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from Cape Cod."

The question was then very earnestly and anx-
iously discussed, whether they should decide upon
Cold Harbor for their settlement, or send out another
expedition on an exploring tour. Those who were in
3*



58 MILES STANDISH.

favor of Cold Harbor for their settlement, wished to
locate their dwellings upon the bluff, at the entrance
of Pamet River, now called Old Tom's Hill. The ar-
guments they urged were, that there was there a con-
venient harbor for boats ; convenient corn land ready
to their hands ; that Cape Cod would be a good place
for fishing, as they daily saw great whales swimming
about ; that the place was healthy and defensible,
and most important of all, that the heart of winter
had come, and that they could not embark on more
exploring tours without danger of losing both boat
and men. The question, however, was settled in the
negative, in view of the shallowness of the harbor,
the barrenness of the land, and the inadequate sup-
ply of fresh water.

But very little was then known of Massachusetts
Bay. But the second mate of the ship, Robert Cop-
pin, had been in that region before. He said that
upon the other side of the Bay, at a distance of about
twenty-five miles, in a direct line west from Cape Cod,
was a large navigable river with a good harbor. It
was decided immediately to fit out another expedition
to explore the whole coast of Massachusetts Bay, as
far as the mouth of that fabulous river, but not to go
beyond that point. A party of ten picked men,
among whom were Governor Carver and William
Bradford, set out in the shallop in the afternoon of the



EXPLORING THE COAST. 59

6th of December, upon this all-important expedition,
in which it seemed absolutely necessary that they
should select some spot on which to establish their
colony. They were well armed and provisioned, and
it was certain that they would leave nothing untried
which human energy could accomplish. It was a per-
ilous enterprise in the dead of winter, in a compara-
tively open boat upon a storm-swept sea.

A cold wind ploughed the bay, raising such waves
that many of the voyagers were deathly sick. It was
late in the afternoon before they succeeded in clearing
the harbor. The severity of the winter weather was
such that the spray, dashing over them, was immedi-
ately frozen, covering them "with coats of ice. They
ran down the coast in a southerly direction, about
twenty miles, when, doubling a point of land, they
entered a small shallow cove, where they discovered
twelve Indians on the beach, cutting up a grampus.
As they turned their bow towards the land the In-
dians fled, and soon disappeared in the stunted growth

v

behind the sand hills. The water in the little bay
was so shallow that they found it difficult to approach
the shore. At last they effected a landing about three
miles from the point where they had seen the Indians,
but even then they had to wade several yards through
the water up to their knees. As the weather was in-
tensely cold, this caused much suffering.



60 MILES STANDISH.

It was quite dark before they reached the land.
With considerable difficulty they constructed a barri-
cade of logs, to shelter them from the wind, and also
to protect them from the arrows of the natives, should
they be attacked. Sentinels were stationed to keep
a vigilant guard, a roaring fire was built, and our
weary exiles, wrapped in their cloaks and with their
feet to the fire, soon forgot, for a few hours, all their
troubles in the oblivion of sleep. During the night
the sentinels could see, at the distance of but a few
miles, the gleam of the camp fire of the Indians.

In the morning the company divided, a part to fol-
low along the shore through the woods to see if they
could find any suitable place for their settlement,
while the rest sailed along slowly in the boat, noticing
the depth of water and watching for harbors. Thus
the day passed without any successful results. Those
on the shore followed an Indian trail for some dis-
tance into the woods. They came to a large burying
place, surrounded with a palisade and quite thickly
filled with graves. As the sun of the short winter's
day was sinking," and the shades of another night were
coming on, the boat put into a small creek, where its
inmates were soon joined by the party from the
woods. They met joyfully, for they had not seen one
another since the morning, and some anxiety was felt
for the safety of those upon the shore.



EXPLORING THE COAST. 6 1

G" /ernor Bradford, who was of the party, says that
they i lade a barricade, as they were accustomed to
do ev< ry night, of logs, stakes and thick pine boughs,
the height of a man, leaving it open to the leeward,
partly to shelter it from the cold and winds, making
their fire in the middle and lying round about it, and
partly to defend them from any assaults of the sava-
ges, if they should attack them. So, being very weary,
they betook themselves to rest.

" But about midnight they heard a hideous and
great cry, and their sentinel called ' arm ! arm ! ' So
they bestirred themselves and stood to their arms and
shot off a couple of muskets, and then the noise
ceased. They concluded that it was a company of
wolves, or such like wild beasts ; for one of the seamen
told them that he had often heard such a noise in New-
foundland. So they rested till about five of the clock
in the morning, for the tide and their purpose to go
from thence made them bestirring betimes.

" After prayer they prepared for breakfast, and it
being day-dawning, it was thought best to be carrying
things down to the boat. But some said that it was
not best to carry the arms down ; others said they
would be the readier, for they had wrapped them up
in their coats, from the dew. But some three or four
would not carry theirs until they went themselves;
yet, as it fell out, those who took their arms to the



62 MILES STANDISH.

boat, the water not being high enough for the boat to
come to the shore, they laid them down upon the bank
and came back to breakfast.

" But presently, all on the sudden, they heard a
great and strange cry, which they knew to be the
same voices which they heard in the night, though
they varied their notes ; and one of their company
being abroad, came running in and cried, ' Indians !
Indians ! ' Immediately a shower of arrows fell upon
the encampment. Then men ran with all speed to
recover their arms, as by the good providence of God
they succeeded in doing.

" In the mean time, Captain Miles Standish, hav-
ing a snaphance * ready, made a shot, and, after him,
another. After they two had shot, other two were
ready ; but Captain Standish wished us not to shoot
till we could take aim, for he knew not what need we
should have. Then there were four only of us which
had their arms there ready, and stood before the open
side of our barricade which was first assaulted. They
thought it best to defend it lest the enemy should
take it and our stuff, and so have the more vantage
against us."

From the hideous yells of the Indians it seemed
as though the woods were full of them. There might

* A musket with a flint lock.



EXPLORING THE COAST. 63

be ten or twenty Indians to one white man. It was
greatly to be feared that they might, by a sudden rush,
seize the shallop, and thus cut off all possibility of
retreat. Captain Standish, therefore, immediately
divided his little army of ten men, leaving five to de-
fend the barricade and five to protect the boat. In
the midst of the terrific turmoil and storm of Indian
missiles, the two divisions, separated but by a dis-
tance of a few yards, cheered each other by encour-
aging words. Most of the guns were matchlocks.
Those by the shallop called for a firebrand to light
their matches. One seized from the fire a burning
log and carried it to them. The Indians seemed to
understand the act, for they redoubled the fury of
their yells.

The thick winter garments of the Pilgrims and
their coats of mail effectually protected a large portion
of their bodies from the arrows of the natives. The
arrows as, unlike bullets they could be seen in their
flight, could also be dodged. There was one Indian,
of gigantic stature, apparently more brave than the
rest, who seemed to be the leader of the band. He
was in advance of all the other Indians, and, standing
behind a large tree, within half musket shot of the
encampment, let fly his arrows with wonderful strength
and accuracy of aim, while his voice, rising above the
:lin of the conflict, animated them to courage and ex-



64 MILES STANDISIL

ertion. Three arrows which he shot were avoided
by stooping. Three musket shots, which were aimed
at him, struck the tree, causing the bark and splinters
to fly about his ears, but he was unharmed. Captain
Standish devoted his special attention to this chief.
Watching his opportunity, when the arm of the sav-
age was exposed, in the attempt to throw . another
shaft, he succeeded in striking it with a bullet. The
shattered arm dropped helpless. * The savage gazed
for a moment in apparent bewilderment and dismay,
upon the mangled and bleeding limb, and then, as if
conscious that he had fought his last battle, uttered a
peculiar and distressing cry, which was probably the
signal for retreat, and dodging from tree to tree, dis-
appeared.

His warriors followed his example, and were speed-
ily lost in the solitude and silence of the forest.
Their flight was so instantaneous into the glooms
which surrounded them, that scarcely one moment
elapsed ere not an Indian was to be seen, and the de-
moniac clamor of war gave place to the sacred quie-
tude of the untenanted wilderness. Captain Standish
led his heroic little band, driving before them they
knew not how many hundreds of Indians, nearly a
quarter of a mile. Then they shot off two muskets

* Johnson's Wonder Working Providence.



EXPLORING THE COAST. 65

and gave three loud cheers, " that they might see,"
Governor Bradford writes, " that we were not afraid
of them, nor discouraged. Then the English, who
more thirsted for their conversion than their destruc-
tion, returned to their boat without receiving any
damage."

The first act of these devout men, upon returning
to their encampment, was to give thanks to God for
their great deliverance. There was a sublimity in this
Te Deum, from the lips of these exiles, as in the twi-
light of the wintry morning, exposed to wind and rain,
they bowed reverently around their camp fire, which
never could have been surpassed by peals from choir
and organ, resounding through the groined arches of
the cathedrals of Saint Peter, Notre Dame or Saint
Paul.

The escape of the Pilgrims, unharmed, from this
shower of missiles, was indeed wonderful. The arrows
of the Indians were thrown with great force, and be-
ing pointed with flint and bone, would, when hitting
fairly, pierce the thickest clothing. Some of them
were barbed with brass, probably obtained from some
fisherman's vessel. When striking any unprotected
portion of the body, they would inflict a very danger-
ous and painful wound. But no one was hurt. Some
overcoats which were hung up in the barricade were
pierced through and through. Arrows were sticking



66 MILES STANDISH.

in the logs, and many were found beneath the leaves.
They collected quite a number of them, and sent
them back to England as curiosities.

It is supposed that the scene of this conflict, was
at what is now called Great Meadow Creek, in East-
ham, about a mile northeast from Rock Harbor. The
Pilgrims named the place The First Encounter.

It was indeed a gloomy morning of clouds and
rain and chill wind which now opened before these
stout-hearted wanderers. The surf dashed sullenly
upon the shore. The gale, sweeping the ocean, and
moaning through the sombre firs and pines, drove the
sheeted mist, like spectral apparitions of ill omen,
over the land and the sea. As the Pilgrims re-em-
barked the rain changed to sleet. A day of suffer-
ing and of great peril was manifestly before them.
The gale rapidly increased in violence. The billows
dashed so furiously upon the beach there was no pos-
sibility of again landing unless they should find some
sheltered cove. The waves frequently broke into the
boat. Their garments were drenched, and clothing
and ropes were soon coated with ice. Anxiously,
hour after hour, as they were buffeted by the storm,
they searched the dim shore hoping to find some bay
or river in which they could take refuge.

The short winter's day was soon drawing to a close.
Night was at hand, night long, dark and stormy, in



EXPLORING THE COAST. 6/

an unknown sea. They were numbed and nearly
frozen with the cold. To many of them it seemed
not improbable that before the morning they would
all find a grave in the ocean. As twilight was dark-
ening into night, a huge billow, chasing them with
gigantic speed, broke into the boat, nearly filling it
with water, at the same time unshipping and sweep-
ing away their rudder. They immediately got out
two oars, and with exceeding difficulty succeeded in
steering their tempest-tossed bark. T^> add to their
calamities, and apparently to take from them their
last gleam of hope, just then a sudden flaw of wind
snapped their mast into three pieces, dashing their
sail into the foaming sea, and they were left at the
mercy of the billows.

Their pilot, who had been upon the coast before,
and who had thus far cheered them with the as-
surance that there was a harbor at hand, now lost all
presence of mind, and throwing up his arms, ex-
claimed, "The Lord have mercy upon us. I was
never in this place before. All that we can do is to
run the boat ashore through the breakers." It was
insane counsel which, being followed, involved almost
certain death.

Some one of their number, was it their gallant
leader Miles Standish, remonstrated, shouting out in
the darkness, "If ye be men, seize your oars or we



68 MILES STANDISH.

are all cast away." They did so, and, with lusty arms,
on a flood tide, still guided their boat along the shore,
which was dimly seen as the breakers dashed high
over sand and rock. At last they discerned land di-
rectly before them. Whether it were an island or a
promontory they knew not. By great exertions they
succeeded though it was very dark and the rain fell
in torrents in gaining the lee of the land. Here
they cast anchor in comparatively still water. But
they were afraid to leave the boat. The experience
of the past night had taught them that the woods
might be full of savages.

Their sufferings however from the cold, the wind
and the rain, became unendurable. A few of their
number, feeling that they should certainly perish in
the open boat, ventured ashore, where after much
difficulty they succeeded in building a fire. Though
its blaze illumining the forest, might be a beacon to
point them out to their savage foes, they piled upon it
branches and logs and, forgetting their danger, re-
joiced in the cheerful flame and the warmth. Those
in the boat could not long resist the aspect of com-
fort which the fire presented. They soon also landed,
and with their axes, speedily constructed a camp to
shelter them from the rain, and a rampart of logs, be-
hind which, with their guns, they could protect them-
selves from a large number of natives armed only
with bows and javelins.



EXPLORING THE COAST. 69

Thus ere long they found themselves in what
might be deemed, under the circumstances, comfort-
able quarters. During the night the clouds were dis-
per.sed. The morning dawned, serene and bright,
but cold. It was the morning of the Sabbath. And
these remarkable men, notwithstanding the impor-
tance of improving every moment of time, decided,
apparently without hesitation or thought of doing
otherwise, to remain quietly in their encampment in
the religious observance of the Lord's day. Some
may say that this was fanaticism ; that a more en-
lightened judgment would have taught them that the
Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sab-
bath ; and that situated as they then were, it was a
work of necessity and mercy to prosecute their tour
without delay.

But these men believed it to be their duty to
sanctify the Sabbath by resting from all but necessary
labor. Thus believing, their decision could not but
be pleasing in the sight of God. Captain Miles
Standish, as we have mentioned, was the leader of
this expedition. The decision must have been, con-
sequently in accordance with his views.

Governor Bradford, describing this painful and
perilous adventure, writes : "And though it was very
dark and rained sore, yet in the end they got under
the lee ol a small island and remained there all night



70 MILES STANDISH.

in safety. But they knew not this to be an island till
morning, but were divided in their minds. Some
would keep the boat for fear they might be among
the Indians. Others were so weak and cold, they
could not endure, but got ashore and with much ado
got a fire, all things being so wet, and the rest were
glad to come to them ; for after midnight the wind
shifted to the northwest and it froze hard.

" But though this had been a day and night of much
trouble and danger unto them, yet God gave them a
morning of comfort and refreshing, as He usually
does to His children ; for the next day was a fair,
sunshining day, and they found themselves to be on
an island, secure from the Indians, where they might
dry their stuff, fix their pieces and rest themselves,
and give God thanks for his mercies in their manifold
deliverances. And this being the last day of the
week they prepared to keep the Sabbath."

In their frail camp they spent the sacred hours of
the Lord's day, in thankgivings and supplications and
in hymning the praises of God. They named this
spot, where they had found brief refuge from the
storm, Clark's Island, in honor of the cf.ptain of the
Mayflower.



CHAPTER IV.
The Landing.

The Voyage Resumed. Enter an Unknown Harbor. Aspect of the
Land. Choose it for their Settlement. The Mayflower Enters
the Harbor. Sabbath on Shipboard. Exploring the Region.
The Storm and Exposure. The Landing. View from the Hill.
Arduous Labors. The Alarm. Arrangement of the Village.
The Evident Hostility of the Indians. Gloomy Prospects. Ex-
pedition of Captain Standish. Billington's Sea. Lost in the
Woods. Adventures of the Lost Men. The Alarm of Fire.

The Pilgrims, having passed the Sabbath in rest
and devotion upon the island, early the next morning
repaired their shattered boat and spreading their sails
again to the wintry winds continued their tour. Soon
a large bay opened before them, partially protected
by a long sand bar from the gales and the billows of
the ocean. It was but a poor harbor at the best.
The low and dreary sand bar broke the fury of the
waves, but afforded no protection against the fierce
gales which swept the seas.

Cautiously our adventurers sailed around the point
of sand, every few moments dropping the lead that
they might find a channel of sufficient depth of water
to allow their vessel to enter the bay. Having found
this passage, they steered for the shore and landed



72 MILES STANDISH.

They found here one or two streams of pure water,
several corn fields which had evidently, in former
times been cultivated by the Indians, in their rude
style of agriculture, but which, for some reason they
had abandoned. Eagerly they looked for some nav-
igable river, but could find none. The soil, though
not so rich as they could wish, seemed promising.
The landscape was pleasingly diversified with hills
and valleys, while the forest, in its mysterious gloom,
spread far away to unknown regions in the west.

The location was by no means such as they had
hoped to find. But it was far superior to any other
which had as yet presented itself. As winter was
approaching and time pressed they decided to look
no further. A party of them, well armed, marched
along the shore for a distance of eight miles, in search
of a suitable spot for their village. They selected a
spot, but saw no natives, no wigwams, and no signs
that the region had recently been inhabited.

Having, in their own minds, settled the important
question they spread their sails and, instead of return-
ing by the long circuit of the shore, which they had
traversed, pushed boldly across the bay, and in a few
hours reached the ship with their report. Without
loss of time the Mayflower weighed anchor on the
1 5th of December, and crossing the bay anchored on
the 1 6th in the shallow water of the harbor about a



THE LANDING. 73

mile and a half from the shore. The next day was
the Sabbath, Strong as was the temptation to land,
they all remained on board the vessel, and their
hymns of thankfulness blended with the moan of the
wintry gale as it swept through the icy shrouds.

Early Monday morning Miles Standish set out
with a small but well armed party to explore that par/:
of the country which immediately surrounded the
harbor, to decide upon the spot where they should
rear their little village of log huts. They traversed
the coast for a distance of several miles. Several
brooks of crystal water were found, but to their dis-
appointment no navigable river rolling down its flood
from the unknown interior. They scarcely knew
whether to be glad or sorry that they found no In-
dians and no indications that the Indians then occu-
pied the region. Several quite extended fields were
found, where the heavily timbered forest had disap-
peared and where it was evident that the Indians, in
former years, had raised their harvests of corn. At
night the party returned to the ship not having fixed
upon any spot for their settlement.

"The next day, the igth, another exploring party
set out moving in an opposite direction. They
divided into two companies, one to sail along the
coast in the shallop, hoping to find the mouth of some
large river. The other party landed and marched
4



74 MILES STANDISH.

along the shore, examining the lay of the land, the
streams, the soil, and the timber of the forests. At
night they returned to the ship, still somewhat unde-
cided. They had however found one spot where
there was a small stream of very clear, sweet water,
which seemed to be well stocked with fish, and a high
hill, a little back from the shore, which could be easily
fortified, and which commanded a very extensive view
of the surrounding country and the ocean. " It had
clay, sand and shells," writes Bradford, "for bricks,
mortar and pottery, and stone for wells and chimneys.
The sea and beach promised abundance of fish and
fowl, and four or five small running brooks brought a
supply of very sweet, fresh water."

The next morning, after earnest and united prayer
for divine guidance, a still larger party of twenty was
sent on shore, more carefully to examine the spot
which had been suggested for their village. Though
it was not all they could desire, it still presented
many attractions. It was a cold December day.
They climbed the hill, and gazed with pleasure upon
a prospect which was sublime and beautiful even on
that bleak and windy day, when the boughs of the
trees were naked and when the withered leaves were
borne like snow flakes on the wintry air. They tried
to imagine its loveliness in the luxuriance and bloom
of a June morning.



THE LANDING. 75

While they stood upon the hill, the clouds, which
all the morning had been darkening the sky, began to
increase in density and gather in blackness. The
wind rose to a gale, and the windows of heaven
seemed to be opened, as the rain fell upon them in
torrents. All unsheltered they found themselves ex-
posed to the fury of a New England northeast storm.
Huge billows from the ocean swept the poorly pro-
tected harbor and broke in such surges upon the
beach that it was impossible for them to return to the
ship. They were totally unprepared for an emer-
gency so unexpected. Night came, a long, dark,
cold, stormy night. They sought shelter in the for-
est, constructed a rude camp which but poorly shel-
tered them from wind and rain, and building a large
fire, found such comfort as they could in the imper-
fect warmth which it afforded. All the night of
Wednesday and all day Thursday the northeast storm
raged with fury unabated. Towards the evening of
Thursday the 2ist there was a lull in the tempest, so
that the weary adventurers succeeded in working
their way back to the ship.

The next day was the ever-memorable Friday,
December 22d. A wintry storm, with its angry bil-


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Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottMiles Standish, the Puritan captain .. → online text (page 4 of 21)