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From the earliest period of our acquaintance with the country of which we speak, it

was in the possession of a powerful and gallant race, and their tributary tribes,

known by the general name of the Yemassees.

 

 

Yamasi, or Yemasee

 

Yamasi, or Yemasee, Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Muskogean branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). In the late 16th cent., when Spanish missions were established among them, the Yamasee lived in S Georgia and N Florida. They remained under Spanish rule until 1687, when they revolted and fled to South Carolina. The Yemasee were initially friendly toward the English, but in 1715 war broke out and they massacred more than 200 white settlers. Driven out of South Carolina, the Yemasee returned to Florida, where they became allies of the Spanish against the English. In 1727 their village near St. Augustine was attacked and destroyed by the English. Their population declined, and eventually they assimilated with the Seminole and the Creek.—The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001.

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Simms, William Gilmore (1806-1870) Writer.

Simms was born in Charleston, S.C., and lived much of his life in or near it, making frequent visits to northern publishing centers and to the Gulf Coast and the southern mountains. His extensive knowledge of southern regions influenced novels and tales set in the Low Country, such as The Yemassee(1835), The Partisan (1835), and The Golden Christmas (1852), which trace the development of the region from the colonial era through the Revolution and into the antebellum period.

Simms also published border and mountain romances like Richard Hurdis (1838) and Voltmeier (1869), set in the antebellum backwoods South. Simms Bio

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William Gilmore Simms. The Yemassee: A Romance of Carolina  (1844)

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I HAVE entitled this story a romance, and not novel--the reader will permit me to insist upon the distinction. I am unwilling that The Yemassee should be examined by any other than those standards which have governed me in its composition . . .

 The modern romance is a poem in every sense of the word. It is only with those who insist upon poetry as rhyme, and rhyme as poetry, that the identity fails to be perceptible. Its standards are precisely those of the epic. It invests individuals with an absorbing interest - it hurries them through crowding events in a narrow space of time - it requires the same unities of plan, of purpose, and harmony of parts, and it seeks for its adventures among the wild and wonderful. . . .

 The Yemassee is proposed as an American romance. It is so styled, as much of the material could have been furnished by no other country. Something too much of extravagance - so some may think, - even beyond the usual license of fiction - may enter into certain parts of the narrative. . . .

It is needless to add that the leading events are strictly true, and that the outline is to be found in the several histories devoted to the region of country in which the scene is laid. A slight anachronism occurs in the first volume, but it has little bearing upon the story, and is altogether unimportant.

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THE YEMASSEE.

CHAPTER 1.

A scatter'd race - a wild, unfetter'd tribe,
That in the forests dwelt - that send no ships
For commerce on the waters - rear no walls
To shelter from the storm, or shield from strife
And leave behind, in memory of their name,
No monument, save in the dim, deep woods,
That daily perish as their lords have done
Beneath the keen stroke of the pioneer.
Let us look back upon their forest homes,
As, in that earlier time, when first their foes,
The pale-faced, from the distant nations came,
 They dotted the green banks of winding streams

THERE IS a small section of country now comprised within the limits of Beaufort District, in the State of South Carolina, which, to this day, goes by the name of Indian Land. The authorities are numerous which show this district, running along, as it does, and on its southern side bounded by, the Atlantic Ocean, to have been the very first in North America, distinguished by an European settlement. The design is attributed to the celebrated Coligni, Admiral of France,1 who, in the reign of Charles IX., conceived the project with the ulterior view of securing a sanctuary for the Huguenots when they should be compelled, as he foresaw they soon would, by the anti-religious persecutions of the time, to fly from their native into foreign regions. This settlement, however, proved unsuccessful; and the events which history records of the subsequent efforts of the French to establish colonies in the same neighbourhood, while of unquestionable authority, have all the air and appearance of the most delightful romance.

        It was not till an hundred years after, that the same spot was temporarily settled by the English under Sayle, who became the first governor, as he was the first permanent founder of the settlement. The situation was exposed, however, to the incursions of the Spaniards, who, in the meanwhile, had possessed themselves of Florida, and who, for a long time after, continued to harass and prevent colonization in this quarter. But perseverance at length triumphed over all these difficulties, and though Sayle, for farther security in the infancy of his settlement, had removed to the banks of the Ashley, other adventurers, by little and little, contrived to occupy the ground he had left, and in the year 1700, the birth of a white native child is recorded. From the earliest period of our acquaintance with the country of which we speak, it was in the possession of a powerful and gallant race, and their tributary tribes, known by the general name of the Yemassees.

Not so numerous, perhaps, as many of the neighbouring nations, they nevertheless commanded the respectful consideration of all. In valour they made up for any deficiencies of number, and proved themselves not only sufficiently strong to hold out defiance to invasion, but actually in most cases to move first in the assault. Their readiness for the field was one of their chief securities against attack; and their forward valour, elastic temper, and excellent skill in the rude condition of their warfare, enabled them to subject to their dominion most of the tribes around them, many of which were equally numerous with their own. Like the Romans, in this way they strengthened their own powers by a wise incorporation of the conquered with the conquerors; and, under the several names of Huspahs, Coosaws, Combahees, Stonoees, and Sewees, the greater strength of the Yemassees contrived to command so many dependants, prompted by their movements, and almost entirely under their dictation. Thus strengthened, the recognition of their power extended into the remote interior, and they formed one of the twenty-eight aboriginal nations among which, at its first settlement by the English, the province of Carolina was divided.

A feeble colony of adventurers from a distant world had taken up its abode alongside of them. The weaknesses of the intruder were, at first, his only but sufficient protection with the unsophisticated savage. The white man had his lands assigned him, and he trenched his furrows to receive the grain on the banks of Indian waters. The wild man looked on the humiliating labour, wondering as he did so, but without fear, and never dreaming for a moment of his own approaching subjection. Meanwhile the adventurers grew daily more numerous, for their friends and relatives soon followed them over the ocean. They too had lands assigned them, in turn, by the improvident savage; and increasing intimacies, with uninterrupted security, day by day, won the former still more deeply into the bosom of the forests, and more immediately in connexion with their wild possessors; until, at length, we behold the log-house of the white man, rising up amid the thinned clump of woodland foliage, within hailing distance of the squat, clay hovel of the savage. Sometimes their smokes even united; and now and then the two, the "European and his dusky guide," might be seen, pursuing, side by side and with the same dog, upon the cold track of the affrighted deer or the yet more timorous turkey.

Let us go back an hundred years, and more vividly recall this picture. In 1715, the Yemassees were in all their glory. They were politic and brave - their sway was unquestioned, and even with the Europeans, then grown equal to their own defence along the coast, they were ranked as allies rather than auxiliaries. As such they had taken up arms with the Carolinians against the Spaniards, who, from St. Augustine, perpetually harassed the settlements. Until this period they had never been troubled by that worst tyranny of all, the consciousness of their inferiority to a power of which they were now beginning to grow jealous. Lord Craven, the governor and palatine of Carolina, had done much in a little time, by the success of his arms over the neighbouring tribes, and the admirable policy which distinguished his government, to impress this feeling of suspicion upon the minds of the Yemassees. Their aid had ceased to be necessary to the Carolinians. They were no longer sought or solicited. The presents became fewer, the borderers grew bolder and more incursive, and new territory, daily acquired by the colonists in some way or other, drove them back for hunting-grounds upon the waters of the Edistoh and Isundiga.2

Their chiefs began to show signs of discontent, if not of disaffection, and the great mass of their people assumed a sullenness of habit and demeanour, which had never marked their conduct heretofore. They looked, with a feeling of aversion which as yet they vainly laboured to conceal, upon the approach of the white man on every side. The thick groves disappeared, the clear skies grew turbid with the dense smokes rolling up in solid masses from the burning herbage. Hamlets grew into existence, as it were by magic, under their very eyes and in sight of their own towns, for the shelter of a different people; and at length, a common sentiment, not yet imbodied perhaps by its open expression, prompted the Yemassees in a desire to arrest the progress of a race with which they could never hope to acquire any real or lasting affinity.

Another and a stronger ground for jealous dislike, arose necessarily in their minds with the gradual approach of that consciousness of their inferiority which, while the colony was dependant and weak, they had not so readily perceived. But when they saw with what facility the new comers could convert even the elements not less than themselves into slaves and agents, under the guidance of the strong will and the overseeing judgment, the gloom of their habit swelled into ferocity, and their minds were busied with those subtle schemes and stratagems with which, in his nakedness, the savage usually seeks to neutralize the superiority of European armour.

The Carolinians were now in possession of the entire sea-coast, with a trifling exception, which forms the Atlantic boundary of Beaufort and Charleston districts. They had but few, and those small and scattered, interior settlements. A few miles from the seashore, and the Indian lands generally girdled them in, still in the possession as in the right of the aborigines. But few treaties had yet been effected for the purchase of territory fairly out of sight of the sea; those tracts only excepted which formed the borders of such rivers, as, emptying into the ocean and navigable to small vessels, afforded a ready chance of escape to the coast in the event of any sudden necessity.

In this way, the whites had settled along the banks of the Combahee, the Coosaw, the Pocota-ligo, and other contiguous rivers; dwelling generally in small communities of five, seven, or ten families; seldom of more, and these taking care that the distance should be slight between them. Sometimes, indeed, an individual adventurer more fearless than the rest, drove his stakes, and took up his lone abode, or with a single family, in some boundless contiguity of shade, several miles from his own people, and over against his roving neighbour; pursuing in many cases the same errant life, adopting many of his savage habits, and this too, without risking much, if any thing, in the general opinion. For a long season, so pacific had been the temper of the Yemassees towards the Carolinians, that the latter had finally become regardless of that necessary caution which bolts a door and keeps a watch-dog.

On the waters of the Pocota-ligo,3 or Little Wood river, this was more particularly the habit of the settlement. This is a small stream, about twenty-five miles long, which empties itself into, and forms one of the tributaries of, that singular estuary called Broad river; and thus, in common with a dozen other streams of similar size, contributes to the formation of the beautiful harbour of Beaufort, which, with a happy propriety the French denominated Port Royal. Leaving the yet small but improving village of the Carolinians at Beaufort, we ascend the Pocota-ligo, and still, at intervals, their dwellings present themselves to our eye occasionally on one side or the other.

The banks, generally edged with swamp and fringed with its low peculiar growth, possess few attractions, and the occasional cottage serves greatly to relieve a picture, wanting certainly, not less in moral association than in the charm of landscape. At one spot we encounter the rude, clumsy edifice, usually styled the Block House, built for temporary defence, and here and there holding its garrison of five, seven, or ten men, seldom of more, maintained simply as posts, not so much with the view to war as of warning. In its neighbourhood we see a cluster of log dwellings, three or four in number, the clearings in progress, the piled timber smoking or in flame, and the stillness only broken by the dull, heavy echo of the axe, biting into the trunk of the tough and long-resisting pine.

On the banks the woodman draws up his "dug-out" or canoe - a single cypress, hollowed out by fire and the hatchet; - around the fields the negro piles slowly the worming and ungraceful fence; while the white boy gathers fuel for the pot over which his mother is bending in the preparation of their frugal meal. A turn in the river unfolds to our sight a cottage, standing by itself, half finished, and probably deserted by its capricious owner. Opposite, on the other bank of the river, an Indian dries his bearskin in the sun, while his infant hangs in the tree, wrapped in another, and lashed down upon a board (for security, not for symmetry), while his mother gathers up the earth, with a wooden drag, about the young roots of the tender corn. As we proceed, the traces of the Indians thicken. Now a cot, and now a hamlet, grows up before the sight, until, at the very head of the river, we come to the great place of council and most ancient town of the Yemassees - the town of Pocota-ligo.4

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Notes

1 Dr. Melligan, one of the historians of South Carolina, says farther, that a French settlement, under the same auspices, was actually made at Charleston, and that the country received the name of La Caroline, in honour of Charles IX.] This is not so plausible, however, for as the settlement- was made by Huguenots, and under the auspices of Coligni, it savours of extravagant courtesy to suppose that they would pay so high a compliment to one of the most bitter enemies of that religious toleration, in pursuit of which they deserted their country. Charleston took its name from Charles II., the reigning English monarch at the time. Its earliest designation was Oyster Point town from the marine formation of its soil. Dr. Hewatt - another of the early historians of Carolina, who possessed many advantages in his work not common to other writers, having been a careful gatherer of local and miscellaneous history - places the first settlement of Jasper de Coligni, under the conduct of Jean Ribaud, at the mouth of a river called Albemarle, which, strangely enough, the narration finds in Florida. Here Ribaud is said to have built a fort, and by him the country was called Carolina. May river, another alleged place of original location for this colony, has been sometimes identified with the St. John's and other waters of Florida or Virginia; but opinion in Carolina settles down in favour of a stream still bearing that name, and in Beaufort District, not far from the subsequent permanent settlement. Old ruins, evidently French in their origin, still exist in the neighborhood.

2 Such is the beautiful name by which the Yemassees knew the Savannah river.

3 The Indian pronunciation of their proper names is eminently musical; we usually spoil them. This name is preserved in Carolina, but it wants the euphony and force which the Indian tongue gave it. We pronounce it usually in common quantity. The reader will lay the emphasis upon the penultimate, giving to the i the sound of e.

4 It may be well to say that the Pocota-ligo river, as here described, would not readily be recognised in that stream at present. The swamps are now reclaimed, plantations and firm dwellings take the place of the ancient groves; and the bald and occasional tree only tells us where the forests have been. The bed of the river has been narrowed by numerous encroachments; and, though still navigable for sloop and schooner, its fair proportions have become greatly contracted in the silent but successful operation of the last hundred years upon it.

Source:  DocSouth

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Ancient African Nations

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