KING PHILIP'S WAR
Chapter 7, Part III
CAPT. THOMAS LATHROP AND HIS MEN
Thomas Lathrop, or Lothrop, emigrated from England to Salem. He was admitted freeman in 1634, and settled on the "Bass River" side of the town, where he received a grant of land near Mackerel Cove in 1636. He was lieutenant of the Salem Train-Band in 1644 under Capt. Hathorn, and succeeded him as captain of the Artillery Company in 1645. Mr. Felt relates that he was a captain under Major Sedgwick in the expedition of 1654-5 against Acadia, when St. Johns and Port Royal were reduced. He was an active and influential citizen, represented Salem in the General Court in 1647, '53 and '64, and when Beverly was set off in 1668 was chosen first selectman of the new town, and thereafter, till his death, remained a leading actor in all its affairs, civil, ecclesiastical and military. He marriedBethia, daughter of Daniel Rea and sister of Joshua, who after his death and before June, 1680, married Joseph Grafton, of Salem, and again for her third husband, June 26, 1683, Dea. William Goodhue, of Ipswich. She died Dec. 6, 1686. Capt. Lathrop left no children, and his sister Ellen, who came with him from England, and became the second wife of Ezekiel Cheever, with her children, inherited his estate. The age of Capt. Lathrop is put at 65 years by Mr. Stone in his history of Beverly.
In the Mass. Archives, vol. xlv, p. 111, there is a petition of Capt. Lathrop, showing that he was in the expeditions against the Pequods in 1636-7. This petition has the signature "Thomas Lawthrop," and is dated 8: 3mo. 62; and while I have some doubt whether here the writing is his own, there can be no doubt of his signature in vol. lxvii, p. 50, where it appears in a faltering hand as "Tho: Lawthropp."
In August, 1675, when the news of the disaster at Brookfield came to the Council, Capt. Lathrop was placed in command of the company raised in Essex County, with some men from Boston and vicinity, and marched up to Brookfield, where he joined the forces of Capt. Beers. Their companies acted mostly together thereafter up to the time of the latter's march from Hadley on September 3d.
Elated by recent successes, the Indians pressed more closely about those western towns, watching warily that no opportunity might pass to strike a safe and telling blow. Their leaders constantly outgeneralled our officers, and in every engagement took care to have the odds, in numbers, position, and method of attack, on their side; and while we are horrified at their atrocities, we can but admire their adroitness and persistence. In the meantime additional forces of the English were gathering at Hadley and vicinity, and all were under the general direction of Major John Pynchon, of Springfield, commander-in-chief in the county of Hampshire.
On the return of Major Treat from Northfield with the garrison and people of that place, a council of war was held, at which it was decided to strengthen the various garrisons and hold the army for the present on the defensive. The Commissioners of the United Colonies had agreed to raise an army of five hundred men for this campaign on the Connecticut River. Besides the forces of Lathrop and Beers, Capt. Appleton had arrived from the East early in September, and Capt. Mosely with a company of sixty on Tuesday, Sept. 14th, at evening, and probably on the 15th crossed the river and marched up to Deerfield.
There, on the Sunday before, the Indians had made an assault on twenty-two men passing from one garrison to another to meeting; none of ours were killed, but one was taken alive and probably afterwards killed, and Mr. Judd suggests that this was Nathaniel Cornberry, noted by Mr. Russell as amongthe slain. The Indians then burned two houses, secured several horse-loads of beef and pork, killed many horses, and with their plunder betook themselves to a hill in Deerfield meadow. On the reception of this news at Northampton, the officers there raised a body of volunteers, who with others from Hadley and a part of Capt. Lathrop's company, marched up on Monday, 13th, to Deerfield garrison, and on the next day went out with the soldiers of the garrison to attack the Indians at the hill, but they were all fled. Major Treat, on Sept. 9th, had returned to Hartford, leaving a part of his force distributed in the various towns in garrison. On the 15th or 16th he came to Northampton with additional Connecticut troops, and Capt. John Mason, of Norwich, came there soon after with a body of Mohegan and Pequod Indians. I think it probable that the remainder of Capt. Lathrop's company, except the sick and wounded, passed over with Capt. Mosely.
Such was the position of affairs on Sept. 18th. At Deerfield a large quantity of corn had been gathered from the fields and loaded upon carts, teams and drivers provided, and Capt. Lathrop with his company were appointed as a guard to Hadley, where it was to be stored. The English evidently had no thought that any considerable force of the enemy were in the vicinity, and Capt. Mosely and his company remained behind and were scouting in search of them through the woods about. But a large body had crossed the river secretly, and, undiscovered, were watching every motion of the English; and now with their usual tactics they placed a large ambuscade in a place which offered unusual advantage, across the line of march.
This place was some five miles from the place of starting, at what is now South Deerfield village, where a small stream, then known as "Muddy Brook" (but ever since as "Bloody Brook"), crossed the road. The English seem to have taken no precaution whatever against surprise, and many of the soldiers, it is said, had placed their arms upon the carts to be carried, and were gathering wild grapes by the roadside.
We can never know with certainty much of the details of the battle, or rather massacre, that ensued. The survivors on this occasion were few, and doubtless if questioned could give but incoherent and exaggerated accounts. Moreover, contemporary historians seem to have been indifferent to particulars, and to have inclined rather to moralizing upon general events, and succeeding historians have mainly repeated the stories of the first, and it is only within the last few decades that our devoted historical societies, with their increasing facilities, have made the methods of intelligent criticism possible.
Gen. Epaphras Hoyt, of Deerfield, wrote a history of the Indian wars more than fifty years ago, which seems to be the first effort at analysis. In that work are many important questions raised and valuable suggestions presented. In regard to this affair he suggests that the main part of the troops had passed over the brook and were waiting the slow movements of the lumbering teams over the rough roads. The Indians crept stealthily about and encompassed the whole company and fell upon them with sudden and terrible fury, so that many were shot down or disabled at the first volley, including probably Capt. Lathrop. Doubtless a brave resistance was made, but with little avail. The coming of Capt. Mosely upon the scene after the disaster, his subsequent fight and opportune reinforcement by Major Treat, have been previously related.
It may be noted that here again Major Treat and the Connecticut soldiers opportunely, and as at Northfield, brought rescue, it is likely, from destruction. Connecticut was wise in trusting and employing the friendly Indians, who never allowed their troops to be ambushed; while the prejudice of Massachusetts brought upon their companies the dreadful massacres and unavailing pursuits which excite our wonder and shame even to-day.
As to the number of the English killed in this encounter, early accounts vary. In the postscript to a letter from the Massachusetts Council to Richard Smith, of Narraganset, dated Sept. 22, 1675, and still preserved in the Archives, vol. 67, p. 262, the statement is made that "above forty of Capt. Lathrop's men with himself were slain;" and then it is further stated that Capt. Mosely lost eleven men in the subsequent fight, which together with many lost that were with the teams made up sixty-four in all, who were buried the next day.
Mr. Mather relates that above threescore were slain. Mr. Hubbard reckons eighty as the number in the company of the English, including, doubtless, the teamsters, and says that not above seven or eight escaped. In Rev. Mr. Russell's list, noticed above, the number of slain is put at seventy-one. This last is probably nearly correct, as Mr. Hull's credits, now for the first time published, after a lapse of more than two hundred years, go far to prove. The list pertaining to "Bloody Brook" is given below entire. It has been copied from the original with the utmost care, and proved and tested letter by letter till I feel sure of its accuracy. This list was first copied by Mr. Coffin some fifteen years before he published his "Newbury," and is the most nearly correct of any list that has been published hitherto that I know of; but a comparison of his text with the original will show many mistakes. The following is the list:
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