Within 20 years the English presence had expanded throughout the Lowcountry to include Port Royal and Beaufort. Charles Towne became a thriving commercial center, dealing in deerskins with traders in the interior and with foreign concerns from England to South America. Its success was not without a backlash, as the local Yemasee tribe became increasingly disgruntled at the settlers’ growing monopolies on deerskin and the slave trade.
Slavery was a sad and common fact of life from the earliest days of white settlement in the region. Indians were the most frequent early victims, with not only white settlers taking slaves from the tribes, but the tribes themselves conducting slaving raids on each other, often selling hostages to colonists.
As rumors of war spread, on Good Friday, 1715, a delegation of six white Carolinians went to the Yemasee village of Pocataligo to address some of the tribe’s grievances in the hopes of forestalling violence. Their effort was in vain, however, as Yemasee warriors murdered four of them in their sleep, the remaining two escaping to sound the alarm. The treacherous attack signaled the beginning of the two-year Yemasee War, which would claim the lives of nearly 10 percent of the colony’s population and an unknown number of Native Americans—making it one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history.
Energized and ready for war, the Yemasee attacked Charles Towne itself and killed almost all white traders in the interior, effectively ending commerce in the area. As Charles Towne began to swell with refugees from the hinterland, water and supplies ran low and the colony was in peril for its very existence.
After an initially poor performance by the Carolina militia, a professional army—including armed African slaves—was raised. Well trained and well led, the new army more than held its own despite being outnumbered.
A key alliance with local Cherokees was all the advantage the colonists needed to turn the tide. While the Cherokee never received the overt military backing from the settlers that they sought, they did garner enough supplies and influence to convince their Creek rivals, the Yemasee, to begin the peace process. The war-weary settlers, eager to get back to life and to business, were eager to negotiate with them, offering goods as a sign of their earnest intent. By 1717 the Yemasee threat had subsided and trade in the region began flourishing anew.
No sooner had the Yemasse War ended, however, that a new threat emerged: the dread pirate Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard. Entering Charleston harbor in May 1718 with his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge and three other vessels, he promptly plundered five ships and began a full-scale blockade of the entire settlement. He took a number of prominent citizens hostage before finally departing northward.