KING PHILIP'S WAR
Introductory Chapter, Part VI
Then orders came from Boston for Major Savage's forces to march into Narraganset, to enforce a treaty with that powerful tribe, and prevent their junction with Philip. They found the country apparently deserted, few except the very aged being left in any of the villages. Neither Canonchet nor any of his leading Sachems could be found. The officers, however, spent several days completing a very ceremonious treaty with some of the old men whom they were able to bring together. Canonchet afterwards treated the whole matter with scorn as being a farce.
In the meantime the Plymouth forces passed over to Pocasset and found a body of Indians, and had a skirmish with them. Capt. Fuller was in command, and Benjamin Church conducted a part of the force, which became engaged with a much larger force, and after hard fighting were drawn off with difficulty by the tact and courage of Mr. Church, after inflicting serious injury upon the enemy, and suffering little loss themselves. After this the Indians retired into the swamps about Pocasset, and were held at bay until the return of the Massachusetts forces; when all marched together for concerted action against their enemies.
On July 18th the combined forces arrived at the Pocasset swamp, and made a resolute attack upon the enemy concealed in the thick underbrush, from whence at the first volley they killed five and wounded seven of our men. After this volley the enemy retreated deeper into the swamp, where it was impossible, night coming on, to follow them. The commanders in council concluded that they had the enemy now enclosed securely within the swamp, whence it was impossible to escape, if a suitable guard were left to watch. Major Savage and the Massachusetts men returned to Boston, except Capt. Henchman's company of one hundred men, who, with the Plymouth forces, remained at Pocasset. Capt. Henchman began to build a fort there, which might serve as a stronghold for the English and might guard the entrance to the great swamp.
The English were deceived by the apparent easy conquest of both the Wampanoags and Narragansets, and believed they had overawed them and set their hostility at rest, and now might take their own time in crushing Philip and thus finishing the war.
Plymouth Colony had been engaged from the first in seeking to conciliate the tribes, in their bounds, which were related to Philip. Through the efforts of Mr. Benjamin Church, a resident of Seconet, who was acquainted on pleasant terms with nearly all the tribes in the colony, negotiations were held with Awashonks the squaw-sachem of the Seconet Indians, and Weetamoo the squaw-sachem or "queen" of the Pocasset tribe. Awashonks and most of her people passed over into the Narraganset country at the opening of active hostilities, and thus avoided joining Philip; but Weetamoo and her people were swept along with him in his retreat towards the Nipmuck country. Plymouth companies were abroad, too, scouting the country in the effort to protect their settlements, exposed, like Dartmouth, Middleboro', etc. They also established a garrison at Mount Hope after Philip retreated to Pocasset, to prevent his return. The entrance of Philip into the Pocasset swamps compelled the co"peration of the hesitating Weetamoo, and afforded him a safe hiding-place to recruit and prepare for his flight northward.
In the meantime the Massachusetts authorities had begun negotiations with the various Western tribes. Seven of the principal towns had been visited and treaties made with each. On July 16th Ephraim Curtis returned to Boston and reported the Quabaugs gathered at a great island in a swamp beyond Brookfield, and showing a defiant and hostile spirit. The Council immediately sent Capt. Edward Hutchinson, escorted by Capt. Thomas Wheeler and his mounted company, with Curtis as guide, to find the Indians and bring them to terms. The company, accompanied by some friendly Naticks, arrived at Brookfield on August 1st, and immediately sent Curtis with the guides to arrange for a meeting next day. The Quabaugs, whose leader was the famous Muttaump, agreed to come next day to a plain some three miles from Brookfield to meet the English.
The next morning, the company, with three of the chief men of Brookfield, rode out to the appointed place, but found no Indians. Urged by the Brookfield men, but against the earnest remonstrance of the Naticks, they rode forward towards the place where Curtis met them the day before. But coming to a narrow defile between a high rocky hill and an impenetrable swamp, and riding single file, they found themselves caught in a great ambuscade of the Indians, who let them pass along until they were able to surround them, and then rose altogether and fired into their column at close range. They killed eight men outright and wounded five, including Capts. Hutchinson and Wheeler, the former mortally. The English were forced to retreat, fighting, up the hill; and, under the skilful conduct of their Indian guides, were able to make a safe retreat to Brookfield, where they gathered the people and fortified a house just before the Indians came sweeping furiously down upon the village. Here they defended themselves against great numbers for several days, till Major Willard and Capt. Parker came with a company and reinforced the garrison, when the enemy retired.
At Pocasset, Capt. Henchman continued building his fort, and Philip was making ready for his flight. The English seem not to have contemplated the possibility of a general war, nor to have at all appreciated the gravity of the present situation in the colonies. Philip with all his fighting-men and the greater part of his own and Weetamoo's people, escaped across the river and passed through the open plain in Rehoboth, where they were discovered by some of the settlers. A scouting party from Taunton made the discovery that it was Philip's Indians who were thus escaping. The situation of affairs may be briefly stated. Capt. Henchman was guarding the swamp wherein Philip and his people were supposed to be securely trapped. Major Cudworth and Capt. Fuller were at Dartmouth with a company of one hundred and twelve men. Lieut. Nathaniel Thomas, of Marshfield, was at the Mount Hope garrison with twenty men. At Rehoboth a company of Mohegan Indians under Oneko, under convoy of Corporal Thomas Swift, arrived from Boston on the 30th on their way to Capt. Henchman at Pocasset. Upon the alarm, Rev. Mr. Newman, of Rehoboth, began to organize a company of volunteers for the pursuit of the Indians.
Lieut. Thomas, with a small detachment, happened to come to Rohoboth on the 30th, and hearing of the escape, hastened back to carry the news to Capt. Henchman, and urge his co"peration. Lieut. Thomas then, on the 31st, took eleven men of his Mount Hope garrison, and being joined by Lieut. James Brown, of Swansy, with twelve men, marched in the pursuit. The Rehoboth men, with some volunteers from Providence and Taunton, led by the Mohegans, had started earlier upon the trail of the enemy. Lieut. Thomas and his party overtook the others at sunset, and after a brief council-of-war, sent out their scouts, Indian and English, to discover the movements of the fugitives. Having found that they had encamped for the night, and apparently not suspecting pursuit, the English left their horses with a guard, and, with the Mohegans in the van, marched silently forward to a field, at a place called "Nipsachick" (said to be within the present town of Burrillville, R.I.). The night being very dark, they were forced to wait for light.
At dawn they made their attack upon what proved to be Weetamoo's camp. The Indians were taken by surprise and fled, leaving everything behind them. But the Mohegans and English rushing forward found themselves confronted with Philip's fighting-men entrenched behind trees and rocks ready for battle. Adopting the tactics of the enemy, the English and their allies engaged them fiercely until 9 o'clock, when still fighting desperately, but with powder nearly spent, the hostiles sullenly retired, leaving many of their dead upon the field. Some twenty-three of the enemy were killed, it is said, including a prominent chief, Woonashum, called by the English, Nimrod. Of the English, two were killed and one wounded.
Near the close of the fight, Rev. Mr. Newman and a party came up, bringing supplies. Capt. Henchman arrived after the fight, having sailed to Providence and marched up thence, with sixtyeight soldiers and sixteen friendly Indians. He immediately took command, but concluded not to push the pursuit until next day. The Rehoboth and Providence men returned home, to bring up supplies for the further pursuit. They hastened back next day with all speed, but found to their great disappointment that Capt. Henchman had not moved until that same day, giving the enemy a full day's start; and Lieut. Thomas and his party overtook him on the evening of August 3d, at a place called by them in the report, "Wapososhequash." The enemy were beyond pursuit, a part (Weetamoo's people, except the fighting-men) having turned off into the Narraganset country, while Philip and the rest passed into the great forests beyond Quabaug. The Mohegans went to their own country on August 4th, accompanied by Lieut. Brown and a small party, to Norwich, to secure provisions and news of the enemy.
After awaiting the return of this party three days, Capt. Henchman, on August 7th, marched back to Mendon, meeting Capt. Mosely with a company of dragoons coming up from Providence with supplies. Next day Capt. Henchman went up to Boston, and the Rehoboth men returned home. Capt. Mosely was left in command at Mendon. Capt. Henchman was relieved of command in the field and was sent to bring off his men remaining at Pocasset. Mendon had been attacked July 14th, by a party of Nipmucks, led by Matoonas, and six or more of the settlers were killed while at work in their fields.
When the Indians returned from their siege of Brookfield, they met Philip and his people in the woods and told him of their exploit. He was greatly pleased, and gave some of the chiefs presents of wampum, and promised them fresh supplies of ammunition and arms. The Brookfield affair had the effect of bringing in the faltering tribes, and Philip's coming confirmed the plan to clear the Connecticut Valley of English settlers. Massachusetts Colony raised several companies to protect the frontiers. Capt. Mosely with his own and Capt. Henchman's men marched from Mendon, and Capts. Thomas Lathrop of Essex County with a fine company, and Richard Beers of Watertown with another, marched to Brookfield, where their forces were joined by Capt. Watts of Connecticut with two companies of English and Indians. Major Willard took command of this force, and broke it into several parties in order to better protect the several settlements. These companies were engaged in scouting the frontiers and guarding supplies sent up to the various garrisons. The Springfield Indians, hitherto pretending friendship, fled and joined the hostiles on the night of August 24; and the English, pursuing, had a sharp fight with them at a swamp near Mt. Wequomps, losing nine of their own men.
The English troops were concentrated at Hadley under the general command of Major Pynchon. On September 1st the Indians attacked Deerfield, burning most of the houses and killing one of the garrison soldiers, and withdrew. On the 2d they fell upon Northfield, where many of the people were abroad at work in the fields, and the women and children at the houses in the town. The assault was from all quarters at once, and many were killed in the fields and as they escaped from their houses to the garrison. The Indians burned most of their houses and drove away their cattle. On the 3d, Capt. Beers, with thirty mounted men and an ox-team, was sent to bring off the garrison of Northfield, not knowing of this attack. This force on the next day was ambushed at Saw-Mill Brook, near Northfield, and Capt. Beers and some twenty of his men were killed. Next day Major Treat with a hundred men marched up to Northfield, finding and burying the dead of Capt. Beers' company, and then bringing off the garrison. It was now decided to strengthen the garrisons and act upon the defensive.
Upon September 18th Capt. Lathrop with his company was sent to convoy teams bringing loads of grain from Deerfield to Hadley. A strong ambuscade was made at a place known since as "Bloody Brook," and there the Indians encompassed and massacred nearly the whole company, some eighty, including the teamsters. Only eight or ten escaped. The number killed was between sixty and seventy. Capt. Mosely came hastily from Deerfield upon hearing the shots, and engaged the great company of several hundreds of Indians, charging in amongst them with intrepid fury which drove them headlong before him into the woods and swamps; but, finding them gathering in immense numbers and seeking to surround him, he threw out his lines to prevent being flanked, and began a cautious retreat; when Major Treat coming upon the field, the Indians, seeing the reinforcements, fled.
These terrible reverses threw a gloomy, superstitious fear over h the Colonies. The English troops, hitherto despising the Indians in war, now seemed elpless before them. On September 26th the Indians assaulted Springfield, west of the river, burning the houses and barns. On October 5th the enemy made some demonstrations at Hadley; the soldiers were drawn from Springfield to strengthen the garrison; the Indians fell upon the latter village and destroyed it, before the companies could return to save it. After this blow, Major Pynchon begged the Court to appoint a commander of the forces on the river in his place, and Major Samuel Appleton was appointed, and by advice of the Council garrisoned the various towns not abandoned, and then withdrew the other troops to Boston. The Connecticut troops helped to garrison Northampton and Westfield, and the Indians withdrew to their winter camps. Philip had long since gone into winter quarters above Albany.
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