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The Pequot War





In 1636 John Oldlmm, a trader from Watertown, Massachusetts, was murdered by the Pequotas while lying off Block Island. The expedition under Governor John Endicott, of Salem, despatched to avenge (his massacre and to demand Submission from the Pequots, succeeded only in injuring a few innocent natives, and in irritating without intimidating the warlike nation; not only raising new hope and audacity in the breasts of the Pequots, but also inducing a kind of contempt for the English in the large and powerful tribe of the Narragansetts, inhabiting the territory now covered by Rhode Island. There was imminent danger, by reason of this turn in affairs, that the Pequots would draw their old enemies, the Narragansctts, into league with themselves.

Without this alliance, however, the Pequots were greatly emboldened. They knew that all the Indian tribes, far around, were afraid of them, and they now had some reason to think that the white people were equally afraid. It will be remembered that John Winthrop, Jr., began to build a fort in 1685, at the mouth of the Connecticut River, with the men and the money he had brought over from England. It was of course well understood by (he Indians that this fort was a part of the system, offensive and defensive, by which the English were trying to establish themselves in the country, and this place therefore became an object against which the Pequots directed their hostilities. From the fall of 1635 on through the following winter squads of Pequots were lurking in the forests about this fort, never daring to come up and attack it bodily, but watching and waiting to cut off any persons who might be passing to or from distant places, or who might have to come outside the fort for any purpose whatever. Lion Gardiner, under whoso care and oversight (lie fort had been built, had been left in charge of the same through that long and dreary winter. But the crowning act of audacity which brought matters at once to a crisis was perpetrated in the early spring of 1636, when a party of Pequots, about one hundred in number, found their way to the infant settlement at Wethersfield, where they killed nine men and carried away captive two girls.

It was now apparent that the Pequots had entered upon a course of hostilities which would not stop until their power was curbed or crushed. Under such circumstances the General Court came together at Hartford on the first day of May, 1637, and the first entry in the record of that meeting is as follows:

" It is ordered that there shalbe an offensive warr agt the Pequoitt, and that there shalbe 90 men levied out of the 3 Plantacons, Hartford, Weathersfield, & Windsor (viz1) out of Harteford 42, Windsor 30, Weathersfield 18, under the comande of Captain Jo: Mason, & in Case of his death or sickness under command

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of Seely Leift & the "Idest s'ieant or military officer survivinge, if both these miscarry."

The Massachusetts and the Plymouth colonies agreed to render aid in this war. Massachusetts in a special session of the General Court ordered a levy of one hundred and sixty men and voted 600. The military forces of the Massachusetts colony were placed under the command of Major Israel Stoughton, who afterward went back to England and commanded a regiment in Cromwell's army.

It was on the 10th of May that the little army of ninety whites and seventy friendly Indians went down the river and landed at Saybrook the Monday morning following. Mr. Samuel Stone, associate minister with Mr. Thomas Hooker, of Hartford, was chaplain. At Saybrook Captain John Undereill, with nineteen men, joined Captain Mason's army, and twenty men were sent back from Saybrook more effectually to guard the river settlements, which had been left in an exposed condition, so that no more than seventy of tho men gathered out of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield went forward to the great battle. Of these, so far as it has been possible to recover their names, Dr. Trumbull has made the following enrolment:

From Hartford: Thomas Bull, Wm. Blumfield, John Brunson, Thos. Bunce, Thos. Barnes, Peter Blachford, Benjamin Burr, John Clarke, Nicholas Clarke, Sergt. Philip Davis, Nichs Desborougb, Thomas Hales, Samuel Hales, William Haydon, John Hills, John Hallaway, Thos Hollybut (Hurlburt),Benjamin Munn, Nich. Jennings Nich. Olmsted, Richard Olmsted, John Perkas, William Pratt, Wm. Phillips, Thos Root, Thomas Spencer, Arthur Smith, Thomas Stanton, Rev. Samuel Stone, George Steele, Samuel Whitehead, John Warner, Stephen Hart, Zachary Field, William Cornwell, Thomas Munson.

From Windsor : Serj. Benedict Alvord, Thos. Buckland, Thomas Barber, John Dyer, Richard Osborn, Thos Styles, Serj. Stares, Thomas Parsons, Thomas Gridley, William Trail, Nathan Gillett, James Egleston, Geo. Chappell, Capt. John Mason,

From Wethersfleld: John Johnson, Jeremy Jagger, Lieut. Robert Seeley, Richard Westcoat, Merriman, Thomas Standish, Thos Tibballs, Henry Smith, John Nott,

Of the Men from Saybrook : Capt. John Underhill, Edward Pattison, James Rogers, Edward Lay, John Gallop, John Woods,

In all here are sixty-six ; but Dr. Trumbull notes the family name of another, Mr. Hedge, who was certainly in the battle and was probably from Windsor. Captain Mason in his narrative says: " A valiant, resolute Gentleman, one Mr. Hedge, stepping towards the gate (of the Port), saying, "If we may not enter, wherefore came we here," and immediately endeavoured to enter." This makes sixty-seven. Captain Mason states that there were but seventy-seven white men actually in the battle. Of the original ninety, several had to be left to guard and man the vessels, while the others went to the fight ; and none of these should be deprived of the honors of the expedition.

Captain Mason concluded to take " the farthest way about," instead of the Pequot (Thames) River, and when the winds were propitious set sail for the Narragansett country. They started off on a Friday morning and reached the place where they were to land Saturday evening, but did not go on shore. They kept quietly in their vessels over the Sabbath, and doubtless Chaplain (the Rev. Samuel) Stone held religious services 011 board. On Monday the wind blew so strongly from the northwest that they could not safely land. So was it on Tuesday till near night, when it became calmer. As soon as they had landed they found the nearest Narragansett sachem and explained the object of (heir expedition; and he gave full leave, as they had anticipated, to march through his country. So (hey left certain men with the vessels and proceeded on their way. The place where they had landed was not far off from Point Judith, and the distance from there to the Pequot Fort, in a straight line, could not have been more than about twenty-five miles ; but by devious ways their marches, in all, seem to have been from thirty to thirty-live miles before reaching the enemy.

Captain Mason and his men setting out on Wednesday morning marched about eighteen miles to Nyantick, where they passed Wednesday night. Though the sachem here was ungracious, yet friendly Indians from the Narragansctts joined themselves to the river Indians with whom they set out, till they had in their train not far from five hundred Indians, of whose treachery they were the more afraid because they were dependent upon their help.

When Mason landed near Point Judith a messenger arrived reporting that Captain Daniel Patrick had reached what is now Providence, on his way from Massachusetts with a military force, and asking Captain Mason to wait till he could join him. But Mason feared that any delay now would only give the Pequots an opportunity to discover his plans, and he determined to go forward without waiting for the reinforcements. On Thursday morning he started from the Nyantick country and marched about twelve miles, when they made a halt of some hours to rest and refresh themselves. Toward night they moved on three miles till they came into the immediate vicinity of the fort, without giving any knowledge of their approach,

Next morning was Friday, and in the early morning the terrible blow was delivered, by gun, by sword, by fire, or in any way to insure the quickest and most wholesale destruction of men, women, and children. Captain Mason sums up the result of that attack in these words : " And thus in little more than one Hour's space was their impregnable fort with themselves utterly Destroyed, to the number of six or seven Hundred, as some of themselves confessed. There were only seven taken captive and about seven escaped."

Captain John Underhill, who was in the fight, says : " There were about four hundred souls in the fort, and not above five of them escaped out of our hands."

It is not needful that we should repeat the horrible details of that battle. Palfrey in his History has summed up this whole matter in a paragraph admirable for its wisdom and charity.