Chapter 16, Part V

Besides ye uncovering of many houses & Barnes & some hundreds of Acres of land which lay unimproved for feare of ye Enemy to our greate loss and Damage.

Sudbury's Accompt of Losses (and also) Sudbury's Losses -- 76

This paper, never before published, gives a new phase of the fight. (Mass. Arch., vol. 30, p. 205.)

The deposittion of Edward Cowell Aged About (???) years --

This deponantt upon oath testifieth that I being upon the Counteries

Searvis in Aprill last and haveing under my Conduct Eighteen men; Upon our Returning from Mallberough to Boston; and About three Milles From Sudbeury Wee ware surprised with divers Hundred of Indians; Wheere of this Indian Tom was one (--) by a grombling signe or Noyse thatt hee Mayde; as in My Judgement was the Cause of our being ffiored upon; at which tyme fower of my Company was killed and one Wounded; beside ffive horses ware disenabled they Being Shott upon Capt. Wadsworths Ingadgine with the Indian I wentt Backe and Beuryed the fower men which were killed whereof (Lt.?) Thomas Haw[le]y, and Hopkinsies son both of Roxbeury; [Edmund Rice1] Goodman [Baker's?] son and Robert Wayle[s] of Dorchister.

Sworn to before the Council 19 June 1676.



Letter of the Massachusetts Council to the Governor of Plymouth.

Hond Sr Since or last to you It pleaseth the holy God to give still further successe to the Enemye in this Colony by killing two men the one in Hingham, & the other in Weymouth aboute the same tyme At Marlborough also upon Tuesday and Wednesday last they burned the remainder of the Houses, so that now but three are standing that we know of but two or three garrisons; This day we have intelligence in the general that Sudbury was this morning assaulted and many houses burnt down, particulars and the more full certainty of things is not yet come to hand whilest we are consulting what to doe, earnestly we are moved to settle some of or faithful Indians at Meadfield or Punquapoag, & others at Woodcocks & we desire that yor Colony would send such a number of yor Indians as may be convenient to be joyned in the same service whose work shall be constantly to scout abroad between Seaconck and Meadfield & Dedham wch is thought to be a very probable way Either to prevent the enemies coming in upon yor Colony and ours that way, or at least to give speedy notice of their motions and dissapoynt theire mischievous designes. This motion proceeds from some of the cheef of our Indians William Ahaton & Capt. John who are very willing to be imployed and much persuaded, that there may be good therein. or present thoughts are to indeavor and incourage this matter with all speed and in order hereto we have sent our Corporall Swift the bearer hereof to yorselfe from whome you may understand things more fully & by him acquaint us with yor view of the matter and further advise for the better perfecting of the designe & that we may also know whether you can furnish out any sufficient number of Indians from yor parts & how soone.

Or General Court of Elections is to sit upon Wednesday come seven-night, & then full order may be taken.

Commending you to the God of Councell & Protection
we remain E. R. S:
past & signed 21 Apr 76
Directed to the Honble Josia Winslow Govr
of his majsty Colony at New Plymouth. (Mass. Arch., Vol. 68, p.
220.) (1 The name Edmund Rice is in the margin. He was probably one of those of Sudbury killed, and his name was inserted by some one in the margin of Cowell's note. Only the letter a in Baker is present. The paper is badly torn.)

Petition of Daniel Warren and Joseph Peirce.

To Inform the Honoured Counsel of the Service don at Sudbury by severall of the Inhabatance of Watertown as our honoured Captain Mason hath Allready informed a part thereof in the petion: but we who wear thear can moer largely inform this honoured Councel: that as it is said in the petion that we drove two hundred Indians over the River; wee followed the enimie over the river and joyned with som others and went to see if wee could relieve Captain Wadsworth upon the hill and thear we had a fight with the Indians but they beinge soe many of them and we stayed soe long that we wear allmost incompassed by them which cased us to retreat to Captain Goodanous Garrison; and their we stayed it being ner night till it was dark and then we went to Mr Noices Mill to see if we could find any that were escaped to that place all though they wear noe persons dwelling there; but thear we found : 13 : or : 14 : of Captain Wadsworths men who wear escaped some of them wounded and brought them to Sudbury towne;

On the next day in the morning soe soon as it was light we went to looke for -- Concord men who wear slain in the River middow and thear we went in the colld water up to the knees where we found five and we brought them in Conus to the Bridge fut and buried them thear; and then we joyned ourselves to Captain Hunton with as many others as we could procuer and went over the River to look for Captain Wadsworth and Captain Brattlebank and the soldiers that wear slain; and we gathered them up and Buried them; and then it was agreed that we should goe up to Nobscot to bring the Carts from thence into Sudbury-Towne and soe returned Hom againe; to what is above written we whos nams are subscribed can testifi:

dated the :6: of march :78: DANIEL WARRIN

Our request is to the much Honoured Counsel that they would be pleased to consider us in reference to our Request; their being 2 troops of hors appointed to bury the dead as we wear informed whos charg was spared and we as yet not allowed for what we did;

Your most Humble Servants to Command to the utmost of our poor S for our selves and in the behalf of the rest

Mass. Arch., vol. 68, p. 224. JOSEP PEIRCE

Of other contemporary accounts of the fight and its consequences there are several from eminently reliable authorities. Treasurer John Hull wrote a letter on April 29, 1676, concerning the sad state of affairs in the colony, giving details of successive casualties, and says: "On ye 21st valiant Captains Wadsworth and Brocklebank wth about 50 valiant souldiers were slain by ye Indians."

The letters of the "Anonymous writer," published in London, which have been several times referred to above, give a very concise account, as follows: "April 20th Capt. Wadsworth of Dorchester, being designed with an 100 men to repair to Marlborough to strengthen the garrison, and remove the goods &c. there; did accordingly this evening march with about 70 men from Sudbury, the rest of his men not appearing. The Enemy who were about 1000 strong lay near his Passage, but kept themselves undiscovered and permitted him to passe them in the night but in the morning assaulted and burned most of the Houses in Sudbury (save those that were ingarrisoned)." 

The writer goes on to tell that twelve volunteers from Concord came down to lend assistance, and eleven of the number were slain, and that Capt. Wadsworth, with his tired troops that had marched all the day and night before, marched promptly back from Marlborough, being joined by Capt. Brocklebank and a few of the garrison soldiers, making a company of not more than eighty men miserably tired for want of rest and sleep. This company was drawn into ambush and encompassed by many hundred Indians, -- our authorities say a thousand or more, -- fought them from a hill for four hours with the loss of only five men, till the Indians set fire to the woods at the windward of them, and thus forced them from their strong position, and in their retreat waylaid and destroyed all but a few of the men, who escaped to a mill, where they defended themselves till night, when rescued by Capt. Prentice's troopers, who themselves had just been rescued by Capt. Cowell and his dragoons.

Rev. Increase Mather, of Boston, who published a history of this Indian war at about the same time with Mr. Hubbard, writes -- "April 20th, a day of humiliation was observed at Boston. The next day sad tidings came to us. For the enemy set upon Sudbury and burnt a great part of the town; and whereas Capt. Wadsworth and his Lieutenant Sharp, also Capt. Brocklebank (a godly and choice spirited man) was killed at the time."

Major Daniel Gookin, the commanding officer of Middlesex forces and superintendent of the "Praying Indians" in the colony, writes:

Upon April 21, about midday tidings came by many messengers that a great body of the enemy not less as was judged than fifteen hundred had assaulted a town called Sudbury that morning.  Indeed (thro' God's favor) some small assistance had already been sent from Watertown by Capt. Hugh Mason, which was the next town to Sudbury. These with some of the inhabitants joined and with some others that came in to their help, there was vigorous resistance made and a check given to the enemy. But these particulars were not known when the tidings came to Charlestown.

Major Gookin gives a very full account in his history of the "Praying Indians," his object being to vindicate the Indians from the charges of treachery and inefficiency made against them by popular clamor. His account was necessarily accurate, and it agrees closely with the records. From him, and also from the Archives, we learn that a company of Indians was being organized at this time, and the letters of the Council show that the design of this company was to fortify the fishing places upon the Merrimac, in conjunction with a company of English, and under command of Capt. Samuel Hunting, of Charlestown. This Indian company, it seems, was at Charlestown when the news of the attack upon Sudbury came, and without waiting for particulars, Major Gookin immediately despatched "a ply of horse" from Capt. Prentice's troop under Corporal Phipps, and forty Indians under Capt. Hunting, which force arrived at Sudbury that evening, the troopers in time to rescue the remnants of Capt. Wadsworth's company from the mill, where they had taken refuge and had defended themselves against the enemy.

All the above accounts are of contemporaries, and all agree in the main particulars and confirm each other in the matter of the date. Rev. Mr. Hubbard, of Ipswich, whose history of this war is most complete, and, in the main, the most reliable, agrees mostly with the others, but seems to have known less of this fight than usual, and less of the details than the others, and in the matter of the date was unquestionably wrong.

From all the above authorities, the true account in brief, seems to be, that the English had no suspicion of the great numbers of the Indians that were gathering about Marlborough and Sudbury, or of the vicinity of any until early in the morning of the 21st, when several deserted houses were burnt with the evident purpose of drawing out the garrisons into an ambuscade. Then Deacon Haines's garrison-house was attacked with fury by large numbers, but was successfully defended from six o'clock in the morning until one o'clock, P.M., when the assault was abandoned. Twelve volunteers coming from Concord upon the alarm, to aid the garrison, were lured into the river meadow, and all slain save one. Mr. Edward Cowell, with a body of eighteen mounted men, coming from Brookfield by way of Marlborough, and by a different way from that taken by Capt. Wadsworth, became sharply engaged with an outlying party of the enemy, and lost four men killed, one wounded, and had five of his horses disabled.

While the attack upon Cowell's party was still going on, Captain Wadsworth and his company came upon the scene, and seeing a small party of Indians, rushed forward with the usual impetuous haste, and were caught in the usual ambuscade, for when within about a mile of Sudbury they were induced to pursue a body of not more than one hundred, and soon found themselves drawn away about one mile into the woods, where on a sudden they were encompassed by more than five hundred, and forced to a retreating fight towards a hill where they made a brave stand for a while (one authority says four hours), and did heavy execution upon the enemy, until (Mr. Hubbard says) the night coming on and some of the company beginning to scatter from the rest, their fellows were forced to follow them, and thus being encompassed in the chase by numbers, the Captains and most of the company were slain. The anonymous writer above referred to, says the Indians set fire to the woods and thus forced the disastrous retreat. 

Thirteen only out of the company escaped to "Noyes's mill," and there held the enemy in check. In the meantime Cowell withdrew his party from their dangerous situation, went back and buried their dead comrades, and then rode around into the town by another way in time to rescue Capt. Prentice's troopers, and afterwards, with others in company, the men at the mill. It was probably about noon when Capt. Wadsworth became actively engaged with the Indians, and thus withdrew their attention from both Cowell and Haines's garrison. The Watertown company arrived at about the same time, followed the Indians over the river, and made a brave fight to get to the hill, where Capt. Wadsworth was engaged in his desperate struggle, but such fearful odds were against them that they were forced to fall back to Goodnow's garrison, "it being ner night." 

After dark they went to the "mill," probably with the troopers and Cowell's men, and brought off the soldiers there. The troopers sent from Charlestown, with the Indian company under Capt. Hunting, must have arrived quite late in the afternoon. These are the main facts, in brief, of the Sudbury fight. The next day the Watertown company, with Capt. Hunting's Indians, buried the dead. The site of the battle-field, where Capt. Wadsworth so long held the Indians at bay, is upon what is now called "Green Hill." Here, in 1730, fifty-four years after the battle, Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth, fifth son of Capt. Samuel, and at that time president of Harvard College, erected a monument to the memory of his father, and those that fell with him. It is to be regretted that President Wadsworth accepted the erroneous date given by Mr. Hubbard, which has been perpetuated upon the new monument erected in 1852.

It is a regret that we are unable to know positively the numbers of English engaged. The number with Capt. Wadsworth upon the "Hill" was probably near fifty. The most definite statement (1 The investigations of Mr. Drake first exposed the error which Mr. Hubbard made in his history (see NEW ENG. HIST. AND GENEALOGICAL REGISTER, vol. vii. p. 221). Gov. George S. Boutwell, who delivered the historical discourse at the dedication of the new monument, Nov. 23, 1852, and at that time assigned the date April 18, replied in 1866 (see REGISTER, vol. xx. p. 135) to Mr. Drake's article, and contended that the date given in his discourse was the true one. The Historic Genealogical Society then took the matter in hand, and appointed a committee, Gen. A. B. Underwood and Frederic Kidder, who made a thorough and exhaustive report at the society's meeting, October, 1866, which was published in the REGISTER, vol. xx. p. 341, proving beyond question that the date April 21st is the true date of the fight.

Contemporary Official Records, the highest evidence of all, testify in every case to this date, while the evidence for the 18th is only found in Mr. Hubbard's history and in several books of remarkable events, kept by some prominent men of the colony, who, it is evident, not unfrequently made their entries some time after
the occurrence of the events, and who, in this case, probably adopted the date from Hubbard. John Hull, for instance, whose letter-extract above, written within a few days, gives the date the 21st, in his diary of notable events puts it down as on the 18th. Major Daniel Gookin, Rev. Increase Mather, the writer of the "Present State of New England," and other authorities, agree with the Official Records in giving the 21st. Subsequent historians, until Mr. Drake, simply quote Hubbard's date.)

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