SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

 Chapter 17, Part IV 

The last list shows the organization of Capt. Turner's force until

THE "FALLS FIGHT," MAY 19, 1676

The disposal of Capt. Turner's forces, from April 7th up to the 25th, is indicated in the above letter. In the closing clause it will be noticed that he speaks of the news which a young man brings in just before he sends the letter away. This was probably John Gilbert, who with Edward Stebbins had been taken captive at Springfield about a month before and carried up the river by the Indians, where Mrs. Rowlandson, in her narrative, speaks of meeting him. Capt. Turner makes note of his information to the effect that the Indians are gathering in great numbers about these towns. Mr. Hubbard, on the other hand, speaks of two "English lads," who give information of the unguarded state of the Indians, referring doubtless to Gilbert and Stebbins above mentioned, but confusing with theirs the testimony of another captive named Thomas Reed, who escaped and came in some weeks later.

Some idea of the state of feeling among the English inhabitants and soldiers may be gained from this letter of some of the chief actors at the front.

Letter of Rev. John Russell, Capt. Turner and others to the General Court:

Hadly Apr 29, 1676
Right Worp'fll
This morning we received from Hartford these inclosed wch we were desired to post away; and have accordingly effected with all speed. Its matter of thankfulnesse and incouragement to hear that the Lord is in any place going forth wth or armies; and delivering or enemies into or hands.

We hope if or sins hinder not it is a pledge of future & greater mrcy.

It is strange to see how much spirit (more than formerly) appears in our men to be out against the enemy. A great part of the inhabitants here would our committees of militia but permitt; would be going forth: They are daily moving for it and would fain have liberty to be going forth this night. The enemy is now come so near us, that we count we might go forth in the evening, and come upon them in the darkness of the same night. We understand from Hartford some inclination to allow some volunteers to come from them up hither, should that be I doubt not but many of ors would joyne wth them. It is the generall voyce of the people here yt now is the time to distresse the enemy; and that could we drive them from their fishing and keep out though but lesser parties against them famine would subdue them. All intelligence give us cause to hope that the Mohawks do still retain their old friendship for us and enmity against our enemies. Some proofe of it they have of late in those they slew higher up this River. Two of whom as the Indian messengers relate were of or known Indians; and one a Quabaog Indian. And further proof its thought they would soon give; were the obstructions (yt some English have or may putt in their way) removed and the remembrance of the ancient amity and good terms between them and these colonies renewed by some letters & if it might be by some English messengers. We would not tho. out so good an end as love and zeale for the weal publique, that we should be transported beyond or line. We crave pardon for or reaching so farr, and with many prayers do desire to beseech the father of mercies and God of all counsell to direct you in the right way; & so praying we remaine

Sr Your Worships most Humble & devoted Serv'ts

JOHN RUSSELL
WILL: TURNER
DAVID WILTON
SAMUEL SMITH
JOHN LYMAN
ISACK GRAVES
JOHN KING
DANIEL WARNER

From a diligent study of all available authorities, from all accessible sources, supplemented by many new hints and evidences afforded by documents preserved in the State Archives and elsewhere, I think the following is a fairly accurate account of the campaign of Capt. Turner in May, 1676, closing with the Falls Fight on the 18th.

After the withdrawal of the army under Major Savage, the Indians seem to have relaxed much of their vigilance, watching mainly for opportunities for plunder wherever the English became careless and exposed themselves or cattle to the chance of capture. In the mean time the situation of the Indians was becoming desperate. The Narragansets with their allies and many of the Wampanoags had been forced in an almost destitute condition upon the Nipmuck and Pocomtuck tribes for support. 

These unwonted numbers soon exhausted the never abundant resources of the local tribes, and when Philip's promises of a speedy victory over all the river towns with plunder of their goods were not realized, when the great chieftain Canonchet was taken and slain, and having met the repulses at Northampton and Hatfield, they were reduced almost to starvation, these river and northern Indians began to realize the folly of their too ready alliance with Philip, and put themselves into communication with the authorities at Connecticut, either with a view to real peace, or for the purpose of gaining time by a pretence of peaceful negotiations; at any rate the English entered into the negotiations with great zeal, and sought to turn the home tribes against Philip and the Narragansets. 

A price was set upon Philip's head, whereupon that chieftain betook himself with his faithful followers to safer solitudes up the river; and now, pending these negotiations, the Indians gathered to the fishing places upon the river in large numbers, hoping here to supply their wants and secure a stock of provisions till they could accomplish the destruction of the towns and secure the corn and cattle of the English. Knowing that the garrisons were small, and feeling secure from attack both by numbers and distance, they grew careless in sending scouts or placing guards. They had no suspicion of the growing resolution of the English to take the offensive, nor any information of their preparations. A large body of the Indians were gathered near the "Upper Falls" of the Connecticut, divided into several parties, one of which was located on the high ground on the right bank at the head of the Fall, another on the opposite bank, and a third at what is known now as "Smead's Island," about a mile below, and all were intent upon their fishing. Hearing, however, that the English had turned some of their cattle out into Hatfield meadows, a detachment was sent out upon May 12th, and succeeded in "stampeding" about seventy head of these cattle, and driving them safely into the woods. 

This fresh outrage was carried out with impunity, and so enraged the English that they urged to be led out against their enemies at once, and when Reed, above mentioned, came in on May 15th, and disclosed the carelessness of the Indians, it was resolved to wait no longer, but to gather the forces and strike a blow, and on that day Rev. John Russell writes a letter to the Council at Connecticut, informing them of their situation and giving general news. He speaks of their "visitation" by the epidemic distemper or malignant cold which had prevailed at Connecticut (and of which Mr. Mather wrote that he could not hear of a family in New England that wholly escaped); of the peaceful election at Boston on May 3d, and the return of Mrs. Rowlandson from captivity on that day, and letters from Philip, the "Old Queen" and other sachems, proposing terms of peace. He gives the news from Europe, the sufferings of non-conformists, and of a great naval battle between the French and Dutch. Only an extract is here given, being the closing part which relates to the Indian war. The letter is dated Hadley, May 15th. The postscript is by the military officers.

This morning about sunrise came into Hatfield one Thomas Reede a soldier who was taken captive when Deacon Goodman was slain. He relates that they are now planting at Deerfield and have been so these three or four days or more, saith further that they dwell at the Falls on both sides the river, are a considerable number, yet most of them old men and women. He cannot judge that there are on both sides of the river above 60 or 70 fighting-men. They are secure and scornful, boasting of great things they have done and will do. There is Thomas Eames his daughter and child hardly used; one or two belonging to Medfield and I think two children belonging to Lancaster. The night before last they came down to Hatfield upper meadow, and have driven away many horses and cattle to the number of fourscore and upwards as they judge. 

Many of these this man saw in Deerfield meadow, and found the bars put up to keep them in. This being the state of things, we think the Lord calls us to make some trial what may be done against them suddenly without further delay; and therefore the concurring resolution of men here seems to be to go out against them tomorrow night, so as to be with them, the Lord assisting, before break of day. We need guidance and help from heaven. We humbly beg your prayers, advice and help if it may be. And therewith committing you to the guidance and blessing of the most High, Remain Your Worship's in all humble service.

JOHN RUSSELL

Although this man speaks of their number as he judgeth yet they may be many more, for we perceive their number varies, and they are going and coming, so that there is no trust to his guess.

WILLIAM TURNER
JOHN LYMAN
ISAAC GRAVES

Preparations had been completed for several days, and the men, gathered from the inhabitants and soldiers of the several towns and garrisons, were appointed to meet at Hatfield at the summons of the commander. Day after day passed, while they waited impatiently the company which Connecticut authorities had ordered to march to their assistance. These, delayed in turn by the failure of the Sachems to appear at a promised meeting, and fearing to make any hostile movement while English captives were held by the Indians, did not move, and so on May 18th Capt. Turner gathered all his available force at Hatfield, numbering upwards of one hundred and fifty rank and file. Of the garrison soldiers I think only volunteers were taken in this expedition, as it would not be safe to weaken the garrison by withdrawing a large number of the men away from the defence of the towns, which was their proper service. 

A comparison of the lists below will show that a very small number of eastern soldiers are among the claimants, though the list of killed has many names not represented there. A very large part of Capt. Turner's original company had marched home to Boston on April 7th, leaving him with a company of single men, boys and servants, selected from Major Savage's forces, for garrison duty. Of this expedition the officers were William Turner, Captain; Samuel Holyoke, Lieut.; Isaiah Toy (or Tay) and John Lyman, Ensigns; Rev. Hope Atherton, Chaplain; John Dickinson and Joseph Kellogg, Sergeants; Experience Hinsdell and Benjamin Wait were guides.

This company of volunteers, thus officered, and more than one half inhabitants of the several river towns, mounted upon their own horses, and armed as each might be able, or from the garrisons, took up the line of march in the evening of May 18th, from Hatfield towards the Falls, twenty miles away, through the woods. Taking their way northward through Hatfield meadows and on by the road where both Lathrop and Beers had met disaster and death, past the ruins of Deerfield, they crossed the river at the northerly part of the meadow (a late high authority says "at the mouth of Sheldon's brook"), and thus eluded the Indian outpost stationed at a place "now called Cheapside," to guard the usual place of crossing. 

These Indians, it is said, overheard the crossing of the troops and turned out with torches, and examined the usual ford, but finding no traces there and hearing no further disturbance, concluded that the noise was made by moose, crossing, and so went back to their sleep. A heavy thunder shower during the night greatly aided the secrecy of the march, while it drove the Indians to their wigwams and prevented any suspicion of an attack. This danger safely passed, the troops rode forward through Greenfield meadow, and, crossing Green river "at the mouth of Ash-swamp brook to the eastward, skirting the great swamp" (says Mr. Sheldon), they at length, about daybreak, reached the high land just south of Mount Adams, where the men dismounted, and leaving the horses under a small guard, pushed on through Fall river and up a steep hill, and halted and silently awaited daylight upon the slope (now on the farm of Mr. Stoughton, it is said), above the sleeping Indian camp. Here all was wrapped in profound sleep. It is said a great feast had been celebrated the night before by the Indians, at which they had gorged themselves with fresh salmon from the river, and beef and new milk from the Hatfield cattle. 

Not a guard had been set, and no precaution had been made, so secure were they and unsuspicious of an English raid. And now with advancing daylight the sturdy settlers gather silently down and about their unconscious foes, to whom the first warning of danger was the crashing of a hundred muskets, dealing death in at their wigwam doors. Many were killed at the first fire, and scarcely a show of resistance was made. The savages who escaped the first fire were terrified at the thought that their old enemy was upon them, and fled towards the river, yelling "Mohawks! Mohawks!" and wildly threw themselves into the canoes along the banks, but many of these, overcrowding the canoes, were thrown into the river and carried over the falls to certain death; others were shot in attempting to reach the other side; others were chased to the shelving rocks along the banks and there shot down. It is said that Capt. Holyoke there despatched five with his own hand. Very few of the Indians escaped, and their loss was computed by contemporary writers at three hundred. One only of the English was killed, and he by mistake, by one of his comrades, and another was wounded in this attack. 

The soldiers burned all the wigwams and their contents, captured the tools of the Indian blacksmiths who had set up two forges for mending arms, and threw "two great Piggs of lead (intended for making bullets) into the river." But while this was being accomplished, the several larger bodies of Indians upon the river above and below rallied, and from various quarters gathered in and about the English. A small party as decoys showed themselves crossing the river above, and succeeded in drawing a portion of our force away from the main body only to meet a large force and to regain the command with difficulty. Capt. Turner, enfeebled as he was by his disease, collected and drew off his troops towards the horses, where the guards were about this time attacked by the enemy, who hastily withdrew at the coming of the main body. Mounting their horses, the English began the march for Hatfield. The Indians in increasing numbers gathered upon flank and rear. Capt. Turner led the van, though so weak from long sickness as scarcely able to manage his horse. The intrepid Capt. Holyoke commanded the rear guard, but in effect conducted the retreat. The Indians advanced upon the left and rear, and several sharp skirmishes ensued while they tried to separate the rear guard from the main. 

Once Capt. Holyoke's horse was shot down, and he narrowly escaped capture by the Indians, who rushed forward to seize him, by shooting down the foremost with his pistols, till his men came to his aid. On the left of the line of march, nearly all the way to Green river, was a swamp in which the Indians found safe cover. A rumor was started (by an escaped captive, it is said) that Philip with a thousand warriors was at hand, and a panic ensued. The guides differed as to the course, and some following one and some another, disorder prevailed, and the command was broken up. Two parties leaving the main body were cut off and lost. Capt. Turner pushed forward with the advance as far as Green river, and was shot by the Indians while crossing the stream, near the mouth of the brook upon which afterwards stood "Nash's" Mill. His body was found near the place by a scouting party a short time afterwards.

HTML by Debbie

Special thanks to Fred for his wonderful graphics.

You are the 2158th Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since April, 2001.

3419 Visitors before this counter was installed

[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]