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The Pequawket Expedition
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Maine,Native American | No Comments
On April 16, the company bade farewell to their friends and kindred in Dunstable, Mass., the home of many of the party, and proceeded to Contoocook, and to the west shore of Ossipee Lake. Here they halted and erected a fort which should serve as a rallying point and base of supplies. By this time two men had become disabled. One had returned home accompanied by a friend, Benj. Kidder was left at the fort, with the surgeon and a guard of eight. The remaining thirty-four men took up the trail to Pequawket with good courage.
On Tuesday, two days before the battle, the party were suspicious that they had been discovered by the enemy, and on Friday night the guard heard them creeping through the underbrush about their encampment. At an early hour Saturday morning, May 8th, while they were yet at their devotions, the report of a gun was heard, and soon an Indian was seen standing upon a point of land extending into Saco (now Lovewell’s) pond. They supposed this was a decoy, to draw them into ambush. A conference was immediately held to determine what course to pursue. The men were anxious for an engagement, but Capt. Lovewell seems to have assented against his wishes. They prepared for action. Assuming that the foe was still in front he ordered the men to lay down their packs that they might advance with greater caution and be less hampered in the fight. When the party had proceeded slowly for about a mile they discovered an Indian approaching among the trees. Several discharged their pieces at him. He returned the fire and seriously wounded Capt. Lovewell with a load of buckshot. Ensign Wyman then shot the Indian and Chaplain Frye scalped him.
Meanwhile Paugus, the Indian chief, with eighty stalwart warriors had been watching every movement from the rear. They had discovered the hidden packs and learned the small number of the attacking party. When Lovewell’s company returned to secure their provisions and had reached a tract of land covered with pines a little way back from the pond, the Indians rose from ambush in their front and rear in two parties with guns aimed; the whites also presented their guns and advanced to meet the foe.
Approaching within twenty yards of each other both parties fired. The Indians were badly cut to pieces and took shelter in a clump of low growing pines. Already nine of the attacking party had fallen dead, including Capt. Lovewell. Three were fatally wounded. Ensign Wyman ordered the remaining soldiers to retreat to the pond. Until the going down of the sun the battle went on with much vigor.
About the middle of the afternoon Chaplain Frye fell, seriously wounded. After falling he was heard to pray for the preservation of his comrades. For eight hours the fight had continued and at times was vehement. The whites were obliged to adopt the Indian mode of warfare; they kept near together, each selecting a position for his own safety. Ensign Wyman stealthily crept to a position to cover Paugus, the chief, whom he shot dead. The tradition that Paugus was killed at the water’s edge by Chamberlain when they had both gone down to wash their guns was not given as a part of this engagement until some fifty years later* When darkness fell the Indians withdrew, leaving their dead on the battlefield.
When the moon arose about midnight the survivors of Lovewell’s party assembled, faint and exhausted. There were but nine unhurt, eleven were seriously wounded, Jacob Farrar was found to be dying, and two others were unable to rise. Solomon Keyes could not be found. A retreat was decided upon, but the wounded men were unable to proceed far. When they had gone something more than a mile, four of the wounded-Lieut. Farwell, Chaplain Frye, and privates, Jones and Davis, could no longer move forward. They importuned their comrades to push toward the Ossipee fort and secure a rescuing party to carry them in. When the men reached the fort, where the guard had been left, to their consternation they found the men had deserted the place and nearly all the provisions gone. Here was another trying experience for the soldiers, who now numbered but nine. If they returned to their wounded comrades whom they had left behind, they feared starvation for themselves as well as for their comrades. The only alternative seemed to be to leave them to their fate. They pressed forward toward Dunstable and for four days it is stated they did not taste food. They then brought down some partridges and squirrels which they roasted and which gave them strength for the rest of the journey. They succeeded in reaching Dunstable, the greater part of them on May 13th, the others two days later. Two of the men, Josiah Jones and Eleazer Davis, who were left to perish finally reached Berwick. Chaplain Frye and Lieut. Farwell did not survive.
Such was the effect on the attacking party. The Pequawkets suffered nearly as badly, and this was the death blow to their national power. According to the census of the Indians taken by Capt. Giles the following year they had but 24 fighting men left among them, and some of these carried serious wounds received in the fight. The news of the defeat and disaster cast widespread sorrow throughout the Massachusetts homes from which the soldiers had gone. A party was immediately sent to the battle ground and the bodies of the Captain and ten of his men were buried at the foot of an ancient pine. A monument has since been erected to mark the spot. The General Court appropriated 1500 pounds, and a grant of the lands now comprising the towns of Lovell and Sweden to the survivors and heirs of the men who were lost. This we should consider a very liberal reward for such a murderous undertaking attempted chiefly for mercenary purposes upon a peaceful settlement of a disappearing race of men.2
Many of the Pequawkets removed to Canada after the battle together with Adeawando, their chief, and united with the St. Francis tribe. At the beginning of the war with France the remnant of the tribe that had lingered around the old home place of their ancestors on the Saco, expressed a desire to live with the whites, and they were accordingly removed to a suitable place about fifty miles from Boston, here was good fowling and fishing. These men were present at the Treaty of Falmouth in 1749, between the Eastern Indians and the whites. After the fall of Quebec a few members of the tribe remained about the head waters of the Connecticut until the beginning of the Revolution. The last mention of the tribe living at Pequawket was in a petition to the General Court dated at Fryeburg, in which the able bodied men asked for guns, ammunition and blankets “for fourteen warriors.” These men served faithfully on the patriot side and were liberally rewarded by the government. After the war they returned to their families in the vicinity of Fryeburg where they were well remembered by the venerable people of the last generation. Among those remembered were Tom Heagon, Old Philip and Swanson. Philip, the last known chief of the Pequawkets, signed a deed in 1796, conveying the last rights of his tribe in Maine and New Hampshire to the men who had in two brief centuries, usurped their lands and with disease, annihilated the people that had for unknown centuries held unquestionable title to the entire Saco Valley.
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