KING PHILIP'S WAR
Introduction, Part II
The Pequod Indians caused the next trouble for the Colonies, and at one time seemed so formidable as to threaten their destruction. The Massachusetts Colony had been founded in 1630, and other flourishing plantations had been established at Salem and in the vicinity of Boston. The Dutch had settled at Manhattan, and made some attempts on the lower Connecticut River. In a few years Massachusetts had grown to be recognized as the leading Colony. In 1634 the Pequod Indians first began to be troublesome.
They were a strong and warlike tribe, who had come down the Connecticut River, years before, and seized upon the best lands at its lower parts. They had, with great cruelty, driven out the original tribes, and planted their principal town on the river, "twelve miles to the Eastward of the Connecticut River," which from them took the name of the "Pequod River." They had committed depredations upon the Dutch, and were at war with the great Narraganset nation. The Sachems of the Pequods were Tatobam, and afterwards Sassacus; and of the Narragansets, Canonicus and Miantonomo.
The first overt act against the English was the killing of Capt. John Stone, whose vessel was coasting near the mouth of the Connecticut River, in 1634. Capt. Stone was formerly of the West Indies, but was known, rather unfavorably, both at Plymouth and Boston. He committed some outrage against the Dutch, and was accused of piracy. He started on a trading voyage from Boston to the Eastward as far as York, where he took on Capt. John Norton as an associate in trade, or as passenger, and sailed towards Virginia; but went into the Connecticut, and there, upon some trouble with the Pequods, was overcome and slain with all his crew. had them that only two of those who had part in the act were left. The Indians made presents of "much wampum and beaver."
The treaty was concluded, and it was promised that the English would send a ship to trade with them, and would negotiate a treaty for them with the Narragansets, which they much desired, but were too proud to propose, but were willing the English should offer their foes a part of the wampum and beaver which they brought. The Pequods had, at first, and up to about 1633-4, held the Narragansets in subjection, but the latter were now at war and asserting their independence. The Pequods had, some time before, cut off a party of Indians who were on their way to trade with the Dutch, at their trading-house upon the Connecticut River, and in retaliation the Dutch had captured their old Sachem, Tatobam, and a small party of Indians with him, whom they killed. Tatobam was killed after Capt. Stone's death, and was succeeded by Sassacus. The promised vessel was sent out to the Pequods to trade. There is reason to think that this vessel was in charge of Mr. John Oldham, a man who had formerly caused trouble at Plymouth, being concerned in the revolt of Rev. John Lyford, and afterwards exiled from that Colony, and located at Watertown. He was of turbulent temper, but good ability.
From some cause he did not succeed in making any advantageous trade with the Pequods, but secured a load of corn from the Indians nearer home, and excited the jealousy of certain of the Narragansets, so that when, next year, he was cruising about with but two Indians and two English lads in his crew, and ran in at Block Island to trade, a large body of the Island Indians came on board and killed him. They overpowered his crew and took his vessel, which they were robbing, when discovered by John Gallop, of Boston Harbor, a skipper and pilot, who with his vessel, coasting along, discovered Oldham's vessel near the shore, and hailed, but received no answer, and then observed that the craft was in possession of the Indians, who were trying to get her under sail. Gallop, perceiving that they had stolen Oldham's vessel, immediately sailed up towards them, though having only his two boys and a servant for a crew, and but two guns and two pistols, with buckshot for bullets. Sailing close alongside, he opened fire and drove the Indians below deck; and making fast, went on board and discovered the body of Oldham, wrapped in fishing-nets.
There are two different stories of this affair by contemporary writers; one is that told by Gov. John Winthrop, and the other by Rev. Thomas Cobbet, of Ipswich, who had it directly from John Gallop, Jr., who was with his father in the affair; and afterwards, as Captain of a Connecticut company, on Dec. 19, 1675, was killed at the great Swamp Fight with the Narragansets. Capt. Gallop killed, or drove overboard, most of the Indians, captured four, one of whom he killed, and carried one away. By stress of weather he was obliged to cut adrift the craft, which he stripped of her rigging, leaving the other two Indians in the hold alive. He sailed to Saybrook Fort, just built, at the mouth of the Connecticut, and there delivered his prisoner. The two Narragansets, who had been with Oldham, had already escaped and reported to Canonicus, who was Sachem of the Block Island Indians, and he dispatched these two with the prisoner, and a letter of explanation, written by Roger Williams, of Providence, his friend, to Gov. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, saying that he had already sent Miantonomo, with a strong force, to punish the Block Islanders, and bring the murderers to justice.
The Massachusetts magistrates demanded of Canonicus the restoration of the goods taken from Oldham, the return of the two lads taken with him, and vengeance upon the murderers. They suspected one of the messengers, who had been with Mr. Oldham, but respecting the rights of a messenger, sent him back safely. It was found, by those who came with the boys from Miantonomo, that seven of the Indians who had been killed by Capt. Gallop were chiefs, and that the others, except the prisoner sent to them, had escaped to the Pequods, who now sheltered them.
An embassy, consisting of Lieut. Edward Gibbons and John Higginson, of Boston, with the Sachem of Massachusetts, Cutshamakin, was sent to treat directly with Canonicus, about John Oldham's murder. They reported favorably of the honesty and kindness of the old Sachem, on their return, but the magistrates determined to send out an expedition, and themselves wreak vengeance upon the people of Block Island. This expedition was raised from Massachusetts, by order of the new governor, Henry Vane.
The Colonial records do not contain the account of its raising and outfit. But Gov. Winthrop tells the story. The force to be raised was ninety men, to be divided into four companies, under command of Capt. John Underhill, Nathaniel Turner, Ensign William Jennison, and Ensign Richard Davenport, and over all John Endecott, Esq., was appointed general, to command the expedition. This force sailed in "three pinnaces" and "two shallops." They took two Indians as guides. They had commission to land at Block Island, and put all the men they could find to death, but to spare the women and children and bring them away captive, and take possession of the Island, and thence go to the Pequods and require satisfaction of them, and demand the surrender of the murderers of Capt. Stone and other English victims, and a thousand fathom of wampum, for damages, with some of their children as hostages, and if they should refuse, to take these things by force. All who went in this expedition were volunteers. They executed their commission in part. Setting sail on Aug. 24, 1636, they arrived at Block Island on the 31st, where they landed with much difficulty, finding about forty Indians on the shore waiting to receive them, with their bows and arrows, which were harmless, our men having corselets.
Two only were wounded, one in the neck and another in the foot. As soon as the English made a landing, the Indians all fled. The Island is described as about ten miles long, four broad, "full of small hills and all overgrown with brushwood of oak." They could only march single file, and it was impossible to get at the savages. They found two large plantations, some three miles apart, and about sixty wigwams, some well-built and large. There were about two hundred acres of corn, some gathered in heaps, some left standing. They spent two days in a vain search for the inhabitants, and then burnt their wigwams and all their "matts," destroyed what corn they could, spoiled seven canoes, and killed one Indian, as was afterwards reported. Then they sailed to the Connecticut, and being reinforced at Saybrook Fort with Lieut. Gardener, with twenty men and two shallops, they sailed to Pequod Harbor, where an Indian came, in a canoe, to ask "who they were, and what they wanted." The General told him that they came from the Governor of Massachusetts to speak with their Sachems. He said that their Sachem, Sassacus, had gone to Long Island, and was told to go and summon the other Sachems.
Then the English landed upon a rough and rocky shore, and soon the messenger returned, and great numbers of the savages began to gather about them until there seemed to be some three hundred, and still the Sachems did not appear. At last, after several hours, the General saw that they were but dallying, and announced his demands, and said if they were not complied with at once, he would fight them, and bade them begone and take care of themselves, for he had come now to fight. But he would not allow any shot to be fired until they had time to withdraw from the parley. Then our forces followed them, but they did not make any stand; only they would turn and shoot their arrows from behind rocks and trees, but did no harm, while some of the English killed two of theirs. So the English marched up to their town, and burnt all their wigwams and matts; but the corn was still standing in the field, and could not be readily destroyed. Returning at night to their vessels, on the next day they went ashore on the west side of the river, and having destroyed some wigwams and canoes, but finding no Indians, sailed away homeward.
They arrived at Boston in September, without the loss of a single man in the whole expedition. Cutshamakin, a chief of the Massachusetts tribe, early residing in that part of Dorchester which became Milton, went in this expedition as an interpreter; and while scouting with the English, waylaid, killed, and scalped a Pequod. He carried the scalp to Canonicus, who sent it about to his chiefs, thus signifying his approval of the deed and his loyalty to the English. To the Pequods this meant a declaration of war, and threw them at once into active hostilities against the English and their allies. Not more than a dozen of their men had been killed in the raid into their country, which they understood to be a search for "Block Island fugitives;" but this exploit of Cutshamakin's meant war. This whole expedition cost Massachusetts only two hundred pounds, as the officers and soldiers served without pay.
The Pequods now tried to make peace with the Narragansets, but in vain. They sought to break up the new English settlements, now being established on the Connecticut by settlers from Plymouth and Massachusetts, at Windsor, Wethersfield, and Hartford, and had shown their hostility to the garrison at Saybrook; and now, when the Massachusetts troops retired, these new towns and the garrison were left in a very critical situation; and Lieut. Gardener complained of the affair to the Colonies. When the English had re‰mbarked at Pequod Harbor, two of his soldiers had, somehow, been left behind, and were severely wounded. The Saybrook garrison were in a state of siege for many months; and whenever they ventured from the fort, were followed by the savages, with intent to lure them into ambush.
The only safety of the English, here, lay in their possession of firearms, which struck terror to their enemies, and even with these the Saybrook men came near being cut off on several occasions. The authorities at Plymouth did not approve of the action of Massachusetts, and wrote them, stating that they had not accomplished any advantage by this expedition, but rather stirred up strife to no good end; which letter was answered by Massachusetts justifying their course. Lieut. Gardener wrote a full and straightforward account of this expedition, which was published. One young man, of Saybrook, Samuel Butterfield, was captured at a short distance above the fort, and the place was long known as Butterfield's Meadow. Another small party, a few days later, was beset by a great company, and two were cut off. John Tilly, master of a ship, a very strong man, was captured and tortured to death by the savages. In April, 1637, the Indians waylaid some of the people of Wethersfield, near the fort, as they were going to the fields, and killed six men and three women, and at the same time made captive two girls. Some of their victims were killed with tortures, which roused the Colonies to plans of retaliation, as well as measures for their safety. The two girls were redeemed and returned by the Dutch, through Lieut. Gardener.
April 10, 1637, Capt. Underhill with a company of twenty men was sent to strengthen the garrison at Saybrook Fort, then in command of Lieut. Lion Gardener. This was done at the charge of the "gentlemen of Saybrook," and for the protection of their plantations, by a vote of the Massachusetts Colony. Negotiations were begun between Massachusetts and Plymouth about joining in war against the Pequods, while plantations upon the Connecticut were constantly increasing, by additions from Boston and surrounding towns. Capt. John Mason, who in 1632, as a lieutenant, had been sent to the Eastward in search of the noted pirate, Dixy Bull, was made captain of the militia, in November, of the same year; removed to Windsor, Conn., with Mr. Warham, in 1635, and there became the captain of their military company, and the hero of the "Pequod War."
The three Colonies, having agreed to unite in a war against the Pequods, and having engaged the Narragansets and other minor tribes to serve with them, took measures to carry out their plans. Massachusetts agreed to raise one hundred and sixty men, under the command of Capt. Daniel Patrick, of Watertown, and Capt. William Trask, of Salem; while Capt. Israel Stoughton, of Dorchester, was chosen commander-in-chief of the expedition, and Rev. John Wilson, pastor of the church in Boston, went as chaplain. Plymouth agreed to send fifty men, under Lieut. William Holmes, as commander, and Rev. Thomas Prince, as chaplain and counsellor. Thirty of these men were to be sent for land service, and as many others as should be required to manage the barques. The list of names, and further particulars about the preparations, will be found in the Appendix. It may be said here that before these were ready, the war was nearly finished, so they were not sent.
HTML by Debbie
Special thanks to Fred for his wonderful graphics.
You are the 11046th Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since April, 2001.
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]