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New England Indians
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Connecticut,Maine,Massachusetts,Native American,New Hampshire,Rhode Island | No Comments
It is lamentable to reflect that in the primitive dealings between the venturous Europeans and aborigines of America, the kindly welcome and the hospitable reception were the part of the savage, and treachery, kidnapping, and murder too frequently that of the civilized and nominally Christian visitor.
It appears to have been matter of common custom among these unscrupulous adventurers to seize by force or fraud on the persons of their simple entertainers, and to carry them off as curiosities to the distant shores of Europe. Columbus, with kindly motives, brought several of the West Indian natives to the Spanish court; others, whom his follower Pinzon had kidnapped, he restored to their friends. Cabot, in his memorable expedition, followed the same example, and the early French discoverers were peculiarly culpable in this respect. Most atrocious of all was the conduct of Thomas Hunt, who, in 1614, at Monhigon, enticed twenty-four of these unfortunate people on board his vessel, and carried them to Malaga, as slaves an inhuman piece of treachery, to which the English were probably indebted for much of the subsequent hostilities evinced by the Indians of New England.
On the 6th of September, 1620, the Mayflower, freighted with forty-one adventurous enthusiasts, the germ of a western empire, sailed from Plymouth, in England; and on the 9th of the following November arrived on the barren and inclement shores of Cape Cod. A few days afterwards a reconnoitering party caught sight of a small number of the natives, who, however, fled at their approach. On the 8th of December a slight and desultory action occurred, the Indians attempting to surprise the Pilgrims by night. They were, however, discomfited, and compelled to retreat, leaving, among other trophies, eighteen arrows, “headed with brass, some with harts horns, and others with eagles claws.”
On the 11th of December (O. S.), memorable in the annals of America, the little band of Pilgrims landed, and fixed their first settlement at Plymouth. The Indians, it would appear, looked with evil eyes upon the pious colonists; for, says an old narrator, “they got all the powwows in the country, who, for three days together, in a horrid and devilish manner, did curse and execrate them with their conjurations, which assembly and service they held in a dark and dismal swamp. Behold how Satan labored to hinder the gospel from coming into New England.”
The appearance of the friendly chief Samoset, at the settlement; his welcome in broken English; his manners and discourse, are quaintly detailed by the historians of the colony. He had acquired some knowledge of the English language by intercourse with the crews and masters of vessels employed in fishing upon the coast, and readily communicated such information as the settlers required concerning the nature of the country and its inhabitants. He informed them of the manner in which the district where they were located had been depopulated only four years previous, by some incurable disease; a circumstance to which the feeble colony not improbably owed its preservation.
Before the bold and friendly advances made by Samoset, the only communication between the colonists and the original inhabitants had been of a hostile character. The natural fears and jealousy of the savages, and the superstitious horror of the English at the heathenish pow wows and incantations which they witnessed, together with the want of a common language, had kept the little company of adventurers in a state of complete isolation during the whole of the cold and dreary winter that succeeded their arrival.
It was in the month of March that a peaceful communication was established with the natives, through the intervention of Samoset. He introduced, among other of his companions, the noted Tisquantum, or Squanto, who was one of the twenty-four kidnapped by Hunt, at a former period. By his knowledge of the country and coast, and his acquaintance with their language, Squanto became of great service to the colonists, and continued their friend until his death, which took place in 1622, while he was on his passage down the coast, in the capacity of pilot to an expedition fitted out for the purpose of purchasing supplies of corn and other necessaries. Much of romantic interest attaches to the history and adventures of this serviceable Indian, both during his captivity and after his restoration to his own country. Escaping by the assistance of certain kindly-disposed monks, from Spain, where he, with his companions, had been sold in slavery, he reached England, and was taken into the employment of a London merchant, named Slaney, by whom he was sent as pilot, or in some other capacity, to various places on the eastern coast.
He was brought back to Patuxet, the Indian name of the country in which the pilgrims first landed, by Captain Thomas Dermer, who sailed in the employ of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, during the summer preceding the arrival of the Mayflower. After his introduction by Samoset, he remained with his new allies, instructing them in the mode of raising corn, to which they were strangers; in the best methods of fishing; and making himself of inestimable service.
By the friendly influence of Squanto and Samoset, who acted as interpreters, a league of amity and mutual protection was effected between the colony and the powerful sachem Massasoit, father of the still more celebrated Philip. Massasoit’s head-quarters were at Mount Hope, on Narragansett bay, overlooking the present town of Bristol; a striking feature in a landscape of remarkable beauty, and commanding from its summit a magnificent prospect of island, bay and ocean. His authority extended over all the Indian tribes living in the vicinity of the Plymouth colony, and he held an uncertain but influential sway over portions of other nations far into the interior.
In the month of July, 1621, some of the principal inhabitants of the settlement, among others, Edward Winslow and Stephen Hopkins, went on an embassy to the court of this chief, as well to observe his power and resources as to renew the amicable treaties before entered into. They carried such attractive ornaments and apparel as would please the eye of a savage.
They were accompanied by Squanto; and although their entertainment, both as respects food and lodgings, was but sorry, yet they were received in a spirit of friendliness.
They obtained much useful information concerning the surrounding tribes, and also learned the power and numbers of the Narragansetts.
The ship Fortune arrived at Plymouth, in the month of November, bringing out thirty -five emigrants; but no provisions for their support; in consequence of which, the colony was not long after greatly distressed by want. To add to their troubles and fears, the Narragansetts sent them a hostile message, expressed by a bundle of arrows tied with a snakeskin. The skin was returned filled with bullets, and the governor made the spirited reply, “that, if they loved war rather than peace, they might begin when they would.”
The houses were thenceforth enclosed in palings, and every precaution was taken, by watch and ward, to guard against a sudden attack.
During the ensuing year, 1622, two ships were sent over from England by a Mr. Thomas Weston, with a considerable number of colonists; in one of them came “sixty lusty men.” A new settlement was formed by them at Wesagusquaset, on Massachusetts Bay, known as Weston’s colony.
The dishonesty and wastefulness of these new comers produced very injurious effects upon the welfare of the colony at large. The hostility of the Indians was excited by their depredations, and, if we may believe the old narrations, they were even base enough to circulate among the natives false reports of an intention on the part of the Plymouth authorities to attack them, and forcibly seize their corn and provisions, the time being one of great scarcity.
“Weston’s men were in possession of a small vessel, in which they proposed to their Plymouth neighbors to undertake an expedition round Cape Cod, for the purpose of trading for supplies from the natives. After two unsuccessful attempts, having been delayed by rough weather, they succeeded in reaching Nauset and Mattachiest, where they obtained a quantity of corn and beans. It was on this voyage that they lost their guide and interpreter Squanto. He had been a highly useful and faithful coadjutor to the colonists; his only faults being a natural inclination to presume upon his importance in his intercourse with his countrymen. This led him to exalt himself in their eyes by tales of his great influence over the English, and exaggerated reports of their powers and skill. He affirmed that they had the plague buried in the ground, which they could, at pleasure, let loose for the destruction of the Indians. On one occasion he was believed, for some purpose of his own, to have raised a false alarm of an attack by the Narragansetts, accompanied by Massasoit. This sachem became at last so exasperated against Squanto, that, on divers occasions, he sought to put him to death, and the colonists had no small difficulty in preserving their interpreter.
Great rivalry and jealousy existed between Squanto and Hobamak, another friendly Indian, who served the settlers in a similar capacity.
In the year 1623, the people at Weston’s plantation, principally, as appears, from their own folly and improvidence, were reduced to a state of extreme misery and destitution. They became scattered in small parties, obtaining a precarious subsistence by gathering shellfish, and by working for or pilfering from the natives. On one occasion they actually hanged a man for stealing, in order to pacify the Indians; and although it appears probable that he whom they executed was, in reality, guilty, yet they have been accused of sparing the principal offender, as an able-bodied and serviceable member of the community, and hanging, in his stead, an old and decrepit weaver. See “Hudibras” upon this point.
An extensive conspiracy was formed among various tribes of the Massachusetts Indians, and others, extending, as some supposed, even to the inhabitants of the of Capewack, or Martha’s Vineyard, for the purpose of destroying Weston’s colony, and perhaps that at Plymouth also. Caunbitant, or Corbitant, one of Massasoit’s most distinguished subordinate chiefs, was a prime mover in this plot. He had always entertained hostile feelings towards the English, and regarded their increase and prosperity as of fatal tendency to the welfare of his own people. The design was made known to some of the chief men of Plymouth, by Massasoit, (whom the leaders of the conspiracy had endeavored to draw into their plans,) in gratitude for their having restored him from a dangerous fit of sickness. Having been, as he supposed, at the point of death, he sent for assistance to the colony, and Mr. Edward Winslow and John Hamden, (supposed by some writers to have been the same afterwards so celebrated in English history for his resistance to royal encroachments) with Hobamak as interpreter, were dispatched to his assistance.
In order to check the purposed uprising, Captain Miles Standish, with only eight men, proceeded to Wesagusquaset, and attacking the Indians, in conjunction with Weston’s men, overpowered them, killing six of their number; among the rest, the noted and dangerous “Wittuwamat”. This chief had displayed great boldness and spirit. On the arrival of Standish, he, with others of his company, declared that he was in no wise ignorant of the English man’s intentions. “Tell Standish,” said he, “we know he is come to kill us, but let him begin when he dare.” Not long after, many would come to the fort, and whet their knives before him, with many braving speeches. One amongst the rest was by Wittuwamat’s bragging he had a knife that on the handle had a woman’s face, but at home I have one that hath killed both French and English, and that hath a man’s face upon it, and by and by these two must marry; but this here by and by shall see, and by and by eat but not speak.” Of the manner of this Indian’s death, and that of Peksuot, one of his principal companions, killed by Standish himself in a desperate hand to hand struggle, Winslow says: “But it is incredible how many wounds these two panieses received before they died, not making any fearful noise, but catching at their weapons and striving to the last.” Wittuwamat had often expressed great contempt of the English for their want of fortitude, declaring that “they died crying, making sour faces, more like children than men.” A brother of this chief, only eighteen years of age, they hanged.
The Weston plantation was, however, broken up, the survivors, much reduced in numbers by sickness and want, setting sail in their vessel for the eastward, to join the fishing squadron on the coast: as the old historian has it, “here see the effects of pride and vain-glory.” Thomas Weston himself, after a singular series of misfortunes, only arrived at Plymouth to learn the disastrous fate of his colony.
The system of working the land in common was this year abandoned by the Plymouth colonists, and a portion of land set apart to each man; a change which produced the most favorable results.
In the course of a few years from the formation of the Plymouth colony, the Indians, in spite of a royal proclamation forbidding the traffic, began to supply themselves with firearms and ammunition, the use of which they acquired with singular facility. The trade for these dangerous articles first commenced upon the eastern coast, where they were brought by English, French and Dutch fishing vessels, and was further extended into the interior in 1628, by one Thomas Morton, a notable contender of godliness, and long a thorn in the side of the sober colonists. Besides his capital offense of teaching the Indians the use of firearms, and driving a profitable trade with them in these deadly weapons, he became, as Morton has it, “a lord of misrule,” with a set of disorderly companions who had been brought out in the same ship with him. They spent what they gained by unlawful trade in “vainly quaffing and drinking both wine and strong liquors to great excess setting up a Maypole, drinking and dancing about it, and frisking about it like so many fairies, or furies rather.” This Maypole was cut down by Endicott, and Morton was seized and sent to England, where he wrote an “infamous and scurrilous book (The New Canaan), against many godly and chief men of the country.” In 1633, a year memorable for the first English settlement on the Connecticut, by William Holmes, in spite of the opposition of the Dutch, a “pestilent fever” carried off many, both of the colonists and Indians thereaout.
Morton, in his “New England’s Memorial,” says that “It is to be observed that, the spring before this sickness, there was a numerous company of flies, which were like, for bigness, unto wasps or bumble-bees; they came out of little holes in the ground, and did eat up the green things, and made such a constant yelling noise as made the woods ring of them, and ready to deafen the hearers.” The Indians prophesied sickness from this sign.
No very serious hostilities occurred between the Plymouth colonists and the natives, from the period of which we have been speaking, until the year 1637, memorable for the extirpation of the Pequots. The causes and conduct of this campaign, marked as it was by the most savage ferocity on the part of both Indians and English, will be detailed in a succeeding chapter.
In the year 1639, Massasoit, or, as he is generally styled at this period, Woosamequen, brought his eldest son Mooanam, otherwise called Wamsutta, to the court at Plymouth, and solemnly renewed the former league of peace and amity with the colony.
After the death, of the friendly and powerful sachem, his sons Wamsutta and Metacomet continued their profession of good-will towards the English. About 1656, they presented themselves to the court at Plymouth, and, by their own request, received English names. Wamsutta was denominated Alexander, and Metacomet, Philip, long after a name of terror to the colonies.
In 1662, Alexander, having been suspected of being engaged with the Narragansetts in plans hostile to the English settlers, was taken by surprise, and forcibly carried to Plymouth. This indignity is said so to have chafed his proud spirit that it threw him into a fever, of which he died shortly after. Contradictory reports have been handed down to us concerning the manner of his treatment during this brief captivity, and the circumstances attending his death.
Shortly after this event, Philip, now sachem of Pocanoket, came to the court at Plymouth, with renewed acknowledgments of subjection to the king of England, and promises to fulfill all engagements theretofore entered into by himself, his father, and brother. He covenanted, more over, not to sell any of his lands to strangers without the knowledge and consent of the authorities at Plymouth.
The services of Captain Benjamin Church, in the early Indian campaigns, did not end with the death of Philip and the reduction of the hostile tribes united by that chief in enmity against the colonists. In the war, which after wards broke out with the Indians of New Hampshire and Maine, the old soldier was again called upon to take the field.
Our accounts of the early history of these Eastern tribes are not very voluminous or connected. Some description is given, in Captain John Smith s narrative, of the government and division of the nations and tribes on the coast; and, in subsequent times, tales of noted sagamores and warriors, with detached incidents of adventure, are not wanting in interest.
The first English settlers in Maine and New Hampshire had little to complain of in the treatment they received from the aboriginal inhabitants: according to Hubbard, “Ever since the first settling of any English plantation in those parts about Kennebeck, for the space of about fifty years, the Indians always carried it fair, and held good correspondence with the English, until the news came of Philip’s rebellion and rising against the inhabitants of Plymouth colony in the end of June, 1675; after which time it was apprehended by such as had the examination of the Indians about Kennebeck, that there was a general surmise amongst them that they should be required to assist the said Philip, although they would not own that they were at all engaged in the quarrel.”
When Philip’s forces were destroyed or dispersed, many of them took refuge at the East, and the search for and seizure of these served to arouse and keep alive hostile feelings, which might otherwise have slumbered. By the contrivance of Major Waldron, a noted character among the first settlers at Cocheco (afterwards Dover) in New Hampshire, some four hundred Indians, of various tribes, were decoyed into the power of the colonial troops by the pretense of a sham-fight exhibition. They were then examined, and all who were adjudged to have been connected with the war, to the number of over two hundred, were sent to Boston, where eight or ten of them were hanged, and the rest were sold as slaves.
Many scenes of depredation and bloodshed are described by historians of those early times previous to the regular campaigns of 1689 and the years ensuing, against the French and Indians. During the war of 1675-6, connected with Philip s conspiracy, the most important affairs were the burning, by the Indians, of the towns of Casco and Saco. Under the administration of Sir Edmund Andross, the conflicting claims to territory in Maine, between the Baron of St. Castine and English proprietors, brought about a war in which the neighboring Indian tribes were involved. With their usual success, the French excited the eastern Indians to espouse their cause, and a series of depredations upon the English colonists ensued.
At Cocheco (Dover), Major Waldron was still in authority, with a considerable force under his command, occupying five fortified buildings. In the summer of 1689, a party of Indians planned an attack upon this post, as well to strike a signal blow in behalf of their white allies, as to revenge the former wrong done to their friends by Waldron. The English considered themselves perfectly secure, and kept no watch a circumstance which had been observed by the enemy. On the 27th of June, two squaws obtained leave to sleep in each of the garrisoned houses. During the night they rose quietly, unbarred the doors, and, by appointed signals, announced to the warriors lurking without that the time was propitious for an attack.
The English were completely overpowered, fifty-two were killed or carried away captive; among the former was Major Waldron. The old warrior (he was eighty years of age) defended himself with astonishing strength and courage, but was finally struck down from behind. Bruised and mangled, he was placed in a chair upon a table, and the savages, gathering round, glutted their long-cherished vengeance by cutting and torturing the helpless captive. He was in bad odor with the Indians for having, as they alleged, defrauded them in former trading trans actions. It was reported among them that he used to ” count his fist as weighing a pound, also that his accounts were not crossed out according to agreement.” Placed as above mentioned, upon a table, some of them ” in turns gashed his naked breast, saying, “I cross out my account.” Then cutting a joint from his finger, would say, “Will your fist weigh a pound now?” (Drake’s edition of Church’s Indian Wars.) They continued these cruelties until he fainted from loss of blood, when they dispatched him. It is said, by the above author, that one of the squaws, to whom was assigned the duty of betraying Waldron’s garrison, felt some compunction at the act of treachery, and endeavored, ineffectually, to warn the commandant by crooning the following verse:
“O, Major Waldo,
You great sagamore,
O, what will you do?
Indians at your door!
In September of this year (1689) Captain (now styled Major) Church was commissioned by the authorities of the United Colonies to prosecute the war in Maine, and he sailed accordingly with his forces for Casco Bay. He had with him two hundred and fifty volunteers, English and friendly Indians, and two companies from Massachusetts. His arrival was seasonable, as a large party of Indians and French was ascertained to be in the vicinity, intending to destroy the place. Some smart skirmishing took place upon the succeeding day, but the enemy finally drew off.
When afterwards ordered home with his troops, Church bestirred himself to bring about some action on the part of the government for the more effectual protection of the unfortunate inhabitants of Casco (the country in the vicinity of the present town of Portland), but in vain; and in the ensuing spring the whole district was ravaged by the enemy. The English settlers at the East, after the event, no longer dared to remain exposed to attacks of the savages, and, deserting their homes, collected at the fortified post at Wells, in the south of Maine.
Church’s second eastern expedition, in September 1690, was against the Indian forts on the Androscoggin. With little resistance he drove off the occupants, released several English captives, and took prisoners several members of the families of the noted sachems Warombo and Kankamagus. A number of Indian prisoners were brutally murdered by the successful party; but two old squaws were left to deliver a message to their own people that Captain Church had been there, and with him many Indians, formerly adherents of King Philip; and to report further, as a warning, what great success he had met with in the war against the great sachem. Word was also left that if the fugitives “had a mind to see their wives and children, they should come to Wells garrison.” With respect to the massacre of prisoners on this occasion, we are left to infer that a portion of them, at least, consisted of women and children. The old narrative here as elsewhere is rather blind, and deficient in detail, but if the facts were as above suggested, the whole history of these Indian wars does not present a more revolting instance of cold-blooded barbarity. That the act was done by Church s orders, or that it was countenanced by him, seems utterly incredible when compared with his usual course towards prisoners. Of one man, who was captured in the taking of Warombo s fort, it is said: “The soldiers being very rude, would hardly spare the Indian s life while in examination;” and it is possible that they might have committed the wanton butchery above mentioned without their commander’s concurrence. We would not, how ever, endeavor to screen the guilty; and if Church is to be held responsible for the murder, it certainly must leave a black and indelible stain upon his character.
From the plundered fort Church proceeded to Casco, where he engaged the enemy, and beat them off, but not without the loss of about thirty of his own men in killed and wounded.
In August 1692, Church was again commissioned by Sir William Phipps to undertake an expedition against the Indians at Penobscot; and, although he failed to surprise the enemy, who escaped in their canoes, he destroyed a quantity of their provision, and brought away a considerable amount of plunder.
A force, sent into Maine, in 1693, under Major Convers, was opposed by none of the natives, and, within a short time after, these miserable people were glad to conclude a treaty of peace with the English at Pemmaquid, where a strong fort had been erected in 1690. At this negotiation the hostile tribes delivered hostages as a security that they would cease depredations and renounce their allegiance to the French. Many of them were, notwithstanding, induced to join the invasion under M. de Villiere, in the following year.
In this campaign, the first object was the destruction of the settlement on Oyster River, near Dover, New Hampshire, where twelve houses had been garrisoned and put in a state of defense. Five of these were forced, and nearly one hundred persons were killed or taken prisoners; the other strongholds made a successful defense, but fifteen unprotected houses were burned. Nothing of special interest occurred in connection with the Eastern Indians from this time until 1696. During the summer of that year, some blood was shed by the savages at Portsmouth and Dover; but the most important occurrence of the season was the reduction of the strong fort at Pemmaquid by the enemy. Church was also engaged in another eastern campaign in the months of August and September, but owing to orders received from the colonial authorities, he was impeded in the prosecution of his plans, and nothing of special moment was affected.
In January 1699, the war with the French being at an end, the Indians of Maine and New Hampshire entered into a treaty of peace with the English colonies acknowledging, by their principal sachems, allegiance to the King of England.
When war was again declared, in May 1702, the old difficulties with the Indians were speedily renewed. Governor Dudley, of Massachusetts, endeavored to preserve peace with these tribes, and concluded a negotiation with many of their chiefs, at Casco, in June of the following year. This appears to have been a mere blind on the part of the savages, then, as ever, favorable to the French; for only a few weeks subsequent to the treaty, a simultaneous attack was made upon the eastern English settlements. Every thing fell before the enemy; houses were burned, property of every kind was destroyed or plundered, and one hundred and thirty of the inhabitants were slain or captured.
The news of the terrible calamities attendant on the destruction of Deerfield, in the winter of 17034, combined with what he had himself witnessed of Indian cruelties, incited Major Church to volunteer his further services against the enemy. His blood boiled within him, making such impulses on his mind that he forgot all former treatments, which were enough to hinder any man, especially the said Major Church, from doing any further service.” His offers were gladly accepted, and a very considerable force was put under his command, with a good supply of whale-boats, the necessity for which he had seen in former campaigns along the irregular and indented coast of Maine.
This was the last military duty undertaken by the old soldier, and it was performed with his usual skill and energy. The Indian towns of Minas and Chignecto were taken, and the enemy was successfully engaged at other points. The most noted event of the expedition was the night attack at Passamaquoddy. In the midst of the con fusion incident to the marshalling of disorderly and undisciplined troops, an order was issued by Church for the destruction of a house, and of its inhabitants, who had refused to surrender. In his own words: “I hastily bid them pull it down, and knock them on the head, never asking whether they were French or Indians they being all enemies alike to me.” In a note to this transaction, Mr. Drake says: “It does not appear, from a long career of useful services, that Church was ever rash or cruel. From the extraordinary situation of his men, rendered doubly critical by the darkness of the night, and the almost certain intelligence that a great army of the enemy were at hand, is thought to be sufficient excuse for the measure.” The major, in his own account, adds: “I most certainly know that I was in an exceeding great passion, but not with those poor miserable enemies; for I took no notice of a half a dozen of the enemy, when at the same time I expected to be engaged with some hundreds of them. In this heat of action, every word that I then spoke I cannot give an account of; and I presume it is impossible.” Quarter was shown to all who came out and submitted, upon requisition.
From the close of the war, and the conclusion of peace with France, in 1713, until 1722, there was little to disturb the eastern frontier, further than some contentions between the colonists and Indians arising out of disputed titles to land. A Frenchman named Ralle, of the order of Jesuits, resided, in 1721, among the Indians at Norridgewock, and being suspected by the English of exerting a pernicious influence over his flock, a party was sent, by the Massachusetts government, to seize upon his person. Ralle escaped, and the undertaking only hastened hostilities.
Indian depredations soon commenced, and war was regularly declared by Massachusetts. For three years the frontier settlements suffered severely. The English succeeded in breaking up the principal head-quarters of the enemy, viz: at the Indian castle some distance up the Penobscot, and at the village of Norridgewock.
At the taking of the latter place, Ralle, with from fifty to a hundred of his Indian comrades, perished.
One of the most noted among the English campaigners during this war was the famous Captain John Lovewell, of Dunstable. His adventures, and particularly the fight at Pigwacket, on the Saco, in which he lost his life, were widely celebrated in the rude verse of the times.
This engagement was the last important event of the war; the Indians were greatly reduced in numbers, and, when no longer stimulated and supported by the French, were incapable of any systematic warlike operations.
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