AFTER their somewhat disastrous campaign of the autumn of 1675 in the western parts of the colony of Massachusetts, the United Colonies, upon information that the hostile Indians with Philip were retiring towards the south and to winter quarters amongst the Narragansets, determined to carry the war against this powerful tribe, who for some time had shown themselves actively hostile. The veteran troops were recalled and reorganized; small towns in various parts of the colonies were garrisoned, and an army of one thousand men was equipped for a winter campaign. General Josiah Winslow, Governor of Plymouth Colony, was appointed commander-in-chief of this Army; Major Samuel Appleton to command the Massachusetts Regiment, Major William Bradford that of Plymouth, and Major Robert Treat that of Connecticut. War was formally declared against the Narragansets on November 2d, 1675, in the meeting of the Commissioners of the United Colonies held at Boston.
General Winslow, upon his appointment to the command of the army in this expedition, went to Boston for consultation with Gov. Leverett and the Council. Thence on Thursday, December the 9th, he rode to Dedham, having Benjamin Church as aid, and probably the gentlemen who constituted the Massachusetts part of his staff or "guard," consisting of the ministers, among whom was Mr. Joseph Dudley, and the surgeons, of whom the chief was Daniel Weld, of Salem. I presume other general officers and aids went along with him, of whom we find no mention. Commissary John Morse was probably of this number. The General assumed command of the Massachusetts forces drawn up on Dedham Plain, and formally delivered to him by Major General Denison of Massachusetts, on Thursday, December 9th. This force consisted of six companies of foot, numbering four hundred and sixty-five, besides Captain Prentice's troop of seventy-five.
The full quota of Massachusetts was five hundred and twenty-seven soldiers, but there were doubtless many others along as servants to the officers, scouts, and teamsters. To the soldiers a proclamation was made at this time, on the part of the Massachusetts Council, "that if they played the man, took the Fort, & Drove the Enemy out of the Narragansett Country, which was their great Seat, that they should have a gratuity in land besides their wages." On the same afternoon they marched twenty-seven miles to Woodcock's Garrison, now Attleboro'. In the evening of Friday, December 10th, they arrived at Seekonk, where vessels with supplies were in waiting. And here also Major Richard Smith was waiting their arrival with his vessel, and took on board Capt. Mosely and his company, to sail direct to his garrisonhouse at Wickford. Some others, it is likely, went with them to arrange for quartering the troops, and Benjamin Church was sent to make ready for the General's coming. The rest of the forces "ferried over the water to Providence," and probably formed a junction with the main part of the Plymouth regiment at Providence, on Saturday, December 11th. From Mr. Dudley's letter of the 15th, it will be seen that an account had been sent the Council of their movements to the time of arriving at Pautuxet.
This letter is now lost from the files. In the evening of Sunday, December 12th, the whole body advanced "from Mr. Carpenter's," crossed the Pautuxet River and marched a long way into "Pomham's Country," now Warwick, R.I.; but from the unskilfulness of their Warwick scouts (probably Englishmen, for if they had been Indians their failure would have been deemed treachery), their purpose of capturing Pomham and his people was defeated, and after a whole night spent in weary marching about, they arrived at Mr. Smith's garrisonhouse at Wickford on the 13th, and found their vessels from Seekonk already arrived. Capt. Mosely's company that day captured thirty-six Indians, including Indian Peter, who proved afterwards such an indispensable guide.
There were many doubtless at Smith's garrison, employed by him and gathered thither for security. Church speaks of finding "the Eldridges and some other brisk hands," and going out and taking eighteen Indians, and finding the General arrived on his return to the garrison next morning before sunrise. This would seem from his story to have been on the morning of the 12th; but the other accounts and his own reference to the General's arrival settle the day as the 13th and the time as before daybreak. This exploit of Mr. Church seems to have been unknown to Messrs. Dudley, Oliver and other contemporary writers.
On Monday, 13th, no movement was made, but on the 14th the General moved his whole force, except Capt. Oliver's company, which kept garrison, out through the country to the westward, and burned the town of the Sachem "Ahmus," of whom I can find no mention except this of Mr. Dudley's, and the "Quarters" of Quaiapen, Magnus, or Matantuck, as her Indian name was understood by the English, "Old Queen" or "Sunke Squaw," as she was called by them. She was the widow of Mriksah, or Makanno, son of Canonicus. Her dominions were in the present towns of South and North Kingston and Exeter, and near the line between the latter, upon a high rocky hill, is still to be found the remains of an old Indian fort, known from earliest times as the "Queen's Fort," and probably near the place where her deserted "Quarters" were raided. The army that day destroyed one hundred and fifty wigwams, killed seven and captured nine Indians. In the mean time Capt. Oliver had sent out "five files," i.e. thirty of his men, under Sergeant (Peter) Bennet, who, scouting abroad, killed two Indians, a man and woman, and captured four more.
Mr. Dudley, writing on the next day, Wednesday, December 15th, states that up to that time they had captured or killed, in all, fifty persons, and their prisoners in hand were forty. Capt. Oliver's account makes the number fifty-seven "young and old." Adding Mr. Church's eighteen, and we swell the number to seventy-five. From a careful survey of the matter in all its relations, I am inclined to think that Church was acting in conjunction with, and under the command of Capt. Mosely, to whom the official returns accredit the capture of the whole body, eighteen of whom Church claims to have been his own captives.
Wednesday, December 15th, the army seems to have been held in parley most of the day by the pretended negotiations of "Stone-wall," or "Stone-layer," John, an Indian who had lived much with the English, and had learned the trade of stone-mason, but was now hostile, and very serviceable to the Indians in many ways. Whether he was treacherous or not, the Indians were gathering and skulking about the English quarters while he was negotiating, and when he was safely away they began to pick off our men wherever they found opportunity, and later lay in ambush behind a stone wall and fired upon several companies of the English sent out to bring in Major Appleton's company, quartered some miles away. They were quickly repulsed with the loss of one of their leaders, and seem to have gone towards the general rendezvous at the great fort, and on the way they assaulted and burned the garrison of Jireh, or "Jerry" Bull at Pettisquamscot (Tower Hill, S. Kingston, R.I.), killing fifteen of those at the garrison, two only escaping.
Thursday, December 16th, Capt. Prentice with his troop rode out, probably following the trail to Pettisquamscot, where he found the garrison-house in ruins. This is said to have been a very strong stone house, easily defended by a small number, and its destruction, of which there is no detailed account, must have been accomplished by either surprise or treachery. The news had a very depressing effect upon the army, who had hoped that the Connecticut forces had already arrived there.
Friday, December 17th, came the news of the arrival of the Connecticut regiment at Pettisquamscot. Our army seems to have been disposing of the captives and preparing for the march. Forty-seven of the captives were sold to Capt. Davenport on this day, Saturday, Dec. 18th. The General, leaving a small garrison at Wickford, pushed his army forward to Pettisquamscot, and about 5 P.M. joined the Connecticut troops consisting of about three hundred English and one hundred and fifty Mohegan Indians. In a severe snow-storm, the whole force, about one thousand men, encamped in the open field through that bitter cold night. Sunday, Dec. 19th, before daybreak (Capt. Oliver says, "at five o'clock"), the whole force marched away towards the enemy's great rendezvous.
The following, gleaned from all available sources, may be of interest at this point:
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]