The end of the seventeenth century brought another major shift to conflict between Native Americans and Europeans. By this time, a permanent presence of Europeans on the Eastern seaboard of America had been achieved. As European power increased, Native Americans made tough choices about their allies, whom they would fight, and when they would fight all with a mind to surviving the colonial onslaught. The battles over Virginia, New England, and the Southeast reflect this shifting colonial reality. As the eighteenth century progressed, England and France, and finally England’s colonies, squared off against one another in a battle for the heart of North America.
Bacon’s Rebellion has been portrayed as playing a number of roles in the drama of colonial Virginia. It has been cast as a race war, a battle over patronage, and a fight between the tidewater establishment and the underrepresented backcountry. Its relation to Anglo-Native American conflict is of more importance to the current discussion.
Virginia and its native neighbors had been at peace since the 1640s. Increased English settlement and disgruntlement among the native peoples exploded into a vicious war in 1675 and 1676. A group of Doeg Indians, upset with a crooked planter, began to attack white settlements on the frontier. Neighboring planters launched a retaliatory strike against the Doeg, but they killed some Susquehannocks (who had been allied with Virginia). The Susquehannock responded in kind, striking settlements on the western edge of Virginia and Maryland. Frontier planters, under the leadership of Nathaniel Bacon, raised a sizable army and began to attack any Native Americans they could find. The results were devastating, and though Bacon’s Rebellion failed to reform Virginia government, it made one fact abundantly clear: Even if the king and the governor preferred peaceful relationships, colonists could annihilate.