The Susquehannock War
Map of Occaneechi Island
Part of Edward Moseley's 1733 map of North Carolina showing Acconeechy I. (Occaneechi Island) in the Roanoke River in Virginia*

The Susquehannock War 1675-77

The Susquehannock Indians, who lived in forts at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, had an active fur trade between the Indians in Virginia and North Carolina and the Dutch in Manhattan. They used their own "plain path" across the Virginia piedmont which passed through Occaneechi Island in the Roanoke River (see Map). In early 1675, an epidemic of smallpox ravaged the tribe. When some Seneca Indians drove the weakened Susquehanock out of their forts, they fled into Virginia and joined forces with some Dogue. Together they committed two murders that had significant consequences.

In the first instance, they killed Thomas Mathews' herdsman. When Colonel George Mason I (1629-1686) and his half-Indian cousin, Captain Giles Brent, Jr., of the Stafford County militia caught up with the Indians, they killed thirteen of them, including the Dogue "King." The English lost one man. Mason rescued the eight-year-old son of the Dogue "King," and his wife revived him from a trance-like state by baptizing him and then administering a cordial.

Meanwhile, the surviving Indians fled and took refuge in a Piscataway Indian fort in Maryland. When English pursuers approached, four Great Men came out to parley. The English commanders ordered them killed, which led to fierce fighting. After a six-week siege, the Indians escaped, moved up to Little Falls and crossed into Virginia. They then began a two-year rampage all over Northern Virginia killing, among others, Nathaniel Bacon's overseer. Bacon vowed to get revenge.

In the second instance, a group of Dogue and Susquehannock stole some hogs from [John?] Mathews because he had not paid the Dogue for goods they had supplied him. The English pursued the Indians and beat and killed some of them. The Indians returned twice, first killing two servants and later Mathews' son, and then took refuge with the Occaneechi.

This "bloody hog stealing" incident precipitated Bacon's Rebellion which resulted in the immediate mass slaughter of both Susquehannock and Occaneechi (and likely some Dogue) and the later institution of slavery based on race.

This so-called Susquehannock War ended in 1677, when the last of the Susquehannock drifted north into Pennsylvania. The Seneca took the "King" of the Dogue prisoner, and he lived with them until 1690. In 1691, George Mason II (1660-1716), then sheriff of Stafford County, arrested him for some petty crime. (He was the one George Mason I saved when he was eight years old.) He told Mason that he was living "in Virginia with his kinsmen, the Nanticoke Indians on the Rappahannock [River], as he was one of the last of his tribe."


* The Moseley map is from "Excavating Occaneechi Town: Archaeology of an Eighteenth-Century Indian Village in North Carolina," by R.P.Stephen Davis, Jr., Patrick Livingood, H. Trawick Ward, and Vincas Steponaitis. Web edition © 1998, 2003 by the Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.