. On the evening of April 14, 1715, the day before Good Friday, the men spoke to an assembly of the Yamasee. They promised to make special efforts to redress Yamasee grievances. They also said that Governor Craven was on the way to the village.

During the night, as the South Carolinians slept, the Yamasee debated over what to do. There were some who were not fully pledged to a war, but in the end the choice was made. After applying war paint, the Yamasee woke the Carolinians and attacked them. Two of the six men escaped. Seymour Burroughs fled and, although shot twice, raised an alarm in the Port Royal settlements. The Yamasee killed Nairne, Wright, Warner, and Bray. The unknown South Carolinian hid in a nearby swamp, from which he witnessed the ritual death-by-torture of Nairne.

The events of the early hours of Good Friday, April 15, 1715, marked the beginning of the Yamasee War. British traders operating throughout the southeast found they were caught up in the conflict. Most were killed. Of about 100 traders in the field when the war broke out, 90 were killed in the first few weeks. Attackers included warriors of the Creek (the Ochese, Tallapoosa, Abeika, and Alabama peoples), the Apalachee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Catawba, Cherokee, and others. South Carolina militia did most of the fighting and did well.”

“The Yamasee War (1715–1717) was a conflict between British settlers of colonial South Carolina and various tribes, many of whom had fought in the Tuscarora War. Some of these tribes played a minor role while others launched attacks throughout South Carolina in an attempt to destroy the colony.  Tribal members killed hundreds of colonists and destroyed many settlements. Traders “in the field” were killed throughout what is now the Southeastern United States. Abandoning settled frontiers, colonists fled to Charles Town (modern Charleston), 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 tribal 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 aboriginal tribes’ 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 aboriginal peoples.

The geopolitical situation for British, Spanish, and French colonies, as well as the aboriginal groups of the southeast, was radically altered. The war marked the end of the early colonial era of the American South. The Yamasee War and its aftermath contributed to the emergence of new confederated tribal nations, such as the Muscogee, Creek and Catawba. The origin of the war was complex. Reasons for fighting differed among the many tribal groups who participated. Commitment differed as well.

Factors included; land encroachment by Europeans, the trading system, trader abuses, the tribal slave trade (aboriginal slaves traded by aboriginals); the depletion of deer, increasing tribal debts in contrast to increasing wealth among some economically modern colonists; the spread of rice plantation agriculture; French power in Louisiana offering an alternative to British trade; long-established tribal links to Spanish Florida; the vying for power among tribes as well as an increasingly large-scale and robust inter-tribal communication network and recent experiences in military collaboration among previously distant tribes.”

“The French and Indian War, a colonial extension of the Seven Years War that ravaged Europe from 1756 – 63, was the bloodiest American war in the 18th Century. It took more lives than the American Revolution, involved people on three continents, including the islands of the Caribbean. The war was the product of an imperial struggle, a clash between the French and English over colonial territory and wealth. Within these global forces, the war can also be seen as a product of the localized rivalry between British and French colonists in North America.

“Tensions between the British and French in America had been rising for some time, as each side wanted to increase its land holdings. What is now considered the French and Indian War (though at the time the war was undeclared), began in November 1753, when the young British Virginian, Major George Washington, and a number of men headed out into the Ohio region (west and north of the Ohio River) with the mission to deliver a message to a French captain demanding that French troops withdraw from the territory. The demand was rejected.

In 1754, Washington received authorization to build a fort near the present site of Pittsburgh (where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers come together to form the Ohio River). He was unsuccessful because of the strong French presence in the area. In May, Washington’s troops clashed with local French forces, a skirmish that ultimately resulted in Washington having to surrender the meager fort he had managed to build just one month earlier. The incident set off a string of small battles. In 1755, The British sent General Edward Braddock to oversee the British Colonial forces, but on his way to oust the French from Fort Duquesne, near present day Pittsburg, he was surprised by the French and badly routed, losing his life in the process.

After a year and a half of undeclared war, the French and the English formally declared war in May 1756. For the first three years of the war, the outnumbered French dominated the battlefield, soundly defeating the English in battles at Forts Oswego and Ticonderoga in the New York Colony. Perhaps the most notorious battle of the war was the French victory at Fort William Henry, which ended in a massacre of British soldiers by tribal members allied with the French. (The battle and ensuing massacre was captured for history – though not entirely accurately – by James Fenimore Cooper in his classic The Last of the Mohicans, published in 1826.)

The tide turned for the British in 1758, as they began to make peace with important tribal allies and, under the direction of Lord William Pitt, began adapting their war strategies to fit the territory and landscape of the American frontier (a skill they apparently forgot about during the American Revolution only twenty years later). The British had a further stroke of good fortune when the French were abandoned by many of their tribal allies. Finally, exhausted by years of battle and outnumbered and outgunned by the British, the French effort collapsed during the years 1758-59, climaxing with a massive defeat of the French under General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm by the British under General James Wolfe on the “Plains of Abraham” at Quebec in September 1759.

By September 1760, the British controlled the entire North American frontier; the war between the two countries was effectively over. The 1763 Treaty of Paris, which also ended the European Seven Years War, set the terms by which France would capitulate. Under the treaty, France was forced to surrender all of her American possessions to the British and the Spanish.

Although the war with the French ended in 1763, the British continued to fight with the tribes over the issue of land claims. “Pontiac’s War” flared shortly after the Treaty of Paris was signed, and many of the battlefields – including Detroit, Fort Pitt, and Niagara – were the same. The tribes however, already exhausted by many years of war, quickly capitulated under the ferocious British retaliation.”

The results of the war effectively ended formal French political and cultural influence in North America. England gained massive amounts of land and vastly strengthened its hold on the continent. The war however, also had subtler results. Though the war seemed to strengthen England’s hold on the colonies, the effects of the French and Indian War played a major role in the worsening relationship between England and its North American Colonies that eventually led into the Revolutionary War.

It badly eroded the relationship between England and the aboriginal tribes and the issue remained a problem for many years to come. It attained some resolution during the rebellion in the British North American colonies, which began in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts in 1775, as former tribal allies once again sided with the British – this time against the British colonists who had been a constant irritant for over 150 years.

Next time – The American Revolution

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