| Small parties prowled in the woods in every direction, burning and
shooting. Six more houses were burned at Oyster River, and William
Roberts and his son-in-law were killed. Under these provocations the
English were goaded almost to desperation, and yet, if they drew out in
force to pursue, the Indians easily escaped to the woods and could not
be overtaken. Several parties of volunteers went out from the garrisons
in pursuit, but without avail, except that one party discovered five
Indians, three gathering corn in a field, while two were building a fire
to roast it. Two of the English crept up to these latter, and suddenly
rushing to close quarters killed them both, knocking them on the head
with the butts of their muskets. The rest escaped.
Capt. John Wincoll, who lived at Berwick, seems to have been in active service under Major Walderne, and was absent upon some service when his house and barn, with several of his neighbors' buildings, were burned by the Indians. It is possible that he was with Major Walderne at the Eastward when this took place. The following letter takes us further to the Eastward, and gives a glimpse of what was going on there, while towns upon the Connecticut were battling for life with the allies of Philip.
Douer 25th September 1675
Honrd sr yor Humble Serutt RICHARD WALDERNE
The above letter of Major Walderne sufficiently explains the situation of affairs at the Eastward. The entire population withdrew into their fortified houses, which were garrisoned as well as possible with the inhabitants of the towns, Major Walderne holding a small reserve force at Portsmouth and Dover to assist whenever one settlement was more threatened than another. The great tribes which confronted the Eastward settlements and had the controlling influence in the war in these parts were the Ammoscoggins, who lived upon what is now called the Androscoggin River; the Pequakets, whose chief rendezvous was at the head waters of the Saco in the present town of Fryeburg; the Ossipees, near the lake of that name; the Pennacooks, who held a large tract of country in the vicinity of Concord, N.H. These larger tribes had gathered the remnants of several once powerful tribes which had held the lands along the coast from Kennebec to the Piscataqua, but which had been almost annihilated by the internal wars which raged after the overthrow of the great "Bashaba," who had lived on the Penobscot, and had held all these eastern tribes in subjection. In the struggle for supremacy which succeeded, a great part of the fighting men in all the tribes were destroyed. This was at its height when Sir Richard Hawkins visited the coast in 1615. A great plague followed this war, which nearly depopulated the whole region along the shores before the Pilgrims came to Plymouth in 1620. The Ammoscoggins and Pequakets were hostile to the English, and it was their depredations, assisted by the restless tribes on the Kennebec and beyond, that so troubled this eastern frontier in the war of 1675-7.
The Pennacooks had always been peaceful towards the English since the first settlement. Passaconoway was their chief at the earliest mention we have of them, and was still alive and active for the welfare of his tribe in 1663, though at great age, for it was probably about this time that Major Gookin saw him (as he writes in 1677) "alive at Pawtucket when he was about a hundred and twenty years old." He seems to have been a chief of remarkable ability and wisdom, and had some sort of dominion over many tribes, and there is some evidence that he bore the sway of a "Bashaba," or Great Sagamore. He was reputed by the Indians to be a great "Powow" and to possess supernatural powers, and was held to be a "sorcerer" by the English, and doubtless had some arts of the juggler by which he gained this renown.
He had several sons and daughters, one of whom married Winnepurkitt, sachem of Saugus, whom the English called George Rumneymarsh, upon the story of whose marriage, found in Morton's "New Canaan," the poet Whittier based the legend of his poem, "The Bridal of Pennacook." There is evidence that another of his daughters married "Numphow," ruler of the Wamesits and father of "Samll Numphow."
A petition to the General Court, October 10, 1665, shows the names of those who petitioned several years before for permission "to redeeme our pore brother and cuntryman" "out of prison and bondage, whose Name is Nanamocomuck the eldest son of Passaconewa." He is said to have gone to the Ammoscoggins soon after, and it is probable that he died there. The celebrated Kankamagus was, it is supposed, his son, and was sachem of the Pennacooks after Wannalancet retired; he will be mentioned later on. The English called him John Hogkins.
It is said that near the close of his life Passaconaway called his people together and gave them his farewell charge, recounting his own early struggles against the English, which had proved in vain, and, showing the steady increase of the white people everywhere in spite of all opposition, he urged upon them their only safe policy, peaceful submission to and friendship with the English.
Upon Wannalancet's succession to his father's title and station, he kept faith with the English as his father had done and advised, and notwithstanding the many wrongs and provocations received by his people, and the urgent appeals of hostile tribes, he remained true, and was held in high esteem by the authorities of the colony. It is probable, however, that most of the power of his father over other tribes fell away from him, for he seems to have had little influence with the Ammoscoggins or Pequakets when war was once begun.
When he saw that it was to become a general war, and foresaw that, remaining in the vicinity of the English settlements, his people could hardly fail to be drawn into some active participation in it, either for or against the English, he prudently withdrew to safe retreats whenever the hostile forces approached his country; and he displayed not only prudence, but, in the case when Capt. Mosely marched to Pennacook and burnt his village and destroyed the property and stored food of his people, great patience and power; for he restrained his warriors, who pressed him earnestly for permission to ambush and cut off Mosely's company, which they were in capacity, both of numbers and opportunity, to do.
To the friendly intercourse which Dover kept up with Wannalancet was due, probably in some measure, its immunity from repeated assults. The Wamesits, living at what is now Lowell, formerly Chelmsford, were under the supervision of Lieut. Richardson of that town, and were a quiet, reputable "praying village" under the immediate rule of "Numphow," who, as has been intimated, was probably the brother-in-law of Wannalancet. These Indians suffered a great outrage at the hands of some English Indian-haters, who upon the burning of a barn of Lieut. Richardson at Chelmsford by some skulking hostile Indians, immediately and without authority assaulted these helpless Wamesits, wounding five women and children, and killing outright a lad, wounding his mother, daughter of Sagamore John and widow of another sagamore, "Tohatoonee," a tried friend of the English. Numphow, with his praying village, fled to Pennacook to Wannalancet, and wrote to Lieut. Henchman, commanding at Chelmsford garrison, a letter explaining their flight.
It was by such outrages as these that those Indians who inclined to peace were alienated, and those already inclined to war embittered, and many of the young men of the Wamesits undoubtedly joined the hostile Indians, and passed to the Eastward to swell the ranks and increase the efficiency of those bands of Ammoscoggins and Pequakets, who, with the "strange Indians" from the Nipmucks and western tribes, were carrying destruction to the Eastward settlements. The Indians were said to be led in general by "Squando," sagamore of Saco, formerly a great friend of the English, but, outraged by the treatment of his wife and child by some English sailors, became filled with vengeful hatred towards all the English. These sailors, it is said, seeking to test the common report that Indian children could swim naturally, like the young of beasts, maliciously upset the canoe containing the woman and child; the child sank in the river, but the mother diving to the bottom saved it, which, however, soon after dying, its death was imputed to this treatment. Squando was said to be a great powow or wizard, and was probably the most influential chief from the Penobscot to the Piscataqua. It was not Philip's, but his own war that he was fighting against these eastern settlements. Major Walderne's letter and Gen. Denison's appeals seem to have moved the United Commissioners to the following action:
Boston Octob: 1st 1675
The Commissioners understanding that the Inhabitants of Pascataque, and so Eastward, are under great Distress, by Reason of the Rage of the Common Enemy, Doe commend it to the honourable Governor and Councill of the Mattachusets, that some present Releife may be sent unto them according to the present Exigent; the charges whereof shall be allowed in the general Account of the Colonyes.
THOMAS DANFORTH, Presidt.
cut off all stragglers who attempted to pass from one to another. October 7th was observed as a day of public humiliation, and on that day three men were killed near Newichewannock, and soon after a garrison was assaulted and an old man named Beard was killed just outside the house, and other houses were burnt. On October 16th a large body of Indians, said to be a hundred, gathered towards the settlement of Salmon Falls, and surprising Richard Tozer at his house half a mile from the garrison, killed him and captured his son. Lieut. Roger Plaisted, who was in command at the garrison, hearing the guns of this attack, immediately sent seven men to find out the cause, when they were ambushed, and two or three were killed, and the others barely escaped back to their garrison. Lieut. Plaisted at once despatched a messenger with the following letter to Major Walderne, which Mr. Hubbard, believing it to have been "the last Time that ever that good and useful Man set Pen to Paper," inserted in his history, and probably obtained the letter for that purpose from Major Walderne.
Salmon Falls October 16, 1675.
Yours to serve you
Major Walderne was in no condition now to weaken his own garrisons, and had not the valor of Lieut. Plaisted outrun his discretion, his garrison as well as himself and family would have been safe in their defence; but venturing out with an ox-team guarded by twenty men, to bring in their dead for burial, they fell into an ambush after they had recovered the body of Tozer, and had returned to the swamp near the garrison where the others lay dead. It was the old story, a total surprise, a brave but vain defence, a sullen retreat, and Lieut. Plaisted with his sons, bravely covering the retreat, was surrounded and overwhelmed, but with proud defiance choosing death rather than capture, was at last overpowered by numbers and slain. His eldest son was also killed in this retreat, and another younger son wounded so that he died within a few weeks. The desperate fighting of the Plaisteds probably cost the Indians quite dearly, as they did not appear the next day when Capt. Charles Frost came up from his garrison at Sturgeon Creek (now Eliot, Me.) and buried the dead. Within a few weeks, however, they returned and began depredations in the same places, and ventured as far as Sturgeon Creek, where Capt. Frost had relaxed his vigilance and was working on his farm near his house, in which it is probable his boys were set to watch. The Indians crept up and fired a volley at him before he was aware of their presence; but he escaped unharmed to his own house, where he began to issue orders in a loud voice as though he had a large company of soldiers, which so frightened the Indians that they passed on and left him unmolested, though his entire force was but three boys, possibly his sons. The Indians then passed down on the Kittery side of the river, killed one man and burnt his house, "just over against Portsmouth;" but when a small cannon was fired thence and the shot fell not far from them, they were so frightened thereat that they fled, leaving much of their plunder. They were pursued by the English at this time and tracked far into the woods by means of a light snow, but finally escaped into a swamp. This latter service was probably under the direction of Major Walderne, although we have no record of its details. For some time after this they continued to harass the settlements, but near the end of November, when it is said that they had killed or captured one hundred and fifty people from the Kennebec to the Piscataqua, they withdrew to their winter quarters, mostly at Ossipee and Pequaket. Gen. Denison designed, and had given orders to the officers in those parts to draw out all available men in their command to pursue the enemy to their homes and there attack and destroy them. This design fell through on account of the early and severe setting in of winter and the lack of proper snow-shoes in sufficient numbers. But the fierceness of the season, and the unusual numbers huddled together, with the probable neglect to secure their usual supply of food from harvests, hunting and fishing, so pinched them by famine, that they were forced to attempt a reconciliation, and came to Major Walderne and expressed sorrow for all the evil that had been done, and with him concluded a treaty1 of peace, early in January, which remained unbroken until August, 1676.
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]
[King Philip's War Index Index][NY][VT]