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sails and returned in safety to Plymouth.

The Governor and his assistants in Massachu-
setts Bay, hearing of this utter failure of the expedi-
tion, became alarmed in reference to their own safety.
They wrote very earnestly to Plymouth, saying :

" We desire that you would, with all convenient
speed, send some man of trust, furnished with in-
structions from yourselves, to make such agreement
with us about this business, as may be useful for you
and equal for us."

Captain Standish, with Mr. Prince, was immedi-
ately sent to Massachusetts with full powers to act in
accordance with instructions given them. The ne-
gotiations, however, failed ; as the Massachusetts
colonists were still not prepared to pay their share of
the expense. The French remained undisturbed on
the Penobscot. They carried on a vigorous trade


with the Indians, supplying them abundantly with
muskets and ammunition.

The terrible mortality, which had swept away so
many thousand Indians from the Connecticut, turned
the attention of the Massachusetts colonists again to
that beautiful and fertile region. The Dutch claimed
the country. The Plymouth colony claimed it. And
now the Massachusetts colonists were putting in their
claim. Jonathan Brewster, the oldest son of Elder
Brewster, was at the head of the little Plymouth
settlement at Windsor. The following extracts from
one of his letters addressed to the authorities at
Plymouth, give a very clear idea of the state of the
question at that time. The letter is dated Matianuck
(Windsor), July 6, 1835.

" The Massachusetts men are coming almost
daily, some by water and some by land, who are not
yet determined where to settle, though some have a
great mind to the place we are upon, and which was
last bought. Many of them look for that which this
river will not afford, except it be at this place, to be a
great town and have commodious dwellings for many
together. I shall do what I can to withstand them.
I hope that they will hear reason ; as that we were
here first, and entered with much difficulty and dan-
ger, both in regard of the Dutch and Indians, and
bought the land and have since held here a chargea-



ble possession, and kept the Dutch from further
encroaching, who would else, long ere this, have
possessed all, and kept out all others.

" It was your will that we should use their persons
and messengers kindly ; and so we have done, and
do daily to your great charge. For the first company
had well nigh starved had it not been for this house ;
I being forced to supply twelve men for nine days
together. And those who came last I helped the
best we could, helping them both with canoes and
guides. They got me to go with them to the Dutch,
to see if I could procure some of them to have
quiet settling near them ; but they did peremptorily
withstand them. Also I gave their goods house-
room, according to their earnest request. What
trouble and charge I shall be further at I know not ;
for they are coming daily, and I expect those back
again from below, whither they are gone to view the
country. All which trouble and charge we undergo
for their occasion, may give us just cause, in the
judgment of all wise and understanding men, to hold
and keep that we are settled upon." *

The question was finally settled by treaty, and the
Massachusetts colonists soon planted settlements at
Wethersfield, Hartford, and some other places on the
river. There were three dominant nations, if we may

* Bradford's Plymouth Plantation, p. 339.


so call them, at this time, in southern New England.
The chiefs of these nations exercised a sort of feudal
domination over many petty tribes. The Wampa-
noags, under Massasoit, held the present region of
Massachusetts generally. The Narragansets, under
Canonicus, occupied Rhode Island. The Pequots,
under Sassacus, extended their dominion over nearly
the whole of Connecticut. These tribes, powerful
and jealous, were almost invariably engaged in hostil-
ities. Roger Williams estimated the number of
Pequots at thirty thousand souls. They could bring
four thousand warriors into the field. The seat of
their chief was at Groton, near New London. Twenty-
six smaller tribes were held in subjection by him.
The Pequots were deemed the most fierce and cruel
race of all the tribes who dwelt in New England.

The Narragansets were a nobler race of men.
They somewhat surpassed the Pequots in numbers,
and manifested traits of character far more generous
and magnanimous. They could bring five thousand
warriors into the field. The seat of Canonicus, their
.chief, was not far from the present town of Newport.

The Wampanoags had suffered terribly from the
pestilence which ravaged New England just before
the arrival of the Pilgrims. The number of their
warriors had been reduced from over three thousand
to about five hundred. Early in the year 1637 tne


Pequots began to manifest decided hostility against
the English. There was a small settlement at Say-
brook, near the mouth of the Connecticut river. As
the colonists were at work in the fields, unsuspicious
of danger, a band of Indians fell upon them and killed
several men and women. The Indians retired with
loud boastings and threats. Soon after they came in
larger numbers and attacked a fort. Though they
were repelled, their attack was so bold and spirited as
to astonish the English and cause them great alarm.

The Peqots endeavored to make peace with the
Narragansets, that they might enter into an alliance
with them against the English. Not a little ability
was displayed in the plan of operations which they
suggested. " We have no occasion to fear," they said,
" the strength of the English. We need not come to
open battle with them. We can set fire to their
houses, shoot their cattle, lie in ambush for them
whenever they go abroad. Thus we can utterly de-
stroy them without any danger to ourselves. The
English will be either starved to death, or will be
compelled to leave the country."

For a time the Narragansets listened to these re-
presentations, being quite inclined to accept them.
The anxiety of the English was very great. They
desired only peace, with the prosperity it would bring.
War and its ruin they greatly deplored.


The Pilgrims did everything which could be done
to avoid the Pequot war; but it \^s forced upon
them. Sassacus was a very shrewd man, and laid-
very broad plans for his military operations. He could
summon thousands of warriors who would fall furi-
ously upon all the scattered settlements, lay them in
ashes, and massacre the inhabitants.

In the year 1634, just after a very flourishing trad-
ing post had been established on the Connecticut
river at Windsor, two English traders, Captains Nor-
ton and Stone, ascended the river in a boat, laden
with valuables for the Indian trade, which they in-
tended to exchange for furs. These traders had eight
white boatmen in their employ. The Indians were
peaceful, and they had no apprehensions of danger.
One night, as the boat was moored by the side of the
stream, a band of Indians, with hideous yells, rushed
from an ambush upon them, put every man to death
and, having plundered the boat of all its contents,
sunk it in the stream.

These traders were from Massachusetts. This
powerful colony demanded of Sassacus that the mur-
derers should be surrendered to them, and that pay-
ment should be made for the plundered goods. The
bloody deed had been performed at midnight in the
glooms of the forest. There was no survivor to tell
the story. Sassacus fabricated one, very ingeniously,


to palm off upon the English. No one could deny
the villany of Captain Hunt, who, some years before,
had kidnapped several Indians and sold them into
slavery. Sassacus declared that Captains Norton and
Stone, without any provocation, had seized two Indi-
ans, bound them hand and foot in their boat, and were
about to carry them off, no one knew where.

The friends of these captives crept cautiously
along the shore watching for an opportunity to rescue
them. The white men were all thoroughly armed
with swords and muskets, rendering any attempt to
rescue the captives extremely perilous. The right
of self-defense rendered it necessary, in the conflict
which would ensue, to kill. In the darkness of the
night they rushed upon the boat which was drawn up
to the shore, killed the white men and released the
captives. He also stated that all the Indians engaged
in the affray, excepting two, had since died of the

This plausible story could not be disproved. The
magistrates of Massachusetts, high-minded and hon-
orable men, wished to treat the Indians not merely
with justice, but with humanity. It could not be
denied that, admitting the facts to be as stated by
Sassacus, the Indians had performed a heroic act
one for which they deserved praise rather than cen-
sure. The Governor of Massachusetts therefore ac-


cepted this explanation, and resumed his friendly alli-
ance with the treacherous Pequots.

Roger Williams, who had taken up his residence.
in Rhode Island, had secured the confidence of the
Indians to a wonderful degree. He exposed himself,
apparently, to the greatest perils, without any sense
of danger. He had acquired wonderful facility in
speaking the language of the Narragansets, in the
midst of whom he dwelt. There were still so many
indications that the Pequots were plotting hostilities,
that the Governor and Council of Massachusetts wrote
to Mr. Williams, urging him to go to the seat of Can-
onicus, and dissuade him from entering into any coali-
tion with the Pequots, should such be in process of
formation. This truly good man immediately left his
home and embarked alone, in a canoe, to skirt the
coast of Narraganset Bay, upon his errand of mercy.
It is probable that he made this journey in a birch
canoe, paddling his way over the smooth waters of the
sheltered bays. He encountered many hardships,
and many great perils, as occasional storms arose,
dashing the surf upon the shore. After several days
of such lonely voyaging, he reached the royal res-
idence of Canonicus. The barbarian chieftain was
at home, and it so happened that when Mr. Wil-
liams arrived at his wigwam, he found several Pe-
quot warriors there, who had come on an embas-


sage from Sassacus to engage the Narragansets in
the war.

For three days this bold man remained alone
among these savages, endeavoring, in every way, to
thwart the endeavors of the Pequot warriors. These
agents of Sassacus were enraged at Mr. Williams' in-
fluence in circumventing their plans. They plotted
his massacre, and every night Mr. Williams had occa-
sion to fear that he would not behold the light of
another morning. But Canonicus, unlettered savage
as he was, had sufficient intelligence to appreciate
the fearlessness and true grandeur of character of Mr.
Williams. He dismissed the discomfited Pequots,
refusing to enter into any alliance with them. He
renewed his treaty of friendship with the English, and
engaged to send a large party of his warriors to co-
operate with them in repelling the threatened assault
of the Pequots.

The benefits thus conferred upon the English by
the efforts of Mr. Roger Williams were incalculable.
Many distant tribes, who were on the eve of joining
Sassacus, alarmed by the defection of the Narragan-
sets, also withdrew ; and thus the Pequots were com-
pelled to enter upon the war with forces considerably
weaker than they had originally intended. Still they
were foes greatly to be dreaded. The English settle-
ments were now widely scattered, and each was in


itself feeble. The Pequots could marshal four thou-
sand of as fierce warriors as earth has ever see .
A small bag of pounded corn would furnish each war-
rior with food for many days. They could traverse
the forest trails with almost the velocity of the wind.
Rushing upon some unprotected hamlet ar midnight,
with torch and tomahawk, they could, in one awful
hour, leave behind them but smouldering ashes and
gory corpses. Disappearing, like wolves, in the im-
penetrable forest, they could again rush upon any
lonely farm-house, leagues away, and thus, with but
little danger to themselves, spread ruin far and wide.
No man in the scattered settlements could fall asleep
at night without the fear that the hideous war-whoop
of the Indian would rouse him and his family to a
cruel death before morning.

The Pequots were continually perpetrating new
acts of violence, while the English, with great for-
bearance, were doing everything in their power to
avert the open breaking out of hostilities. To add to
the embarrassment of the English they received con-
clusive evidence that Captains Norton and Stone,
with their boats' crew, were wantonly murdered by
the Indians, and that the statement of extenuating
circumstances, made by Sassacus, was an entire fab-
rication. The forbearance of the English only stimu-
lated the insolence of the Pequots.


In July 1635, John Oldham ventured on a trading
expedition to the Pequot country. He went as an
agent of the Massachusetts colony, one object being
to ascertain the disposition of the savages. The In-
dians captured his boat, killed Captain Oldham, hor-
ribly mutilating his body, and the rest of the crew, two
or three in number, were carried off as captives. The
time for attempts at conciliation was at an end. It
was resolved to prosecute the war with all vigor, and
so to punish the Pequots as to give them a new idea
of the power of the English, and to present a warning
to all the other savages against the repetition of such

Plymouth colony furnished fifty soldiers, com-
manded by Captain Miles Standish. Massachusetts
raised two hundred men. The settlements on the
Connecticut furnished ninety men. The Mohegans
and Narragansets sent to the English camp of ren-
dezvous about two hundred warriors, promising many
more. It was decided to strike the Pequots a sudden
and heavy blow. We cannot here enter into the de-
tails of the fierce and decisive war which ensued.

These military bands rendezvoused on the shores
of Narraganset bay, and commenced a rapid march
through the forest. The Narragansets were exceed-
ingly jubilant in the prospect of inflicting vengeance
upon a foe who had often compelled them to bite the


dust. As they hurried along through the narrow trails
towards the Pequot territory, volunteer Narragansets
joined them until five hundred feathered warriors
were in their train.

The Indian guides led them to a strong fort, on
the banks of the river Mystic. A large number of
Pequot warriors were assembled here, quite unappre-
hensive of the attack which was about to fall terribly
upon them. Silently, in the night, the English and
the Indians surrounded them, that there might be no

" And so," writes Governor Bradford, " assaulted
them with great courage, shooting amongst them, and
entering the fort with all speed. Those that first
entered found sharp resistance from the enemy, who
both shot at and grappled with them. Others ran
into their houses, and brought out fire and set them
on fire, which soon took in their mats, and, standing
close together, with the wind, all was quickly in a
flame. Thereby more were burned to death than
were otherwise slain. It burned their bow-strings,
and rendered them unserviceable. Those that es-
caped the fire were slain with the sword. Some were
hewed to pieces, others were run through with their
rapiers, so that 1hey were quickly dispatched, and
very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus
destroyed about four hundred at this time.


" It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in
the fire, the streams of blood quenching the same,
and horrible was the scent thereof. But the victory
seamed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise
thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for
them, thus to give them so speedy a victory over so
proud and insulting an enemy." *

" The Narraganset Indians all this while stood round
about, but aloof from all danger, and left the whole
execution to the English, except it were the stopping
of any that broke away ; insulting over their enemies
in this their ruin and misery, when they were writhing
in the flames. After this service was thus happily ac-
complished, they marched to the water side, where
they met with some of their vessels, by which they
had refreshing with victuals and other necessaries."

The war was continued with vigor, and the Pequot
warriors became nearly exterminated. Sassacus fled
to the Mohawks, in New York. They cut off his
head. Thus the war ended. The Pequots were no
longer to be feared. Driven from their homes, they
took refuge, in their dispersion, in different tribes,
and this formidable barbaric nation became extinct.

War is always demoralizing. Many, rioting in its
scenes o: carnage and of crime, lose all sense of hu-
manity, and become desperadoes. After the close of

* Bradford's Plymouth Plantation, p. 363.


the Pequot war, a young fellow, lusty and desperate,
by the name of Arthur Peach, who had done valiant
service in cutting down the Indians, felt a strong dis-
inclination to return to the monotony of peaceful life.
He became thoroughly dissolute, a wild adventurer,
ripe for any crime. To escape the consequences of
some of his misdeeds, he undertook, with three boon
companions, as bad as himself, to escape to the Dutch
colony at the mouth of the Hudson. As they were
travelling through the woods they stopped to rest,
and, kindling 1 a fire, sat down to smoke their pipes.
An Indian came along, who had a quantity of wam-
pum, which had become valuable as currency, recog-
nized by all the tribes. They invited him to sit down
and smoke with them. As they were thus smoking to-
gether, Peach said to his companions that he meant
to kill the Indian, " for the rascal," said he, " has un-
doubtedly killed many white men." The Indian, who
did not understand English, was unsuspicious of dan-
ger. Peach, watching his opportunity, thrust his
sword through his body once or twice, and taking
from him his wampum and some other valuables, he
and his companions hurried on their way, leaving him
as they supposed, dead.

Though mortally wounded, the Indian so far re-
vived as to reach some of his friends, when, having
communicated to them the facts of the murder, he


died. The men were all arrested. The proof was so
positive that they made no denial of their guilt. They
were all condemned, and three were executed, one
having made his escape. Francis Baylies, comment-
ing upon this occurrence, writes :

" This execution is an undeniable proof of that
stern sense of duty which was cherished by the Pil-
grims. To put three Englishmen to death for the
murder of one Indian, without compulsion, or with-
out any apprehension of consequences, for it does not
appear that any application was made on the part of
the Indians, for the punishment of the murderers,
and they might have been pacified by the death of
one, and probably even without that, denotes a de-
gree of moral culture unknown in new settlements.
It stands in our annals without a parallel instance.
The truth of the fact is avouched by all our early his-
torians, and it stands an eternal and imperishable
monument of stern, unsparing, inflexible justice.
And, in all probability it was not without its earthly
reward, for the Indians, convinced of the justice of
the English, abstained from all attempts to avenge
their wrongs, by their own acts, for many years." *

The Plymouth colonists were still much embar-
rassed in consequence of their relations with their
partners in England, to whom they were still consid-

* Memoir of Plymouth Colony, by Francis Baylies, p. 249.


erably indebted. The agent of the company there
wrote that he could not make up his accounts, unless
some one from the colony should come over to Eng-
land to aid him ; and he urged that Mr. Winslow
should be sent. But Mr. Winslow was afraid to go.
Neither was he willing that any of his partners should
go. The angry tone of letters from England led him
to apprehend serious danger. " For he was per-
suaded," writes Governor Bradford, " that if any of
them went they would be arrested, and an action of
such a sum laid upon them as they should not procure
bail, but must lie in prison; and then they would
bring them to what they list."

Still it was very important that some one should
go. Captain Standish was applied to. He seems to
have had as little fear of an English prison as of the
tomahawks and arrows of the Indians. Without any
hesitancy he was ready to embark in the perilous en-
terprise. But upon mature deliberation his more
cautious friends decided it not to be prudent to ex-
pose him to such peril. But the spirit of justice,
which inspired them in all their transactions, is again
conspicuous. They offered to submit the matter to
any gentlemen and merchants of the Massachusetts
colony, whom the company in England themselves
might choose. Before these commissioners both sides
snould have a hearing. " We will be bound," they


added, " to stand by their decision, and make good
their award, though it should cost us all we have in
the world."

The company in England declined this magnani-
mous offer. In the year 1645 Elder Brewster died, at
the advanced age of eighty-four years. He was in
Duxbury the next neighbor and the ever warm friend
of Miles Standish. Among the remarkable men who
composed the Plymouth colony, he was one of the
most remarkable. By birth, education and wealth he
occupied a high position in English society. In his
earlier days he was the companion of ministers of
state. He was familiar with the magnificence of
courts, having represented his sovereign in foreign
embassage. His ample fortune had accustomed him
to the refinements and elegances of life. He might
doubtless have spent his days in ease, honor and opu-
lence. But, true to his religious convictions, all these
he cast aside to share the lot of the humble and per-
secuted Puritans. He deemed conformity to the mode
of worship adopted by the Parliament as sinful. And
" he chose rather to suffer affliction with the people
of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a sea-
son." In the records of the first church in Plymouth
we find a very noble tribute to his memory, probably
written by Secretary Morton. Speaking of his era-


bassage, in his early manhood, to the Low Countries,
with Mr. Davison, Mr. Morton writes,

" He received possession of the cautionary towns ;
and, in token thereof, the keys of Flushing being de-
livered to him in her majesty's name, he kept them
for some time, and committed them to his servant,
who kept them under his pillow on which he slept,
the first night, and, on his return the States honored
him with a gold chain, which his master committed to
him, and commanded him to wear it when they ar-
rived in England, as they rode through the country
until they came to the court.

" Afterwards he went and lived in the country, in
good esteem among his friends and the good gen-
tlemen of those parts, especially the godly and re-
ligious. He did much good in the country where he
lived, in promoting and furthering religion, not only
by his practice and example, and encouraging others,
but by procuring good preachers for the places there-
abouts, and drawing on others to assist and help for-
ward in such a work, he himself commonly deepest in
the charge and often above his abilities. In this state
he continued many years, doing the best good he
could, and walking according to the light he saw, un-
til the Lord revealed further unto him.

" And, in the end, by the tyranny of the bishops
against godly preachers and people, in silencing the


one, and persecuting the other, he, with many more
of those times, began to look further into particulars,
and to see into the unlawfulness of their callings, and
the burden of many anti-Christian corruptions, which
both he and they endeavored to cast off, as they also

" After they were joined into communion he was

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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMiles Standish, the Puritan captain .. → online text (page 18 of 21)