KING PHILIP'S WAR
Introductory Chapter, Part III
The towns on the Connecticut River, Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield, being most concerned in this war, were most forward in its prosecution. May 1, 1637, the General Court at Hartford voted "an offensive war against the Pequods." On May 10, 1637, ninety men had been raised in these three towns, -- forty-two from Hartford, thirty from Windsor, and eighteen from Wethersfield, -- equipped for war, and under the command of Capt. John Mason, of Windsor, and Lieut. Robert Seely (Sealy), of Wethersfield, embarked on board "one Pink, one Pinnace, and one Shallop," with the Sachem Uncas and seventy of his Mohegan Indians along as allies.
The water of the river being low, the vessels often ran aground, which made the progress so slow that the Indians grew impatient and asked to be set ashore to go on foot to Saybrook Fort, which was done. When the Indians reported at the fort, Lieut. Gardener distrusted their honesty, and demanded some proof of their good faith. So Uncas sent out a war-party, who found six of the Pequods, four of whom they killed, one escaped, and another they brought captive to the fort, where he was put to death. This victim's name was Kiswas. On Wednesday Capt. Mason with the Connecticut force arrived at the fort, and on Friday set sail for Narraganset. At Saybrook Fort Lieut. Gardener had reinforced their company with Lieut. Underhill and twenty of his best men, with such supplies as they needed, and sent Mr. Thomas Pell with them as surgeon. Twenty of the least serviceable of Capt. Mason's men were sent back to the plantations to strengthen them. The Mohegans sailed with them.
They arrived at Narraganset on Saturday evening and there "kept the Sabbath." They lay wind-bound off shore until Tuesday evening, when they landed and marched about five miles inland to the residence of the Narraganset Sachem, Canonicus, to whom Capt. Mason apologized for marching into his country with an armed force without giving him previous notice. He requested permission of the Sachem to pass with his troops through his dominions, and declared his purpose of making war on the Pequods, on account of the outrages against the English. Canonicus received them kindly, but warned them that the Pequods were strong and crafty warriors, many hundred in number, and now securely entrenched in two great forts. Having gained the permission desired, they marched, on Wednesday morning, to a place called Niantick, on the Pequod frontier, where the Narragansets had a fort.
The Indians here appearing somewhat inhospitable, Capt. Mason placed guards about their fort, so that they might not be able to carry news of his design to the enemy. Here they passed the night. In the meantime a messenger had come from Capt. Patrick, who was at Providence, with a company of forty men from Massachusetts, a part of the force to be sent from that Colony upon the present expedition. He requested Capt. Mason to wait for him to join his force, but did not tell when he would come.
Capt. Mason and his officers in council decided that secrecy and haste were more valuable than the additional numbers, and so determined to push forward with their present force. In the morning there came a party of the Narragansets from Miantonomo, nephew and associate Sachem of Canonicus, who offered to join and assist in their design. Then the Indians in the fort came out and engaged with them for the same end. About eight o'clock on Tuesday morning, with seventy-seven English and a company of near five hundred Indians, they marched twelve miles to a ford of the Pawcatuck River, where they halted for a rest. Here many of the Narragansets turned back.
The heat being extreme, another halt was made about three miles farther on, and a council was called to decide the method of attack. Uncas, and the renegade Pequod "Wequash," their guide, were consulted; who told them of two strong forts of the Pequods, several miles apart, and they decided, at first, to attack both at the same time; but finding the farthest so distant, and the troops so weary with the heat and the long march, that they could hardly reach it before midnight, they were forced to choose the nearest.
This was a disappointment, as they heard that Sassacus, the chief Sachem of the Pequods, was at the distant fort. Marching silently towards the nearest fort, they halted, about one hour after dark, in a small valley and there made their camp. Posting their guards around the camp, and at some distance in front, they rested upon their arms until dawn. Their outposts reported that they could hear the Pequods, in their fort, shouting and rejoicing after their manner, till past midnight; the cause being the supposed flight of the English, whose vessels they had seen sailing to the Eastward. At break of day the soldiers were mustered quickly and silently for the battle, the Indians keeping far in the rear. After marching about two miles, and not yet seeing signs of the fort, Capt. Mason called Uncas and Wequash to him, and they pointed out the fort at the top of a high hill close at hand. He told them to ask the Indians not to fly and leave them until they had seen whether Englishmen would fight. Then forming their line of battle, they marched in two divisions, Capt. Mason intending with the first to gain the entrance at the North-east, and Capt. Underhill that at the South side.
Capt. Mason's company approached within one rod of the palisade, before any alarm was sounded from the fort. Then, as he relates, they "heard a dog bark, and an Indian crying Owanux! Owanux! which is, Englishmen! Englishmen!" And now I will quote from Capt. Mason's own words: We called up our Forces with all expedition, gave Fire through the Pallizado upon them; the Indians being in a dead, indeed in their last Sleep. Then we wheeling off fell upon the main Entrance, which was blocked up with Bushes about Breast high, over which the Captain passed, intending to make good the Entrance, encouraging the rest to follow. Lieutenant Seeley endeavoured to enter; but being somewhat cumbred stepped back and pulled out the Bushes and so entered, and with him about sixteen Men. We had formerly concluded to destroy them by the Sword and save the Plunder.
Whereupon Captain Mason seeing no Indians entred a Wigwam; where he was beset with many Indians, waiting all opportunities to lay Hands on him, but could not prevail. At length William Heydon espying the Breach in the Wigwam, supposing some English might be there, entred; but in his Entrance fell over a dead Indian; but speedily recovering himself, the Indians some fled, others crept under their Beds: The Captain going out of the Wigwam saw many Indians in the Lane or Street; he making towards them, they fled, were pursued to the End of the Lane, where they were met by Edward Pattison, Thomas Barber, with some others; where seven of them were Slain, as they said.
The Captain facing about, Marched at slow Pace up the Lane he came down, perceiving himself very much out of Breath; and coming to the other End near the Place he first entred, saw two Soldiers standing close to the Pallizado with their Swords pointed to the Ground: The Captain told them that We should never kill them after that manner: The Captain also said, We must Burn them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam where he had been before, brought out a Firebrand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire. Lieutenant Thomas Bull and Nicholas Omsted beholding, came up; and when it was thoroughly kindled, the Indians ran about as most dreadfully Amazed.
And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. And when the Fort was thoroughly Fired, Command was given, that all should fall off and surround the Fort; which was readily attended by all; only one Arthur Smith being so wounded that he could not move out of the Place, who was happily espied by Lieutenant Bull, and by him rescued.
The Fire was kindled on the North East Side to windward; which did swiftly overrun the Fort, to the extream Amazement of the Enemy, and great Rejoycing of our selves. Some of them climbing to the Top of the Pallizado; others of them running into the very Flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their Arrows; and we repayed them with our small Shot: Others of the Stoutest issued forth, as we did guess, to the Number of Forty, who perished by the Sword.
What I have formerly said, is according to my own Knowledge, there being sufficient living Testimony to every Particular. But in reference to Captain Underhill and his Parties acting in this Assault, I can only intimate as we were informed by some of themselves immediately after the Fight, Thus, They Marching up to the Entrance on the South West Side, there made some Pause; a valiant, resolute Gentleman, one Mr. Hedge, stepping towards the Gate, saying, If we may not Enter, wherefore came we here; and immediately endeavoured to Enter; but was opposed by a sturdy Indian which did impede his Entrance; but the Indian being slain by himself and Sergeant Davis, Mr. Hedge Entred the Fort with some others; but the Fort being on Fire, the Smoak and Flames were so violent that they were constrained to desert the Fort.
Capt. Underhill also wrote a full account of the battle, which differs but little from that of Capt. Mason. He says that they found the South entrance stopped up with "arms of trees." It seems that the Indians had made a rude "abattis" with the tops of trees turned outward, the trunks buried with rocks and earth. This made a very effectual barrier to an attack from without, when defended from within. Capt. Underhill advanced to these and tried to pull them away, and then commanded his men to lay hold of them, which they did, and removed them and entered the fort, without his command. Among those first entering was "one Master Hedge," who was attacked by a powerful savage, and was shot through both arms. Capt. Mason speaks of this young man as having performed a very brave act, and a contemporary writer, in London, gives account of the battle, in which he rather slurs Capt. Underhill, and makes this Hedge the leader of the attack at the South entrance.
Capt. Underhill resented this story bitterly, and denied that he asked the question "Shall we enter?" as this last writer reported. He says that with his soldiers he entered the fort, and with Capt. Mason entered the wigwam, and received a wound from an arrow, in his left hip, though having on "a sufficient buff coat." He describes the fight as very desperate and brave on the part of the Indians. "Most courageously these Pequeats behaved themselves," he says. And he declares that their bows and arrows were by no means to be despised, as they used them there. "But seeing the fort was too hot for us," he says, "we devised a way by which we might save ourselves, and prejudice them." Capt. Mason set fire to the wigwams with a firebrand, and he "with a train of powder," the two columns of fire meeting in the centre of the fort. The fire was so hot that it burnt the bowstrings of the Indians and left them defenceless. If any escaped the English, they fell into the hands of the Mohegans or Narragansets, to be cut down without mercy. He says, "Many courageous fellows fought most desperately through the palisadoes, while scorched and burnt by the flames; mercy did they deserve for their valor, could we have had opportunity to bestow it." "It may be demanded, Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But I would refer you to David's war. Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings."
The number of the Pequods slain in this terrible fight has been variously estimated. Capt. Mason thought six or seven hundred. The Mohegans reported that there were four hundred killed. Only seven escaped and seven taken captive. The whole dreadful deed was completed in one hour from the beginning of the attack.
Only two of the English were killed and about twenty wounded. But after the fight, though victorious, the English found themselves in trying conditions; they were severely oppressed with the heat, and thirsty, with no supply of water and with scant supply of food. They were told that Sassacus, with a large force of Pequods, was hastening from the other fort, and the Narragansets were in great trepidation to be gone. They were uncertain about what time their vessels would appear, or where. Just as the Pequods began to appear, and, maddened by the awful calamity which had befallen their people, to attack them with fury, they saw their vessels coming toward them with a fair wind. The rear-guard, under Capt. Underhill, met the enemy's attack so warmly, that they became more wary, and, manoeuvring to outflank the English, came upon the Mohegans and Narragansets, driving them to the shelter of the English muskets. They kept up a fierce fight until within two miles of the vessels in Pequod River, then withdrew.
Arriving at the shore, Capt. Mason and his little army, well-nigh spent with their marching and fighting, were refreshed with supplies from their vessels. Here they found Capt. Patrick, with his company of forty men, who had joined our vessels with his own, a little before. He was evidently offended that he was not waited for at Narraganset, and chagrined at the great success of Capt. Mason. From Pequod Harbor the Narragansets were sent home by sea, while Capt. Mason, with the few able-bodied men of his company, marched overland to Saybrook Fort, with Capt. Patrick and his company along. Capt. Underhill and his men, and the wounded, went by water. At the fort all were entertained by Lieut. Gardener. Thence they returned to their homes on the Connecticut, where they were received with great rejoicing. Capt. Underhill, with his company of twenty men, whose term at Saybrook had expired, sailed homeward to Massachusetts, and on the voyage met the company of one hundred men, under Capt. Israel Stoughton, sailing out to fight the Pequods. Capt. Patrick awaited this force at Saybrook.
The Indian fort which was destroyed was at a place called "Mistick," on a hill in the present town of Groton, Conn., known since as "Pequot Hill." The battle was fought on Friday, May 26, 1637.
It is said that the evening before the battle, a hundred and fifty warriors from the other fort had come to this, in order to start in force upon the war-path the next day; either to follow the English troops toward Narraganset, or to fall upon their settlements on the Connecticut River. By this chance these had been included in the general massacre. Capt. Mason relates that after leaving their pursuit of the English near Pequod Harbor, the Pequods returned in a body to the fort in which Sassacus remained, where many of them began to upbraid him as the cause of all their troubles, and demanded the destruction of himself and his family. Wiser counsels prevailed, however, and they resolved to leave their country, now encompassed by merciless, and, they conceived, resistless, enemies. Burning their villages and everything that could not be taken along with them, they retreated with their main body to the Westward across the Connecticut River, where they killed three Englishmen, after a stubborn fight, and hung their bodies upon trees on the shore.
The main body under the Sachem, Sassacus, moved slowly along the shore of the Sound, depending largely upon shell-fish for food. Another division of the tribe, probably following the other Sachem, Mononotto, pushed farther into the country. Mohegan and Narraganset scouts, at a safe distance, kept track of them.
About one month after the battle, Capt. Stoughton, with several vessels and one hundred and twenty men from Massachusetts Colony, arrived at Pequod Harbor. Here they were joined by Capt. Patrick's company. While here, the Mohegans told them of a large party of fugitives gathered at a place some twelve miles up the river. The English marched up in force, surrounded these, and captured them without an attempt at resistance. The number taken was about one hundred and four. Twenty-four of these were men; and twenty-two of these were taken on board the vessel of the skipper, John Gallop, and "executed" just outside the harbor. Two were spared on condition of guiding the English to the hiding-place of Sassacus. Proving unable or unwilling to perform this service, they too, it is said, were put to death. Of the eighty women and children, thirty-three were allotted to their Indian allies, and the rest were sent home to Boston, to be sold as slaves. In a written report of his progress, made to Gov. Winthrop, Capt. Stoughton says:
By this Pinnace you shall receive forty-eight or fifty women and children, unless there stay any here to be helpful, etc., concerning which there is one, that is the fairest and largest that I saw amongst them, to whom I have given a coat to cloathe her. It is my desire to have her for a servant, if it may stand with your good liking, otherwise not. There is a little squaw that steward Culacut desireth, to whom he hath given a coate. Lieut. Davenport desireth one, to wit, a small one. He desireth her if it will stand with your good liking. Sosomon, the Indian, desireth, a young little squaw, which I know not.
In closing his report Capt. Stoughton says: At the present Mr. Haynes, Mr. Ludlow, Capt. Mason, and thirty men are with us in Pequot River; and we shall next week join in seeing what we can do against Sassacus, and another great sagamore, Monowattuck. Here is yet good work to be done and how dear it will cost is unknown. Sassacus is resolved to sell his life, and so the other with his company as dear as they can.
HTML by Debbie
Special thanks to Fred for his wonderful graphics.
You are the 4003rd Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since April, 2001.
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]