Mac Laird

A tale of the
settlers and Indian tribes of
North Carolina and Virginia
and their combative quest for land and peaceful coexistence.

1713 to 1718


 They were not settlers by choice, those first three shiploads of English. Even the leaders, educated and well
off, were focused on gold and a short-cut to India. The 104 odd passengers (all men), neither educated nor
well off, were in for disappointment and serious trouble when they stepped ashore at Jamestown in 1607. Most
did not survive the sicknesses or starvation or the Indian attacks. But a few did and others came and within ten
years the English migration swarmed over the Virginia peninsula by the thousands, and in 1617, began
sending their tobacco, the treasure they did find, to England.

 At one point in the first half of the seventeenth century, tobacco sold in England  for three shillings per dry
weight pound .  The English units of currency were the pound, shilling, and pence, 20 shillings/pound and
12pence/shilling. One man could grow 200 pounds of tobacco in a year: six hundred shillings or thirty pounds
sterling for a year's labor, a princely sum by most measures of the time. By the end of the century it had fallen
to three pence per pound and still the Virginia growers were shipping.


The first lash of the six-plait cowhide whip drew a sliver of dark skin from Zack Hunter's right shoulder
diagonally down almost to the waist. Pain burned through his back and into his chest; his body shook as
though struck by lightning.  Summoned by the terror of lashes yet to come, sweat formed and trickled across
his face and neck. Zack tightened his lips over clenched teeth and choked back the scream. He took that first
lash in silence and waited for the whistling arrival of the next one and the other twenty-eight to follow. When
they cut him down from the whipping post, he was still conscious, still silent.
    Albert Ripken placed his whip in the holder under the shed roof and growled as he pointed to the closest
group of slaves. "He's working new ground tomorrow. See he's ready at sunup."
Master of the cart-whip and the top overseer at Green Spring plantation near Williamsburg, Virginia in the
spring of 1713, Ripken had many years of slave management experience. He could open a line of flesh to the
bone or let only the braided popper at the end of the whip make contact in some tiny untouched area.
Sometimes he made the cart-whip crack so loud the sound would make a man tremble.
     Wisely, Ripken had spared Zack a whipping that would render him useless. After all, Zack was the best
slave driver on the plantation and Al himself had taught him how to use the lash to hurt, take skin, or frighten.
He was not about to render his best slave driver useless, not even for a day. Slaves were difficult to train as
slave drivers; they were never to be trusted, but without good ones, crops failed, plows broke mysteriously,
harvests suffered, and the overseers were the ones held accountable.
Now the thing was done, the lesson delivered, the slaves would stay in line, and Zack would recover. Al wiped
the sweat from his face, reached in his pocket for the little container of rum, and headed for the cool water of
the spring.
    The slaves swarmed over Zack and placed their hands under him from head to toe, lifted him gently, and
carried him across the whipping-post yard. No one spoke. They walked silent, heads down. They'd made this
trip often, and although blood oozed among massive welts on Zack's back, twenty-nine lashes was light
punishment—thirty and nine, the slaves called it—was the usual whipping for small offenses, a hundred,
sometimes more, for the more serious offenses: runaways, disrespect, and outright disobedience.
Zack felt the cool surface of the pine-board table against his bare chest and stomach as they eased him down.
He turned his head, let his cheek rest on the boards, and tried to ignore the pain tearing at his back. It would
heal, he thought. Something was different though, a realization, a surety not yet identified, but nevertheless a
cool reality—and then, he knew.
     Troubled for many months by thoughts of running away, he had always believed he could succeed where
others had failed although he did not know of a single runaway who had escaped.  Worse yet, he had no place
to go, no one to help him. The colonies, north and south, shared the commitment to capture and punish
runaway slaves. To the east lay the ocean. The west was an unknown wilderness. He often thought of the
wilderness and the Indians out there. Maybe they would help him, maybe not. But this whipping convinced him,
he had to run away and he began to plan.
    Gladys, dry-eyed in a face frozen with hatred of the man that did this, silently smoothed a salve of animal fat
and medicinal herbs over the whip wounds.
     Born a slave here at Green Spring twenty years ago in 1693, Zack had never known his father and the
owners had sold his mother when he was seven years old, just before he was old enough to work in the fields.
Gladys was twenty-seven at the time. She had made a place for him to sleep in her quarters and shared her
food with him. She grew to love Zack as much as a mother could love a son. As he grew older, he began to
enjoy special treatment by the owner's son, 41 year-old Philip Ludwell II. Philip's aging father now looked to his
son for management of the estate.
     Zack often accompanied Philip Ludwell II on hunts through the fields and forest, carried the powder and
ball, and retrieved the birds that fell to Philip's fowling piece; he also gathered the downed squirrels and
rabbits, and afterwards, he skinned the game and dressed it for the kitchen.  On these trips, Zack learned
many things about the forest and streams that few others knew and no other slaves knew: the richest berry
patches, nut trees, medicinal plants, highly coveted straight-grained trees, animal trails, open grass meadows,
and much more.
    The two Green Spring overseers were white men. During planting, hoeing, and harvesting, they selected
and trained slave men to see that the large groups of slaves worked in unison at peak performance—no
lagging, resting, or other interruption to the rhythm of their work, no wasted motion. The lead worker set the
pace. The others followed faithfully or endured the driver's scolding voice and the crack of his whip. Driving
slaves to work was key to successful farming. Unlike the white indentured servants who were working out their
contracts before their eventual release, most slaves worked only to avoid the whip, they had no contracts, no
hope of release.
    As Zack grew and matured, the overseers gave him special attention because he learned quickly, was
respectful, helpful, obedient, and stayed "in his place." Eventually, he came to know the overseers so well that
he could anticipate what they wanted—this team of horses, that ox cart, how much water, which tools. He rarely
spoke or needed to beyond, "Yassuh, Massa."  So it was natural that the overseers chose him to carry
messages, fetch their food at noon time, and handle livestock. Slowly they turned him into a slave driver with a
sound understanding of working slaves, farming, and the skills of the whip.
     Zack had a natural curiosity that extended beyond the labor of a task to the "why" of it and to the results of
it. Consequently, he learned more, dangerously more, than slaves were ordinarily allowed to learn. He soon
found that the less he spoke the more eager the white people were to teach him to do their work: gathering,
cleaning, clearing new ground, planting, tilling; and later, mending harness, weighing and packing tobacco
hogsheads, and working the horse and ox teams. Now his eye was on the knife work of the coopers,
carpenters, and cabinetmakers.  How he would love to know how they fit and fasten barrel staves, frame a wall,
or build a cabinet of shelves. He saw these things and hung about the makers hoping to learn but they seemed
to guard the secrets of their trade. However, occasionally the artisans sent him for working stock with
instructions on how to choose it. Thus, Zack learned a little each day from similar tasks and began to apply his
knowledge to simple things like hooks and pegs from green wood parts lying about. Because he often used his
knowledge to help his fellow slaves, they generally accepted Zack and his special position.
     Gladys was the invisible counselor and leader of the slave population. The news of a change of any sort
seemed to reach her first. Better than any other slave, she seemed to know and understand plantation
matters. The Green Spring slaves looked to her, though they were careful not to expose her as a leader
among them, careful not to expose her as a threat to the owners. Because the owners lived with the ever-
present threat of uprisings, slaves were denied regular assemblies of any kind. They could not own or carry
knives, guns, clubs, or weapons. They could not marry, assemble, vote, testify in court, or use the courts and
the law against a white person. Gladys had a sixth sense about these matters, and her adopted son, Zack,
owed much of his success on the plantation to her counsel. Thus, Zack walked a fine line between the
sanctions of the plantation management and acceptance by his fellow slaves.
    This morning he had crossed the line. Virginia law was clear: twenty and nine lashes on the bare back "if
any slave shall presume to lift up his hand in opposition against any Christian." Zack broke the law when he
came between an overseer and a slave who was about to be punished. He knew better, but he had not had
time to think. He knew he could explain the slave's innocence, so he had stepped between them and raised his
hand a little to be heard. Both overseers and many slaves were present.  The whipping demonstrated the
penalty of opposing an overseer, and although only the courts could sentence a white person to be whipped, a
slave owner had the legal right to punish slaves as he saw fit without interference of colony or British law.


Kadomico, a twenty-nine year old Saponi warrior from the Yadkin River country of North Carolina, stood well
concealed behind the upright roots of a huge fallen white oak as he checked the area where his party of nine
warriors rested. There was little evidence of their presence—no barricades, no campfire, no hastily assembled
shelters. Thanks to the storm winds of many years ago, they used the gigantic limbs of an old blow-down white
oak for a natural barricade and the nearby forest undergrowth for concealment. Beyond them, a tiny stream
spilled over limestone, past clumps of cressie greens growing profusely along the bank. Their tiny pale green
leaves had grown fat with juice and now dipped into the cold water. Kadomico thought how excited the Saponi
women would be to find such an abundance of these fine greens.
    Satisfied with the security of their campsite, Kadomico eased his six-foot, slender body down to a sitting
position with his back against a young beech tree. His jet black hair, tightly banded at his neck, fell in two parts
upon broad, naked shoulders that had recently been relieved of a quiver of many war arrows. The quiver now
rested by his side with a powerful bow of osage orange. Before him, a chest- high tangle of blackberry and
honeysuckle released unmistakable sweet scents, and made a perfect blind. Tomorrow they would join the
North Carolina militia, commanded by Colonel James Moore, in the fight against the enemy Tuscaroras at Fort
     North Carolina had been at war for three years against the Tuscarora, a war ignited in September of 1711
when the Tuscarora captured, tortured, and then executed John Lawson, a North Carolina surveyor and
historian. While that event provided the spark, the actual cause was much more complex, long standing, and
centered around the endless waves of Europeans encroaching on Tuscarora hunting grounds.   
Kadomico sat still, his knees drawn up close against the barely moving, cool, March night air. Sleepless, he
pondered the task before him. The nine warriors with him came from a mixture of tribes: Tutelo, Occaneechi,
and Saponi. Last year, he had visited the Trading Ford, a place in North Carolina where several Indian trails
crossed and trading flourished among the Indians. There he had learned that the Yamasee and several other
tribes had allied with the North Carolina government in their war against the Tuscarora and that they were
looking for more warriors. He also learned that once the Tuscarora fell, their territory would be re-opened to
settlement. He reasoned then, that to join the North Carolinians in the fight against the Tuscarora would likely
be beneficial to Kadomico's people, especially if they could share in the redistribution of hunting rights to the
land along Virginia's south border.

    The forces of Colonel James Moore, just under a thousand South and North Carolina Indians and thirty-
three militiamen, spent the night about two miles south of the Fort Neoheroka. Their mission was to rid the
settlers of the Tuscarora threat.  For nearly three years, terrified settlers had crammed themselves into the
town of Bath for protection not daring to venture back to their farms while the war raged on. Now the
Tuscarora, having been defeated in other parts of North Carolina, had spent a full year preparing Neoheroka
for this final stand.
     Kadomico and his band hoped to return to their people victorious, with the promise of new hunting grounds
and the friendship of the North Carolina government.  A large part of that land was on the Virginia-North
Carolina border not far from the site of a fort planned by Governor Spotswood of Virginia. It would be named
Fort Christana after Christ and the popular Queen Anne. Indian raids on Virginia's southern frontier had
successfully blocked further settlement there, but Fort Christana would make it safe again The fall of Fort
Neoheroka would provide more assurance to waiting settlers of both North Carolina and Virginia. Several allied
tribes had agreed to participate in the construction and hoped to supply guards for the Fort Christana project
when it was completed. Kadomico saw that as an opportunity to strengthen his people's position with the
English and to work toward alliances with neighboring tribes, therefore it was not surprising that he had
emerged as Virginia's point of contact and the leader of the Saponi for matters involving native tribes.
    Now at the age of 28, after several years of attendance at the College of William and Mary, Kadomico
spoke flawless English. He was well known and had many friends in Williamsburg, the Virginia colony capitol.
Governor Spotswood was delighted to have his support at Fort Christana. Approval by the Burgesses was
almost certain, and construction would begin in the spring of next year, 1714, before if possible. The news of
the Tuscarora war and the beginning of Fort Christana gave Kadomico hope for a better future for his people
who, like the Tuscarora, had lost most of their lands and hunting grounds to the Europeans.
    His thoughts turned back to the present. He reckoned they were less than a half-day's trek to Ft.
Neoheroka, where they would meet the Moore army and join the siege. Even with overwhelming numbers,
Moore would have a tough fight on his hands. In addition to being among the most ferocious of Indian warriors,
this time the Tuscarora will be fighting for their very existence.  There will be no surrender and few if any
prisoners. They will fight to the death, he thought, all of them, women and children as well. However, the
English will not be defeated, and even if they are defeated, they would come again in even greater numbers
and with bigger guns. It was a lesson Kadomico had learned well over the years on his visits to Williamsburg
and during his studies at the college.
    In desperation for a way to coexist peacefully with the settlers, his Saponi people had sent him to
Williamsburg when he was fourteen to learn about the talking papers, to learn to read and write, and to see the
way of the English. Several other tribes had participated at the Virginia governor's invitation, but only
Kadomico returned to the college after the first term. Once he'd learned how reading worked, how he could
see marks on paper and know what they referred to, that they were miraculously the product of another man's
thinking, he became a serious, dedicated student with an insatiable appetite to understand and to learn more.
Now, fourteen years later, he was still welcome at the college, and he visited as often as he could for short
courses and when summoned by the college to assist in matters concerning the management and teaching of
Indian students. On these visits he wore English clothing and behaved differently, smiling, shaking hands,
using traditional English greetings and table manners. In Williamsburg, he always considered himself a guest
and politely tolerated the inevitable insult from those occasional citizens who harbored hatred and contempt for
Indians. Even now, he switched back to his native garb and manner as soon as he could. All that he learned
from the white man simply reinforced his pride in his people and their way of life and his commitment to lead
them through the coming threats to their town and  hunting grounds.

The end of Chapter Two

CHRISTANA is scheduled for publishing 27 May 2012 and will be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, www. and other major book stores.