KING PHILIP'S WAR
Chapter 12, Part I
CAPT. JAMES OLIVER AND HIS MEN
JAMES OLIVER was the son of Thomas and Ann, who came from England in the ship "William and Francis" (by another account the Lion) 9 March, 1632, with their family of six sons and two daughters. Bristol, Somersetshire, is said to have been the old home of the family. They settled in Boston, where the father became ruling elder and of wide influence in the affairs of the new town. He died June 1, 1658, aged ninety years, according to John Hull's Diary, leaving sons who held places of honor and trust in the colony, and whose posterity, in successive generations to the present, have held the name honorably.
James was admitted freeman 12 October, 1640. Was of the Artillery Company, and chosen Ensign 1651, Lieutenant 1653, Captain 1656 and again 1666. Was chosen selectman of the town in 1653 and served several years; was also an inspector of the port and a merchant of eminence. He was of the First Military Company of Boston, and was elected Captain probably in 1673. He was appointed to command a Boston company in the Narraganset campaign. His appointment was dated November 17, 1675, and men to fill this company were impressed from the several town companies, including his own, as is seen by the second list below. Taking command of his company, he joined the army at Dedham Plain and took part in the subsequent movements of the campaign, being one of the few fortunate officers who passed through the great Swamp Fight unscathed, and remained in command of his company until the return and dismissal at Boston February 5th, 1675-6.
While the army was at Narraganset, at the Garrison House of Mr. Richard Smith (their rendezvous after the great fight, now embraced in the town of Wickford, R.I.), Capt. Oliver wrote the following account1 of the campaign, the original of which (1 The letter, as here given, is taken from the foot-notes of Gov. Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, vol. i. p. 300, of first and second editions, and 272 of the third edition. Mr. Hutchinson said there was no signature, and attributes it to Major Bradford, but a simple comparison with Hubbard's account shows the author to have been Capt. Oliver, and this conclusion is rendered certain by Mr. Drake ("Book of the Indians," p. 219, foot-note), who had seen the original, signed James Oliver, and found this, which appears in Mr. Hutchinson's notes "correct in the main particulars," when compared with the original. He thought Mr. Hutchinson used a copy without signature, as must have been the case; and I would suggest that copy was made by Mr. Hubbard for his own use in compiling his history, and was found among his papers which Mr. Hutchinson used extensively in his work. It is to be regretted that Mr. Drake did not speak more definitely about the original, or better still, publish it in some one of his many works. Mr. Drake refers to it as "Capt. Oliver's Narrative." Is the original now in existence?) I have failed to find trace of, after diligent search and inquiry.
The letter, as published by Gov. Hutchinson, is as follows:
Narraganset 26th 11th month 1675
That evening, he not being gone a quarter of an hour, his company that lay hid behind a hill killed two Salem men within a mile of our quarters, and wounded a third that he is dead. And at a house three miles off where I had 10 men, they killed 2 of them. Instantly, Capt Mosely, myself and Capt Gardner were sent to fetch in Major Appleton's company that kept 3 miles and an half off, and coming, they lay behind a stone wall and fired on us in sight of the garrison. We killed the captain that killed one of the Salem men, and had his cap on. That night they burned Jerry Bull's house, and killed 17. Dec. 16th came that news. Dec. 17th came news that Connecticut forces were at Petaquamscot, and had killed 4 Indians and took 6 prisoners. That day we sold Capt. Davenport 47 Indians, young and old for 80l. in money. Dec. 18th we marched to Petaquamscot with all our forces, only a garrison left; that night was very stormy; we lay, one thousand, in the open field that long night. In the morning, Dec. 19th, Lord's day, at 5 o'clock we marched. Between 12 and 1 we came up with the enemy, and had a sore fight three hours.
We lost, that are now dead, about 68, and had 150 wounded, many of which are recovered. That long snowy cold night we had about 18 miles to our quarters, with about 210 dead and wounded. We left 8 dead in the fort. We had but 12 dead when we came from the swamp, besides the 8 we left. Many died by the way, and as soon as they were brought in, so that Dec. 20th we buried in a grave 34, next day 4, next day 2, and none since here. Eight died at Rhode Island, 1 at Petaquamscot, 2 lost in the woods and killed, Dec. 20, as we heard since; some say two more died. By the best intelligence, we killed 300 fighting men; prisoners we took, say 350, and above 300 women and children. We burnt above 500 houses, left but 9, burnt all their corn, that was in baskets, great store. One signal mercy that night, not to be forgotten, viz. that when we drew off, with so many dead and wounded, they did not pursue us, which the young men would have done, but the sachems would not consent; they had but 10 pounds of powder left.
Our General, with about 40, lost our way, and wandered till 7 o'clock in the morning, before we came to our quarters. We thought we were within 2 miles of the enemy again, but God kept us; to him be the glory. We have killed now and then 1 since, and burnt 200 wigwams more; we killed 9 last Tuesday. We fetch in their corn daily and that undoes them. This is, as nearly as I can, a true relation. I read the narrative to my officers in my tent, who all assent to the truth of it. Monhegins and Pequods proved very false, fired into the air, and sent word before they came they would so, but got much plunder, guns and kettles. A great part of what is written was attested by Joshua Teffe, who married an Indian woman, a Wampanoag. He shot 20 times at us in the swamp, was taken at Providence Jan'y 14, brought to us the 16th, executed the 18th. A sad wretch, he never heard a sermon but once these 14 years. His father, going to recall him lost his head and lies unburied.
This letter shows something of the well-known sympathy of Capt. Oliver with the popular party which at that time so bitterly opposed all concessions towards the Indians, and denounced even their most trusted magistrates and ministers, like Major Gookin and Rev. John Eliot, who sought to protect the friendly or "Christian" Indians from persecution. On one occasion many of these had been seized and imprisoned (by Capt. Mosely, as has been related) at Boston, awaiting trial. On Sept. 10th, at 9 o'clock at night, a mob collected, and presuming upon Capt. Oliver's sympathy, went to his house and proposed that he should lead them and take one of the Indians out of the prison and hang him; but the Captain, boiling with rage at this insult to himself, "cudgelled them stoutly" with his cane from his house. Capt. Oliver married, between 1641 and 1655, Mary, widow of John Frend and daughter of Thomas Dexter, who died before he did, and left no issue to him; at his death in 1682, two of his nephews, John and Nathaniel Oliver, administered upon his estate, and his nephew, Daniel Oliver, Esq., inherited his Narraganset claim.
In a petition to the Court, May 19, 1680, he states that he has served town and country many years, at home and abroad, and hath spent therein the prime of his strength and estate, and later much of what was left to him was consumed by fire, and now being aged and infirm in body, prays to be dismissed from further service as captain of the town company, and also that the Court, in view of his decay, grant to him "the Island whereon the Indian Wianenset lately dwelt lying neer Dunstable," etc.
In answer to this the Deputies passed a vote: "Considering the petitioner's present Incapacity of getting a livelyhud by Reson of his Lameness," etc., and "y he dweling with his kinsman Nathaniel Barns, Doe for the Relife of ye petitioner, give and grant unto sd Barns, his heires and Assignes forever, a small Island of upland Containing about twenty acres (more or less) wch lyeth in Merimak River near to Mr Jonathan Tings farme, wch Island hath been Commonly Caled & knowne by y name of Tinker's Island," etc. Mass Archives, vol. 45, p. 174. See also vol. 70, p. 47.The magistrates did not concur in the grant while consenting to the dismissal, but appointed a committee, Capt. Samuel Adams of Chelmsford and Lieut. William Johnson of Woburn, to see if the Island was included in any former grant. I have not found their report, but Barnes' was granted, "Oct. 1681 two hundred acres of land where it is to be found not prejudiciall to any new plantation." See Colonial Records, vol. v, pp. 278-9 and 331.
The following are in Hull's Journal:
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