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King Philip’s War
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Connecticut,Massachusetts,Native American,New Hampshire,Rhode Island | No Comments
The events of which we shall now proceed to give a brief synopsis, were of more momentous interest, and fraught with more deadly peril to the New England colonies, than aught that had preceded them. The wild inhabitants of the forest had now become far more dangerous opponents than when they relied upon their rude flint-headed arrows, or heavy stone tomahawks, as the only efficient weapons of offense. Governor Bradford, many years before the breaking out of the hostilities which we are about to detail, had given a graphic description of the effect produced upon their deportment and self-confidence by the introduction of European weapons. We quote from Bradford s verse, as rendered in prose in the appendix to Davis edition of the New England Memorial.
“These fierce natives,” says he, “are now so furnished with guns and muskets, and are so skilled in them, that they keep the English in awe, and give the law to them when they please; and of powder and shot they have such abundance that sometimes they refuse to buy more. Flints, screw-plates, and moulds for all sorts of shot they have, and skill how to use them. They can mend and new stock their pieces as well, almost, as an Englishman.”
He describes the advantages which they thus obtained over the whites in the pursuit of game; their own consciousness of power, and boasts that they could, when they pleased, “drive away the English, or kill them;” and finally breaks out into bitter upbraiding against the folly and covetousness of the traders who had supplied them with arms. His forebodings were truly prophetic: “Many,” says he, “abhor this practice,” (the trade in arms and ammunition,) “whose innocence will not save them if, which God forbid, they should come to see, by this means, some sad tragedy, when these heathen, in their fury, shall cruelly shed our innocent blood.”
The English settlements were small, ill defended, and widely scattered. Whoever is acquainted with the rough nature of the New England soil, must at once perceive how necessary it became for the first settlers to select the spots most favorable for cultivation, and what an inhospitable wilderness must have separated their small and ill-protected villages.
The whole number of the European inhabitants of New England, in 1675, when the memorable Indian war broke out, has been computed at about fifty thousand, which would give an effective force of not far from eight thousand men.
It were but wild conjecture to attempt a computation of the number and force of the native tribes who took part in the war. Old historians frequently speak positively, and in round numbers, when enumerating the aborigines; but, in many instances, we can perceive, with tolerable certainty, that they have been guilty of gross exaggeration, such as the whole circumstances of their intercourse with the savages would naturally lead to.
An enemy whose appearance was sudden and unexpected; who, in secret ambuscade or midnight assault, used every device to increase the terror and bewilderment of their victims, might well be over-estimated by those whose all was at stake, and who were waiting in fearful uncertainty as to where the danger lay, or when they should next be called to resist it.
In 1662, Philip, Metacomet, or Pometacom, as we have already seen, succeeded his brother Alexander, within a few months of the death of their father, Massasoit. Upon the occasion of his assuming the dignity of sachem over the Wampanoags, there was a great collection of sachems and warriors from all parts of the country, to unite in a feast of rejoicing at Mount Hope, where he held his court.
Although the new chief renewed his treaty with the English, and for nine years after his accession made no open demonstrations of hostility, yet his mind appears from the first to have been aliened from the intruders. Whether from anger at the proceedings attendant on the death of his brother, or from sympathy with his injured allies, the Narragansetts, or that his natural sagacity suggested to him the ruin which must fall upon his people by the spread of the whites; certain it is that his feelings of enmity were nourished and brooded over, long before their final exhibition.
Like his father before him, he never inclined an ear to the teachings of the Christian religion. Mather mentions a signal instance of his contempt for this species of instruction. The celebrated preacher, Eliot, had expounded the doctrines of Christianity, and urged their acceptance upon Philip, with his usual zeal and sincerity; but the sachem, approaching him, and laying hold of a button on his coat, told him that he cared no more for his Gospel than for that button.
In the year 1671, Philip made grievous complaints of trespasses upon the planting-lands of his people: according to Hubbard, “the devil, who was a murderer from the be ginning, had so filled the heart of this savage miscreant with envy and malice against the English, that he was ready to break out into open war against the inhabitants of Plymouth, pretending some trifling injuries done him in his planting-land.”
This matter was for the time settled, the complaints not appearing to the colonial authorities to be satisfactorily substantiated. A meeting was brought about, in April, 1671, at Taunton, between Philip, accompanied by a party of his warriors, in war paint and hostile trappings, and commissioners from Massachusetts. The Indian chief, unable to account for the hostile preparations in which he was proved to have been engaged, became confused, and perhaps intimidated. He not only acknowledged himself in the wrong, and that the rebellion originated in the “naughtiness of his own heart,” but renewed his submission to the king of England, and agreed to surrender all his English arms to the government of New Plymouth, “to be kept as long as they should see reason.” In pursuance of this clause, the guns brought by himself and the party who were with him were delivered up.
The colonists, now thoroughly alarmed, made efforts during the succeeding summer to deprive the neighboring tribes of arms and ammunition, making further prohibitory enactments as to the trade in these articles. Philip having failed to carry out his agreement to surrender his weapons, the Plymouth government referred the matter to the authorities of Massachusetts; but Philip, repairing himself to Boston, excited some feeling in his favor, and the claims of Plymouth were not fully assented to. Another treaty was concluded in the ensuing September, whereby Philip agreed to pay certain stipulated costs; to consider himself subject to the king of England; to consult the governor of Plymouth in the disposal of his lands, as also in the making of war; to render, if practicable, five wolves heads yearly; and to refer all differences and causes of quarrel to the decision of the governor. The arms put in possession of the English at the time of the meeting in April, were declared forfeit, and confiscated by the Plymouth government.
There can be but little doubt as to Philip’s motive for signing these articles. Feelings of enmity and revenge towards the whites had obtained complete possession of him, and he evidently wished merely to quiet suspicion and avert inquiry. It is almost universally allowed that he had long formed a deep and settled plan to exterminate the white settlers, and, in pursuance of it, had made use of all his powers of artful persuasion in his intercourse with the surrounding tribes. The time for a general uprising was said to have been fixed a year later than the period when hostilities actually commenced, and the premature development of the conspiracy, brought about in a manner to which we shall presently advert, has been considered the salvation of the colonies.
Hubbard, indeed, who is ever unwilling to allow that the Indians were possessed of any good or desirable qualities, and who can see no wrong in any of the outrages of the whites, suggests that Philip s heart would have failed him, had he not been pressed on to the undertaking by force of circumstances. He tells us that, when the great sachem succumbed to the English demands, in the spring previous, “one of his captains, of far better courage and resolution than himself, when he saw his cowardly temper and disposition, flung down his arms, calling him a white livered cur, or to that purpose, and saying that he would never own him again or fight under him; and, from that time, hath turned to the English, and hath continued, to this day, a faithful and resolute soldier in their quarrel.”
Philip had mingled much with the whites, and was well acquainted with their habits, dispositions, and force. For fifty years there had been comparative peace between the colonists and their savage neighbors, who, although slow to adopt the customs and refinements now brought to their notice, were apt enough, as we have seen, in availing them selves of the weapons which put the contending nations so nearly upon terms of equality.
To rouse a widely-scattered people to such a desperate struggle; to reconcile clannish animosities, and to point out the danger of allowing the colonies to continue their spread, required a master-spirit. The Wampanoag sachem proved himself qualified for the undertaking: he gained the concurrence and cooperation of the Narragansetts, a nation always more favorably disposed towards the English than most others of the Indian tribes; he extended his league far to the westward, among the tribes on the Connecticut and elsewhere; and sent diplomatic embassies in every direction.
Six of his warriors, in the spring of 1675, were dispatched to Sogkonate, now Little Compton, upon the eastern shores of Narragansett bay, and extending along the sea-coast, to treat with Awoshonks, squaw sachem of the tribe, concerning the proposed uprising. The queen appointed a great dance, calling together all her people, but, at the same time, took the precaution to send intelligence of the proceeding, by two Indians, named Sassamon and George, who understood English, to her friend, Captain Benjamin Church, the only white settler then residing in that part of the country.
This remarkable man, whose name occupies so prominent a place in the list of our early military heroes, had moved from Duxbury into the unsettled country of the Sogkonates only the year before, and was busily and laboriously engaged, at this time, in building, and in the numerous cares attendant upon a new settlement. He was a man of courage and fortitude unsurpassed: bold and energetic; but with all the rough qualities of a soldier, possessing a heart so open to kindly emotions and the gentler feelings of humanity as to excite our surprise, when we consider the stern age in which he lived, and the scenes of savage conflict in which he bore so conspicuous a part.
True courage is generally combined with generosity and magnanimity. The brave man seldom oppresses a fallen foe; a fact strikingly exemplified in Church’s treatment of his prisoners. He seems to have harbored none of those feelings of bitterness and revenge, which led the colonists to acts of perfidy and cruelty hardly surpassed by the savages themselves. The manner in which he was able to conciliate the good will of the Indians, known as he was among them for their most dangerous foe, is truly astonishing. It was his custom to select from his captives such as took his fancy, and attach them to himself, and never was officer attended by a more enthusiastic and faithful guard than they proved. His son tells us that “if he perceived they looked surly, and his Indian soldiers called them treacherous dogs, as some of them would sometimes do, all the notice he would take of it would only be to clap them on the back, and tell them, Come, come, you look wild and surly, and mutter, but that signifies nothing; these, my best soldiers, were, a little while ago, as wild and surly as you are now; by the time you have been but one day with me, you will love me too, and be as brisk as any of them. And it proved so, for there was none of them but, after they had been a little while with him, and seen his behavior and how cheerful and successful his men were, would be as ready to pilot him to any place where the Indians dwelt or haunted, though their own fathers or nearest relations should be among them, or to fight for him, as any of his own men.”
Captain Church was in high favor and confidence with Awoshonks and her tribe; he therefore accepted her invitation to attend at the dance, and started for the camp, accompanied by a son of his tenant, who spoke the Indian language.
He found the queen leading the dance, “in a muck of sweat,” surrounded by a great body of her subjects. She received her visitor hospitably, told him of Philip’s threats, and inquired concerning the purposes of the English. Church told her that no injuries had been meditated by the whites, as Philip averred, but that the sachem was the aggressor. He advised her to keep upon good terms with the English, asking her whether it was a probable thing that he should have come down into the wilderness to settle, if there were warlike preparations in progress among his people; and silenced the six Mount Hope ambassadors by recommending that they should be knocked on the head. A stormy discussion ensued among the Indians, and one Little Eyes, a man of importance, endeavored to draw Church aside to dispatch him quietly; but the captain was unmoved, and upbraided the Mount Hopes for their bloody intention, assuring them that, if they would have war, he would prove a thorn in their sides. Awoshonks inclined to his advice, and, having appointed two men to guard his house during his absence, desired him to go to Plymouth, and make known her good faith to the colonies.
Church started on his mission, and, on the way, gained further information concerning Philip’s movements from Peter Nunnuit, the husband of Weetamore, queen of Pocasset, now Tiverton. Philip, it seems, had been holding a protracted dance for a number of weeks, rousing a martial spirit in the minds of the young warriors who were gathered about him from far and near. He had finally promised them that, on the succeeding Sabbath, they might plunder the English settlements, while the people were engaged in religious services.
We may here mention a circumstance which was considered, by Hubbard and others, as having an important bearing upon the premature commencement of hostilities on the part of Philip: this was the murder of John Sassamon, and the subsequent execution of the guilty parties. Sassamon was one of the few Indians who, at that time, had received the rudiments of an English education. He was a professor of Christianity, and had been employed among his people in the capacities of schoolmaster, preacher, and royal secretary. In 1662, he occupied this latter post under Philip, to whom he was subject, although born a Massachusett and specimens of his imperfect communications with the colonies, in behalf of his sachem, are still preserved.
Becoming aware of the dangerous conspiracy fomented by Philip, he disclosed the whole plot to the officers of the colony; and, not long after, his body was found in Assawomsett pond, with the neck broken, and presenting other marks of violence. His gun and hat were so disposed as to give the impression that he had accidentally fallen through the ice, and been drowned. The matter was strictly inquired into, and three Indians, of Philip s party, falling under suspicion, were regularly tried before a jury, in part at least of their peers, as it was composed of whites and Indians. The culprits were convicted and executed, two of them upon what would appear to us as very insufficient evidence. Mather speaks of the blood oozing from the murdered body on the approach of the accused; but whether this circumstance made a part of the evidence before the court does not appear.
Philip himself did not come forward to attempt to clear himself of the charge of being concerned in this murder, but kept his warriors in preparation for battle, receiving and entertaining all the roving and unsettled Indians who would resort to him, and “matching up and down” continually during the pendency of the trial.
It was on the 24th of June 1675, that the first open attack was made upon the colonies. The small village of Swansey lay within a few miles of Mount Hope, and here the first blood was shed. Some days previous, a party of the natives had committed a few slight depredations at this place, and conducted themselves with insolence, evidently desirous of provoking a quarrel.
The squaws and children of Philip’s active force were sent, for safety, to the country of the Narragansetts, before any open demonstration of hostilities.
Some little discrepancy occurs in the early accounts of the first fatal attack, but it is certain that, on the day above mentioned, eight or nine men were killed in different parts of Swansey. A company returning from religious exercises, “in a way of humiliation,” were fired upon with fatal effect, one being killed and several wounded. Two more, who had started in quest of a surgeon, were slain, scalped and mangled; and six men were killed at a dwelling house situated in another part of the settlement.
From this period all was terror and confusion. Swansey was deserted by its inhabitants, and mostly reduced to ashes by the Indians. Deputations were sent to Boston, to lay the case before the Massachusetts authorities, and to solicit some prompt and efficient protection in this terrible emergency.
A party of horse and foot were at once dispatched in the direction of Mount Hope, under the command of Captains Henchman and Prentice. Samuel Mosely, a bold and martial character, who had pursued the calling of a privateer, raised a volunteer company of one hundred and ten soldiers, and joined the expedition. He was, it is said, accompanied by several buccaneers of his own class, with a number of dogs; and the feats performed by them, upon divers occasions, savor rather of the marvelous.
The head-quarters of the united forces were at the house of a minister of Swansey, named Miles, and hard by was a bridge, affording convenient access to the domains of Philip.
Captain Church, with the Plymouth troops under Major Cutworth, were now acting in concert with the men from Massachusetts. The Indians lay concealed or skulking about the garrison, and succeeded in killing a number by shots from covert, but showed themselves wary of coming to open combat.
A detachment of Prentice s men, led by a Mr. Gill and one Belcher, made an attempt upon the enemy in their own quarters, but, upon crossing Miles bridge, were fired upon by some of the Indians lying in ambush, and one of their number was killed. Gill was struck by a ball, which would have proved mortal but for a singular species of defensive armor, viz.: a quantity of thick brown paper, which he had inserted under his clothes. The troops re treated, leaving Church, Gill, and another to bring off the dead man; which, being accomplished, Church pursued and regained his horse, under the full fire of the enemy.
The next day the bridge was crossed by a larger force, and, after some skirmishing, in which “Ensign Savage, that young martial spark, scarce twenty years of age,” was shot through the thigh as Church says, by an accidental ball from his own party the neck of Mount Hope was cleared of Indians. The English there found Philip s deserted wigwam, and the mutilated remains of a number of the murdered whites.
It was now proposed to secure the ground already gained by the erection of a fort. Church ridiculed the plan, and urgently advocated a brisk pursuit of the enemy in the Pocasset country, whither they had doubtless fled. From disregard to this advice, Philip had free scope to extend his devastation unchecked toward the east, and terrible destruction ensued, as we shall see hereafter.
Early in July, Captains Church and Fuller, with six files of soldiers, were sent across to Rhode Island, thence to cross Sogkonate River, and endeavor to communicate with the Pocasset and Sogkonate Indians. About the same time, Captain Hutchinson, from Boston, arrived at the English encampment, having been commissioned to treat with and gain over the Narragansetts. In pursuance of this purpose, Hutchinson, with Mosely and the Massachusetts troops, proceeded in arms to the Narragansett country, where, in concert with commissioners from Connecticut, they concluded a futile and inoperative treaty of amity with certain Indians claiming to be chief counselors of the prominent sachems. The Narragansetts were bound, by the stipulations of this alliance, to render up all of Philip s subjects who should be found in their country receiving two coats for every prisoner, and one coat for every head and to carry on active war against the enemies of the whites. Hostages were given to ensure the performance of the engagement.
While this child’s play was enacting, Fuller and Church, with their little band of thirty-six men, had penetrated into the country of the Pocassets. After some unsuccessful attempts to entrap the enemy by means of ambuscade, (the concealed company being betrayed by incautiously gratifying their “epidemical plague, lust after tobacco,”) Church and fifteen or twenty companions, with the consent of Captain Fuller, left the rest at Pocasset, and marched southward.
They struck an Indian trail leading towards an extensive pine swamp, but the company becoming alarmed by the numbers of rattlesnakes, which abounded there, left the track, and went down into Punkatese neck. At this place, which is situated on the southwestern part of the modern town of Tiverton, they encountered a large body of the natives in and around a Pease field of Captain Almy. They numbered, as Church was afterwards told by some of their own party, about three hundred; but, as they pursued the usual course of savage warfare, firing from behind trees and thickets, the English could form no estimate of the force with which they were to contend.
In this extremity the courage, coolness, and self-possession of the gallant captain were eminently conspicuous. As forcibly expressed in Church’s narrative, ” the hill seemed to move, being covered over with Indians, with their bright guns glittering in the sun.”
A detachment had been sent down the river in boats to support the troops on land, and could be plainly seen, landed upon the Rhode Island shore, across the river. Church bade his men strip to their shirtsleeves, and fire signal guns to attract attention, and show their allies that the party engaged was English. This course succeeded, and a boat put out, and approached the combatants; but, on approaching the shore, the crew received such a volley from the guns of the Indians that they pulled off again. Church, enraged at their pusillanimity, finally ordered the boat off, and threatened to fire into her himself. These few men, thus left to shift for themselves, now seemed to be in a desperate condition. They were faint for want of food, as they had neglected to bring any provisions, other than a few cakes of rusk, and had been driven from the pease-field while endeavoring to allay their hunger with the crude nourishment within their reach. The Indians beset them on all sides, and, gaining possession of the ruins of an old stone house, poured their bullets upon the English from its shelter. The ammunition of Church s party was nearly expended, and their powder was poor and in efficient. In the midst of these difficulties, the captain succeeded in preserving the courage and spirit of his men, pointing out to them how providentially the balls seemed to be directed.
They were finally relieved from their perilous situation by the arrival of a sloop of Captain Golding, an acquaintance of Church. Mooring the vessel at a short distance, he cast off a canoe, and suffered it to drive ashore. In this slight vehicle, which would carry but two at a time, the whole of the party got off to the sloop, by a repetition of the same operation. Church, who had left his hat at a spring, declared that the enemy should not have it as a trophy; and, loading his gun with his last charge of powder, he went up alone, in the face of the Indians, and re covered it. When going on board in the canoe, a ball struck a small stake just before his breast, and another passed through his hair.
Joining company next day with Fuller s party, who had also been engaged with the Indians at Pocasset, they all returned to the encampment at Mount Hope, where the army, as Church averred, “lay still to cover the people from nobody, while they were building a fort for nothing.”
Shortly after this, being upon Rhode Island, in pursuit of supplies for the garrison, Church fell in with Alderman, a deserter from the forces of Weetamore, queen of Pocasset. By conversation with this Indian, he learned the precise spot at which the squaw sachem was encamped, and, in pursuance of his suggestion, an expedition was immediately set on foot against her. The attempt terminated in an unimportant skirmish; the chief officer of the Plymouth men being timid, and the Indians retiring to a swamp of difficult access.
On the 18th of July, the united forces of the colonists drove Philip, with a large body of his warriors, into an extensive swamp in Pocasset. After an imperfect examination of the Indians place of retreat, the forces were drawn off, having sustained considerable loss by the fire of the lurking enemy. It was averred, indeed, by some, that half an hour more of energetic pursuit would have secured Philip, and perhaps have ended the war. One hundred newly-erected wigwams were found deserted in the vicinity of the swamp; and an old man, who had been left behind in the precipitate retreat, confirmed the supposition that Philip had but lately fled from the camp.
Not far from this time, the town of Dartmouth having been, in great measure, destroyed by the enemy, a large number of Indians, no less than one hundred and sixty, who had dwelt in the country thereabout, and were not active partakers in the destruction of the town, delivered themselves up to one Captain Eels, upon promises of good treatment. They were, nevertheless, taken to Plymouth; sold by the colonial authorities as slaves; and transported to foreign parts. Captains Church and Eels made, upon this occasion, the most vehement remonstrance’s, expressed by Church with his characteristic energy and spirit; but all to no purpose, as it only secured him the ill-will of the government. The act was grossly impolitic, as well as perfidious and cruel.
The English entertained hopes of being able to confine Philip within the limits of the swamp to which he had retired, and proceeded to erect another fort at Pocasset, an expedient which seems to have been as ill-advised and futile as the garrisoning of Mount Hope. The sachem had abundant leisure to prepare canoes, an opportunity of which he diligently availed himself, and secretly passed the river with all his warriors. They were seen by the people of Rehoboth, crossing the open country, which ex tended for some distance, and offered no means of protection or concealment to the fugitives.
A party was speedily sent in pursuit, under Captain Henchman, accompanied by Owenoco, the son of Uncas the Mohegan, and a considerable band of warriors. Uncas had sent this detachment to Boston, upon the summons of the Massachusetts authorities, to renew his assurances of good faith, and proffer assistance in the campaign against Philip.
Henchman’s company proceeded up the river to Providence, and being there somewhat reinforced, hastened at once on the trail of the Wampanoag. Coming up with a portion of the enemy, a sharp engagement ensued, and about thirty of Philip s warriors were killed, but the Mohegans stopping for plunder, the principal force escaped, and from that time were no more seen by the pursuers. Henchman returned with his men to the eastern colonies, while the Mohegans took their way southward to their own country, leaving Philip to pursue his course towards the Hudson, and to rouse up the war among the western settlements of Massachusetts.
The Nipmucks, a large tribe inhabiting the north-eastern portion of the present state of Connecticut, and the adjoining Massachusetts districts, appear, ere this period, to have become involved in Philip s undertaking. Mendon, a small town, twenty-four miles westward from Providence, and standing at some distance from any other settlement, had been attacked on the 14th of July, and a number of men killed by shots from an unseen enemy. The whole of the inhabitants deserted the place in terror, and it was reduced to ashes by the assailants.
The colonies attempted, after this, to treat with the Nipmuck sachems, but found them reserved and “surly.” A meeting was, however, appointed between them and an embassy from the Massachusetts government. Captains Wheeler and Hutchinson, with a considerable body of mounted men, repaired to the place of meeting at the time designated, viz.: the 2d of August; but, instead of coming forward in friendly conference, the Indians, to the number of two or three hundred, formed an ambuscade, and, firing suddenly from their cover, killed eight of the whites at the first discharge. Hutchinson was killed and Wheeler wounded.
The company, avoiding the other spots where they suspected the enemy to be lying in ambush, made the best of their way to Brookfield, a solitary village near the principal head-quarters of the Nipmucks. The Indians, in great numbers, pursued them into the town. They found the terrified inhabitants collected in a single house, which stood on a rising ground, where they had fortified them selves as well as possible, upon such an emergency, by piling logs and hanging feather beds against the walls. Wheeler and his companions also entered the house, and the savages, after burning all the buildings in the town, with the exception of a few immediately adjoining that where the whites had retreated, laid close siege to the frail fortification. Seventy people, including women and children, were here crowded together, with such slight defenses as we have mentioned; while an enraged and remorseless enemy was pouring showers of bullets through the walls, and using every endeavor to fire the house. The Indians shot burning arrows upon the roof, and, attaching rags dipped in brimstone to long poles, they set fire to them, and thrust them against the walls. From the afternoon of Monday the 2d of August, till “Wednesday evening, these assaults continued; and, as a last attempt, the besiegers loaded a cart with hemp and other inflammable materials, and binding together a number of poles, so attached to the vehicle that it could be moved from a safe distance, wheeled it blazing against the building. This was in the evening, and, according to Wheeler s account, nothing could have preserved the unfortunate inmates, had not a heavy shower of rain suddenly extinguished the burning mass. In the words of Hubbard, by ” this devilish stratagem,” but for the rain, “all the poor people would either have been consumed by merciless flames, or else have fallen into the hands of their cruel enemies, like wolves continually yelling and gaping for their prey.”
To exclude all assistance from without, the Indians had placed watchers and ambuscades upon all sides of the town; but Major Willard, who had been dispatched against the Indians west of Groton, hearing of the probable condition of Brookfield, marched to its relief, and succeeded in effecting an entrance to the fortified house on this same night. He had with him forty-six men, but it is said that, as they passed through the ruins of the town, a large number of terrified cattle, who had not been destroyed in the conflagration, followed them for protection; and that, in the darkness, the Indians were deceived by this circumstance, as to the number of the party, and accordingly drew off their forces early the next morning. They retired to a swamp, twelve miles distant, where they met Philip with a band of his warriors. Only one of the whites was killed on this occasion, while the Indians lost, it is said, nearly eighty.
A garrison was maintained at the only remaining house for some months, but was finally drawn off, the building was burned by the savages, and the town left entirely desolate.
“All died the wailing babe the shrieking maid
And in the flood of fire that scathed the glade,
The roofs went down.” Bryant.
We can do little more, in continuing this account of Indian ravages, than enumerate the towns and settlements destroyed, and the little communities massacred or driven from their homes in utter destitution.
The terrible uncertainty which attended these calamities rendered them the more distressing. No one could tell, for many months from this time, where Philip was to be found, or at what point he meditated the next attack. He continued his westward progress, as is supposed, nearly to the Hudson, through the Mohegan country. He was thought to be present at many of the successful and murderous assaults that were made upon the white settlements; but, if so, he was enabled so to disguise himself as not to be distinctly recognized.
Mosely and others in vain scoured the country in pursuit of the Indians. The enemy, neglecting agriculture, and deserting their usual haunts, concealed themselves in swamps and thickets, retiring unperceived at the approach of regular troops, and ever ready to take advantage of any weak and unprotected quarter.
The Indians in the vicinity of Hadley and Springfield, on the Connecticut, were relied upon by the whites as friendly and well-disposed; but ere long it was sufficiently plain that they had made common cause with Philip.
On the 1st of September, Hadley and Deerfield were both fiercely assaulted, and the latter town in great measure destroyed. At Hadley the Indians were driven off after much hard fighting. The inhabitants were engaged in religious exercises at the meeting-house, with arms, as usual, by their sides, when the Indians came upon them. So sudden and desperate was the attack, that they became confused, and might have been totally discomfited, but for a strange and unlooked-for champion. This was an old man, with white and flowing locks, and unusual costume, who appeared from some unknown quarter, and at once assumed the command of the panic-stricken congregation. With military skill and coolness he directed every manoeuvre, and so reestablished their confidence and spirit, that the enemy was speedily put to flight. He disappeared immediately after the engagement, and many of the astonished inhabitants were persuaded that an angel from heaven had been miraculously sent for their deliverance.
The old warrior was no other than Major General Goffe, who, with his companion, Whalley, lay for a long time concealed at the house of Mr. Russell, the minister of Hadley.
Ten men were killed at Northfield about this time, and a party of thirty-six, under a Captain Beers, who had been sent to relieve the town, were nearly all cut off by an ambush. The bodies were mutilated, and the heads set on poles. “One, (if not more,”) says Hubbard, “was found with a chain hooked into his under jaw, and so hung up on the bough of a tree, (it is feared he was hung up alive.”)
Several thousand bushels of corn had been stored at Deerfield, and a company of nearly one hundred young men, “the flower of the country,” under the command of a youthful and gallant officer, Captain Lathrop, marched to secure it. On their way, an immense body of Indians fell upon them, and slew nearly the whole party; among the rest, the brave commander; only seven or eight survived. This defeat is attributed to the circumstance that Lathrop, aware of the disadvantages which a compact body of troops must labor under, when contending with an enemy who always fired from cover, ordered his men to separate, and take to the trees, like their opponents. This being done, the disproportion of numbers proved so great, that the Indians were enabled to surround the English, and cut them off separately.
The Springfield Indians had pretended unbroken friend ship for the whites, and had given hostages as pledges of good faith; but the hostages succeeded in escaping, and the whole body joined the hostile confederacy, with those of Hadley, “hanging together like serpents eggs.” The town of Springfield received great injury from their attack, more than thirty houses being burned; among the rest, one containing a “brave library,” the finest in that part of the country, which belonged to the Rev. Pelatiah Glover. Hubbard considers that this act ” did, more than any other, discover the said actors to be the children of the devil, full of all subtlety and malice,” as they had been upon friendly terms with the whites for more than forty years.
On the 19th of October, seven or eight hundred of Philip s coadjutors made an attempt upon Hatfield; but, the place being well defended, by Mosely and others, the enemy ” were so well entertained on all hands, that they found it too hot for them.”
This was the last important engagement at the westward part of the colony. Most of Philip s men are supposed to have betaken themselves, before winter, to the Narragansett country; and whether the great sachem himself remained concealed among them during that season, or wandered to the west, hatching new plots in the vicinity of the Hudson, is not certainly known.
The condition of the hostile Indians, notwithstanding their signal successes, must by this time have become sufficiently miserable. Living almost exclusively upon animal food; ill protected from the inclemencies of the weather; and continually shifting their quarters, it is surprising that they should so long have retained their energy and fixedness of purpose.
In September of this year, 1675, the commissioners of the united colonies of Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, being in session at Boston, concluded arrangements by which the war should be jointly and systematically prosecuted. One thousand men were to be levied and equipped; the proportion which each colony should furnish being settled according to their comparative population and resources.
On the 2d of November it was agreed, by the same body, that an additional force should be raised, and active measures be taken against the Narragansetts. The reasons alleged for attacking this tribe were, that the stipulation made by those sachems, who had treated with the colonies to deliver up all of Philip s party who should take refuge at Narragansett, had not been fulfilled; but that women, children, and wounded men had been succored and received by them! In addition to this, some of the tribe had ex pressed satisfaction upon hearing of the Indian successes at Hadley, and it was “credibly reported” that they had killed and taken away many cattle from the neighboring English. These, with a detention of a Mr. Smith and his family, for a short time, no other harm being done them, were all the ostensible grounds upon which a formidable army was sent to exterminate the Narragansetts with fire and sword!
No doubt their sympathies were with those of their own race, and, had they fully joined the conspiracy, the addition of so numerous a tribe to the enemy might have turned the scale, and resulted in the annihilation of the whites.
Josias Winslow, governor of Plymouth colony, was chosen commander-in-chief of the English force. Church, at the request of Winslow, joined the expedition, although he would not accept of a commission. A considerable body of Mohegans, subjects of Uncas, accompanied the detachment from Connecticut.
After destroying many deserted wigwams, and taking a considerable number of prisoners in desultory warfare, a guide was obtained to pilot the invaders to the chief fort of the Narragansetts. The encampment covered five or six acres of elevated ground, forming an island in the midst of an extensive swamp. In addition to the natural defenses of the place, the whole village was surrounded by a strong palisade, and the only means of approach was by crossing the marsh upon a huge fallen tree. The wigwams within, to the number of five or six hundred, were rendered, to a great extent, bullet-proof by piling up tubs of grain and other stores about the sides.
It was upon the 19th of December, early in the after noon, that the English forces reached this place of retreat. “With determined and desperate courage they rushed to the attack. File after file of soldiers, with their officers at their head, was swept from the narrow bridge by the fire of a party within, posted in a log hut, from which the approach was commanded. They continued to press on, and succeeded in driving the Indians from this covert into the main enclosure. A scene of terrible carnage ensued for several hours; but the assailants steadily gained ground, driving many of the enemy into the swamp, and covering the area within with dead bodies.
Church, who had made an excursion, with a small party, into the swamp, to attack the Indians in the rear, and who, after doing good service, was severely wounded in the thigh, seeing some setting fire to the wigwams, made strenuous efforts to prevent their destruction. The weather was intensely cold; night was coming on; many of the troops were destitute of provisions; a heavy snowstorm was brooding; and sixteen miles must be traversed by the army, encumbered by their wounded, before they could reach shelter. He represented all these circumstances to the general, pointing out the advantages of obtaining plentiful supplies of food, and a warm cover where the wounded could receive requisite attention. We will hope that some feelings of humanity towards the unfortunate women and children, with which the huts were crowded, formed a part of his motives for this advice.
The general inclined to Church s counsel, but other officers, fearing that the Indians would rally and attack them in force, should the army take up their quarters for the night, vehemently opposed him, and the work of destruction proceeded. Now was reenacted the terrible scene at the fort of the Pequots. Great numbers of old men, women, and children were burned alive in the blazing wigwams, or mercilessly slain in their attempts to escape. Hubbard, the reverend historian of the Indian wars, speaks of this “firing of at least five or six hundred of their smoky cells,” as follows: The Indians were about preparing their dinner when “our sudden and unexpected assault put them beside that work, making their cook-room too hot for them at that time, when they and their mitchin fried together; and probably some of them ate their suppers in a colder place that night: most of their provisions, as well as huts, being then consumed with fire, and those that were left alive forced to hide themselves in a cedar swamp, not far off, where they had nothing to de fend them from the cold but boughs of spruce and pine trees.” The whole town was reduced to ashes; and, leaving the enclosure a smoking ruin, every where strewn with burned and mangled corpses, the army commenced a retreat, worn out by cold, fatigue, and hunger. Many perished by the way, and many more must have died from starvation, but for the fortunate arrival at their rendezvous of a vessel from Boston with provisions.
Eighty of their number were killed, and one hundred and fifty wounded in the engagement. Besides an untold number of the helpless occupants of the wigwams who perished in the flames, it was supposed that not far from three hundred Indian warriors were slain outright, and seven hundred wounded, of whom many died from expo sure during the storm and cold of that terrible night.
Most of the survivors of the tribe fled to the Nipmucks, after some inconclusive negotiation for peace with the English. The old sachem Ninigret seems to have been inclined to make terms, but Canonicus, or Canonchet, a son of Miantonimo, and a brave and energetic chief, nourished the most unyielding hostility towards the destroyer of his people.
On the 10th of January, an Indian was found concealed in a barn, “but after he was brought to the head-quarters” (in the words of Hubbard) “he would own nothing but what was forced out of his mouth by the woolding of his head with a cord, wherefore he was presently judged to die, as a Wampanoag.”
One Tift, an English renegade, who had joined the Indians, married one of their women, and assisted them in their battles with the whites, was taken and put to death.
Winslow, in the latter part of January, pursued the Narragansetts into the Nipmuck Country, whither they had fled, committing divers depredations on the route, and killed about seventy of those whom he could come up with. The larger portion, however, succeeded in joining the forces of the Nipmucks, while the English were compelled to return to the settlement for want of provisions.
Philip is supposed to have fled about this time as far west as the Hudson river, where, it is said, “the Mohags (Mohawks) made a descent upon him, and killed many of his men, which moved him from thence.” Some authors, notwithstanding, speak of him as having been present at various places in Massachusetts, attacked by Indians during the latter part of the winter.
About the 10th of February, (old style,) Lancaster was destroyed by a large force of the enemy, consisting of Nipmucks, Nashawas, and Narragansetts, under the noted Sag amore Sam. The house of Mr. Rowlandson, the minister, which was garrisoned, and contained fifty-five persons, was set on fire, and the inmates were killed or made captives. More than twenty women and children fell into the hands of the assailants. They were, most of them, well treated during their captivity, the Indians “offering no wrong to any of their persons save what they could not help, being in many wants themselves.” Mrs. Rowlandson, wife of the minister, was among the prisoners, and her account of Indian manners and peculiarities, witnessed during the three months of her captivity, are exceedingly interesting.
Church says that Philip s next “kenneling place” was at the falls on the Connecticut, and he probably gave directions concerning many of the devastations committed in February and March, if not personally present at them.
On the 21st of February, the town of Medfield, only about twenty miles from Boston, was mostly destroyed. The Indians had concealed themselves, during the previous night, in every quarter of the place, and, at early dawn, fired about fifty buildings simultaneously. One hundred and sixty soldiers were quartered in the town, but so sudden and well concerted was the attack, that it was impossible to save the buildings which had been set on fire. Nearly forty of the inhabitants were killed or wounded.
Being compelled, at last, to retreat across Charles river, the Indians burned the bridge behind them, and left a paper, written by some of their number who had received education from the English, to the following effect: “Know, by this paper, that the Indians whom thou hast provoked to wrath and anger, will war this 21 years if you will. There are many Indians yet. “We come 300 at this time. You must consider the Indians lose nothing but their life: you must lose your fair houses and cattle.”
One account states that Philip himself was seen at this action, ” riding upon a black horse, leaping over fences, and exulting in the havoc he was making.”
Through the months of February and March, the savages met with signal success. Seekonk, Groton, and Warwick were destroyed; Northampton was assaulted; one house was burned in the very town of Plymouth, and a number of buildings at Weymouth, only eleven miles from Boston, shared a similar fate. Thirty houses were burned at Providence. Captain Pierce, of Scituate, who had been sent with a party of fifty whites and a number of friendly Indians on an excursion against the enemy, was slain, with the entire company of English. Only a few of the Indian allies escaped.
On the same day, Marlborough was destroyed, with the exception of the houses which had been garrisoned. This attack was probably made by Philip himself, with the Nip-muck and Narragansett Indians. Continuing their march, they did much damage at Sudbury, and ” met and swallowed up valiant Captain Wadsworth and his company,” consisting of fifty men, with whom he was hastening to the relief of the town.
One of the first severe reverses experienced by Philip, was the capture and execution of the younger Canonicus or Canonchet, the noblest and most influential of the Narragansett sachems. This was accomplished by a party led by Captain Dennison, from Connecticut, consisting of English, Nehantic Indians, subject to Ninigret, and Mohegans, under the command of Owenoco, son of Uncas. Canonchet, with a small band of warriors, came to Narragansett early in April, for the purpose of procuring seed-corn for his people in the western settlements. Dennison, having heard from a captive squaw, of the sachem s proximity, pursued and took him.
The proud chief, upon his capture, being addressed by a young man of the party, according to Hubbard, “looking, with a little neglect upon his youthful face, replied in broken English: you much child: no understand matters of war; let your brother or your chief come: acting herein as if, by a Pythagorean metempsychosis, some old Roman ghost had possessed the body of this western Pagan.” He was carried to Stonington, and there shot: his head was sent to Hartford as a trophy. He approved his sentence, saying that “he should die before his heart was soft, and before he had spoken any thing unworthy of himself.” He had been Philip s faithful ally to the last, and ever refused to “deliver up a Wampanoag, or the paring of a Wampanoag s nail,” to the English. Dennison and his men afterwards made further spoil of the enemy, killing and capturing a large number of the Narragansetts.
During the months of April and May, twenty or thirty buildings were burned in Plymouth; Taunton and Scituate were attacked, and Bridgewater sustained no small injury from an assault by three hundred Indians, under the sachem Tisguogen.
Great numbers of hostile Indians having congregated at the falls of the Connecticut, during the month of May, for the purpose of fishing, a strong force of soldiers and inhabitants of the towns on the river, under the command of Captains Holyoke and Turner, made a descent upon them. The Indians were encamped in careless security, and, the attack being made in the night, some two hundred were killed, or drowned in attempting to escape across the river. In the midst of this success it was reported to the English, by an Indian, that Philip in person, with an immense force, was coming upon them. Commencing a retreat, upon this news, the Indians recovered from their panic, and pursuing the party from which they had so recently fled in con fusion, killed from thirty to forty of their number.
On the 30th of May, six hundred Indians attacked Hatfield, and burned many buildings, but the place was bravely defended, and the enemy was driven off. A still larger number, about a fortnight later, assaulted Hadley, but, by the assistance of troops from Connecticut, the in habitants successfully repelled them.
Philip’s power was now upon the decline: his forces were discontented, and in separate bodies wandered about the country, undergoing much hardship and privation. Losing influence with the river Indians, and unable to concentrate the various tribes, with effect, he returned to his old quarters in the vicinity of Narragansett bay, accompanied by the trusty warriors who still adhered to him.
Major Talcott, from Connecticut, with a body of mounted men, accompanied by many Mohegans and Pequots, signalized himself during the month of June, by several incursions into Narragansett. On a single occasion, he killed a great number of the enemy, and took from one to two hundred prisoners. To the everlasting disgrace of the whites of this company, they allowed their Mohegan allies, upon one occasion, to torture to death a young warrior who was made prisoner. “The English,” says Hubbard, “at this time were not unwilling to gratify their humor, lest, by a denial, they might disoblige their Indian friends partly, also, that they might have an ocular demonstration of the savage, barbarous cruelty of the heathen.” This young warrior had killed, as he averred, many Englishmen, and now, the narrative proceeds, “this monster is fallen into the hands of those that will repay him seven-fold.”
The Mohegans cut round the joints of his fingers and toes successively, and then “broke them off, as was formerly the custom to do with a slaughtered beast.” The victim bore all unflinchingly; replying to their taunts, with asseverations that he “liked the war well, and found it as sweet as the Englishmen do their sugar.” They compelled him to dance and sing in this condition, till he had ” wearied himself and them,” and then broke his legs. Sinking, in silence, on the ground, he sat till they finished his miseries by a blow. Meanwhile, the English stood by, and, although the sight brought tears into the eyes of some of them, none offered to interfere.
Famine, disease, and exposure had, by this time, begun to do their work upon the miserable outcasts who had so long kept New England in terror.
A large body fled westward, pursued by troops from Connecticut, and, after sustaining considerable loss, succeeded in joining the Mohicans of the Hudson, with whom they united, and formed thereafter a portion of that tribe.
The colonial authorities now offered terms of peace to the enemy, promising good treatment to all who should surrender and deliver up their arms, with the exception of notorious offenders. Within a few weeks from this proclamation, five or six hundred of the Indians came in and submitted to the English. Some of their chiefs, and noted warriors, and those who had been chiefly concerned in the outrages upon the settlements, were put to death; the others had lands assigned them; were disarmed, and kept under the surveillance of overseers.
As Church took so prominent a part in the final reduction of Philip and his chief sachems, we will now briefly review his proceedings during this summer until the death of Philip and the close of the war. He had been summoned to Plymouth in the spring, to assist at the council of war, and, at that time, proffered advice, which, if approved by his associates, might have saved much havoc and bloodshed. His plan was to “make a business of the war, as the enemy did;” to employ large forces; to enlist all the friendly Indians who were available, and to pursue their opponents into their own country, and fight them in their own manner. Not being able to persuade the authorities to his views, he remained inactive, with his family, at Duxbury and on Rhode Island, until early in June, when he again betook himself to Plymouth, where he was gladly welcomed by the general court, then in session. The members “told him they were glad to see him alive. He replied, he was as glad to see them alive, for he had seen so many fires and smokes towards their side of the country, since he left them, that he could scarce eat or sleep with any comfort, for fear they had all been destroyed. For all traveling was stopped, and no news had passed for a long time together.”
The court had now concluded, according to Church’s plan, to raise a large force of English and Indians, and eagerly accepted the captain s offer of cooperation. He was to return to Rhode Island, and there enlist a company for the campaign. Reaching Elizabeth’s Island, he could find no conveyance homeward other than a canoe, manned by two Indians. Their course took them near Sogkonate (commonly called Seaconnet) point, the wild mass of rocks which juts into the ocean, at the southern extremity of Awoshonks domains. Church saw some of the Indians fishing upon the rocks, and bethought him that here might be further opportunity of communicating with his old friend, the squaw sachem. Notwithstanding her early counsel with Church, she, or her people, against her inclinations, had been drawn into Philip s plans, and the Sogkonates had taken active part in the hostilities.
The canoe was soon hailed from shore, but the surf beat so heavily against the rocks that the reply could not be heard. Two Indians, one of whom was George, the interpreter, therefore came out upon a long point of sand, where Church could land without danger of being surprised, and, on his approach, they informed him that Awoshonks had left Philip, and would be glad to have a conference with him. An appointment was therefore made for a meeting, on the next day that the weather would permit, at a well-known rock, upon the Richmond farm. None were to be present except the queen, her son Peter, and Nompash, an Indian known to Church.
Arriving at Newport, and detailing his plans to the authorities, they pronounced him demented to think of risking himself unprotected among such a body of the enemy. He replied that he had always wished for an opportunity to confer with the Sogkonates, not doubting but that he could secure their friendship, and that he was determined to prosecute the adventure.
He accordingly crossed over the next day, to the place appointed, accompanied only by “his own man,” and the Indian who had paddled him from Elizabeth’s. He was met by the queen and the other two, who had been designated; but, upon retiring a short distance, to a convenient spot for discussion, a crowd of armed and painted warriors sprang up from amid the long grass around them.
Church betrayed no signs of surprise or fear, but, having first obtained directions from Awoshonks that the Indians should lay down their guns, he pulled out a bottle of rum, and opened the conference by proffering her a dram, asking, ” if she had been so long at Weetuset as to forget to drink Occapeches.” Having first swallowed some himself, from the hollow of his hand, to quiet any suspicions of treachery that she might entertain, he distributed the rest, together with some tobacco that he had brought, among those standing by. He then answered her inquiries as to the reasons why he had absented himself so long, using all his powers of persuasion to revive her old friendship for the English; promising favor and protection from the government, if she would enlist her forces against Philip; and by his bold and frank demeanor, disarming the suspicions and softening the surliness of the warriors.
At one time, as related by Church, “there arose a mighty murmur, confused noise and talk among the fierce-looking creatures; and, all rising up in a hubbub, a great surly-looking fellow took up his tomhog, or wooden cutlass, to kill Mr. Church, but some others prevented him.”
This man had lost a brother in the fight at Punkatese, but Church explained how, with only a handful of men, he had been suddenly set upon, and how his intentions were, even then, friendly to the Sogkonates.
His counsels finally prevailed, and it was agreed that an offer of services should be made at Plymouth, in behalf of the tribe; five men being chosen to accompany Church on the embassy.
Having returned to Rhode Island, and, with much difficulty, procured a vessel, Captain Church set sail for Sogkonate, whence the Indians espied him, and stood waiting upon the rocks with an old canoe, ready to come on board. The sea ran so high that no one but Peter Awoshonks was able to reach the vessel; and when, after much danger and trouble, he was taken in, a strong head wind prevented the prosecution of the voyage, and all returned to New port, making the circuit of Rhode Island.
Church, after this delay, the arrival of the army at Pocasset being shortly expected, was unwilling to leave the Island, and accordingly sent Peter back to Sogkonate, with directions to take the selected number of his companions, and proceed across the country to Plymouth, with letters for the governor.
The Plymouth forces reached Pocasset, under command of Major Bradford, and, having been joined by Church, marched to Punkatese. Awoshonks and most of her warriors, having been notified to attend, came to this place, and proffered their services; but, to their great grief and disappointment, were ordered to repair to Sandwich, on the coast to the eastward, and await further directions from the government at Plymouth. Church advised them to comply quietly, and promised to join them himself, within a week, with a commission to employ them, if he could obtain it.
During the ensuing week, according to the opinion of some, an opportunity was lost of surprising and destroying nearly the whole of Philip s remaining force, who had gone to Wepoiset, in search of clams; provisions being very scarce with them.
Captain Church, with only one companion, rode from Rehoboth to Plymouth, starting at sunset, and reaching the town early in the morning. He there saw the governor, who had received the messengers from Sogkonate with favor, and who readily promised him the desired commission, and ratified his agreement with Awoshonks.
Not finding the Indians at Sandwich, Captain Church, with a few companions, proceeded along the coast, and finally came upon the whole tribe, scattered over the level sand-beach, engaged in various occupations and diversions “A vast company of Indians, of all ages and sexes, some on horse-back running races, some at football, some catching eels and flat-fish, some clamming, &c.”
He was received by Awoshonks and her chiefs, and royally entertained. When night came on, an immense heap of dry pine branches and other fuel was set on fire, and all the Indians, gathering round it, commenced those dances and ceremonies deemed by them so essential in cementing a league, or in entering upon any important adventure.
A stout chief would step within the circle, armed with spear and hatchet, and appear to fight the fire, with every gesture and expression of energy and fury, naming successively the several hostile tribes; “and, at the naming of every particular tribe of Indians, he would draw out and fight a new fire-brand, and at finishing his fight with each particular fire-brand, would bow to him and thank him.” He would then retire, and another would repeat the same operation, “with more fury, if possible, than the first.”
Awoshonks and the chiefs told Church that hereby they were his sworn soldiers, and, one and all, at his service. He therefore selected a number of them, and took them to Plymouth the next day, where he was regularly commissioned, by Governor Winslow, to raise volunteers, both English and Indian; to fight the enemy at his discretion; and to make treaty and composition with any, as he should see reason, “provided they be not murderous rogues, or such as have been principal actors in those villainies.” The commission was given, under the public seal, the 24th day of July 1676.
Being now furnished with a sufficient force, and being at liberty to carry out his own plans, Church commenced a vigorous and effective campaign. Spreading through the forest with his men, keeping himself continually in formed by scouts of the position and number of the enemy, and following up his advantages with unwearied energy, he reduced his opponents to the greatest straits. The army, under Bradford, remained at Taunton and vicinity, cutting off Philip s return from the eastward, while Church and his corps scoured the woods, surprising and killing, or taking captive, large numbers of hostile Indians.
On one occasion, he fell in with Little Eyes, the Sogkonate who attempted to make way with him at the first interview with Awoshonks, and who had separated from the rest of the tribe with a few companions. His Indian allies urged Church to take this opportunity for revenging himself; but he refused, and showed the unfriendly chief quarter and protection.
Philip and his party, chiefly Narragansetts, anxious to effect a retreat to the Narragansett country, came to the banks of Taunton River, and felled a large tree over the stream for the purpose of crossing. At this spot, Church, with his company and a detachment from Bridgewater, attacked him on the 1st of August. As the English secretly approached the fallen tree, a single warrior was seen seated upon the stump across the river, and as Church was taking aim at him, one of his Indian followers called to him not to fire, thinking that it was a man of their own party. At this moment the Indian sprang from the stump, and affected his escape down the riverbank; but as he turned his face, he was distinctly recognized to be Philip himself.
The whole body of the enemy then scattered and fled through the woods, but succeeded in effecting a passage of the river at a ford, some distance beyond, hotly pursued by the English. Many women and children were captured; among the rest, Philip s wife, Wootonekanuske, and his son, a lad only nine years of age. The Sogkonates, following closely upon the fugitives, killed several, and made thirteen prisoners.
As the flight was continued, the women and children became wearied, and, being unable to keep pace with the company, fell into the hands of the pursuers. They were ordered to follow the trail, and were assured that, if sub missive and obedient, they should be the more favorably treated.
Philip and his band, being suddenly surprised, while they were busily engaged in preparing breakfast, fled into a swamp, leaving “their kettles boiling, and meat roasting upon their wooden spits.” Here they were hemmed in, and, after some hard fighting, no less than one hundred and seventy-three, including those who had followed the party, as directed, were taken prisoners or killed. A large division of these were so surprised and panic-struck by the number and determination of the pursuers, that they stood still and let the English come and take the guns out of their hands, when they were both charged and cocked.” Philip, and some of his principal chiefs, escaped.
The prisoners, having been well supplied with food, were confined in the pound, at Bridgewater, and passed the night in merriment, expressing little despondency or apprehension. They reported Philip s condition and frame of mind as being miserable in the extreme. His wife and son made prisoners; his allies overpowered, or treacherous; reverses coming thick upon him; and his force dwindling to a handful of warriors, nothing but destruction seemed to await him.
On the 6th of August, Weetamore, queen of Pocasset, and widow of Alexander, Philip s eldest brother, who throughout the war had been a most valuable and faithful coadjutor to her brother-in-law, perished in attempting to escape over the Tehticut river, into her own country, upon a raft. She had been surprised, with twenty-six of her subjects, who were all taken prisoners. The dead body of the poor queen was found stark naked, near the riverbank, where she had probably crouched, half drowned, and died from exposure and famine. Her head was cut off by those who discovered her, and fixed upon a pole at Taunton, where it was recognized by some of her loving subjects kept there in captivity. Their burst of unrestrainable grief at the sight, is characterized by Mather as “a most horrid and diabolical lamentation.”
Church returned to Plymouth, where he received the thanks and granulations of the authorities, but was allowed little rest, as some of the enemy, under the great sachem Totoson, were lurking around Dartmouth, and his aid was required to dislodge them. The expedition was successful, but Totoson, with an old squaw and his little son, escaped. The squaw afterwards came to Sandwich, and reported the chief’s death, saying that, “reflecting upon the miserable condition he had brought himself into, his heart became a stone within him, and he died.” She said that she had covered his body with a few leaves and brush.
Worn out by hard service, hard fare, and exposure, Captain Church now sought to recruit his strength by rest; but, being urged by the government to pursue Philip to the death, and receiving promises of satisfaction for former neglect, he marched to Pocasset with a company of volunteers, and thence crossed over to Rhode Island.
He there visited his wife, whom he had left at a Mrs. Sandford’s, and who fainted with surprise and joy at meeting him alive; but hardly had the first greetings been exchanged, when tidings came post that Philip was to be found at his old quarters in Mount Hope neck. The horses upon which Church and his companions had just arrived stood at the door; and, telling Mrs. Church that “she must content herself with a short visit when such game was ahead,” they all mounted and spurred off.
They learned from the deserter who had brought the intelligence, that Philip was encamped upon a spot of dry land in a swamp hard by the mount; and Church, being well acquainted with the locality, lost no time in taking advantage of his information. He crossed the ferry with his men, and approached the spot during the night. Having distributed a portion of the force in such a manner as to command all the places where the enemy would be likely to attempt escape, another detachment, under Captain Golding, proceeded to “beat up Philip’s head-quarters;” with directions to make all the noise possible, while pursuing the fugitives, that they might be known by those who lay in ambush.
The Indians, startled by the first fire, rushed into the swamp, with Philip at their head. Half clothed, and flinging his “petunk” and powder-horn behind him, the doomed chief came, at full speed, fully within range of the guns of an Englishman and an Indian, who lay concealed at one of the points of ambuscade.
The white man s gun snapped, but the fire of his companion was fatal. Philip fell upon his face in the mire, shot through the heart. This event took place early in the morning of Saturday, the 12th of August 1676.
Thus the main object of the campaign was accomplished; but most of the hostile party managed to escape. Among them was the old chief, Annawon, a great captain under Philip, and Massasoit, his father. He “seemed to be a great surly old fellow,” hallooing, with a loud voice, “lootash lootash!” Peter, Church’s man, said that he was calling on his men to fight bravely, and hold their ground.
Several of Church s Indians dragged the body of poor Philip out of the mire, “and a doleful, great, naked beast he looked.” By the direction of the captain, who averred that, having ” caused many an Englishman s body to be unburied and to rot above ground, not one of his bones should be buried,” one of the Indians beheaded and quartered the body of the fallen sachem, as was the custom towards traitors. The old executioner, who was appointed to this office, first made a short speech, which, but that it was rather more coarsely expressed, might remind one of the exultation of the heroes of Homer over a conquered foe. However far removed from that absurd and morbid sensibility which perceives greater tokens of depravity in an indignity offered to a senseless carcass than in acts of cruelty and injustice towards the living, we do not care to de fend this act of Church. One of Philip’s hands, which had been formerly marred by the bursting of a pistol, was given to Alderman, the Indian who shot him. The exhibition of it proved a source of no small profit. The head was long exposed at Plymouth, and the devout Mather exults in having, with his own hand, displaced the jaw from the skull of ” that blasphemous leviathan.”
After the death of Philip, the company returned to Plymouth, and received, as premium for their services, thirty shillings for each Indian killed or taken.
Toward the end of August, Church was again called from Plymouth to go in pursuit of Annawon, who, with the feeble remains of his force, was scouring the country around Rehoboth and Swansey. He accordingly took a few faithful soldiers, with his brave and tried lieutenant, Jabez Howland, and hastened through the woods to Pocasset. He intended passing the Sabbath on Rhode Island, but hearing that Indians had been seen crossing from Prudence Island to Poppasquash Neck, he hastened at once in quest of them. As they were passing the river in canoes, so heavy a gale sprang up that, after the captain and fifteen or sixteen Indians were over, the boats could no longer venture. Without waiting for their English companions, this little company marched round through the northern part of the present town of Bristol, and spreading across the narrow portion of the neck, sent scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy. They there passed “a very solitary, hungry night,” having no provisions. Early in the morning, Nathaniel, an Indian of the scouting party, appeared, and told how he, with his companion, had taken ten prisoners, by lying concealed, and attracting the enemy s attention, by howling like a wolf. One after another, they would run to see what caused the noise, and Nathaniel, “howling lower and lower, drew them in between those who lay in wait.” They afterwards secured the wives and children of these captives, all of whom said that Annawon never “roosted twice in a place,” but continually shifted his quarters. They represented Annawon as the bravest and most subtle of all Philip s warriors, and said that the men who still adhered to him were valiant and resolute.
An old Indian, accompanied by a young squaw, were next taken, both of whom had come direct from the great chief s encampment, which was in Squannaconk swamp, in the south-easterly part of Rehoboth. The old man, in consideration that his life was spared, agreed to pilot Church to the spot, but begged that he might not be compelled “to fight against Captain Annawon, his old friend.”
It was a bold act, indeed, on the part of Church, to under take the capture of such a warrior, with so small a force; for, having been obliged to send some back with the prisoners, only half a dozen Indians now accompanied him. He was not a man to let slip an opportunity, and started at once for the camp, having much .ado to keep pace with the hardy old Indian who led the way.
Annawon s “camp or kenneling place” was pitched in a recess in a ledge of precipitous rocks, which stood upon a rising ground in the swamp, and the only way to approach it unperceived was by clambering down the cliff. It was night when Church arrived there; stopping the guide with his hand, he crawled to the edge of the rock, and looked down upon the scene below. Annawon s hut consisted of a tree felled against the wall of rock, with birch bushes piled against it. Fires were lit without, over which meat was roasting, and kettles were boiling, and the light revealed several companies of the enemy. Their arms were stacked together, and covered with a mat, and in close proximity to them lay old Annawon and his son. An old squaw was pounding corn in a mortar, and, as the noise of her blows continued, Church, preceded by the guide and his daughter, and followed by his Indian allies, let himself down by the bushes and twigs which grew in the crevices of the rock. With his hatchet in his hand, he stepped over the younger Annawon, who drew himself into a heap, with his blanket over his head, and reached the guns. The old chief sat up, crying out “Howoh!” but, seeing that he was taken, lay down again in silence. The rest of the company made no resistance, supposing that the English were upon them in force. Church s Indians, going among them, enlarged upon his benevolence and kindness, and advised them to submit quietly, which they did, delivering up all their arms.
Annawon ordered his women to get supper for Captain Church and his men, and they all supped together in harmony. The captain, wearied out by long watching and labor, now tried to get a little sleep, but was unable to compose himself. Looking round, he saw the whole party, friends and foes, sleeping soundly, with the exception of Annawon; and there lay the two rival leaders, looking at each other for near an hour.
Annawon then got up and retired a short distance, and as he did not immediately return, Church suspected that he might have secured a gun, with intent to dispatch him, and therefore crept close to young Annawon, as security. The old man soon reappeared, bringing with him Philip’s regalia, and, kneeling down before Church, to his great surprise addressed him in English: ” Great captain, you have killed Philip and conquered his country; for I believe that I and my company are the last that war against the English, so suppose the war is ended by your means, and there fore these things belong to you.” He then handed him two broad belts elaborately worked in wampum, one of which reached from the shoulders nearly to the ground, “edged with red hair, from the Mahog’s country;” two horns of powder, and a red cloth blanket. He said that Philip used to ornament himself with these upon great occasions.
All night long the two captains continued their converse, and Annawon detailed his adventures, and “gave an account of what mighty success he had formerly, in wars against many nations of Indians, when he served Asumequin (Massasoit), Philip’s father.”
The next day the party proceeded to Taunton, and Church, with Annawon in his company, went to Rhode Island, and so on to Plymouth. There, to his great sorrow, the authorities refused to spare the old chief, but put him to death. At the same time they executed Tispaquin, the last of Philip s great sachems, who had surrendered himself upon promise of mercy.
The war was now at an end, with the exception of a few “hunting excursions,” after some stragglers of Philip’s men who yet lurked in the woods. Such of the prisoners, now in the hands of the English, as had been active in hostilities, were put to death: the rest were sold in slavery in the colonies, or sent to toil in the West Indies. It was much discussed whether the poor boy who was so culpable as to be the son of Philip, should die. The clergymen seemed inclined to the belief that such should be his fate; Increase Mather cited the case of Hadad, saying that, “had not others fled away with him, I am apt to think that David would have taken a course that Hadad should never have proved a scourge to the next generation.” He was finally sent a slave to Bermuda.
Baylies thus sums up the disasters of the eventful period of Philip s hostilities: “In this war, which lasted but little more than a year and a half, six hundred Englishmen were killed. Thirteen towns in Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Rhode Island, were destroyed, and many others greatly injured. Almost every family had lost a relative. Six hundred dwelling houses had been burned. A vast amount, in goods and cattle, had been destroyed, and a vast debt created. But the result of the contest was decisive; the enemy was extinct; the fertile wilderness was opened, and the rapid extension of settlements evinced the growing prosperity of New England.”
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