NEW YORK AND LONDON
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year one thousand eight
hundred and fifty-seven, by
Harper & Brothers,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of the Southern District of
Copyright, 1885, by Susan Abbot Mead.
Few, even of our most intelligent men, if we except those who are devoted to literary pursuits, are acquainted with the adventures which our forefathers encountered in the settlement of New England. The claims of business are now so exacting, that those whose time is engrossed by its cares have but little leisure for extensive reading, and yet there is no American who does not desire to be familiar with the early history of his own country. The writer, with great labor, has collected from widely-spread materials, and condensed into this narrative of the career of King Philip, those incidents in our early history which he has supposed would be most interesting and instructive to the general reader. He has spared no pains in the endeavor to be accurate. In the rude annals of those early days there is often obscurity, and sometimes contradiction, in the dates. Such dates have been adopted as have appeared, after careful examination, to be most reliable.
The writer can not refrain, in this connection, from acknowledging the obligations he is under to his friend and neighbor, John M'Keen, Esq., to whose extensive and accurate acquaintance with the early history of this country he is indebted for many of the materials which have aided him in the preparation of this work.
John S. C. Abbott.
Brunswick, Maine, 1857.
|I.||LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS||13|
|III.||CLOUDS OF WART||80|
|IV.||THE PEQUOT WAR||110|
|V.||COMMENCEMENT OF THE REIGN OF KING PHILIP||156|
|VI.||COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES||187|
|VII.||AUTUMN AND WINTER CAMPAIGNS||220|
|VIII.||CAPTIVITY OF MRS. ROWLANDSON||254|
|IX.||THE INDIANS VICTORIOUS||292|
|X.||THE VICISSITUDES OF WAR||321|
|XI.||DEATH OF KING PHILIP||353|
|XII.||CONCLUSION OF THE WAR||385|
|PLYMOUTH BAY, AS SEEN BY THE PILGRIMS||Frontispiece|
|THE FIRST ENCOUNTER||26|
|SAMOSET, THE INDIAN VISITOR||48|
|MASSASOIT AND HIS WARRIORS||57|
|THE PALACE OF MASSASOIT||68|
|THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER||169|
|THE BATTLE IN TIVERTON||210|
|CAPTURE OF THE INDIAN FORTRESS||247|
|CAPTIVITY OF MRS. ROWLANDSON||270|
|THE DESTRUCTION OF SUDBURY||311|
|THE INDIAN AMBUSH||315|
|THE DEATH OF PHILIP||360|
On the 11th of November, 1620, the storm-battered Mayflower, with its band of one hundred and one Pilgrims, first caught sight of the barren sand-hills of Cape Cod. The shore presented a cheerless scene even for those weary of a more than four months voyage upon a cold and tempestuous sea. But, dismal as the prospect was, after struggling for a short time to make their way farther south, embarrassed by a leaky ship and by perilous shoals appearing every where around them, they were glad to make a harbor at the extremity of the unsheltered and verdureless cape. Before landing, they chose Mr. John Carver, "a pious and well-approved gentleman," as the governor of their little republic for the first year. While the carpenter was fitting up the boat to explore the interior bend of the land which forms Cape Cod Bay, in [Pg 14]search of a more attractive place of settlement, sixteen of their number set out on foot on a short tour of discovery. They were all well armed, to guard against any attack from the natives.
Cautiously the adventurers followed along the western shore of the Cape toward the south, when suddenly they came in sight of five Indians. The natives fled with the utmost precipitation. They had heard of the white men, and had abundant cause to fear them. But a few years before, in 1605, Captain Weymouth, on an exploring tour along the coast of Maine, very treacherously kidnapped five of the natives, and took them with him back to England. This act, which greatly exasperated the natives, and which led to subsequent scenes of hostility and blood, it may be well here to record. It explains the reception which the Pilgrims first encountered.
Captain Weymouth had been trafficking with the natives for some time in perfect friendship. One day six Indians came to the ship in two canoes, three in each. Three were enticed on board the ship, and were shut up in the cabin. The other three, a little suspicious of danger, refused to leave their canoe, but, receiving a can [Pg 15]of pease and bread, paddled to the shore, where they built a fire, and sat down to their entertainment. A boat strongly manned was then sent to the shore from the ship with enticing presents, and a platter of food of which the Indians were particularly fond. One of the natives, more cautious than the rest, upon the approach of the boat, retired to the woods; the other two met the party cordially. They all walked up to the fire and sat down, in apparent friendship, to eat their food together. There were six Englishmen and two naked, helpless natives. At a given signal, while their unsuspecting victims were gazing at some curiosities in a box, the English sprang upon them, three to each man. The natives, young, vigorous, and lithe as eels, struggled with Herculean energy. The kidnappers, finding it difficult to hold them by their naked limbs, seized them by the long hair of their heads, and thus the terrified creatures were dragged into the boats and conveyed to the ship. Soon after this Captain Weymouth weighed anchor, and the five captives were taken to England. He also took, as trophies of his victory, the two canoes, and the bows and arrows of these Indians. Sundry outrages of a similar character had been perpetrated by European [Pg 16]adventurers all along the New England coast. The Pilgrims were well aware of these facts, and consequently they were not surprised at the flight of the Indians, and felt, themselves, the necessity of guarding against a hostile attack.
The English pursued the fugitives vigorously for many miles, but were unable to overtake them. At last night came on. They built a camp, kindled a fire, established a watch, and slept soundly until the next morning. They then continued their course, following along in the track of the Indians. After some time they came to the remains of an Indian wigwam, surrounded by an old corn-field. Finding concealed here several baskets filled with ears of corn, they took the grain, so needful for them, intending, should they ever meet the Indians, to pay them amply for it. With this as the only fruit of their expedition, they returned to the ship.
Soon after their return preparations were completed for a more important enterprise. The shallop was launched, and well provided with arms and provisions, and thirty of the ship's company embarked for an extensive survey of the coast. They slowly crept along the barren [Pg 17]shore, stopping at various points, but they could meet with no natives, and could find no harbor for their ship, and no inviting place for a settlement. Drifting sands and gloomy evergreens, through which the autumnal winds ominously sighed, alone met the eye. They discovered a few deserted dwellings of the Indians, but could catch no sight of the terrified natives. After several days of painful search, they returned disheartened to the ship.
It was now the 6th of December, and the cold winds of approaching winter began to sweep over the water, which seemed almost to surround them. Imagination can hardly conceive a more bleak and dreary spot than the extremity of Cape Cod. It was manifest to all that it was no place for the establishment of a colony, and that, late as it was in the year, they must, at all hazards, continue their search for a more inviting location. Previous explorers had entered Cape Cod Bay, and had given a general idea of the sweep of the coast.
A new expedition was now energetically organized, to proceed with all speed in a boat along the coast in search of a harbor. The wind, in freezing blasts, swept across the bay as they spread their sail. Their frail boat was small [Pg 18]and entirely open, and the spray, which ever dashed over these hardy pioneers, glazed their coats with ice. They soon lost sight of the ship, and, skirting the coast, were driven rapidly along by the fair but piercing wind. The sun went down, and dark night was approaching. They had been looking in vain for some sheltered cove into which to run to pass the night, when, in the deepening twilight, they discerned twelve Indians standing upon the shore. They immediately turned their boat toward the land, and the Indians as immediately fled. The sandy beach upon which their boat grounded was entirely exposed to the billows of the ocean. With difficulty they drew their boat high upon the sand, that it might not be broken by the waves, and prepared to make themselves as comfortable as possible. It was, indeed, a cheerless encampment for a cold, windy December night. Fortunately there was wood in abundance with which to build a fire, and they also piled up for themselves a slight protection against the wind and against a midnight attack. Then, having commended themselves to God in prayer, they established a watch, and sought such repose as fatigue and their cold, hard couch could furnish.
The night passed away without any alarm. [Pg 19]In the morning they divided their numbers, one half taking the boat, and the others following along upon foot on the shore. Thus they continued their explorations another day, but could find no suitable place for a settlement. During the day they saw many traces of inhabitants, but did not obtain sight of a single native.
They found two houses, from which the occupants had evidently but recently escaped. The following is the description which the adventurers gave of these wigwams, in the quaint English of two hundred years ago:
"Whilest we were thus ranging and searching, two of the Saylers which were newly come on the shore by chance espied two houses which had beene lately dwelt in, but the people were gone. They having their peeces and hearing no body entred the houses and tooke out some things, and durst not stay but came again and told vs; so some seaven or eight of vs went with them, and found how we had gone within a slight shot of them before. The houses were made with long yong Sapling trees bended and both ends stucke into the ground; they were made round like unto an Arbour and covered down to the ground with thicke and well wrought matts, and the doors were not over a [Pg 20]yard high made of a matt to open; the chimney was a wide open hole in the top, for which they had a matt to cover it close when they pleased. One might stand and go upright in them; in the midst of them were four little trunches knockt into the ground, and small stickes laid over on which they hung their Pots, and what they had to seeth. Round about the fire they lay on matts which are their beds. The houses were double matted, for as they were matted without so were they within, with newer and fairer matts. In the houses we found wooden Boules, Trayes & Dishes, Earthen Pots, Hand baskets made of Crab shells, wrought together; also an English Pail or Bucket; it wanted a bayle, but it had two iron eares. There was also Baskets of sundry sorts, bigger and some lesser, finer and some coarser. Some were curiously wrought with blacke and white in pretie workes, and sundry other of their houshold stuffe. We found also two or three Deeres heads, one whereof had been newly killed, for it was still fresh. There was also a company of Deeres feete stuck vp in the houses, Harts hornes, and Eagles clawes, and sundry such like things there was; also two or three baskets full of parched Acorns, peeces of fish and a peece of [Pg 21]a broyled Hering. We found also a little silk grasse and a little Tobacco seed with some other seeds which wee knew not. Without was sundry bundles of Flags and Sedge, Bull-rushes and other stuffe to make matts. There was thrust into a hollow tree two or three pieces of venison, but we thought it fitter for the Dogs than for us. Some of the best things we took away with us, and left their houses standing still as they were. So it growing towards night, and the tyde almost spent we hastened with our things down to the shallop, and got aboard that night, intending to have brought some Beades and other things to have left in the houses in signe of Peace and that we meant to truk with them, but it was not done by means of our hasty comming away from Cape Cod; but so soon as we can meet conveniently with them we will give them full satisfaction."
As they returned to their boat the sun again went down, and another gloomy December night darkened over the houseless wanderers. No cove, no creek even, opened its friendly arms to receive them. They again dragged their boat upon the beach. A dense forest was behind them, the bleak ocean before them. As they feared no surprise from the side of the water, [Pg 22]they merely threw up a slight rampart of logs to protect them from an attack from the side of the forest. They again united in their evening devotions, established their night-watch, and, with a warm fire blazing at their feet, fell soundly asleep. Through the long night the wind sighed through the tree-tops and the waves broke upon the shore. No other sounds disturbed their slumber.
The next morning they rose before the dawn of day and prepared anxiously to continue their search. The morning was dark and stormy. A drizzling rain, which had been falling nearly all night, had soaked their blankets and their clothing; the ocean looked black and angry, and sheets of mist were driven by the chill wind over earth and sea. The Pilgrims bowed reverently together in their morning prayer, partook of their frugal meal, and some of them had carried their guns, wrapped in blankets, down to the boat, when suddenly a fearful yell burst from the forest, and a shower of arrows fell upon their encampment.
The English party consisted of but eighteen; but they were heroic men. Carver, Bradford, Winslow, and Standish were of their number. Four muskets only were left within their frail [Pg 23]intrenchments. By the rapid and well-directed discharge of these, they, however, kept the Indians at bay until those who had carried their guns to the boat succeeded in regaining them, notwithstanding the shower of arrows which fell so thickly around. The thick clothing with which the English were covered, to protect themselves from the cold and the rain, were almost as coats of mail to ward off the comparatively feeble weapons of the natives. A very fierce conflict now ensued. The English were almost entirely unprotected, and were exposed to every arrow. The Indians were each stationed behind some large forest-tree, which effectually sheltered him from the bullets of his antagonists. Under these circumstances, the advantage was probably, on the whole, with the vastly outnumbering natives. They were widely scattered; their bows were of great strength, and their arrows, pointed and barbed with sharp flint and stone, when hitting fairly and in full force, would pierce even the thickest clothing of the English; and, if striking any unprotected portion of the body, would inflict a dreadful wound.
For some time this perilous conflict raged, the forest resounding with the report of musketry, [Pg 24]and with the hideous, deafening yell of the savages. There was one Indian, of Herculean size and strength, apparently more brave than the rest, who appeared to be the leader of the band. He had proudly advanced beyond any of his companions, and placed himself within half musket shot of the encampment. He stood behind a large tree, and very energetically shot his arrows, and by voice and gesture roused and animated his comrades. Watching an opportunity when his arm was exposed, a sharpshooter succeeded in striking it with a bullet. The shattered arm dropped helpless. The savage, astounded at the calamity, gazed for a moment in silence upon his mangled limb, and then uttering a peculiar cry, which was probably the signal for retreat, dodged from tree to tree, and disappeared. His fellow-warriors, following his example, disappeared with him in the depths of the gloomy forest. Hardly a moment elapsed ere not a savage was to be seen, and perfect silence and solitude reigned upon the spot which, but a moment before, was the scene of almost demoniac clamor. The waves broke sullenly upon the shore, and the wind, sweeping the ocean, and moaning through the sombre firs and pines, drove the rain in spectral sheets over sea and land. The sun had not yet risen, and the gray twilight lent additional gloom to the stormy morning. Both the attack and the retreat were more sudden than imagination can well conceive. The perfect repose of the night had been instantly followed by fiendlike uproar and peril, and as instantly succeeded by perfect silence and solitude.
The Pilgrims, as soon as they had recovered from their astonishment, looked around to see how much they had been damaged. Arrows were hanging by their clothes, and sticking in the logs by the fire, and scattered every where around, but, to their surprise, they found that not one had been wounded. Anxious to leave so dangerous a spot, they immediately collected their effects and embarked in the boat. Before embarking, however, they united in a prayer of thanksgiving to God for their deliverance. They named this spot "The First Encounter." The rain now changed to sleet of mist and snow, and the cold storm descended pitilessly upon their unprotected heads. A day of suffering and of peril was before them. As the day advanced, the wind increased to almost a gale. The waves frequently broke into the boat, drenching them to the skin, and glazing the [Pg 28]boat, ropes, and clothing with a coat of ice. The surf, dashing upon the shore, rendered landing impossible, and they sought in vain for any creek or cove where they could find shelter. The short afternoon was fast passing away, and a terrible night was before them. A huge billow, which seemed to chase them with gigantic speed and force, broke over the boat, nearly filling it with water, and at the same time unshipping and sweeping away their rudder. They immediately got out two oars, and, with much difficulty, succeeded with them in steering their bark.
Night and the tempest were settling darkly over the angry sea. To add to their calamities, a sudden flaw of wind struck the boat, and instantly snapped the mast into three pieces. The boat was now, for a few moments, entirely unmanageable, and, involved in the wreck of mast, rigging, and sail, floated like a log upon the waves, in great danger of being each moment ingulfed. The hardy adventurers, thus disabled, seized their oars, and with great exertions succeeded in keeping their boat before the wind. It was now night, and the rain, driven violently by the gale, was falling in torrents.
The dark outline of the shore, upon which [Pg 29]the surf was furiously dashing, was dimly discernible. At last they perceived through the gloom, directly before them, an island or a promontory pushing out at right angles from the line of the beach. Rowing around the northern headland, they found on the western side a small cove, where they obtained a partial shelter from the storm. Here they dropped anchor. The night was freezing cold. The rain still fell in torrents, and the boat rolled and pitched incessantly upon the agitated sea. Though drenched to the skin, knowing that they were in the vicinity of hostile Indians, most of the company did not deem it prudent to attempt a landing, but preferred to pass the night in their wet, shelterless, wave-rocked bark. Some, however, benumbed and almost dying from wet and cold, felt that they could not endure the exposure of the wintry night. They were accordingly put on shore. After much difficulty, they succeeded in building a fire. Its blaze illumined the forest, and they piled upon it branches of trees and logs, until they became somewhat warmed by the exercise and the genial heat. But they knew full well that this flame was but a beacon to inform their savage foes where they were and to enable them, [Pg 30]with surer aim, to shoot the poisoned arrow. The forest sheltered them partially from the wind. They cut down trees, and constructed a rude rampart to protect them from attack. Thus the explorers on the land and in the boat passed the first part of this dismal night. At midnight, however, those in the boat, unable longer to endure the cold, ventured to land, and, with their shivering companions, huddled round the fire, the rain still soaking them to the skin.
When the morning again dawned, they found that they were in the lee of a small island. It was the morning of the Sabbath. Notwithstanding their exposure to hostile Indians and to the storm, and notwithstanding the unspeakable importance of every day, that they might prepare for the severity of winter, now so rapidly approaching, these extraordinary men resolved to remain as they were, that they might "remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy." There was true heroism and moral grandeur in this decision, even though it be asserted that a more enlightened judgment would have taught that, under the circumstances in which they were placed, it was a work of "necessity and of mercy" to prosecute their tour without delay. But these men believed it to be their [Pg 31]duty to sanctify the Sabbath; and, notwithstanding the strength of the temptation, they did what they thought to be right, and this is always noble. To God, who looketh at the heart, this must have been an acceptable sacrifice. For nearly two hundred years all these men have now been in the world of spirits, and it may very safely be affirmed that they have never regretted the scrupulous reverence they manifested for the law of God in keeping the Sabbath in the stormy wilderness.
With the early light of Monday morning they repaired their shattered boat, and, spreading their sails before a favorable breeze, continued their tour. Plymouth Bay opened before them, with a low sand-bar shooting across the water, which served to break the violence of the billows rolling in from the ocean, but which presented no obstacle to the sweep of the wind. It was an unsheltered harbor, but it was not only the best, but the only one which could be found. Cautiously they sailed around the point of sand, dropping the lead every few moments to find a channel for their vessel. They at length succeeded in finding a passage, and a place where their vessel could ride in comparative safety. They then landed to select a location [Pg 32]for their colonial village. Though it was the most dismal season of the year, the region presented many attractions. It was pleasantly diversified with hills and valleys, and the forest, of gigantic growth, swept sublimely away in all directions. The remains of an Indian village was found, and deserted corn-fields of considerable extent, where the ground was in a state for easy and immediate cultivation.
The Pilgrims had left England with the intention of planting their colony at the mouth of the Hudson River; but the Dutch, jealous of the power of the English upon this continent, and wishing to appropriate that very attractive region entirely to themselves, bribed the pilot to pretend to lose his course, and to land them at a point much farther to the north; hence the disappointment of the company in finding themselves involved amid the shoals of Cape Cod. Though Plymouth was by no means the home which the Pilgrims had originally sought, and though neither the harbor nor the location presented the advantages which they had desired, the season was too far advanced for them to continue their voyage in search of a more genial home. With this report the explorers returned to the ship.
On the 15th of December the Mayflower again weighed anchor from the harbor of Cape Cod, and, crossing the Bay on the 16th, cautiously worked its way into the shallow harbor of Plymouth, and cast anchor about a mile and a half from the shore. The next day was the Sabbath, and all remained on board the ship engaged in their Sabbath devotions.
Early Monday morning, a party well armed were sent on shore to make a still more careful exploration of the region, and to select a spot for their village. They marched along the coast eight miles, but saw no natives or wigwams. They crossed several brooks of sweet, fresh water, but were disappointed in finding no navigable river. They, however, found many fields where the Indians had formerly cultivated corn. These fields, thus ready for the seed, seemed very inviting. At night they returned to the ship, not having decided upon any spot for their settlement.
The next day, Tuesday, the 19th, they again sent out a party on a tour of exploration. This party was divided into two companies, one to sail along the coast in the shallop, hoping to find the mouth of some large river; the other landed and traversed the shore. At night they [Pg 34]all returned again to the ship, not having as yet found such a location as they desired.
Wednesday morning came, and with increasing fervor the Pilgrims, in their morning prayer, implored God to guide them. The decision could no longer be delayed. A party of twenty were sent on shore to mark out the spot where they should rear their store-house and their dwellings. On the side of a high hill, facing the rising sun and the beautiful bay, they found an expanse, gently declining, where there were large fields which, two or three years before, had been cultivated with Indian corn. The summit of this hill commanded a wide view of the ocean and of the land. Springs of sweet water gushed from the hill-sides, and a beautiful brook, overshadowed by the lofty forest, meandered at its base. Here they unanimously concluded to rear their new homes.
As the whole party were rendezvoused upon this spot, the clouds began to gather in the sky, the wind rose fiercely, and soon the rain began to fall in torrents. Huge billows from the ocean rolled in upon the poorly-sheltered harbor, so that it was impossible to return by their small boat to the ship. They were entirely unsheltered, as they had brought with them no [Pg 35]preparations for such an emergency. Night, dark, freezing, tempestuous, soon settled down upon these houseless wanderers. In the dense forest they sought refuge from the icy gale which swept over the ocean. They built a large fire, and, gathering around it, passed the night and all the next day exposed to the fury of the storm. But, toward the evening of the 21st, the gale so far abated that they succeeded in returning over the rough waves to the ship.
The next morning was the ever memorable Friday, December 22. It dawned chill and lowering. A wintry gale still swept the bay, and pierced the thin garments of the Pilgrims. The eventful hour had now come in which they were to leave the ship, and commence their new life of privation and hardship in the New World. It was the birth-day of New England. In the early morning, the whole ship's company assembled upon the deck of the Mayflower, men, women, and children, to offer their sacrifice of thanksgiving, and to implore divine protection upon their lofty and perilous enterprise.
The Pilgrims, though inspired by impulses as pure and lofty as ever glowed in human hearts, were still but feebly conscious of the scenes which they were enacting. They were exiles upon whom their mother country cruelly frowned, and though they hoped to establish a prosperous colony, where their civil and religious liberty could be enjoyed, which they had sought in vain under the government of Great Britain, they were by no means aware that they were laying the foundation stones of one of the most majestic nations upon which the sun has ever shone. As they stood upon that slippery [Pg 37]deck, swept by the wintry wind, and reverently bowed their heads in prayer, they dreamed not of the immortality which they were conferring upon themselves and upon that day. Their frail vessel was now the only material tie which seemed to bind them to their father-land. Their parting hymn, swelling from gushing hearts and trembling lips, blended in harmony with the moan of the wind and the wash of the wave, and fell, we can not doubt, as accepted melody on the ear of God.
These affecting devotions being ended, boat-load after boat-load left the ship, until the whole company, one hundred and one in number, men, women and children, were rowed to the shore, and were landed upon a rock around which the waves were dashing. As the ship, in the shallow harbor, rode at anchor a mile from the beach, and the boats were small and the sea rough, this operation was necessarily very slow.
They first erected a house of logs twenty feet square, which would serve as a temporary shelter for them all, and which would also serve as a general store-house for their effects. They then commenced building a number of small huts for the several families. Every one lent a willing hand to the work, and soon a little village [Pg 38]of some twenty dwellings sprang up beneath the brow of the forest-crowned hill which protected them from the winds of the northwest. The Pilgrims landed on Friday. The incessant labors of the rest of the day and of Saturday enabled them to provide but a poor shelter for themselves before the Sabbath came. But, notwithstanding the urgency of the case, all labor was intermitted on that day, and the little congregation gathered in their unfinished store-house to worship God. Aware, however, that hostile Indians might be near, sentinels were stationed to guard them from surprise. In the midst of their devotions, the alarming cry rang upon their ears, "Indians! Indians!" A more fearful cry could hardly reach the ears of husbands and fathers. The church instantly became a fortress and the worshipers a garrison. A band of hostile natives had been prowling around, but, instructed by the valiant defense of the first encounter, and seeing that the Pilgrims were prepared to repel an assault, they speedily retreated into the wilderness.
The next day the colonists vigorously renewed their labors, having parceled themselves into nineteen families. They measured out their house lots and drew for them, clustering their [Pg 39]huts together, for mutual protection, in two rows, with a narrow street between. But the storms of winter were already upon them. Monday night it again commenced raining. All that night and all of Tuesday the rain fell in floods, while the tempest swept the ocean and wailed dismally through the forest. Thus they toiled along in the endurance of inconceivable discomfort for the rest of the week. All were suffering from colds, and many were seriously sick. Friday and Saturday it was again stormy and very cold. To add to their anxiety, they saw in several directions, at the distance of five or six miles from them, wreaths of smoke rising from large fires in the forest, proving that the Indians were lurking around them and watching their movements. It was evident, from the caution which the Indians thus manifested, that they were by no means friendly in their feelings.
The last day of the year was the Sabbath. It was observed with much solemnity, their store-house, crowded with their effects, being the only temple in which they could assemble to worship God.
Monday morning of the new year the sun rose in a serene and cloudless sky, and the Pilgrims, with alacrity, bowed themselves to their work. Great fires of the Indians were seen in the woods. The valiant Miles Standish, a man of the loftiest spirit of energy and intrepidity, took five men with him, and boldly plunged into the forest to find the Indians, and, if possible, to establish amicable relations with them. He found their deserted wigwams and the embers of their fires, but could not catch sight of a single native. A few days after this, two of the pilgrims, who were abroad gathering thatch, did not return, and great anxiety was felt for them. Four or five men the next day set out in search for them. After wandering about all day unsuccessfully through the pathless forest, they returned at night disheartened, and the little settlement was plunged into the deepest sorrow. It was greatly feared that they had been waylaid and captured by the savages. Twelve men then, well armed, set out to explore the wilderness, to find any traces of their lost companions. They also returned but to deepen the dejection of their friends by the recital of their unsuccessful search. But, as they were telling their story, a shout of joy arose, and the [Pg 41]two lost men, with tattered garments and emaciated cheeks, emerged from the forest. They gave the following account of their adventures:
As they were gathering thatch about a mile and a half from the plantation, they saw a pond in the distance, and went to it, hoping to catch some fish. On the margin of the pond they met a large deer. The affrighted animal fled, pursued eagerly by the dog they had with them. The men followed on, hoping to capture the rich prize. They were thus lured so far that they became bewildered and lost in the pathless forest. All the afternoon they wandered about, until black night encompassed them. A dismal storm arose of wind and rain, mingled with snow. They were drenched to the skin, and their garments froze around them. In the darkness they could find no shelter. They had no weapons, but each one a small sickle to cut thatch. They had no food whatever. They heard the roar of the beasts of the forests. They supposed it to be the roaring of lions, though it was probably the howling of wolves. Their only safety appeared to be to climb into a tree; but the wind and the cold were so intolerable that such an exposure they could not endure. So each one stood at the root of a tree [Pg 42]all the night long, running around it to keep himself from freezing, drenched by the storm, terrified by the cries which filled the forest, and ready, as soon as they should hear the gnashing of teeth, to spring into the branches.
The long winter night at length passed away, and a gloomy morning dimly lighted the forest, and they resumed their search for home. They waded through swamps, crossed streams, were arrested in their course by large ponds of water, and tore their clothing and their flesh by forcing their way through the tangled underbrush. At last they came to a hill, and, climbing one of the highest trees, discerned in the distance the harbor of Plymouth, which they recognized by the two little islands, densely wooded, which seemed to float like ships upon its surface. The cheerful sight invigorated them, and, though their limbs tottered from exhaustion, they toiled on, and, just as night was setting in, they reached their home, faint with travel, and almost famished with hunger and cold. The limbs of one of these men, John Goodman, were so swollen by exertion and the cold that they were obliged to cut his shoes from his feet, and it was a long time before he was again able to walk. Thus passed the month of January. Nearly [Pg 43]all of the colonists were sick, and eight of their number died.
February was ushered in with piercing cold and desolating storms. Tempests of rain and snow were so frequent and violent that but little work could be done. The huts of the colonists were but poorly prepared for such inclement weather, and so many were sick that the utter destruction of the colony seemed to be threatened. Though the company which landed consisted of one hundred and one, but forty-one of these were men; all the rest were women and children. Death had already swept many of these men away, and several others were very dangerously sick. It was evident that the savages were lurking about, watching them with an eagle eye, and with most manifestly unfriendly feelings. The colonists were in no condition to repel an attack, and the most fearless were conscious that they had abundant cause for intense solicitude.
On the 16th of this month, a man went to a creek about a mile and a half from the settlement a gunning, and, concealing himself in the midst of some shrubs and rashes, watched for water-fowl. While thus concealed, twelve Indians, armed to the teeth, marched stealthily by [Pg 44]him, and he heard in the forest around the noise of many more. As soon as the twelve had passed, he hastened home and gave the alarm. All were called in from their work, the guns were loaded, and every possible preparation was made to repel the anticipated assault. But the day passed away in perfect quietness; not an Indian was seen; not the voice or the footfall of a foe was heard. These prowling bands, concealed in the dark forest, moved with a mystery which was appalling. The Pilgrims had now been for nearly two months at Plymouth, and not an Indian had they as yet caught sight of, except the twelve whom the gunner from his ambush had discerned. Toward evening, Miles Standish, who, upon the alarm, had returned to the house, leaving his tools in the woods, took another man and went to the place to get them, but they were no longer there. The Indians had taken them away.
This state of things convinced the Pilgrims that it was necessary to adopt very efficient measures that they might be prepared to repel any attack. All the able-bodied men, some twenty-five in number, met and formed themselves into a military company. Miles Standish was chosen captain, and was invested with [Pg 45]great powers in case of any emergency. Rude fortifications were planned for the defense of the little hamlet, and two small cannons, which had been lying useless beneath the snow, were dug up and mounted so as to sweep the approaches to the houses. While engaged in these operations, two savages suddenly appeared upon the top of a hill about a quarter of a mile distant, gazing earnestly upon their movements. Captain Standish immediately took one man with him, and, without any weapons, that their friendly intentions might be apparent, hastened to meet the Indians. But the savages, as the two colonists drew near, fled precipitately, and when Captain Standish arrived upon the top of the hill, he heard noises in the forest behind as if it were filled with Indians.
This was the 17th of February. After this a month passed away, and not a sign of Indians was seen. It was a month of sorrow, sickness, and death. Seventeen of their little band died, and there was hardly strength left with the survivors to dig their graves. Had the Indians known their weakness, they might easily, in any hour, have utterly destroyed the colony.
March "came in like a lion," cold, wet, and stormy; but toward the middle of the month the weather changed, and a warm sun and soft southern breezes gave indication of an early spring. The 16th of the month was a remarkably pleasant day, and the colonists who were able to bear arms had assembled at their rendezvous to complete their military organization for the working days of spring and summer. While thus engaged they saw, to their great surprise, a solitary Indian approaching. Boldly, and without the slightest appearance of hesitancy, he strode along, entered the street of their little village, and directed his steps toward the group at the rendezvous. He was a man of majestic stature, and entirely naked, with the exception of a leathern belt about his loins, to which there was suspended a fringe about nine inches in length. In his hand he held a bow and two arrows.
The Indian, with remarkable self-confidence [Pg 49]and freedom of gait, advanced toward the astonished group, and in perfectly intelligible English addressed them with the words, "Welcome, Englishmen." From this man the eager colonists soon learned the following facts. His name was Samoset. He was one of the chiefs of a tribe residing near the island of Monhegan, which is at the mouth of Penobscot Bay. With a great wind, he said that it was but a day's sail from Plymouth, though it required a journey of five days by land. Fishing vessels from England had occasionally visited that region, and he had, by intercourse with them, acquired sufficient broken English to be able to communicate his ideas. He also informed the Pilgrims that, four years before their arrival, a terrible plague had desolated the coast, and that the tribe occupying the region upon which they were settled had been utterly annihilated. The dead had been left unburied to be devoured by wolves. Thus the way had been prepared for the Pilgrims to settle upon land which no man claimed, and thus had Providence gone before them to shield them from the attacks of a savage foe.
Samoset was disposed to make himself quite at home. He wished to enter the houses, and [Pg 50]called freely for beer and for food. To make him a little more presentable to their families, the Pilgrims put a large horseman's coat upon him, and then led him into their houses, and treated him with great hospitality. The savage seemed well satisfied with his new friends, and manifested no disposition to leave quarters so comfortable and entertainment so abundant. Night came, and he still remained, and would take no hints to go. The colonists could not rudely turn him out of doors, and they were very apprehensive of treachery, should they allow him to continue with them for the night. But all their gentle efforts to get rid of him were in vain—he would stay. They therefore made arrangements for him in Stephen Hopkins's house, and carefully, though concealing their movements from him, watched him all night.
Samoset was quite an intelligent man, and professed to be well acquainted with all the tribes who peopled the New England coasts. He said that the tribe inhabiting the end of the peninsula of Cape Cod were called Nausites, and that they were exceedingly exasperated against the whites, because, a few years before, one Captain Hunt, from England, while trading [Pg 51]with the Indians on the Cape, had inveigled twenty-seven men on board, and then had fastened them below and set sail. These poor creatures, thus infamously kidnapped, were carried to Spain, and sold as slaves for one hundred dollars each. It was in consequence of this outrage that the Pilgrims were so fiercely attacked at The First Encounter. Samoset had heard from his brethren of the forest all the incidents of this conflict.
He also informed his eager listeners that at two days' journey from them, upon the margin of waters now called Bristol Bay, there was a very powerful tribe, the Wampanoags, who exerted a sort of supremacy over all the other tribes of the region. Massasoit was the sovereign of this dominant people, and by his intelligence and energy he kept the adjacent tribes in a state of vassalage. Not far from his territories there was another powerful tribe, the Narragansets, who, in their strength, were sometimes disposed to question his authority. All this information interested the colonists, and they were anxious, if possible, to open friendly relations with Massasoit.
Early the next morning, which was Saturday, March 17th, Samoset left, having received as [Pg 52]a present a knife, a bracelet, and a ring. He promised soon to return again, and to bring some other Indians with him. The next morning was the Sabbath. It was warm, serene, and beautiful. Dreary winter had passed, and genial spring was smiling around them. As the colonists were assembling for their Sabbath devotions, Samoset again presented himself, with five tall Indians in his train. They were all dressed in skins, fitting closely to the body, and most of them had a panther's skin and other furs for sale. According to the arrangement which the Pilgrims had made with Samoset, they all left their bows and arrows about a quarter of a mile distant from the town, as the Pilgrims did not deem it safe to admit armed savages into their dwellings. The tools which had been left in the woods, and which the Indians had taken, were also all brought back by these men. The colonists received these natives as kindly as possible, and entertained them hospitably, but declined entering into any traffic, as it was the Sabbath. They told the Indians, however, that if they would come on any other day, they would purchase not only the furs they now had with them, but any others which they might bring.
Upon this, all retired excepting Samoset. He, saying that he was sick, insisted upon remaining. The rest soon disappeared in the forest, having promised to return again the next day. Monday and Tuesday passed, and the colonists looked in vain for the Indians. On Wednesday morning, having made Samoset a present of a hat, a pair of shoes, some stockings, and a piece of cloth to wind around his loins, they sent him to search out his companions, and ascertain why they did not return according to their promise. The Indians who first left had all, upon their departure, received presents from the Pilgrims, so anxious were our forefathers to establish friendly relations with the natives of this New World.
During the first days of the week the colonists were very busy breaking up their ground and planting their seed. On Wednesday afternoon, Samoset having left, they again assembled to attend to their military organization. While thus employed, several savages appeared on the summit of a hill but a short distance opposite them, twanging their bow-strings and exhibiting gestures of defiance. Captain Standish took one man with him, and with two others following at a distance as a re-enforcement in [Pg 54]case of any difficulty, went to meet them. The savages continued their hostile gesticulation until Captain Standish drew quite near, and then they precipitately fled.
The next day it was again warm and beautiful, and the little village of the colonists presented an aspect of industry, peace, and prosperity. About noon Samoset returned, with one single stranger accompanying him. This Indian's name was Squantum. He had been of the party seized by Weymouth or by Hunt—the authorities are not clear upon that point—and had been carried to Spain and there sold as a slave. After some years of bondage he succeeded in escaping to England. Mr. John Slaney, a merchant of London, chanced to meet the poor fugitive, protected him, and treated him with the greatest kindness, and finally secured him a passage back to his native land, from whence he had been so ruthlessly stolen. This Indian, forgetting the outrage of the knave who had kidnapped him, and remembering only the great kindness which he had received from his benefactor and from the people generally in London, in generous requital now attached himself cordially to the Pilgrims, and became their firm friend. His residence in England had rendered [Pg 55]him quite familiar with the English language, and he proved invaluable not only as an interpreter, but also in instructing them respecting the modes of obtaining a support in the wilderness.
Squantum brought the welcome intelligence that his sovereign chief, the great Massasoit, had heard of the arrival of the Pilgrims, and was approaching, with a retinue of sixty warriors, to pay them a friendly visit. With characteristic dignity and caution, the Indian chief had encamped upon a neighboring hill, and had sent Squantum as his messenger to inform the white men of his arrival, and to conduct the preliminaries for an interview. Massasoit was well acquainted with the conduct of the unprincipled English seamen who had skirted the coast, committing all manner of outrages, and he was too wary to place himself in the power of strangers respecting whom he entertained such well-grounded suspicions. He therefore established himself upon a hill, where he could not be taken by surprise, and where, in case of an attack, he could easily, if necessary, retreat.
The Pilgrims also, overawed by their lonely position, and by the mysterious terrors of the wilderness and of the savage, deemed it imprudent, [Pg 56]when such a band of armed warriors were in their vicinity, to send any of their feeble force from behind the intrenchments which they had reared. After several messages, through their interpreter, had passed to and fro, Massasoit, who, though unlettered, was a man of reflection and of sagacity, proposed that the English should send one of their number to his encampment to communicate to him their designs in settling upon lands which had belonged to one of his vassal tribes. One of the colonists, Edward Winslow, consented to go upon this embassy. He took as a present for the barbarian monarch two knives and a copper chain, with a jewel attached to it. Massasoit received him with dignity, yet with courtesy. Mr. Winslow, through Squantum as his interpreter, addressed the chieftain, surrounded by his warriors, in the sincere words of peace and friendship. The Pilgrims of the Mayflower were good men. They wished to do right, and to establish amicable relations with the Indians.
Massasoit listened in silence and very attentively to the speech of Mr. Winslow. At its close he expressed his approval, and, after a short conference with his councilors, decided to accept Governor Carver's invitation to visit him, [Pg 59]if Mr. Winslow would remain in the Indian encampment as a hostage during his absence. This arrangement being assented to, Massasoit set out, with twenty of his warriors, for the settlement of the Pilgrims. In token of peace, they left all their weapons behind. In Indian file, and in perfect silence, the savages advanced until they reached a small brook near the log huts of the colonists. Here they were met by Captain Miles Standish with a military array of six men. A salute of six muskets was fired in honor of the regal visit. Advancing a little farther, Governor Carver met them with his reserve of military pomp, and the monarch of the Wampanoags and his chieftains were escorted with the music of the drum and fife to a log hut decorated with such embellishments as the occasion could furnish. Two or three cushions, covered with a green rug, were spread as a seat for the king and the governor in this formal and most important interview. Governor Carver took the hand of Massasoit and kissed it. The Indian chieftain immediately imitated his example, and returned the salute. The governor then, in accordance with mistaken views of hospitality, presented his guest with a goblet of ardent spirits. The noble Indian, whose throat [Pg 60]had never yet been tainted by this curse, took a draught which caused his eyes almost to burst from their sockets, and drove the sweat gushing from every pore. With the instinctive imperturbability of his race, he soon recovered from the shock, and a long, friendly, and very satisfactory conference was held.
Massasoit was a man of mark, mild, genial, affectionate, yet bold, cautious, and commanding. He was in the prime of life, of majestic stature, and of great gravity of countenance and manners. His face was painted red, after the manner of the warriors of his tribe. His glossy raven hair, well oiled, was cut short in front, but hung thick and long behind. He and his companions were picturesquely dressed in skins and with plumes of brilliant colors.
As evening approached, Massasoit withdrew with his followers to his encampment upon the hill. The treachery of Hunt and such men had made him suspicious, and he was not willing to leave himself for the night in the power of the white men. He accordingly arranged his encampment to guard against surprise, and, sentinels being established, the rest of the party threw themselves upon their hemlock boughs, with their bows and arrows in their hands, and [Pg 61]were soon fast asleep. The Pilgrims also kept a vigilant watch that night, for neither party had full confidence in the other. The next morning Captain Standish, with another man, ventured into the camp of the Indians. They were received with great kindness, and gradually confidence was strengthened between the two parties, and the most friendly relations were established. After entering into a formal alliance, offensive and defensive, the conference terminated to the satisfaction of all parties, and the tawny warriors again disappeared in the pathless wilderness. They returned to Mount Hope, then called Pokanoket, the seat of Massasoit, about forty miles from Plymouth.
The ravages of death had now dwindled the colony down to fifty men, women, and children. But health was restored with the returning sun and the cheering breezes of spring. Thirty acres of land were planted, and Squantum proved himself a true and valuable friend, teaching them how to cultivate Indian corn, and how to take the various kinds of fish.
In June Governor Carver died, greatly beloved and revered by the colony. Mr. William Bradford was chosen as his successor, and by annual election was continued governor for many [Pg 62]years. Early in July Governor Bradford sent a deputation from Plymouth, with Squantum as their interpreter, to return the visit of Massasoit. There were several quite important objects to be obtained by this mission. It was a matter of moment to ascertain the strength of Massasoit, the number of his warriors, and the state in which he lived. They wished also, by a formal visit, to pay him marked attention, and to renew their friendly correspondence. There was another subject of delicacy and of difficulty which it had become absolutely necessary to bring forward. Lazy, vagabond Indians had for some time been increasingly in the habit of crowding the little village of the colonists and eating out their substance. They would come with their wives and their children, and loiter around day after day, without any delicacy whatever, clamoring for food, and devouring every thing which was set before them like famished wolves. The Pilgrims, anxious to maintain friendly relations with Massasoit, were reluctant to drive away his subjects by violence, but the longer continuance of such hospitality could not be endured.
The governor sent to the Indian king, as a present, a gaudy horseman's coat. It was made [Pg 63]of red cotton trimmed with showy lace. At 10 o'clock in the morning of the second of July, the two ambassadors, Mr. Winslow and Mr. Hopkins, with Squantum as guide and interpreter, set forward on their journey. It was a warm and sunny day, and with cheerful spirits the party threaded the picturesque trails of the Indians through the forest. These trails were paths through the wilderness through which the Indians had passed for uncounted centuries. They were distinctly marked, and almost as renowned as the paved roads of the Old World, which once reverberated beneath the tramp of the legions of the Cęsars. Here generation after generation of the moccasined savage, with silent tread, threaded his way, delighting in the gloom which no ray of the sun could penetrate, in the silence interrupted only by the cry of the wild beast in his lair, and awed by the marvelous beauty of lakes and streams, framed in mountains and fringed with forests, where water-fowl of every variety of note and plumage floated buoyant upon the wave, and pierced the air with monotonous and melancholy song. Ten or twelve Indians—men, women, and children—followed them, annoying them not a little with their intrusiveness and their greedy grasp [Pg 64]of food. The embassy traveled about fifteen miles to a small Indian village upon a branch of Taunton River. Here they arrived about three o'clock in the afternoon. The natives called the place Namaschet. It was within the limits of the present town of Middleborough. The Indians received the colonists with great hospitality, offering them the richest viands which they could furnish—heavy bread made of corn, and the spawn of shad, which they ate from wooden spoons. These glimpses of poverty and wretchedness sadly detract from the romantic ideas we have been wont to cherish of the free life of the children of the forest. The savages were exceedingly delighted with the skill which their guests displayed in shooting crows in their corn-fields.
As Squantum told them that it was more than a day's travel from there to Pokanoket or Mount Hope, they resumed their journey, and went about eight miles farther, till they came, about sunset, to another stream, where they found a party of natives fishing. They were here cheered with the aspect of quite a fruitful region. The ground on both sides of the river was cleared, and had formerly waved with corn-fields. The place had evidently once been [Pg 65]densely populated, but the plague of which we have spoken swept, it is said, every individual into the grave. A few wandering Indians had now come to the deserted fields to fish, and were lazily sleeping in the open air, without constructing for themselves any shelter. These miserable natives had no food but fish and a few roasted acorns, and they devoured greedily the stores which the colonists brought with them. The night was mild and serene, and was passed without much discomfort in the unsheltered fields.
Early in the morning the journey was resumed, the colonists following down the stream, now called Fall River, toward Narraganset Bay. Six of the savages accompanied them a few miles, until they came to a shallow place, where, by divesting themselves of their clothing, they were able to wade through the river. Upon the opposite bank there were two Indians who seemed, with valor which astonished the colonists, to oppose their passage. They ran down to the margin of the stream, brandished their weapons, and made all the threatening gestures in their power. They were, however, appeased by friendly signs, and at last permitted the passage of the river without resort to violence.
Here, after refreshing themselves, they continued their journey, following down the western bank of the stream. The country on both sides of the river had been cleared, and in former years had been planted with corn-fields, but was now quite depopulated. Several Indians still accompanied them, treating them with the most remarkable kindness. It was a cloudless day, and intensely hot. The Indians insisted upon carrying the superfluous clothing of their newly-found friends. As they were continually coming to brooks, often quite wide and deep, running into the river, the Indians eagerly took the Pilgrims upon their shoulders and carried them through.
During the whole of the day, after crossing the river, they met with but two Indians on their route, so effectually had the plague swept off the inhabitants. But the evidence was abundant that the region had formerly been quite populous with a people very poor and uncultivated. Their living had been manifestly nothing but fish and corn pounded into coarse meal. Game must have been so scarce in the woods, and with such difficulty taken with bows and arrows, that they could very seldom have been regaled with meat. A more wretched and monotonous [Pg 69]existence than theirs can hardly be conceived. Entirely devoid of mental culture, there was no range for thought. Their huts were miserable abodes, barely endurable in pleasant weather, but comfortless in the extreme when the wind filled them with smoke, or the rain dripped through the branches. Men, women, children, and dogs slept together at night in the one littered room, devoured by fleas. The native Indian was a degraded, joyless savage, occasionally developing kind feelings and noble instincts, but generally vicious, treacherous, and cruel.
The latter part of the afternoon they arrived at Pokanoket. Much to their disappointment, they found that Massasoit, uninformed of their intended visit, was absent on a hunting excursion. As he was, however, not far from home, runners were immediately dispatched to recall him. The chieftain had selected his residence with that peculiar taste for picturesque beauty which characterized the more noble of the Indians. The hillock which the English subsequently named Mount Hope was a graceful mound about two hundred feet high, commanding an extensive and remarkably beautiful view of wide, sweeping forests and indented bays.
This celebrated mound is about four miles from the city of Fall River. From its summit the eye now ranges over Providence, Bristol, Warren, Fall River, and many other minor towns. The whole wide-spread landscape is embellished with gardens, orchards, cultivated fields, and thriving villages. Gigantic steamers plow the waves, and the sails of a commerce which girdles the globe whitens the beautiful bay.
But, as the tourist sits upon the solitary summit, he forgets the present in memory of the past. Neither the pyramids of Egypt nor the Coliseum of the Eternal City are draped with a more sublime antiquity. Here, during generations which no man can number, the sons of the forest gathered around their council-fires, and struggled, as human hearts, whether savage or civilized, must ever struggle, against "life's stormy doom."
Here, long centuries ago, were the joys of the bridal, and the anguish which gathers around the freshly-opened grave. Beneath the moon, which then, as now, silvered this mound, "the Indian lover wooed his dusky maid." Upon the beach, barbaric childhood reveled, and their red limbs were bathed in the crystal waves.
Here, in ages long since passed away, the war-whoop resounded through the forest. The shriek of mothers and maidens pierced the skies as they fell cleft by the tomahawk; and all the horrid clangor of war, with "its terror, conflagration, tears, and blood," imbittered ten thousand fold the ever bitter lot of humanity.
In the midst of this attractive scene, perhaps nothing is more conspicuous than the spires of the churches—those churches of a pure Christianity to which New England is indebted for all her intelligence and prosperity. It was upon the Bible that our forefathers laid the foundations of the institutions of this New World; and, though they made some mistakes, for they were but mortal, still they were sincere, conscientious Christian men, and their Christianity has been the legacy from which their children have derived the greatest benefits. Two hundred years ago, our fathers, from the summit of Mount Hope, looked upon a dreary wilderness through which a few naked savages roamed. How different the spectacle which now meets the eye of the tourist!
Massasoit, informed by his runners of the guests who had so unexpectedly arrived, immediately returned. Mr. Winslow and Mr. Hopkins, wishing to honor the Indian king, fired a salute, each one discharging his gun as Massasoit approached. The king, who had heard the report of fire-arms before, was highly gratified; but the women and children were struck with exceeding terror, and, like affrighted deer, leaped from their wigwams and fled into the woods. Squantum pursued them, and, by assurances that no harm was to be feared, at length induced them cautiously to return.
There was then an interchange of sundry ceremonies of state to render the occasion imposing. The scarlet coat, with its gaudy embroidery of lace, was placed upon Massasoit, and a chain of copper beads was thrown around his neck. He seemed much pleased with these showy trappings, and his naked followers were exceedingly delighted in seeing their chieftain thus decorated. A motley group now gathered around the Indian king and the English embassy. Massasoit then made a long speech, to which the natives seemed to listen with great interest, occasionally responding with applause. It was now night. The two envoys were weary [Pg 73]with travel, and were hungry, for they had consumed all their food, not doubting that they should find abundance at the table of the sovereign of all these realms. But, to their surprise, Massasoit was entirely destitute, not having even a mouthful to offer them. Supperless they went to bed. In the following language they describe their accommodations for the night:
"Late it grew, but victuals he offered none, so we desired to go to rest. He laid us on the bed with himself and his wife, they at the one end and we at the other, it being only planks laid a foot from the ground, and a thin mat upon them. Two more of his chief men, for want of room, pressed by and upon us, so that we were worse weary of our lodging than of our journey."
The next day there was gathered at Mount Hope quite a concourse of the adjoining Indians, subordinate chiefs and common people. They engaged in various games of strength and agility, with skins for prizes. The English also fired at a mark, amazing the Indians with the accuracy of their shot. It was now noon, and the English, who had slept without supper, had as yet received no breakfast. At one o'clock [Pg 74]two large fishes were brought in, which had been speared in the bay. They were hastily broiled upon coals, and forty hungry men eagerly devoured them.
The afternoon passed slowly and tediously away, and again the Pilgrims went supperless to bed. Again they passed a sleepless night, being kept awake by vermin, hunger, and the noise of the savages. Friday morning they rose before the sun, resolved immediately to commence their journey home. Massasoit was very importunate to have them remain longer with him.
"But we determined," they write in their graphic narrative, "to keep the Sabbath at home, and feared that we should either be light-headed for want of sleep, for what with bad lodgings, the savages' barbarous singing (for they use to sing themselves asleep), lice, and fleas within doors, and musketoes without, we could hardly sleep all the time of our being there; we much fearing that if we should stay any longer we should not be able to recover home for want of strength; so that on the Friday morning before the sunrising we took our leave and departed, Massasoit being both grieved and ashamed that he could no better entertain us."
Their journey home was a very weary one. They would, perhaps, have perished from hunger had they not obtained from the Indians whom they met a little parched corn, which was considered a very great delicacy, a squirrel, and a shad. Friday night, as they were asleep in the open air, a tempest of thunder and lightning arose, with floods of rain. Their fire was speedily extinguished, and they were soaked to the skin. Saturday night, just as the twilight was passing away into darkness, they reached their homes in a storm of rain, wet, weary, hungry, and sore.
The result of this mission was, however, important. They renewed their treaty of peace with Massasoit, and made arrangements that they were to receive no Indians as guests unless Massasoit should send them with a copper necklace, in token that they came from him.
In the autumn of this same year a boy from the colony got lost in the woods. He wandered about for five days, living upon berries, and then was found by some Indians in the forests of Cape Cod. Massasoit, as soon as he heard of it, sent word that the boy was found. He was in the hands of the same tribe who, in [Pg 76]consequence of the villainies of Hunt, had assailed the Pilgrims so fiercely at the First Encounter. The savages treated the boy kindly, and had him at Nauset, which is now the town of Eastham, near the extremity of the Cape. Governor Bradford immediately sent ten men in a boat to rescue the boy.
They coasted along the first day very prosperously, notwithstanding a thunder-shower in the afternoon, with violent wind and rain. At night they put into Barnstable Bay, then called Cummaquid. Squantum and another Indian were with them as friends and interpreters. They deemed it prudent not to land, but anchored for the night in the middle of the bay. The next morning they saw some savages gathering shell-fish upon the shore. They sent their two interpreters with assurances of friendship, and to inquire for the boy. The savages were very courteous, informed them that the boy was farther down the Cape at Nauset, and invited the whole party to come on shore and take some refreshments. Six of the colonists ventured ashore, having first received four of the natives to remain in their boat as hostages. The chief of this small tribe, called the Cummaquids, was a young man of about twenty-six [Pg 77]years of age, and appeared to be a very remarkable character. He was dignified and courteous in his demeanor, and entertained his guests with a native politeness which surprised them much.
While in this place an old Indian woman came to see them, whom they judged to be a hundred years of age. As soon as she came into their presence she was overwhelmed with emotion, and cried most convulsively. Upon inquiring the reason, the Pilgrims were told that her three sons were kidnapped by Captain Hunt. The young men had been invited on board his ship to trade. He lured them below, seized and bound them, and carried them to Spain, where he sold them as slaves. The unhappy and desolate mother seemed quite heart-broken with grief. The Pilgrims addressed to her words of sympathy, assured her that Captain Hunt was a bad man, whom every good man in England condemned, and gave her some presents.
They remained with this kind but deeply-wronged people until after dinner. Then Iyanough himself, the noble young chief of the tribe, with two of his warriors, accompanied them on board the boat to assist them in their [Pg 78]search for the boy. A fair wind from the west filled their sails, and late in the evening, when it was too dark to land, they approached Nauset. Here was the hostile tribe whose prowess the colonists had experienced in the First Encounter. The villain, Captain Hunt, had stolen from them twenty men. It was consequently deemed necessary to practice much caution. Iyanough and Squantum went on shore there to conciliate the natives and to inform them of the object of the mission. The next morning a great crowd of natives had gathered, and were anxious to get into the boat. The English, however, prudently, would allow but two to enter at a time. The day was passed in parleying. About sunset a train of a hundred Indians appeared, bringing the lost boy with them. One half remained at a little distance, with their bows and arrows; the other half, unarmed, brought the boy to the boat, and delivered him to his friends. The colonists made valuable presents to Aspinet, the chief of the tribe, and also paid abundantly for the corn which, it will be remembered, they took from a deserted house when they were first coasting along the shore in search of a place of settlement. They then spread their sails, and a fair wind soon [Pg 79]drove them fifty miles across the bay to their homes.
The Wampanoags do not appear to have constituted a very numerous tribe, but, through the intellectual and military energy of their chieftain, Massasoit, they had acquired great power. The present town of Bristol, Rhode Island, was the region principally occupied by the tribe; but Massasoit extended his sway over more than thirty tribes, who inhabited Cape Cod and all the country extending between Massachusetts and Narraganset Bays, reaching inland to where the head branches of the Charles River and the Pawtucket River meet. It will be seen at once, by reference to the map, how wide was the sway of this Indian monarch, and how important it was for the infant colony to cultivate friendly relations with a sovereign who could combine all those tribes, and direct many thousand barbarian warriors to rush like wolves upon the feeble settlement.
The Narraganset Indians occupied the region extending from the western shores of Narraganset Bay to Pawcatuck River. They were estimated to number about thirty thousand, and could bring five thousand warriors into the field. Canonicus, the sovereign chief of this tribe, was a man of great renown. War had occasionally raged between the Narragansets and the Wampanoags, and the two tribes were bitterly hostile to each other. Canonicus regarded the newly-arrived English with great jealousy, and was particularly annoyed by the friendly relations existing between them and the Wampanoags. Indeed, it is quite evident that Massasoit was influenced to enter into his alliance with the English mainly from his dread of the Narragansets.
Bribery and corruption are almost as common in barbarian as in civilized courts. Canonicus had brought over to his cause one of the minor chiefs of Massasoit, named Corbitant. This [Pg 81]man, audacious and reckless, began to rail bitterly at the peace existing between the Indians and the English. Boldly he declared that Massasoit was a traitor, and ought to be deposed. Sustained as Corbitant was by the whole military power of the Narragansets, he soon gathered a party about him sufficiently strong to bid defiance to Massasoit. The sovereign of the Wampanoags was even compelled to take refuge from arrest by flight.
The colonists heard these tidings with great solicitude, and learning that Corbitant was within a few miles of them, at Namasket (Middleborough), striving to rouse the natives to unite with the Narragansets against them, they privately sent Squantum and another friendly Indian, Hobbomak, to Namasket, to ascertain what had become of Massasoit, and how serious was the peril with which they were threatened.
The next day Hobbomak returned alone, breathless and terrified. He reported that they had hardly arrived at Namasket when Corbitant beset the wigwam into which they had entered with a band of armed men, and seized them both as prisoners. He declared that they both should die, saying that when Squantum was dead the English would have lost their [Pg 82]tongue. Brandishing a knife, the savage approached Squantum to stab him. Hobbomak, being a very powerful man, at that moment broke from the grasp of those who held him, and outrunning his pursuers, succeeded in regaining Plymouth. He said that he had no doubt that Squantum was killed.
These were melancholy and alarming tidings. Governor Bradford immediately assembled the few men—about twenty in number—of the feeble colony, to decide what should be done. After looking to God for counsel, and after calm deliberation, it was resolved that, if they should suffer their friends and messengers to be thus assailed and murdered with impunity, the hostile Indians would be encouraged to continued aggressions, and no Indians would dare to maintain friendly relations with them. They therefore adopted the valiant determination to send ten men, one half of their whole number, with Hobbomak as their guide, to seize Corbitant and avenge the outrage.
The 14th of August, 1621, was a dark and stormy day, when this little band set out on its bold adventure. All the day long, as they silently threaded the paths of the forest, the rain dripped upon them. Late in the afternoon they [Pg 83]arrived within four miles of Namasket. They then thought it best to conceal themselves until after dark, that they might fall upon their foe by surprise. Captain Standish led the band. To every man he gave minute directions as to the part he was to perform. Night, wet and stormy, soon darkened around them in Egyptian blackness. They could hardly see a hand's breadth before them. Groping along, they soon lost their way, and became entangled in the thick undergrowth. Wet, weary, and dejected, they toiled on, and at last again happily hit the trail. It was after midnight when they arrived within sight of the glimmering fires of the little Indian hamlet of Namasket. They then sat down, and ate from their knapsacks a hearty meal. The food which remained they threw away, that they might have nothing to obstruct them in the conflict which might ensue.
They then cautiously approached a large wigwam where Hobbomak supposed that Corbitant and his men were sleeping. Silently they surrounded the hut, the gloom of the night and the wailings of the storm securing them from being either seen or heard. At a signal, two muskets were fired to terrify the savages, [Pg 84]and Captain Standish, with three or four men, rushed into the hut. The ground floor, dimly lighted by some dying embers, was covered with sleeping savages—men, women, and children. A scene of indescribable consternation and confusion ensued. Through Hobbomak, Captain Standish ordered every one to remain, assuring them that he had come for Corbitant, the murderer of Squantum, and that, if he were not there, no one else should be injured. But the savages, terrified by the midnight surprise and by the report of the muskets, were bereft of reason. Many of them endeavored to escape, and were severely wounded by the colonists in their attempts to stop them. The Indian boys, seeing that the women were not molested, ran around, frantically exclaiming, "I am a squaw! I am a squaw!"
At last order was restored, and it was found that Corbitant was not there, but that he had gone off with all his train, and that Squantum was not killed. A bright fire was now kindled, that the hut might be carefully searched. Its blaze illumined one of the wildest of imaginable scenes. The wigwam, spacious and rudely constructed of boughs, mats, and bark; the affrighted savages, men, women, and children, [Pg 85]in their picturesque dress and undress, a few with ghastly wounds, faint and bleeding; the various weapons and utensils of barbarian life hanging around; the bold colonists in their European dress and arms; the fire blazing in the centre of the hut, all combined to present a scene such as few eyes have ever witnessed. Hobbomak now climbed to the top of the hut and shouted for Squantum. He immediately came from another wigwam. Having disarmed the savages of their bows and arrows, the colonists gathered around the fire to dry their dripping clothes, and waited for the light of the morning.
With the early light, all who were friendly to the English gathered around them, while the faction in favor of Corbitant fled into the wilderness. A large group was soon assembled. Captain Standish, in words of conciliation and of firmness, informed them that, though Corbitant had escaped, yet, if he continued his hostility, no place of retreat would secure him from punishment; and that, if any violence were offered to Massasoit or to any of his subjects by the Narragansets, or by any one else, the colonists would avenge it to the utter overthrow of those thus offending. He expressed great regret [Pg 86]that any of the Indians had been wounded in consequence of their endeavors to escape from the house, and offered to take the wounded home, that they might be carefully healed.
After breakfasting with the Indians, this heroic band, accompanied by Squantum, some of the wounded, and several other friendly Indians, set out on their return. They arrived at home in safety the same evening. This well-judged and decisive measure at once checked the progress of Corbitant in exciting disaffection. He soon found it expedient to seek reconciliation, and, through the intercession of Massasoit, signed a treaty of submission and friendship; and even Canonicus, sovereign of the Narragansets, sent a messenger, perhaps as a spy, but professedly to treat for peace. Thus this cloud of war was dissipated.
On the whole, the Pilgrims had enjoyed a very prosperous summer. They were eminently just and kind in their treatment of the Indians. In trading with them they obtained furs and many other articles, which contributed much to their comfort. Fish was abundant in the bay. Their corn grew luxuriantly, and their fields waved with a rich and golden harvest. With the autumnal weather came abundance of [Pg 87]water-fowl, supplying them with delicious meat. Thus were they blessed with peace and plenty.
Various rumors had reached the colonists that several of the tribes of the Massachusetts Indians, so called, inhabiting the islands and main land at the northwestern extremity of Massachusetts Bay, were threatening hostilities. It was consequently decided to send an expedition to them, not to intimidate, but to conciliate with words of sincerity and deeds of kindness.
At midnight, September the 18th, the tide then serving, a small party set sail, and during the day, with a gentle wind, made about sixty miles north. Not deeming it safe to land, they remained in their boat during the night, and the next morning landed under a cliff. Here they found some natives, who seemed to cower before them in terror. It appeared afterward that Squantum had told the natives that the English had a box in which they kept the plague, and that, if the Indians offended them, they would let the awful scourge loose. Every where the English saw evidences of the ravages of the pestilence to which we have so often referred. There were desolate villages and deserted corn-fields, and but a few hundred Indians wandering here and there where formerly there had been [Pg 88]thousands. The kindness with which they treated the Indians, and the fairness with which they traded with them, won confidence. Squantum at one time suggested that, by way of punishment, and to teach the savages a lesson, they should by violence take away their furs, which were almost their only treasures. Our fathers nobly replied, "Were they ever so bad, we would not wrong them, or give them any just occasion against us. We shall pay no attention to their threatening words, but, if they attack us, we shall then punish them severely."
The Pilgrims explored quite minutely this magnificent harbor, then solitary and fringed with rayless forests, now alive with commerce, and decorated with mansions of refinement and opulence. The long promontory, now crowded with the busy streets and thronged dwellings of Boston, was then a dense and silent wilderness, threaded with a few Indian trails. Along the shore several rude wigwams were scattered, the smoke curling from their fires from among the trees, with naked children playing around the birch canoes upon the beach.
In the evening of a serene day the moon rose brilliant on the harbor, illumining with almost celestial beauty the islands and the sea. Many [Pg 89]of the islands were then crowned with forests; others were cleared smooth and verdant, but swept entirely clean of inhabitants by the dreadful plague. The Pilgrims, rejoicing in the rays of the autumnal moon, prepared to spread their sails. "Having well spent the day," they write, "we returned to the shallop, almost all the women accompanying us to trucke, who sold their coats from their backes, and tyed boughes about them, but with great shamefastness, for indeed they are more modest than some of our English women are. We promised them to come again to them, and they us to keep their skins.
"Within this bay the savages say there are two rivers, the one whereof we saw having a fair entrance, but we had no time to discover it. Better harbors for shipping can not be than here are. At the entrance of the bay are many rocks, and, in all likelihood, very good fishing ground. Having a light moon, we set sail at evening, and before next day noon got home, with a considerable quantity of beaver, and a good report of the place, wishing we had been seated there."
Thus, by kindness, the natives of this region were won to friendship, and amicable relations were established. Before the close of this year [Pg 90]another vessel arrived from England, bringing thirty-five persons to join the colony. Though these emigrants were poor, and, having consumed nearly all their food on a long voyage, were nearly starved, the lonely colonists received the acquisition with great joy. Houses were immediately built for their accommodation, and they were fed from the colony stores. Winter now again whitened the hills of Plymouth.
Early in January, 1622, Canonicus, sovereign chief of the Narragansets, notwithstanding the alliance of the foregoing summer into which he had entered, dreading the encroachments of the white men, and particularly apprehensive of the strength which their friendship gave to his hereditary enemies, the Mohegans, sent to Governor Bradford a bundle of arrows tied up in the skin of a rattlesnake. Squantum was called to interpret the significance of such a gift. He said that it was the Indian mode of expressing hostility and of sending a declaration of war. This act shows an instinctive sense of honor in the barbarian chieftain which civilized men do not always imitate. Even the savages cherished ideas of chivalry which led them to scorn to strike an unsuspecting and defenseless foe. The friendly Indians around Plymouth assured the [Pg 91]colonists that Canonicus was making great preparations for war; that he could bring five thousand warriors into the field; that he had sent spies to ascertain the condition of the English and their weakness; and that he had boasted that he could eat them all up at a mouthful. It is pleasant to record that our fathers had not provoked this hostility by any act of aggression. They had been thus far most eminently just and benevolent in all their intercourse with the natives. They were settled upon land to which Canonicus pretended no claim, and were on terms of cordial friendship with all the Indians around them. The Pilgrims at this time had not more than twenty men capable of bearing arms, and five thousand savages were clashing their weapons, and filling the forest with their war-whoops, preparing to attack them. Their peril was indeed great.
Governor Bradford called a council of his most judicious men, and it was decided that, under these circumstances, any appearance of timidity would but embolden their enemies. The rattlesnake skin was accordingly returned filled with powder and bullets, and accompanied by a defiant message that, if Canonicus preferred war to peace, the colonists were ready at [Pg 92]any moment to meet him, and that he would rue the day in which he converted friends into enemies.
Barbarian as well as civilized blusterers can, when discretion prompts, creep out of an exceedingly small hole. Canonicus had no wish to meet a foe who was thus prompt for the encounter. He immediately sent to Governor Bradford the assurance, in Narraganset phrase, of his high consideration, and begged him to believe that the arrows and the snake skin were sent purely in a Pickwickian sense.
The threatening aspect of affairs at this time led the colonists to surround their whole little village, including also the top of the hill, on the side of which it was situated, with a strong palisade, consisting of posts some twelve feet high firmly planted in the ground in contact with each other. It was an enormous labor to construct this fortification in the dead of winter. There were three entrance gates to the little town thus walled in, with bulwarks to defend them. Behind this rampart, with loop-holes through which the defenders could fire upon any approaching foe, the colonists felt quite secure. A large cannon was also mounted upon the summit of the hill, which would sweep all the approaches [Pg 93]with ball and grape-shot. Sentinels were posted night and day, to guard against surprise, and their whole available force was divided into four companies, each with its commander, and its appointed place of rendezvous in case of an attack. The months of January and February were occupied in this work. Early in March the fortification was completed.
The heroic defiance which was returned to Canonicus, and the vigorous measures of defense adopted, alarmed the Narragansets. They immediately ceased all hostile demonstrations, and Canonicus remained after this, until his death, apparently a firm friend of the English.
In June, to the great annoyance of the Pilgrims, two vessels came into the harbor of Plymouth, bringing sixty wild and rude adventurers, who, neither fearing God nor regarding man, had come to the New World to seek their fortunes. They were an idle and dissolute set, greedy for gain, and ripe for any deeds of dishonesty or violence. They had made but poor provision for their voyage, and were almost starved. The Pilgrims received them kindly, and gave them shelter and food; and yet the ungrateful wretches stole their corn, wasted their substance, and secretly reviled their habits [Pg 94]of sobriety and devotion. Nearly all the summer these unprincipled adventurers intruded upon the hospitality of the Pilgrims. In the autumn, these men, sixty in number, went to a place which they had selected in Massachusetts Bay, then called Wessagusset, now the town of Weymouth, which they had selected for their residence. They left their sick behind them, to be nursed by those Christian Pilgrims whose piety had excited their ribald abuse.
Hardly had these men left ere the ears of the Pilgrims were filled with the clamors which their injustice and violence raised from the outraged Indians. The Weymouth miscreants stole their corn, insulted their females, and treated them with every vile indignity. The Indians at last became exasperated beyond endurance, and threatened the total destruction of the dissolute crew. At last starvation stares them in the face, and they send in October to Plymouth begging for food. The Pilgrims have not more than enough to meet their own wants during the winter. But, to save them from famishing by hunger, Governor Bradford himself takes a small party in a boat and sails along the coast, purchasing corn of the Indians, getting a few quarts here and a few bushels there, [Pg 95]until he had collected twenty-eight hogsheads of corn and beans. While at Chatham, then called Manamoyk, Squantum was taken sick of a fever and died. It is a touching tribute to the kindness of our Pilgrim fathers that this poor Indian testified so much love for them. In his dying hour he prayed fervently that God would take him to the heaven of the Englishmen, that he might dwell with them forever. As remembrances of his affection, he bequeathed all his little effects to sundry of his English friends. Governor Bradford and his companions, with tears, followed the remains of their faithful interpreter to the grave, and then, with saddened hearts, continued their voyage.
At Nauset, now Eastham, their shallop was unfortunately wrecked. Governor Bradford stored the corn on shore, placed it under the care of the friendly Indians there, and, taking a native for a guide, set out on foot to travel fifty miles through the forest to Plymouth. The natives all along the way received him with kindness, and did every thing in their power to aid him. Having arrived at Plymouth, he dispatched Captain Standish with another shallop to fetch the corn. The bold captain had a prosperous though a very tempestuous voyage. While at [Pg 96]Nauset an Indian stole some trifle from the shallop as she lay in a creek. Captain Standish immediately went to the sachem of the tribe, and informed him that the lost goods must be restored, or he should make reprisals. The next morning the sachem came and delivered the goods, saying that he was very sorry the crime had been committed; that the thief had been arrested and punished; and that he had ordered his women to make some bread for Captain Standish, in token of his desire to cultivate just and friendly relations. Captain Standish having arrived at Plymouth, a supply of corn was delivered to help the people at Weymouth.
But these lawless adventurers were as improvident as they were vicious and idle. By the month of February they were again destitute and starving. They had borrowed all they could, and had stolen all they could, and were now in a state of extreme misery, many of them having already perished from exposure and want. The Indians hated them and despised them. Conspiracies were formed to kill them all, and many Indians, scattered here and there, were in favor of destroying all the white men. They foresaw that civilized and savage life could not abide side by side. The latter part of February [Pg 97]the Weymouth people sent a letter to Plymouth by an Indian, stating their deplorable condition, and imploring further aid. They had become so helpless and degraded that the Indians seem actually to have made slaves of them, compelling them to perform the most menial services. The letter contained the following dolorous complaints:
"The boldness of the Indians increases abundantly, insomuch that the victuals we get they will take out of our pots and eat it before our faces. If we try to prevent them, they will hold a knife at our breasts. To satisfy them, we have been compelled to hang one of our company. We have sold our clothes for corn, and are ready to starve, both with cold and hunger also, because we can not endure to get victuals by reason of our nakedness."
Under these circumstances, one of the Weymouth men, ranging the woods, came to an Indian barn and stole some corn. The owner, finding by the footprints that it was an Englishman who had committed the theft, determined to have revenge. With insulting and defiant confederates, he went to the plantation and demanded that the culprit should be hung, threatening, if there were not prompt acquiescence in [Pg 98]the demand, the utter destruction of the colonists. The consternation at Weymouth was great. Nearly all were sick and half famished, and they could present no resistance. After very anxious deliberation, it was decided that, since the man who committed the theft was young and strong, and a skillful cobbler, whose services could not be dispensed with, they would by stratagem save his life, and substitute for him a poor old bedrid weaver, who was not only useless to them, but a burden. This economical arrangement was unanimously adopted. The poor old weaver, bound hand and foot, and dressed in the clothes of the culprit, was dragged from his bed, and was soon seen dangling in the air, to the great delight of the Indians.
Much has been written upon this disgraceful transaction, and various versions of it have been given, with sundry details, but the facts, so far as can now be ascertained, are as we have stated. The deed is in perfect accordance with the whole course pursued by the miserable men who perpetrated it. The author of Hudibras unjustly—we hope not maliciously—in his witty doggerel, ascribes this transaction of the miscreants at Weymouth to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The mirth-loving satirist seemed to rejoice [Pg 99]at the chance of directing a shaft against the Puritans.
Just at this time news came to Plymouth that Massasoit was very sick, and at the point of death. Governor Bradford immediately dispatched Mr. Edward Winslow and Mr. John Hampden[A] to the dying chieftain, with such medical aid as the colony could furnish. Their friend Hobbomak accompanied them as guide and interpreter. Massasoit had two sons quite young, Wamsutta and Pometacom, the eldest of whom would, according to Indian custom, inherit the chieftainship. It was, however, greatly feared that the ambitious and energetic Corbitant, who had manifested much hostility to the English, might avail himself of the death of Massasoit, and grasp the reins of power. The deputation from Plymouth traveled the first day through the woods as far as Middleborough, then the little Indian hamlet of Namasket. There they passed the night in the wigwam of an Indian. They, the next day, [Pg 100]continued their journey, and crossing in a canoe the arm of the bay, which there runs far inland and three miles beyond, with much anxiety approached the dwelling-place of Corbitant at Mattapoiset, in the present town of Swanzey. They had been informed by the way that Massasoit was dead, and they had great fears that Corbitant had already taken steps as a usurper, and that they, two defenseless men, might fall victims to his violence.
Hobbomak, who had embraced Christianity, and was apparently a consistent Christian, was greatly beloved by Massasoit. The honest Indian, when he heard the tidings of his chieftain's death, bitterly deplored his loss.
"My loving sachem! my loving sachem!" he exclaimed; "many have I known, but never any like thee."
Then turning to Mr. Winslow, he added, "While you live you will never see his like among the Indians. He was no deceiver, nor bloody, nor cruel, like the other Indians. He never cherished a spirit of revenge, and was easily reconciled to those who had offended him. He was ever ready to listen to the advice of others, and governed his people by wisdom and without severity."
When they arrived at Corbitant's house they found the sachem not at home. His wife, however, treated them with great kindness, and informed them that Massasoit was still alive, though at the point of death. They therefore hastened on to Mount Hope. Mr. Winslow gives the following account of the scene witnessed at the bedside of the sick monarch:
"When we arrived thither, we found the house so full that we could scarce get in, though they used their best diligence to make way for us. They were in the midst of their charms for him, making such a fiendlike noise that it distempered us who were well, and therefore was unlike to ease him that was sick. About him were six or eight women, who chafed his arms, legs, and thighs, to keep heat in him. When they had made an end of their charming, one told him that his friends the English were come to see him. Having understanding left, but his sight was wholly gone, he asked who was come. They told him Winsnow, for they can not pronounce the letter l, but ordinarily n in the place thereof. He desired to speak with me. When I came to him, and they told him of it, he put forth his hand to me, which I took. Then he said twice, though very inwardly, Keen [Pg 102]Winsnow? which is to say, Art thou Winslow? I answered Ahhe, that is, yes. Then he doubled these words: Matta neen wonckanet namen Winsnow; that is to say, O Winslow, I shall never see thee again!"
Mr. Winslow immediately prepared some refreshing broth for the sick man, and, by careful nursing, to the astonishment of all, he recovered. Massasoit appeared to be exceedingly grateful for this kindness, and ever after attributed his recovery to the skill and attentions of his English friends. His unquestionable sincerity won the confidence of the English, and they became more fully convinced of his real worth than ever before. Mr. Winslow wished for a chicken to make some broth. An Indian immediately set out, at two o'clock at night, for a run of forty miles through the wilderness to Plymouth. In a surprisingly short time, he returned with two live chickens. Massasoit was so much pleased with the fowls—animals which he had never seen before—that he would not allow them to be killed, but kept them as pets. The kind-hearted yet imperial old chieftain manifested great solicitude for the welfare of his people. He entreated Mr. Winslow to visit all his villages, that he might relieve the sick and [Pg 103]the suffering who were in them. Mr. Winslow remained several days, and his fame as a physician spread so rapidly that great crowds gathered in an encampment around Mount Hope to gain relief from a thousand nameless ills. Some came from the distance of more than a hundred miles.
While at Mount Hope, Massasoit informed Mr. Winslow that Wittuwamet, a sachem of one of the Massachusetts tribes of Indians near Weymouth, and several other Indian chiefs, had formed a plot for the purpose of cutting off the two English colonies. Massasoit stated that he had been often urged to join in the conspiracy, but had always refused to do so, and that he had done every thing in his power to prevent it. Mr. Winslow very anxiously inquired into all the particulars, and ascertained that the Weymouth men had so thoroughly aroused the contempt as well as the indignation of the neighboring Indians, that their total massacre was resolved upon. The Indians, however, both respected and feared the colonists at Plymouth; and, apprehensive that they might avenge the slaughter of their countrymen, it was resolved, by a sudden and treacherous assault, to overwhelm them also, so that not a single Englishman should remain to tell the tale.
With these alarming tidings, Mr. Winslow, with Mr. Hampden and Hobbomak, left Mount Hope on his return. Corbitant, their outwardly-reconciled enemy, accompanied them as far as his house in what is now Swanzey.
"That night," writes Mr. Winslow, "through the earnest request of Corbitant, we lodged with him at Mattapoiset. On the way I had much conference with him, so likewise at his house, he being a notable politician, yet full of merry jests and squibs, and never better pleased than when the like are returned upon him. Among other things, he asked me that, if he were thus dangerously sick, as Massasoit had been, and should send to Plymouth for medicine, whether the governor would send it; and if he would, whether I would come therewith to him. To both which I answered yes; whereat he gave me many joyful thanks."
"I am surprised," said Corbitant, after a moment's thought, "that two Englishmen should dare to venture so far into our country alone. Are you not afraid?"
"Where there is true love," Mr. Winslow replied, "there is no fear."
"But if your love be such," said the wily Indian, "and bear such fruit, how happens it that [Pg 105]when we come to Plymouth, you stand upon your guard, with the mouth of your pieces pointed toward us?"
"This," replied Mr. Winslow, "is a mark of respect. It is our custom to receive our best friends in this manner."
Corbitant shook his head, and said, "I do not like such salutations."
Observing that Mr. Winslow, before eating, implored a blessing, Corbitant desired to know what it meant. Mr. Winslow endeavored to explain to him some of the primary truths of revealed religion, and repeated to him the Ten Commandments. Corbitant listened to them very attentively, and said that he liked them all except the seventh. "It must be very inconvenient," he said, "for a man to be tied all his life to one woman, whether she pleases him or not."
As Mr. Winslow continued his remarks upon the goodness of God, and the gratitude he should receive from us, Corbitant added, "I believe almost as you do. The being whom you call God we call Kichtan."
Mr. Winslow and his companions passed a very pleasant night in the Indian dwelling, receiving the most hospitable entertainment. [Pg 106]The next morning they hastened on their way to Plymouth. They immediately informed the governor of the alarming tidings they had heard respecting the conspiracy, and a council of all the men in the colony was convened. It was unanimously decided that action, prompt, vigorous, and decisive, was necessary.
The bold Captain Standish was immediately placed in command of an army of eight men to proceed to Weymouth. He embarked his force in a squadron of one boat, to set sail for Massachusetts—for Massachusetts and Plymouth were then distinct colonies. The captain was an intrepid, impulsive man, who rarely took counsel of prudence. He would wrong no man, and, let the consequences be what they might, he would submit to wrong from no man. The Pilgrims valued him highly, and yet so deeply regretted his fiery temperament that they were unwilling to receive him to the communion of the Church.
When they arrived at Weymouth they found a large number of Indians swaggering around the wretched settlement, and treating the humiliated and starving colonists with the utmost insolence. The colonists dared not exhibit the slightest spirit of retaliation. The Indians had [Pg 107]been so accustomed to treat the godless race at Weymouth with every indignity, that they had almost forgotten that the Pilgrims were men of different blood. As Captain Standish and his eight men landed, they were met by a mob of Indians, who, by derision and insolence, seemed to aim to provoke a quarrel. Wittuwamet, the head of the conspirators, was there. He was a stout, brawny savage, vulgar, bold, and impudent, almost beyond the conception of a civilized mind. Accompanied by a gang of confederates, he approached Captain Standish, whetting his knife, and threatening his death in phrase exceedingly contemptuous and insulting. By the side of this chief was another Indian named Peksuot, of gigantic stature and Herculean strength, who taunted the captain with his inferior size, and assailed him with a volley of barbarian blackguardism. All this it would be hard for a meek man to bear. Captain Standish was not a meek man. The hot blood of the Puritan Cavalier was soon at the boiling point. Disdaining to take advantage even of such a foe, he threw aside his gun, and springing upon the gigantic Peksuot, grasped at the knife which was suspended from his neck, the blade of which was double-edged, and ground [Pg 108]to a point as sharp as a needle. There was a moment of terrific conflict, and then the stout Indian fell dead upon the ground, with the blood gushing from many mortal wounds. Another Englishman closed with Wittuwamet, and there was instantly a general fray. Wittuwamet and another Indian were killed; another was taken prisoner and hung upon the spot, for conspiring to destroy the English; the rest fled. Captain Standish followed up his victory, and pursued the fugitives. A few more were killed. This unexpected development of courage and power so overwhelmed the hostile Indians that they implored peace.
The Weymouth men, thus extricated from peril, were afraid to remain there any longer, though Captain Standish told them that he should not hesitate to stay with one half their number. Still they persisted in leaving. Captain Standish then generously offered to take them with him to Plymouth, where they should share in the now almost exhausted stores of the Pilgrims. But they decided, since they had a small vessel in which they could embark, to go to Monhegan, an island near the mouth of the Kennebec River, where many English ships came annually to fish. The captain helped [Pg 109]them on board the vessel, provided for them a supply of corn, and remained until their sail was disappearing in the distant horizon of the sea. He then returned to Plymouth, and all were rejoiced that the country was delivered from such a set of vagabonds.
The Pilgrims regretted the hasty and violent measures adopted by Captain Standish, and yet they could not, under the circumstances, severely condemn him. The Rev. Mr. Robinson, father of the Plymouth Church, wrote from Holland:
"Due allowance must be made for the warm temper of Captain Standish. I hope that the Lord has sent him among you for good, if you will but use him as you ought. I fear, however, that there is wanting that tenderness for the life of man, made after God's own image, which we ought to cherish. It would have been happy if some had been converted before any had been killed."
The energetic, yet just and conciliatory measures adopted by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in their intercourse with the Indians, were productive of the happiest results. For several years there was a period of peace and prosperity. The colony had now become firmly established, and every year emigrants, arriving from the mother country, extended along the coasts and into the interior the comforts and the refinements of civilization.
In the year 1630, ten years after the landing of the Pilgrims, a company of gentlemen of fortune and of social distinction organized a colony, upon a much grander scale than the one at Plymouth, to emigrate to Massachusetts Bay, under the name of the Massachusetts Colony. The leaders in this enterprise were men of decidedly a higher cast of character, intellectual and social, than their brethren at Plymouth. On the 12th of June this company landed at Salem, and before the close of the year their [Pg 111]number amounted to seventeen hundred. The tide of emigration now began to flow very rapidly, and eight or ten towns were soon settled. Toward the close of this year a few families moved to the end of the peninsula now called Boston. The dense wilderness spread around them. They reared their log huts near the beach, at the north end, and by fishing, hunting, and raising Indian corn, obtained a frugal existence. In the five following years very great accessions were made to this important colony. Thriving settlements sprang up rapidly all along the coast. The colonists appear to have been conscientious in their dealings with the natives, purchasing their lands of them at a fair price. Nearly all these men came to the wilderness of this new world inspired by as lofty motives as can move the human heart. Many of them were wealthy and of high rank. At an immense sacrifice, they abandoned the luxuries and refinements to which they had been accustomed at home, that they might enjoy in New England that civil and religious liberty which Old England no longer afforded them.
The Dutch had now established a colony at the mouth of the Hudson River, and were looking wistfully at the fertile meadows which their [Pg 112]traders had found upon the banks of the Connecticut. The English were apprehensive that the Dutch might anticipate them in taking possession of that important valley. In 1630 the Earl of Warwick had obtained from Charles I. a patent, granting him all the land extending west from Narraganset Bay one hundred and twenty miles. This grant comprehended the whole of the present state of Connecticut and considerable more, reaching west to the Dutch settlements on the Hudson River. Preparations were immediately made for the establishment of a small company on the Connecticut River. Governor Winthrop sent a message to the Dutch governor at New Netherlands, as New York was then called, informing him that the King of England had granted all the region of the Connecticut River to his own subjects, and requesting that the Dutch would not build there. Governor Van Twiller returned a very polite answer, stating that the authorities in Holland had granted the same country to a Dutch company, and he accordingly requested the English not to settle there.
Governor Winthrop immediately dispatched some men through the wilderness to explore the country, and several small vessels were [Pg 113]sent to ascend the river, and, by trade, to establish friendly relations with the Indians. The Plymouth colony also sent a company of men with a frame house and boards for covering. When William Holmes, the leader of this company, had sailed up the Connecticut as far as the present city of Hartford, he found that the Dutch were before him, and had erected a fort there. The Dutch ordered him to go back, and stood by their cannon with lighted torches, threatening to fire upon him.
Mr. Holmes, an intrepid man, regardless of their threats, which they did not venture to execute, pushed boldly by, and established himself at the mouth of Little River, in the present town of Windsor. Here he put up his house, surrounded it with palisades, and fortified it as strongly as his means would allow. Governor Van Twiller, being informed of this movement, sent a band of seventy men, under arms, to tear down this house and drive away the occupants. But Holmes was ready for battle, and the Dutch, finding him so well fortified that he could not be displaced without a bloody conflict, retired.
The whole region of the State of Connecticut was at this time a wilderness, covered with a [Pg 114]dense and gloomy forest, which overshadowed both mountain and valley. There were scattered here and there a few spots where the trees had disappeared, and where the Indians planted their corn. The Indians were exceedingly numerous in this lovely valley. The picturesque beauty of the country, the genial climate, the fertile soil, and the vast variety of fish and fowl which abounded in its bays, ponds, and streams, rendered Connecticut quite an elysium for savage life.
These Indians were divided into very many tribes or clans, more or less independent, each with its sachem and its chief warriors. The Pequots were by far the most powerful and warlike among them. Their territory spread over the present towns of New London, Groton, and Stonington. Just north of them was a branch of the same tribe, called the Mohegans, under their distinguished sachem Uncas. The Pequots and the Mohegans, thus united, were resistless. It is said that, a few years before the arrival of the English in this country, the Pequots had poured down like an inundation from the forests of the north, sweeping all opposition before them, and had taken possession of the sea-coast as a conquered country.
Sassacus was the sovereign chief of this nation. The present town of Groton was his regal residence. Upon two commanding and beautiful eminences in this town, from which the eye ranged over a very extensive prospect of the Sound and the adjacent country, Sassacus had erected, with much barbarian skill, his royal fortresses. The one was on the banks of the Mystic; the other, a few miles west, on the banks of the Pequot River, now called the Thames. His sway extended over all the tribes on Long Island, and along the coast from the dominions of Canonicus, on Narraganset Bay, to the Hudson River, and spreading into the interior as far as the present county of Worcester in Massachusetts. Thus there seem to have been, in the days of the Pilgrims, three dominant nations, with their illustrious chieftains, who held sway over all the petty tribes in the south and easterly portions of New England. The Wampanoags, under Massasoit, held Massachusetts generally. The Narragansets, under Canonicus, occupied Rhode Island. The Pequots, under Sassacus, reigned over Connecticut. These powerful tribes were jealous of each other, and were almost incessantly engaged in wars.
Sassacus had twenty-six sachems under him, and could lead into the field four thousand warriors. He was shrewd, wary, and treacherous, and with great jealousy watched the increasing power of the English, who were now spreading rapidly over the principal parts of New England.
In the autumn of the year 1634, just after William Holmes had put up his house at Windsor, two English traders, Captains Norton and Stone, ascended the Connecticut River in a boat, with eight men, to purchase furs of the Indians. They had a large assortment of those goods which the natives prized, and for which they were eager to barter any thing in their possession. The Indians one night, as the vessel was moored near the shore, rushed from an ambush, overpowered the crew, murdered every individual, and plundered and sunk the vessel. The Massachusetts colony, which had then become far more powerful than the Plymouth, demanded of Sassacus redress and the surrender of the murderers. The Pequot chieftain, not being then prepared for hostilities, sent an embassy to Massachusetts with a present of valuable furs, and with an artfully contrived story in justification of the deed.
The barbarian embassadors, with diplomatic skill which Talleyrand or Metternich might have envied, affirmed that the English had seized two peaceable Indians, bound them hand and foot, and were carrying them off in their vessel, no one knew where. As the vessel ascended the river, the friends of the two captives followed cautiously through the forest, along the banks, watching for an opportunity to rush to their rescue. The Indians were well acquainted with the treachery of the infamous Englishmen in stealing the natives, and transporting them to perpetual slavery. One night the English adventurers, according to the representation of the Indians, drew their vessel up to the shore, and all landed to sleep. At midnight, the friends of the captives watched their opportunity, and made a rush upon the English while they were asleep, killed all, and released their friends. They also stated that all the Indians engaged in the affray, except two, had since died of the small-pox.
This was a plausible story. The magistrates of Massachusetts, men of candor and justice, could not disprove it; and as, admitting this statement to be true, but little blame could be attached to the Indians, the governor of Massachusetts accepted the apology, and entered into [Pg 118]friendly alliance with the Pequots. In the treaty into which he at this time entered with the Indian embassadors, the Pequots conceded to the English the Connecticut River and its immediate shores, if the English would establish settlements there and open trade with them.
Accordingly, arrangements were immediately made for the planting of a colony in the valley of the Connecticut. In the autumn of 1635, five years after the establishment of the Massachusetts colony at Salem, and fifteen years after the establishment of the Plymouth colony, a company of sixty persons, men, women, and children, left the towns of Dorchester, Roxbury, Watertown, and Cambridge, and commenced a journey through the pathless wilderness in search of their future home. It was the 12th of October when they left the shores of Massachusetts Bay. For fourteen days they toiled along through the wilderness, driving their cattle before them, and enduring incredible hardships as they traversed mountains, forded streams, and waded through almost impenetrable swamps. On the 9th of November they reached the Connecticut at a point near the present city of Hartford. The same journey can now be taken with ease in two and a half [Pg 119]hours. In less than a year three towns were settled, containing in all nearly eight hundred inhabitants. A fort was also erected at the entrance of the river, to exclude the Dutch, and it was garrisoned by twenty men.
The Indians now began to be seriously alarmed in view of the rapid encroachments of the English. They became sullen, and annoyed the colonists with many acts of petty hostility. There were soon many indications that Sassacus was meditating hostilities, and that he was probably laying his plans for a combination of all the tribes in a resistless assault upon the infant settlements.
The Wampanoags, under Massasoit, were still firm in their friendship; but it was greatly feared that the Narragansets, whose power was very formidable, might be induced to yield to the solicitations of the Pequots.
Roger Williams, who had taken refuge in Rhode Island to escape from his enemies in Massachusetts, was greatly beloved by the Indians. He had become quite a proficient in the Indian language, and by his honesty, disinterestedness, and courtesy, had particularly won the esteem of the Narragansets, in the midst of whom he resided. The governor and council [Pg 120]of Connecticut immediately wrote to Mr. Williams, soliciting him to visit the Narragansets, and exert his influence to dissuade them from entering into the coalition.
This great and good man promptly embarked in the humane enterprise. Bidding a hurried farewell to his wife, he started alone in a dilapidated canoe to sail along the shores of Narraganset Bay upon his errand of mercy. A violent tempest arose, tumbling in such a surf upon the shore that he could not land, while he was every moment threatened with being swallowed up in the abysses which were yawning around him. At length, after having encountered much hardship and surmounted many perils, he arrived at the imperial residence of Canonicus. The barbarian chieftain was at home, and it so happened that some Pequot embassadors had but a short time before arrived, and were then conferring with the Narragansets in reference to the coalition. All the arts of diplomacy of civilized and of savage life, of the wily Indian and of the sincere and honest Christian, were now brought into requisition. With heroism which was the more signal in that it was entirely unostentatious, this bold man remained three days and three nights [Pg 121]with the savages, encountering the threats of the Pequots, and expecting every night that they would take his life before morning. Grandeur of character always wins applause. The Indians marveled at his calm, unboastful intrepidity, and Canonicus, who was also a man of heroic mould, was so influenced by his arguments, that he finally not only declined to enter into an alliance with the Pequots, but pledged anew his friendship for the English, and engaged to co-operate with them in repelling the threatened assault.
This was an achievement of immense moment. Other distant tribes, who were on the eve of joining the coalition, intimidated by the withdrawal of the Narragansets, and by their co-operation with the English, also refused to take part in the war, and thus the Pequots were left to fight the battle alone. But the Pequots, with their four thousand merciless warriors, were a fearful foe to rush from their inaccessible retreats, with torch and tomahawk, upon the sparse and defenseless settlements scattered along the banks of the Connecticut River.
Various acts of individual violence were perpetrated by the savages before war broke out in all its horrors. The English were anxious to [Pg 122]avert hostilities, if possible, as they had nothing to gain from war with the natives, and their helpless families would be exposed to inconceivable misery from the barbarism of the foe.
The colonists now learned that the excuse which had been offered for the assault upon Captains Norton and Stone was a fabrication, and false in all its particulars. These men had engaged several Indians to pilot them up the river. They often stopped to trade with the natives. One night, as they were moored alongside of the shore, while many of the men had gone upon the land, and the captain was asleep in the cabin, a large number of Indians made a premeditated assault, and murdered all on board. The rest, as they returned in the darkness and unsuspicious of danger, were easily dispatched.
This new evidence of the treachery of the Pequots exasperated the colonists. Still, they did not think it best to usher in a war with such powerful foes by any retaliation. The Pequots, encouraged by this forbearance, became more and more insolent. In July, 1635, John Oldham ventured on a trading expedition to the Pequot country; for the Pequots, notwithstanding all the appearances against them, still pretended [Pg 123]to friendship, and solicited trade. One object of sending Captain Oldham upon this expedition was to ascertain more definitely the real disposition of the savages.
A few days after his departure, a man by the name of John Gallop was in a small vessel of about twenty tons, on his passage from Connecticut to Massachusetts Bay. A strong northerly wind drove him near Manisses, or Block Island. This island is about fourteen miles from Point Judith. It is eight miles long, and from two to four wide. To his surprise, he saw near the shore an English vessel, which he immediately recognized as Captain Oldham's, filled with Indians, and evidently in their possession. Sixteen savages, well armed with their own weapons, and with the guns and swords which they had taken from the English, crowded the boat.
Captain Gallop was a man of lion heart, inspirited by that Puritan chivalry which ever displayed itself in the most amazing deeds of daring, without the slightest apparent consciousness that there was any thing extraordinary in the exploit. His little vessel was considerably larger than the boat which the Indians had captured. His crew, however, consisted [Pg 124]of only one man and two boys. And yet, without the slightest hesitancy, he immediately decided upon a naval fight with the Indians. Loading his muskets and spreading all sail, he bore down upon his foe. The wind was fair and strong, and, standing firmly at the helm, while his crew were protected by the bulwarks from the arrows and bullets of the Indians, and were ready with their muskets to shoot any who attempted to board, he guided his vessel so skillfully as to strike the smaller boat of the foe fairly upon the quarter. The shock was so severe that the boat was nearly capsized, and six of the Indians were knocked into the sea and drowned.
Captain Gallop immediately stood off and prepared for another similar broadside. In the mean time, he lashed the anchor to the bows of the vessel in such a way that the fluke should pierce the side of the boat, and serve as a grappling iron. As there were now only ten Indians to be attacked, he decided to board the boat in case it should be grappled by the fluke of his anchor. Having made these arrangements, he again came running down before a brisk gale, and, striking the boat again, tore open her side with his anchor, while at the same moment [Pg 125]he poured in a heavy discharge of buckshot upon the terrified savages. Most of them, however, had plunged into the hold of the little pinnace, and the shot effected but little execution. A third time he ran down upon the pinnace, and struck her with such force that five more, in their turn, leaped overboard and were drowned. There were now but five savages left, and the intrepid Gallop immediately boarded the enemy. Three of the savages retreated to a small cabin, where, with swords, they defended themselves. Two were taken captive and bound. Having no place where he could keep these two Indians apart, and fearing that they might get loose, and, in co-operation with the three savages who had fortified themselves in the cabin, rise successfully upon him, Captain Gallop threw one of the Indians overboard, and he was drowned. This was rough usage; but the savages, who had apparently rendered it necessary by their previous act of robbery and murder, could not complain.
The pinnace was then stripped of her rigging and of all the goods which remained. The body of Captain Oldham was found, awfully mutilated, beneath a sail. The rest of the crew, but two or three in number, had been carried [Pg 126]as captives by the savages on the shore. Captain Gallop buried the corpse as reverently as possible in the sea, and then took the pinnace in tow, with the three savages barricaded in the cabin. Night came on, dark and stormy; the wind increased to a tempest, and it was necessary to cut the pinnace adrift. She was never heard of more.
Block Island, where these scenes occurred, belonged to the Narragansets; but many who were engaged in the murder, as if fearful of the vengeance of Canonicus, their own chieftain, fled across the Sound to the Pequot country, and were protected by them. The Pequots thus became implicated in the crime. Canonicus, on the other hand, rescued the captives taken from the boat, and restored them to their friends. The English now decided that it was necessary for them so to punish the Indians as to teach them that such outrages could no longer be committed with impunity. It was a fearful vengeance which was resolved upon. An army of one hundred men was raised, commissioned to proceed to Block Island, burn every wigwam, destroy all the corn, shoot every man, and take the women and children captive. Thus the island was to be left a solitude and a desert.
On the 25th of August, 1636, the detachment sailed from Boston. The Indians were aware of the punishment with which they were threatened, and were prepared for resistance. Captain John Endicott, who was in command of the expedition, anchored off the island, and seeing a solitary Indian wandering upon the beach, who, it afterward appeared, had been placed there as a decoy, took a boat and a dozen armed men, and rowed toward the shore. When they reached within a few rods of the beach, suddenly sixty warriors, picked men, tall, athletic, and of established bravery, sprang up from behind the sand-hills, rushed to the water's edge, and poured in upon the boat a volley of arrows. Fortunately, the boat was so far from the land that not much injury was done, though two were seriously wounded. As the water was shoal, the colonists, musket in hand, sprang from the boat and waded toward the shore, piercing their foes with a well-directed volley of bullets. Had the Indians possessed any measure of the courage of the English, the sixty savages might have closed upon the twelve colonists, and easily have destroyed them all; but they had no disciplined courage which would enable them to stand a charge. With awful [Pg 128]yells of fury and despair, they broke and fled into the forests and the swamps.
Captain Endicott now landed his force and commenced the work of destruction. There were two Indian villages upon the island, containing about sixty wigwams each. The torch was applied, and they were all destroyed. Every canoe that could be found was staved. There were also upon the island about two hundred acres of standing corn, which the English trampled down. But not an Indian could be found. The women and children had probably been removed from the island, and the warriors who remained so effectually concealed themselves that the English sought them in vain. After spending two days upon the island, the expedition again embarked, and sailed across the Sound to the mouth of the Thames, then called Pequot Harbor. As the vessel entered the harbor, about three hundred warriors assembled upon the shore. Captain Endicott sent an interpreter to inform them that he had come to demand the murderers of the English, and to obtain compensation for the injuries which the Indians had inflicted. To this the Pequots defiantly replied with a shower of arrows. Captain Endicott landed on both sides [Pg 129]of the harbor where New London now stands. The Indians sullenly retired before him to the adjacent rocks and fastnesses, rendering it necessary for the English to keep in a compact body to guard against assault. Two Indians were shot, and probably a few others wounded. The wigwams along the shore were burned, and the canoes destroyed, and then the expedition again spread its sails and returned to Boston, having done infinitely more harm than good. They had merely exasperated their haughty foes. They had but struck the hornets' nest with a stick. The Connecticut people were in exceeding terror, as they knew that savage vengeance would fall mercilessly upon them.
Sassacus was a stern man of much native talent. He laughed to scorn this impotent revenge. To burn an Indian wigwam was inflicting no great calamity. The huts were reared anew before the expedition had arrived in Boston. The Pequots now despised their foes, and, gathering around their council fires, they clashed their weapons, shrieked their war-whoop, and excited themselves into an intensity of rage. The defenseless settlers along the banks of the Connecticut were now at the mercy of the savages, who were roused to the commission [Pg 130]of every possible atrocity. No pen can describe the scenes of woe which, during the autumn and winter of 1636 and 1637, transpired in the solitudes of the wilderness. The Indians were every where in marauding bands. At midnight, startled by the yell of the savage, the lonely settler sprang to his door but to see his building in flames, to be pierced with innumerable arrows, to fall upon his floor weltering in blood, and to see, as death was stealing over him, his wife and his children brained by the tomahawk. The tortures inflicted by the savages upon their captives were too horrible to be narrated. Even the recital almost causes the blood to chill in one's veins.
Sassacus was indefatigable in his endeavors to rouse all the tribes to combine in a war of extermination.
"Now," said he, "is our time. If we do not now destroy the English, they will soon prove too powerful for us, and they will obtain all our lands. We need not meet them in open battle. We can shoot and poison their cattle, burn their houses and barns, lay in ambush for them in the fields and on the roads. They are now few. We are numerous. We can thus soon destroy them all."
Why did they not succeed in this plan? The only answer is that God willed otherwise. The Indians planned their campaign with great skill, and prosecuted it with untiring vigor. Not a boat could pass up or down the river in safety. The colonists were compelled to keep a constant guard, to huddle together in block-houses, and could never lie down at night without the fear of being murdered before morning. Almost every night the flame of their burning dwellings reddened the sky, and the shriek of the captives expiring under demoniac torture blended with the hideous shout of the savages.
At the mouth of the Connecticut River the fort of Saybrook had been erected. It was built strongly of timber, to resist the approaches of the Dutch as well as of the Indians, and was garrisoned by about fifty men. As this point commanded the entrance of the river, it was deemed of essential importance that it should be effectually fortified. But the Pequots were now so emboldened that they surrounded the fort, and held the garrison in a state of siege. They burned every house in the vicinity, razed all the out-houses of the fort, and burned every stack of hay and every useful thing which was not within reach of the guns of the fortress. [Pg 132]The cattle were all killed, and no person could venture outside of the fort. The Indians, keeping beyond the reach of gun-shot, danced with insulting and defiant gestures, challenging the English to come out, and mocking them with the groans and pious invocations which they had extorted from their victims of torture.
This awful state of affairs rendered it necessary to prosecute the war with a degree of energy which should insure decisive results. The story of Indian atrocities caused every ear in the three colonies to tingle, and all united to punish the common enemy. Plymouth furnished a vessel, well armed and provisioned, and manned by fifty soldiers under efficient officers. Massachusetts raised two hundred men to send promptly to the theatre of conflict. Connecticut furnished ninety men from the towns of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield. This was an immense effort for the feeble colonists to make.
The Mohegans dwelt in the interior of the country, and were consequently nearer the English settlements. Their sachem, Uncas, had his royal residence in the present town of Norwich. He was a stern, reckless man, and quite ambitious of claiming independence of Sassacus, [Pg 133]with his powerful section of the tribe. The Mohegans, Pequots, and Narragansets all spoke the same language, with but a slight diversity in dialect. The Mohegans, with apparent eagerness, united with the English. The Narragansets also continued firm in their pledged friendship to the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists, and promised a liberal supply of warriors to aid them in punishing the haughty Pequots. Sassacus had now raised a storm which he well might dread. The doom of his tribe was sealed.
On Wednesday, the 10th of May, 1637, the Connecticut troops, consisting of ninety Englishmen and seventy Mohegans, embarked at Hartford in three vessels, and sailed down the river to the fort at Saybrook. The expedition was commanded by Captain John Mason. Uncas, the Mohegan sachem, led the Indian warriors. When they arrived near the mouth of the river, the Indians desired to be set on shore, that they might advance by land to the fort, and attack the Pequots by surprise. The English were very apprehensive that their unreliable allies were about to prove treacherous, and to desert to the Pequots. But, as it was desirable to test them before the hour of battle arrived, [Pg 134]they were permitted to land. The Mohegans, however, proved faithful. On their way to the fort they fell in with forty Pequots, whom they attacked fiercely and put to rout, after having killed seven of their number, and taken one a captive. Their wretched prisoner they bound to a stake, and put to death with every barbarity which demoniac malice could suggest.
The two parties met at Fort Saybrook. Sassacus was strongly intrenched, about twenty miles east of them, in two forts, or, rather, fortified towns. These Pequot fortresses were about five miles distant from each other, on commanding hills, one on the banks of the Thames, and the other on the banks of the Mystic. It was the original plan to sail directly into the mouth of the Thames, then called Pequot Harbor, and attack the savage foe in his concentrated strength. But these fortresses were so situated as to command an extensive view of the ocean, as well as of the adjacent country. The vessels, consequently, could not enter Pequot Harbor without being seen by the Indians, and thus giving them several hours' warning.
After long and anxious deliberation, the chaplain of the expedition, Rev. Mr. Stone, having [Pg 135]been requested to pass the night in prayer for Divine guidance, it was decided to sail directly by the mouths of Pequot Harbor and the Mystic, and to continue along the shore to Narraganset Bay. Here they hoped to meet with the troops dispatched from Plymouth and Massachusetts. They could then march across the country about forty miles, and, approaching the Pequot forts in the night and through the forest, could attack them by surprise.
On Friday, the 19th of May, the expedition sailed from the mouth of the Connecticut. The Pequots, through their runners, kept themselves informed of every movement, and when they descried the vessels approaching, they felt that the decisive hour had come, and prepared for battle. But when they saw the vessels pass directly by without entering the harbor, they were exceedingly elated, supposing the English were afraid to attack them. They shouted, and danced, and clashed their weapons, and assailed their foes with all the artillery of barbarian derision. But the colonists, unconscious of the ridicule to which they were exposed, continued their course, and came to anchor in Narraganset Bay just as the twilight of Saturday evening was darkening into night. It was too late [Pg 136]then to land, and the next day being the Sabbath, they all remained on board their vessels, in the sacred observance of the day. All of Monday, and until late in the afternoon of Tuesday, a fearful gale swept the ocean, so that no boat could pass to the shore. Tuesday evening, however, Captain Mason landed, and had an interview with Miantunnomah, a chief very high in rank, who seems to have shared with his uncle Canonicus in the government of the Narragansets.
The fiery-spirited young sachem, hating the Pequots, and eager for a fight with them in conjunction with such powerful allies as the English, cordially received Captain Mason, granted him a passage through his country, and immediately called out a re-enforcement of two hundred men to join the expedition. That night an Indian runner arrived in the camp, and informed Captain Mason that Captain Patrick, with forty men, who had been sent in advance of the Massachusetts and Plymouth contingent, had reached Mr. Roger Williams's plantation in [Pg 137]Providence, and were hastening to meet him. Desirable as this junction was deemed, after mature deliberation, it was decided not to wait for Captain Patrick, as it was very important to strike a sudden and unexpected blow. The Narragansets stood in great dread of the Pequots, and it was feared that their zeal might grow cold. It was also feared that if they did not proceed immediately, the Pequots might receive tidings of their approach.
The little army, therefore, the very next morning, Wednesday, May 24th, commenced its march. The force consisted of seventy-seven Englishmen, sixty Mohegans, and two hundred Narragansets. The Narragansets were great braggarts. They made the forest resound with their vainglorious boasts, and, with the most valiant gestures, declared that they would now show the English how to fight. Guided by Indians through the forest, they pressed along rapidly through the day, and at night, having traversed about twenty miles, bivouacked upon the banks of a small stream. The next morning they resumed their march, and, crossing the stream, approached the territory of the Pequots. As they had advanced, large numbers of Narraganset warriors had flocked to join them, and they [Pg 138]had now five hundred of these boastful savages in the advance leading them on.
The day was intensely hot, and, in their rapid march, several of the troops fainted by the way. But, conscious that much depended upon taking the Pequots by surprise, Captain Mason urged his men forward, and about noon reached the banks of the Pawcatuck River, about twelve miles from the previous night's encampment. The Indians led them to a point in the river where they could pass it by a ford. They halted here for an hour, and refreshed themselves, and then moved on with much caution, as they were now almost in the country of their foe. It was but twelve miles from the ford to the first Pequot fort on the banks of the Mystic.
It had been the intention to attack both the forts, the Mystic and the Pequot, at once; but Wequash, a Pequot sachem, who had revolted from Sassacus, and, treacherous to his tribe, acted as their guide, here gave them such information respecting the situation and strength of these fortresses as induced them to alter their resolution, and to decide to make a united attack upon the fort at Mystic. When the Narragansets found that Captain Mason was actually intending to march directly up to the very [Pg 139]palisades of the fort, and assail those fierce and terrible warriors in their strongholds, they were filled with amazement and consternation. Many deserted and returned to Narraganset. All who remained lingered irresolutely in the rear. The English now found that their Indian allies could render them but very little service. Undaunted, however, by the great odds against which they would have to contend, they pressed vigorously and silently on, followed by a vagabond train of two or three hundred savages. The sun had gone down, and the shades of night were descending upon the forest when they reached the banks of the Mystic.
They were now within three miles of one of the great Pequot forts, on what is still called Pequot Hill, in the present town of Groton. Crossing the stream, here narrow and shallow, by a ford, they crept cautiously along, in the deepening darkness, until they came to a smooth and level plot of ground between two craggy bluffs now called Porter's Rocks.
The troops, excessively fatigued by travel and the heat of the sultry day, threw themselves upon the ground for a few hours' repose, intending to advance and make the attack upon the fort just before the break of day. The night [Pg 140]was serene and cloudless, and a brilliant moon illumined the couch of the weary soldiers. They were now so near the fort that they could hear the shouts of the savages in their barbaric carousals. A few moments after midnight they were all aroused from their sleep to march to the perilous assault. Devoutly these Christian heroes gathered around their chaplain, the Reverend Mr. Stone, and, with uncovered heads, united with him in fervent prayer that God would bless their enterprise. They were not going into the battle inspired by ambition, or the love of conquest, or the greed of gain. They were contending only to protect their wives and their children from the vengeance of a savage and a merciless foe. The Narragansets, now that the stern hour of trial had come, were in such a state of consternation that Captain Mason gathered them around him and said,
"We ask no aid from you. You may stand at any distance you please, and look on, and see how Englishmen can fight."
The fort was on the summit of a heavy swell of land, and consisted of a village of seventy wigwams, surrounded by a palisade. These palisades consisted of posts planted side by side, and so high that they could not be climbed [Pg 141]over. The warriors stationed behind them were safe apparently from assault, for even a musket ball would not pass through the posts. There were but two entrances to the fort, one on the northeastern and the other on the southwestern side. Between six and seven hundred Indians were within the fort.
The English troops were divided into two parties, one headed by Captain Mason, and the other by Captain Underhill, who had been in command of the fort at Saybrook. They decided to make a simultaneous attack upon each of the entrances. Though the moon shone very brilliantly, rendering it almost as light as day, yet the Indians, unsuspicious of danger and soundly asleep, gave not the slightest indication of alarm until the two parties had each silently approached within a rod of the entrances. A dog was then heard to bark, and immediately one solitary voice shouted frantically, "Englishmen! Englishmen!" The entrances were merely blocked up with bushes about breast high. The assailants instantly poured a volley of bullets in upon their sleeping foes, and, sword in hand, rushed over the feeble barriers. Notwithstanding the surprise and the appalling thunder of the guns, the Pequots sprang to arms and [Pg 142]made a fierce resistance. The two parties, advancing from the opposite entrances, forced their way along the main street, firing to the right and the left, and making fearful slaughter of their foes. They speedily swept the street clear of all opposition. The savages, however, who still vastly outnumbered their assailants, retreated into their wigwams, and, taking advantage of every covert, almost overwhelmed the compact bands of the English with a shower of arrows and javelins. The conflict was now fierce in the extreme, and for a time the issue was very doubtful. Several of the colonists were already killed, and many severely wounded.
The wigwams, composed of the boughs and bark of trees, and covered with mats, were as dry as powder. Captain Mason, at this critical moment, shouted to his exhausted men, "Set fire to the wigwams." Torches were immediately applied; the flames leaped from roof to roof, and in a few moments the whole village was as a furnace of roaring, crackling flame. The savages, forced by the fire from their lurking-places, presented a sure mark for the bullet, and they were shot down and cut down without mercy. It was no longer a fight, but a massacre. The Indians, bewildered with terror, threw [Pg 143]down their arms, and rushed to and fro in vain attempts to escape. Some climbed the palisades, only to present a sure target for innumerable bullets; others plunged into the eddying flames which were fiercely devouring their dwellings. For a moment their dark bodies seemed to tremble and vibrate in the glowing furnace, and then they fell as crisped embers.
The heat soon became so intense and the smoke so smothering that the English were compelled to retire outside of the fort. But they surrounded the flaming fortress, and every Indian who attempted to escape was shot. In one short hour the awful deed was accomplished. The whole interior of the fort was in ashes, and all the inmates were destroyed with the exception of seven only who escaped, and seven who were taken captives. The English knew that at a short distance from them there was another fort filled with Pequot warriors. It consequently was not safe to burden their little band with prisoners whom they could neither guard nor feed. They also wished to strike a blow which would appall the savages and prevent all future outrages. Death was, therefore, the doom of all.
The Mohegans and Narragansets, who had [Pg 144]timidly followed the English, and who had not ventured into the fort of the dreaded Pequots, stood tremblingly at a distance, gazing with dismay upon their swift and terrible destruction. The morning was cold, and a strong wind swept the bleak hills. The little army was entirely destitute of provisions, for no baggage-wagons could accompany them through the wilderness. They had hoped to obtain corn from the Indian fort, but the conflagration to which they had been unexpectedly compelled to resort had consumed every thing. Several of their number had been killed; more than twenty were severely wounded. Their surgeon and all their necessaries for the wounded were on board the vessels, which were to have sailed the night before from Narraganset Bay for Pequot Harbor. Nearly all their ammunition was consumed. At a short distance from them there was another still more formidable fort filled with fierce Pequot warriors, where Sassacus himself commanded. Thus, even in this hour of signal victory, starvation and ruin stared them in the face.
The officers met together in anxious consultation. Just then the sun rose brilliantly, and revealed the vessels but a few miles distant, [Pg 145]sailing before a fair wind toward Pequot Harbor. These strange men, of cast-iron mould, gave expression to their joy, not in huzzas, but in prayers and thanksgivings. But in the midst of this joy their attention was arrested by another spectacle. Three hundred Pequots, like a pack of tumultuous, howling wolves, came rushing along from the other fort. They had heard the guns and seen the flames, and were hurrying to the rescue.
As soon as the savages came in sight of the fort, and saw its utter destruction, they stopped a moment, as if aghast with rage and despair. They howled and tore out their hair, and, by their phrensied gestures, appeared to be in a delirium of fury. They then made a simultaneous rush upon the English, resolved to take revenge at whatever sacrifice of their own lives. There were now but forty-four Englishmen in a condition to fight. Three hundred savages—seven to one—rushed upon them in demoniac rage. But European weapons, and the courage and discipline of civilized life, were equal to the emergency.
Captain Mason promptly led forward a body of chosen men, who gave the savages so warm a reception as to check their advance and cause [Pg 146]them to recoil. These intrepid colonists, with cool, unerring aim, wasted not a bullet. Every report of the musket was the death of an Indian. The savages, thus repulsed, took refuge behind trees and rocks, and with great bravery pressed and harassed the English with every missile of savage warfare. A rear-guard was now appointed, under Captain Underhill, which kept the savages at a distance, while the whole party marched slowly toward the vessels, which were now entering Pequot Harbor.
Several of the English had been slain. Five were so severely wounded that they were utterly helpless, and had to be carried in the arms of their friends. Twenty others were also so disabled that, though they could with difficulty hobble along, they were unable to bear the burden of their own weapons. Nearly all the Narraganset Indians had now abandoned the English, and, with cowardice which it is difficult to explain, had retired precipitately through the woods to their own country. But the Mohegans had no place of refuge; their only safety was in clinging to the English. Captain Mason, that he might avail himself of the energies of all his men who were able to fight, employed these panic-stricken and impotent allies in carrying [Pg 147]the wounded, four taking in their arms one man. The Indians also bore the weapons of those who were too weak to carry them themselves. In this way the colonists marched in an uninterrupted battle for several miles to their vessels. The Pequots pressed them closely, assailing them with great fierceness and bravery, sending parties in advance to form ambushes in the thickets, and shooting their barbed and poisoned arrows from behind every rock and tree. At last the colonists reached the water's side in safety, and the Pequots, with yells of rage, retired.
Sassacus was quite overwhelmed by this disaster. All his warriors were terror-stricken, and feared to remain in the fort, lest they should experience the same doom which had overwhelmed their companions. In their desultory wars, the loss of a few men was deemed a great disaster. To have six or seven hundred of their warriors, hitherto deemed invincible, in one hour shot or burned to ashes, was to them inexpressibly awful. In dismay, they set fire to the royal fortress and to all the adjacent wigwams, and fled into the fastnesses of the forest. Captain Mason placed his wounded on board the vessels, obtained a supply of food [Pg 148]and a slight re-enforcement, and then commenced his march for the fort at Saybrook, which was about twenty miles distant. The Indians, whose wigwams were scattered here and there through the forest, fled in terror before him. The English, however, burned every dwelling, and destroyed all the corn-fields. At Saybrook the victorious party were received with great exultation. They then ascended the river to Hartford, and the men returned to their several families, having been absent but three weeks.
It is impossible for us to conceive, in these days of abundance and security, the rapture which this signal victory excited through all the dwellings on the banks of the Connecticut. One half of the effective men of the colony had gone forth to the battle, while the rest remained at home, armed, and sleeplessly vigilant, to protect the women and the children from a foe demoniac in mercilessness. The issues of the conflict were doubtful. Defeat was death to all—more than death: midnight conflagration, torture, and hopeless captivity of mothers and daughters in the dark wilderness and in the wigwams of the savage. Tears of gratitude gushed from the eyes of parents and children; [Pg 149]heartfelt prayers and praises ascended from every family altar and from every worshiping assembly.
An Indian runner was immediately dispatched to Massachusetts to carry the news of the decisive victory gained by the Connecticut troops alone. To complete the work thus auspiciously begun, Connecticut raised another band of forty men, and Massachusetts sent one hundred and twenty to meet them at Pequot Harbor. The latter part of June, four weeks after the destruction of the forts there, these two bodies met, in strong martial array, upon the ruins of the empire of Sassacus, resolved to prosecute the war to the utter extermination of the Pequots. The despairing fugitives had retired into the wilderness toward the west. The Indians, encumbered with their women and children, and destitute of food, could move but slowly. They were compelled to keep near the shore, that they might dig clams, which food was almost their only refuge from starvation.
The English vigorously pursued them, occasionally shooting a straggler or picking up a few captives, whom they retained as guides. When they arrived at Saybrook, one party followed along the coast in boats, while the others, [Pg 150]accompanied by Uncas and a band of Mohegan Indians, scoured the shore. They came at length to Menunkatuck, now called Guilford. The south side of the harbor here is formed by a long peninsula. Some Pequots, pursued by the English, ran down this neck of land, hoping that their tireless enemies would miss their track and pass by. But Uncas, with Indian sagacity, led the party on the trail. The Pequots, finding their foes upon them, plunged into the water and swam across the narrow mouth of the harbor. But another party of English was already there, who seized them as they waded to the shore. The chief of this little band of Pequots was sentenced to be shot. He was bound to a tree, and Uncas, with nervous arm, sent an arrow through his heart. The head of the savage was then cut off and placed in the crotch of a large oak tree, where it remained for many years, dried and shriveled in the sun, a ghastly memorial of days of violence and blood. From this extraordinary incident, the bluff, to the present day, bears the name of Sachem's Head.
The little army pressed vigorously on, by land and by sea, some twenty miles farther west, to a place called Quinnipiac, now New [Pg 151]Haven. Here they found a good harbor for their vessels, and they remained several days for rest. They saw the smokes of great fires in the woods, and sent out several expeditions in search of the Indians, but could find none. A Pequot, a traitor to his tribe, came in and informed them that a hundred Pequot warriors, with some two hundred men, women, and children of an adjacent tribe, had taken refuge in a large swamp about twenty-five miles west. This swamp was in the present town of Fairfield, directly back of the village. The army immediately advanced with all dispatch to the swamp. The bog was so deep and wet, and tangled with underbrush, that it seemed impossible to enter it. A few made the attempt, but they sank in the mire, and were sorely wounded by arrows shot from an invisible foe.
The English, with their Indian allies, surrounded the swamp. They were enabled to do this by placing their men at about twelve feet distance from each other. Several skirmishes ensued, in which a number of Indians were shot. At length the Indians who lived in that vicinity, and who had taken no part in the outrages committed against the colonists, but who, in their terror, had followed the Pequots into [Pg 152]the swamp, sent a delegation to the English imploring quarter. The poor creatures were perishing of starvation. The fierce and haughty Pequots, however, scorned to ask for mercy. They resolved to cut their way through the enemy, or to sell their lives as dearly as possible. The English promised life to all who would surrender, and who had never shed the blood of the colonists. Two hundred men, women, and children immediately emerged from the swamp. The sachem declared that neither he nor his people had ever done any harm to the English. They were accordingly left unmolested.
There were now nearly two hundred Pequots in the swamp. Night came on, and the English watched with sleepless vigilance lest they should make their escape. Toward morning a dense fog rose, adding to the gloom and darkness of the dreary scene. Availing themselves of this, the shrewd savages made several feints at different points, and then, with a simultaneous rush, made a desperate effort to break through. About seventy of the most vigorous of the warriors effected their escape; all the rest were either killed or taken prisoners.
Sassacus, with this remnant of his once powerful [Pg 153]tribe, fled over the mountains and beyond the Hudson to the land of the Mohawks. The fierce Mohawks, regarding him and his companions as intruders, fell upon them, and they were all slain but one, who, bleeding with his wounds, made his escape. They cut off the head of Sassacus, and sent his scalp, as evidence of his death, to Connecticut. A part of his skin and a lock of his hair was sent to Boston. During these conflicts many women and children were taken prisoners. We blush to record that the boys were all sent to the West Indies, and sold into bondage. The women and girls were divided about among the colonists of Connecticut and Massachusetts as servants.
The Narragansets and the Mohegans now became very valiant, and eagerly hunted through the woods for the few straggling Pequots who remained. Quite a number they killed, and brought their gory heads as trophies to Windsor and to Hartford. The Pequots had been so demoniac in their cruelty that the colonists had almost ceased to regard them as human beings. The few wretched survivors were so hunted and harassed that some fled far away, and obtained incorporation into other tribes. Others came imploringly to the English at Hartford, [Pg 154]and offered to be their servants, to be disposed of at their pleasure, if their lives might be spared.
Such is the melancholy recital of the utter extermination of the Pequot tribe. Deeply as some of the events in this transaction are to be condemned and deplored, much allowance is to be made for men exasperated by all the nameless horrors of Indian war. A pack of the most ferocious of the beasts of the forest was infinitely less to be dreaded than a marauding band of Pequots. The Pequots behaved like demons, and the colonists treated them as such. The man whose son had been tortured to death by the savages, whose house and barns had been burned by the midnight conflagration, whose wife and infant child had been brained upon his hearthstone, and whose daughters were, perhaps, in captivity in the forest, was not in a mood of mind to deal gently with a foe so fiendlike. We may deplore it, but we can not wonder, and we can not sternly blame.
This destruction of the Pequots so impressed the New England tribes with the power of the English, and struck them with so much terror, that for nearly forty years the war-whoop was not again heard. The Indian tribes had conflicts [Pg 155]with each other, but the colonists, blessed with ever-increasing prosperity, slept in peace and safety.
In view of the exploits of the Pequot warriors, Dr. Dwight, with some poetic license, exclaims:
With peace came abundant prosperity. Emigrants flocked over to the New World. In ten years after the Pequot war the colonists had settled fifty towns and villages, had reared forty churches, several forts and prisons, and the Massachusetts colony, decidedly pre-eminent, had established Harvard College. The wilderness indeed began to blossom, and gardens, orchards, rich pastures, fields of grain, and verdant meadows cheered the eye and filled the dwellings with abundance.
There were now four English colonies, Plymouth, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven. There were also the germs of two more, one at Providence and the other on Rhode Island. The Indians, with the exception of illustrious individuals, were a vagabond set of perfidious and ferocious savages. They were incessantly fighting with each other, and it required all the efforts of the English to keep [Pg 157]them under any degree of restraint. The utter extirpation of the Pequots so appalled them, that for forty years no tribe ventured to wage war against the English. Yet during this time individual Indians committed many enormous outrages of robbery and murder, for which the sachems of the tribes were not responsible. The Mohegans, under Uncas, had become very powerful. They had a fierce fight with the Narragansets. Miantunnomah was taken captive. Uncas put him to death upon Norwich plain by splitting his head open with a hatchet. The Mohegan sachem tore a large piece of flesh from the shoulder of his victim, and ate it greedily, exclaiming, "It is the sweetest meal I ever tasted; it makes my heart strong."
Marauding bands of Indians often committed murders. The efforts of the English to punish the culprits would exasperate others, and provoke new violence. Indications of combinations among the savages were frequently developed, and the colonists were often thrown into a general state of alarm, in anticipation of the horrors of another Indian war.
In the year 1644, a Massachusetts colonist visiting Connecticut was murdered on the way by an Indian. The English demanded the murderer. [Pg 158]The Indians, under various subterfuges, refused to give him up. The English, in retaliation, seized upon eight or ten Indians, and threw them into prison. This so exasperated the savages that they raised the war-whoop, grasped their arms, and threatened dire revenge. By boldness and moderation the English accomplished their ends, and the murderer was surrendered to justice. A few weeks after this an Indian entered a house in Stamford. He found a woman there alone with her infant child. With three blows of the tomahawk he cut her down, and, plundering the house, left her, as he supposed, dead. She, however, so far recovered as to describe the Indian and his dress. With great difficulty, the English succeeded in obtaining the murderer. The savages threw every possible impediment in the way of justice, and assumed such a threatening attitude as to put the colonists to great trouble and expense in preparing for war.
In view of such perils, in the year 1645, the colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven formed a confederacy, under the name of the United Colonies of New England. They thus entered into an alliance offensive and defensive. Each colony retained, [Pg 159]in its domestic concerns, its own government and jurisdiction. Two commissioners from each colony formed a board for managing the common affairs of the Confederacy. This was the germ of the present Congress of the United States.
In the year 1646 a large number of Indians formed a conspiracy to set fire to Hartford and murder the inhabitants. An Indian who was engaged to assassinate the governor, terrified, as he remembered that every one who had thus far murdered an Englishman had been arrested and executed, revealed the plot. The Indians generally, at this time, manifested a very hostile spirit, and many outrages were perpetrated. The English did not deem it prudent to pursue and punish the conspirators, but overlooked the offense.
In the wars which the savages waged with each other, the hostile parties would pursue their victims even into the houses of the English, and cut them down before the eyes of the horror-stricken women and children. In a very dry time the Indians set fire to the woods all around the town of Milford, hoping thus to set fire to the town. With the greatest difficulty the inhabitants rescued their dwellings from the flames.
In the year 1648, marauding bands of the Narragansets committed intolerable outrages against the people of Rhode Island, killing their cattle, robbing their houses, and insulting and even beating the inmates. The colonists were exceedingly perplexed to know what to do in these emergencies. The whole wilderness of North America was filled with savages. If they commenced a general war, it was impossible to predict how far its ravages might extend. The colonists were eminently men of peace. They wished to build houses, and cultivate fields, and surround their homes with the comforts and the opulence of a high civilization. They had bought their lands of the Indians fairly, and had paid for them all that the lands then were worth.
Massasoit died about the year 1661. He remained firm in his fidelity to the English until his death, though very hostile to the conversion of the Indians to Christianity. At one time, when treating for the sale of some of his lands in Swanzey, he insisted very pertinaciously upon the condition that the English should never attempt to draw off any of his people from their religion to Christianity. He would not recede from this condition until he found [Pg 161]that the treaty must be broken off unless he yielded.
As the English found many of the Indian names hard to remember and to pronounce, they were fond of giving English names to those with whom they had frequent intercourse. The Indians in general were quite proud of receiving these names. Massasoit, with that innate dignity which pertained to his imperial state, disdained to receive any other name but the one which he proudly bore as his ancestral legacy. A few years before his death, however, he brought his two sons, Wamsutta and Pometacom, to Plymouth, and requested the governor, in token of friendship, to give them English names. They were very bright, attractive young men, of the finest physical development. The governor related to Massasoit the history of the renowned kings of Macedon, Philip and Alexander, and gave to Wamsutta, the oldest, the name of Alexander, the great warrior of Asia, and to Pometacom, the younger, the less renowned name of Philip. These two young men had married sisters, the daughters of the sachem of Pocasset. The name of the wife of Alexander was Wetamoo, an unfortunate princess who became quite illustrious in subsequent scenes. [Pg 162]The wife of Philip had the euphonious name of Wootonekanuske.
Upon the death of Massasoit, his eldest son Alexander was invested with the chieftainship. The lands of the Indians were now very rapidly passing away from the native proprietors to the new-comers, and English settlements were every where springing up in the wilderness. The Indian power was evidently declining, while that of the white man was on the increase. With prosperity came avarice. Unprincipled men flocked to the colonies; the Indians were despised, and often harshly treated; and the forbearance which marked the early intercourse of the Pilgrims with the natives was forgotten. The colonists had generally become exasperated with the outrages of lawless vagabond savages, whom the sachems could not restrain, and who ranged the country, shooting their cattle, pillaging their houses, and often committing murder. A hungry savage was as ready to shoot a heifer in the pasture as a deer in the forest, if he could do so and escape detection. There thus very naturally grew up, upon both sides, a spirit of alienation and suspicion.
Alexander kept aloof from the English, and was cold and reserved whenever he met them. [Pg 163]Rumors began to float through the air that the Wampanoags were meditating hostilities. Some of the colonists, who had been called by business to Narraganset, wrote to Governor Prince, at Plymouth, that Alexander was making preparations for war, and that he was endeavoring to persuade the Narragansets to unite with him in a general assault upon the English settlements. Governor Prince immediately sent a messenger to Alexander, at Mount Hope, informing him of these reports of his hostile intentions which were in circulation, and requesting him to attend the next court in Plymouth to vindicate himself from these charges.
Alexander apparently received this message in a very friendly spirit. He assured Captain Willet, the messenger, that the accusation was a gross slander; that the Narragansets were his unrelenting foes; and that they had fabricated the story that they might alienate from him his good friends the English. He promised that he would attend the next meeting of the court at Plymouth, and prove the truth of these declarations.
Notwithstanding this ostensible sincerity and friendliness, various circumstances concurred to increase suspicion. When the court assembled, [Pg 164]Alexander, instead of making his appearance according to his agreement, was found to be on a visit to the sachem of the Narragansets, his pretended enemies. Upon this, Governor Prince assembled his counselors, and, after deliberation, ordered Major Winslow, afterward governor of the colony, to take an armed band, go to Mount Hope, seize Alexander by surprise before he should have time to rally his warriors around him, and take him by force to Plymouth. Major Winslow immediately set out, with ten men, from Marshfield, intending to increase his force from the towns nearer to Mount Hope. When about half way between Plymouth and Bridgewater, they came to a large pond, probably Monponsett Pond, in the present town of Halifax. Upon the margin of this sheet of water they saw an Indian hunting lodge, and soon ascertained that it was one of the several transient residences of Alexander, and that he was then there, with a large party of his warriors, on a hunting and fishing excursion.
The colonists cautiously approached, and saw that the guns of the Indians were all stacked outside of the lodge, at some distance, and that the whole party were in the house engaged in a banquet. As the Wampanoags were then, and [Pg 165]had been for forty years, at peace with the English, and as they were not at war with any other people, and were in the very heart of their own territories, no precautions whatever were adopted against surprise.
Major Winslow dispatched a portion of his force to seize the guns of the Indians, and with the rest entered the hut. The savages, eighty in number, manifested neither surprise nor alarm in seeing the English, and were apparently quite unsuspicious of danger. Major Winslow requested Alexander to walk out with him for a few moments, and then, through an interpreter, informed the proud Indian chieftain that he was to be taken under arrest to Plymouth, there to answer to the charge of plotting against the English. The haughty savage, as soon as he fully comprehended the statement, was in a towering rage. He returned to his companions, and declared that he would not submit to such an indignity. He felt as the President of the United States would feel in being arrested by a sheriff sent from the Governor of Canada, commanding him to submit to be taken to Quebec to answer there to charges to be brought against him. The demand was of a nature to preclude the exercise of courtesy. [Pg 166]As there were some indications of resistance, the stern major presented a pistol to the breast of the Indian chieftain, and said,
"I am ordered to take you to Plymouth. God willing, I shall do it, at whatever hazard. If you submit peacefully, you shall receive respectful usage. If you resist, you shall die upon the spot."
The Indians were disarmed. They could do nothing. Alexander was almost insane with vexation and rage in finding himself thus insulted, and yet incapable of making any resistance. His followers, conscious of the utter helplessness of their state, entreated him not to resort to violence, which would only result in his death. They urged him to yield to necessity, assuring him that they would accompany him as his retinue, that he might appear in Plymouth with the dignity befitting his rank.
The colonists immediately commenced their return to Plymouth with their illustrious captive. There was a large party of Indian warriors in the train, with Wetamoo, the wife of Alexander, and several other Indian women. The day was intensely hot, and a horse was offered to the chieftain that he might ride. He declined the offer, preferring to walk with his [Pg 167]friends. When they arrived at Duxbury, as they were not willing to thrust Alexander into a prison, Major Winslow received him into his own house, where he guarded him with vigilance, yet treated him courteously, until orders could be received from Governor Prince, who resided on the Cape at Eastham. At Duxbury, Alexander and his train were entertained for several days with the most scrupulous hospitality. But the imperial spirit of the Wampanoag chieftain was so tortured by the humiliation to which he was exposed that he was thrown into a burning fever. The best medical attendance was furnished, and he was nursed with the utmost care, but he grew daily worse, and soon serious fears were entertained that he would die.
The Indian warriors, greatly alarmed for their beloved chieftain, entreated that they might be permitted to take Alexander home, promising that they would return with him as soon as he had recovered, and that, in the mean time, the son of Alexander should be sent to the English as a hostage. The court assented to this arrangement. The Indians took their unhappy king, dying of a crushed spirit, upon a litter on their shoulders, and entered the trails of the [Pg 168]forest. Slowly they traveled with their burden until they arrived at Tethquet, now Taunton River. There they took canoes. They had not, however, paddled far down the stream before it became evident that their monarch was dying. They placed him upon a grassy mound beneath a majestic tree, and in silence the stoical warriors gathered around to witness the departure of his spirit to the realms of the Red Man's immortality.
What a scene for the painter! The sublimity of the forest, the glassy stream, meandering beneath the overshadowing trees, the bark canoes of the natives moored to the shore, the dying chieftain, with his warriors assembled in stern sadness around him, and the beautiful and heroic Wetamoo, holding in her lap the head of her dying lord as she wiped his clammy brow, nursing those emotions of revenge which finally desolated the three colonies with flame, blood, and woe.
The tragic death of Alexander introduced to the throne his brother Pometacom, whom the English named King Philip.
Much has been written respecting the Indian's disregard for woman. The history of Wetamoo proves that these views have been [Pg 171]very greatly exaggerated, or that they admit of very marked exceptions. Wetamoo immediately became the unrelenting foe of the English. With all the fervor of her fresh nature, she studied to avenge her husband's death. This one idea became the controlling principle of her future life. That Wamsutta's death was caused by the anguish of a wounded spirit no colonist doubted; but Wetamoo believed, and most of the Indians believed, that poison had been administered to the captive monarch, and that he thus perished the victim of foul murder. Wetamoo was an energetic, and, for a savage, a noble woman. All the energies of her soul were aroused to avenge her husband's death. She was by birth the princess of another tribe, and it appears that she had power, woman though she was, to lead three hundred warriors into the field.
Philip was a man of superior endowments. He clearly understood the power of the English, and the peril to be encountered in waging war against them. And yet he as distinctly saw that, unless the encroachments of the English could be arrested, his own race was doomed to destruction. At one time he was quite interested in the Christian religion; but apparently foreseeing [Pg 172]that, with the introduction of Christianity, all the peculiarities of manners and customs in Indian life must pass away, he adopted the views of his father, Massasoit, and became bitterly opposed to any change of religion among his people. Mr. Gookin, speaking of the Wampanoags, says:
"There are some that have hopes of their greatest and chiefest sachem, named Philip. Some of his chief men, as I hear, stand well-inclined to hear the Gospel, and himself is a person of good understanding and knowledge in the best things. I have heard him speak very good words, arguing that his conscience is convicted. But yet, though his will is bound to embrace Jesus Christ, his sensual and carnal lusts are strong bands to hold him fast under Satan's dominion."
Some time after this, Rev. Mr. Elliot records that, in conversation with King Philip upon the subject of religion, the Wampanoag chieftain took hold of a button upon Mr. Elliot's coat, and said, very deliberately,
"Mr. Elliot, I care no more for the Gospel of Jesus Christ than I do for that button."
For nine years Philip was probably brooding over the subject of the encroachments of the [Pg 173]English, and the waning power of the Indians. This was the inevitable result of the idle, vagabond life of the Indians, and of the industry and energy of the colonists. The Indians had not thus far been defrauded. Mr. Josiah Winslow, governor of Plymouth Colony, writes, in a letter dated May 1, 1676:
"I think I can truly say that, before these present troubles broke out, the English did not possess one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian proprietors."
The discontent of Philip did not, however, escape the notice of the English, and for a long time they saw increasing indications that a storm was gathering. The wary monarch, with continued protestations of friendship, was evidently accumulating resources, strengthening alliances, and distributing more extensively among the Indians guns and other weapons of Indian warfare. His warriors soon rivaled the white men in skill as sharp-shooters, and became very adroit in the use of their weapons. They were carefully laying up stores of powder and bullets, and Philip could not conceal the interest with which he endeavored to learn how to manufacture gunpowder.
Under this state of affairs, it is easy to perceive that mutual suspicions and recriminations must have rapidly ensued. The Indians and the colonists, year after year, became more exasperated against each other. The dangers of collision were constantly growing more imminent. Many deeds of violence and aggression were perpetrated by individuals upon each side. Still, candor compels us to admit, as we carefully read the record of those days, that the English were very far from being patterns of meekness and long-suffering. Haughtiness and intolerance when in power has marked the career of our venerated, yet far from faultless ancestors in every quarter of the globe.
The Narraganset tribe had now lost its pre-eminence. Canonicus had long since died, at the age of eighty years. Miantunnomah had been taken prisoner by the Mohegans, and had been executed upon the plain of Norwich. Ninigret, who was now sovereign chief of the Narragansets, was old, infirm, and imbecile. His character illustrates the saying of Napoleon, that "better is it to have an army of deer led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a deer."
Philip, by his commanding genius and daring [Pg 175]spirit, had now obtained a great ascendency over all the New England tribes excepting the Mohegans. They, under Uncas, were strongly attached to the English, to whom they were indebted for their very existence. The character of Philip is illustrated by the following incident. In 1665, he heard that an Indian had spoken disrespectfully of his father, Massasoit. To avenge the insult, he pursued the offender from place to place, until, at last, he tracked him to the island of Nantucket. Taking a canoe, Philip proceeded to the island. Assasamooyh, who, by speaking ill of the dead, had, according to Indian law, forfeited his life, was a Christian Indian. He was sitting at the table of one of the colonists, when a messenger rushed in breathlessly, and informed him that the dreaded avenger was near the door. Assasamooyh had but just time to rush from the house when Philip was upon him. The Indian fled like a frighted deer, pursued by the vengeful chieftain. From house to house the pursued and his pursuer rushed, while the English looked with amazement at this exhibition of the energy of Indian law. According to their code, whoever spoke ill of the dead was to forfeit life at the hand of the nearest relative. Thus Philip, [Pg 176]with his brandished tomahawk, considered himself but the honored executor of justice. Assasamooyh, however, at length leaped a bank, and, plunging into the forest, eluded his foe. The English then succeeded, by a very heavy ransom, in purchasing his life, and Philip returned to Mount Hope, feeling that his father's memory had been suitably avenged.
In the year 1671, the English, alarmed by the threatening aspect of affairs, and seeing increasing indications that Philip was preparing for hostilities, sent an imperious command to him to come to Taunton and explain his conduct. For some time Philip made sundry rather weak excuses for not complying with this demand, at the same time reiterating assurances of his friendly feelings. He was, as yet, quite unprepared for war, and was very reluctant to precipitate hostilities, which he had sufficient sagacity to foresee would involve him in ruin, unless he could first form such a coalition of the Indian tribes as would enable him to attack all the English settlements at one and the same time. At length, however, he found that he could no longer refuse to give some explanation of the measures he was adopting without giving fatal strength to the suspicions against him.
Accordingly, on the 10th of April of this year, he took with him a band of warriors, armed to the teeth, and painted and decorated with the most brilliant trappings of barbarian splendor, and approached within four miles of Taunton. Here the proud monarch of the Wampanoags established his encampment, and, with native-taught punctiliousness, sent a message to the English governor, informing him of his arrival at that spot, and requiring him to come and treat with him there. The governor, either afraid to meet these warriors in their own encampment, or deeming it beneath his dignity to attend the summons of an Indian chieftain, sent Roger Williams, with several other messengers, to assure Philip of his friendly feelings, and to entreat him to continue his journey to Taunton, as a more convenient place for their conference. Philip, with caution which subsequent events proved to have been well timed, detained these messengers as hostages for his safe return, and then, with an imposing retinue of his painted braves, proudly strode forward toward the town of Taunton.
When he arrived at a hill upon the outskirts of the village, he again halted, and warily established sentinels around his encampment. The [Pg 178]governor and magistrates of Massachusetts, apprehensive that the Plymouth people might get embroiled in a war with the Indians, and anxious, if possible, to avert so terrible a calamity, had dispatched three commissioners to Taunton to endeavor to promote reconciliation between the Plymouth colony and Philip. These commissioners were now in conference with the Plymouth court. When Philip appeared upon the hill, the Plymouth magistrates, exasperated by many outrages, were quite eager to march and attack him, and take his whole party prisoners, and hold them as hostages for the good behavior of the Indians. With no little difficulty the Massachusetts commissioners overruled this rash design, and consented to go out themselves and persuade Philip to come in and confer in a friendly manner upon the adjustment of their affairs.
Philip received the Massachusetts men with reserve, but with much courtesy. At first he refused to advance any farther, but declared that those who wished to confer with him must come where he was. At length, however, he consented to refer the difficulties which existed between him and the Plymouth colony to the Massachusetts commissioners, and to hold the [Pg 179]conference in the Taunton meeting-house. But, that he might meet his accusers upon the basis of perfect equality, he demanded that one half of the meeting-house should be appropriated sacredly to himself and his followers, while the Plymouth people, his accusers, should occupy the other half. The Massachusetts commissioners, three gentlemen, were to sit alone as umpires. We can not but admire the character developed by Philip in these arrangements.
Philip managed his cause, which was manifestly a bad one, with great adroitness. Talleyrand and Metternich would have given him a high position among European diplomatists. He could not deny that he was making great military preparations, but he declared that this was only in anticipation of an attack from the Narraganset Indians. But it was proved that at that moment he was on terms of more intimate friendship with the Narragansets than ever before. He also brought charge for charge against the English; and it can not be doubted that he and his people had suffered much from the arrogance of individuals of the domineering race. Philip has had no one to tell his story, and we have received the narrative only from the pens of his foes. They tell us that [Pg 180]he was at length confounded, and made full confession of his hostile designs, and expressed regret for them.
As a result of the conference, all past grievances were to be buried in oblivion, and a treaty was entered into in which mutual friendship was pledged, and in which Philip consented to the extraordinary measure of disarming his people, and of surrendering their guns to the governor of Plymouth, to be retained by him so long as he should distrust the sincerity of their friendship. Philip and his warriors immediately gave up their guns, seventy in number, and promised to send in the rest within a given time.
It is difficult to conceive how the Indians could have understandingly, and in good faith, have made such a treaty. The English had now been fifty years in the country. The Indians had become familiar with the use of guns. Bows and arrows had long since been laid aside. As game was with them an important element of food, the loss of their guns was apparently a very serious calamity. It is not improbable that the English magistrates humanely hoped, by taking away the guns of the Indians, to lead them from the precarious and vagabond life of [Pg 181]hunters to the more refining influences of agriculture. But it is very certain that the Indians cherished no such views. It was also agreed in the council that, in case of future troubles, both parties should submit their complaints to the arbitration of Massachusetts.
This settlement, apparently so important, amounted to nothing. The Indians were ever ready, it is said, to sign any agreement whatever which would extricate them from a momentary difficulty; but such promises were broken as promptly as they were made. Philip, having returned to Mount Hope, sent in no more guns, but was busy as ever gaining resources for war, and entering into alliances with other tribes. Philip denied this, but the people of Plymouth thought that they had ample evidence that such was the case.
The summer thus passed away, while the aspect of affairs was daily growing more threatening. As Philip did not send in his guns according to agreement, and as there was evidence, apparently conclusive, of his hostile intentions, the Plymouth government, late in August, sent another summons, ordering the Wampanoag sovereign to appear before them on the 13th of September, and threatening, in case he did not [Pg 182]comply with this summons, to send out a force to reduce him to subjection. At the same time, they sent communications to the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, stating their complaints against Philip, and soliciting their aid in the war which they thought evidently approaching.
In this movement Philip gained a manifest advantage over the Plymouth colonists. It will be remembered that, according to the terms of the treaty, all future difficulties were to be referred to the arbitration of Massachusetts as an impartial umpire. But Plymouth had now, in violation of these terms, imperiously summoned the Indian chieftain, as if he were their subject, to appear before their courts. Philip, instead of paying any regard to this arrogant order, immediately repaired to Boston with his councilors, and thus manifestly placed himself in the position of the "law and order" party. It so happened that he arrived in Boston on the very day in which the Governor of Massachusetts received the letter from the Plymouth colony. The representations which Philip made seemed to carry conviction to the impartial umpires of Massachusetts that he was not severely to be censured. They accordingly wrote a letter to [Pg 183]Plymouth, assuming that there was perhaps equal blame on both sides, and declaring that there did not appear to be sufficient cause for the Plymouth people to commence hostilities. In their letter they write:
"We do not understand how Philip hath subjected himself to you. But the treatment you have given him, and your proceedings toward him, do not render him such a subject as that, if there be not a present answering to summons, there should presently be a proceeding to hostilities. The sword once drawn and dipped in blood, may make him as independent upon you as you are upon him."
Arrangements were now made for a general council from the united colonies to assemble at Plymouth on the 24th of September. King Philip agreed to meet this council in a new attempt to adjust all their difficulties. At the appointed time the assembly was convened. King Philip was present, with a retinue of warriors, all decorated in the highest style of barbaric splendor. Bitter complaints were entered upon both sides, and neither party were disposed to draw any very marked line of distinction between individual acts of outrage and the measures for which the two governments were [Pg 184]responsible. Another treaty was, however, made, similar to the Taunton treaty, and the two parties again separated with protestations of friendship, but quite hostile as ever at heart. The colonists were, however, all anxious to avoid a war, as they had every thing to lose by it and nothing to gain. Philip, on the contrary, deemed the salvation of the Indians was depending upon the extermination of the colonists. He was well aware that he was quite unprepared for immediate hostilities, and that he had much to do in the way of preparation before he could hope successfully to encounter foes so formidable as the English had now become.
Three years now passed away of reserved intercourse and suspicious peace. The colonists were continually hearing rumors from distant tribes of Philip's endeavors, and generally successful endeavors, to draw them into a coalition. The conspiracy, so far as it could be ascertained, included nearly all the tribes of New England, and extended into the interior of New York, and along the coast to Virginia. The Narragansets agreed to furnish four thousand warriors. Other tribes, according to their power, were to furnish their hundreds or their thousands. [Pg 185]Hostilities were to be commenced in the spring of 1676 by a simultaneous assault upon all the settlements, so that none of the English could go from one portion of the country to aid another.
The English, month after month, saw this cloud of terror increasing in blackness; yet measures were so adroitly adopted by King Philip that, while the air was filled with rumors, it was difficult to obtain any positive proof, and still more difficult to decide what course to pursue to avert the calamity. As these deep-laid plans of the shrewd Wampanoag chieftain were approaching maturity, Philip became more independent and bold in his demeanor. The Massachusetts colonists now began to feel that the danger was indeed imminent, and that their Plymouth brethren had more cause for complaint than they had supposed. The evidence became so convincing that this dreadful conspiracy was in progress, that the Governor of Massachusetts sent an embassador to Philip, demanding an explanation of these threatening appearances, and soliciting another treaty of peace and friendship. The proud sachem haughtily replied to the embassador,
"Your governor is but a subject of King [Pg 186]Charles of England. I shall not treat with a subject. I shall only treat with the king, my brother. When he comes, I am ready."
Such was the alarming aspect of affairs at the close of the year 1674.
The old warriors, conscious of the power of the foe whose fury they were about to brave, were not at all disposed to precipitate hostilities, but Philip found it difficult to hold his young men under restraint. They became very insolent and boastful, and would sharpen their knives and tomahawks upon the door-sills of the colonists, vaporing in mysterious phrase of the great deeds they were about to perform.
There was at this time a Christian Indian by the name of John Sassamon, who had learned to read and write, and had become quite an efficient agent in Christian missions to the Indians. He was esteemed by the English as truly a pious man, and had been employed in aiding to translate the Bible into the Indian language, and also in preaching to his countrymen at Nemasket, now Middleborough. He lived in semi-civilized style upon Assawompset Neck. He had a very pretty daughter, whom he called Assowetough, but whose sonorous name the young Puritans did not improve by [Pg 188]changing it into Betty. The noted place in Middleborough now called Betty's Neck is immortalized by the charms of Assowetough. This Indian maiden married a warrior of her tribe, who was also in the employment of the English, and in all his interests had become identified with them. Sassamon was a subject of King Philip, but he and his family were on the most intimate and friendly relations with the colonists.
Philip needed a private secretary who could draw up his deeds and write his letters. He accordingly took John Sassamon into his employment. Sassamon, thus introduced into the court and cabinet of his sovereign, soon became acquainted with the conspiracy in all its appalling extent and magnitude of design. He at once repaired to Plymouth, and communicated his discovery to the governor. He, however, enjoined the strictest secrecy respecting his communication, assuring the governor that, should the Indians learn that he had betrayed them, his life would be the inevitable forfeit. There were many who had no faith in any conspiracy of the kind. Rumors of approaching perils had been rife for many years, and the community had become accustomed to them. [Pg 189]Most of the Massachusetts colonists thought the Plymouth people unnecessarily alarmed. They listened to the story of Sassamon with great incredulity. "His information," says Dr. I. Mather, "because it had an Indian original, and one can hardly believe them when they do speak the truth, was not at first much regarded."
Sassamon soon after resigned his situation as Philip's secretary, and returned to Middleborough, where he resumed his employment as a preacher to the Indians and teacher of a school.
By some unknown means Philip ascertained that he had been betrayed by Sassamon. According to the Indian code, the offender was deemed a traitor and a renegade, and was doomed to death; and it was the duty of every subject of King Philip to kill him whenever and wherever he could be found. But Sassamon had been so much with the English, and had been for years so intimately connected with them as their friend and agent, that it was feared that they would espouse his cause, and endeavor to avenge his death. It was, therefore, thought best that Indian justice should be secretly executed.
Early in the spring of 1675 Sassamon was [Pg 190]suddenly missing. At length his hat and gun were found upon the ice of Assawompset Pond, near a hole. Soon after his body was found beneath the ice. There had been an evident endeavor to leave the impression that he had committed suicide; but wounds upon his body conclusively showed that he had been murdered. The English promptly decided that this was a crime which came under the cognizance of their laws. Three Indians were arrested under suspicion of being his murderers. These Indians were all men of note, connected with the council of Philip. An Indian testified that he happened to be upon a distant hill, and saw the murder committed. For some time he had concealed the knowledge thus obtained, but at length was induced to disclose the crime. The evidence against Tobias, one of the three, is thus stated by Dr. Increase Mather:
"When Tobias came near the dead body, it fell a bleeding on fresh, as if it had been newly slain, albeit it was buried a considerable time before that." In those days of darkness it was supposed that the body of a murdered man would bleed on the approach of his murderer.
The prisoners were tried at Plymouth in June, and were all adjudged guilty, and sentenced [Pg 191]to death. The jury consisted of twelve Englishmen and four Indians. The condemned were all executed, two of them contending to the last that they were entirely innocent, and knew nothing of the deed. One of them, it is said, when upon the point of death, confessed that he was a spectator of the murder, which was committed by the other two.
The summary execution of three of Philip's subjects enraged and alarmed the Wampanoags exceedingly. As the death of Sassamon had been undeniably ordered by Philip, he was apprehensive that he also might be kidnapped and hung. The young Wampanoag warriors were roused to phrensy, and immediately commenced a series of the most intolerable annoyances, shooting the cattle, frightening the women and children, and insulting wayfarers wherever they could find them. The Indians had imbibed the superstitious notion, which had probably been taught them by John Sassamon, that the party which should commence the war and shed the first blood would be defeated. They therefore wished, by violence and insult, to provoke the English to strike the first blow. The English established a military watch in every town; but, hoping that the threatening storm [Pg 192]might blow over, they endured all these outrages with commendable patience.
On the 20th of June, eight Indian desperadoes, all armed for fight, came swaggering into the town of Swanzey, and, calling at the door of a colonist, demanded permission to grind their hatchets. As it was the Lord's day, the colonist informed them that it would be a violation of the Sabbath for them to do such work, and that God would be displeased. They replied, "We care neither for your God nor for you, but we will grind our hatchets." They then went to another house, and, with insulting carousals, ransacked the closets, helping themselves abundantly to food. The barbarian roisterers then proceeded blustering along the road, when they chanced to meet a colonist. They immediately took him into custody, kept him for some time, loading him with taunts and ridicule, and then dismissed him, derisively telling him to be a good man, and not to tell any lies or work on the Lord's day.
Growing bolder and more insolent as they advanced, they began to shoot the cattle which they saw in the fields. They encountered no opposition, for the houses were at some distance from each other, and most of the men were absent [Pg 193]at public worship. At last they came to a house where the man chanced to be at home. They shot his cattle, and then entered the house and demanded liquor. Being refused, they became very boisterous in threats, and attempted to get the liquor by violence. The man at last, provoked beyond endurance, seized his gun and shot one of them, inflicting a serious but not mortal wound. The first blood was now shed, and the drama of war was opened. The young savages retired, bearing their wounded companion with them, and breathing threatenings and slaughter.
The next Thursday, June 24th, had been set apart by the colonists as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, in view of the alarming state of affairs. Upon an impartial review of all the transactions, it is difficult to see how the colonists could have avoided the war.
"I do solemnly protest," says Governor Winslow, in a letter written July 4th, 1675, "we know not any thing from us which might have put Philip upon these motions, nor have heard that he pretends to have suffered any wrong from us, save only that we had killed some Indians, and intended to send for himself for the murder of John Sassamon."
As the people in Swanzey were returning from church on fast-day, a party of Indians, concealed in a thicket by the road side, fired upon them, killing one instantly, and severely wounding many others. Two men who set off in haste for a surgeon were waylaid and murdered. At the same time, in another part of the town, a house was surrounded by a band of Indians, and eight more of the colonists were shot. These awful tidings spread rapidly, causing indescribable alarm. One man, afraid to remain in his unprotected dwelling, hastily sent his wife and only son to the house of the Rev. Mr. Miles, which was fortified, and could be garrisoned. He remained a few moments behind to take some needful things. The wife had gone but a short distance when she heard behind her the report of a gun. True to woman's heroic love, she instantly returned to learn the fate of her husband.
He was lying in his blood on the threshold of his door, and the savages were ransacking the house. The wretches caught sight of her, pursued her, killed both her and her son, and took their scalps. In this terrible state of alarm, the scattered and helpless colonists fled with their families, as rapidly as they could, to [Pg 195]the garrison house. Two men went from the house to the well for water. They fell, pierced by bullets. The savages rushed from their concealment, seized the two still quivering bodies, and dragged them into the forest. They were afterward found scalped, and with their hands and feet cut off. Such were the opening acts of the tragedy of blood and woe.
With amazing energy and with great strategetic skill, the warriors of Philip, guided by his sagacity, plied their work of destruction. It was their sole, emphatic mission to kill, burn, and destroy. The savages, flushed with success, were skulking every where. No one could venture abroad without danger of being shot. Runners were immediately sent, in consternation, from all the frontier towns, to Plymouth and Boston, to implore assistance. In three hours after the arrival of the messenger in Boston, one hundred and twenty men were on the march to attack Philip at Mount Hope. But the renowned chieftain was too wary to be caught in the trap of Mount Hope Neck. He had sent his women and children to the hospitality of distant tribes, and, abandoning the Neck, which was nearly surrounded by water, traversed with his warriors the country, where [Pg 196]he could at any time plunge into the almost limitless wilderness.
The little army from Massachusetts moved promptly forward, pressing into its service all the available men to be found by the way. They marched to Swanzey, and established their head-quarters at the garrison house of the Rev. Mr. Miles, a Baptist clergyman of exalted character and of fervent piety, who was ready to share with his parishioners in all the perils of protecting themselves from the border ruffians of that day. About a dozen of the troops, on a reconnoitring party, crossed the bridge near the garrison house. They were fired upon from an ambush, and one killed and one wounded. The Indians fled, hotly pursued by the English, and took refuge in a swamp, after having lost sixteen of their number.
Upon the eastern shore of Narraganset Bay, in the region now occupied by Little Compton and a part of Tiverton, there was a small tribe of Indians in partial subjection to the Narragansets, and called the Soykonate tribe. Here also a woman, Awashonks, was sachem of the tribe, and the bravest warriors were prompt to do homage to her power. Captain Benjamin Church and a few other colonists had purchased [Pg 197]lands of her, and had settled upon fertile spots along the shores of the bay. Awashonks was on very friendly terms with Captain Church. Though there were three hundred warriors obedient to her command, that was but a feeble force compared with the troops which could be raised both by Philip and by the English. She was therefore anxious to remain neutral. This, however, could not be. The war was such that all dwelling in the midst of its ravages must choose their side.
Philip sent six embassadors to engage Awashonks in his interest. She immediately assembled all her counselors to deliberate upon the momentous question, and also took the very wise precaution to send for Captain Church. He hastened to her residence, and found several hundred of her subjects collected and engaged in a furious dance. The forest rang with their shouts, the perspiration dripped from their limbs, and they were already wrought to a pitch of intense excitement. Awashonks herself led in the dance, and her graceful figure appeared to great advantage as it was contrasted with the gigantic muscular development of her warriors.
Immediately upon Captain Church's arrival [Pg 198]the dance ceased. Awashonks sat down, called her chiefs and the Wampanoag embassadors around her, and then invited Captain Church to take a conspicuous seat in the midst of the group. She then, in a speech of queenly courtesy, informed Captain Church that King Philip had sent six of his men to solicit her to enter into a confederacy against the English, and that he stated, through these embassadors, that the English had raised a great army, and were about to invade his territories for the extermination of the Wampanoags. The conference was long and intensely exciting. Awashonks called upon the Wampanoag embassadors to come forward.
They were marked men, dressed in the highest embellishments of barbaric warfare. Their faces were painted. Their hair was trimmed in the fashion of the crests of the ancient helmets. Their knives and tomahawks were sharp and glittering. They all had guns, and horns and pouches abundantly supplied with shot and bullets.
Captain Church, however, was manifestly gaining the advantage, and the Wampanoag embassadors, baffled and enraged, were anxious to silence their antagonist with the bludgeon. The Indians began to take sides furiously, [Pg 199]and hot words and threatening gestures were abundant. Awashonks was very evidently inclined to adhere to the English. She at last, in the face of the embassadors, declared to Captain Church that Philip's message to her was that he would send his men over privately to shoot the cattle and burn the houses of the English who were within her territories, and thus induce the English to fall in vengeance upon her, whom they would undoubtedly suppose to be the author of the mischief. This so enraged Captain Church that he quite forgot his customary prudence. Turning to the Wampanoag embassadors, he exclaimed,
"You are infamous wretches, thirsting for the blood of your English neighbors, who have never injured you, but who, on the contrary, have always treated you with kindness."
Then, addressing Awashonks, he very inconsiderately advised her to knock the six Wampanoags on the head, and then throw herself upon the protection of the English. The Indian queen, more discreet than her adviser, dismissed the embassadors unharmed, but informing them that she should look to the English as her friends and protectors.
Captain Church, exulting in this success, [Pg 200]which took three hundred warriors from the enemy and added them to the English force, set out for Plymouth. At parting, he advised Awashonks to remain faithful to the English whatever might happen, and to keep, with all her warriors, within the limits of Soykonate. He promised to return to her again in a few days.
Just north of Little Compton, in the region now occupied by the upper part of Tiverton, and by Fall River, the Pocasset tribe of Indians dwelt. Wetamoo, the former bride of Alexander, was a princess of this tribe. Upon the death of her husband and the accession of Philip to the sovereignty of the Wampanoags, she had returned to her parental home, and was now queen of the tribe. Her power was about equal to that of Awashonks, and she could lead three or four hundred warriors into the field. Captain Church immediately proceeded to her court, as he deemed it exceedingly important to detach her, if possible, from the coalition.
He found her upon a high hill at a short distance from the shore. But few of her people were with her, and she appeared reserved and very melancholy. She acknowledged that all her warriors had gone across the water to Philip's [Pg 201]war-dance, though she said that it was against her will. She was, however, brooding over her past injuries, and was eager to join Philip in any measures of revenge. Captain Church had hardly arrived at Plymouth before the wonderful successes of Philip so encouraged the Indians that Wetamoo, with alacrity and burning zeal, joined the coalition; and even Awashonks could not resist the inclinations of her warriors, but was also, with reluctance, compelled to unite with Philip.
War was now raging in all its horrors. A more harassing and merciless conflict can hardly be imagined. The Indians seldom presented themselves in large numbers, never gathered for a decisive action, but, dividing into innumerable prowling bands, attacked the lonely farm-house, the small and distant settlements, and often, in terrific midnight onset, plunged, with musket, torch, and tomahawk, into the large towns. These bands varied in their numbers from twenty to thirty to two or three thousand. The colonists were very much scattered in isolated farm-houses through the wilderness. In consequence of the gigantic growth of trees, which it was a great labor to cut down, and which, when felled, left the ground encumbered [Pg 202]for years with enormous stumps and roots, the colonists were eager to find any smooth meadow or natural opening in the forest where, for any unknown cause, the trees had disappeared, and where the thick turf alone opposed the hoe. They often had neither oxen nor plows. Thus these widely-scattered spots upon the hill-sides and the margins of distant streams were eagerly sought for, and thus these lonely settlers were exposed, utterly defenseless, to the savage foe.
The following scene, which occurred in a remote section of the country at a later period, will illustrate the horrible nature of this Indian warfare. Far away in the wilderness, a man had erected his log hut upon a small meadow, which had opened itself in the midst of a gigantic forest. The man's family consisted of himself, his wife, and several children, the eldest of whom was a daughter fifteen years of age. At midnight, the loud barking of his dog alarmed him. He stepped to the door to see what he could discover, and instantly there was a report of several muskets, and he fell upon the floor of his hut pierced with bullets, and with a broken leg and arm. The Indians, surrounding the house, now with frightful yells rushed to the [Pg 203]door. The mother, frantic with terror, her children screaming around her, and her husband groaning and weltering in his blood, barred the door and seized an axe. The savages, with their hatchets, soon cut a hole through the door, and one of them crowded in. The heroic mother, with one blow of the axe, cleft his head to the shoulder, and he dropped dead upon the floor. Another of the assailants, supposing, in the darkness, that he had made good his entrance, followed him. He also fell by another well-directed stroke. Thus four were slain before the Indians discovered their mistake.
They then clambered upon the house, and were soon heard descending through the capacious flue of the chimney. The wife still stood with the axe to guard the door. The father, bleeding and fainting, called upon one of the little children to roll the feather bed upon the fire. The burning feathers emitted such a suffocating smoke and smell that the Indians were almost smothered, and they tumbled down upon the embers. At the same moment, another one attempted to enter the door. The wounded husband and father had sufficient strength left to seize a billet of wood and dispatch the half-smothered Indians. But the mother was now [Pg 204]so exhausted with terror and fatigue that her strength failed her, and she struck a feeble blow, which wounded, but did not kill her adversary. The savage was so severely wounded, however, that he retreated, leaving all his comrades, six in number, dead in the house. We are not informed whether the father recovered of his wounds. Some distant neighbors, receiving tidings of the attack, came with succor, and the six dead Indians, without much ceremony, were tumbled into a hole.
Volumes might be filled with such terrible details. No one could sleep at night without the fear of an attack from the Indians before the morning. In the silence of the wilderness, many a tragedy was enacted of terror, torture, and blood, which would cause the ear that hears of it to tingle.
The day after the arrival of the English force in Swanzey the Indians again appeared in large numbers, and with defiant shouts dared them to come out and fight. Philip himself was with this band. A party of volunteers rushed furiously upon the foe, killed a number, and pursued the rest more than a mile. The savages retired to their fastnesses, and the English traversed Mount Hope Neck until they came [Pg 205]to the imperial residence of Philip. Not an Indian was to be found upon the Neck. But here the English found the heads of eight of their countrymen, which had been cut off and stuck upon poles, ghastly trophies of savage victory. They took them down and reverently buried them.
It was now the 29th of June, and the Indian corn-fields were waving in luxuriant growth. Philip had not anticipated so early an outbreak of the war, and had more than a thousand acres planted with corn. These fields the English trampled down, and destroyed all the dwellings of the Indians, leaving the Neck barren and desolate. This was a heavy blow to Philip. The destruction of his corn-fields threatened him with starvation in the winter. The Indians scattered in all directions, carrying every where terror, conflagration, and death.
Captain Church, with twenty men, crossed the Taunton River, and then followed down the eastern shores of the bay, through Pokasset, the territory of Wetamoo, toward Sogkonate Neck, where Awashonks reigned. At the southern extremity of the present town of Tiverton they came to a neck of land called Punkateeset. Here they discovered a fresh trail, which showed [Pg 206]that a large body of Indians had recently passed. Following this trail, they came to a large pea-field belonging to Captain Almy, a colonist who had settled there. They loitered a short time in the field, eating the peas. The forest, almost impenetrable with underbrush, grew very densely around. Just as they were emerging from the field upon an open piece of ground, with the woods growing very thickly upon one side, a sudden discharge of musketry broke in upon the silent air, and bullets were every where whistling fiercely around them. Instantly three hundred Indians sprang up from their ambush. Captain Church "casting his eyes to the side of the hill above him, the hill seemed to move, being covered with Indians, with their bright guns glistening in the sun, and running in a circumference, with a design to surround them." Captain Church and his men slowly retreated toward the shore, where alone they could prevent themselves from being surrounded. The Indians, outnumbering them fifteen to one, closely pressed them, making the forest resound with their hideous outcries.
As the savages emerged from their ambush, they followed at a cautious distance, but so directed their steps as to cut off all possibility of [Pg 207]retreat from the Neck. They felt so sure of their victims that they thought that all could be killed or captured without any loss upon their own part.
The situation of the English now seemed desperate. They had no means of crossing the water, and the exultant foe, in overwhelming numbers and with fiendlike yells, were pressing nearer and nearer, and overwhelming them with a storm of bullets.
But the colonists resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible. It was better to die by the quick ministry of the bullet, than to fall as captives into the hands of the savages, to perish by lingering torment. Fortunately, the ground was very stony, and every man instantly threw up a pile for a breastwork. The Indians were very cautious in presenting their bodies to the unerring aim of the white men, and did not venture upon a simultaneous rush, which would have secured the destruction of the whole of Captain Church's party.
For six hours the colonists beat back their swarming foes. The Indians availed themselves of every stump, rock, or tree in sight, and kept up an incessant firing. Just as the ammunition of the colonists was about exhausted, and night [Pg 208]was coming on, a sloop was discerned crossing the water to their rescue. Captain Golding, a man of great resolution and fearlessness, had heard the firing, and was hastening to their relief. The wind was fair, and as the vessel approached the shore the Indians plied their shot with such effect that the colors, sails, and sides of the sloop were soon pierced full of bullet holes. The water was so shoal that they dropped anchor, and the vessel rode afloat several rods from the beach. Captain Golding had a small canoe, which would support but two men. Attaching a cord to this, he let it drift to the shore, driven by the fresh wind. Two men entered the canoe, and were drawn on board. The canoe was then returned, and two more were taken on board. Thus the embarkation continued, covered by the muskets of those on board and those on the shore, until every man was safe. Not one of their number was even wounded. The English, very skillful with the musket, kept their innumerable foes at a distance. It was certain death for any Indian to step from behind his rampart. The heroic Church was the last to embark. As he was retreating backward, boldly facing his foes, presenting his gun, which all the remaining powder he had did but half charge, a bullet passed through his hat, cutting off a lock of his hair. Two others struck the canoe as he entered it, and a fourth buried itself in a stake which accidentally stood before the middle of his breast. Discharging his farewell shot at the enemy, he was safely received on board, and they were all conveyed to the English garrison which had been established at Mount Hope. Many Indians were killed or wounded in this affray, but it is not known how many.
Captain Church then went, with a small army, to ravage the territories of Wetamoo. When he arrived at the spot where Fall River now stands, he found that Wetamoo, with her warriors, had taken refuge in a neighboring swamp. Just then news came that a great part of the town of Dartmouth was in flames, that many of the inhabitants were killed, and that the survivors were in great distress. Captain Church marched immediately to their rescue. But the foe had finished his work of destruction, and had fled into the wilderness, to emerge at some other spot, no one could tell where, and strike another deadly blow. The colonists, however, took one hundred and sixty Indians prisoners, who had been induced by promises of [Pg 212]kind treatment to come in and surrender themselves. To the extreme indignation of Captain Church, all these people, in most dishonorable disregard of the pledges of the capitulation, were by the Plymouth authorities sold into slavery. This act was as impolitic as it was criminal. It can not be too sternly denounced. It effectually deterred others from confiding in the English.
The colonists, conscious of the intellectual supremacy of King Philip as the commanding genius of the strife, devoted their main energies to his capture, dead or alive. Large rewards were offered for his head. The barbarian monarch, with a large party of his warriors, had taken refuge in an almost impenetrable swamp upon the river, about eighteen miles below Taunton. All the inhabitants of Taunton, in their terror, had abandoned their homes, and were gathered in eight garrison houses. On the 18th of July, a force of several hundred men from Plymouth and Taunton surrounded the swamp. They cautiously penetrated the tangled thicket, their feet at almost every step sinking in the mire and becoming shackled by interlacing roots, the branches pinioning their arms, and the dense foliage blinding their eyes. [Pg 213]Philip, with characteristic cunning, sent a few of his warriors occasionally to exhibit themselves, to lure the English on. The colonists gradually forgot their accustomed prudence, and pressed eagerly forward. Suddenly from the dense thicket a party of warriors in ambush poured upon their pursuers a volley of bullets. Fifteen dropped dead, and many were sorely wounded. The survivors precipitately retired from the swamp, "finding it ill," says Hubbard, "fighting a wild beast in his own den."
The English, taught a lesson of caution by this misadventure, now decided to surround the swamp, guarding every avenue of escape. They knew that Philip had no stores of provisions there, and that he soon must be starved out. Here they kept guard for thirteen days. In the mean time, Philip constructed some canoes and rafts, and one dark night floated all his warriors, some two hundred in number, across the river, and continued his flight through the present towns of Dighton and Rehoboth, far away into the unknown wilderness of the interior of Massachusetts. Wetamoo, with several of her warriors, accompanied Philip in his flight. He left a hundred starving women and children [Pg 214]in the swamp, who surrendered themselves the next morning to the English.
A band of fifty of the Mohegan Indians had now come, by direction of Uncas, to proffer their services to the colonists. A party of the English, with these Indian allies, pursued the fugitives. They overtook Philip's party not far from Providence, and shot thirty of their number, without the loss of a single man. Rev. Mr. Newman, pastor of the church in Rehoboth, obtained great commendation for his zeal in rousing his parishioners to pursue the savages.
Philip had now penetrated the wilderness, and had effected his escape beyond the reach of his foes. He had the boundless forest around him for his refuge, with the opportunity of emerging at his leisure upon any point of attack along the vast New England frontier which he might select.
The Nipmuck Indians were a powerful tribe, consisting of many petty clans spread over the whole of the interior of Massachusetts. They appear to have had no sachem of distinction, and at one time were tributary to the Narragansets, but were now tributary to the Wampanoags. They had thus far been living on very friendly terms with the inhabitants of the towns [Pg 215]which had been settled within the limits of their territory. The court at Boston, apprehensive that the Nipmucks might be induced to join King Philip, sent some messengers to treat with them. The young warriors were very surly, and manifestly disposed to fight; but the old men dreaded the perils of war with foes whose prowess they appreciated, and were inclined to a renewal of friendship.
It was agreed that a conference should be held at a certain large tree, upon a plain about three miles from Brookfield, on the 2d of August. At the appointed time, the English commissioners were there, with a small force of twenty mounted men. But not an Indian was to be seen. Notwithstanding some suspicions of treachery, the English determined to advance some miles farther, to a spot where they were assured that a large number of Indians were assembled. They at length came to a narrow pass, with a steep hill covered with trees and underbrush on one side, and a swamp, impenetrable with mire and thickets, upon the other. Along this narrow way they could march only in single file. The silence of the eternal forest was around them, and nothing was to be seen or heard which gave the slightest indication of danger.
Just as they were in the middle of this trail, three hundred Indians rose up on either side, and showered upon them a storm of bullets. Eight dropped dead. Three were mortally, and several others severely wounded. Captain Wheeler, who was in command, had his horse shot from under him, and a bullet also passed through his body. His son, who rode behind him, though his own arm was shattered by a ball, dismounted, and succeeded in placing his father in the saddle. A precipitate retreat was immediately commenced, while the Indians pursued with yells of exultation. But for the aid of three Christian Indians who accompanied the English party, every Englishman must have perished. One of these Indians was taken captive. The other two, by skill and bravery, led their friends, by a by-path, back to Brookfield.
This town was then a solitary settlement of about twenty houses, alone in the wilderness, half way between the Atlantic shore and the settlements on the Connecticut. The terrified inhabitants had but just time to abandon their homes and take refuge in the garrison house when the savages were upon them. With anguish they saw, from the loop-holes of their retreat, every house and barn consumed, their cattle [Pg 217]shot, and all their property of food, clothing, and furniture destroyed. They were thus, in an hour, reduced from competence to the extreme of want.
The inhabitants of Brookfield, men, women, and children, amounted to but eighty. The nearest settlement from whence any help could come was at Lancaster, some forty miles northeast of Brookfield. The Indians surrounded the garrison, and for two days exerted all their ingenuity in attempting to destroy the building. They wrapped around their arrows hemp dipped in oil, and, setting them on fire, shot them upon the dry and inflammable roof. Several times the building was in flames, but the inmates succeeded in arresting the conflagration. It was now the evening of the 4th of August. The garrison, utterly exhausted by two days and two nights of incessant conflict, aware that their ammunition must soon be exhausted, and knowing not from what quarter to hope for relief, were in despair. The Indians now filled a cart with hemp, flax, and the resinous boughs of firs and pines. They fastened to the tongue a succession of long poles, and then, setting the whole fabric on fire, as it rolled up volumes of flame and smoke, pushed it back against the [Pg 218]log house, whose walls were as dry as powder. Just then, when all hope of escape was abandoned, relief came.
Major Willard had been sent from Boston to Lancaster with a party of dragoons for the defense of that region. By some chance, probably through a friendly Indian, he was informed of the extreme distress of the people at Brookfield. Taking with him forty-eight dragoons, he marched with the utmost possible haste to their relief. With Indian guides, he traversed thirty miles of the forest that day, and arrived at the garrison in the evening twilight, just as the Indians, with fiendish clamor, were all engaged in their experiment with the flaming cart. Though the Indian scouts discovered his approach, and fired their guns and raised shouts of alarm, there was such a horrid noise from the yells of the savages and the uproar of musketry that the scouts could not communicate intelligence of the approach of the English, and the re-enforcement, with a rush, entered the garrison. At the same moment a very heavy shower arose, which aided greatly in the extinguishment of the flames.
The savages, thus balked of their victims, howled with rage, and, after firing a few volleys [Pg 219]of bullets into the walls of the fortress, retired to their fastnesses. During this siege many of the whites were wounded, and about eighty of the Indians were killed. The day after the defeat, Philip, with forty-eight warriors, arrived at the Indian encampment at Brookfield. Though the Indians had not taken the garrison, and though they mourned the loss of many warriors, they were not a little elated with success. They had killed many of their enemies, and had utterly destroyed the town of Brookfield.
Philip now directed his steps to the valley of the Connecticut, and gave almost superhuman vigor to the energy which the savages were already displaying in their attack upon the numerous and thriving settlements there. Even most of the Christian Indians, who had long lived upon terms of uninterrupted friendship with the English, were so influenced by the persuasions of Philip that they joined his warriors, and were as eager as any others for the extermination of the colonists.
Attacks were made almost simultaneously upon the towns of Hadley, Hatfield, and Deerfield, and also upon several towns upon the Merrimac River, in the province of New Hampshire. In these conflicts, the Indians, on the whole, were decidedly the victors. As Philip had fled from Plymouth, and as the Narragansets had not yet joined the coalition, the towns in Plymouth colony enjoyed a temporary respite.
On the 1st of September the Indians made [Pg 221]a rush upon Deerfield. They laid the whole town in ashes. Most of the inhabitants had fortunately taken refuge in the garrison house, and but one man was slain. They then proceeded fifteen miles up the river to Northfield, where a small garrison had been established. They destroyed much property, and shot eight or ten of the inhabitants. The rest were sheltered in the garrison. The next day, this disaster not being known at Hadley, Captain Beers was detached from that place with thirty-six mounted infantry and a convoy of provisions to re-enforce the feeble garrison at Northfield. They had a march before them of thirty miles, along the eastern bank of the river. The road was very rough, and led through almost a continued forest.
When they arrived within a few miles of Northfield, they came to a wide morass, where it was necessary to dismount and lead their horses. They were also thrown into confusion in their endeavors to transport their baggage through the swamp. Here the Indians had formed an ambuscade. The surprise was sudden, and disastrous in the extreme. The Indians, several hundred in number, surrounded the doomed party, and, from their concealment, [Pg 222]took unerring aim. Captain Beers, a man of great valor, succeeded, with a few men, in retreating to a small eminence, since known as Beers's Mountain, where he bravely maintained the unequal fight until all his ammunition was expended. A ball then pierced his bosom, and he fell dead. A few escaped back to Hadley to tell the mournful tidings of the slaughter, while all the rest were slain, and all their provisions and baggage fell into the hands of the exultant savages. The barbarian victors amused themselves in cutting off the heads of the slain, which they fixed upon poles at the spot, as defiant trophies of their triumph. One man was found with a chain hooked into his under jaw, and thus he was suspended on the bough of a tree, where he had been left to struggle and die in mortal agony. The garrison at Northfield, almost destitute of powder and food, was now reduced to the last extremity.
Major Treat was immediately dispatched with a hundred men for their rescue. Advancing rapidly and with caution, he succeeded in reaching Northfield. His whole company, in passing through the scene of the disaster, were most solemnly affected in gazing upon the mutilated remains of their friends, and appear to have been [Pg 223]not a little terror-stricken in view of such horrid barbarities. Fearing that the Indians were too numerous in the vicinity to be encountered by their small band, they brought off the garrison, and retreated precipitately to Hadley, not tarrying even to destroy the property which they could not bring away. It is said that Philip himself guided the Indians in their attack upon Captain Beers.
Hadley was now the head-quarters of the English army, and quite a large force was assembled there. Most of the inhabitants of the adjoining towns in tumult and terror had fled to this place for protection. At the garrison house in Deerfield, fifteen miles above Hadley, on the western side of the river, there were three thousand bushels of corn standing in stacks.
On the 18th of September, Captain Lothrop, having been sent from Hadley to bring off this corn, started with his loaded teams on his return. His force consisted of a hundred men, soldiers and teamsters. As no Indians had for some time appeared in that immediate vicinity, and as there was a good road between the two places, no particular danger was apprehended. The Indians, however, from the fastnesses [Pg 224]of the forest, were all the time watching their movements with eagle eye, and with consummate cunning were plotting their destruction.
After leaving Deerfield, the march led for about three miles through a very level country, densely wooded on each side of the road. The march was then continued for half a mile along the borders of a morass filled with large trees and tangled underbrush. Here a thousand Indians had planted themselves in ambuscade. It was a serene and beautiful autumnal day. Grape-vines festooned the gigantic trees of the forest, and purple clusters, ripe and juicy, hung in profusion among the boughs. Captain Lothrop was so unsuspicious of danger that many of his men had thrown their guns into the carts, and were strolling about gathering grapes.
The critical moment arrived, and the English being in the midst of the ambush, a thousand Indians sprang up from their concealment, and poured in upon the straggling column a heavy and destructive fire. Then, with savage yells, which seemed to fill the whole forest, they rushed from every quarter to close assault. The English were scattered in a long line of march, and the Indians, with the ferocity of [Pg 225]wolves, sprang upon them ten to one. A dreadful scene of tumult, dismay, and carnage ensued.
The tragic drama was soon closed. The troops, broken and scattered, could only resort to the Indian mode of fighting, each one skulking behind a tree. But they were so entirely surrounded and overpowered that no one could discharge his musket more than two or three times before he fell. Some, in their dismay, leaped into the branches of the trees, hoping thus to escape observation. The savages, with shouts of derision, mocked them for a time, and then pierced them with bullets until they dropped to the ground. All the wounded were indiscriminately butchered. But eight escaped to tell the awful story. Ninety perished upon this bloody field. The young men who were thus slaughtered constituted the flower of Essex county. They had been selected for their intrepidity and hardihood from all the towns. Their destruction caused unspeakable anguish in their homes, and sent a wave of grief throughout all the colonies. The little stream in the south part of Deerfield, upon the banks of which this memorable tragedy occurred, has in consequence received the name of Bloody Brook.
Captain Mosely had been left in the garrison at Deerfield with seventy men, intending to go the next day in search of the Indians. As he was but five miles from the scene of the massacre, he heard the firing, and immediately marched to the rescue of his friends. But he was too late. They were all, before his arrival, silent in death. As the Indians were scalping and stripping the dead, Captain Mosely, with great intrepidity, fell upon them, though he computed their numbers at not less than a thousand. Keeping his men in a body, he broke through the tumultuous mass, charging back and forth, and cutting down all within range of his shot.
Still, aided by the swamp and the forest, and being so overwhelmingly superior to the English in numbers, the savages maintained the fight with much fierceness for six hours. Captain Mosely and all his men might perhaps also have perished, had not another party providentially and very unexpectedly come to their relief.
Major Treat, from Connecticut, was ascending the river with one hundred and sixty Mohegan Indians, on his way to Northfield, in pursuit of the foe in that vicinity. It was so [Pg 227]ordered by Providence that he approached the scene of action just as both parties were exhausted by the protracted fight. Hearing the firing, he pressed rapidly forward, and with fresh troops fell vigorously upon the foe. The Indians, with yells of disappointment and rage, now fled, plunging into the swamps and forests. They left ninety-six of their number dead by the side of the English whom they had so mercilessly slaughtered in the morning. It is supposed that Philip himself commanded the Indians on this sanguinary day. The Indians, though in the end defeated, had gained a marvelous victory, by which they were exceedingly encouraged and emboldened.
Captains Mosely and Treat encamped in the vicinity for the night, and the next morning attended to the burial of the dead. They were deposited in two pits, the English in one and the Indians in another. A marble monument now marks the spot where this battle occurred, and a slab is placed over the mound which covers the slain.
Twenty-seven men only had been left in the garrison at Deerfield. The next morning the Indians appeared in large numbers before the garrison, threatening an attack. They tauntingly [Pg 228]exhibited the clothes they had stripped from the slain, and shouted messages of defiance and insult. But the captain of the garrison, making a brave show of resistance, and sounding his trumpets, as if to call in forces near at hand, so alarmed the Indians that they retired, and soon all disappeared in the pathless forest. Deerfield was, however, utterly destroyed, and the garrison, abandoning the fortress, retired down the river to afford such protection as might be in their power to the lower towns.
About thirty miles below Hadley, upon the river, was the town of Springfield, a very flourishing settlement, containing forty-eight dwelling-houses. A numerous tribe of Indians lived in the immediate vicinity, having quite a spacious Indian fort at Long Hill, a mile below the village. These Indians had for forty years lived on terms of most cordial friendship with their civilized neighbors. They now made such firm protestations of friendliness that but few doubted in the least their good faith. But, while thus protesting, they had yielded to the potent seductions of King Philip, and, joining his party secretly, were making preparations for the destruction of Springfield.
On the night of the 4th of October, three [Pg 229]hundred of King Philip's warriors crept stealthily through the forest, and were received into the Indian fort at Long Hill. A friendly Indian by the name of Toto, who had received much kindness from the whites, betrayed his countrymen, and gave information of the conspiracy to burn the town and massacre the inhabitants. The people were thrown into consternation, and precipitately fled to the garrison houses, while a courier was dispatched to Hadley for aid.
Still, many had so much confidence in the sincerity of the Springfield Indians that they could not believe in their treachery. Lieutenant Cooper, who commanded there, was so deceived by their protestations that he the next morning, taking another man with him, rode toward the fort to ascertain the facts. He had not advanced far before he met the enemy, several hundred in number, marching to the assault. The savages immediately fired upon him. His companion was instantly shot, and several bullets passed through his body. He was a man of Herculean strength and vigor, and, though mortally wounded, succeeded, by clinging to his horse, in reaching the garrison and giving the alarm before he died.
The savages now came roaring on like ferocious wild beasts. The town was utterly defenseless. Thirty-three houses and twenty-five barns were almost instantly in flames. Fortunately, nearly all of the inhabitants were in the block-houses, and but five men and one woman were killed. The Indians kept cautiously beyond the reach of gun-shot, vigorously plundering the houses and applying the torch. The wretched inhabitants, from the loop-holes of the garrison, contemplated with anguish the conflagration of their homes and all their earthly goods. The Reverend Mr. Glover, pastor of the church in this place, was a man of studious habits, and had collected a valuable library, at an expense of five thousand dollars. He had, for some time, kept his library in the garrison house for safety; but, a short time before the attack, thinking that Philip could not venture to make an assault upon Springfield, when it was surrounded by so many friendly Indians, he removed the books to his own house. They were all consumed. The loss to this excellent man was irreparable, and a source of the keenest grief. In the midst of the conflagration and the plunder Major Treat appeared with a strong force from Hadley, and the Indians, loaded down with [Pg 231]booty, retreated into their forest fastnesses. Fifteen houses only were left unburned.
This treachery on the part of the Springfield Indians caused very great alarm. There were, henceforward, no Indians in whom the colonists could confide. The general court in Boston ordered:
"That no person shall entertain, own, or countenance any Indian, under penalty of being a betrayer of this government.
"That a guard be set at the entrance of the town of Boston, and that no Indian be suffered to enter, upon any pretense, without a guard of two musketeers, and not to lodge in town."
Animated by his success, Philip now planned a still bolder movement. Hatfield was one of the most beautiful and flourishing of the towns which reposed in the fertile valley of the Connecticut. Its inhabitants, warned by the disasters which had befallen so many of their neighbors, were prepared for a vigorous defense. They kept a constant watch, and several garrison houses were erected, to which the women and children could fly in case of alarm. All the male inhabitants were armed and drilled, and there were three companies of soldiers stationed in the town; and Hadley, which was on [Pg 232]the opposite side of the river, was the head-quarters of the Massachusetts and Connecticut forces, then under the command of Major Appleton. An attack upon Hatfield would immediately bring the forces of Hadley to its relief.
On the 19th of October, Philip, at the head of eight hundred warriors, boldly, but with Indian secrecy, approached the outposts of Hatfield. He succeeded in cutting off several parties who were scouring the woods in the vicinity, and then made an impetuous rush upon the town. But every man sprang to his appointed post. Every avenue of approach was valiantly defended. Major Appleton immediately crossed with his force from Hadley, and fell furiously upon the assailants, every man burning with the desire to avenge the destruction of Northfield, Deerfield, and Springfield. Notwithstanding this determined defense, the Indians, inspired by the energies of their indomitable leader, fought a long time with great resolution. At length, repulsed at every point, they retreated, bearing off with them all their dead and wounded. They succeeded, however, in burning many houses, and in driving off many cattle. The impression they made upon the English may be inferred from the fact that they were not pursued. [Pg 233]In this affair, six of the English were killed and ten wounded. A bullet passed through the bushy hair of Major Appleton, cutting a very smooth path for itself, "by that whisper telling him," says Hubbard, "that death was very near, but did him no other harm."
Winter was now approaching, and as Philip found that the remaining settlements upon the Connecticut were so defended that he could not hope to accomplish much, he scattered his forces into winter quarters. Most of his warriors, who had accompanied him from the Atlantic coast to the Connecticut, returned to Narraganset, and established their rendezvous in an immense swamp in the region now incorporated into the town of South Kingston, Rhode Island. Upon what might be called an island in this immense swamp, they constructed five hundred wigwams, and surrounded the whole with fortifications admirably adapted to repel attack. Three thousand Indians were soon assembled upon this spot.
There is some uncertainty respecting the movements of Philip during the winter. It is generally supposed that he passed the winter very actively engaged in endeavors to rouse all [Pg 234]the distant tribes. It is said that he crossed the Hudson, and endeavored to incite the Indians in the valley of the Mohawk to fall upon the Dutch settlements on the Hudson. It is also probable that he spent some time at the Narraganset fort, and that he directed several assaults which, during this season of comparative repose, fell upon remote sections of the frontier.
Straggling parties of Indians lingered about Northampton, Westfield, and Springfield, occasionally burning a house, shooting at those who ventured into the fields, and keeping the inhabitants in a state of constant alarm.
At the commencement of the war, just before the discomfiture of Philip in the swamp near Taunton, a united force of the Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut colonies had been sent into the Narraganset country to persuade, and, if they could not persuade, to compel the Narraganset Indians to declare for the English. It was well known that the Narragansets in heart espoused the cause of Philip; for the Wampanoag chieftain, to relieve himself from embarrassment, had sent his old men, with his women and the children, into the Narraganset territory, where they were received and entertained with much hospitality.
In this mission to the Narraganset country, a part of the troops crossed the bay in boats, while others rode around by land, entering the country by the way of Providence. The two parties soon met, and advanced cautiously together to guard against ambush. They could, however, for some time find no Indians. The wigwams were all deserted, and the natives, men, women, and children, fled before them. At length they succeeded in catching some Narraganset sachems, and with them, after a conference of two or three days, concluded a treaty of peace. It was virtually a compulsory treaty, in which the English could place very little reliance, and to which the Narragansets paid no regard.
According to the terms of this treaty, which was signed on the 15th of July, 1675, the Narragansets agreed,
1st. To deliver to the English army every subject of King Philip, either living or dead, who should come into their territories.
2dly. To become allies of the English, and to kill and destroy, with their utmost ability, all the subjects of King Philip.
There were several other articles of the treaty, but they were all comprehended in the spirit [Pg 236]of the two first. But now, in three months after the signing of this treaty, Philip, with the aid of the Narragansets, was constructing a fort in the very heart of their country, and was making it the general rendezvous for all his warriors. The Narragansets could bring a very fearful accumulation of strength to the cause of Philip. They could lead two thousand warriors into the field, and these warriors were renowned for ferocity and courage. Dwelling so near the English settlements, they could at any time emerge from their fastnesses, scattering dismay and ruin along their path.
The Indians enjoyed peculiar advantages for the rude warfare in which they engaged. They were not only perfectly acquainted with the wilderness, its morasses, mountains, and impenetrable thickets, but, from their constant intercourse with the settlements, were as well acquainted with the dwellings, fields, and roads of the English as were the colonists themselves. They were very numerous and widely scattered, and could watch every movement of their foe. Stealthily approaching through the forest under cover of the night, they could creep into barns and out-houses, and lie secreted behind fences, prepared for murder, robbery, and conflagration. [Pg 237]Often they concealed themselves before the very doors of their victims. The first warning of their presence would be the ring of the musket, as the lonely settler, opening his door in the morning, dropped down dead upon his threshold. The house was then fired, the mother and her babes scalped, and the work of destruction was accomplished. Like packs of wolves they came howling from the wilderness, and, leaving blood and smouldering ruins behind them, howling they disappeared. While the English were hunting for them in one place, they would be burning and plundering in another. They were capable of almost any amount of fatigue, and could subsist in vigor where a civilized man would starve. A few kernels of corn, pounded into meal between two stones, and mixed with water, in a cup made from rolling up a strip of birch bark, afforded a good dinner for an Indian. If to this he could add a few clams, or a bird or a squirrel shot from a neighboring tree, he regarded his repast as quite sumptuous.
The storms of winter checked, but by no means terminated the atrocities of the savages. Marauding bands were wandering every where, and no man dwelt in safety. Many persons [Pg 238]were shot, houses and barns were burned, and not a few men, women, and children were taken captive and carried into the wilderness, where they miserably perished, often being subjected to the most excruciating torture. The condition of the colonies was now melancholy in the extreme. Their losses had been very great, as one company after another of their soldiers had wasted away. Industry had been paralyzed, and the harvest had consequently been very short, while at the same time the expenses of the war were enormous. The savages, elated with success, were recruiting their strength, to break forth with new vigor upon the settlements in the early spring.
The commissioners of the united colonies deliberated long and anxiously. The all-important question was whether it were best to adopt the desperate enterprise of attacking the Narraganset fort in the dead of winter, or whether they should defer active hostilities until spring. Should they defer, the warriors now collected upon one spot would scatter every where in the work of destruction. The Narragansets, who had not as yet engaged openly in the conflict, would certainly lend all their energies to King Philip. Another year of disaster [Pg 239]and blood might thus be confidently anticipated.
On the other hand, the severity of the winter was such that a whole army, houseless, on the march, might perish in a single night. Storms of snow often arose, encumbering the ground with such drifts and masses that it might be quite impossible to force a march through the pathless expanse.
But, in view of all the circumstances, it was at length decided best to make the attack. A thousand men were to be raised. Of these, Massachusetts contributed five hundred and twenty-seven. Plymouth furnished one hundred and fifty-eight. Connecticut supplied three hundred and fifteen, and also sent one hundred and fifty Mohegan Indians. Josiah Winslow, governor of the Plymouth colony, was appointed commander-in-chief. The choicest officers in the colonies were selected, and the men who filled the ranks were all chosen from those of established reputation for physical vigor and bravery. All were aware of the perilous nature of the enterprise. In consequence of the depth of the snow, it would probably be impossible to send any succor to the troops by land in case of reverse. "It was a humbling providence of [Pg 240]God," wrote the commissioners, "that put his poor people to be meditating a matter of war at such a season." The second of December was appointed as a solemn fast to implore God's aid upon the enterprise.
The Massachusetts troops rendezvoused at Dedham, and on the morning of the 9th of December commenced their march. They advanced that day twenty-seven miles, to the garrison house of John Woodcock, within the limits of the present town of Attleborough. Woodcock kept a sort of tavern at what was called the Ten Mile River, which tavern he was enjoined by the court to "keep in good order, that no unruliness or ribaldry be permitted there." He was a man of some consequence, energetic, reckless, and not very scrupulous in regard to the rights of the Indians. An Indian owed him some money. As Woodcock could not collect the debt, he paid himself by going into the Indian's house and taking his child and some goods. For this crime he was sentenced to sit in the stocks at Rehoboth during a training day, and to pay a fine of forty shillings.
At this garrison house the troops encamped for the night, and the next day they advanced to Seekonk, and were ferried across the river to [Pg 241]Providence. On the morning of the twelfth they resumed their march, and followed down the western shore of the bay until they arrived at the garrison house of Mr. Smith, in the present town of Wickford, which was appointed as their head-quarters. Here, in the course of a few days, the Connecticut companies, marching from Stonington, and the Plymouth companies were united with them. As the troops were assembling, several small parties had skirmishes with roving bands of Indians, in which a few were slain on both sides. A few settlers had reared their huts along the western shores of the bay, but the Indians, aware of the approach of their enemies, had burned their houses, and the inhabitants were either killed or dispersed. Nearly the whole region was now a wilderness.
The Indians, three thousand in number, were strongly intrenched, as we have before mentioned, in a swamp, which was in South Kingston, about eighteen miles distant from the encampment of the colonists. It is uncertain whether Philip was in the fort or not; the testimony upon that point is contradictory. The probability, however, is that he was present, sharing in the sanguinary scene which ensued.
The swamp was of immense extent and quite impenetrable, except through two or three paths known only to the Indians. In the centre of the swamp there were three or four acres of dry land, a few feet higher than the surrounding morass. Here Philip had erected his houses, five hundred in number, and had built them of materials far more solid and durable than the Indians were accustomed to use, so that they were quite bullet-proof. They were all surrounded by a high palisade. In this strong encampment, in friendly alliance with the Narragansets, Philip and his exultant warriors had been maturing their plans to make a terrible assault upon all the English settlements in the spring. Whether Philip was present or not when the fort was attacked, his genius reared the fortress and nerved the arms of its defenders.
The condition of the colonial army seemed now deplorable. Their provisions were nearly consumed, and they could hardly hope for any supply except such as they could capture from the savages. They knew nothing of the entrances to the swamp, and were entirely unacquainted with the nature of the fortification and the points most available for attack. The ground was covered with snow, and they [Pg 243]huddled around the camp-fires by night, with no shelter from the inclemency of frost and storm.
The morning of the 19th dawned cold and gloomy. The supper of the previous night had utterly exhausted their stores. At break of day they commenced their march. A storm was then raging, and the air was filled with snow. But for the treachery of one of Philip's Indians, they would probably have been routed in the attack and utterly destroyed. A Narraganset Indian, who, for some cause, had become enraged against his countrymen, deserted their cause, and, entering the camp of the colonists, acted as their guide.
Early in the afternoon of the cold, short, and stormy winter's day, the troops, unrefreshed by either breakfast or dinner, after a march of eighteen miles, arrived at the borders of the swamp. An almost impenetrable forest, tangled with every species of underbrush, spread over the bog, presenting the most favorable opportunity for ambuscades, and all the stratagems of Indian warfare. The English, struggling blindly through the morass, would have found themselves in a helpless condition, and exposed at every point to the bullets of an unseen foe. The destruction [Pg 244]of this army would have so emboldened the savages and paralyzed the English that every settlement of the colonists might have been swept away in an inundation of blood and flame. The fate of the New England colonies trembled in the balance.
The Narraganset deserter guided them to the entrance of a narrow and intricate foot-path which led to the island. The Indians, watching their approach, were lying in ambush upon the edge of the swamp. They fired upon the advancing files, and retreated. The English, returning the fire, vigorously pursued. Led by their guide, they soon arrived at the fort. It presented a formidable aspect. In addition to the palisades, a hedge of fallen trees a rod in thickness surrounded the whole intrenchment; outside the hedge there was a ditch wide and deep. There was but one point of entrance, and that was over the long and slender trunk of a tree which had been felled across the ditch, and rested at its farther end upon a wall of logs three or four feet high. A block-house, at whose portals many sharp-shooters were stationed in vigilant guard, commanded the narrow and slippery avenue. It was thus necessary for the English, in storming the fort, to pass in [Pg 245]single file along this slender stem, exposed every step of the way to the muskets of the Indians. Every soldier at once perceived that the only hope for the army was in the energies of despair.
There is no incident recorded in the annals of war which testifies to more reckless fearlessness than that which our ancestors displayed on this occasion. The approaches to the Malakoff and the Redan were not attended with greater peril. Without waiting a moment to reconnoitre or for those in the rear to come up, the Massachusetts troops, who were in the van, made a rush to cross the tree. They were instantly swept off by Philip's sharp-shooters. Again and again the English soldiers, led by their captains, rushed upon the fatal bridge to supply the places of the slain, but they only presented a fair target for the foe, and they fell as grass before the scythe. In a few moments six captains and a large number of common soldiers were dead or dying in the ditch. The assaulting party, in dismay, were beginning to recoil before certain death, when, by some unexplained means, a bold party succeeded in wading through the ditch at another place, and, clambering through the hedge of trees and over [Pg 246]the palisades, with great shoutings they assailed the defenders of the one narrow pass in the rear.
The Indians, in consternation, were for a moment bewildered, and knew not which way to turn. The English, instantly availing themselves of the panic, made another rush, and succeeded in forcing an entrance. A hand to hand fight ensued of almost unparalleled ferocity; but the English, with their long swords, hewed down the foe with immense slaughter, and soon got possession of the breastwork which commanded the entrance. A passage was immediately cut through the palisades, and the whole army poured in.
The interior was a large Indian village, containing five hundred houses, stored with a great abundance of corn, and crowded with women and children. An awful scene of carnage now ensued. Though the savages fought with the utmost fury, they could oppose no successful resistance to the disciplined courage of the English. Flying from wigwam to wigwam, men, women, and children were struck down without mercy. The exasperated colonists regarded the children but as young serpents of a venomous brood, and they were pitilessly knocked in the [Pg 249]head. The women they shot as readily as they would the dam of the wolf or the bear. It was a day of vengeance, and awfully did retribution fall. The shrieks of women and children blended fearfully with the rattle of musketry and the cry of onset. For four hours the terrible battle raged. The snow which covered the ground was now crimsoned with blood, and strewed with the bodies of the slain.
The battle was so fierce, and the defense so determined and prolonged, the Indians flying from wigwam to wigwam, and taking deadly aim at the English from innumerable places of concealment, that at length the assailants were driven to the necessity of setting fire to the houses. They resorted to this measure with great reluctance, since they needed the shelter of the houses after the battle for their own refreshment in their utterly exhausted state, and since there were large quantities of corn stored in the houses in hollow trees, cut off about the length of a barrel, which would be entirely consumed by the conflagration. But there was no alternative; the torch was applied, and in a few moments five hundred buildings were in flames.
No language can describe the scene which now ensued. The awful tragedy of the Pequot [Pg 250]fort was here renewed upon a scale of still more terrific grandeur. Old men, women, and children, no one can tell how many, perished miserably in the wasting conflagration. The surviving warriors, utterly discomfited, leaped the flaming palisades and fled into the swamp. But even here they kept up an incessant and deadly fire upon the victors, many of whom were shot after they had gained entire possession of the fort. The terrible conflict had now lasted four hours. Eighty of the colonists had been killed outright, and one hundred and fifty wounded, many of whom subsequently died. Seven hundred Indian warriors were slain, and many hundred wounded, of whom three hundred soon died.
The English were now complete masters of the fort, but it was a fort no longer. The whole island of four acres, houses, palisades, and hedge, was but a glowing furnace of roaring, crackling flame. The houses were so exceedingly combustible that in an hour they were consumed to ashes. The English, unprotected upon the island, were thus exposed to every shot from the vanquished foe, who were skulking behind the trees in the swamp.
Night was now darkening over this dismal [Pg 251]scene, a cold, stormy winter's night. The flames of the blazing palisades and hedge enabled the savages, who were filling the forest with their howlings of rage, to take a surer aim, while they themselves were concealed in impenetrable darkness. It was greatly feared that the Indians, still much more numerous than their exhausted assailants, might, in the night, make another onset to regain their lost ground. Indeed, the bullets were still falling thickly around them as the Indians, prowling from hummock to hummock, kept up a deadly fire, and it was necessary, at all hazards, to escape from so perilous a position. It was another conquest of Moscow. In the hour of the most exultant victory, the conquerors saw before them but a vista of terrible disaster. After a few moments' consultation, a precipitate retreat from the swamp was decided to be absolutely necessary.
The colonists had marched in the morning, breakfastless, eighteen miles, over the frozen, snow-covered ground. Without any dinner, they had entered upon one of the most toilsome and deadly of conflicts, and had continued to struggle against intrenched and outnumbering foes for four hours. And now, cold, exhausted, and starving, in the darkness of a stormy [Pg 252]night, they were to retreat through an almost pathless swamp, bearing in their arms one hundred and fifty of their bleeding and dying companions. There was no place of safety for them until they should arrive at their head-quarters of the preceding night, upon the shores of Narraganset Bay, eighteen miles distant.
The horrors of that midnight retreat can never be told; they are hardly surpassed by the tragedy at Borodino. The wind blew fiercely through the tree-tops, and swept the bleak and drifted plains as the troops toiled painfully along, breasting the storm, and stumbling in exhaustion over the concealed inequalities of the ground. Most fortunately for them, the savages made no pursuit. Many of the wounded died by the way. Others, tortured by the freezing of their unbandaged wounds, and by the grating of their splintered bones as they were hurried along, shrieked aloud in their agony. It was long after midnight before they reached their encampment. But even here they had not a single biscuit. Vessels had been dispatched from Boston with provisions, which should have arrived long before at this point, which was their designated rendezvous. But these vessels had been driven into Cape Cod [Pg 253]harbor by a storm. The same storm had driven in immense masses of ice, and for many days they were hopelessly blocked up. Suffering excessively from this disappointment, the soldiers marched to the assault, hoping, in the capture of the fort, to find food stored up amply sufficient to supply the whole army until the spring of the year, and also to find good warm houses where they all might be lodged. The conflagration, to which they were compelled to resort, had blighted all these hopes, and now, though victorious, they were perishing in the wilderness of cold and hunger.
The storm, during the night, increased in fury, and the snow, in blinding, smothering sheets, filled the air, and, in the course of the ensuing day, covered the ground to such a depth that for several weeks the army was unable to move in any direction. But on that very morning, freezing and tempestuous, in which despair had seized upon every heart, a vessel was seen approaching, buffeting the icy waves of the bay. It was one of the vessels from Boston, laden with provisions for the army. Joy succeeded to despair. Prayers and praises ascended from grateful hearts, and hymns of thanksgiving resounded through the dim aisles of the forest.
The little army was now supplied with food, but the vast masses of snow extending every where around them through the pathless wilderness rendered it impossible to move in any direction. The forest afforded ample materials for huts and fuel. A busy village speedily arose upon the shores of the frozen bay. Many of the wounded were, for greater safety and comfort, sent to the island of Rhode Island, where they were carefully nursed in the dwellings of the colonists. In their encampment at Wickford, as the region is now called, the soldiers remained several weeks, blockaded by storms and drifts, waiting for a change of weather. It was a season of unusual severity, and the army presented a spectacle resembling, upon a small scale, that of the mighty hosts of Napoleon afterward encamped among the forests of the Vistula—a scene of military energy which arrested the gaze and elicited the astonishment of all Europe.
As the English evacuated the Indian fort, the warriors who had escaped into the swamp returned to their smouldering wigwams and to the mangled bodies of their wives and children, overwhelmed with indignation, rage, and despair. The storm of war had come and gone, and awful was the ruin which it had left behind. The Rev. Mr. Ruggles, recording the horrors of the destruction of the Narraganset fort, writes:
"The burning of the wigwams, the shrieks and cries of the women and children, and the yells of the warriors, exhibited a most horrible and affecting scene, so that it greatly moved some of the soldiers. They were in much doubt then, and often very seriously inquired whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent with humanity and the benevolent principles of the Gospel."
The Narragansets, who were associated with the warriors of Philip in this conflict, and in whose territory the battle had been fought, were exceedingly disheartened. This experience of the terrible power and vengeance of the English appalled them, and they were quite disposed to abandon Philip. But the great Wampanoag chief was not a man to yield to adversity. This calamity only nerved him to more [Pg 256]undying resolution and to deeds of more desperate daring. He had still about two thousand warriors around him, but, being almost entirely destitute of provisions, they for a time suffered incredibly.
To gain time, Philip sent deputies to the English commander-in-chief to treat of peace. The colonists met these advances with the utmost cordiality, for there was nothing which they more earnestly desired than to live on friendly terms with the Indians. War was to them only impoverishment and woe. They had nothing to gain by strife. It was, however, soon manifest that Philip was but trifling, and that he had no idea of burying the hatchet. While the wary chieftain was occupying the colonists with all the delays of diplomacy, he was energetically constructing another fort in a swamp about twenty miles distant, where he was again collecting his forces, and all the materials of barbarian warfare. In this fortress, within the territorial limits of the Nipmuck Indians, he also assembled a feeble train of women and children, the fragments of his slaughtered families. The Nipmuck tribe, then quite powerful, occupied the region now included in the southeast corner of Worcester county.
Hardly a ray of civilization had penetrated this portion of the country. The gloomy wilderness frowned every where around, pathless and savage. From the tangled morass in which he reared his wigwams he dispatched runners in all directions, to give impulse to the torrent of conflagration and blood with which he intended to sweep the settlements in the spring.
It was now manifest that there could be no hope of peace. An army of a thousand men, early in January, was dispatched from Boston to re-enforce the encampment at Wickford. Their march, in the dead of winter, over the bleak and frozen hills, was slow, and their sufferings were awful. Eleven men were frozen to death by the way, and a large number were severely frostbitten. Immediately after their arrival there came a remarkable thaw. The snow nearly all disappeared, and the ground was flooded with water. This thaw was life to the Indians. It enabled them to traverse the forests freely, and to gather ground-nuts, upon which they were almost exclusively dependent for subsistence.
The army at Wickford now numbered sixteen hundred. They decided upon a rapid march to attack Philip again in his new intrenchments. [Pg 258]There were friendly Indians, as the English called them—traitors, as they were called by King Philip—who were ever ready to guide the colonists to the haunts of their countrymen. There were individual Indians who had pride of character and great nobility of nature—men who, through their virtues, are venerated even by the race which has supplanted their tribes. They had their Washingtons, their Franklins, and their Howards. But Indian nature is human nature, with all its frailty and humiliation. The great mass of the common Indians were low and degraded men. Almost any of them were ready for a price, and that an exceedingly small one, to betray their nearest friends.
An Indian would sometimes be taken prisoner, and immediately, in the continuance of the same battle, with his musket still hot from the conflict, he would guide the English to the retreats of his friends, and engage, apparently with the greatest zeal, in firing upon them. In the narrative given by Colonel Benjamin Church, one of the heroes of these wars, he writes, speaking of himself in the third person,
"When he took any number of prisoners, he would pick out some, and tell them that he took [Pg 259]a particular fancy to them, and had chosen them for himself to make soldiers of, and if any would behave themselves well he would do well by them, and they should be his men, and not sold out of the country.
"If he perceived they looked surly, and his Indian soldiers called them treacherous dogs, as some of them would sometimes do, all the notice he would take of it would only be to clap them on the back and say, 'Come, come, you look wild and surly, and mutter; but that signifies nothing. These, my soldiers, were a little while ago as wild and surly as you are now. By the time you have been one day with me, you will love me too, and be as brisk as any of them.'
"And it proved so; for there was none of them but, after they had been a little while with him, and seen his behavior, and how cheerful and successful his men were, would be as ready to pilot him to any place where the Indians dwelt or haunted, though their own fathers or nearest relations should be among them, as any of his own men."
Such a character we can not but despise, and yet such, with exceptions, was the character of the common Indian. That magnanimity which [Pg 260]at times has shed immortal brilliance upon humanity is a rare virtue, even in civilized life; in the savage it is still more rare.
Philip, in the retreat to which he had now escaped, was again betrayed by one of his renegade countrymen. The English, numbering sixteen hundred, immediately resumed active hostilities, and after having ravaged the country directly around them, burning some wigwams, putting some Indians to death, and taking many captives, broke up their encampment and commenced their march. It was early in February that Major Winslow put his army in motion to pursue Philip. As the English drew near the swamp, Philip, conscious of his inability to oppose so formidable a force, immediately set his wigwams on fire, and, with all his warriors, disappeared in the depths of the wilderness. As it was entirely uncertain in what direction the savages would emerge from the forest to kindle anew the flames of war, the troops retraced their steps toward Boston. The Connecticut soldiers had already returned to their homes.
On the 10th of February, 1676, the Indians, with whoop and yell, burst from the forest upon the beautiful settlement of Lancaster. This [Pg 261]was one of the most remote of the frontier towns, some fifty miles west of Boston, on the Nashua River. The plantation, ten miles in length and eight in breadth, had been purchased of the Nashaway Indians, with the stipulation that the English should not molest the Indians in their hunting, fishing, or planting places. For several years the colonists and the Indians lived together in entire harmony, mutually benefiting each other. There were between fifty and sixty families in the town, embracing nearly three hundred inhabitants. They had noticed some suspicious circumstances on the part of the Indians who were dwelling around them, and they had sent their pastor, the Rev. Mr. Rowlandson, to Boston, to seek assistance for the defense of the town. He had taken the precaution before he left to convert his house into a bullet-proof fortress, and had garrisoned it for the protection of his family during his absence.
The savages, fifteen hundred in number, during the darkness of the night stationed themselves at different points, from whence they could, at an appointed signal, attack the town at the same moment in five different quarters. There were less than a hundred persons in the [Pg 262]town capable of bearing arms, the remainder being women and children. The savages thus prepared to overpower them fifteen to one, and, making the assault by surprise, felt sure of an easy victory.
Just as the sun was rising the signal was given. In an instant every heart was congealed with terror as the awful war-whoop resounded through the forest. It was a cold winter's morning, and the wind swept bleakly over the whitened plains. Every house was immediately surrounded, the torch applied, and, as the flames drove the inmates from their doors, they fell pierced by innumerable bullets, and the tomahawk and the scalping-knife finished the dreadful work. There were several garrison houses in the town, where most of the inhabitants had taken refuge, and where they were able, for a time, to beat off their assailants. All who were not thus sheltered immediately fell into the hands of their foes. Between fifty and sixty were either slain or taken captive. The unhappy inmates of the garrisons looked out through their port-holes upon the conflagration and plunder of their homes, the mutilated corpses of their friends, and the wretched band of captives strongly bound and awaiting their fate.
There were forty-one persons in the Rev. Mr. Rowlandson's house. They all defended it valiantly, and no Indian dared expose himself within gun-shot of their port-holes. Still, the savages, in a body, prepared for the assault. The house was situated upon the brow of a hill. Some of the Indians got behind the hill, others filled the barn, and others sheltered themselves behind stones and stumps, and any other breastwork, from which they could reach the house with their bullets. For two hours, fifteen hundred savages kept up an incessant firing, aiming at the windows and the port-holes. Several in the house were thus wounded.
After many unsuccessful attempts to fire the house, they at length succeeded in pushing a cart loaded with hay and other combustible materials, all in flames, against the rear of the house. All the efforts of the garrison to extinguish the fire were unavailing, and the building was soon in a blaze. As the flames rapidly rolled up the wall and over the roof, the savages raised shouts of exultation, which fell as a death-knell upon the hearts of those who had now no alternative but to be consumed in the flames or to surrender themselves to the merciless foe. The bullets were still rattling against [Pg 264]the house, and fifteen hundred warriors were greedily watching to riddle with balls any one who should attempt to escape. The flames were crackling and roaring around the besieged, and their only alternative was to perish in the fire, or to go out and meet the bullet and the tomahawk of the savage. When the first forks of flame touched the flesh, goaded by torture to delirium, they rushed from the door. A wild whoop of triumph rose from the savages, and, pouring a volley of bullets upon the group, they fell upon them with gleaming knives.
Many were instantly killed and scalped. All the men were thus massacred; twenty of the women and children were taken captives. Mrs. Rowlandson had two children, a son and a daughter, by her side, and another daughter about six years of age, sick and emaciate, in her arms. Her sister was also with her, with several children. No less than seventeen of Rev. Mr. Rowlandson's family and connections were in this melancholy group.
As many dropped dead around Mrs. Rowlandson, cut down by the storm of bullets, one bullet pierced her side, and another passed through the hand and the bowels of the sick child she held in her arms. One of her sister's [Pg 265]children, a fine boy, fell helpless upon the ground, having his thigh-bone shattered by a ball. A sturdy Indian, seeing that the poor child was thus disabled, buried his tomahawk in his brain and stripped off his scalp. The frantic mother rushed toward her child, when a bullet pierced her bosom, and she fell lifeless upon his mangled corpse. The savages immediately stripped all the clothing from the dead, and, having finished their work of conflagration and plunder, plunged into the wilderness, dragging their wretched captives along with them. The beautiful town was left in ruins.
The victors, with shouts of exultation, marched about a mile, and encamped for the night upon a hill which overlooked the smouldering dwellings of their foes. Here was enacted one of the wildest scenes of barbarian bacchanals. Enormous fires were built, which, with roaring, crackling flame, illumined for leagues around the sombre forest. Fifteen hundred savages, delirious with victory, and prodigal of their immense booty of oxen, cows, sheep, swine, calves, and fowl, reveled in such a feast as they had hardly dreamed of before. Cattle were roasted whole and eagerly devoured, with dances and with shouts which made the welkin ring. [Pg 266]With wastefulness characteristic of the Indians, they took no thought for the morrow, but slaughtered the animals around them in mere recklessness, and, when utterly satiated with the banquet, the ground was left strewed with smoking and savory viands sufficient to feed an army.
The night was cold; the ground was covered with snow, and a piercing wind swept the icy eminence. Mrs. Rowlandson, holding her wounded and moaning child in her arms, and with the group of wretched captives around her, sat during the long hours of the dreadful night, shivering with cold, appalled at the awful fate which had befallen her and her family, and endeavoring in vain to soothe the anguish of her dying daughter. "This was the dolefullest night," she exclaims in her affecting narrative, "that my eyes ever saw. Oh, the roaring and singing, dancing and yelling of those black creatures in the night, which made the place a lively resemblance of hell."
The next morning the Indians commenced their departure into the wilderness. Mrs. Rowlandson toiled along on foot, with her dying child in her arms. The poor little girl was in extreme anguish, and often cried out with pain. At length the mother became so exhausted that [Pg 267]she fell fainting to the ground. The Indians then placed her upon a horse, and again gave her her child to carry. But the horse was furnished with neither saddle nor bridle, and, in going down a steep hill, stumbled, and they both were thrown over his neck. This incident was greeted by the savages with shouts of laughter. To add to their sufferings, it now began to snow. All the day long the storm wailed through the tree-tops, and the snow was sifted down upon their path. The woe-stricken captives toiled along until night, when the Indians again encamped upon the open ground.
"And now," writes Mrs. Rowlandson, "I must sit in the snow by a little fire, and a few boughs behind me, with my sick child in my lap, and calling much for water, being now, through the wound, fallen into a violent fever. My own wound, also, growing so stiff that I could scarce sit down or rise up, yet so it must be that I must sit all this cold winter's night upon the cold snowy ground, with my sick child in my arms, looking that every hour would be the last of its life, and having no Christian friend near me either to comfort or help me."
In the morning the Indians resumed their journey, marching, as was their custom, in single [Pg 268]file through trails in the forest. A humane Indian mounted a horse and took Mrs. Rowlandson and her child behind him. All the day long the poor little sufferer moaned with pain, while the savages were constantly threatening to knock the child in the head if she did not cease her moaning. In the evening they arrived at an Indian village called Wenimesset. Here, upon a luxuriant meadow upon the banks of the River Ware, within the limits of the present town of New Braintree, the savages had established their head-quarters. It was about thirty-six miles from Lancaster. A large number of savages were assembled at this place, and they remained here for several days, gathering around their council fires, planning new expeditions, and inflaming their passions with war dances and the most frantic revels. The Indians treated their captives with comparative kindness. No violence or disrespect was offered to their persons. They reared a rude wigwam for Mrs. Rowlandson, where she sat for five days and nights almost alone, watching her dying child. At last, on the night of the 18th of February, the little sufferer breathed her last, at the age of six years and five months. The Indians took the corpse from the mother and buried it, and then allowed her to see the grave.
When Mrs. Rowlandson was driven from the flames of her dwelling, a Narraganset Indian was the first to grasp her; he consequently claimed her as his property. Her children were caught by different savages, and thus became the slaves of their captors. The Indians, by the law of retaliation, were perfectly justified in making slaves of their captives. The human mind can not withhold its assent from the justice of the verdict, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." The English made all their captives slaves, and women and children were sold to all the horrors of West Indian plantation bondage. The Narraganset Indian who owned Mrs. Rowlandson soon sold her to a celebrated chieftain named Quinnapin, a Narraganset sachem, who had married, for one of his three wives, Wetamoo, of whom we have heretofore spoken. Quinnapin is represented as a "young, lusty sachem, and a very great rogue." It will be remembered that Wetamoo, queen of the Pocasset Indians, was the widow of Alexander and sister of Wootonekanuske, the wife of Philip. The English clergyman's wife was assigned to Queen Wetamoo as her dressing-maid. [Pg 272]The Indian slaveholders paid but little regard to family relations. Mrs. Rowlandson's daughter Mary was sold for a gun by a praying Indian, who first chanced to grasp her. The Christian Indians joined in this war against the whites, and shared in all the emoluments of the slave traffic which it introduced. Mary was ten years of age, a child of cultured mind and lovely character. She was purchased by an Indian who resided in the town where the Indian army was now encamped. When the poor slave mother met her slave child, Mary was so overwhelmed with anguish as to move even the sympathies of her stoical masters; their several owners consequently forbade their meeting any more.
After a few days, the warriors scattered on various expeditions of devastation and blood. Mrs. Rowlandson was left at Wenimesset. Her days and nights were passed in lamentations, tears, and prayers. One morning, quite to her surprise, her son William entered her wigwam, where she was employed by her mistress in menial services. He belonged to a master who resided at a small plantation of Indians about six miles distant. His master had gone with a war party to make an attack upon Medfield, [Pg 273]and his mistress, with woman's tender heart, had brought him to see his mother. The interview was short and full of anguish.
The next day the Indians returned from the destruction of Medfield. Their approach through the forest was heralded by the most demoniac roaring and whooping, as the whole savage band thus announced their victory. All the Indians in the little village assembled to meet them. The warriors had slain twenty of the English, and brought home several captives and many scalps. Each one told his story, and recapitulated the numbers of the slain; and, at the close of each narrative, the whole multitude, with the most frantic gestures, set up a shout which echoed far and wide over mountain and valley.
There were now at Wenimesset nine captives, Mrs. Rowlandson, Mrs. Joslin, and seven children from different families. Mrs. Joslin had an infant two years old in her arms, and was expecting every hour to give birth to another child.
The Indians now deemed it necessary to move farther into the wilderness. The poor woman, in her deplorable condition, did nothing but weep, and the Indians, deeming her an incumbrance, [Pg 274]resolved to get rid of her. They placed her upon the ground with her child, divested her entirely of clothing, and for an hour sang and danced around their victim with wildest exultation. One then approached and buried his hatchet in her brain. She fell lifeless. Another blow put an end to the sufferings of her child. They then built a huge fire, placed the two bodies upon it, and they were consumed to ashes. All the captive children were assembled to witness this tragedy, and were assured that if they made any attempt to escape from slavery, a similar fate awaited them. The unhappy woman, during all this awful scene, shed not a tear, but with clasped hands, meekly praying, she silently and almost joyfully surrendered herself to her fate.
All the day long, the Indians, leading their captives with them, traveled through the desolate wilderness. A drizzling rain was falling, and their feet slumped through the wet snow at every step. Late in the afternoon they encamped, with no protection from the weather but a few boughs of trees. Mrs. Rowlandson was separated from her children; she was faint with hunger, sore, and utterly exhausted with travel, and she sat down upon the snowy [Pg 275]ground and wept bitterly. She opened her Bible for solace, and her eye fell upon the cheering words,
"Refrain thy voice from weeping and thine eyes from tears, for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy."
Here, in this wretched encampment, the Indians, their families being with them, remained for four days. But some of their scouts brought in intelligence that some English soldiers were in the vicinity. The Indians immediately, in the greatest apparent consternation, packed up their things and fled. They retreated farther into the wilderness in the most precipitate confusion. Women carried their children. Men took upon their shoulders their aged and decrepit mothers. One very heavy Indian, who was sick, was carried upon a bier. Mrs. Rowlandson endeavored to count the Indians, but they were in such a tumultuous throng, hurrying through the forest, that she was quite unable to ascertain their numbers. It will be remembered that Mrs. Rowlandson's side had been pierced by a bullet at the destruction of Lancaster. The wound was much inflamed, and, being worn down with pain and exhaustion, [Pg 276]she found it exceedingly difficult to keep pace with her captors. In the distribution of their burdens they had given her two quarts of parched meal to carry. Fainting with hunger, she implored of her mistress one spoonful of the meal, that she might mix it with water to appease the cravings of appetite. Her supplication was denied.
Soon they arrived at Swift River, somewhere probably within the limits of the present town of Enfield. The stream was swollen with the melting snows of spring. The Indians, with their hatchets, immediately cut down some dry trees, with which they made a raft, and thus crossed the stream. The raft was so heavily laden that many of the Indians were knee deep in the icy water. Mrs. Rowlandson, however, sat upon some brush, and thus kept her feet dry. For supper they made a broth by boiling an old horse's leg in a kettle of water, filling up with water as often as the kettle was emptied. Mrs. Rowlandson was in such a starving condition that a cupful of this wretched nutriment seemed delicious.
Feeling that they were now safe from attack, they reared some rude wigwams, and rested for one day. It so happened that the next day [Pg 277]was the Sabbath. The English who were pursuing came to the banks of the river, saw the smoke of their fires, but for some reason decided not to attempt to cross the stream. During the day, Wetamoo compelled her slave to knit some stockings for her. When Mrs. Rowlandson plead that it was the Sabbath, and promised that if she might be permitted to keep the sacred day she would do double work on Monday, she was told to do her work immediately, or she should have her face smashed. The smashing of a face by an Indian's bludgeon is a serious operation.
The next morning, Monday, the Indians fired their wigwams, and continued their retreat through the wilderness toward the Connecticut River. They traveled as fast as they could all day, fording icy brooks, until late in the afternoon they came to the borders of a gloomy swamp, where they again encamped.
"When we came," writes Mrs. Rowlandson, "to the brow of the hill that looked toward the swamp, I thought we had come to a great Indian town. Though there were none but our company, the Indians appeared as thick as the trees. It seemed as if there had been a thousand hatchets going at once. If one looked [Pg 278]before there were nothing but Indians, and behind nothing but Indians, and from either hand, and I myself in the midst, and no Christian soul near me."
The next morning the wearisome march was again resumed. Early in the afternoon they reached the banks of the Connecticut at a spot near Hadley, where they found the ruins of a small English settlement. Mrs. Rowlandson had for her food during the day an ear of corn and a small piece of horse's liver. As she was roasting the liver upon some coals, an Indian came and snatched half of it away. She was forced to eat the rest almost raw, lest she should lose that also; and yet her hunger was so great that it seemed a delicious morsel. They gathered a little wheat from the fields, which they found frozen in the shocks upon the icy ground.
The next morning they commenced ascending the river for a few miles, where they were to cross to meet King Philip, who, with a large party of warriors, was encamped on the western bank of the stream. Indians from all quarters were assembling at that rendezvous, in preparation for an assault on the Connecticut River towns. When Mrs. Rowlandson's party arrived at the point of crossing, they encamped [Pg 279]for the night. The opposite shore seemed to be thronged with savage warriors. Mrs. Rowlandson sat upon the banks of the stream, and gazed with amazement upon the vast multitude, like swarming bees, crowding the shore. She had never before seen so many assembled. While she was thus sitting, to her great surprise, her son approached her. His master had brought him to the spot. The interview between the woe-stricken mother and her child was very brief and very sad. They were soon again separated.
The next morning they commenced crossing the river in canoes. When Mrs. Rowlandson had crossed, she was received with peculiar kindness. One Indian gave her two spoonfuls of meal, and another brought her half a pint of peas. The half-famished captive now thought that her larder was abundantly stored. She was then conducted to the wigwam of King Philip. The Wampanoag chieftain received her with the courtesy of a gentleman, invited her to sit down upon a mat by his side, and presented her a pipe to smoke with him. He requested her to make a shirt for his son, and, like a gentleman, paid her for her work. He invited her to dine with him. They dined [Pg 280]upon pancakes made of parched wheat, beaten and fried in bear's grease. The dinner, though very frugal, was esteemed very delicious.
The Indians remained here for several days, preparing for a very formidable attack on the town of Northampton. During all the time that Mrs. Rowlandson remained near King Philip, though she was held as a captive, she was not treated as a slave. She was paid for all the work that she did. She made a shirt for one of the warriors, and received for it a generous sirloin of bear's flesh. For another she knit a pair of stockings, for which she received a quart of peas. With these savory viands Mrs. Rowlandson prepared a nice dinner, and invited her master and mistress, Quinnapin and Wetamoo, to dine with her. They accepted the invitation; but Mrs. Rowlandson did not appreciate the niceties of Indian etiquette. Wetamoo was a queen, Quinnapin was only her husband—merely the Prince Albert of Queen Victoria. As there was but one dish from which both the queen and her husband were to be served, the haughty Wetamoo deemed herself insulted, and refused to eat a morsel.
Philip and his warriors soon departed to make attacks upon the settlements. The Indians [Pg 281]who remained took Mrs. Rowlandson and several other captives some six miles farther up the river, and then crossed to the eastern banks. Here they remained for some days, and here Mrs. Rowlandson had another short interview with her son, which lacerated still more severely her bleeding heart. The poor boy was sick and in great pain, and his agonized mother was not permitted to remain with him to afford him any relief. Of her daughter she could learn no tidings. Wetamoo, Quinnapin, and Philip were all absent, and the Indians treated her with great inhumanity, with occasional caprices of strange and unaccountable kindness.
One bitter cold day, the Indians all huddled around the fire in the wigwam, and would not allow her to approach it. Perishing with cold, she went out and entered another wigwam. Here she was received with great hospitality; a mat was spread for her, and she was addressed in words of tender sympathy by the mother of the little barbarian household, in whose bosom woman's loving heart throbbed warmly. But soon the Indian to whose care she was intrusted came in search of her, and amused himself in kicking her all the way home.
The next day the Indians commenced, for [Pg 282]some unknown reason, wandering back again toward Lancaster. They placed upon this poor captive's back as heavy a burden as she could bear, and goaded her along through the wilderness. She forded streams, and climbed steep hills, and endured hardships which can not be described. Her hunger was so great that six acorns, which she picked up by the way, she esteemed a great treasure.
The night was cold and windy. The Indians erected a wigwam, and were soon gathered around a glowing fire in the centre of it. The interior presented a bright, warm, and cheerful scene, as Mrs. Rowlandson entered to warm her shivering frame. She had been compelled to search around to bring dry fuel for the fire. She was, however, ordered instantly to leave the hut, the Indians saying that there was no room for her at the fire. Mrs. Rowlandson hesitated about going out to pass the night in the freezing air, when one of the Indians drew his knife, and she was compelled to retire. There were several wigwams around; the poor captive went from one to another, but from all she was repelled with abuse and derision.
At last an old Indian took pity upon her, and [Pg 283]told her to come in. His wife received her with compassion, gave her a warm seat by the fire, some ground-nuts for her supper, and placed a bundle under her head for a pillow. With these accommodations the English clergyman's wife felt that she was luxuriously entertained, and passed the night in comfort and sweet slumbers. The next day the journey was continued. As the Indians were binding a heavy burden upon Mrs. Rowlandson's shoulders, she complained that it hurt her severely, and that the skin was off her back. A surly Indian delayed not strapping on the load, merely remarking, dryly, that it would be of but little consequence if her head were off too.
The Indians now entered a region of the forest where there was a very heavy growth of majestic trees, and the underbrush was so dense as to be almost impenetrable. Plunging into this as a covert, they reared their wigwams, and remained here, in an almost starving condition, for fourteen days. The anxious mother inquired of an Indian if he could inform her what had become of her boy. The rascal very coolly told her, that he might torture her by the falsehood, that his master had roasted the lad, and that he himself had been furnished with a [Pg 284]steak, and that it was very delicious meat. They also told her, in the same spirit, that her husband had been taken by the Indians and slain.
Thus the Indians continued for several weeks wandering about from one place to another, without any apparent object, and most of the time in a miserable, half-famished condition. A more joyless, dismal life imagination can hardly conceive. One day thirty Indians approached the encampment on horseback, all dressed in the garments which they had stripped from the English whom they had slain. They wore hats, white neckcloths, and sashes about their waists. They brought a message from Quinnapin that Mrs. Rowlandson must go to the foot of Mount Wachusett, where the Indian warriors were in council, deliberating with some English commissioners about the redemption of the captives. "My heart was so heavy before," writes Mrs. Rowlandson, "that I could scarce speak or go in the path, and yet now so light that I could run. My strength seemed to come again, and to recruit my feeble knees and aching heart. Yet it pleased them to go but one mile that night, and there we staid two days."
They then journeyed along slowly, the whole [Pg 285]party suffering extremely from hunger. A little broth, made from boiling the old and dry feet of a horse, was considered a great refreshment. They at length came to a small Indian village, where they found in captivity four English children, and one of them was a child of Mrs. Rowlandson's sister. They were all gaunt and haggard with famine. Sadly leaving these suffering little ones, the journey was continued until they arrived near Mount Wachusett. Here King Philip met them. Kindly, and with the courtesy of a polished gentleman, he took the hand of the unhappy captive, and said, "In two weeks more you shall be your own mistress again." In this encampment of warriors she was placed again in the hands of her master and mistress, Quinnapin and Wetamoo. Of this renowned queen Mrs. Rowlandson says:
"A severe and proud dame she was, bestowing every day, in dressing herself, nearly as much time as any of the gentry in the land, powdering her hair and painting her face, going with her necklaces, with jewels in her ears. When she had dressed herself, her work was to make girdles of wampum and beads."
Wampum was the money in use among the Indians. It consisted of beautiful shells very [Pg 286]curiously strung together. "Their beads," says John Josselyn, "are their money. Of these there are two sorts, blue beads and white beads. The first is their gold, the last their silver. These they work out of certain shells so cunningly that neither Jew nor Devil can counterfeit. They drill them and string them, and make many curious works with them to adorn the persons of their sagamores and principal men and young women, as belts, girdles, tablets, borders of their women's hair, bracelets, necklaces, and links to hang in their ears."
Our poor captive, having returned to the wigwam of her master and mistress, was treated with much comparative kindness. She was received hospitably at the fire. A mat was given to her for a bed, and a rug to spread over her. She was employed in knitting stockings and making under garments for her mistress. While here, two Indians came with propositions from the government at Boston for the purchase of her ransom. The news overwhelmed Mrs. Rowlandson with emotions too deep for smiles, and she could only give utterance to her feelings in sobs and flooding tears.
The sachems now met to consult upon the subject. They called Mrs. Rowlandson before [Pg 287]them, and, after a long and very serious conference, agreed to receive twenty pounds ($100) for her ransom. One of the praying Indians was sent to Boston with this proposition.
While this matter was in progress, the Indians went out on several expeditions, and returned with much plunder and many scalps. One of the savages had a necklace made of the fingers of the English whom he had slain.
It was the custom of the Indians not to remain long in any one place, lest they should be overtaken by the bands of the colonists which were every where in pursuit of them. The latter part of April, after having perpetrated enormous destruction in Sudbury and other towns, the warriors returned to their rendezvous elated, yet trembling, as they knew that the English forces were in search of them. Immediately breaking up their encampment, they retreated several miles into the wilderness, and there built an enormous tent of boughs, sufficient to hold one hundred men.
Here the Indians gathered from all quarters, and they had a feast and a great dance. Mrs. Rowlandson learned from a captive English woman whom she found here that her sister and her own daughter were with some Indians [Pg 288]at but a mile's distance. Though she had seen neither for ten weeks, she was not permitted to go near them. The poor woman plead with anguish of entreaty to be permitted to see her child, but she could make no impression upon their obdurate hearts.
One Sabbath afternoon, just as the sun was going down, a colonist, Mr. John Hoar, a man of extraordinary intrepidity of spirit, with a firm step approached the encampment, guided by two friendly Indians, and under the very frail protection of a barbarian flag of truce. The savages, as soon as they saw him, seized their guns, and rushed as if to kill him. They shot over his head and under his horse, before him and behind him, seeing how near they could make the bullets whistle by his ears without hitting him. They dragged him from his horse, pushed him this way and that way, and treated him with all imaginable violence without inflicting any bodily harm. This they did to frighten him; but John Hoar was not a man to be frightened, and the savages admired his imperturbable courage.
The chiefs built their council fire, and held a long conference with Mr. Hoar. They then allowed him a short interview with Mrs. Rowlandson. [Pg 289]He brought her messages of affection from her distracted husband, and cheered her with the hope that her release would eventually, though not immediately, be obtained. She plead earnestly with the Indians for permission to return with Mr. Hoar, promising to send back the price of her ransom; but they declared that she should not go.
After dinner the Indians made arrangements for one of their most imposing dances. It was a barbarian cotillon, performed by eight partners in the presence of admiring hundreds. Queen Wetamoo and her husband, Quinnapin, were conspicuous in this dance. He was dressed in a white linen shirt, with a broad border of lace around the skirt. To this robe silver buttons were profusely attached. He wore white cotton stockings, with shillings dangling and clinking from the garters. A turban composed of girdles of wampum ornamented his head, while broad belts of wampum passed over his shoulders and encircled his waist.
Wetamoo was dressed for the ball in a horseman's coat of coarse, shaggy cloth. This was beautifully decorated with belts of wampum from the waist upward. Her arms, from the elbows to the wrist, were clasped with bracelets. [Pg 290]A great profusion of necklaces covered her well-rounded shoulders and ample bosom. Her ears were laden with jewels. She wore red stockings and white shoes. Her face was painted a brilliant crimson, and her hair powdered white as snow. For music the Indians sang, while one beat time upon a brass kettle.
Soon after the dance, King Philip, who was there with his warriors, but who appears to have taken no part in the carousals, sent for Mrs. Rowlandson, and said to her, with a smiling face, "Would you like to hear some good news? I have a pleasant word for you. You are to go home to-morrow." Arrangements had been finally made through Mr. Hoar for her ransom.
On the next morning Mrs. Rowlandson, accompanied by Mr. Hoar and the two friendly Indians, commenced her journey through the wilderness toward Lancaster. She left her two children, her sister, and many other friends and relatives still in captivity. "In coming along," she says, "my heart melted into tears more than all the while I was with them."
Toward evening they reached the spot where Lancaster once stood. The place, once so luxuriant and beautiful, presented a dreary aspect [Pg 291]of ruin. The storm of war had swept over it, and had converted all its attractive homes into smouldering embers. They chanced to find an old building which had escaped the flames, and here, upon a bed of straw, they passed the night. With blended emotions of bliss and of anguish, the bereaved mother journeyed along the next day, and about noon reached Concord. Here she met many of her friends, who rejoiced with her in her rescue, and wept with her over the captives who were still in bondage. They then hurried on to Boston, where she arrived in the evening, and was received to the arms of her husband, after a captivity in the wilderness of three months. By great exertions, their son and daughter were eventually regained. We now return from the incidents of this captivity to renew the narrative of Philip's war.
The Massachusetts government now employed two friendly Indians to act as spies. With consummate cunning they mingled with the hostile Indians, and made a faithful report to their employers of all the anticipated movements respecting which they could obtain any information.
Eleven days after the destruction of Lancaster, on the 21st of February, the Indians made an attack upon Medfield. This was a very bold measure. The town was but seventeen miles from Boston. Several garrison houses had been erected, in which all the inhabitants could take refuge in case of alarm. Two hundred soldiers were stationed in the town, and sentinels kept a very careful watch. On the Sabbath, as the people were returning from public worship, one or two Indians were seen on the neighboring hills, which led the people to suspect that an assault was contemplated. The night was moonless, starless, and of Egyptian darkness. The [Pg 293]Indians, perfectly acquainted with the location of every building and every inch of the ground, crept noiselessly, three hundred in number, each to his appointed post. They spread themselves over all parts of the town, skulking behind every fence, and rock, and tree. They concealed themselves in orchards, sheds, and barns. King Philip himself was with them, guiding, with amazing skill and energy, all the measures for the attack. Not a voice, or a footfall, or the rustling of a twig was heard, as the savages stood in immovable and breathless silence, waiting the signal for the onset. The torch was ready to be lighted; the musket loaded and primed; the knife and tomahawk sharp and gleaming.
At the earliest dawn of day one shrill war-whoop was heard, clear and piercing. It drew forth the instant response of three hundred voices in unearthly yells. Men, women, and children sprang from their beds in a phrensy of terror, and, rushing in their night-clothes from their homes, endeavored to reach the garrison houses. But the leaping savage was every where with his torch, and soon the blaze of fifty houses and barns shed its lurid light over the dark morning. Fortunately, many of the [Pg 294]inhabitants were in the garrisons. Of those who were not, but few escaped. The bullet and the tomahawk speedily did their work, and but a few moments elapsed ere fifty men, women, and children were weltering in blood. Though they promptly laid one half of the town in ashes, the garrison houses were too strong for them to take. During the progress of this awful tragedy King Philip was seen mounted on a splendid black horse, leaping the fences, inspiriting his warriors, and exulting in the havoc he was accomplishing.
At length the soldiers, who were scattered in different parts of the town, began gradually to combine their strength, and the savages, learning that re-enforcements were also approaching from Sudbury, were compelled to retire. They retreated across a bridge in the southwest part of the town, in the direction of Medway, keeping up a resolute firing upon their foes who pursued them. Having passed the stream, they set fire to the bridge to cut off pursuit. In exultation over their victory, Philip wrote, probably by the hand of some Christian Indian, the following letter to his enemies, which he attached to one of the charred and smouldering posts of the bridge.
"Know by this paper that the Indians that thou hast provoked to wrath and anger will war this twenty-one years, if you will. There are many Indians yet. We come three hundred at this time. You must consider the Indians lose nothing but their life. You must lose your fair houses and cattle."
The Indians now wandered about in comparatively small bands, making attacks wherever they thought that there was any chance of success, and marking their path with flames and blood. Without a moment's warning, and with hideous yells, they would dash from the forest upon the lonely settlements, and as suddenly retreat before the least effectual show of resistance. Weymouth, within eleven miles of Boston, was assailed, and several houses and barns burnt. They ventured even into the town of Plymouth, setting fire to a house and killing eleven persons.
On the 13th of March, the Indians, in a strong party four hundred in number, made an attack upon Groton. The inhabitants, alarmed by the fate of Lancaster, had retreated into five garrison houses. Four of these houses were within musket-shot of each other, but one was more than a mile distant from the rest. The [Pg 296]savages very adroitly formed, in the night, two ambuscades, one before and one behind the four united garrisons. Early in the morning they sent a small party of Indians to show themselves upon a hill as a decoy. The inhabitants, supposing that the Indians, unaware of their preparations for resistance, had come in small numbers, very imprudently left two of the garrisons and pursued them. The Indians retreated with precipitation. The English eagerly pursued, when suddenly the party in ambush rose and poured a deadly fire upon them. In the mean time, the other party in ambush in rear of the garrison rushed to the palisades to cut off the retreat of the English. Covered, however, by the guns of the two other garrisons, they succeeded in regaining shelter. A similar attempt was made to destroy the solitary garrison, but it was alike unsuccessful. The Indians, however, had the whole town except the garrisons to themselves. They burned to the ground forty dwelling-houses, the church, and all the barns and out-houses. The cattle were fortunately saved, being inclosed within palisades under the protection of the garrisons.
A notorious Nipmuck chief, Monoco, called by the English One-eyed John, led this expedition. [Pg 297]While the church was in flames, Monoco shouted to the men in the garrison, assailing them with every variety of Indian vituperative abuse. He had been so much with the English that he understood their language very well.
"What will you do for a place to pray in," said he, "now that we have burned your meeting-house? We will burn Chelmsford, Concord, Watertown, Cambridge, Charlestown, Roxbury, and Boston. I have four hundred and eighty warriors with me; we will show you what we will do."
But a few months after this Monoco was taken prisoner, led through the streets of Boston with a rope round his neck, and hanged at the town's end.
On the 17th of March, Warwick, in Rhode Island, was almost entirely destroyed. The next day another band of Indians attacked Northampton, on the Connecticut. But by this time most of the towns had fortified themselves with palisades and garrison houses. The Indians, after a fierce conflict, were repelled from Northampton with a loss of eleven men, while the English lost but three.
On the Sabbath of the 26th of March, as the [Pg 298]people of Marlborough were assembled at public worship, the alarming cry was shouted in at the door, "The Indians! the Indians!" An indescribable scene of confusion instantly ensued, as the whole congregation rushed out to seek shelter in their garrison. The terror and confusion were awfully increased by a volley of bullets, which the Indians, as they came rushing like demons over the plain, poured in upon the flying congregation. Fortunately, the savages were at such a distance that none were wounded excepting one man, who was carrying an aged and infirm woman. His arm was broken by a ball. All, however, succeeded in gaining the garrison house, which was near at hand. The meeting-house and most of the dwelling-houses were burned. The orchards were cut down, and all other ruin perpetrated which savage ingenuity could devise.
The Indians, exultant with success, encamped that night in the woods not far from Marlborough, and kept the forest awake with the uproar of their barbarian wassail. The colonists immediately assembled a small band of brave men, fell upon them by surprise in the midst of their carousals, shot forty and dispersed the rest.
On the same day in which Marlborough was destroyed, a very disastrous defeat befell a party of soldiers belonging to the old Plymouth colony. Nanuntenoo, son of the renowned Miantunnomah, was now the head chief of the Narragansets. He was fired with a terrible spirit of revenge against the English, and could not forget the swamp fight in which so many of his bravest warriors had perished, and where hundreds of his women and children had been cut to pieces and burned to ashes in their wigwams. He himself had taken a large share in this fierce fight, and with difficulty escaped. This chieftain, a man of great intrepidity and sagacity, had gathered a force of nearly two thousand Indians upon the banks of the Pawtucket River, within the limits of the present town of Seekonk. They were preparing for an overwhelming attack upon the town of Plymouth.
The colonists, by no means aware of the formidableness of the force assembled, dispatched Captain Pierce from Scituate with seventy men, fifty of whom were English and twenty Indians, to break up the encampment of the savages. Nanuntenoo, informed of their movements, prepared with great strategetic skill to [Pg 300]meet them. He concealed a large portion of his force in ambush on the western side of the river; another body of warriors he secreted in the forest on the eastern banks. As Captain Pierce approached the stream, a small party of Indians, as a decoy, showed themselves on the western side, and immediately retreated, as if surprised and alarmed. The colonists eagerly crossed the stream and pursued them.
The stratagem of the wily savage was thus perfectly successful. The colonists had advanced but a few rods from the banks, near Pawtucket Falls, when the Indians, several hundreds in number, rose from their ambush, and rushed like an avalanche upon them. With bravery almost unparalleled in Indian warfare, they sought no covert, but rushed upon their foes in the open field face to face. They knew that the colonists were now drawn into a trap from which there was no possible escape. As soon as the battle commenced, the Indians who were in the rear, on the eastern bank of the narrow stream, sprang up from their ambush, and, crowding the shore, cut off all hope of retreat, and commenced a heavy fire upon their foe. Utter defeat was now certain. The only choice was between instantaneous death by the [Pg 301]bullet or death by lingering torture. Captain Pierce was a valiant man, and instantly adopted his heroic resolve. He formed his men in a circle, back to back, and with a few words inspired them with his own determination to sell his life as dearly as possible. Thus they continued the fight until nearly every one of the colonial party was slain. But one white man escaped, and he through the singular sagacity of one of the friendly Indians.
Captain Pierce soon fell, having his thigh bone shattered by a bullet. A noble Indian by the name of Amos would not desert him; he stood firmly by his side, loading and firing, while his comrades fell thickly around him. When nearly all his friends had fallen, and the survivors were mingled with their foes in the smoke and confusion of the fight, he observed that all the hostile Indians had painted their faces black. Wetting some gunpowder, he smeared his own face so as to resemble the adverse party; then, giving the hint to an Englishman, he pretended to pursue him with an uplifted tomahawk. The Englishman threw down his gun and fled, but a few steps in advance of his pursuer. The Narragansets, seeing that the Indian could not fail to overtake [Pg 302]and dispatch the unarmed fugitive, did not interfere. Thus they entered the forest, and both escaped.
A friendly Indian, pursued by one of Nanuntenoo's men, took shelter behind the roots of a fallen tree. The Indian who had pursued him waited, with his gun cocked and primed, for the fugitive to start again from his retreat, knowing that he would not dare to remain there long, when hundreds of Indians were almost surrounding him. The roots of the tree, newly-turned up, contained a large quantity of adhering earth, which entirely covered the fugitive from view. Cautiously he bored a small hole through the earth, took deliberate aim at his pursuer, shot him down, and then escaped.
Another of the Indian allies, in his flight, took refuge behind a large rock. This was a perfect shelter for a moment, but certain death awaited him in the end. His pursuer, with loaded musket, sure of his victim, quietly waited to see him start again. In this deplorable condition the beleaguered Indian thought of the following shrewd expedient. Putting his cap upon his gun, he raised it very gradually above the rock, as if he were endeavoring to peep over to discover the situation of his enemy. The [Pg 303]sharp-eyed Narraganset instantly leveled his gun and sent a bullet through the cap, and, as he supposed, through the head of his foe. The fugitive sprang from his covert, and, advancing toward his unarmed enemy, shot him dead. Thus was escape effected. With the exception of one Englishman and five or six friendly Indians, all the rest were cut down. The wounded were reserved for the horrible doom of torture.
The Indians were exceedingly elated by this signal victory, and their shouts of exultation were loud and long-repeated. The next morning, with yells of triumph, they crossed the river, made a rush upon Seekonk, and burned seventy buildings. The next day they stormed Providence, and burned thirty houses. These devastations, however, were not accompanied with much bloodshed, as most of the inhabitants of Providence and of Seekonk had previously fled to the island of Rhode Island for protection.
The heroic Roger Williams, however, remained in Providence. He had ever been the firm friend of the Indians, and was well acquainted with the leading chiefs in this war-party. The Indians, while setting fire to the rest of the town, left his person and property unharmed. [Pg 304]Flushed with success, they assured him that they were confident of the entire conquest of the country, and of the utter extermination of the English. Mr. Williams reproached them with their cruelties, and told them that Massachusetts could raise ten thousand men, and that even were the Indians to destroy them all, Old England could send over an equal number every year until the Indians were conquered. Nanuntenoo proudly and generously replied,
"We shall be ready for them. But you, Mr. Williams, shall never be injured, for you are a good man, and have been kind to us."
Nanuntenoo had about fifteen hundred warriors under his command. Thinking that the English were very effectually driven from the region of Seekonk, he very imprudently took but thirty men and went to that vicinity, hoping to obtain some seed-corn to plant the fields upon the Connecticut from which the English had been expelled. But the English, alarmed by the ravages which the Indians were committing in this region, sent a force consisting of forty-seven Englishmen and eighty Indians to scour the country. Most of the Indians were Mohegans, under the command of Oneco, a son of Uncas.
As this force was approaching Seekonk they encountered two Indians with their squaws. They instantly shot the Indians and took the squaws captive. Their prisoners informed them that Nanuntenoo was in a wigwam at a short distance, with but seven Indians around him. His hut was erected at the bottom of a hill, upon the brow of which he had stationed two sentinels. These cowardly savages, when they saw the English approaching in such force, precipitately fled, without giving their chieftain any warning. The sachem, from his wigwam, saw their flight, and sent a third man to the hill-top to ascertain the cause. As soon as he arrived upon the brow of the hill he saw the glittering array of more than a hundred men almost directly upon him. Appalled by the sight, he also fled like his predecessors. Nanuntenoo, amazed by this conduct, dispatched two more to solve the mystery. These last proved more faithful to their trust. They came running back in breathless haste, shouting, "The English are upon you."
Not a moment was to be lost in deliberation. The enemy was already in sight. Nanuntenoo leaped from his wigwam, and, with the agility of a deer, bounded over the ground in a hopeless [Pg 306]attempt to escape. Nearly the whole army, English and Indians, like hounds in full cry, eagerly pressed the chase.
With amazing speed, the tall, athletic sachem fled along the bank of the river, seeking a place to ford the stream. In his rapid flight he threw off his blanket, his silver-laced coat, and his belt of wampum, so that nothing remained to obstruct his sinewy and finely-moulded limbs. A Mohegan Indian was in advance of all the rest of the company in the pursuit. Nanuntenoo plunged into the narrow stream to cross. His foot slipped upon a stone, and he fell, immersing his gun in the water. This calamity so disheartened him that he lost all his strength. His swift-footed pursuer, Monopoide, was immediately upon him, and grasped him almost as soon as he reached the opposite shore. The naked and unarmed chief could make no resistance, and, with stoicism characteristic of his race, submitted to his fate.
Nanuntenoo was a man of majestic stature, and of bearing as lofty as if he had been trained in the most haughty of European courts. A young Englishman, but twenty-one years of age, Robert Staunton, following Monopoide, was the first one who came up to the Narraganset chieftain [Pg 307]after his capture. Young Staunton, in the pert spirit of Young America, ventured to question the proud monarch of the Narragansets. Nanuntenoo, looking disdainfully upon his youthful face, after a short silence, said,
"You are too much of a child—you do not understand matters of war. Let your chief come; him I will answer."
He was offered life upon condition that he would submit to the English, and deliver up to them all the Wampanoags in his territory.
"Let me hear no more of this," he replied, nobly. "I will not surrender a Wampanoag, nor the paring of a Wampanoag's nail."
He was taken to Stonington, where he was sentenced to be shot. When informed of his doom, he replied, in the spirit of an old Roman,
"I like it well. I shall die before my heart is soft, or before I have said any thing unworthy of myself."
He was shot by one of the Indians who were in alliance with the English; his head was cut off by them, and his body quartered and burned. The Indians who aided the colonists were always eager for any work of blood, and considered it a great privilege to enjoy the pleasures of executioners. They often implored permission [Pg 308]to torture their enemies, and several times the English, to their shame be it recorded, allowed them to do so. In this case, "The mighty sachem of Narraganset," writes Cotton Mather, "the English wisely delivered unto their tawny auxiliaries for them to cut off his head, that so the alienation between them and the wretches in hostility against us might become incurable."
His head, a ghastly trophy of victory, was sent by the Mohegans to the Common Council at Hartford, in token of their love and fidelity to the English. The spirit of the times may be inferred from the following comments upon this transaction in the narrative written by Hubbard: "This was the confusion of that damned wretch that had often opened his mouth to blaspheme the name of the living God and those that made profession thereof."
We can not take leave of Nanuntenoo without a tribute of respect to his heroic and noble character. "His refusal," writes Francis Baylies, "to betray the Wampanoags who had sought his protection is another evidence of his lofty and generous spirit, and his whole conduct after his capture was such that surely, at this period, we may be allowed to lament the [Pg 309]unhappy fate of this noble Indian without incurring any imputation for want of patriotism."
The inhabitants of New London, Norwich, and Stonington, being in great peril in consequence of their near vicinity to the enemy, raised several parties of volunteers and ranged the country. They succeeded in these expeditions in killing two hundred and thirty-nine of the enemy without incurring the loss of a single man. As most of the inhabitants of the towns had found it necessary to take refuge in garrison houses, prowling bands of Indians experienced but little difficulty in setting fire to the abandoned dwellings and barns, and the sky was every night illumined with conflagrations.
On the ninth of April a small party made an attack upon Bridgewater. They plundered several houses, and were commencing the conflagration, when the inhabitants sallied forth and put them to flight. It is said that Philip had given orders that the town of Taunton should be spared until all the other towns in the colony were destroyed. A family by the name of Leonard resided in Taunton, where they had erected the first forge which was established in the English colonies. Philip, though [Pg 310]his usual residence was at Mount Hope, had a favorite summer resort at a place called Fowling Pond, then within the limits of Taunton, but now included in the town of Raynham. In these excursions he had become acquainted with the Leonards. They had treated him and his followers with uniform kindness, repairing their guns, and supplying them with such tools as the Indians highly prized. Philip had become exceedingly attached to this family, and in gratitude, at the commencement of the war, had given the strictest orders that the Indians should never injure a Leonard. Apprehending that in a general assault upon the town his friends the Leonards might be exposed to danger, he spread the shield of his generous protection over the whole place. This act certainly develops a character of more than ordinary magnanimity.
On the 18th of April an immense band of savages, five hundred in number, made an impetuous assault upon Sudbury. The inhabitants, warned of their approach, had abandoned their homes and taken refuge in their garrisons. The savages set fire to several of the dwellings, and were dancing exultingly around the flames, when a small band of soldiers from Watertown [Pg 313]came to the rescue, and the inmates of the garrison, sallying forth, joined them, and drove the Indians across the river.
Captain Wadsworth, from Boston, chanced to be in the vicinity with about seventy men. Hearing of the extreme peril of Sudbury, although he had marched all the day and all the night before, and his men were exhausted with fatigue, he instantly commenced his march for that place. Painfully toiling on through the night by the road leading from Marlborough, early on the morning of the 19th he arrived within a mile and a half of the town. Here the Indians, who by their scouts had kept themselves informed of his approach, prepared an ambush. As the English were marching along with great caution, a band of about a hundred Indians crossed their path some distance in advance of them, and fled, feigning a panic. The English pursued them impetuously about a mile into the woods, when the fugitives made a stand, and five hundred Indians sprang up from their concealment, and hurled a storm of lead into the faces of their foes.
The English, with singular intrepidity, formed themselves into a compact mass, and by unerring aim and rapid firing kept their foes at [Pg 314]bay while, slowly retreating, they ascended an adjacent hill. Here for five hours they maintained the conflict against such fearful odds. The superior skill of the English with the musket rendered their fire much more fatal than that of their foes. Many of the savage warriors were struck down, and they bit the dust in their rage and dying agony, while but five or six of the English had been slain.
The wind was high, and a drought had rendered the leaves of the forest dry as powder. Some shrewd savage thought of the fatal expedient of setting the forest on fire to the windward of their foes. The stratagem was crowned with signal success. A wide sheet of flame, roaring and crackling like a furnace, and emitting billows of smothering smoke, rolled toward the doomed band. The fierceness of the flames, and the blinding, suffocating smoke, soon drove the English in confusion from their advantageous position. The Indians, piercing them with bullets, rushed upon them with the tomahawk, and nearly every man in the party was slain. Some accounts say that Captain Wadsworth's company was entirely cut off; others say that a few escaped to a mill, where they defended themselves until succor arrived. President [Pg 317]Wadsworth, of Harvard College, was the son of Captain Wadsworth. He subsequently erected a modest monument over the grave of these heroes. It is probably still standing, west of Sudbury causeway, on the old road from Boston to Worcester. The inscription upon the stone is now admitted to be incorrect in many of its particulars. It is said that one hundred and twenty Indians were slain in this conflict.
These successes wonderfully elated the Indians. They sent a defiant and derisive message to Plymouth:
"Have a good dinner ready for us, for we intend to dine with you on election day."
In this awful warfare, every day had its story of crime and woe. Unlike the movement of powerful armies among civilized nations, the Indians were wandering every where, burning houses and slaughtering families wherever an opportunity was presented. They seemed to take pleasure in wreaking their vengeance even upon the cattle. They would cut out the tongues of the poor creatures, and leave them to die in their misery. They would shut them up in hovels, set fire to the buildings, and amuse themselves in watching the writhings of the animals as they were slowly roasted in the [Pg 318]flames. Nearly all the men who were taken captive they tortured to death. "And that the reader may understand," says Cotton Mather, "what it is to be taken by such devils incarnate, I shall here inform him. They stripped these unhappy prisoners, and caused them to run the gauntlet, and whipped them after a cruel and bloody manner. They then threw hot ashes upon them, and, cutting off collops of their flesh, they put fire into their wounds, and so, with exquisite, leisurely, horrible torments, roasted them out of the world."
On the 20th of April a band of fifty Indians made an attack upon Scituate, and, though the inhabitants speedily rallied and assailed them with great bravery, they succeeded in plundering and burning nineteen houses and barns. They proceeded along the road, avoiding the block-houses, and burning all that were unprotected. They approached one house where an aged woman, Mrs. Ewing, was alone with an infant grandchild asleep in the cradle. As she saw the savages rushing down the hill toward her dwelling, in a delirium of terror she fled to the garrison house, which was about sixty rods distant, forgetting the child. The savages rushed into the house, plundered it of a few articles, [Pg 319]not noticing the sleeping infant, and then hastened to make an assault upon the garrison. A fierce fight ensued. In the midst of the horrid scene of smoke, uproar, and blood, Mrs. Ewing, with heroism almost unparalleled, stole from the garrison unperceived, by a circuitous path reached the house, rescued the babe, still unconsciously sleeping, and bore it in safety to the garrison. Soon after this, the savages, repelled from their assault, set fire to her house, and it was consumed to ashes. All the day long the battle and the destruction continued in different parts of the town. There were several garrisoned houses which the Indians attacked with great spirit, but in every case they met with a repulse. Many of the savages were shot, and a few of the English lost their lives.
On the 8th of May a band of three hundred Indians made a very fierce attack upon Bridgewater. The inhabitants had fortunately received warning of the contemplated assault, and had most of them repaired to their garrisoned houses. The savages, hoping to take the place by surprise, with fearful yells rushed from the forest upon the south part of the town. Disappointed in finding all the inhabitants sheltered [Pg 320]in their fortresses, they immediately commenced setting fire to the buildings. But the inhabitants boldly sallied forth to protect their property, and the Indians, though greatly outnumbering them, fled before their determined valor. They succeeded, however, in burning some thirteen houses.
The condition of the colonists was at this time deplorable in the extreme. During the campaign thus far the Indians had been signally successful, and had effected an inconceivable amount of destruction and suffering. The sun of spring had now returned; the snow had melted, and the buds were bursting. It was time to plow the fields and scatter the seed; but universal consternation and despair prevailed. Every day brought its report of horror. Prowling bands of savages were every where. No one could go into the field or step from his own door without danger of being shot by some Indian lying in ambush. It was an hour of gloom into which scarcely one ray of hope could penetrate.
During this terrible war there were many deeds of heroic courage performed which merit record. A man by the name of Rocket, in the town of Wrentham, was in the woods searching for his horse. Much to his alarm, he discovered, far off in the forest, a band of forty-two Indians, in single file, silently and noiselessly passing along, apparently seeking a place of concealment. They were all thoroughly armed. Mr. Rocket without difficulty eluded their observation, and then, at some distance behind, cautiously followed in their trail. It was late in the afternoon, and, just before twilight was fading into darkness, the Indians found a spot which they deemed safe, but a short distance from the town, in which to pass the night. It was a large flat rock, upon the brow of a steep hill, where they were quite surrounded by almost impenetrable bushes.
Rocket, having marked the place well, hastened back to the town. It was then near midnight. [Pg 322]The inhabitants were immediately aroused, informed of their peril, and the women and children were all placed safely in the garrison house, and a small party was left for their defense. The remaining men capable of bearing arms, but thirteen in number, then hastened through the forest, guided by Rocket, and arrived an hour before the break of day at the encampment of the Indians. With the utmost caution, step by step, they crept within musket shot of their sleeping foes. Every man took his place, and endeavored to single out his victim. It was agreed that not a gun should be fired until the Indians should commence rising from their sleep, and the morning light should give the colonists fair aim.
An hour of breathless and moveless silence passed away. In the earliest dawn of the morning, just as a few rays of light began to stream along the eastern horizon, the Indians, as if by one volition, sprang from their hard couch. A sudden discharge of musketry rang through the forest, and thirteen bullets pierced as many bodies. Appalled by so sudden an attack and such terrible slaughter, the survivors, unaware of the feebleness of the force by which they were assailed, plunged down the precipitous [Pg 323]hill, tumbling over each other, and rolling among the rocks. The adventurous band eagerly pursued them, and shot at them as they would at deer flying through the forest. Many more thus fell. One keen marksman struck down an Indian at the distance of eighty rods, breaking his thigh bone. In this short encounter twenty-four of the Indians were slain. The remainder escaped into the depths of the forest. The heroes of this adventure all returned in safety to their homes, no one having been injured. It was undoubtedly the intention of this prowling band to have attacked and fired the town as soon as the inhabitants had been scattered in the morning in their fields at work.
Soon after this, two English boys, who had been captured by the Indians and taken to the upper waters of the Connecticut, escaped, and, following down the river, succeeded in reaching the settlements. They gave information that the Indians, in large numbers, were encamped upon the banks of the river, just above the present site of Deerfield. Supposing that all the energies of the colonists were employed in endeavoring to arrest the ravages which were taking place in the towns nearer the seaboard, they were indulging in careless security.
The inhabitants of Hadley, Hatfield, and Northampton promptly raised a force of one hundred and fifty mounted men to attack them. On the night of the 18th of May they left Hadley, and, traveling as fast as they could about twenty miles, through the dead of night, arrived a little after midnight in the vicinity of the Indian encampment. Here they alighted, tied their horses to some young trees, and then cautiously crept through the forest about half a mile, when, still in the gloom of the rayless morning, they dimly discerned the wigwams of the savages. Concealing themselves within musket shot, they waited patiently for the light to reveal their foes. The Indians were in a very dead sleep from a great debauch in which they had engaged during the early part of the night. The night had been warm, and they were sleeping upon the ground around their wigwams. At an appointed signal, every gun was discharged upon the slumberers, and a storm of bullets fell upon them and swept through their wigwams. Many were instantly killed, and many wounded. The survivors, in a terrible panic, men, women, and children, sprang from the ground and rushed to the river, attempting to escape to the other shore.
They were just above some rapids, where the current was very swift and strong. Numbers attempted to swim across the stream, but were swept by the torrent over the falls. Some sprang into canoes and pushed from the shore. They presented but a fair mark for the bullets of the colonists. Wounded and bleeding, and whirled by the eddies, they were dashed against the rocks, and perished miserably. Many endeavored to hide in the bushes and among the rocks upon the shore. Captain Holyoke killed five with his own hand under a bank. About three hundred Indians were slain or drowned in the awful tumult of these midnight hours. Several of the most conspicuous of the Indian chiefs were killed. Only one white man lost his life. In the midst of the confusion the wigwams of the Indians were set on fire, and the black night was illumined by the lurid conflagration. The flashing flames, the dark billows of smoke, the rattle of musketry, the shouts of the assailants, the shrieks of women and children, and the yells of the savage warriors, presented a picture of earthly woe which neither the pen nor the pencil can portray.
At last the morning dawned. The sun of a serene and beautiful May day rose over the [Pg 326]spectacle of smouldering ruins and blood. The victors, weary of sleeplessness, of their night's march, and of the carnage, sat down among the smoking brands and amid the bodies of the slain to seek refreshment and repose in this exultant hour of victory.
But disaster, all unanticipated, came upon them with the sweep of the whirlwind. It so happened that Philip himself was near with a thousand warriors. A captured Indian informed them of this fact, and instantly the victors were in a great panic. They were but one hundred and fifty in number. Their only retreat was by a narrow trail through the woods of more than twenty miles. A thousand savage warriors, roused to the highest pitch of exasperation, and led by the terrible King Philip, were expected momentarily to fall upon them. It was known that the fugitives, who had scattered through the woods, would speedily communicate the tidings of the attack to Philip's band.
The colonists, in much confusion, immediately commenced a precipitate retreat. They had hardly mounted their horses ere the whole body of savages, like famished wolves, with the most dismal yells and howlings, came rushing upon [Pg 327]them. The peril was so terrible that there seemed to be no hope of escape. But there are no energies like the energies of despair. Every man resolved, in the calmness of the absolute certainty of death, to sell his life as dearly as possible. Captain Holyoke was a man equal to the emergency, and every member of his heroic little band had perfect confidence in his courage and his skill. Silently, sternly, sublimely, in a mass as compact as possible, they moved slowly on. Every eye was on the alert; every man had his finger to the trigger. Their guns were heavily loaded, that the balls might be thrown to a great distance. Not an Indian could expose his body but that he fell before the unerring aim of these keen marksmen.
Captain Holyoke exposed himself to every danger in front, on the flanks, and in the rear. His own lion-like energy was infused into the spirit of his men, and he animated them to prodigious exertions. His horse was at one time shot, and fell beneath him. Before he could extricate himself from his entanglement, a band of Indians threw themselves upon him. Two of them he shot down with his pistols, and then with his sword cut his way through the rest, aided by a single soldier who came to his rescue.
As they toiled along, pursued by the infuriate foe and harassed by a merciless fire, many were wounded, and every few moments one would drop lifeless upon the ground. The survivors could do nothing to help the dead or the dying. Hour after hour passed, and at length unexpected hope began to dawn upon them. They were evidently holding the Indians at bay. Could they continue thus for a few hours longer, they would be so near the settlements that the Indians, in their turn, would be compelled to retreat. Though it was evident that their loss must be great, there was now hope that the majority would escape. Thus animated, they accelerated their march, and at length, having lost about forty by the way, they emerged upon the clearings of the settlements, where the savages dared to pursue them no longer. With howls of disappointment and rage, the discomfited Indians returned to their forest fastnesses, and the heroic band, having lost about one third of their number, and with nearly all of the survivors exhausted, wounded, and bleeding, were received by their friends with throbbing hearts, and with blended tears of bliss and woe. Those who, while still living, fell into the hands of the Indians, were put to death by tortures too horrible to be described.
A fortnight after this, on the 30th of May, the men of Hatfield were all at work in the fields, having, as usual, established a careful watch to guard against surprise. All the houses in the centre of the town were surrounded by a palisade, but there were several at a distance which could not be included. One old man only was left within the palisades to open and bar the gate.
Suddenly a band of Indians, between six and seven hundred in number, plunged into the town between the palisades and the party at work in the fields, thus effectually cutting off the retreat of the colonists to their fortress. They immediately commenced a fierce attack upon the palisades, that they might get at the women, the children, and the booty. The people of Hadley, on the opposite side of the river, witnessed the assault. Twenty-five young men of Hadley promptly crossed the river, threw themselves unexpectedly and like a thunderbolt upon the band of seven hundred savages, cut their way through them, and gained an entrance within the palisades, having lost but five of their number. Where has history recorded a deed of nobler heroism? In their impetuous rush they cut down twenty-five of their foes. The Indians, [Pg 330]intimidated by so daring an act, feared to approach the palisades thus garrisoned, and sullenly retired. The men in the fields took refuge in a log house. The savages spread themselves over the meadows, drove off all the oxen, cows, and sheep, and burned twelve houses and barns which were beyond the reach of protection.
On the 12th of June, the Indians, seven hundred in number, made an attack upon Hadley, and hid themselves in the bushes at its southern extremity, while they sent a strong party around to make an assault from the north. At a given signal, when the first light of the morning appeared, with their accustomed yells, they leaped from their concealment, and rushed like demons upon the town. The English, undismayed, met them at the palisades. The battle raged for some time with very great fury.
In the midst of this scene of tumult and blood, when the battle seemed turning against the English, there suddenly appeared a man of gray hairs and venerable aspect, and dressed in antique apparel, who, with the voice and manner of one accustomed to command, took at once the direction of affairs. There was such an air of authority in his words and gestures, the directions [Pg 331]he gave were so manifestly wise, and he seemed so perfectly familiar with all military tactics, that, by instinctive assent, all yielded to his command. Those were days of superstition, and the aspect of the stranger was so singular, and his sudden appearance so inexplicable and providential, that it was generally supposed that God had sent a guardian angel for the salvation of the settlement. When the Indians retreated the stranger disappeared, and nothing further was heard of him.
The supposed angel was General Goffe, one of the judges who had condemned Charles I. to the block. After the restoration, these judges were condemned to death. Great efforts were made to arrest them. Two of them, Generals Goffe and Whalley, fled to this country. They were both at this time secreted in Hadley, in the house of the Rev. Mr. Russell. Mr. Whalley was aged and infirm. General Goffe, seeing the village in imminent peril, left his concealment, joined the inhabitants, and took a very active part in the defense. It was not until after the lapse of fifteen years that these facts were disclosed. The tradition is that both of these men died in their concealment, and that they were secretly buried in the minister's [Pg 332]cellar. Their bodies were afterward privately conveyed to New Haven.
It so happened that the Connecticut colony had just raised a standing army of two hundred and fifty English and two hundred Mohegan Indians, and had sent them to Northampton, but a few miles from Hadley, for the protection of the river towns. A force of several hundred men also marched from Boston to co-operate with the Connecticut troops. The settlements upon the river were thus so effectually protected that Philip saw that it would be in vain for him to attempt any farther assaults.
He therefore sent most of his warriors to ravage the towns along the sea-coast. It is generally reported that, about this time, Philip took a party of warriors and traversed the unbroken wilderness extending between the Connecticut and the Hudson. He went as far as the present site of Albany, and endeavored to rouse the Mohawks, a powerful tribe in that vicinity, to unite with him against the English. It is said, though the charge is not sustained by any very conclusive evidence, that Philip, in order to embroil the Mohawks with the English, attacked a party of Mohawk warriors, and, as he supposed, killed them all. He then [Pg 333]very adroitly arranged matters to convince the Mohawks that their countrymen had been murdered by the English. But one of the Mohawks, who was supposed to be killed, revived, and, covered with blood and wounds, succeeded in reaching his friends. The story he told roused the tribe to rage, and, allying themselves with the English, they fell fiercely upon Philip.
Whether the above narrative be true or not, it is certain that about this time the Mohawks became irreconcilably hostile to King Philip, and fell upon him and upon all of his allies with great fury.
And now suddenly, and almost miraculously, the tide of events seemed to turn in favor of the English. It is very difficult to account for the wonderful change which a few weeks introduced. The Massachusetts Indians, for some unknown cause, became alienated from the sovereign of the Wampanoags, and bitterly reproached him with having seduced them into a war in which they were suffering even more misery than they created. All the Indians in the vicinity of the English settlements had been driven from their corn-fields and fishing-grounds, and were now in a famishing condition. They had sufficient intelligence to foresee that absolute [Pg 334]starvation was their inevitable doom in the approaching winter. At the same time, a pestilence, deadly and contagious, swept fearful desolation through their wigwams. The Indians regarded this as evidence that the God of the white men had enlisted against them. The colonial forces in the valley of the Connecticut penetrated the forest in every direction, carrying utter ruin into the homes of the natives. In this horrible warfare but little mercy was shown to the women and the children. The English did not torture their foes, but they generally massacred them without mercy.
This sudden accumulation of disasters appalled Philip and all his partisans. They were thrown into a very surprising state of confusion and dismay. Cotton Mather, speaking of this constant terror which bewildered them, writes:
"They were just like beasts stung with a hornet. They ran they knew not whither, they knew not wherefore. They were under such consternation that the English did even what they would upon them. I shall never forget the expressions which a desperate, fighting sort of fellow, one of their generals, used unto the English after they had captured him. 'You could not have subdued us,' said he, striking [Pg 335]upon his breast, 'but the Englishman's God made us afraid here.'"
The latter part of July, Captain Church, the General Putnam of these Indian wars, was placed in command of a force to search for Philip, who, with a small band of faithful followers, had returned to the region of Mount Hope. Captain Church went from Plymouth to Wood's Hole in Falmouth, and there engaged two friendly Indians to paddle him in a canoe across Buzzard's Bay, and along the shore to Rhode Island. As he was rounding the neck of land called Saconet Point, he saw a number of Indians fishing from the rocks. Believing that these Indians were in heart attached to the English, and that they had been forced to unite with Philip, he resolved to make efforts to detach them from the confederacy. The Indians on the shore seemed also to seek an interview, and by signs invited them to land. Captain Church, who was as prudent as he was intrepid, called to two of the Indians to go down upon a point of cleared land where there was no room for an ambush. He then landed, and, leaving one of the Indians to take care of the canoe, and the other to act as a sentinel, advanced to meet the Indians. One of the two [Pg 336]Indians, who was named George, could speak English perfectly well. He told Captain Church that his tribe was weary of the war; that they were in a state of great suffering, and that they were very anxious to return to a state of friendly alliance with the English. He said that if the past could be pardoned, his tribe was ready not only to relinquish all acts of hostility, but to take up arms against King Philip. Captain Church promised to meet them again in two days at Richmond's Farm, upon this long neck of land. He then hastened to Rhode Island, procured an interview with the governor, and endeavored to obtain authority to enter into a treaty with these Indians. The governor would not give his consent, affirming that it was an act of madness in Captain Church to trust himself among the Saconets. Nevertheless, Church, true to his engagement, took with him an interpreter, and, embarking in a canoe, reached the spot at the appointed time.
Here he found Awashonks, the queen of the tribe, with several of her followers. As his canoe touched the shore, she advanced to meet him, and, with a smile of apparent friendliness, extended her hand. They walked together a short distance from the shore, when suddenly a [Pg 337]large party of Indians, painted and decorated in warlike array, and armed to the teeth, sprang up from an ambush in the high grass, and surrounded them. Church, undismayed, turned to Awashonks, and said, indignantly,
"I supposed that your object in inviting me to this interview was peace."
"And so it is," Awashonks replied.
"Why, then," Captain Church continued, "are your warriors here with arms in their hands?"
Awashonks appeared embarrassed, and replied,
"What weapons do you wish them to lay aside?"
The Indian warriors scowled angrily, and deep mutterings were passing among them. Captain Church, seeing his helpless situation, very prudently replied, "I only wish them to lay aside their guns, which is a proper formality when friends meet to treat for peace."
Hearing this, the Indians laid aside their guns, and quietly seated themselves around their queen and Captain Church. An interesting and perilous interview now ensued. Awashonks accused the English of provoking her to hostilities when she had wished to live in friendship [Pg 338]with them. At one moment these children of nature would seem to be in a towering rage, and again perfectly pleasant, and almost affectionate. Captain Church happened to allude to one of the battles between the English and the Indians. Immediately one of the savages, foaming with rage, sprang toward him, brandishing his tomahawk, and threatening to sink it in his brain, declaring that Captain Church had slain his brother in that battle. Captain Church replied that his brother was the aggressor, and that, if he had remained at home, as Captain Church had advised him to do, his life would have been spared. At this the irate savage immediately calmed down, and all was peace again.
As the result of the interview, Awashonks promised to ally herself in friendship with the English upon condition that Church should obtain the pardon of her tribe for all past offenses. The chief captain of her warriors then approached Captain Church with great stateliness, and said, "Sir, if you will please to accept of me and my men, and will be our captain, we will fight for you, and will help you to the head of King Philip before the Indian corn be ripe." At this all the other warriors clashed their weapons and murmured applause.
Church then proposed that five Indians should accompany him through the woods to the governor to secure the ratification of the treaty. Awashonks objected to this, saying that the party would inevitably be intercepted on the way by Philip's warriors, and all would be slain. She proposed, however, that Captain Church should go to Rhode Island, obtain a small vessel, and then take her embassadors around Cape Cod to Plymouth.
Captain Church obtained a small vessel in Newport Harbor, and sailed for the point. When he arrived there the wind was directly ahead, and blowing almost a gale. As the storm increased, finding himself quite unable to land, he returned to Newport. Being a man of deep religious sensibilities, he considered this disappointment as an indication of divine disapproval, and immediately relinquished the enterprise.
Just at this time Major Bradford arrived in the vicinity of the present town of Fall River with a large force of soldiers. This region was then called Pocasset, and was within the territory of Queen Wetamoo. Captain Church immediately then took a canoe, and again visited Awashonks. He informed her of the arrival [Pg 340]of Major Bradford, urged her to keep all her people at home lest they should be assailed by these troops, and assured her that if she would visit Major Bradford in his encampment she should be received with kindness, and a treaty of peace would be concluded. The next morning, Major Bradford, with his whole force, marched down the Tiverton shore, and encamped at a place called Punkatese, half way between Pocasset and Saconet Point.
Awashonks collected her warriors and repaired to Punkatese to meet the English. Major Bradford received her with severity and suspicion, which appears to have been quite unjustifiable. Awashonks offered to surrender her warriors to his service if they could be under the command of Captain Church, in whom both she and they reposed perfect confidence. This offer was peremptorily declined, and she was haughtily commanded to appear at Sandwich, where the governor resided, within six days. The queen, mortified by this unfriendly reception, appealed to Captain Church. He, also, was much chagrined, but advised her to obey, assuring her that the governor would cordially assent to her views. The Indians, somewhat reassured, now commenced their march to [Pg 341]Sandwich, under the protection of a flag of truce.
The next morning Major Bradford embarked his army in canoes, and crossed to Mount Hope in search of King Philip. It was late at night before they reached the Mount, and the fires blazing in the woods showed that the Indians were collecting in large numbers. Meeting, however, with no foe, they marched on to Rehoboth. Here Captain Church, taking an Indian for a guide, set out for Plymouth to intercede for his friends, the Saconet Indians. The governor received him with great cordiality. Captain Church, highly gratified, took with him three or four men as a body-guard, and hastened to Sandwich. Disappointed in not finding Awashonks there, he went to Agawam, in the present town of Wareham; still not finding her, he crossed Mattapoiset River, and ascended a bluff which commanded a wide prospect of Buzzard's Bay.
As they stood upon the bluff, they heard a loud murmuring noise coming from the concealed shore at a little distance. Creeping cautiously along, they peered over a low cliff, and saw a large number of Indians, of all ages and sexes, engaged upon the beach in the wildest [Pg 342]scene of barbarian festivities. Some were running races on horseback; some playing at football; some were catching eels and flat-fish; and others plunging and frolicking in the waves.
Captain Church was uncertain whether they were enemies or friends. With characteristic sagacity and intrepidity, he retired some distance into a thicket, and then hallooed to them. Two young Indians, hearing the shout, left the rest of their company to see from whence it came. They came close upon Captain Church before he discovered himself to them. As soon as they saw Captain Church, with two or three men around him, all well armed, they, in a panic, endeavored to retreat. He succeeded, however, in retaining them, and in disarming their fears.
From them he learned that the party consisted of Awashonks and her tribe. He then sent word to Awashonks that he intended to sup with her that evening, and to lodge in her camp that night. The queen immediately made preparations to receive him and his companions with all due respect. Captain Church and his men, mounted on horseback, rode down to the beach. The Indians gathered around them with shouts of welcome. They were conducted to a pleasant [Pg 343]tent, open toward the sea, and were provided with a luxurious supper of fried fish. The supper consisted of three courses: a young bass in one dish, eels and flat-fish in a second, and shell-fish in a third; but there was neither bread nor salt.
By the time supper was over it was night, serene and moonless, yet brilliant with stars. The still waters of Buzzard's Bay lay like a burnished mirror, reflecting the sparkling canopy above in a corresponding arch below. The unbroken forest frowned along the shore, sublime in its solitude, and from its depths could only be heard the lonely cry of the birds of darkness.
The Indians collected an enormous pile of pine knots and the resinous boughs of the fir-tree. Men, women, and children all contributed to enlarge the gigantic heap, and when the torch was touched, a bonfire of amazing splendor blazed far and wide over the forest and the bay. This was the introductory act to a drama where peace and war were blended. All the Indians, old and young, gathered around the fire. Queen Awashonks, with the oldest men and women of the tribe, kneeling down in a circle, formed the first ring; next behind [Pg 344]them came all the most distinguished warriors, armed and arrayed in all the gorgeous panoply of barbarian warfare; then came a motley multitude of the common mass of men, women, and children.
At an appointed signal, Awashonks' chief captain stepped forward from the circle, danced with frantic gesture around the fire, drew a brand from the flames, and, calling it by the name of a tribe hostile to the English, belabored it with bludgeon and tomahawk. He then drew out another and another, until all the tribes hostile to the English had been named, assailed, and exterminated. Reeking with perspiration, and exhausted by his phrensied efforts, he retired within the ring. Another chief then came out and re-enacted the same scene, endeavoring to surpass his predecessor in the fierceness and fury of his efforts. In this way all the chiefs took what they considered as their oath of fidelity to the English. The chief captain then came forward to Captain Church, and, presenting him with a fine musket, informed him that all the warriors were henceforth subject to his command. Captain Church immediately drew out a number of the ablest warriors, and the next morning, before the break of [Pg 345]day, set out with them for Plymouth, where he arrived in the afternoon.
It is said that when King Philip, in the midst of his accumulating disasters, learned that the Saconet tribe had abandoned his cause and had gone over to the English, he was never known to smile again. He knew that his doom was now sealed, and that nothing remained for him but to be hunted as a wild beast of the forest for the remainder of his days. Though a few tribes still adhered to him, he was well aware that in these hours of disaster he would soon be abandoned by all. Proudly, however, the heroic chieftain disdained all thoughts of surrender, and resolved to contend with undying determination to the last. We can not but respect his energy and deplore his fate.
Receiving a commission from the governor, Captain Church that same evening took the field, with a company of eighteen Englishmen and twenty-two Indians. They saw gleaming in the distant forest the camp-fires of the Indians. Creeping stealthily along, they surrounded a small band of savages, took them by surprise, and captured every one. From one of his prisoners he learned there was another party at Monponsett Pond. Carrying his prisoners [Pg 346]back to Plymouth, he set out again the next night, and was equally successful in capturing every one of this second band. Thus for some days he continued very successfully harassing the Indians in the vicinity of the Middleborough Ponds. From one of his prisoners he ascertained that both Philip and Quinnapin, the husband of Wetamoo, were in the great cedar swamp, which was full of Indian warriors, and that a hundred Indians had gone on a foray down into Sconticut Neck, now Fair Haven.
The main body of the Plymouth forces was at Taunton. Philip did not dare attempt the passage of the Taunton River, as it was carefully watched. He was thus hemmed in between the river and the sea. Church, with amazing energy and skill, drove his feeble bands from point to point, allowing them not one moment of rest. One Sabbath morning a courier was sent to the governor of the Plymouth colony, who happened to be at Marshfield, informing him that Philip, with a large army, was advancing, with the apparent intention of crossing the river in the vicinity of Bridgewater, and attacking that town. The governor immediately hastened to Plymouth, sent for Captain Church, who was in the meeting-house attending public [Pg 347]worship, and requested him to rally all the force in his power, and march to attack the Indians. Captain Church immediately called his company together, and, running from house to house, collected every loaf of bread in town for the supply of his troops.
Early in the afternoon he commenced his march, and early in the evening arrived at Bridgewater. As they were advancing in the darkness, they heard a sharp firing in the distance. It afterward appeared that Philip had felled a tree across the stream, which was there quite narrow, as a bridge for his men. Some energetic Bridgewater lads had watched the movements of the Indians, and had concealed themselves in ambush on the Bridgewater side of the stream. As soon as the Indians commenced passing over the tree, they poured in upon them a volley of bullets. Many dropped from the slender bridge, dead and wounded, into the river. The rest precipitately retreated. This was on the evening of the 31st of July.
Early the next morning, Captain Church, having greatly increased his force by the inhabitants of Bridgewater, marched cautiously to the spot where Philip had attempted to effect a passage. Accompanied by a single Indian, he [Pg 348]crept to the banks of the stream where the tree had been. He saw upon the opposite side an Indian in a melancholy, musing posture, sitting alone upon a stump. He was within short musket shot. Church clapped his gun to his shoulder, and was just upon the point of firing, when the Indian who accompanied him hastily called out for him not to fire, for he believed it was one of their own men. The Indian heard the warning, and, startled, looked up. Captain Church instantly saw it was King Philip himself. In another instant the report of a gun was heard, and a bullet whistled through the thin air, but Philip, with the speed of an antelope, was gone.
Captain Church immediately rallied his company, crossed the river, and pursued the Indians. The savages scattered and fled in all directions. Church and his men picked up a large number of women and children flying in dismay through the woods. Among the rest, he captured the wife of Philip and their only son, a bright boy nine years of age. Quinnapin, the husband of Wetamoo, with a large band of the Indians, retreated down the eastern bank of the river, looking anxiously for a place where they might ford the stream. Captain Church [Pg 349]followed upon their trail, pursued them across the stream, and continued the chase until he thought it necessary to return and secure the prisoners.
The Saconet Indians begged permission to continue the pursuit. They returned the next morning, having shot several of the enemy, and bringing with them thirteen women and children as prisoners. The prisoners were all sent to Bridgewater, while bands of soldiers scoured the woods in all directions in pursuit of the fugitives. Every now and then the shrill report of the musket told that the bullet was accomplishing its deadly work. Another night came. It was dark and gloomy. Some of the captives informed the English that Philip, with a large party of his warriors, had sought refuge in a swamp. The heroic chief had heard of the capture of his wife and son, and his heart was broken. Dejected, disheartened, but unyielding, he still resolved to bid defiance to fate, and to contend sternly to the last. The Indian captives, with their accustomed treachery, guided the English to all the avenues of the swamp. Here Captain Church placed his well-armed sentinels, cutting off all escape, and watching vigilantly until the morning.
As soon as it was light, he sent two scouts to enter the swamp cautiously, and ascertain the position of the enemy. At the same moment Philip sent two of his warriors upon a tour of reconnoissance. The two opposite parties met, and the Indians, with loud yells to give the alarm, fled toward their camp. Terrified with the apprehension that the whole English force was upon them, the Indians plunged like affrighted deer into the deeper recesses of the swamp, leaving their kettles boiling and their meat roasting upon their wooden spits. But they were surrounded, and there was no escape. The following scene, described by Captain Church himself, gives one an idea of the nature of this warfare.
"In this swamp skirmish, Captain Church, with his two men, who always ran by his side as his guard, met with three of the enemy, two of whom surrendered themselves, and the captain's guard seized them; but the other, being a great, stout, surly fellow, with his two locks tied up with red, and a great rattlesnake's skin hanging to the back part of his head, ran from them into the swamp. Captain Church in person pursued him close, till, coming pretty near up with him, he presented his gun between his [Pg 351]shoulders, but it missing fire, the Indian perceived it, turned, and presented at Captain Church, and missing fire also, their guns taking wet from the fog and dew of the morning. But the Indian turning short for another run, his foot tripped in a small grape-vine, and he fell flat on his face. Captain Church was by this time up with him, and struck the muzzle of his gun an inch and a half into the back part of his head, which dispatched him without another blow.
"But Captain Church, looking behind him, saw another Indian, whom he thought he had killed, come flying at him like a dragon. But this happened to be fair within sight of the guard that was set to keep the prisoners, who, spying this Indian and others who were following him in the very seasonable juncture, made a shot upon them, and rescued their captain, though he was in no small danger from his friends' bullets, for some of them came so near him that he thought he felt the wind of them. The skirmish being over, they gathered their prisoners together, and found the number they had taken to be one hundred and seventy-three."
With these prisoners the English returned to [Pg 352]Bridgewater. Captain Church drove the captives that night into the pound, and placed an Indian guard over them. They were abundantly supplied with food and drink. These poor wretches were so degraded, and so regardless of their fate, that they passed the night in hideous revelry. Philip had by some unknown means escaped. With grief and shame we record that his wife and son were sent to Bermuda and sold as slaves, and were never heard of more. One of the Indian captives said to Captain Church,
"Sir, you have now made Philip ready to die. You have rendered him as poor and miserable as he used to make the English. All his relatives are now either killed or taken captive. You will soon have his head. This last bout has broken his heart."
The heroic and unfortunate monarch of the Wampanoags was now indeed a fugitive, and almost utterly desolate. A few of the more noble of the Indians still adhered faithfully to the fortunes of their ruined chieftain. The colonists pursued the broken bands of the Indians with indefatigable energy. A small party sought refuge at a place called Agawam, in the present town of Wareham. Captain Church immediately headed an expedition, pursued them, and captured the whole band. A notorious Indian desperado called Sam Barrow was among the number. He was a bloodthirsty wretch, who had filled the colony with the terror of his name. He boasted that with his own hand he had killed nineteen of the English. Captain Church informed him that, in consequence of his inhuman murders, the court could allow him no quarter. The stoical savage, with perfect indifference, said that he was perfectly willing to die, and only requested the privilege [Pg 354]of smoking a pipe. He sat down upon a rock, while his Indian executioner stood by his side with his gleaming tomahawk in his hand. The savage smoked a few whiffs of tobacco, laid aside his pipe, and calmly said, "I am ready." In another instant the hatchet of the executioner sank deep into his brain. He fell dead upon the rock.
On the 6th of August one of Philip's Indians deserted his master and fled to Taunton. To make terms for himself, he offered to conduct the English to a spot upon the river where Wetamoo had secreted herself with a party of Pocasset warriors. Twenty of the inhabitants of Taunton armed themselves and followed their Indian guide. He led them to a spot now called Gardiner's Neck, in the town of Swanzey.
At the beginning of the war, Wetamoo, flushed with hope, had marched to the conflict leading three hundred warriors in her train. She was now hiding in thickets, swamps, and dens, with but twenty-six followers, and they dejected and despairing. Next to King Philip, Wetamoo had been the most energetic of the foes of the English. She was inspired with much of his indomitable courage, and was never wanting in resources. The English came upon [Pg 355]them by surprise, and captured every one but Wetamoo herself. The heroic queen, too proud to be captured, instantly threw off all her clothing, seized a broken piece of wood, and plunged into the stream. Worn down by exhaustion and famine, her nerveless arm failed her, and she sank beneath the waves. Her body, like a bronze statue of marvelous symmetry, was soon after found washed upon the shore. As faithful chroniclers, we must declare, though with a blush, that the English cut off her head, and set it upon a pole in their streets, a trophy ghastly, bloody, revolting. Many of her subjects were in Taunton as captives. When they beheld the features of their beloved queen, they filled the air with shrieks of lamentation.
The situation of Philip was now indescribably deplorable. All the confederate tribes had abandoned him; the most faithful of his followers had already perished. His only brother was dead; his wife and only son were slaves in the hands of the English, doomed to unending bondage; every other relative was cold in death. The few followers who still, for their own protection, accompanied him in his flight, were seeking in dismay to save their own lives. His domain, which once spread over wide [Pg 356]leagues of mountain and forest, was now contracted to the dark recesses and dismal swamps where, as a hunted beast, he sought his lair. There was no place of retreat for him. All the Connecticut Indians had become his bitter foes, because he had embroiled them in a war which had secured their ruin. The Mohawks, upon the Hudson, were thirsting for his blood.
Still, this indomitable man would not think of yielding. He determined, with a resolution which seemed never to give way, to fight till a bullet from the foe should pierce his brain. In this hour of utter hopelessness, one of Philip's warriors ventured to urge him to surrender to the English. The haughty monarch immediately put the man to death as a punishment for his temerity and as a warning to others. The brother of this Indian, indignant at such severity, deserted to the English, and offered to guide them to the swamp where Philip was secreted. The ruined monarch had returned to the home of his childhood to fight his last battles and to die.
Captain Church happened to be at this time, with a party of volunteers, at Rhode Island, having crossed over by the ferry from Tiverton. Here he met the Indian traitor. "He [Pg 357]was a fellow of good sense," says Captain Church, "and told his story handsomely." He reported that Philip was upon a little spot of upland in the midst of a miry swamp just south of Mount Hope. It was now evening. Half of the night was spent in crossing the water in canoes. At midnight Captain Church brought all his company together, and gave minute directions respecting their movements. They surrounded the swamp. With the earliest light of the morning they were ordered to creep cautiously upon their hands and feet until they came in sight of their foes. As soon as anyone discovered Philip or any of his men, he was to fire, and immediately all were to rise and join in the pursuit. To make sure of his victim, Captain Church also formed a second circle surrounding the swamp, placing an Englishman and an Indian behind trees, rocks, etc., so that no one could pass between them. He also stationed small parties in selected places in ambuscade.
Having completed all his arrangements, he took his friend Major Sandford by the hand, and said,
"I have now so posted my men that I think it impossible that Philip should escape us."
He had hardly uttered these words ere the report of a musket was heard in the swamp, and this was instantaneously followed by a whole volley. Some of the Indians had been discovered, and the murderous work was commenced. The morning had as yet but just dawned. An awful scene of dismay, tumult, and blood ensued. Philip, exhausted by days and nights of the most harassing flight and fighting, had been found soundly asleep. The few warriors still faithful to him, equally exhausted, were dozing at his side. A party of the English crept cautiously within musket shot of their sleeping foes, discharged a volley of bullets upon them, and then rushed into their encampment.
The dreams of the despairing fugitive were disturbed by the crash of musketry, the whistling of bullets, and the shout and the onset of his foes. He leaped from his couch of leaves, and, like a deer, bounded from hummock to hummock in the swamp. It so happened that he ran directly upon an ambush which Captain Church had warily established. An Englishman and the Indian deserter, whose name was Alderman, stood behind a large tree, with their guns cocked and primed. As Philip, bewildered [Pg 361]and unconscious of his peril, drew near, the Englishman took deliberate aim at him when he was but at the distance of a few yards, and sprung his lock. The night dews of the swamp had moistened the powder, and his gun missed fire. The life of Philip was thus prolonged for one half of a minute. The traitor Alderman then eagerly directed his gun against the chief to whom but a few hours before he had been in subjection. A sharp report rang through the forest, and two bullets, for the gun was double charged, passed almost directly through the heart of the heroic warrior. For an instant the majestic frame of the chieftain, as he stood erect, quivered from the shock, and then he fell heavy and stone dead in the mud and water of the swamp.
Alderman, delighted with his exploit, ran eagerly to inform Captain Church that he had shot King Philip. Church ordered him to be perfectly silent about it, that his men might more vigorously pursue the remaining warriors. For some time the pursuit and the carnage continued. Captain Church then, by a concerted signal, called his army together, and informed them of the death of their formidable foe. The tidings were received with a simultaneous shout [Pg 362]of exultation, which, repeated again and again, reverberated through the solitudes of the forests. The whole army then advanced to the spot where the sovereign of the Wampanoags lay gory in death. They had but little reverence for an Indian, and, seizing the body, they dragged it, as if it had been the carcass of a wild beast, through the mud to an upland slope, where the ground was dry. Here, for a time, they gazed with exultation upon the great trophy of their victory, and spurned the dishonored body as if it had been a wolf or a panther which had been destroying their families and their flocks. Captain Church then said,
"Forasmuch as he has caused many an Englishman's body to lie unburied and to rot above the ground, not one of his bones shall be buried."
An old Indian executioner, a vulgar, bloodthirsty wretch, was then called to cut up the body. With bitter taunts he stood over him with his hatchet, and cut off his head and quartered him. Philip had one remarkable hand, which was much scarred by the explosion of a pistol. This hand was given to Alderman, who shot him, as his share of the spoil. Alderman preserved it in rum, and carried it around the [Pg 363]country as a show, "and accordingly," says Captain Church, "he got many a penny by it." We would gladly doubt the statement, if we could, that the head of this ill-fated chief was sent to Plymouth, where it was for a long time exposed on a gibbet. The four quarters of the mangled body were hung upon four trees, and there they remained swinging in the moaning wind until the elements wasted them away.
Thus fell Pometacom, perhaps the most illustrious savage upon the North American continent. The interposition of Providence alone seems to have prevented him from exterminating the whole English race upon this continent. Though his character has been described only by those who were exasperated against him to the very highest degree, still it is evident that he possessed many of the noblest qualities which can embellish human nature.
It is said that with reluctance and anguish he entered upon the war, and that he shed tears when the first English blood was shed. His extraordinary kindness to the Leonards, inducing him to avert calamities from a whole settlement, lest they, by some accident, might be injured, develops magnanimity which is seldom paralleled. He was a man of first-rate abilities. [Pg 364]He foresaw clearly that the growth of the English power threatened the utter extermination of his race. War thus, in his view, became a dire necessity. No man could be more conscious of its fearful peril. With sagacity which might excite the envy of the ablest of European diplomatists, he bound together various heterogeneous and hostile tribes, and guided all their energies. Though the generality of the Indians were often inhuman in the extreme, there is no evidence that Philip ever ordered a captive to be tortured, while it is undeniable that the English, in several instances, surrendered their captives to the horrid barbarities of their savage allies.
"His mode of making war," says Francis Baylies, "was secret and terrible. He seemed like the demon of destruction hurling his bolts in darkness. With cautious and noiseless steps, and shrouded by the deep shade of midnight, he glided from the gloomy depths of the woods. He stole on the villages and settlements of New England, like the pestilence, unseen and unheard. His dreadful agency was felt when the yells of his followers roused his victims from their slumbers, and when the flames of their blazing habitations glared upon their eyes. [Pg 365]His pathway could be traced by the horrible desolation of its progress, by its crimson print upon the snows and the sands, by smoke and fire, by houses in ruins, by the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the groans of the wounded and the dying. Well indeed might he have been called the 'terror of New England.' Yet in no instance did he transcend the ordinary usages of Indian warfare.
"We now sit in his seats and occupy his lands; the lands which afforded a bare subsistence to a few wandering savages can now support countless thousands of civilized people. The aggregate of the happiness of man is increased, and the designs of Providence are fulfilled when this fair domain is held by those who know its use; surely we may be permitted at this day to lament the fate of him who was once the lord of our woods and our streams, and who, if he wrought much mischief to our forefathers, loved some of our race, and wept for their misfortunes!"
There was, however, but little sympathy felt in that day for Philip or any of his confederates. The truly learned and pious but pedantic Cotton Mather, allowing his spirit to be envenomed by the horrid atrocities of Indian warfare, thus records the tragic end of Pometacom:
"The Englishman's piece would not go off, but the Indians presently shot him through his venomous and murderous heart. And in that very place where he first contrived and commenced his mischief, this Agag was now cut in quarters, which were then hanged up, while his head was carried in triumph to Plymouth, where it arrived on the very day that the church was keeping a solemn thanksgiving to God. God sent them in the head of a Leviathan for a thanksgiving feast."
We must remember that the Indians have no chroniclers of their wrongs, and yet the colonial historians furnish us with abundant incidental evidence that outrages were perpetrated by individuals of the colonists which were sufficient to drive any people mad. No one can now contemplate the doom of Pometacom, the last of an illustrious line, but with emotions of sadness.
The war was now virtually at an end. Still there were many broken bands of Indians wandering [Pg 367]through the wilderness in a state of utter desperation; they knew that to surrender doomed them to death or to hopeless slavery. Though they were unable to wage any effective warfare, they could desolate the settlements with murders and with terrible depredations.
A few days after the death of King Philip, intelligence was brought to Plymouth that Annawan, Philip's chief captain, a man of indomitable energy, was ranging the woods with a band of warriors in the vicinity of Rehoboth and Swanzey, and doing great mischief.
Annawan was now commander-in-chief of all the remaining Indian forces. His death or capture was accordingly esteemed a matter of great moment. Captain Church immediately gathered around him a band of his enthusiastic troops. They were so devoted to their successful commander that they declared their readiness to follow him as long as an Indian was left in the woods. They immediately commenced their march, and ranged the woods along the Pocasset shore. Not finding any Indians, they crossed the arm of the bay in canoes to Rhode Island, intending to spend the next day, which was the Sabbath, there in religious rest. Early the next morning, however, a messenger informed [Pg 368]the captain that a canoe filled with Indians had been seen passing from Prudence Island to the west side of Bristol, which was then called Poppasquash Neck. Captain Church, thinking that these men were probably going to join the band of Annawan, resolved immediately to pursue them. He had no means of transporting his troops but in two or three frail birch canoes. He crossed himself, however, with sixteen of his Indian allies, when the gale increased to such severity, and hove up such a tumultuous sea, that the canoes could no longer pass. Captain Church now found himself upon Bristol Neck with but sixteen Indian allies around him, while all the rest of his force, including nearly all of his English soldiers, were upon Rhode Island, and cut off from all possibility of immediately joining him. Still, the intrepid captain adopted the resolve to march in pursuit of the enemy, though he was aware that he might meet them in overwhelming numbers.
The Indians expressed some reluctance to go unaccompanied by English soldiers; finally, however, they consented. Skulking through almost impenetrable thickets, they came to a salt meadow just north of the present town of Bristol. It was now night, and though they [Pg 369]had heard the report of two guns in the woods, they had met no Indians. A part of their company, who had been sent out on a skulk, had not returned, and great anxiety was felt lest they had fallen into an ambush and been captured. The night was dark, and cold, and dreary. They had not a morsel of bread, and no food to cook; they did not dare to build a fire, as the flame would be sure to attract their wakeful enemies. Hungry and solitary, the hours of the night lingered slowly away. In the earliest dawn of the morning, the Indian scouts returned with the following extraordinary story, which proved to be true. They said that they had not advanced far when they discovered two Indians at a distance approaching them upon one horse. The scouts immediately hid in the brush in parallel lines at a little distance from each other. One of the Indians then stationed himself as a decoy, and howled like a wolf. The two Indians immediately stopped, and one, sliding from the horse, came running along to see what was there. The cunning Indian, howling lower and lower, drew him on between those lying in wait for him, until they seized and instantly gagged him. The other, seeing that his companion did not return, and [Pg 370]still hearing the faint howlings of the wolf, also left his horse, and soon experienced the same fate.
The two captives they then examined apart, and found them to agree in the story that there were eight more Indians who had come with them into the Neck in search of provisions, and that they had all agreed to meet at an old Indian burying-place that evening. The two captives chanced to be former acquaintances of the leader of the scouting party. He told them enticing stories of the bravery of Captain Church, and of the advantages of fighting with him and for him instead of against him. The vagabond prisoners were in a very favorable condition to be influenced by such suggestions. They heartily joined their victors, and aided in entrapping their unsuspecting comrades. The eight were soon found, and, by a continuance of the same stratagem, were all secured. All these men immediately co-operated with Captain Church's company, and aided in capturing their remaining friends. In this perhaps they were to be commended, as there was nothing before them but misery, starvation, and death in the wilderness, while there was at least food and life with Captain Church.
With their band thus strengthened there was less fear of surprise. A horse was killed, roaring fires built, and the Indians, roasting the meat upon wooden spits, exulted for a few hours in a feast of steaks which, to them at least, were savory and delicious. The Indians usually carried salt in their pockets: with this alone they seasoned their horse-flesh. As there was not a morsel of bread to be obtained, Captain Church had no better fare than his savage companions.
The Indians were now in exceeding good-humor. All having eaten their fill, and loading themselves with a sufficient supply for the day, they commenced their march, under the guidance of the captives, to the place where they had left their women and children. All were surprised and captured. But no one could tell where Annawan was to be found. All agreed in the declaration that he was continually roving about, never sleeping twice in the same place.
One of the Indian prisoners entreated Captain Church to permit him to go into a swamp, about four miles distant, where his father was concealed with his young wife. He promised to bring them both in. Captain Church, thinking that he might, perhaps, obtain some intelligence [Pg 372]respecting Annawan, decided to go with him. Taking with him one Englishman and a few Indians, and leaving the rest to remain where they were until his return, he set out upon this enterprise.
When they arrived on the borders of the swamp, the Indian was sent forward in search of his father. Pretty soon they heard a low howling, which was promptly responded to by a corresponding howl at a distance. At length they saw an old man coming toward them with his gun upon his shoulder, and followed by a young Indian girl, his daughter. Concealing themselves on each side of the narrow trail, Captain Church's party awaited their approach, and seized them both. Threatening them with terrible punishment if they deceived him with any falsehood, he examined them apart.
Both agreed that they had been lately in Annawan's camp; that he had with him about sixty Indians, and that he was at but a few miles' distance, in Squannaconk Swamp, in the southeasterly part of Rehoboth. "Can I get there to-night?" inquired Captain Church. "If you set out immediately," the old Indian replied, "and travel stoutly, you can reach there by sunset."
Just then the young Indian who had been in search of his father returned with his father and another Indian. Captain Church was now in much perplexity. He was very desirous of going in pursuit of Annawan before the wary savage should remove to other quarters. He had, however, but half a dozen men with him, and it was necessary to send a messenger back to acquaint those who had been left of his design. Collecting his little band together, he inquired if they were ready to go with him to endeavor to take Annawan. The enterprise appeared to them all very perilous. They replied,
"We are willing to obey your commands. But Annawan is a renowned and veteran warrior. He served under Pometacom's father, and has been Pometacom's chief captain during this war. He is a very subtle man, a man of great energy, and has often said that he would never be taken alive by the English. Moreover, the warriors who are with him are very resolute men. We therefore fear that it would be impossible to take him with so small a band. We should but throw away our lives."
Still, Captain Church, relying upon his own inexhaustible resources, and upon the well-known despondency and despair of the Indians, [Pg 374]resolved to go, and with a few words roused the enthusiasm of his impulsive and fickle followers. He sent the young Indian, with his father and the young squaw, back to the camp, while he took the other old man whom he had captured as his guide. "You have given me my life," said the Indian, "and it is my duty to serve you."
Energetically they commenced their march through the woods, the old man leading off with tremendous strides. Occasionally he would get so far in advance that the party would lose sight of him, when he would stop until they came up. He might easily have escaped had he wished to do so. Just as the sun was setting, the old man made a full stop and sat down. The rest of the company came up, all being very weary, and sat down around him.
"At this hour," said the old man, "Annawan always sends out his scouts. We must conceal ourselves here until after dark, when the scouts will have returned."
As soon as the darkness of night had settled over the forest, the old man again rose to resume the march. Captain Church said to him,
"Will you take a gun and fight for us?"
The faithful guide bowed very low, and nobly [Pg 375]said, "I pray you not to impose upon me such a thing as to fight Annawan, my old friend. I will go along with you and be helpful to you, and will lay hands on any man who shall offer to hurt you."
In the gloom of the wilderness it was now very dark, and all kept close together, and moved cautiously and silently along. Soon they heard a noise as of a woman pounding corn. All stopped and listened. They had arrived at Annawan's retreat. Captain Church, with one Englishman and half a dozen Indians, most of whom had been taken captive that very day, were about to attack one of the fiercest and most redoubtable of Philip's chieftains, surrounded by sixty of his tribe, many of whom were soldiers of a hundred battles. Drake, in his Book of the Indians, gives the following description of this noted place:
"It is situated in the southeasterly corner of Rehoboth, about eight miles from Taunton Green, a few rods from the road which leads to Providence, and on the southeasterly side of it. If a straight line were drawn from Taunton to Providence, it would pass very nearly over this place. Within the limits of an immense swamp of nearly three thousand acres there is a small [Pg 376]piece of upland, separated from the main only by a brook, which in some seasons is dry. This island, as we may call it, is nearly covered with an enormous rock, which to this day is called Annawan's Rock. Its southeast side presents an almost perpendicular precipice, and rises to the height of twenty-five or thirty feet. The northwest side is very sloping and easy of ascent, being at an angle of not more than thirty-five or forty degrees. A more gloomy and hidden recess, even now, although the forest-tree no longer waves over it, could hardly be found by any inhabitant of the wilderness."
Creeping cautiously to the summit of the rock, Captain Church looked down over its precipitous edge upon the scene presented below. The spectacle which opened to his view was wild and picturesque in the extreme. He saw three bands of Indians at short distances from each other, gathered around several fires. Their pots and kettles were boiling, and meat was roasting upon the spits. Some of the Indians were sleeping upon the ground, others were cooking, while others were sitting alone and silent, and all seemed oppressed and melancholy. Directly under the rock Annawan himself was lying, apparently asleep, with his son by his [Pg 377]side. The guns of the Indians were stacked at a little distance from the fires, with mats spread over them to protect them from the weather. It seemed impossible to descend the precipitous face of the rock, and Captain Church accordingly crept back and inquired of his guide if they could not approach by some other way.
"No," answered the guide. "All who belong to Annawan's company are ordered to approach by that entrance, and none can from any other direction without danger of being shot."
The old man and his daughter had left the encampment of Annawan upon some mission; their return, therefore, would excite no suspicion. They both had tule baskets bound to their backs. Captain Church directed them to clamber down the rocks to the spot where Annawan was reposing. Behind their shadow Church and two or three of his soldiers crept also. The night was dark, and the expiring embers of Annawan's fire but enabled the adventurers more securely to direct their steps. The old chief, in a doze, with his son by his side, hearing the rustling of the bushes, raised his eyes, and seeing the old Indian and his daughter, suspected no danger, and again closed his eyes. In this manner, supporting themselves [Pg 378]by roots and vines, the small party effected its descent undiscovered. Captain Church, with his hatchet in his hand, stepped directly over the young man's head, and seized his weapons and those of his father. The young Annawan, discovering Captain Church, whipped his blanket over his head, and shrunk up in a heap. Old Annawan, starting from his recumbent posture, and supposing himself surrounded by the English army, exclaimed, "Ho-woh," I am taken, and sank back upon the ground in despair. Their arms were instantly secured, and perfect silence was commanded on pain of immediate death. The Indians who had followed Captain Church down over the rock, having received previous instructions, immediately hastened to the other fires, and informed the Indians that their chief was taken a captive; that they were surrounded by the English army, so that escape was impossible; and that, at the slightest resistance, a volley of bullets would be poured in upon them, which would mow them all down. They were assured that if they would peacefully submit they might expect the kindest treatment.
As Church's Indians were all acquainted with Annawan's company, many of them being [Pg 379]relatives, the surprised party without hesitancy surrendered both their guns and hatchets, and they were carried to Captain Church. His whole force of six men was now assembled at one spot, but the Indians still supposed that they were surrounded by a powerful army in ambush, with loaded muskets pointed at them. Matters being thus far settled, Annawan ordered an abundant supper to be prepared of "cow beef and horse beef." Victors and vanquished partook of this repast together. It was now thirty-six hours since Captain Church and his men had had any sleep. Captain Church, overwhelmed with responsibility and care, was utterly exhausted. He told his men that if they would let him have a nap of two hours, he would then keep watch for all the rest of the night, and they might sleep. He laid himself down, but the excitement caused by his strange and perilous position drove all slumber from his eyelids. He looked around him, and soon the whole company was soundly sleeping, all excepting Annawan himself. The Indian and the English chieftain lay side by side for an hour, looking steadfastly at each other, neither uttering a word. Captain Church could not speak Indian, and he supposed that Annawan [Pg 380]could not speak English. At length Annawan arose, laid aside his blanket, and deliberately walked away. Almost before Captain Church had time to collect his thoughts, he had disappeared in the midnight gloom of the forest. Though all the arms of the Indians had been taken from them, Captain Church was apprehensive that Annawan might by some means obtain a gun and attempt some violence. He knew that pursuit would be in vain in the darkness of the night and of the forest.
Placing himself in such a position by the side of young Annawan that any shot which should endanger him would equally endanger the son, he remained for some time in great anxiety. At length he heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Just then the moon broke from among the clouds, and shone out with great brilliance. By its light he saw Annawan returning, with something glittering in his hand. The illustrious chieftain, coming up to Captain Church, presented him with three magnificent belts of wampum, gorgeously embroidered with flowers, and pictures of beasts and birds. They were articles of court dress which had belonged to King Philip, and were nearly a foot wide and eight or ten feet long. He also had in his [Pg 381]hands two powder-horns filled with powder, and a beautiful crimson blanket. Presenting these to Captain Church, he said, in plain English,
"Great captain, you have killed King Philip. I believe that I and my company are the last that war against the English. I suppose the war is ended by your means, and therefore these things belong to you. They were Philip's royalties, with which he adorned himself when he sat in state. I think myself happy in having an opportunity to present them to you."
Neither of these illustrious men could sleep amid the excitements of these eventful hours. Annawan was an intelligent man, and was fully conscious that a further continuance of the struggle was hopeless. With the most confiding frankness, he entertained his conqueror with the history of his life from his earliest childhood to the present hour. The whole remainder of the night was spent in this discourse, in which Annawan, with wonderfully graphic skill, described his feats of arms in by-gone years, when, under Massasoit, Philip's father, he led his warriors against hostile tribes.
As soon as day dawned, Captain Church collected his men and his sixty prisoners, and, emerging from the swamp, took up their march [Pg 382]for Taunton. They soon gained the Taunton road, about four miles from the town, and there, according to appointment, met Lieutenant Howland, with the men who had been left behind. They lodged at Taunton that night. The next morning all the prisoners were sent forward to Plymouth excepting Annawan. Captain Church was anxious to save his life, and took the old chieftain with him to Rhode Island. After a few days he returned with him to Plymouth. Captain Church plead earnestly that Annawan's life might be spared, and supposing, without any doubt, that this request would not be denied him, set out, after a few days, in pursuit of another small band of Indians who were committing robberies in the vicinity of Plymouth.
The leader of this band was Tuspaquin, sachem of Namasket. At the beginning of the conflict he had led three hundred warriors into the field. He led the band which laid nineteen buildings in ashes in Scituate on the twentieth of April, and which burned seventeen buildings in Bridgewater on the eighth of May. Also, on the eleventh of May, he had burned eleven houses and five barns in Plymouth. The English were consequently exceedingly exasperated against him. Tuspaquin had great renown [Pg 383]among his soldiers. He had been in innumerable perils, and had never been wounded. The Indians affirmed that no bullet could penetrate his body; that they had often seen them strike him and glance off.
Intelligence had been brought to Plymouth that Tuspaquin was in the vicinity of Sippican, now Rochester, doing great damage to the inhabitants, killing their horses, cattle, and swine.
Monday afternoon Captain Church set out in pursuit of him. The next morning they discovered a trail in the forest, and, following it noiselessly, they came to a place called Lakenham, where the thicket was almost impenetrable. Smoke was discovered rising from this thicket, and two Indians crept in to see what could be discovered. They soon returned with a report that quite a party of Indians, mostly women and children, were sitting silently around the embers. Captain Church ordered every man to creep on his hands and feet until they had formed a circle around the Indians, and then, at a given signal, to make a rush, and take them all prisoners. The stratagem was entirely successful.
Captain Church found, to his extreme satisfaction, that he had captured the wife and children [Pg 384]of Tuspaquin, and most of his relatives. They said that he had gone, with two other Indians, to Wareham and Rochester to kill horses. Captain Church took all his prisoners back to Plymouth except two old squaws. They were left at the encampment with a good supply of food, and were directed to inform Tuspaquin on his return that Captain Church had been there, and had captured his wife and his children; that, if he would surrender himself and his companions at Plymouth, they should be received kindly, be well provided for, and he would employ them as his soldiers.
The next day Captain Church had occasion to go to Boston. Upon his return after a few days, he found, to his extreme chagrin and grief, that Tuspaquin had come in and surrendered; that both he and Annawan had been tried as murderers, and had been condemned and executed. This transaction can not be too severely condemned.
The war was now at an end in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, as nearly all the hostile Indians were either killed, captured, or had submitted to the mercy of their victors. A few hundred desperate warriors, too proud to yield and too feeble to continue the fight, fled in a body through the wilderness, beyond the Hudson, and were blended with the tribes along the banks of the Mohawk and the shores of the great lakes. There were also many bloody wretches, who, conscious that their crimes were quite unpardonable, fled to the almost impenetrable forests of the north and the east.
In the remote districts of New Hampshire and Maine the war still raged with unabated violence. Bands of savages were roving over the whole territory, carrying conflagration and blood to the homes of the lonely settlers. There were no large gatherings for battle, but prowling companies of from two or three to a hundred [Pg 386]spread terror and devastation in all directions.
At this period the towns and plantations in the State of Maine were but thirteen. The English population was about six thousand; the Indians, divided into many petty tribes, were probably about eighteen thousand in number. These Indians had for some time been rather unfriendly to the English, and an act of gross outrage roused them to combine in co-operation with King Philip. An illustrious Indian, by the name of Squando, was sachem of the Sokokis tribe, which occupied the region in the vicinity of Saco. He was a man of great strength of mind, elevation of character, and of singular gravity and impressiveness of address. One day his wife was paddling down the River Saco in a canoe, with her infant child. Some English sailors, coming along in a boat, accosted her brutally, and, saying that they had understood that Indian children could swim as naturally as young ducks, overset the canoe. The infant sank like lead. The indignant mother dove to the bottom and brought up her exhausted child alive, but it soon after died. Squando was so exasperated by this outrage, that, with his whole soul burning with indignation, he traversed the [Pg 387]wilderness to rouse the scattered tribes to a war of extermination against the English.
Just then the appalling tidings came of the breaking out of Philip's war. The Plymouth colony sent a messenger to York to inform the inhabitants of their danger, and to urge them to disarm the Indians, and to sell them no more powder or shot. A party of volunteers was immediately sent from York to ascend the Kennebec River, inform the settlers along its banks of their impending danger, and ascertain the disposition of the Indians. With a small vessel they entered the mouth of the river, then called the Sagadahock, and ascended the stream for several miles. Here they met twelve Indians, and, strange to relate, induced them to surrender their guns. One of the Indians, more spirited than the rest, was not disposed to yield to the demand, and, becoming enraged, struck at one of the English party with his hatchet, endeavoring to kill him. He was promptly arrested, bound, and confined in a cellar.
The Indians plead earnestly for his release, offering many apologies for his crime. They said that he was subject to fits of insanity, and that he was intoxicated. They offered to pay forty beavers' skins for his ransom, and to leave [Pg 388]hostages for his good behavior in the hands of the English. Upon these terms the prisoner was released. They then, in token of amity, partook of an abundant repast, smoked the pipe of peace, and the Indians had a grand dance, with shouts and songs which made the welkin ring. The promises of the Indians, however, were not fulfilled. The hostages all run away, and not a beaver skin was ever paid.
A man by the name of Thomas Purchas had built him a hut in the lonely wilderness, just below the Falls of the Androscoggin, in the present town of Brunswick. His family dwelt alone in the midst of the wilderness and the Indians. He purchased furs of the natives, and took them in his canoe down to the settlements near the mouth of the Sagadahock, from whence they were transported to England. He is reputed to have been a hard-hearted, shrewd man, always sure to get the best end of the bargain. The Indians all disliked him, and he became the first sufferer in the war.
On the 5th of September, a few months after the commencement of hostilities in Swanzey, twenty Indians came to the house of Purchas under the pretense of trading. Finding Purchas and his son both absent, they robbed the house [Pg 389]of every thing upon which they could lay their hands. They found rum, and soon became frantically drunk. There was a fine calf in the barn, and a few sheep at the door. The Indians were adroit butchers. The veal and the mutton were soon roasting upon their spits. They danced, they shouted, they clashed their weapons in exultation, and the noise of the Falls was drowned in the uproar of barbarian wassail. One of their exploits was to rip open a feather bed for the pleasure of seeing the feathers float away in the air. They, however, inflicted no violence upon Mrs. Purchas or her children.
In the midst of the scene, a son of Mr. Purchas was approaching home upon horseback. Alarmed by the clamor, he cautiously drew near, and was in consternation in view of the savage spectacle. Conscious that his interposition could be of no possible avail, he fled for life. The Indians caught sight of him, and one pursued him for some distance with his gun, but he escaped. Soon after the Indians left, telling Mrs. Purchas that others would soon come and treat them worse.
There was an old man by the name of Wakely, who had settled near the mouth of Presumpscot River, in Falmouth. His family consisted [Pg 390]of nine persons. A week after the robbery of Mr. Purchas's house, a band of savages made a fierce onset upon this solitary cabin. They burnt the house and killed all the family, except the youngest daughter, who was about eleven years of age. This unfortunate child was carried away captive, and for nine months was led up and down the wilderness, in the endurance of all the horrors of savage life. At one time she was led as far south as Narraganset Bay, which led to the supposition that some of the Narraganset Indians were engaged in the capture. The celebrated Squando, in whose character humanity and cruelty were most singularly blended, took pity upon the child, rescued her, and delivered her to the English at Dover.
A family living several miles distant from Falmouth, at Casco Neck, saw the smoke of the burning house, and the next day a file of men repaired to the place. A scene of horror met their eye in the smouldering ruins and the mangled corpses. The bodies of the slain the savages had cut up in the most revolting manner. The tidings of these outrages spread rapidly, and the settlers, in their solitary homes, were plunged into a state of great dismay.
There were at this time in Brunswick two or three families who had erected their houses upon the banks of New Meadows. A party of twenty-five English set out from Casco in a sloop and two boats, sailed along the bay, and entered the river. The inhabitants had already fled, and the Indians were there, about thirty in number, rifling the houses. Seeing the approach of the English, they concealed themselves in an ambush. When the English had advanced but a few rods from their boats, the savages rushed upon them with hideous yells, wounded several, drove them all back to their sloop, and captured two boat-loads of Indian corn.
Emboldened by their success, a few days after, on the 18th of September, they made a bold attack upon Saco. A friendly Indian informed Captain Bonython, who lived on the east side of the river, about half a mile below the Lower Falls, that a conspiracy was formed to attack the town. The alarm was immediately communicated to all the settlers, and in a panic they abandoned their houses, and took refuge in the garrison house of Major Phillips, which was on the other side of the river. The Indians, unaware that their plot was discovered, came the same night and established themselves in [Pg 392]ambush. The assailants were not less than one hundred in number. There were fifty persons, men, women, and children, in the garrison, of whom but ten were effective men. At eleven o'clock in the morning they commenced the assault. The besieged defended themselves with great energy, and many of the savages fell before their unerring aim. The savages at length attempted to set fire to the house, after having assailed it with a storm of shot all the day, and through the night until four in the morning. They filled a cart with birch bark, straw, and powder, and, setting this on fire, endeavored to push it against the house with long poles. They had ingeniously constructed upon the cart a barricade of planks, which protected those who pushed it against the fire of the house. When they had got within pistol shot, one wheel became clogged in a rut, and the other wheel going, whirled the cart around, so as to expose the whole party to a fatal fire. Six men almost instantly fell dead, and before the rest could escape, fifteen of them were wounded. Disheartened by this disaster, the rest sullenly retired.
Soon after this, Phillips abandoned his exposed situation, and his house was burned down by the savages. On the 20th the Indians attacked [Pg 393]Scarborough, destroyed twenty-seven houses, and killed several of the inhabitants. The principal settlement in Saco was at Winter Harbor. Many families in the vicinity had fled to that place for refuge. They were all in great danger of being cut off by the savages. A party of sixteen volunteers from South Berwick took a sloop and hastened to their rescue. As they were landing upon the beach, they were assailed by one hundred and fifty of their fierce foes. The English, overpowered by numbers, were in great danger of being cut off to a man, when they succeeded in gaining a shelter behind a pile of logs. From this breastwork they opened such a deadly fire upon their thronging foes that the Indians were compelled to retire with a loss of many of their number. The inhabitants of the garrison, hearing the report of the guns, sent a party of nine to aid their friends. These men unfortunately fell into an ambush, and by a single discharge every one was cut down. This same band then ravaged the settlements in Wells, Hampton, Exeter, and South Berwick.
Great exertions had been made to prevent the Indians upon the Kennebec from engaging in these hostilities. About ten miles from the [Pg 394]mouth of the Sagadahock is the beautiful island of Arrowsic. It is so called from an Indian who formerly lived upon it. Two Boston merchants, Messrs. Clark and Lake, had purchased this island, which contains many thousand acres of fertile land. They had erected several large dwellings, with a warehouse, a fort, and many other edifices near the water-side. It was a very important place for trade, being equally accessible by canoes to all the Indians on the Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Sheepscot. Captain Davis was the general agent for the proprietors upon this island.
The Indians in all this region were daily becoming more cold and sullen. Captain Davis, to conciliate them, sent a messenger up all these rivers to invite the Indians to come down and live near him, assuring them that he would protect them from all mischief, and would sell them every needed supply at the fairest prices. The messenger, thinking to add to the force of the invitation, overstepping his instructions, threatened them that if they did not accede to his request the English would come and kill them all. This so alarmed the Indians that they fled to the banks of the Penobscot, which was then in possession of the French. Here they held a general council.
Mr. Abraham Shurte was chief magistrate of the flourishing plantation of Pemaquid. He was a man of integrity, of humanity, and of great good sense. By indefatigable exertions, he succeeded in obtaining an interview with the sachems, and entered into a treaty of peace with them. In consequence of this treaty, the general court of Boston ordered considerable sums of money to be disbursed to those Indians who would become the subjects or allies of the colony. There was thus a temporary respite of hostilities in this section of the country. Upon the banks of the Piscataquis, however, the warfare still continued unabated. On the 16th of October, one hundred Indians assailed a house in South Berwick, burned it to the ground, killed the master of the house, and carried his son into captivity. Lieutenant Plaisted, commander of the garrison, viewing the massacre from a distance, dispatched nine men to reconnoitre the movements of the enemy. They fell into an ambuscade, and three were shot down, and the others with difficulty escaped.
The next day Lieutenant Plaisted ordered out a team to bring in the bodies for interment. He himself led twenty men as a guard. As [Pg 396]they were placing the bodies in a cart, a party of one hundred and fifty savages rushed upon them from a thicket, showering a volley of bullets upon the soldiers. The wounded oxen took fright and ran. A fierce fight ensued. Most of the soldiers retreated and regained the garrison. Lieutenant Plaisted, too proud to fly or to surrender, fought till he was literally hewn in pieces by the hatchets of the Indians. His two sons also, worthy of their father, fought till one was slain, and the other, covered with wounds of which he soon died, escaped. The Indians then ravaged the regions around, plundering, burning, and killing.
The storms of winter now came with intense cold, and the snow covered the ground four feet deep upon a level. The weather compelled a truce. Though the Indians, during this short campaign, had killed eighty of the English, had burned many houses, and had committed depredations to an incalculable amount, still they themselves were suffering perhaps even more severely. They had no provisions, and no means of purchasing any. There was but little game in these northern forests, and the snow was too deep for hunting. Their ammunition was consumed, and they knew not how to obtain [Pg 397]any more. Thus they were starving and almost helpless. Under these circumstances, they manifested a strong desire for peace. There were, however, individuals of the English who, by the commission of the most infamous outrages, fanned anew the flames of war.
Early in the spring, one Laughton had obtained a warrant from the court in Massachusetts to seize any of the Eastern Indians who had robbed or murdered any of the English. This Laughton, a vile kidnapper, under cover of this warrant, lured a number of Indians at Pemaquid on board his vessel. None of them were accused of any crime, and it is not known that they had committed any. He enticed them below, fastened the hatches upon them, and carried them to the West Indies, where they were sold as slaves. This fact was notorious; and, though the government condemned the deed, and did what it could to punish the offender, still the unenlightened Indians considered the whole white race responsible for the crimes of the individual miscreant.
Some of the Indian chiefs went to Pemaquid to confer with Mr. Shurte, in whom they reposed much confidence. Their complaint was truly touching.
"Our brothers," said they, "are treacherously caught, carried into foreign parts, and sold as slaves. Last fall you frightened us from our corn-fields on the Kennebec. You have withholden powder and shot from us, so that we can not kill any game; and thus, during the winter, many have died of starvation."
Mr. Shurte did what he could to conciliate them, and proposed a council. It was soon convened. The Indians appeared fair and honorable, but they said they must have powder and shot; that, without those articles, they could have no success in the chase, and they must starve.
"Where," exclaimed Madockawando, earnestly and impatiently, "shall we buy powder and shot for our winter's hunting when we have eaten up all our corn? Shall we leave Englishmen and apply to the French, or shall we let our Indians die? We have waited long to have you tell us, and now we want yes or no."
To this the English could only reply, "You admit that the Western Indians do not wish for peace. Should you let them have the powder we sell you, what do we better than to cut our own throats? This is the best answer we can return to you, though you should wait ten years."
At this the chiefs took umbrage, declined any farther talk, and the conference was broken up angrily. War was soon resumed in all its horrors.
Early in August a numerous band of savages made an incursion upon Casco Neck and swept it of its inhabitants. Thirty-four of the colonists were either killed or carried into captivity. On the 14th of August, two days after King Philip was slain in the swamp at Mount Hope, a party of Indians landed from their canoes upon the southeast corner of the island of Arrowsic, near the spot where the fort stood. They concealed themselves behind a great rock, and, with true Indian cunning, notwithstanding the sentinels, succeeded in creeping within the spacious inclosure which constituted the fortress. They then opened a sudden and simultaneous fire upon all who were within sight. The garrison, thus taken by midnight surprise, were in a state of terrible consternation. A hand to hand fight ensued of the utmost ferocity. The Indians, however, soon overpowered their opponents and applied the torch. Captain Davis, who was in command of the fort, with Mr. Lake, who was one of the owners of the island, escaped with two others from the massacre by a back passage, [Pg 400]and, rushing to the water's edge, sprang into a canoe and endeavored to reach another island. The savages, however, pursued them, and, taking deliberate aim as they were paddling to the opposite shore, killed Mr. Lake, and wounded Mr. Davis, so as to render him helpless, just as he was stepping upon the shore. The savages then took a canoe and crossed in pursuit of their victims. Captain Davis succeeded in hiding himself in the cleft of a rock, and eluded their search. Here he remained for two days, until after the savages had left, and then, finding an old canoe upon the beach, he succeeded in paddling himself across the water to the main land, where he was rescued. The other two who were not wounded, plunging into the forest, also effected their escape.
The exultant savages rioted in the destruction of the beautiful establishment upon Arrowsic. The spacious mansion house, the fortifications, the mills, and all the out-buildings, were burned to the ground. Works which had cost the labor of years, and the expenditure of thousands of pounds, were in an hour destroyed, and the whole island was laid desolate. Thirty-five persons were either killed or carried into captivity. The dismay which now pervaded [Pg 401]the plantations in Maine was terrible. The settlers were very much scattered; there was no place of safety, and it was impossible, under the circumstances, for the court in Massachusetts to send them any effectual relief. Most of the inhabitants upon the Sheepscot River sought refuge in the fort at Newagen. The people at Pemaquid fled on board their vessels; some sailed for Boston; others crossed over to the island of Monhegan, where they strongly fortified themselves. They had hardly left their flourishing little village of Pemaquid ere dark columns of smoke informed them that the savages were there, and that their homes were in a blaze. In one month, fifty miles east of Casco Bay were laid utterly desolate. The inhabitants were either massacred, carried into captivity, or had fled by water to the settlements in Massachusetts.
Many of the beautiful islands in Casco Bay had a few English settlers upon them. The Indians paddled from one to another in their canoes, and the inhabitants generally fell easy victims to their fury. A few families were gathered upon Jewell's Island, in a fortified house. On the 2d of September a party of Indians landed upon the island for their destruction. [Pg 402]Several of the men were absent from the island in search of Indian corn, and few were left in the garrison excepting women and children. A man was in his boat at a short distance from the shore fishing, while his wife was washing clothes by the river side, surrounded by her children. Suddenly the savages sprang upon them, and took them all captives before the eyes of the husband and father, who could render no assistance. One of the little boys, shrieking with terror, ran into the water, calling upon his father for help. An Indian grasped him, and, as the distracted father presented his gun, the savage held up the child as a shield, and thus prevented the father from firing. A brave boy in the garrison shot three of the Indians from the loop-holes. Soon assistance came from one of the neighboring islands, and the Indians were driven to their canoes, after having killed two of the inhabitants and taken five captives.
In this state of things, Massachusetts sent two hundred men, with forty Natick Indians, to Dover, then called Cocheco, from whence they were to march into Maine and New Hampshire, wherever they could be most serviceable. Here they met unexpectedly about four hundred Indians, [Pg 403]who had come from friendly tribes professedly to join them in friendly coalition. The English had offered to receive all who in good faith would become their allies. Many, however, of these men were atrocious wretches, whose hands were red with the blood of the English. Others were desperate fellows, who had ravaged Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts under King Philip, and, upon his discomfiture, had fled to continue their barbarities in the remote districts of New Hampshire and Maine.
Major Waldron, who had command of the English troops, was in great perplexity. Many of the Indians of this heterogeneous band had come together in good faith, relying upon his honor and fidelity. But the English soldiers, remembering the savage cruelties of perhaps the majority, were impatient to fall upon them indiscriminately with gun and bayonet. In this dilemma, Major Waldron adopted the following stratagem, which was by some applauded, and by others censured.
He proposed a sham fight, in which the Indians were to be upon one side and the English upon the other. In the course of the manœuvres, he so contrived it that the Indians gave a [Pg 404]grand discharge. At that moment, his troops surrounded and seized their unsuspecting victims, and took them all prisoners, without the loss of a man on either side. He then divided them into classes with as much care as, under the circumstances, could be practiced, though doubtless some mistakes were made. All the fugitives from King Philip's band, and all the Indians in the vicinity who had been recently guilty of bloodshed or outrage, were sent as prisoners to Boston. Here they were tried; seven or eight were executed; the rest, one hundred and ninety-two in number, were transported to the West Indies and sold as slaves.
This measure excited very earnest discussion in the colony. Many condemned it as atrocious, others defended it as a necessity; but the Indians universally were indignant. Even those, two hundred in number, who were set at liberty as acting in good faith, declared that it was an act of infamy which they would never forget nor forgive. The next day these troops proceeded by water to Falmouth, touching at important points by the way.
On the 23d of September, a scouting party of seven visited Mountjoy's Island. An Indian party fell upon them, and all were massacred. [Pg 405]These men were all heads of families, and their deaths occasioned wide-spread woe. Two days after this, on the 25th, a large party of Indians ravaged Cape Neddock, in the town of York, and killed or carried into captivity forty persons. The cruelties they practiced upon the inhabitants are too revolting to be described.
Winter now set in again with tremendous severity. All parties experienced unheard-of sufferings. An Indian chieftain by the name of Mugg, notorious for his sagacity and his mercilessness, now came to the Piscataqua River and proposed peace. The English were eager to accept any reasonable terms. On the 6th of November the treaty was concluded. Its terms were these:
1. All acts of hostility shall cease.
2. English captives and property shall be restored.
3. Full satisfaction shall be rendered to the English for damages received.
4. The Indians shall purchase ammunition only of those whom the governor shall appoint.
5. Certain notorious murderers were to be surrendered to the English.
6. The sachems included in the treaty engaged to take arms against Indians who should still persist in the war.
Notwithstanding this treaty, the aspect of affairs still seemed very gloomy. The Indians were sullen, the conduct of Mugg was very suspicious, threats of the renewal of hostilities were continually reaching the English, and but few captives were restored. Appearances continued so alarming that, on the 7th of February, 1677, a party of one hundred and fifty English and sixty Natick Indians sailed for Casco Bay and the mouth of the Kennebec, to overawe the Indians and to rescue the English captives who might be in their hands. On the 18th of February, Captain Waldron, who commanded this expedition, landed upon Mair Point, about three miles below Maquoit, in Brunswick. They had hardly landed ere they were hailed by a party of Indians. After a few words of parley, in which the Indians appeared far from friendly, they retired, and the English sought for them in vain. About noon the next day a flotilla of fourteen canoes was discovered out in the bay pulling for the shore. The savages landed, and in a few moments a house was seen in flames. The English party hastened to the rescue, fell upon the savages from an unexpected quarter, and killed or wounded several. A flag of truce was presented, which produced another parley.
"Why," inquired Captain Waldron, "do you not bring in the English captives as you promised, and why do you set fire to our houses, and begin again the war?"
"The captives," the Indians replied, "are a great way off, and we can not bring them through the snow; and your soldiers fired upon us first; the house took fire by accident. These are our answers to you."
Captain Waldron, unwilling to exasperate the Indians by useless bloodshed, and finding that no captives could be recovered, sailed to the mouth of the Kennebec, then the Sagadahock. Here he established a garrison on the eastern bank of the river, opposite the foot of Arrowsic Island. With the remainder of his force he proceeded in two vessels to Pemaquid. Here he met a band of Indians, and sending to them a flag of truce, which they respected, the two parties entered into a conference. The Indians, under the guise of peace, were plotting a general massacre. Though both parties had agreed to meet without arms, the savages had concealed a number of weapons, which at a given signal they could grasp.
Captain Waldron, suspecting treachery, was looking around with an eagle eye, when he saw [Pg 408]peering from the leaves the head of a lance. Going directly to the spot, he saw a large number of weapons concealed. He immediately brandished one in the air, exclaiming,
"Perfidious wretches! You intended to massacre us all."
A stout Indian sprang forward and endeavored to wrest the weapon from Waldron's hand. Immediately a scene of terrible confusion ensued. All engaged in a hand to hand fight, with any weapons which could be grasped. The Indians were soon overcome, and fled, some to the woods and others to their canoes. Eleven Indians were killed in this fray, and five were taken captive. The expedition then returned to Arrowsic, where they put on board their vessels some guns, anchors, and other articles which had escaped the flames, and then set sail for Boston.
As soon as the snow melted, the savages renewed their depredations, but Maine was now nearly depopulated. With the exception of the garrison opposite Arrowsic, there was no settlement east of Portland. There was a small fort at Casco, and a few people in garrison at Black Point and Winter Harbor. A few intrepid settlers still remained in the towns of[Pg 409] York, Wells, Kittery, and South Berwick. The Indians harassed them during the whole summer with robberies, conflagrations, and murders. Winter again came with its storms and its intensity of cold. The united sagamores now, with apparent sincerity, implored peace. On the 12th of February, 1678, Squando, with all the sachems of the tribes upon the Androscoggin and the Kennebec, met the commissioners from Massachusetts at the fort at Casco. The English were so anxious for peace that they agreed to the following terms, which many considered very humiliating, but which were nevertheless vastly preferable to the longer continuance of this horrible warfare.
1. The captives were to be immediately released, without ransom.
2. All offenses on both sides, of every kind, were to be forgiven and forgotten.
3. The English were to pay the Indians, as rent for the land, a peck of corn for every English family, and for Major Phillips, of Saco, who was a great proprietor, a bushel of corn.
Thus this dreadful war was brought to a close. It is estimated that during its continuance six hundred men lost their lives, twelve hundred houses were burned, and eight thousand [Pg 410]cattle destroyed. But the amount of misery created can never be told or imagined. The midnight assault, the awful conflagration, the slaughter of women and children, the horrors of captivity in the wilderness, the impoverishment and moaning of widows and orphans, the diabolical torture, piercing the wilderness with the shrill shriek of mortal agony, the terror, universal and uninterrupted by day or by night—all, all combined in composing a scene in the awful tragedy of human life which the mind of Deity alone can comprehend.
[A] There is much evidence that this was the celebrated John Hampden, renowned in the time of Charles I, and to whom Gray, in his Elegy, alludes:
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