SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

Chapter 14, Part II 

Being questioned by Capt. Fenner, who had captured him, Tift answered that he had been with the Narragansets about twenty-seven days; that he was captured by Canonchet and his property destroyed, but his life saved on condition that he would become the slave of Canonchet; he accepted the conditions, and was taken to their fort and there compelled to work for the Indians. He testifies that the Mohegans and Pequots with our troops made terms with the Narragansets at the beginning, and shot over their heads. After the English entered the fort, Canonchet and other sachems fled and halted beside a spruce swamp after crossing a plain. When night came the word was brought to the chiefs of the English retreat, and they sent back to the fort to ascertain their losses, and found ninety-seven dead and forty-eight wounded, and five or six bodies of the English. He said that the Narragansets' powder was mostly gone, but that Philip had sent word that he will furnish them enough from the French, who have sent Philip a present, "a brass gun and bandaliers sutable." The sachems are now about ten miles northwest from Mr. Smith's; speaks of the squaw that was sent by the English, but that the sachems believed that the proposals of the English were merely a trap to catch them. Canonicus was for peace, and would not consent to lie to the English; but his nephew, the young sachem Canonchet (or Nanunteno) was fierce for war, and the young warriors were with him, so that it was impossible to curb them. He speaks of Quaquackis as Canonchet's chief captain, "a midling thick-set man of a very stout fierce countenance." "He saith that Philip is about Quawpaug, amongst a great many rocks by a Swampeside; that the Nahigonsiks have bene these 3 days on their march & flight to Philip, that he knows not what number Philip hath with him, & that this day the last and rear of the company departed, that they heard that the Gen: was pursueing after them, & therefore several parties, to the number of 400 were ordered to lie in ambuscadoes, that several parties were left behind to get and drive cattell." He also testified that Ninigret's men fought the English in the fort, and that some of the Mohegans have joined the Narragansets.

At last, the army, being in readiness, began the pursuit of the Indians towards the Nipmuck country, in the somewhat famous march known to the succeeding generations as the "Long March," or the "Hungry March," but of the details of which we have very meagre accounts.

Mr. Hubbard relates that on January 21st Capt. Prentice surprised a party of the Indians, killed nine and captured two, and within two or three days, the weather changing, our forces were very anxious to take the field, hearing, as they did, that the Indians were in full flight. "But so many difficulties were cast in the way that they could not be ready in time to prevent the mischief the Indians did at Warwick. For, January 27, they despoiled Mr. Carpenter of two hundred sheep, fifty head of neat cattle and fifteen horses, drove them all away safely and escaped before our forces set out." They wounded two of Mr. Carpenter's people, and one of theirs was slain.

They also drove away cattle from a Mr. Harris, and killed a negro servant of his. Mr. Church was at Rhode Island, wounded, and his son made the mistake, in publishing his story, of making his stay there three months instead of three weeks. When he was partly recovered from his wound, he went over to take leave of General Winslow, but was induced by him to go with the army, then about to march in pursuit of the enemy. He relates a battle at an "Indian town of many wigwams," which was surrounded by an "icy swamp," and when the English succeeded in passing over this, "after much firing," the enemy made good their retreat. It is evident that the Mohegans did most of the effective fighting here; and very little execution was done besides in the pursuit, except that by Capt. Fenner's party from Providence.

It seems to have been the popular idea that the army of the united colonies, after the junction of the Connecticut troops, numbered about sixteen hundred, horse and foot. I have not been able to find any definite official statement, but as nearly as can be determined from available data, Massachusetts sent out about three hundred fresh troops in January; Connecticut, including her veterans and Indian allies, about five hundred; and Plymouth probably about one hundred. With allowance for the dead, wounded and disabled of Massachusetts and Plymouth, about two hundred; sixty left in garrison at Wickford, and there would be, at a rough estimate, fourteen hundred serviceable men at Narraganset on January 28.

It will be noticed that Tift's evidence is that Philip is "about Quawpaug amongst a great many rocks by a Swampeside," and this may be taken as the supposed objective point or rendezvous of the Indians. The rear guard of the Indians were, at the date of his trial, or when he was captured, prowling about the settlements at Patuxit and Providence for an opportunity to drive off cattle, which purpose they succeeded in carrying out, some days later, when the witness, who in this matter at least had given true testimony, had been "hung and quartered." The route of the main body of the Indians was in a northwest direction towards Quaboag, probably though the Wabbequasset country (now Woodstock) to the old Quaboag fort. Capt. Henchman, in the Mount Hope campaign, August, 1675, had marched into the Nipmuck country as far as the "second fort," at a place called "Wapososhequish" (probably Wabbaquasset), and then turned aside and marched to Mendon. In a direct line Woodstock is about forty miles from Wickford; by the regular trail it was doubtless much farther. In midwinter, with their scant knowledge of the country, with swollen streams to cross, an alert foe forever vanishing into the great wilderness, and eluding attack or luring to ambuscade, with provisions which the long waiting for Connecticut had served to reduce, their march was a hazardous undertaking, and probably was inspired by the hope of striking a final blow against their enemies, already reduced to great straits for provisions, arms and ammunition. They found "more than sixty horses' heads" at one place, probably at the late rendezvous of the Indians, "25 miles north of Mr. Smith's and 10 miles north of Providence."

Finding his provisions growing short, and his men worn with their long march and severe exposure, and seeing no prospect of bringing the enemy to a battle, General Winslow determined to abandon the pursuit, when the Indians betook themselves to the wilderness beyond Quaboag. I think the march commenccd from Wickford on January 28, and it was probably on February 2d or 3d that the skirmish took place. It seems that the Connecticut and Indian forces were dismissed as early as February 3d, as they arrived home on the 5th, while the cavalry of Massachusetts and Plymouth reached Boston on the same day, the infantry remaining over at Marlborough, but a part of them marching down to Boston the next day. They were reduced to such straits that they killed and ate many of their horses, and the march was thence called by the people "the Hungry March."

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