SOLDIERS

IN

KING PHILIP'S WAR

Chapter 24, Part I 

 XXIV

CAPT. BENJAMIN SWETT AND HIS MEN, AND CAPT.
MICHAEL PEIRSE OF PLYMOUTH COLONY

JOHN1 SWETT, admitted freeman of Massachusetts Colony May 18, 1642, was one of the ninety-one freeholders who were declared to be the proprietors of all commons, wastelands and rivers undisposed of in the town of Newbury.

CAPT. BENJAMIN2 SWETT, son of John,1 was born in England about 1626; came to Newbury with his father; married there, November, 1647, Hester, daughter of Peter Weare. They settled first in Newbury, and from 1655 to 1662, in company with his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Weare, he carried on the farm of Mr. John Woodbridge of Newbury. His children, born in Newbury, were Hester,3 7 June, 1648, m. Abin Greene, 1668; Sarah,3 7 November, 1650, m. Morris Hobbs, 1678; Mary,3 7 January, 1652, died soon; Mary,3 2 May, 1654; Benjamin,3 5 August, 1656; Joseph,3 21 January, 1659; Moses,3 16 September, 1661. And in Hampton, whither he removed about 1663, were born, Hannah,3 16 May, 1664; Elizabeth,3 2 July, 1667; John,3 17 May, 1670; Stephen,3 13 September, 1672; and perhaps another.

Capt. Swett was active and energetic. He was early chosen to fill places of trust in town and county. But he was inclined to military exercises, and was chosen Ensign of the military company in Newbury as early as 1651.

After removing to Hampton, he became prominent and influential in both civil and military affairs in Old Norfolk County; and in the well preserved and finely written document (Mass. Archives, vol. 67, p. 57) presented to the General Court, May 31, 1671, remonstrating against the Court's appointment of Robert Pike, as Sergeant-Major of Norfolk County, -- instead of leaving the choice to the people, -- we doubtless see Capt. Swett's elegant handwriting; and he seems to be the recognized leader among the prominent men of the various towns of Norfolk.

In 1675 he held the rank of Lieutenant, and is mentioned thus by Mr. Hubbard, as marching up with a small company into the woods to recover the body of Goodman Robinson of Exeter, killed by the Indians. And the first official notice I have found is the order of Council, January 17, 1675-6, mentioned heretofore, showing that he was in charge of recruits then being sent out to Narraganset. February 1, 1675-6, the Council by special order granted him three pounds for the time he had been in the service; this was probably for his services in recruiting. February 29, 1675-6, he was credited under Capt. Gardiner with ś3. 00s. 00d. on the treasurer's book, possibly the same item.

More than half the men credited under him assigned their credits to the town of Haverhill, and I find were nearly all inhabitants of that town. The service for which these credits are given was probably rendered in the spring of 1676, upon the frontier towns of Essex County. Captain Swett was then engaged at home, and was in command of the military at Hampton and vicinity until the next year, when he was called into the public service at the Eastward, which the following Order and Commission of the Council will explain:

Ordered that Leiftenant Benjamin Swett have a Commission for a Captains place & that he be the Conduct & chiefe of Commanders of the English & Indian forces now raysed & to Goe forth on the Service of the Country agt the Eastern Indian Ennemy as also to order and dispose of the masters & marines & vessels now Going to said service for the better management of that affayre. Mass. Archives, vol. 69, p. 132.

CAPT. SWETT'S COMMISSION

Capt. Swett, You are ordered with the forces now raysed & by your Commission put under your Command to repayr to Blackpoynt & there use all possible diligence by searching & otherwise to understand the state & motions of the enemy & with your force to assayle & annoy them as much as in you lyeth. If ye Headquarters of the Enemy by advice of Major Clark & those upon the place be possible to be assaulted you are ordered to march thither with all your force; if any other small quarter of the enemy lye near & your force be in any Measure Capable in a short time to visit and fall upon them you are accordingly with all ye force Indians & English to make your march thither & assalt them; if otherwise no service against the enemy offer advising with Major Clark to whom the Councill doth refer you for advice, you shall with your whole force march down towards Pascataq, on the Backside of winter Harbor, Wels, york &c, if possible to discover the lurking places of ye enemy & fall upon them after which you shall supply, out of your company ye places of ye old garrison soldiers which went out under C. Swayne or other dismissing them home & lodge ye remayners in most convenient and necessary places for the Countryes Service & in such Companyes that upon prime exigent or order you may call ym again forth on further excursion or expedition keeping good correspondence giving account to ye Governor & Council of all occurrences.

Dated at Charlestown ye 22d of June, 1677
pr. Council. E. R. Sty.
To be released, Samll. Clark, Isaak How, Wm. Hopkins, Wm. Stanley, Moses Whitney.

This final service of Capt. Swett is best told by Mr. Hubbard, the historian of the war, who, after telling of the late depredations which had been made at York, Wells and Hampton, where Edward Colcord, Jr., and three others (probably Abraham Perkins, Jr., Benjamin Hillard and Caleb Towle) were killed, continues:

The Indians thus making daily Inroads upon these weak, unfenced places, the Governor and Council resolved to raise new Forces, and having had good Experience of the Faithfulness and Valor of the Christian Indians about Natick, armed two hundred of them and sent them together with forty English, to prosecute the Quarrel against those Eastward Indians to the full; but not judging aright of the Number of the Enemy, they much underdid their Business, for besides that the Number they sent of the English was a great deal too small, those that were chosen this Bout to take their Turns in the Service Abroad, were many of them young, raw, and unexperienced Soldiers, who were not able to look Danger, much less Death, in the Face, in cool Blood, by which means it came to pass that the Enterprise succeeded so ill; for Captain Swett with Lieutenant Richardson, that was sent with him to command the friendly Indians, coming to Black Point, June 28th, he began to try the Valor and Courage of his Company before he had disciplined them, or had any Experience of their Ability to fight. 

The very next morning after he had landed his men, understanding by his Scouts that many of the Enemies were up and down upon the Place, he made too much Haste to fall upon them, and not mistrusting their Number, while he was marching up the Edge of an Hill with one Party, and his Lieutenant with another, the Indians, that had hid themselves in the Swamp on each Side of the Hill, suddenly fired upon the English on both Sides, which not a little discouraged his young and undisciplined Company, so as they could not, or did not keep their Ranks, but while some were ready to run and shift for themselves, the Captain strived to keep them together, to bring off the dead and wounded men, so long that he brought himself and all the Company in Danger of an utter Overthrow, which soon after took place; for the poor unskilful Soldiers, being scattered, were shifting for themselves, while a few resolute Men of Courage bore the Brunt of the Service till they were in a Manner all knocked down. The Lieutenant was killed soon after the first Onset; the Captain having received near twenty Wounds, yet still held out defending and encouraging his Men, till he was surrounded with more of his enemies than he was able to grapple with, and so was at the last barbarously murdered by them within a little of the Garrison-house. There were slain at this Time somewhat above forty of the English, and twelve of the friendly Indians that assisted, very few escaping but were either killed right out or dangerously wounded.

It is to be regretted that the names of very few of all who fell in this disastrous encounter have been preserved. Besides Capt. Swett and Lieut. Richardson, the records of Andover give the names of four who went from that town who were killed, John Parker, James Parker, John Phelps and Daniel Blanchard; and I have not been able to find any further names elsewhere. Mr. G. A. Churchill, in his researches, has found that Benjamin Rockwood was of this company, and still living in 1742. The journal of the treasurer covering this period is lost. It seems from all available references that about ninety English and Indians, under Capt. Swett and Lieut. James Richardson, were engaged in the fight at Blackpoint; but the number of Indians given by Mr. Hubbard as in the expedition is not confirmed by other evidence.

In Major Daniel Gookin's "History of the Christian Indians," he says:

In June, 1677, another expedition into the Eastern parts, among whom were about 36 of our Christian Indians, who were in a fight near Black point; the English lost about forty men whereof were eight of our friendly Indians, the greatest loss our [Christian] Indians sustained all the war.

This seems to imply that the eight Indians are a part of the forty that were slain, and also that but thirty-six Indians were in the command. The instructions given in making up the force of his Lieutenant also give additional light.

Order of the Council, June 15th, 1677

It is reffered to Major Gookin forthwith to Suply Leift. Richardson & his pty at Chelmsford with provision Ammunition & appl necessary & to order him to scout & range ye woods between Merrimack & Pascatawq River & endeavour to kill and sease ye Lurking enemy in those parts for wch the Major is ordered to encourage ym wth a reward of twenty shillings for every scalpe & forty shillings for every prisoner or ye prisoner. And also to make up in number 25 men, & to order ym after some time spent there, to mrch to Blackpoint garison & Their to bee at ye ordering of Liftenant Tipping until further order from the Council the time of Randevous at Blackpoint is to bee the 26 of this Instant June if possible.

Past. EDWD RAWSON, Secretary.
Mass. Archives, vol. 69, p. 129.

If these instructions were carried out, Lieut. Richardson and his Indians from Chelmsford marched overland to Blackpoint, and evidently arrived there before the hostile Indians had come from the Kennebec and Androscoggin. The vessels were a day behind the appointed time in arriving. In making up his force for scouting the woods from Blackpoint to Saco, and in the vicinity, Capt. Swett had no thought of the large numbers of the enemy that were actually near them; so that when he had drawn out his English to the number of forty, and his Lieutenant's force of thirty-six, and some of the Blackpoint men of Sergt. Tippen's command joined, he mustered in all a company of ninety. It is said that a large decoy body of the enemy showed themselves and succeeded in drawing both the commands into an ambush contrived with their usual cunning, and blindly walked into, in the usual manner of the English from the first; and the story of "Bloody-Brook," "Beers Plain," "Brookfield" and "Sudbury," is again repeated, and the simple old Indian device of decoy and ambush again overwhelms our forces and sends dismay through all the colonies. But the Indians never risked a battle on any other chance; and if their device had not succeeded here, would doubtless have disappeared, and the report would have been that our forces "could not come up with them." As it was, the Indians made no further attempt at that time, and probably suffered severely in the running fight, of which no details have been handed down. The Indians withdrew at the time, but in July following began the depredations upon the fishermen along the Eastern coast, and by midsummer had captured no less than thirteen vessels from Salem alone. They soon abandoned this enterprise, however, as they could not manage any craft that could not be worked with paddles. About this time, Governor Andros, of New York, interfered, and sent a vessel with a force to Pemaquid and vicinity and effected a cessation of hostilities.

LIEUT. JAMES RICHARDSON was first of Woburn, but in 1659 removed to Chelmsford, and there married, November 28, 1660, Bridget Henchman, daughter of Thomas, and by her had eight children or more. He was with Capt. Wheeler in the defence of Brookfield, and with Simon Davis, of Concord, and John Fiske, was appointed by the Captain, who was disabled by his wounds, to manage the defence. He was afterwards active in the war; removed to Charlestown, May 1, 1676, and served as Lieutenant with Capt. Samuel Hunting in his mixed English and Indian company in the summer and fall of that year at Pawtucket Falls (now Lowell), where they built a fortification and maintained a garrison, of which Lieut. Richardson was left in charge as well as of the Christian Indians at Chelmsford. He was well acquainted with Indian ways, and had great influence with them.

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