SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

Chapter 14, Part I 

XIV

CLOSE OF THE NARRAGANSET CAMPAIGN; THE

"HUNGRY MARCH"

AFTER the battle at the Narraganset Fort, several weeks of partial inactivity ensued, while both the English and the Indians were seeking to recover somewhat from the severe blow each had received. The forces of Massachusetts and Plymouth remained at Smith's garrison at Narraganset, while Major Treat with the Connecticut regiment returned to Stonington about December 28th. In the treasurer's account with Connecticut colony there is a charge "For billiting 40 wounded men 7 days," and as there is no other occasion on which so many were wounded, it is fair to assume that the Connecticut forces did not retire before the 28th.

On January 14th the Council of Connecticut issued orders to Mr. John Brackett of Wallingford, and Sergt. William Ward, "to go to New London, to care for the wounded there, while Mr. Buckley goeth forth with the army." So it would seem that many of their wounded had been carried as far as New London.

From various sources, the accounts of the most reliable historians of the time, from contemporary letters and notices, we are able to glean some few items indicating the situation of affairs at the seat of war.

The Indians were greatly demoralized and evidently very solicitous as to the immediate future action of our army, as they sent in a delegation to the General on Thursday, December 23d, four days after the fight, ostensibly to negotiate in regard to peace, but in reality, doubtless, to ascertain the strength and intentions of the English. Some of the Indians had returned to their fort upon the retreat of the troops, and it is likely were able to rescue a part of their provisions from the flames, but the main body was gathered into a swamp some three miles distant, while those who had joined the Narragansets from neighboring tribes returned home. Mr. Dudley wrote that Philip was seen by one of ours with a strong body guard during or after the battle. If so he must have made a rapid march between that and January 6th, upon which date Governor Andros, of the New York Colony, writes to the Connecticut Governor:

This is to acquaint you that late last night I had intelligence that Philip & 4 or 500 North Indians fighting men, were come within 40 or 50 miles of Albany northerly, where they talk of continuing this winter; that Phi: is sick, and one Sahamoshuha the Comander in chief. Whereupon I have despatched orders theither.

I have found no reliable proof that Philip or his Wampanoag warriors, as a body, had any part in the Narraganset fight, while there is some direct testimony that they did not. Indian captives refer the command of the Indians to other chiefs, and a contemporary writer in the series of letters published in London under the title, "Present State of New England, with respect to the Indian War," says positively, "King Philip hath not yet been at Narraganset, as we feared, but is retired with his Men near Albany where he hath kept his Winter Quarters." This place is since known as Scattacook, and is situated in Rensselaer County, about twenty miles north of Albany.

The great snow-storm that began at the time of the battle and lasted for several days rendered any movement of the infantry impossible, even if they had been in condition; and then suddenly there came a great mid-winter thaw, which further prevented their motion. Capt. Prentice's troop kept scouting and watching to guard against surprise, and to gather in whatever was possible of their enemy's supplies of corn, of which they obtained quantities, but the provisioning of this large body of men had to be done chiefly by vessels sent from Boston, and by some, at this time, gathering corn along the port towns of Connecticut, as we learn from their archives and from other sources.

On the 27th of December Capt. Prentice with his troop made a march into Pomham's country (now Warwick) and destroyed near a hundred wigwams. December 28th, a squaw captured at the fort was sent to the Indians with an offer of peace, if they would agree to the terms of the former treaty, and such other conditions as the English might impose, and give up all "Philip's Indians." The squaw did not return, but on December 30th a message came from the sachems proffering their thanks for the offer, but complained that the English made war upon them without notice. This Indian owned, as did the squaw, that the Indians lost three hundred of their best fighting men. January 4th, two prisoners were taken, of whom one, being a Wampanoag, was put to death. January 5th, the Indians sent in a captive child, three or four years of age, belonging at Warwick. 

On the 7th, messengers came from them laying the blame upon Canonchet, who when he had visited Boston and made his treaty with the English, had returned and deceived his people as to the terms; but all these overtures were evidently practised to gain time and take the attention of the English from the real movements of the Indians while they were making ready for their flight to the north-west. On the 8th these were sent back with positive instructions as to terms of peace. On the same day Ninigret, sachem of the Niantics, sent in declaration and evidence of the reality of his friendship and of the dire straits to which the hostile Indians were reduced. In the meantime the Commissioners of the United Colonies were making every exertion to put a fresh army into the field. As early as December 25th it had been voted to raise one thousand men to recruit the army in the field, and the first of these were sent out about Jan. 6th1 under Capt. Samuel Brocklebank of Rowley (I think). 

The weather was extremely cold, and they suffered severely on the march, part of the way through a fierce snowstorm "that bit some of them by the heels with the frost," according to Mr. Hubbard. The writer of "The Present State of New England," the letters above mentioned, says that eleven of the men were "frozen to death, and many others were sick and disheartened." January 10th, these recruits arrived at headquarters and were joyfully received.

An order of the Council of Massachusetts, given January 14th, directs Major Gookin "to order the Eastern Souldiers with Horse and Foot, as soon as they come to Cambridge, to march to the army and to put them under such conduct as he sees right, until they get to Narraganset to Major Appleton, sending away with them the Armorer that is there already." On Jan. 17th the Council ordered the Committee of the Army to "forthwith furnish James Foord of Ipswich, a Souldjer under Capt. Brocklebank, now going up under Lieut. Swett to Narraganset, with one pr. of good shoos and on good Coate and place it to his accot." Ephraim Sawyer and Walter Davis, also, "now going forth to ye Narraganset," were furnished with apparel. These referred to in the above orders were a second body of recruits that were sent by the Massachusetts Council; the Commissioners having voted, on January 6th, that the colonies should have recruits at headquarters at Smith's Garrison on or before January 20th.

January 12th, a proposition came from the sachems for a cessation of hostilities for a month, which so stirred General Winslow's indignation and convinced him of their treachery, that he determined on a forward move at once, but still he felt his force to be too weak in the absence of the promised troops of Connecticut. He fears the foe is escaping, and sends frequent messages to the Commissioners and to Major Treat and the Connecticut Council, to hurry up their preparations.

The Connecticut Colony meanwhile was making every (1Capt. Brocklebank and the main part of his company probably entered the service January 1st, but did not march to the seat of war until other recruits were ready. January 18th, Capt. Daniel Fisher, of Dedham, has an order from the Council to send all "Horse and foote" that come into Dedham under Lieut. Benja. Swett, "away to ye Enemy;" and the order shows Dedham to be the common rendezvous of the four counties.) endeavor, the while however being somewhat impatient of the urgency of the General, feeling that their own borders were threatened by the Indians quite as much as the other colonies. Their archives afford ample proof of the thorough and energetic manner of their preparation. Major Treat's reorganized army rendezvoused at New London. From all the settlements recruits and arms and supplies were gathered as speedily as possible, and yet it was not until the 26th of January that their troops started for the field. The following extract relating to the occasion is from a "Letter of Major Palmer of New London to the Governor and Council of Connecticut."

New London ye 26th Janua: 1675-6
I having this opportunity by Mr. Plom. could not omitt acquainting you of Majr Treat's departure this day, with all his forces, who is accompanied with Mr Fitch, Mr Buckley & Mr. Wise. They expected to reach Badcock's this night and so get to Mr. Smith's tomorrow: For Major Treate hath had two late ordrs from the Generall one reced on Lord's day, the other this morning, to hasten his coming; the Indyans being seated 8 or 10 miles northwest of Providence, and about 25 miles from Mr. Smith's. The information was gayned by two Indyans taken by a party of Capt Prentis' troope, which killed nyne more one escaped there being 12 in that party.

The Barke with the Provitions went out last night and hath had a fayre wind to carry her in today. They have added tenn barrels of meate to the twenty you ordered from Milford: weich doth afflict our people more than the trouble of quartering both well and wounded men, which have so impoverished them that sundry will much suffer, without ye speedy supply of corne for their releife. In the margin of this letter is added the item, Unkas has gone forth in person.

It will be seen by the letter that the march from headquarters was begun on the 26th of January. James Babcock's place was in what is now Westerly?? R.I. By good marching they could have reached Smith's Garrison and joined the main army on the evening of the 27th; and thus January 28th must be the earliest date at which we can place the general forward movement of the whole army. The Council orders and references and letters in the Connecticut Colonial Records serve to confirm the account of Mr. Hubbard, although derived from independent sources, and as they give very few items besides, it seems evident that we have all of importance that happened. On January 23d Major Treat wrote to the Connecticut Council, quoting a letter from General Winslow, which he says he has lost, but which contained nothing of importance except to hasten their coming and "grateing on our disorderly retreat," and the good news of the taking of Joshua Tift by Capt. Fenner, of Providence. From some Indian prisoners which the Connecticut scouts had taken, it was found that the Narragansets were lying in small parties along the way leading into the Nipmuck country, and with scouting parties so posted that our army could not surprise their main body.

From a letter of Roger Williams to Governor Leverett, dated Providence, 14 January, 1675, and published in the "Winthrop Papers," vol. 36, p. 307, Coll. Mass. Hist. Society, we learn much about this Joshua Tift, different from the accounts of contemporary historians. Mr. Williams was called upon to take down the examination of Joshua Tift, and afterwards reports the answers to the Governor.

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