KING PHILIP'S WAR
Chapter 3, Part I
CAPT. THOMAS PRENTICE AND HIS TROOP, WITH
TROOPS OF LIEUT. OAKES AND CAPT. PAIGE
It may be in order here to recall attention to the very efficient organization of the colonial militia, noted in Chapter I. We have seen that Capt. Henchman's foot company was made up of quotas of men from all the surrounding towns; Capt. Mosely's was of hastily collected volunteers, and we now come to the third branch of the service, the "Troopers," in some respects the most important. It seems to have been a matter of solicitude in the colony for many years to increase the number of horses, and as early as 1648 laws were passed encouraging the formation of cavalry companies. Those who would enlist as troopers in local companies and keep horses, were allowed five shillings per year, and their head and horse-tax abated. It naturally followed that the most thrifty and well-to-do in the colony would become troopers, and the men of greatest ability and influence would be made their officers. At the beginning of the war there were five regular cavalry companies or "troops" in the colony. The Suffolk County Troop was commanded by Capt. William Davis, who died October, 1676, and was succeeded by Lieut. Thomas Brattle. The Middlesex Troop was commanded by Capt. Thomas Prentice. Essex County had two troops, one raised in Salem and Lynn, of which George Corwin was captain; and another, raised in Ipswich, Newbury and Rowley, of which John Appleton was captain. In Hampshire and Norfolk the horsemen were attached to the various companies in the regiment, eight or ten to each company of foot. Besides these regulars, there was an independent company raised at large in the counties of Suffolk, Middlesex and Essex, called the "Three County Troop." Edward Hutchinson had command of this up to October, 1674, but then resigned, and the court had not found a suitable successor who was willing to accept the appointment, and Lieut. William Haisy was in command in June, 1675. Out of these "troops" quotas were drawn to make up the company required for special service, and officers were chosen at the option of the court. In this first campaign the troopers were mostly from the towns immediately around Boston; and, in addition to these, were a few Indians from Natick and Punckapoag. The Captain and Lieutenant were from Cambridge, and the Cornet from Woburn.
The commander, Capt. Thomas Prentice, was born in England about 1620. He came with wife Grace, and daughter Grace to Cambridge, and settled on the south side of the river; freeman 1652. He was a very active and influential man, and a trusted officer both in civil and military service. He died July 7, 1709, aged 89 years.
Capt. Prentice was appointed captain of the special Troop, June 24, 1675, and sent out with Capt. Henchman, as has been related. On arriving at Swansey, at Miles's garrison, the Indians began firing from the bushes across the river at our guards, and twelve of the troopers volunteered to go over the bridge and drive them off. These were commanded by Quartermaster Joseph Belcher and Corporal John Gill. Mr. Church went along with them, and also a stranger, and William Hammond acted as pilot. As they advanced across the bridge the Indians fired upon them and wounded Mr. Belcher in the knee, killed his horse, and shot Gill in the breast, but his buff coat and several thicknesses of paper saved him from injury. They killed the pilot outright, and the troopers were forced to retreat, bringing off Hammond and his horse. On the renewal of the attack by the Indians next morning, the troop, supported by Mosely's volunteers, charged across the bridge and drove the Indians from the "Neck" and across to Pocasset. June 30th was spent by the army traversing Mount Hope neck, and at evening Capt. Prentice with his troop rode to Rehoboth and quartered over night.
On the morning of July 1st he divided the troop, sending one division back under command of Lieut. Edward Oakes. It is not certain whether both divisions rode back by the same route, but it would seem thus from the result. The captain's division came upon the Indians burning a house, but could not get at them on account of several fences which had to be torn down, giving the Indians time to retreat to a swamp. Lieut. Oakes's force, however, discovered them from a more advantageous quarter, and chasing them over a plain killed two of Philip's chief men, but in the fight lost one of their own men, John Druse of Roxbury, mortally wounded. The next few days Capt. Prentice and his troop spent in searching the swamps, and then went with the army to Narraganset, as has been related heretofore. Capt. Prentice's name stands second of the signers to the treaty with the Indians, July 15, 1675.
After the return to Swansey and the news that Philip was shut up in Pocasset Swamp, when the main body of Massachusetts troops were sent away to Boston, Capt. Prentice and his troop were ordered to scout towards Mendon, where the Indians had lately made an assault upon the people, killing several. The troopers met Capt. Johnson's company at Mendon, as will appear from the following minutes of the Council:(Mass. Archives, vol. 67, p. 226.)
July 26th 1675 Council Mett.
The Council on perusing of ye letter of Capt Prentice & capt Johnson, Dated July 23d 1675, judged it meet to order that Capt Prentice & his Troopers be presently called home & yt Capt. Johnson with his Souldiers be also sent to Returne leaving . . . of his foot Souldiers the Scouts(?) to remayne as a Guard to Mendon and . . . of his foote at Wrentham as their Guard Referring it to the sayd Captaine to consult with the Sarjant or other chiefe Officers of each Towne how many to leave at each Towne with their Armes ? Remayne till further order.
The letter referred to is now lost from the files.
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