HOW AN ANGEL OF THE LORD FOUGHT FOR THE PEOPLE OF
Early thirty years had passed since that September
day when Governor Winthrop rode across country from the Ten Hills Farm
to the gathering of the synod in the log meetinghouse at Cambridge.
As things went in those days of effort and struggle,
matters had gone fairly well with the little, self-defended colony along
the bay shore. It had been undisturbed by the great events that were
shaking thrones and uncrowning kings in England, simply because
Massachusetts, under intelligent, if narrow, leadership,
looked after her own concerns. She built, fished, farmed, traded,
exhorted, constrained, and compelled, saying nothing to king or
Parliament, unless it were, " Hands
off!" when king or Parliament sought to impose unjust commands upon
"We own New England, not you. We will govern
ourselves," was the air assumed by Massachusetts when she and the
other colonies north of Long Island Sound, by combining in the New
England Confederacy, made the first step toward colonial union.
The New England Confederacy was brought about by fear
as well as self-interest. The settlements, or townships, in
Massachusetts and throughout New England
were made by splits from congregations, or by
withdrawals because of religious differences. So each little town had
its own peculiar views, which were not always the same as those held in
other towns; but as time went on, people began to yield a little in
their opinions. They saw, too, that the colonies of New England were
threatened by foes without, whose pressure urged a closer union between
the friends and foes within. Across the Connecticut, the Dutchmen of New
York were crowding the Englishmen of New England; in the north, the
Frenchmen of Canada were ever full of a desire to conquer their English
neighbors in the south; while within their own limits, and alike on
their western and northern borders, the New England colonists ever had
before their eyes the threatening horrors of Indian war.
Then, too, the men of New England were prospering in
trade and barter, and saw the need of a business union. So fear and
self-interest alike combined to urge the New Englanders into friendlier
and closer union. This came about at last, when, in 1643, the colonies
of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven joined
themselves into a confederacy for mutual benefit, protection, and
defense, under the name of the "United Colonies of New
Thirty-nine towns, with a population in all of twenty
four thousand inhabitants, made up this league and confederacy. Of these
Massachusetts Bay counted fifteen thousand within her own borders, and
was compelled, therefore, to pay the most toward expenses and contribute
the largest number of men as soldiers for defense, Naturally the Bay
colony wished to have
the most to say; so, while by the terms of the
confederation she had really no more authority than the smallest of
the four, the Bay colony tried to lead, and often got into dispute
with the other three.
But each of the four colonies saw that it was unwise
to let these disputes run into real quarrels. Each was necessary to the
other, and "United we stand, divided we fall" was an easily
understood motto. How much that union of the four New England colonies
led to the later plan of American union and independence it is not easy
to say. It undoubtedly set men to thinking, especially when, after a
while, a tyrannical king broke up and absorbed the confederacy into his
own royal provinces; but in those mid-years of the century it was a wise
and proper thing to have achieved, as the men of New England speedily
discovered when there broke upon them, in 1675, the open menace of a
determined Indian war. Then Massachusetts took the lead.
England, indeed, was too busy to bother with its
colonies, and so the go-ahead, assertive Massachusetts colonists were
left to take care of themselves. The war which now threatened the peace
of the colonies is known as King Philip’s War, although Philip of
Pokanoket was no king. He was simply the chief of the once powerful
tribe of the Wampanoags. He was the younger son of that Massasoit with
the Pilgrims of the Plymouth colony, in the days of
Captain Standish, had wisely made a treaty, and kept it unbroken for
over forty years.
But Massasoit was dead; Captain Miles Standish was
dead; Governor William Bradford and Governor John Winthrop were dead.
The old friendships weakened, and Philip, or Metacomet, as his Indian
name runs, was sagamore and leader in the lodges of the Wampanoags.
Philip was a fiery and spirited red man. He chafed
under the lordship of the white "intruders;" he saw the lands
of the red men gradually passing into the hands of their white
neighbors. They had been honestly bought and paid for, but real estate
dealings were something which the communistic Indians never could really
understand. Philip knew the menace of the increasing numbers of the
English colonists; he misunderstood the design of that good John Eliot,
the apostle to the Indians, in converting and civilizing the Indians,
and saw in all this housing of Eliot’s christianized
red men, who were called the "praying Indians," only a design
to weaken the red man and increase the strength of the white man.
"That good John Eliot"
is one of the historic figures of Massachusetts. A graduate of Cambridge
University in England, he came to Massachusetts in 1631, and became the
minister of the church in Roxbury, where he lived near the Eliot Square
of to-day. There he became filled with the desire to convert to
Christianity the Indians of New England; and from there he went on his
pilgrimage as "apostle to the Indians from Cape Cod to the
Merrimac." For them he lived and labored, learning their language,
civilizing and Chris-
tianizing them, until in Massachusetts alone there
were nearly four thousand of Eliot’s "praying Indians," as
they were called. A saintly, prayerful, pure, and well-meaning reformer
was this noble-souled John Eliot. His efforts were distrusted by his own
brethren and misjudged by the Indians, and all that we have now to
remember the good apostle by, besides his sainted memory, are the most
costly and rarest of old books,
Eliot’s Indian Bible," and his word for
"chief" or "leader" in the Indian tongue, which has
now become a familiar word in American politics, ‘
But his influence was wider than this, for it is now
a well-recognized fact that but for the loyalty and devotion of Eliot’s
praying Indians the league of Philip of Pokanoket would have been a
successful combination, and the colony of Massachusetts Bay would have
been either exterminated or weakened beyond rescue.
It was the conversion, and, as Philip considered it,
the weakening of these praying Indians that especially inflamed that
fiery son of Massasoit, and urged him into vengeance upon the white man.
For thirteen years the red leader bided his time,
sowing the seeds of discontent and distrust among the neighboring
tribes, until finally, in 1675, all the horror of Indian war broke upon
the colonies of Massachusetts and Plymouth.
Villages were sacked and burned; soldiers were
ambushed and killed; women and
children were massacred or dragged into captivity. The security of forty
years of peace was broken. War was in the land.
Swanzy and Dartmouth, Middleboro and Taunton
and Brookfield, tasted all the savage horrors of
Indian attack and massacre, and so, gradually, the trouble set westward,
until it came with tomahawk and torch into the fair valley of the
Connecticut, where Springfield, Northampton, and Hadley lay along the
Hadley, by its
position, had been made a point of rendezvous and
departure for operations offensive and defensive; it became, therefore,
a mark for Indian raid and assault, when Philip the sagamore came to
rouse the tribes of the Connecticut valley to war upon the white men.
It was on the first day of September, in the battle
year of 1675, that the people of Hadley, assembled in their meetinghouse
to keep a day of fasting and of prayer, were suddenly startled by the
horrible Indian yell.
"The Indians are upon us!" they cried; and
forthwith the armed men rushed to the palisades.
But they were too late. All that previous night their
red foemen had been making ready. To the south of the town a careful
ambush had been laid, and from the north, against the slender defense of
palisades, seven hundred Indians swooped down upon the devoted town to
force the fortifications and drive the I
startled inhabitants of Hadley into the dreadful
The palisades at the north, though valiantly
defended, were speedily forced. A mob of screeching Indians swarmed into
the little hamlet; the defenders met them bravely, and forced them off;
but, reinforced, they came crowding back, and the men of
Hadley, driven before the savage onrush, fell back for
a last desperate stand upon the village green.
Then it was that a strange thing came to pass; for, as
the men of Hadley quailed before their savage foe-men, suddenly a stranger
stood among them.
No one knew him. But when, with rapid movements and
commanding voice, he formed the fighting men into a well-ordered array,
they knew that a leader in battle had come to help
them, and they unquestioningly obeyed him. Swiftly the line was formed;
swiftly it was strengthened; as swiftly it charged upon the red invaders,
the white-haired, military-looking leader urging the defenders forward in
their sortie. A word here, a gesture there, a massing at one point, a
flanking at another, and speedily the tide of war was turned. The men of
Hadley with a resistless charge drove back
Indian mass, and, forcing it through
the ruined palisades, sent it flying to the north, routed, scattered,
But when, the danger over, the retreat recalled, the
village saved, the men of Hadley once more gathered on their village
green, the mysterious stranger had
No one saw him come; no one saw him
go. Do you remember the heaven-sent messengers of whom the Roman legends
tell us, who, at the battle of the Lake Regillus, appeared just in the
nick of time to save the day for Rome? In much the same way this
gray-haired stranger came and fought for the people of Hadley until the
foe was routed. Macaulay’s stirring ballad tells the Roman story:
"‘Rome to the charge!’
‘The foe begins to yield!
Charge for the hearth of Vesta!
Charge for the Golden Shield!
Let no man-stop to plunder,
But slay and slay and slay;
The gods who live forever
Are on our side to-day.’"
And then, the battle over, the
heaven-sent allies disappeared. For, says the ballad:
"Straight again they
And rode to Vesta’s door;
Then, like a blast, away they
And no man saw them more."
Just so vanished the man who turned
the battle and won the day at Hadley. Silently he came; silently he
left. And the people, quick to believe in miracles,
could come to but one conclusion.
"It was an angel," they declared,
"sent of God upon this special occasion for our deliverance."
And so they maintained for years. But time at last
unraveled the mystery, and now we know that the man who had appeared so
suddenly, commanded so well, fought so valiantly, and disappeared so
mysteriously, was none other than the fugitive English republican Major
General William Goffe, the friend of Cromwell, the bravest of the
parliamentary generals, the commander at Dunbar and at Worcester, the
man who would have been the general in chief of the army of the
Commonwealth and the successor of Cromwell as Lord Protector of England,
had not the generals of Cromwell themselves brought back the Stuarts to
power. But, more than all this, he was one of the judges who presided at
the trial which condemned Charles I. to death, and was therefore known
for all time as" Goffe the regicide." A fugitive from his
home, a price upon his head, he and his companion, General Whalley, had
found their way to Massachusetts and been secretly harbored and helped
by a few faithful friends. From the windows of the house of his friend
Mr. Russell at Hadley he had seen the Indian onslaught. His habits of
command and leadership awoke in him and urged him to the aid of the
villagers. Putting himself at their head, he had routed the savage foe
as he had routed the king’s men at Dunbar, and then, his work
accomplished, he had slipped into hiding again, and lived thus until his
death, four years later.
It is one of the romances of Massachusetts history,
lights up that especially dark and gloomy time known
as King Philip’s War, so crowded with stories of sack and slaughter,
of hairbreadth escape and furious battle, ended only by the treacherous
slaughter of the brave but unskilled sagamore Philip, and the utter
destruction of the Indians of New England as a foe to be feared.
Twelve out of ninety New England towns had been
destroyed; forty more had known massacre, sack, and slaughter; a
thousand fighting men had fallen before the Indians’ fury; as many
helpless women and children had perished, too; the war debts exceeded
the colony’s personal property, and for years were a burden on the
people. But they paid the debt.
Upon the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies the war
had fallen with especial force. But they won. The Indians were simply
obliterated as a factor longer to be dreaded or feared in the colony
life, and as the men of Hadley saw, in the sudden appearance of the
angel who was no angel, the helping hand of God, so they called the
whole bitter war an act of Providence sent for their own
It did more than chasten; it educated. For
Massachusetts learned, from this Indian war, habits of wariness,
watchfulness, energy, determination, and self-help. They grew to see and
to know their own power; and when the need came to face men even more
crafty and determined than the crafty Philip, they were able to meet the
crisis with a calm front and a determined mind, the first fruitage of
that "eternal vigilance" which to them, as to other patriots,
has ever proved itself the "price of liberty."