KING PHILIP'S WAR
Introductory Chapter, Part V
Major Edward Gibbons, of Charlestown, was appointed Commander-in-chief, John Leverett, Captain of the Massachusetts company; Francis Loyal, Surgeon, and a levy of men was ordered and companies were organizing and drilling in Boston, when a delegation of Narraganset chiefs appeared before the Court to explain matters and assert their friendship for the English, but declaring their hostility to Uncas. Another partial treaty was concluded by the Indians agreeing to pay a large indemnity for the expenses of the preparation for war.
After the partial treaty of 1645, Pessacus withheld the Narragansets for several years, though Ninigret was constantly on the alert to find cause and opportunity to strike the hated Mohegans. Uncas, on his part, was constant in his complaints and rumors of his enemy's evil designs. The smaller Colonies, Connecticut and New Haven, were urgent in demanding the action of the United Commissioners against the Niantics, and this, of course, involved the other Narragansets. The payment of wampum to settle the expense of the preparations of the Colonies against the Niantics in 1645, to which Ninigret had agreed, was held over him as a constant demand, severe, if not actually dishonest. Some of the Pequods had escaped from servitude and taken refuge with him, as a kinsman. The Long Island Indians, too, made complaints of certain depredations against them; and at last, in 1653, the Commissioners decided to declare war, and evidently meant to crush the whole Narraganset people and reduce them to servitude as they had the Pequods formerly.
The Commissioners of Massachusetts were in the minority, and were overborne by those of the other three Colonies, who were strenuous for war. The General Court of Massachusetts supported their own Commissioners in their decision that there was not a sufficient cause, as yet, for war. As this Colony, on account of wealth and population, was to furnish two-thirds of all means and men, her decision for the time prevailed. Next year, however, September, 1654, the Massachusetts Commissioners so far retracted as to join in sending for Ninigret to attend them at Hartford and answer the complaints against him. He refused to attend and declared his war against the Long Island Indians to be just, as they had killed a Sachem's son and sixty of his men. He demanded that the English "let him alone."
It was, thereupon, voted to send a force of twenty troopers and forty foot soldiers to enforce the Commissioners' demands. It was also voted to levy two hundred and seventy foot and forty horsemen out of the several colonies to prosecute the war. Major Simon Willard, of Groton, was appointed to the chief command of this force. The Massachusetts troops mustered at Dedham October 9th and marched to Providence, and thence along the westerly shore of Narraganset Bay to the Niantic country. The officers of the Troopers were Capt. Wm. Davis, of Boston; Lieut. Peter Oliver and Cornet John Stedman, while Richard Waite was Commissary. The following officers were appointed over such companies as were "to go out if neede should require:" 1st. James Oliver, captain; Roger Clap, lieutenant; John Hull, ensign; and 2d, Sam'l Appleton, captain; Rich. Sprague, lieutenant; Benjamin Sweet, ensign. Sergt. John Barrell was commissary to the Foot Companies.
The New Haven and Connecticut contingent of forty men did not reach them until the 16th, when Ninigret had had ample time to retreat into his fastnesses, whence he could not be dislodged.
It seems by Major Willard's letter from "Paucatuck 19th of 8th Mo., 1654," that he was hampered by his lack of commission, as it was taken for granted that Ninigret would be found at his usual place; he lacked information as to the charges against the Sachem, the Connecticut men by Thomas Stanton being depended upon to furnish details, who was unable. The Major, however, acting with prudence and candor through friendly Pequods, succeeded in getting Ninigret to surrender all the Pequod subjects who would leave him, and to permit them to set up an independent tribal estate under the direction of the Commissioners.
Additional details of this affair, and the men engaged, will be given in the Appendix. Major Willard secured a fairly satisfactory covenant with Ninigret, and also an advantageous arrangement with the subject Pequods, and returned to Boston and disbanded his forces on October 24th, being upon the service sixteen days.
The Pequods were settled in separate communities, and rulers appointed of their own, under the Colonial authorities. Cushawashett, alias Harmon Garrett, was appointed over the villages at Paquatucke and Weguapeuge, and Robin, alias Casasinamon, at Nemeacke and Naweacke. Later these were settled, the first in Stonington, and the latter in what is now the town of Ledyard. In 1850 the Ledyard settlement still retained 989 acres of land, and twenty-eight persons of the greatly degenerated Pequod stock; in the Stonington, 240 acres and fifteen persons.
THE WAR WITH PHILIP OF MOUNT HOPE
The next Indian war of New England, which claims attention, is that of 1675-77, known as "King Philip's War;" so called from the name of the recognized leader of that war, whose Indian name was Metacom or Pometacom, or Metacomet, but whom the English called Philip. He was the second son of Massasoit, who at the settlement of the English at Plymouth and Boston seems to have been chief sachem of all the various tribes and fragments of tribes living between the Charles River and Narraganset Bay, and including that part of Rhode Island east of the Bay, and also the Cape Cod tribes. The rule of Massasoit was probably rather indefinite both as to limits of territory and extent of authority over the subordinate chiefs.
While Massasoit seems to have been the acknowledged head of the tribes within the limits above named, the league between the chiefs of the tribes was evidently very loose, and held mostly for convenience in defence, and perhaps for the settlement of difficulties between individual tribes. The territory of this Sachem was bounded upon the west by the Nipmucks and Narragansets. But a very great proportion of this had been sold by the Sachems before the opening of the war. Massasoit had several children, three of whom are known to us by name: Wamsutta and Metacom, who came to Plymouth about 1656, and at their own request received English names from the Governor, who "christened" them "Alexander" and "Philip." A sister of these was the wife of Tuspaquin, chief of the Namaskets; she was called by the English "Amie." Mention is made of another son and also a daughter, but I have not proper authority for their names. Alexander married a Sachem's daughter, or widow, of the Pocasset tribe, and after his death, soon following Massasoit's, 1661 or '62, she returned to her own people, and ruled there with influence and ability until the war; when her second husband, Petananuet, Petonowowett, or "Peter Nunnuit" (as he is sometimes called), took sides with the English, she, possibly reluctantly, joined the fortunes of Philip, who had married her sister Wootonekanuske, and had great influence with her.
Massasoit had always maintained a cordial and firm friendship with the English; and it would seem that Alexander also was somewhat of his father's nature and disposition. The moment, however, which saw Philip raised to the place of power, gave signal of a far different course of conduct on the part of the Wampanoag Sachem. The limits of his father's olden territory had been greatly reduced before he came to power. The English had purchased and otherwise absorbed a large proportion of their lands. Philip kept on selling and surrendering, till at last, as early as 1670-1, he began to feel the pressure of civilization upon their hunting and fishing grounds as well as cornfields. The Court at Plymouth itself had interfered and forbidden the transfer of certain parts of the Wampanoag territories, and thus doubtless saved the Indians in various tribes a home. Pokanoket, the hereditary home, was thus saved to Philip's people; and here he lived at the time of the opening of the war. This place was called by the English "Mount Hope," and it is now embraced in the town of Bristol, R.I.
It will not be necessary to discuss the causes leading up to the war. It is enough to say here, that the English had assumed the government of the country, and followed their course of settlement with small regard to the rights of the natives. In some of the plantations, the settlers purchased their lands of the Indians, as a matter of precaution; partly that they might have that show of title in case any other claim should be set up in opposition to theirs, and partly to conciliate the savages, whose hostility they feared, and whose friendship was profitable in the way of trade, in furs and other products of the hunt. The Indians were always at disadvantage with the English, in all the arts of civilized life. The English paid no heed to Indian laws or customs or traditions; and ruthlessly imposed their own laws, customs, and religious ideas, with no apparent thought of their intolerance and injustice. They made treaties with the savages in the same terms which they would have used had they been dealing with a civilized nation. They made out deeds, in language which only the learned framers themselves could understand. In brief, the Pilgrims and Puritans mostly looked upon the Indians as heathen, whose "inheritance" God meant to give to his people, as of old he had dealt with Israel and their heathen. There were some, however, who, with Rev. John Eliot, believed that the Indians had immortal souls, and that they were given to God's people to educate and save.
But there was nothing which the rulers of the Indians resented more persistently, nor complained of more frequently, than the attempts of the Christians to convert their people. Indirectly one of these converted Indians was the immediate cause of the opening of hostilities. There were many grievances of which the Indians complained; but they had not the foresight to see the inevitable result of the constantly increasing power of the English, in their acquisition of land, and multiplying of settlements. It was only when they felt the pressure of actual privation or persecution, that they began to think of opposition or revenge. Their chiefs had been summoned frequently before the English courts to answer for some breach of law by their subjects; several times the English had demanded that whole tribes should give up their arms because of the fault of one or a few. The Indians lived mostly by hunting and fishing, and at the time of the war used fire-arms almost wholly.
They had learned their use and bought the arms of the English, nearly always at exorbitant prices. They were expert in the use of their guns, and held them as the most precious of their possessions. The order to give these over to the English, with their stock of ammunition, was regarded by them as robbery, as indeed in most cases it was, as they seldom regained their arms when once given up. We can now see that from their standpoint there were grievances enough to drive them to rebellion. But our forefathers seem to have been unable to see any but their own side. But now to the story.
John Sassamon (Mr. Hubbard says Sausaman) was the son of a Wampanoag Indian who, with his wife and family, lived in Dorchester. They had been taught by Mr. Eliot, and professed the Christian faith. The son John was the pupil of Mr. Eliot from his early youth, and was made a teacher among the Christian Indians at Natick. Mr. Hubbard says that "upon some misdemeanor" there, he went to the Wampanoags, where he became the secretary and interpreter of the chief, to whom he was a most valuable assistant and trusted adviser. He was soon prevailed upon by Mr. Eliot to return to Natick, where he became a preacher, while still preserving friendly relations with Philip and his tribe.
In 1672-3 he was at Namasket as preacher among the Indians, whose chief was Tuspaquin, whose daughter Sassamon had married. While here he discovered that a plot was in process, extending among many tribes, to exterminate or drive away the English settlers from the country. This plot Sassamon disclosed to the authorities at Plymouth, and afterwards the story was told to the Massachusetts authorities; and Philip was summoned to answer to the charge. At the examination, where nothing positive could be proved against Philip, he found by the evidence that Sassamon had betrayed him, and he immediately condemned him to death in his council. The sentence was carried out January 29, 1674-5, while Sassamon was fishing through the ice upon Assawomset Pond. His executioners were brought to punishment, and it was discovered that the deed was done by Philip's order. The trial was in March, 1675, and the principal actor, Tobias, and his accomplice, Mattashunannamoo, were executed as murderers, June 8, 1675; while Tobias's son, who was present but took no part in the crime, was reprieved for one month and then shot.
After the execution of the two in June, Philip threw off all disguise as to his plan, and pushed his preparations as diligently as possible. The plan had been to complete preparations and include all the tribes in New England, so that a simultaneous assault could be made upon all the settlements at once. This plan was spoiled, and probably the settlements saved from destruction, by the impatience of the leader's of vengeance. While Philip's preparations went forward, the authorities thought best not to make any immediate military demonstration further than the placing of a guard by the various settlements to prevent a surprise.
They thought Philip would soon tire of holding his men in arms and training, so that they could get him in their power. But his company increased, and the younger warriors began to demand some open act of hostility. At last they began not only to insult the English settlers in the nearest settlements, by their words of insolence and threats, but to shoot their cattle and plunder their houses. The Indians increased greatly in numbers, rom the neighboring tribes, many "strange Indians" appearing among them, and most of their women and children being sent away to the Narraganset country. At Swansy they appeared in considerable numbers, and used all their ways of provocation to induce some act of resistance from the settlers; and at last, upon June 24th, one man was so enraged at the shooting of his cattle and the attempt to rifle his house, that he shot at an Indian, wounding him.
Upon this the Indians began open and indiscriminate hostility, and on that day eight or nine of the English at Swansy were killed and others wounded. Two men were sent for a surgeon, but were waylaid and slain, their bodies left upon the road. Messengers sent from the English authorities to treat with Philip and prevent an outbreak, came upon the bodies of the men slain in the highway, and speedily turned back. The Colonies awoke to the fact that an Indian war was upon them, but supposed that a few companies sent down to Swansy would at once overawe the savages and reduce them to submission. A speedy muster was made, both at Plymouth and Boston, and on the afternoon of June 26th, five companies were mustering or on the march from the two colonies. The details of the account of the war will be found in the body of the following chapters. Here only a brief outline of current events can be given. The first company of infantry from Boston was made up from the regular military companies of the town. A company of cavalry, or "troopers," was gathered from the regular organization in three counties. A third company, of "volunteers," was raised about the town and vicinity, from all sorts of adventurers, seafaring men and strangers, with a number of prisoners who had been convicted of piracy and condemned to death, but were now released to engage in fighting the Indians.
Capt. Daniel Henchman commanded the first company, Capt. Thomas Prentice the troopers, and Capt. Samuel Mosely the "volunteers." These three companies marched out of Boston on the 26th and 27th and arrived at Swansy on the 28th, having formed a junction with the Plymouth forces under Major James Cudworth and Capt. Fuller, these having been in the field several days already. The forces quartered about the house of Rev. John Miles, the minister at Swansy, whose place was nearest the bridge leading over the river into Philip's dominions. Some of the troopers that evening rode across the bridge and had a slight skirmish with the enemy. On the 29th, Major Thomas Savage arrived with another company of foot with Capt. Nicholas Paige's troop.
Major Savage took command of the Massachusetts forces; while, according to the custom in the United Colonies, the senior officer of the colony in which the forces were engaged at the time became commander-in-chief. The present seat of war being in Plymouth Colony, Major Cudworth was thus the commander of the whole army. On June 30th, the troopers, supported by Mosely's company, charged across the bridge for a mile into the woods, driving the enemy before them into swamps, with a loss of five or six, Ensign Perez Savage being severely wounded on the English side. This charge so frightened the Indians that they fled, in the night, out of their peninsula of Mount Hope, across the channel to Pocasset, now Tiverton, R.I., so that on the next day when the whole force marched over into Mount Hope, and marched back and forth sweeping the country with their lines, they found no enemy. The forces were engaged several days in scouting the neighboring country in search of the Indians, not yet knowing that the main body were in Pocasset.
HTML by Debbie
Special thanks to Fred for his wonderful graphics.
You are the 4445th Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since April, 2001.
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]