King William’s War – Indian Wars

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King William III
King William III

The territorial disputes of the English, Spaniards, and French were the causes of frequent contests between the claimants, in which the services of the Indians were obtained by the highest bidder. In the south the Spaniards instigated the Indians to commit numerous outrages, and the French were equally active and successful in their efforts to awaken the hostility of the northern tribes to the English. To the Indians, it was equally a matter of indifference which of the white nations suffered looking upon all of them as invaders; and they willingly received the presents and promise of the French and Spaniards, and repaid them with service against those who gave none. The war commonly called by the colonists, “King William’s War,” commenced in 1688 and ended in 1697. The object of the French was the expulsion of the English from the northern and middle provinces. The English directed their efforts against Canada. The French secured the services of the greater part of the Indians, and the united forces spread death and desolation in all directions.

King Williams War Map
King Williams War – Map of Campaigns

The first hostilities began on the eastern border of Maine, where the boundary was in continual dispute. In the early part of 1688, Sir Edmund Andross, at that time governor-general of New England, sailed to the disputed territory, and plundered the house and chapel of the Baron St. Castine, who occupied the lands under a grant of the French government. This base deed provoked the baron to excite the Indians to war, pretenses for which were not wanting on their part. The first blood was shed at North Yarmouth, Maine in September. In the spring, the Penacook Indians joining those of Saco, they made a dreadful slaughter at Cocheco. Mesandouit, being hospitably lodged at Major Waldron’s, in the night opened the gate, and a hundred, some say five hundred, Indians rushed into the garrison, murdered the major, and twenty-two others, took twenty-nine prisoners, burned four or five houses, and fled, loaded with plunder. The captives were sold to the French in Canada. Four young men of Saco being abroad, were killed; twenty-four men armed went forth to bury them, and were assaulted by such a number, that they retreated, leaving five or six of their number dead. In August, the enemy took the fort at Pemaquid, Maine; and so frequent were their assaults, and so great the public alarm, that the people retired to Falmouth for safety. The same month, Major Swayn, with seven or eight companies from Massachusetts, relieved the garrison at Blue Point, which was beset with Indians. Major Church, with another party of English and Christian Indians from Plymouth colony, marched to the eastward. Swayn making his headquarters at Berwick, sent Captain Wiswell and Lieutenant Flag on a scout. Near Winnipisiogee pond, Flag left a number of his friendly Indians, who continued there a number of days. It was afterwards discovered, that they had an interview with the hostile natives, and gave them all the information in their power. So strong is the attachment which binds us to our native country that often the bonds of gratitude, oaths, and religion, like Samson’s cords, burst asunder, when they interfere with this passion. This month Casco was assaulted, and Captain Bracket was killed; but Captain Hall arriving, a serious engagement followed, which was supported several hours. Of the English, ten or twelve were killed; the enemy fled; and in November the troops were dismissed, excepting a few in the garrisons at Wells, York, Berwick, and Cocheco.

The next spring, 1690, the French and Indians fell upon Salmon Falls, Maine, burned the greatest part of the town, killed about thirty persons, and took fifty prisoners. Artel was the French commander of this party. On their way to Canada, one of their captives, Robert Rogers, endeavoring to escape, was overtaken, stripped, beaten, tied to a tree, and burned alive. The Indians dancing and singing round him, cutting off pieces of his flesh and throwing them in his face.

Frontenac receiving the envoy of Sir William Phipps demanding the surrender of Quebec, 1690
Frontenac receiving the envoy of Sir William Phipps demanding the surrender of Quebec, 1690

In 1690, Count de Frontignac, the able governor of Canada, sent out three expeditions against the English colonies. The first of these marched against Schenectady, a fortified and well built village, about twenty miles above Albany. The party consisted of about two hundred French and fifty Mohawks. After a long and dreary march through the deep snow, in bitter cold weather, they arrived near Schenectady upon the 8th of February. The inhabitants were lulled into the belief of their security, and no watch was kept. The village was then in the form of a long square, with a gate at each end. One gate was not only left open, but unguarded. The French and Indians entered through this, about the middle of the night, and dividing into small parties, they waylaid every portal; and then the piercing war whoop startled the slumberers from their beds. Death met them in all directions. The garrison made a slight resistance; but were soon silenced. For two hours the bloody work went on. All the cruelty attendant upon Indian warfare seemed to be refined or outdone at this devoted village. Sixty-seven persons were put to death, forty were made captives; and of those who fled towards Albany, twenty-five lost their limbs by the frost. The French, having totally destroyed Schenectady, retired, loaded with plunder.

The second French expedition proceeded against the settlement at Salmon Falls, Maine. This party, consisting of fifty French and Indians, attacked the village just before day break. Here the inhabitants made a desperate resistance, but were overpowered, and most of them killed or captured. As the assailants retired, they were attacked by one hundred and fifty men; but succeeded in escaping with some loss.

The third expedition attacked Casco, Maine, where a number of soldiers were stationed. The garrison defended themselves while their ammunition lasted; and then took refuge in a fort situated in a deep gully. This was attacked, after the town had been burned. The soldiers withstood a siege of five days, and then the remnant agreed to capitulate. The French commander broke his promise of safety to his prisoners. Most of them were butchered, and the rest taken to Canada. The garrisons at Papoodack, Spurwink, Black Point, and Blue Point, were so alarmed, that without orders, they retreated to Saco, twenty miles within Casco; and from Saco, twenty miles further to Wells, and some of them came on further; but recruits arriving, they were inspired with new courage. Soon after Hopehood, a chief warrior, who had lived in Boston, had a skirmish with Captain Sherburn, and the next Sabbath his party killed a man, and burned several houses at Berwick. Three days after, at Fox Point, on Piscataqua, he burned a number of houses, took six prisoners, and killed twelve persons. Captains Greenleaf and Floyd came up with him soon after, killed part of his company, retook some of the captives, and a great part of their plunder. At Spruce creek, they killed an old man, and took a woman captive. July 4th, nine persons being at work in a field by Lampereel River, all were killed. The same day, Captains Wiswel and Floyd marched from Portsmouth to search the woods. The next day, the garrison at Exeter was assaulted, but relieved by Lieutenant Bancroft with the loss of several men. One of them, Simon Stone, being shot in nine places, lay as if dead among the slain; the Indians coming to strip him, attempted by two blows of a hatchet to sever his head from his body: though they did not effect it, the wounds were dreadful; our people coming upon them suddenly, they did not scalp him; while burying the dead, Stone was observed to gasp; an Irishman present, advised them to give him another blow of the hatchet, and bury him with the rest; but his kind neighbors poured a little water into his mouth, then a little spirits, when he opened his eyes; the Irishman was ordered to haul a canoe on shore, in which the wounded man might be carried to a surgeon; carelessly pulling it along with his gun, it went off, broke his arm, and rendered him a cripple while he lived. Stone, in a short time, perfectly recovered. In two days, Floyd and Wiswel came upon the enemy at Wheelright’s Pond. Fifteen of the English were slain, among whom were Captain Wiswel, Lieutenant Flag, and Sergeant Walker; a great number were wounded. Captain Convers was sent to bury the dead, and bring off the wounded. The same week, Amesbury was assaulted; three persons killed, and three houses burned; Captain Foot was tortured to death. In September, Major Church, with three hundred men, landed in Casco Bay, at Macquoit, and marched to Androscoggin Fort, took and killed twenty Indians, set five captives at liberty; and burned the fort. On their return, they sent a party from Winter Harbor up the river, who fell on the enemy, killed some, took considerable plunder, and relieved an Englishman from captivity. At Casco Harbor the enemy, in the night, fell on them and killed five, but were soon driven to the woods. The army, excepting one hundred men, was then dismissed.

The country was now in a distressed situation; the disappointment and losses in the Canada expedition, and a murderous Indian war, which lasted for several years, had exhausted the resources, and sunk the spirits of the people. In this period of discouragement, the people were joyfully surprised with overtures of peace from the Indians; a conference was held at Sagadahoc; ten prisoners were restored, and a truce established till the 1st of May, 1692. Instead of appearing in May at the garrison in Wells, with all their captives, to sign articles of a lasting peace, according to agreement, on the 9th of June, the place was assaulted by two hundred Indians; but, being courageously repulsed, they retired. About the same time, they killed two men at Exeter, two at Berwick, and five hundred and six at Cape Neddock. In the latter part of July, a number of troops having explored the Pejepscot region, to no purpose, while going on board their vessels, at Macquoit, were violently assailed all night; but their vessels secured them, in a great measure against harm. In mercy to New England, the force of the Indians was this year exceedingly restrained. Yet, September 28th, seven persons were killed and taken captive at Berwick, and the next day, twenty-one were taken from Sandy Beach. October 23d, in Rowley, Byfield Parish, Mr. Goodridge, his wife, and two of his daughters, were killed. He was shot while praying with his family; it was Sabbath evening. Another daughter was taken captive, but redeemed the next spring, at the expense of the province. She lived eighty-two years after, and died in Beverly, 1774, aged eighty-nine. Her name was Deborah Duty. On the 25th of January, 1692, several hundred Indians assaulted York; took a hundred captives, and killed fifty, among whom was their faithful minister, the Rev. Shubael Dummer. The remaining people were so discouraged, that they were about leaving the town, when the government sent Captains Greenleaf and Convers to protect them. About this time, the English fell on a party in Cocheco Woods, took and killed all but one; but the most valorous exploit happened at Wells.

Captain Convers displayed the courage of Leonidas, with more success. He had fifteen men in the garrison; little more than a gun shot off, in two sloops, were fifteen more, who had just brought ammunition and stores for the garrison. In this situation, he was assaulted by an army of five hundred French and Indians. Monsieur Burniff was general, and Labrocree, a principal commander. They were supported by the most distinguished chieftains of different tribes. Warumbo, Egeremet, Moxus, and Modocawando, names of terror in those times, were present, with their chosen warriors. After a speech from one of their orators, with shouts and yells, they poured a volley upon the garrison, which returned the fire with so much spirit and success that the besiegers retired to attack the sloops. The vessels lay in a creek, rather than a river, which at low water was barely wide enough to prevent the enemy from leaping on board. From a turn of the creek, they could approach so near, as to throw handfuls of mud on board, without being exposed them-selves. A stack of hay and a pile of plank, were also places of security, whence they could pour showers of balls upon the sloops; while their great numbers allowed them to place parties of men to prevent any assistance from the garrison. Several times they set the sloops on fire, by shooting burning arrows; but by the vigilance of the crews, under Captain Storer and Captain Gouge, they were extinguished. Resistance was so formidable, that they again returned to the garrison, and then again they assaulted the sloops. Various and bold were their stratagems. On a pair of wheels they built a platform, with a raised front that was bullet proof. This, loaded with French and Indians, was pushed toward the sloops; the terrific machine of death slowly advanced; it proceeded by the side of the channel, bursting with smoke and fire, till within fifteen yards of the sloop; one wheel sunk in the mire; a Frenchman stepped to lift the wheel; Storer leveled his gun, and he fell; another took his place, and again Storer took aim, and he fell by his fellow. Soon the tide rose and overturned their rolling battery; the men were exposed to the deadly fire of the sloops, and fell or fled in every direction. Their next project was to build a land of fire ship, eighteen or twenty feet square, loaded with combustible substance; this raft of fire, they guided as near the vessels as they dared, and the tide wafted the blazing pile directly towards the trembling sloops. Never were men in a more awful situation. In this moment of distress, they cried unto God, and He heard them. To the amazement of all, the wind suddenly changed, and with a fresh gale drove the floating destruction on shore, so shattered, that the water broke in, and extinguished the fire. Thus, after alternately attacking the garrison and vessels for forty-eight hours, exhausting their strength, expending their ammunition, losing one of their French commanders, and a number of their men; they sullenly retreated, having killed one man, and a number of cattle, and taken one prisoner; him they tortured, and killed in a most terrible manner.

This summer, a formidable stone fort was built at Pemaquid. Early in the summer of 1693, Major Church received the command of the troops in the eastern country, with orders to raise three hundred and fifty more. He surprised and took a party of the enemy, not far from Wells; then marched to Pemaquid, Taconet, and Saco, but found no enemies. At Saco, he ordered a fort to be built. About this time, the Indians alarmed Quabaog, or Brookfield, and killed a number of persons; but they were pursued, most of them killed, and their captives and plunder retaken. The Indians had now become tired of the war; they had some serious fears respecting the Maquas, and sued for peace, which was willingly granted them. A treaty was signed, May 11, 1693. But the exertions of the French soon induced the Indians to renew the contest.

Early in 1694, the Sieur Villion, commander of the French at Penobscot, with two hundred and fifty of the St. John, Penobscot, and Norridgewock Indians, attacked the settlements on Oyster River, in New Hampshire. About one hundred persons were killed or captured, and twenty houses burned. During the attack, a man named Thomas Bickford, defended his house himself against the whole force of the enemy. He changed his dress as often as possible, and kept up a constant fire, as he gave orders as if he had many men with him. Apprehending the approach of reinforcements of Englishmen, the French hastily retreated through the woods in their usual manner. But, before they left the neighborhood entirely, a number of settlers on the Piscataqua were killed and their houses burned. The ravages on the frontiers were continued by the Indians; but no considerable enterprise was undertaken until October, 1695. In that month, a party penetrated to Newbury, and made captives of John Brown and his family, except one girl, who alarmed the people of Newburyport, five miles distant. Captain Greenleaf instantly pursued, and before daybreak on the next day after starting, overtook the foe and rescued the captives, nine in number. When the Indians found it impossible to carry off their prisoners, they tried to kill them; but such was their hurry, the wounds they gave them were not mortal, and they all recovered. Captain Greenleaf was shot in the arm during the attack. In August, 1696, the French, under Iberville and Bonaventure, with about two hundred Indians, under the Baron St. Castine, proceeded against the strong fortress at Pemaquid. The place was invested on the 14th. To the summons to surrender, Chubb, the commander replied, that if the sea were covered with French vessels and the land with Indians, yet he would not give up the fort. After the exchange of a few shots, batteries were raised, and a bombardment commenced. Castine found means to convey a letter into the fort, giving warning, that if the garrison waited till an assault was ordered, they would then be at the mercy of the Indians, and could expect no quarter. Upon this, the garrison, consisting of eighty men, requested their noble commander to capitulate, which he did upon highly honorable terms. Thus, this fortress, which had cost the colonists such an immense amount of money, fell into the hands of the enemy, and was demolished. In June, 1697, the Indians made an attempt to surprise Exeter, New Hampshire, but failed. Soon after, Major Frost, an active and successful commander, was waylaid and killed by the enemy. Operations were continued on a small scale by the French until the peace of Ryswick was received in America. This was in December, 1697; and never was a peace more joyfully welcomed. By the treaty, all countries, forts, and colonies taken during the war, were to be restored to the party owning them before it began. Count de Frontignac informed the Indians that he could no longer be their ally in the war against the English, and advised them to make peace. Accordingly, on the 7th of January, 1699, they concluded a treaty, in which they acknowledged the supremacy of the English crown, and promised to maintain peace.



MLA Source Citation:

Frost, John, LL. D. Frost's Pictorial History of Indian Wars and Captivities, From the Earliest Record of American History to the Present Time; Nearly 200 Engravings from Original Designs, by Distinguished Artists. New York: Wells Publishing Company. Vol. 1. 1873. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 22 July 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/maine/king-williams-war-indian-wars.htm - Last updated on Feb 13th, 2014

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