KING PHILIP'S WAR
Introductory Chapter, Part VII
But now the Colonies determined to strike the Narragansets in their own country before they should be able to join the hostiles. A great muster was made in three colonies, and an army of one thousand men was raised and equipped, half of which was sent from Massachusetts. The Narragansets were entrenched in a very strong position in a great swamp in what is now South Kingston, R.I. It was claimed that great numbers of Wampanoags and other hostiles were among them finding refuge, and they were defiant and threatening.
The English forces under command of Gen. Winslow, of Plymouth, gathered at Wickford, and on December 19th, 1675, marched some twenty miles through intense cold and a heavy snow-storm, to the swamp; the waters had been frozen by the severe cold, and this fact made it possible for the English to reach the rude fortifications. Without waiting for any organized attack, the Massachusetts troops, being at the front in the march, rushed forward across the ice in an impetuous charge, and into the entrance, where the Indians had constructed rude flankers, and placed a strong block-house in front, so that the first to enter were met with a terrible enfilading fire from front and flanks, and were forced back for a time; but others coming on pressed into the breach, and, though suffering severe losses, at last stormed all the fortifications, drove the enemy from every line of entrenchments within the fort, and out into the woods and swamps beyond. They set fire to the wigwams and store-houses of the savages, in which were burned many of the aged, women, and children. Then taking their wounded, the English took up their march back through the deep snow to Wickford, where they arrived the next morning.
The details of this fight, as well as the subsequent movements of this campaign, are given at length in the chapters of which this chapter is the compendium, and are briefly passed here. The Narragansets kept well out of the way of the English army, and made many pretences of negotiating peace; but at last, about January 26th, having made several raids into the settlements, and captured numbers of cattle and horses, Canonchet with his strong rear-guard took up his line of retreat for the north, and two days afterwards the army, some twelve hundred strong, marched in pursuit. The Mohegans and Pequots, among the Connecticut forces, led the pursuit, and had several sharp skirmishes with the enemy, always retreating northward. This running fight was kept up for several days, until provisions having failed and no base of supplies possible, the General abandoned the pursuit and marched his troops to Marlborough and thence to Boston. The men suffered severely in this march, from hunger, and it was known for several generations as the "hungry march."
The Connecticut forces separated from the others on February 3d, and the main body of the army arrived in Boston on the 8th and were dismissed. A company under Capt. Wadsworth was left at Marlborough to guard the frontiers and neighboring towns. Canonchet and his great and warlike Narraganset tribe, maddened by what they believed their wrongs, and thirsting for vengeance, were now joined with Philip and the other hostile tribes, and all within an easy day's call, except Philip and his band, who still remained in their retreat beyond Albany. The time was critical for the settlements; prompt action was necessary on the part of the Indian leaders, to keep their young men in courage and training. Upon February 10th the Indians in great force fell upon Lancaster, and nearly destroyed the town. They killed or took captive fifty of the people. Among the captives was Mrs. Rowlandson, wife of the minister. One garrison-house was saved by the arrival of Capt. Wadsworth and his company from Marlborough.
On February 21st a strong body of the enemy surprised Medfield, although a large force of soldiers was then in the town. There were no guards set, nor other precautions taken. The soldiers were scattered about in the houses, and the Indians placed ambuscades in front of each house, and shot them down as they rushed out upon the alarm. The enemy were frightened away by the firing of a cannon, and crossed the river, burning the bridge behind them. Another army was now raised and sent to the Connecticut River towns, to protect them, and try to bring the enemy to battle. There were said to be two great fortified camps: one near the "Wachusett Hill," and the other at Menameset, beyond Brookfield. The army was under command of Major Thomas Savage, and consisted of three foot companies and a troop of horse from Massachusetts. Connecticut sent several companies of English and friendly Indians. A number of Christian Indians from the Naticks went with Major Savage. The army marched to Menameset, March 2d-4th, to find the enemy gone. They pursued them to Miller's River, across which they escaped. It was thought that this great body of the enemy would now fall upon the western towns, so that the army marched thither, abandoning the design upon "Wachusett Hill" encampment. Major Savage disposed his forces to guard the towns.
On March 14th an attack was made upon Northampton, but was repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. On the 24th they appeared at Hatfield, but finding it well garrisoned made no attack, though driving off some horses and cattle. The Indians began to prepare for planting fields along the river; and Canonchet with a body of his men went back to their country to bring up seed-corn, of which large quantities were there stored. It is probable that a large company went towards Plymouth Colony, a small party of whom destroyed the house and family of Mr. Clarke at Plymouth village. March 17th they burned Warwick. Plymouth Colony sent out a company of fifty men under Capt. Michael Peirse, of Marshfield, to protect its frontiers. A party of twenty friendly Indians under "Capt. Amos" was joined with Capt. Peirse. This company marched to Seekonk, and there had a sharp skirmish with the Indians on the evening of March 25th. Next day, supposing they had beaten the Indians, they pursued them and were drawn into an ambush and surrounded, near Patuxit River, with great numbers, so that they were obliged to fight to the death. The whole company, including the officers, were killed, together with eight out of the twenty Indians. The enemy, too, lost very heavily. March 28th and 29th the Indians burned seventy houses and thirty barns at Providence.
In the meantime, in Massachusetts the enemy were not idle. Lurking parties hovered about Groton, plundering the vacated houses, and driving away any stray cattle within safe reach. On March 13th they fell upon the town in force. The people were gathered in five garrison-houses. One of the garrison-houses was captured, but the people mostly escaped to another. The other garrison-houses were stoutly defended. The Indians burned the unfortified houses and withdrew. On March 26th, the fatal day of Capt. Peirse's destruction, they burned sixteen houses and thirteen barns at Marlborough. Capt. Brocklebank, then in command at Marlborough, sent out a party in pursuit, who overtook and surprised the enemy at night sleeping about their fires, fired into their midst and put them to flight. On the same day, at Longmeadow, a party going to Springfield to church was ambushed by a small company of Indians, and several were captured and killed.
Finding the campaign to have failed in its main object, the Council ordered Major Savage to withdraw his troops, leaving Capt. Wm. Turner, with a hundred and fifty men, to garrison the towns. April 7th the army marched homeward.
But now the Connecticut authorities, fearing a return of the Narragansets to their vicinity, in numbers such as overwhelmed Capt. Peirse, mustered a mixed company of English and Indians, and sent them into the Narraganset country under command of Capts. Denison and Avery. These, guided by a captive whom they had taken, surprised and captured Canonchet not far from the Patuxit river, where he was encamped with a few of his men, while the great body were scattered, scouting and foraging. He was soon after executed by Oneko, by the judgment of the English authorities. The death of Canonchet was really the death-blow of the war, for he was the real leader of all active operations at this time. Philip was still the chief instigator, however, and now more than before, became, for the time, the controlling mind of a larger number than ever before.
There were dissensions, however, and many of the chiefs began to murmur and some to threaten against him as the cause of all their troubles. Some of the river tribes began to show signs of weakening, and proposed negotiations with the English. Philip withdrew to the stronghold near Wachuset with such as adhered to him, and with Quinnapin, and such of the Narragansets as followed him. The Indians were still active, and watched every chance to strike a blow. They came to Marlborough on April 18th and burned the abandoned houses of the settlers. Capt. Brocklebank commanded the garrison there and refused to be drawn out into the ambuscades, which, before the burning, the Indians had set. On April 20th they crept down and encompassed the town of Sudbury. On that day Capt. Wadsworth marched up from Boston with a company of fifty men, passed through Sudbury, and doubtless the lines of the enemy, without any knowledge of their vicinity. He forced his march to the garrison at Marlborough, where they arrived about midnight on the 20th, and without delay, leaving their recruits, took those relieved to come home, including Capt. Brocklebank, and came back towards Sudbury.
The great numbers of Indians had encompassed the town, and in the morning of the 21st began to burn outlying houses, to draw out the inhabitants from the garrison. They soon made a furious and persistent attack on Haines' garrison from morning till mid-day, but were beaten off, until rumors of reinforcements from various quarters caused them to withdraw to meet these. Edward Cowell and eighteen troopers coming to the relief of Sudbury were attacked, but escaped with only four killed; they turned back, suspecting the ambush laid for them. Capt. Wadsworth soon after arrived by another road, and meeting with an outpost of the enemy, rushed forward to engage them, and, as usual, they soon found themselves surrounded by great numbers, and were forced to a position on a hill, where most of the company fell fighting, including Capts. Wadsworth, Brocklebank, and Lieut. Sharpe. Some sixteen of the company managed to escape to a mill, and there defended themselves until relieved. A company from Watertown arrived soon after Captain Wadsworth, and crossing the river, made a brave attempt to get to the hill to join him in his desperate fight, but were nearly surrounded themselves and forced to retire.
Capt. Hunting with a company of Christian Indians and a squad of troopers arrived from Charlestown late in the afternoon, in time to rescue the men at the mill. After this fight, in which they struck such a terrible blow, and so close to Boston, too, they seem to have retired to their several camps, and soon to have gathered to their great fishing-places in order to take the run of fish. Capt. Turner was still in command of the garrisons at the west. From captives who had escaped, and scouts here and there, came rumors of a great company of Indians fishing at the "Upper Falls" of the Connecticut. Capt. Turner and his officers were anxious to strike a blow against the enemy, and Connecticut authorities were applied to, and promised speedy reinforcements.
On May 12th the Indians made a raid into Deerfield meadows and stampeded some seventy head of cattle belonging to the English. Roused by this fresh outrage, the people urged retaliation, and Capt. Turner and his officers determined to attack the Indians at their great fishing-place at once. On May 18th the whole company of soldiers and volunteers, about one hundred and fifty, mustered at Hatfield, and marched out at evening towards the "Falls." They eluded the outposts of the enemy, and at daylight arrived undiscovered at the camp of the Indians at the fishing-place. The savages were asleep in their wigwams, and the English rushed down upon them and shot them by scores, pointing their muskets in through the wigwam doors. No resistance was possible, and those who escaped the first fire fled in terror to the river, pursued by the soldiers, and were cut down or driven into the water without mercy; many were drowned attempting to cross the river.
But it was soon found that there were several other great bodies of the Indians, above and below the Falls on both sides of the river, and these began to swarm towards the fight. Capt.Turner now prudently began a retreat, having struck his blow. As the soldiers retired the enemy gathered in great numbers upon rear and flanks, seeking to force the English into narrow defiles Capt. Holyoke commanded the rear-guard, and checked the enemy by stout fighting, but for which, it is likely, the whole command would have been lost. Capt. Turner led the advance, and while crossing Green River was shot down by Indians lying in wait. Capt. Holyoke then led the company back to Hatfield, fighting nearly the whole way. There the killed and missing numbered forty-five. A few came in afterwards, reducing the number of the lost to about forty. It is estimated that some two hundred Indians must have been destroyed.
The blow struck by Capt. Turner greatly intimidated the enemy, though the retreat was so disastrous to the English. The tribes became divided and demoralized. They seem to have broken up into small wandering parties. Philip, with large numbers of his adherents, went down towards Plymouth. Massachusetts sent troops to the western frontiers again, and also to aid Plymouth. The operations in the field were mostly the pursuit of non-combatants, the aged, and women and children. Large numbers of the Wampanoags and Narragansets had now returned with Philip to their own country. Small parties from time to time plundered and killed as opportunity offered. The colonists were roused to new activity at the evident weakening of the Indians.
Aid was sent to Plymouth, under Capts. Brattle and Mosely; and Capt. Henchman did good service in the parts about Brookfield. Major Talcott, with a mixed force of English and Indians, about five hundred in all, came up the river and marched into Hadley about the 11th of June, and was quartered there on the 12th, when the Western Indians, some seven hundred strong, made their last great assault in force in these parts. The town was quite strongly garrisoned besides this reinforcement, of which probably the enemy knew nothing. The attack was altogether unexpected and was furious and determined, but the repulse was decided and sanguinary. Major Talcott then led his force down into the Narraganset country, where, about the 2d of July, he encountered a great body of Indians, and driving them into the woods and swamps slew great numbers, and took many captives. The plight of the savages was pitiful; without ammunition, without leadership, without country or hope of any sort, they found no mercy now at the hands of their olden foes, the Mohegans and Pequods, nor yet the English.
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