SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

 Chapter 19, Part I 

XIX

CAPT. JOSEPH SILL AND HIS MEN

JOSEPH SILL (or as it is variously spelled, Syll, Scill and Scyll) was the son of John and his wife Joanna, of Cambridge, 1637-8, and was born there about 1639. He married, December 5, 1660, Jemima, daughter of Andrew and Elizabeth (Danforth) Belcher, of Cambridge, and had children -- Andrew, born February 5, 1665-6, died June 12, 1666; Joseph, bpt. 11 Mar. 1666, d. young; Jemima, born September 21, 1667, who married, December 21, 1687, John Hall, of Medford, and inherited for him her father's Narraganset claim; Elizabeth, born September 12, married, November 12, 1685, Samuel Green, Jr.; Andrew and Thomas, of whose births no record is found. Mr. Savage says that he removed to Lyme, Conn., at the close of Philip's war, and there married, February 12, 1678, his second wife, Sarah Marvin, widow of Reynold, and daughter of George Clark, by whom he had Joseph, born January 6, 1679; Zachariah, born January 1, 1682; perhaps others.

Capt. Sill was called into military life early in the war, and served almost continually, in important times and places, till its close. When Capt. Richard Beers marched with his company up to relieve the garrison at Brookfield, Aug. 5th, 1675, Sill was his lieutenant, and shared the fortunes of the company in that campaign; was probably in the fight at "Sugar-Loaf Hill" on August 25th; but was probably left at Hadley in command of the rest of the company when Capt. Beers, and his twenty-six men, marched to the relief of Northfield on September 3d, and were ambushed and nearly all slain on the 4th, on what is since known as "Beers's Plain." After that disaster he remained in command of the remnant of the company for the rest of the campaign, and up to October 5th, when he is mentioned in Capt. Mosely's letter as having gone with Captain Appleton and a company of one hundred and ninety men to protect Springfield. On October 4th a letter from the Council to Major Pynchon directs that "Lieut. Scill be dismissed home to his family," and his soldiers to make up some of the other companies as the Major thinks best.

In a letter from Capt. Appleton at Hadley, October 17th, Capt. Sill is mentioned as being still in command of a company of sixty men; but he had evidently returned home before November 1st, as upon the 2d he was called out again and given commission with the following instructions:

Orders and Instructions for Capt. Joseph Syll. By virtue of An order pr. Council impowring mee to give you Instructions &c.

1) You are to Take charge of the soldiers raised from Charlestown, Wattertown & Cambridge; which are about sixty men; & being fitted & furnished with Arms, Ammunition & provision for a weeke; you are to march away; forthwith to Naticke & there take such trusty indian guides with you (as Corporall watson hath prpared for that purpose) & then march away wth all conv'nt speed to Hassanamesitt (an indian plantation neare nipmuck River) from whence you are to send intelligence unto Captain Daniel Henchman who with his company is marched to Mendon; informing him yt you are ordered to joyne with him to pursue the enimy, whom we heare is come down to a place called Packachooge about 7 miles from Hassanamesit Norwest, & hath killed and surprised some of or neighbour Indians that were gathering corne there; and as wee have ground to feare hath lately Attacked marlborow.

2) Being joyned with Capt. Henchman you are to be under his order and joyntly to seeke out for the enimy at ye said place or any other place where you can understand hee is; and if you meet the enimy you are to use your best skill & force to surprise, sease kill and destroy the enimy; and to receive and release any of our friends either English or Indians yt are taken or injured by him;

3) You are to be very careful to send forth scouts; before you to discour the enimies quarters & if it may bee to com upon him in the night.

4) You are carefully so to march yr men in the woods so yt if it be possible to avoide or shunne or well serch before you com to neare all thick places as swamps or thicketts wher the enimy uses with subtility to lurk in Ambushments.

5) You are in all yor Attempts & enterprises to have yor harts lifted up to God in Cht Jesus; who is the Lord of hosts & God of armies that hee will give his prsence with you & assistance unto you & yor Company in all yor undertakings not trusting or relying upon the Arme of flesh but upon the Lord alone from whose greatness Blessing & prsence all good comes.

6) And you are carefully so to demeane yorselfe in yor convrsation yt you may give yor soldiers a good example in piety & vertue & so govern the soldiers under yor command yt yor campe may bee holynes to ye Lord & to this end you have ye military laws printed and published, which are for yor rule & direction in that matter.

7) If you finde a considerable quantity of corne at Packachooge if yu can save it wee give it you and yor soldiers together wth Capt. Henchman and his soldiers for plunder.

So desiring the ever living Lord God to accompany you & yor company with his gratious conduct and presence, And that he will for Chts sake approve in all the mounts of difficulty; & cover all yor heads in the day of Battle & deliver; the blood-thirsty & cruel enimy of God & his people into yor hands, & make you executioners of his just Indignation upon them and returne you victorious unto us We comitt you & yor company unto God & remaine Yor very Loving freind

DANIEL GOOKIN, Senr.1
November the 2d 1675.
These orders & Instructions past by the Councill November 2, 1675.
E. R. S.
[Mass. Archives, vol. 68, p. 40.)

The account of this expedition has been given in part in connection with Capt. Henchman's company, but many additional particulars, and, indeed, the most reliable account attainable now is given in Gen. Daniel Gookin's account of the "Praying Indians." It would seem by his account that the chief cause of this expedition of Henchman and Sill was the capture by the hostile Indians of three of the villages of the "Praying" or "Christian" Indians, viz.: Magunkog (Hopkinton), Hassanamesit (Grafton) and Chobonokonomum (Dudley). Capt. Sill was at Hassanamesit on November 6th, having with him as guides six of the Natick "Praying Indians," of whom the principal were James Quannapohit and Eleazer Pegin. These two, with about a dozen of the company, went out to scout, and discovered seven hostile Indians leading away a white boy captive. The hostiles fled, but were so closely pursued by the Natick scouts that they were forced to abandon the boy, who was taken by our Indians and brought back to Capt. Sill. This boy's name was Christopher Muchin, a servant or apprentice of Peter Bent, a miller at Marlborough; and he told the Captain that he was seized the day before at Bent's mill, and that Bent's son, a lad of about nine years, was taken at the same time, scalped and left for dead -- who, however, recovered. After this Capt. Sill's company joined with Capt. Henchman's, and under the latter's command all marched to a place called Packachooge (southerly part of Worcester), and there encamped for one night in two large wigwams recently left by the Indians. In this place, as well as in others on the way, quantities of corn were discovered, and much of it burned, but no Indians were found except by the small scouting parties led by the Naticks. The companies marched back to Hassanamesit and there separated before November 10th, and Capt. Sill marched with his company to Marlborough and Sudbury, where he was located on November 16th, but marched to Springfield immediately, and on the 20th, in the disposal of the troops by Major Appleton into the garrisons for the winter, thirty-nine of his men were left at Springfield under command of Lieut. Niles. Capt. Sill was thereafter employed in guarding the supplies and conducting

(1 Thus signed, and then scratched out and the Council's authority substituted by the Secretary, as shown on next page.) affairs, under Major Willard's orders, at the various garrisons as there was need, and was with the army at Narraganset after the Swamp Fight. He was sent with a company of dragoons, with some sixty carts, to bring off the inhabitants of Groton. The line of carts was said to be over two miles long, and the convoy of some fifty men very inadequate when stretched out to that length. This line was ambushed and attacked, but either the Indians were too few in number, or the long line of carts, with their guard, was too formidable or awkward to handle, so that having killed two of the advance guard at their first fire, and the guards not being thrown into confusion by the attack, but quickly rallying under their captain and preparing for defence, the Indians, after a few desultory shots from their safe covert, retired.

The following paper will show something of the kind of service in which Capt. Sill was engaged during this time.

At a Councill held at Boston the 21st of 1 : Month, 1675-6

It is ordered that Capt. Syll give forth his orders to the several Constables of Charlestowne, Cambridge, Watterton, Sudbury & Marlboro forthwith to send in to him the horses & men yt were under his command formerly for the carriage of Ammunition and provision from Northbrow to Brookfield (or in default yrof to impresse so many) & Majr Willard is ordered forthwith to appoynt said Capt. Syll : twenty troopers & Dragoones of Essex & Norfolke men to guard the said to the place appointed; and after the delivery of the said provisions & Ammunition at the Garrison there the said Syll is ordered to returne home and dismiss the said Horses & men & Returne the troopers & dragoones to Majr Willard & attend his further orders.

It is further ordered yt Capt. Syll cause the Coopers at Cambridge & Charlestowne to make so many 4 gallon runletts to put powder in as may suffice to carry 200lb powder from Marlborow to Brookfeild for the Country service.

Past E. R. S.

It is ordered by the Council, That the Commissary of Marlborow deliver to Capt. Syll such Ammunition and Provisions as his horses and Company can carry to Brookfield & after ye delivery of ye same to him, the said Commissary is to returne home, comitting what is remaining of the magazine at Marlborough unto Decon William Ward's care.

E. R. S.
[Mass. Archives, vol. 68, p. 170.)

Mr. Hubbard, in his History, says:

After this April 17. Capt. Sill being appointed to keep Garrison at Groton, some Indians coming to hunt for Swine, three Indians drew near the Garrison-house supposing it to have been deserted; two of them were slain by one single shot made by the Captain's own Hands, and the third by another Shot made from the Garrison.

On April 27th six companies were raised, three of foot under Capts. Sill, Cutler and Holbrook, the horse under Capts. Brattle, Prentice and Henchman, and sent to repress certain "Insolencies" of the enemy, and to range the woods towards Hassanamesit. There, guided by the Natick scouts, our horsemen fell upon quite a large party of the enemy and captured or killed sixteen, account of which has heretofore been given in the chapter devoted to Capt. Henchman.

These forces were released on May 10th, owing to the troublesome distempers resulting from an "epidemical cold" at that time prevalent throughout the country; but the release was only till such time as the troops had generally recovered and were needed. The occasion came, and on May 30th the same forces were called out again and marched to Brookfield, where they were to meet the forces of Connecticut; but they came upon a body of Indians, "fishing in Weshacom Ponds towards Lancaster," of whom they killed seven, and captured twenty-nine, the latter mostly women and children. This affair occurred on May 7th, and necessitated delay and a return to Marlborough for supplies, so that when they arrived at Brookfield the Connecticut forces had marched to Hadley, where ours joined them on the 14th, two days after that place had been attacked by a large body of the enemy, who, busily watching the advance of our forces from Marlborough, seemed to have missed the Connecticut companies coming into the town, and were surprised at their presence, and fled precipitately when a shot from a small cannon struck an outlying house which some of them were plundering. 

The Connecticut soldiers pursued them for some miles up the river, and killed several, but could not overtake or flank them. The Massachusetts troops arrived on May 14th, and the united forces, with the Mohegans, amounted to about one thousand men. Major Talcott, with the Connecticut troops, on the 16th, marched up on the west side of the river, and Capt. Henchman with those of Massachusetts on the east side. A heavy rain-storm prevailed during several days, drenching them, and spoiling most of their ammunition and provision. They returned to Hadley on the 18th, and Major Talcott two days later marched homeward with his force, while Capt. Henchman with his troops remained several days diligently searching for the enemy; but not finding them, and fearing they were gathering towards the eastern towns, he marched homeward about June 24th. Capt. Henchman's letter (ante, page 57) gives an account of the experiences on this march home. Capt. Sill was selected to command a force consisting of about one hundred foot, a troop of horse and the company of friendly Natick Indians, and to scout from Quonsigamon pond towards Wachuset and thence to "Nashaway and the Weshakem Ponds," and join the main force, awaiting probably at Brookfield or Marlborough. The result of this scouting expedition under Capt. Sill is not found recorded. The enemy were now scattered towards Plymouth Colony and into the eastern parts, about Dover, Wells, and as far as Casco Bay.

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