KING PHILIP'S WAR
Chapter 6, Part II
The foregoing list of credits I presume to embrace the company of Capt. Parker, who marched with Major Willard to the relief of Brookfield on August 4th. I judge that Capt. Parker, with some sixteen or more of these men, returned to Groton before August 16th, as on that date Capt. Mosely had sent twelve men to Groton to help secure the town; and Capt. Parker writes the Council on August 25th about their affairs, asking for arms and ammunition, as they are expecting an attack upon the town. Those that went back with him were very likely Groton men, and it is probable are represented by the smaller credits. Capt. Parker acknowledges the receipt of twenty men from Capt. Mosely and Major Willard, and these were, doubtless, in addition to the number of his own men that returned with him. The rest of his company remained with Major Willard, as may be shown by their larger credits.
From a paper which was presented to the Court after Major Willard's death, in statement of his unpaid services and expenses for the government, it appears that
From the 20th of September (1675) till the 18th of April (1676), the Major was employed about the country business, Settling of Garrisons in towns, and settling of Indians at Concord and Chelmsford, and other business, etc.
The paper is given in full in the "Willard Memoir," and shows
(1 The Major's son. His horse was killed at Brookfield, for
which the Court allowed ś3 in
On September 8th the Council issued an order to Cornet Thomas Brattle and Lieut. Thomas Henchman to march to Chelmsford with fifty men, collected, thirty from Norfolk and twenty from Middlesex Counties, and distribute them in the garrisons in the frontier towns of Groton, Lancaster and Dunstable. This order was probably in answer to Capt. Parker's appeal of August 25th. The men were to be left under the command of the chief officers in each town; and as Major Willard is not referred to at all, it would seem probable that he had not yet returned from Brookfield; but some time before September 20th he was at home; and when Capt. Henchman was sent, about that date, to organize an expedition to Pennacook with orders to withdraw eighty men from the several garrisons before mentioned, he was instructed to meet Major Willard at his home, and consult with him and the chief officers of the several garrisons as to the expedition. This meeting took place on September 25th, and on the same day Major Willard, together with officers Adams, Parker and Kidder, addressed a remonstrance to the Council against the withdrawal of so many of their soldiers. Capt. Henchman reports the same meeting in his letter of Sept. 27th. The Council, for various reasons, concurred with the Major, and the expedition was abandoned.
For the succeeding months Major Willard was busily engaged in ordering the defences of the Middlesex frontier towns and settling the various bodies of friendly Indians. Garrisons were maintained at Lancaster, Chelmsford, Groton and Dunstable, and the entire available force of the county was kept in a "posture of war." During the time that the army of the colony was absent at Narraganset, there is evidence from frequent letters, petitions, etc., from these frontier towns, that the people felt comparatively secure; but when Canonchet, after the Narraganset fight, fleeing with his surviving warriors, came into the vicinity, their fears were newly aroused, especially when, about February 6th, the army abandoned the pursuit, leaving the Indians in the woods about Brookfield, and, returning to Boston, were disbanded. The Council, not insensible to the danger which thus threatened these towns, immediately issued orders to Major Willard to raise a large force of dragoons to scout in front of the towns of Groton, Lancaster, etc., to Marlborough. This plan met with immediate remonstrance from the towns, and appeals were at once made to the Council against the measure, as it withdrew many from the garrisons to a great distance for days together, leaving them exposed to sudden incursions from the prowling and watchful enemy.
At this time Major Willard was so busy ordering the defences of the towns that he was unable to take his seat in the Council, and sent them a letter of explanation. This letter is not found in the archives, but the answer of the Council is as follows, giving some idea of the contents:
Sir. The Council received your letter and are sorry for your excuse for not coming to the Council by reason of the State of Lancaster, which we desire you to endeavor to the utmost of your power to relieve and succour. We are useing our best endeavours to prepare more forces to send to distress the enemy. You shall hear more from us speedily, and in the interim we desire you to be in readiness if you should have a full command over the forces to be sent forth from the Colony.
E R Secy
The Council's letter was written the day after the attack upon Lancaster, of which evidently they had not heard. Major Willard was probably at this time at Groton or Chelmsford, where an attack was daily expected, doing all in his power with the small force at his command to protect these towns from surprisal. After the attack upon Lancaster, a large party of the Indians swept down towards Plymouth Colony, taking Medfield on the way, February 21st, and for the time distracting attention from the main body, which, as soon became evident, were still in the vicinity of "Wachusett Hills." On February 19th Major Willard and Capt. Parker, in behalf of the people of Groton, sent an earnest appeal to the Council for help and advice. On the 21st the Major was present at the sitting of the Court at Boston, and remained during the session. He was at Cambridge on March 4th, and certainly did not return to Groton till after March 7th, as on that day he was at the Court of Assistants. It was probably by his endeavors that a levy was ordered to be made on Norfolk and Essex Counties (forty-eight from Essex and forty from Norfolk). These forces were hastily collected, and under the stress of the news of the attack upon Groton were placed under the command of Capt. Joseph Cook, of Cambridge, and ordered to report to Major Willard at Groton at once. This action was taken by Major Gookin and Thomas Danforth, two members of the Council living at Cambridge, and was approved by the Council at their next meeting, March 16th.
On March 9th the Indians again appeared at Groton, doing some mischief, and again on the 13th in full force, and destroyed all the houses in town except the garrison houses, and one even of these, from which, however, the people had escaped. I think that Major Willard marched up from Watertown with Capt. Cook's force on the 12th or 13th, and arrived at Groton on the 14th, as the Indians retired on that day, apparently aware of the approaching force. The people got safely within their garrisons before the attack, and but one man, probably John Nutting, was killed. The town was abandoned within a few days, and the inhabitants removed to the towns nearer the coast. Major Willard, with his family, removed to Charlestown. It is likely that he had removed his family some time before the destruction of his house, on the 13th, as that stood in an exposed position, and his son Samuel Willard, the minister of Groton, had another of the garrisoned houses.
The Indians were greatly elated at their success at Groton, and threatened to attack and destroy all the towns, including even Boston, and Major Willard's orders were, after relieving Groton, to scout back and forth to protect the neighboring towns, especially Chelmsford and Marlborough. The business of the removal of the people of Groton was committed to Capt. Joseph Sill, of Cambridge, who went up with troops and some sixty carts for that purpose. This design was successfully carried out, although the force guarding the long line of carts was so small, and an ambush was laid and an attack made upon the advance from a very advantageous position. Two of the "vaunt Carriers" were mortally wounded, but the English were promptly drawn up for battle, and after a few shots the enemy retired before their wellaimed volleys. In the mean time Major Willard, and his Essex and Norfolk men, were not idle, as will be seen by the following account, prepared by him, of his movements from March 21st to the 29th. Mass. Archives, vol. 68, p. 186.
A short narrative of what I have attended unto by the Councill of late, since I went to relieve Groatton. The 21:1:75-76, I went to Concord, and divided the troope committed unto me from Essex & Norfolke into three pts one to garde the carte, pressed from Sudbury, one pt for ye carte pressed from concord, both to Lancaster, one pt for ye carte that went from Charlestowne & Wattertowne that went volintiers or wear hiered when I had sent them to their severall places I came downe being the 22:1:75-6: & went to concord the 25:1:75, when I came there & inquired how it was with Lancaster the answer was they weare in distresse, I prsently sent 40 horse thither to fetch awaye corne, and I went that night to Chellmsfoord to se how it was with them, they complayned, Billerikye Bridge, stood in great need of beinge fortified, I ordered that to be don, allso they told me, that the Indians made two great rafte of board & rayles, that they had gott, that laye at the other syd of the river, I ordered 20 souldiers to go over & take them, & towe them downe the River, or prserve them as they se cause, the 27 of this instant I went from Chellmsford to concord agayne when I came there, the troopers that I sent to Lancaster last had brought away all the people there, but had left about 80 bushells of wheat & Indian corne, yesterday I sent: 40: horses or more to fetch it away, & came down from concord, this day I expect they will be at concord, Some of the troope I relesed when this last worke was don, the other I left order to scout abroad untill they heare from me agayne, I thought it not meet to relese men, when we stand in need of men, my desire is to know what I shall do herin in, concord & chelmsford look every day to be fired, and wold have more men but know not how to keepe them, nor paye them, your humble servant.
SIMON WILLARD 29:1:76.
The troops that went up from Norfolk and Essex were credited under their special officers, and will there appear. The following are those who receive credit under Major Willard, and are those probably who were employed in scouting with him in the early part of the winter.
On March 29th Major Willard was in his seat at the Court of Assistants, and his family was then living at Charlestown. He was also at the session of the County Court at Cambridge at its session beginning April 4th. On the 11th he was re‰lected as Assistant, having the highest number of votes cast for any magistrate except the governor and deputy governor. He was constantly engaged in his public duties until April 18th, when he retired to his home and was struck down it is thought by an "epidemical cold" which was then raging, and on April 24th "died in his bed in peace, though God had honoured him with several signal victories over our enemies in war," says a contemporary historian. No man was ever more fully or more deservedly honored in life and death than Major Willard. His funeral at Charlestown on April 27th was an occasion of great pomp for that time, six military companies parading under command of Capt. Henchman; and his death created profound sorrow far and wide. There are numerous references to his death and funeral in the literature, records and MS. journals of that day. His family was reimbursed for his great expense and services, in 1677; and again in 1681 a grant of land of one thousand acres was set aside for his six youngest children when they should come of age.
He left a numerous posterity, many of whom have held honorable positions in succeeding generations. His widow married Deacon Joseph Noyes of Sudbury, July 14, 1680, and died in that town, December, 1715.
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