The Founding of New England/XIV

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search



During the quarter of a century preceding 1675, the growth of the New England colonies, both in numbers and resources, had been marked. Their refusal, on the one hand, to observe such of the imperial laws as might in any way hamper their commerce, and, on the other, the opportunities offered by the growth of the Empire, under those laws, had resulted in an enormous expansion, comparatively, in the colonies’ inter-colonial and foreign trade. With no Indian war of any magnitude for a generation, and with ample areas of free land upon which to expand, the frontier extended rapidly, and the population doubled. At the opening of the inter-racial conflict which is the subject of this chapter, the settlers probably numbered about fifty-two thousand, of whom approximately thirty-seven thousand were located in the seaboard colonies from Maine to Plymouth, three thousand in Rhode Island, and twelve thousand in Connecticut.[1] The numbers of the Indians can be estimated with even less certainty than those of the whites; but it is probable that the colonists outnumbered them by at least four to one.[2] The Narragansetts, who were by far the most numerous, as well as the most powerful, may have counted five thousand individuals in all.[3]

The geographical relations of the two races had been almost as greatly altered, in a generation, as had their numerical proportions. At the time of the Pequot war, in 1637, at least four fifths of the entire white population formed a compact mass along the eastern shore of the present state of Massachusetts. The scattered settlements of Maine and New Hampshire, the handful of people about Narragansett Bay, and the beginnings of the River Towns in Connecticut, were but isolated outposts in what was otherwise an unbroken wilderness, peopled only by the savages. The whites were thus hemmed in on every side except the ocean.[4] By 1675, the situation in southern New England had been completely reversed. The settled area, which by that year extended westward from the sea one third of the way across Massachusetts, was continued from Cape Cod along the Sound and up the Connecticut River, and the western Massachusetts towns were scattered up the valley of the latter as far as Northfield. It was now the Indian who found himself, not simply far outnumbered, but entirely surrounded, by his white neighbors. It was only in the northeastern settlements, where the English population was much sparser, and where the short rivers and broken uplands offered no attractions to tempt the settlers from the coast, that the earlier conditions still prevailed, and the savages as yet had free range.

In the Puritan colonies, the practical identity of church and town, and the whole social, religious, and political life of the people precluded any wide dispersal of individual settlers in the wilderness. Even when individuals wished to go off by themselves, they were, as a rule, not allowed to do so, and Plymouth was not the only colony to take drastic measures to discipline such as preferred “liveing lonely and in a heathenish way from good societie.”[5] The unit of the southern New England frontier was not the solitary hunter or trapper, not even the family of the pioneer farmer, but the town. When a bit of the wilderness was cleared, it was to plant therein, not an isolated cabin, but the homes of an organized community, fully equipped with a church and town government, destined, almost at once, to be a new centre of civilization alien to the savage, permanent, irremovable, expanding. When a French trader or trapper plunged into the forest, and the green leaves closed behind him, it was to mingle with the life of the natives, which, in its main aspects, flowed on unaltered by his presence. When, on the other hand, Englishmen cleared their fields, built a town and a church, and by virtue of their title-deeds claimed undivided ownership of their newly acquired square miles of land, it was as if they had planted a great rock in the stream of savage life, which must thereafter flow around this new obstruction. As the English frontier crept ever farther and farther inland, from the shores of ocean and Sound, and up the valleys of such streams as the Merrimac, Thames, or Connecticut, and town succeeded town, it was as if, adding stone to stone, great dykes were being built, which more and more dammed up the waters of native life. It was almost inevitable that a point would be reached when these imprisoned waters would burst forth, and possibly carry away all New England in their flood.

The land-hunger of the whites, however, was insatiable. Almost any trouble with the natives became a sufficient excuse for an extorted cession of territory, either immediate or deferred. From the very beginning, the English had recognized an Indian title to the country, as distinct from the rights conveyed by the king in his patents. Indeed, in view of the use to which the settlers wished to put the lands, and the basis upon which they necessarily lived in relation to the native occupants, they could not well do otherwise, and peaceful possession was cheaply secured at the expense of a few coats or hoes. But, as we saw in an earlier chapter, the Indian theory of ownership was entirely different from that of the whites; and although the English, for the most part, observed the legal forms of their own race, the parchments which the savage signed with his mark were as ethically invalid as a child’s sale of his inheritance for a stick of candy. Not only, in the beginning, had the natives failed to understand the nature of the transaction itself, but in their utter ignorance of Europe, and of what was bound to ensue from the steady stream of emigration thence, they could not foresee—what was reasonably clear to the colonists—that the result of their having welcomed the stranger would eventually be their own annihilation or completely altered status.

Whatever may be thought of the abstract justice of the earlier purchases, as the whites increased in numbers and comparative power, and as their first fears of the savages, and the desire to convert them, gave place to dislike, contempt, spiritual indifference, and self-confidence, their dealings with them sank to a lower ethical plane. It took but a few years for the methods of land-acquisition to become greatly modified. It was no longer considered necessary to treat with the Indian as an equal, whose just title could be acquired only for a valuable consideration. The theory was formulated that the native could be punished for a breach of the Englishman’s laws, and that the fine or damage imposed might take the form of a cession of land. Troubles with the savages, on a larger scale, resulted in making use of the title by conquest, by which the larger part of Connecticut was acquired. Later, in the case of the Narragansetts, as we have already seen, overdue tribute, of questionable validity, was used by a speculative land company as a basis for advancing money on mortgage, by means of which it was hoped to obtain the rich territorial possessions of that entire tribe. All the colonies, indeed, in order to protect the Indians from the commoner forms of fraud, and themselves from the dangerous results of disputes, had made it illegal for individuals to bargain for land; and the laws requiring the general courts to pass upon all land-dealings were wise and just, and, undoubtedly, prevented much petty trickery and mischief. It is needless to point out, however, the subtle temptation for the colonies to pick a quarrel with the natives, to interfere with their internal affairs, or to conduct some little military expedition, when the result was likely to be the acquisition of desirable lands by a mere show of force.

As the whites encroached more and more upon the Indians, the lands of the latter gradually came to be looked upon as reservations, upon which their native owners were allowed to live until a convenient opportunity, or the growing needs of the settlers, might bring about a farther advance. Moreover, as the Indian lands dwindled in extent, and the whites rapidly increased numerically, in proportion to the natives, the settlers adopted an attitude of superiority and authority over the native tribes. This really amounted to establishing a protectorate over them, and relegated them to the rank of dependent peoples shorn of all sovereign power. It was a natural evolution in the relations between the two races, but was no more acceptable to the Indians for that reason. Nor were the Puritans, who were by nature harsh and overbearing, and who failed to display even the ordinary good manners of the time in their dealings with the Dutch, likely to exhibit any great amount of tact or courtesy in those which they had with the despised heathen and “children of the devil.” Personal pride and a strict observance of etiquette were marked characteristics of the savages, and chiefs and sachems could not fail to be stung to the quick when they were summoned, with more and more frequency, and less and less courtesy, to travel long distances and answer to complaints before the courts of Plymouth or Massachusetts, with but little regard for their dignity or standing among their own people.

Not seldom, moreover, they knew that such a demand was but the prelude to extending English authority, and sending them home shorn of possessions and respect. To cite, as an example, a case somewhat closely connected with the events of this chapter, in 1671, as a sequel to a rumored rising of the Indians in Plymouth Colony, the Squaw Sachem Awashunks was summoned to appear; and having done so voluntarily, she was required to submit “the disposall of her lands to the authoritie” of the colony, and was forced to engage herself to pay £50, to recompense the English for their trouble in the matter. As it was impossible that she could pay any such sum, the eventual “disposall” of her lands would not be difficult to foresee.[6] Land, as Roger Williams wrote, was becoming “one of the gods of New England,” and judicial punishments were coming curiously often to involve forced concessions regarding coveted bits of territory. Subtly, and perhaps unconsciously, but no less surely, the land-hunger of the whites was poisoning the wells of justice.

As a result of the relations, territorial and political, which were developing between the races, and as a natural corollary of the protectorate theory, the English were also gradually enacting, on the one hand, a body of law applicable among themselves to the Indian only, and, on the other, forcing the “protected” Indians to observe English law, even when living apart from the settlers. Such regulations as Connecticut passed for the Pequots on their reservation in the spring of 1675 were evidence of what all the protected Indians might expect in time. Any native, for example, heathen or Christian, who profaned the Sabbath day by hunting, fishing, carrying firewood, or other misdemeanors, was to be fined or whipped; while all were ordered to “heare the word of God preached by Mr. Fitch, or any other minister sent amongst them,” subject to four shillings fine or corporal punishment.[7] A most unjust law, in view of the well-understood inability of the Indian to withstand the temptation of strong waters, and the willingness of the colonists, in spite of legal prohibition, to sell them to him, was that which provided that any native found drunk should have to labor twelve days for whoever accused him and proved the case, one half of the proceeds of his labor to go to the accuser, and one half to the county treasury. It was only necessary, therefore, secretly to induce a savage to take one or two drinks, in order to secure six days’ forced labor from him gratis.[8] We need not credit the preposterous

contemporary accusation that the Massachusetts government, under a similar law, connived at making Indians drunk, so as to hasten the work on Castle Island, in order to realize the ample possibilities for evil in such a statute.[9]

The close proximity in which the whites and natives dwelt in many places was the source of endless friction and petty annoyance, particularly to the Indians. The live-stock of the settlers was forever being allowed to stray into the cultivated lands of the savages; and at the time of the troubles in 1671, the colony of Plymouth had to appoint committees in no less than eleven different towns, “to view the Damage done to the Indians by the Horses and Hoggs of the English.”[10] The question of firearms was the subject of frequent legislation by the colonial courts, and of friction with the natives, in the altered condition of whose life they had become practically essential as a means of procuring food.[11] Notwithstanding this fact, and the obvious one that the guns, having been paid for by the Indians with their own money, were their property, the English, frequently, when alarmed by rumors of hostility, required that the savages deliver all their arms into the hands of the authorities, considering as enemies those who refused.[12] Not only was this a hardship and a humiliation, but, on a number of occasions, the English refused to return the weapons, simply confiscating them. In 1671, for example, in Plymouth, after Philip had been required to deposit the guns of his people with the Court, that body determined that they were “justly forfeit,” and coolly divided them among the towns of the colony.[13] At one stroke, not only were the natives deprived of their means of livelihood and defense, but the weapons, which they had honestly bought, were thus, by legalized robbery, turned against themselves. No individual with the instinct of self-respect and self-preservation could fail to see that his eventual choice would lie between resistance and virtual slavery.

The missionary efforts of the English differed from those of the French precisely as did their exploitation of the land. In French America, the religious counterpart of the lonely trapper or trader was the Jesuit priest, who, cross in hand, and frequently without a companion, penetrated to the far depths of the forest, to carry his message to the heathen wherever found. In New England, however, as it was the town and not the trader that pushed the frontier forward, so the lonely missionary was replaced by the organizer of communities, and the savages on the fringe of civilization were gathered into villages within the bounds of white settlement, there to have the gospel preached to them, and to be joined in a covenanted church. Such work was practically negligible in Rhode Island and Connecticut, but, by the outbreak of Philip’s War, had made considerable progress in Massachusetts and Plymouth. In the latter two colonies, the labors of the Reverend John Eliot, who had translated the Bible into the Indian tongue, of Thomas Mayhew, Richard Bourne, and others,—paid for almost wholly with funds raised in England,—had resulted in the gathering of perhaps four thousand converts.[14] A considerable number of these “Praying Indians,” as they were called, were scattered in villages on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and in some twenty localities in Plymouth, and about eleven hundred were located in Massachusetts. Of the latter, the earlier and most dependable ones dwelt in the seven towns of Chelmsford, Littleton, Natick, Marlborough, Hopkinton, Grafton, and Stoughton, which were located at intervals of a dozen miles or so along the frontier of the eastern settlements, and which might have been used as a possible line of defense against any hostile movement from the unoccupied central portion of the colony, which lay between them and the towns of the Connecticut River.[15] In a large proportion of cases, the conversion seems to have been genuine, and the Indians, more particularly in the seven towns named, to have become sincere friends of the English, although the more recent converts in the Nipmuck country soon went over to the enemy.

To the bulk of the savages, however, the humdrum existence led by their praying brethren in the little reservations allotted to them by the English, and their position of humble dependence upon the white lords of the soil, could hardly make a serious appeal. The past was too recent, and its contrast with the present was too vivid. It was becoming clear to the dullest witted that the future could hold little else, however, unless the power of the whites could be broken once and for all.

Massasoit, the aged Sachem of the Wampanoags, who had been a consistent friend to the settlers since 1620, died in the winter of 1660-61, and his son Alexander, who succeeded him, also died a few months later. In fact, his death is said to have been due, in part, to his anger and chagrin at having been forcibly seized by the authorities of Plymouth when called upon to make his appearance before them.[16] The change of relations between the whites and Indians was well exemplified by the difference between the formal and dignified embassy sent from Plymouth in 1620, to visit Massasoit and to negotiate a treaty with him, and the “eight or ten stout men,” under Major Winslow, who surprised Alexander in his hunting-lodge, seized his arms, and commanded him to travel to that same Plymouth, to appear before the governor.

Philip had not long succeeded his brother Alexander as sachem, when he, in turn, was curtly summoned to appear before the Court, to clear himself of rumored disloyalty. Although nothing whatever was proved, and Philip offered to leave another of his brothers as hostage, he was forced to sign a treaty ratifying all former ones, acknowledge himself an English subject, and agree not to alienate any of his lands without the consent of the Court.[17] Five years later, on renewed rumors of his disloyalty, his arms were taken away, and he was again forced to appear before the magistrates. Although once more no evidence was produced against him, and his arms were returned, he was nevertheless required to give his note for £40 as part of the charge for the expedition which had been sent after him.[18] In 1671, for wholly inadequate causes, he was forced, not to make a new treaty, but, without option, to sign “several propositions,” by one of which he had to agree to pay a fine of “one hundred pounds in such things as I have,” although, as he had no such sum, he asked for three years in which to pay it. He was also required to acknowledge himself in subjection, not merely to the English Crown, but to the little colony of Plymouth; to pay an annual tribute; to sell land only subject to the colony’s approval; and, with exceeding unfairness, to agree in advance to submit, in case of any dispute between the colony and himself, to the verdict of the governor as arbitrator.[19] It was on this occasion, as already noted, that all the guns that his people had delivered to the English were confiscated.

This treatment, accorded to the son of that sachem to whom the now grasping colony had, in its infancy, owed its very life, and who had been its friend for over forty years, could not fail to goad him into rebellion, if, indeed, he had not already considered it. Within four years from the time when the son of Massasoit affixed his scrawling mark to the humiliating and confiscatory document, the storm broke which was to drench New England in a sea of blood.

In the absence of any written records of the Indians, from which the story of those four years or so of preparation upon their part might be ascertained, the nature and scope of Philip’s plans must remain wholly a matter of inference from the subsequent events. That he nursed his revenge, land carried on negotiations with other tribes for a simultaneous rising against the whites over a considerable territory, would seem to be well established. On the other hand, the time was more or less ripe for the inevitable conflict to occur throughout all the colonies. Once started, the example of a native rising would prove contagious; and there is little evidence to prove that the widespread movements along the seaboard were connected by threads that centred in the hut of the Wampanoag. His tribe itself was weak and inconspicuous, and in Philip’s apparent lack of personal bravery and some of the other qualities most admired in a savage leader, there is nothing to indicate—what, indeed, events tend to disprove—that he was personally popular among the natives. Nor, even if we grant that he was surprised into hostilities in that spring of 1675, before all his plans had matured, is there any evidence, in his later conduct of the campaign, of that great ability for organization which has sometimes been attributed to him. There seems to be no doubt, however, that at that time he was engaged in preparing for a general rising, and that he had the sympathy of some of the other New England tribes.

Meanwhile, the English seem to have been singularly oblivious to the realities of the situation. They claimed, and undoubtedly felt, that they had treated the natives with justice. In the beginning, they had naturally failed to understand the Indian character, government, and theory of property. As, on the one hand, they came to know these better, on the other, the contempt they developed for the heathen and the savage, who, incidentally, was in possession of lands coveted by the Saints of God, tended to lessen their belief in his abstract rights. Economically, they had outgrown their early dependence upon the native; and their increasing sense of safety, due to the rapidly developing disparity in numbers, tended to make them callous to the feelings of the “great naked dirty beast,” as Colonel Church described Philip, and they ceased to fear the power of the savage without coming to respect the rights of the man.[20] They failed to realize the broader aspects of the struggle, and even the practical fact that they were driving a still powerful race of savages into a corner, where they were not likely to stand at bay without making, at some time, a supreme effort to escape.

When the Indians finally did strike back, the English not only were wholly unprepared but do not seem to have understood the results of their own acts. Instead of regarding the approaching conflict as an inevitable consequence of the relations between the two races, and as having been, more immediately, brought about by themselves, they looked upon it as sent from God; and in a hasty self-examination as to why the Deity should have so afflicted them, the Massachusetts General Court decided that He was then engaged in burning towns and murdering women and children along the frontier, because Massachusetts had become somewhat lax in persecuting the Quakers, and because her men had begun to wear periwigs and their women to indulge in “cutting, curling and immodest laying out theire haire.”[21]

The genius of New England has never been military. Her people, in a cause in which they believe, can fight doggedly and well, but she has never given to the nation a great soldier, either as leader or organizer, and King Philp’s War presented no exception. From its nature, it was less a war than a series of raids by the savages and retaliatory expeditions by the English; but it was the only sort of war which the colonies could have expected, or for which they ought to have been prepared. There was, however, practically no intercolonial organization. The United Colonies, the efficiency of which as a war-machine had early been damaged by Massachusetts, had received another blow by the loss of a member when New Haven was absorbed by Connecticut. Although Plymouth’s suggestion, at that time, to dissolve the Confederacy entirely, had not been approved, the bond had become looser than ever, and under the altered articles, the representatives of the three remaining members were to meet only triennially.[22]

In spite of the invaluable material that the colonies possessed in the friendly Indians, none of them had been employed as spies among the enemy, of whose plans preceding the war the colonists seem to have had no information other than vague rumors. In spite of their experience, moreover, the settlers appear, in part, to have been curiously ignorant of Indian warfare. Even in the matter of weapons, they made the mistake, at first, of equipping men with the wholly useless pike; and in the earliest expeditions, the English carried the cumbrous old matchlock guns, which were much inferior to the newer flintlocks used by the savages.[23] The commissariat frequently broke down, and in a number of cases important expeditions had to be abandoned because of failure of supplies. The regulation, necessary on account of the jealousy of the several colonies, that, in joint operations, the ranking officer of the colony in which the operations happened to be conducted at the moment should be the commander-in-chief of the whole, naturally made friction and tended to confusion.[24] From the same spirit of jealousy, there also arose disputes, sometimes almost amounting to mutiny, between the troops of one colony and those of another, which were further fostered by the lack of unity in plans, and inadequate communication.[25] Insubordination was not always limited to the rank and file, and in the case of Colonel Moseley,—who had married a niece of Governor Leverett of Massachusetts,—rose to such a point, against both his superior officers and the state, as should have brought him to a court-martial.[26] As the war progressed, the difficulty of raising troops became great, both from lack of men in some places and from their disinclination to serve. In Plymouth, it was ordered that boys under the military age of sixteen should be used for guard-duty; while any man pressed for service who refused to obey should be fined five pounds, or made to run the gauntlet, or both.[27] Connecticut had to offer her troops, officers as well as men, the plunder of the Indians, as to both their goods and their persons, in addition to the regular pay, and to forbid any male resident between the ages of fourteen and seventy to emigrate from the colony.[28] Massachusetts, “taking into consideration the great disappointment” that soldiers pressed for duty refused to serve, provided that those who continued refractory should be punished with death.[29] On the other hand, the drab coloring of the war, uninspiring as the conflict was in many of its aspects, was relieved over and over by exhibitions of a fine courage on the part of individual soldiers, and of a cool daring in the face of unspeakable horrors, shown by women as well as men.

The character of the war would, in any case, probably have been mainly a series of raids; but the fact that Philip had apparently to enter upon hostilities before his preparations were complete, and the lack of unity and organized effective action among the colonies, made the course of the contest even more desultory than it might otherwise have been. We cannot here give more than an outline of the chief events of the struggle, which was more important in its results than in its conduct.[30]

In the latter part of 1674, John Sassamon, a Christian Indian, discovered a plot among the natives of Namasket, and immediately informed the authorities of Plymouth, stating that he would be in danger of his life if Philip should learn of his disclosures.[31] His fears were fulfilled, and in January, 1675, he was murdered, apparently by Philip’s orders, the three Indians implicated in his death being seized, tried, and executed by the English in the following spring.[32] The Squaw-Sachem Weetamoo, who seems to have been opposed to the rising, although she was the sister-in-law of Philip, also warned the English of what was planned; but they do not seem to have taken any measures for defense, or to have done anything at all beyond remonstrating with Philip.[33] He had already committed himself too far, however, to have drawn back, even if he would; and, in spite of the premature discovery of the design, the younger warriors from neighboring tribes began to come in and urge the immediate beginning of hostilities.

On June 24, at Swansea, after having provoked a settler to draw the first blood, the savages fell upon the whites, and killed eight or nine. Two more, who had been dispatched to get a surgeon, were waylaid and slain, and their bodies found by an embassy then on its way from the government of Plymouth to Philip. In the six months since the English had been told of the plot, they had been strangely inactive. Two days after the murders at Swansea, however, five companies were mustered, partly in Plymouth and partly in Boston, and were on the march.[34] A raid on the Indians by these united forces, on the 30th, so frightened the savages, that Philip and his followers fled from Mount Hope and took refuge in a swamp at Pocasset, although the intelligence service of the English, through their failure to use native scouts, was so imperfect that they were unaware of the move of the enemy, and did not follow up the pursuit. Pocasset was in the territory of Weetamoo, and the English, by driving Philip into her jurisdiction, and failing to follow him, practically forced her to join with him and his warriors.

Although, as yet, in spite of their ancient wrongs, the Narragansetts had shown no hostility, nevertheless, at the instant when the attack on Philip should have been followed up, the Massachusetts troops received orders to pass into the Narragansett country, and to “make peace with a sword in their hand.”[35] Canonicus, the sachem, could not be found; but the Massachusetts agents, joined by those from Connecticut, negotiated a treaty with a few unimportant individuals, who were forced to obligate the tribe to join the English in making aggressive war on Philip, and to confirm all former land-grants.[36] The English must have realized, not only that such a treaty was not binding, but that, so far from gaining the most powerful of the New England tribes as allies, it would have just the opposite effect. On the other hand, had the Massachusetts troops remained with those of Plymouth, and pursued and captured Philip, the war might possibly have been ended at once, and the Narragansetts not have entered it at all.

Unless we assume the military incapacity of the Massachusetts Court, we can hardly avoid the suggestion that that colony, and perhaps Connecticut also, saw an opportunity to strengthen their claims to the rich lands possessed by the natives whom they were forcing into opposition, and desired, by being first on the spot and negotiating the farcical treaty, to establish a basis for future title. That the mind of Boston was not bent solely upon the defense of the frontier, or the devilish effects of periwigs, is suggested by a letter from that godly town on July 6, which announced that “the land already gained is worth £10,000.”[37] And this in the first fortnight! The good dames—and their spouses—may be pardoned if they were tempted toward heresy regarding the fatal results of curling-tongs and switches.

The treaty negotiated, most of the Massachusetts troops were immediately ordered back to Boston, only about one hundred, under command of Captain Henchman, being left with those of Plymouth to guard the swamp in which Philip had taken refuge. After a skirmish on the 18th, these decided that it was “ill fighting with a wild beast in his own den,” and resolved to starve Philip out. That wily savage, however, gave his cautious watchers the slip, and escaped to central Massachusetts, with his followers. Again owing to inadequate scouting, it was only after some days that the English found that they were guarding an empty trap, and then their pursuit had been too long delayed to be successful.[38]

Philip’s presence decided the Massachusetts Indians, with whom the colonial authorities were then negotiating. Captains Wheeler and Hutchinson, with small party of whites and three Christian Indians, who were sent to treat with the Nipmucks, were treacherously attacked near the place the savages had appointed for a parley, and about one third of the colonists were slain. The survivors fled to Brookfield, gaining that place in safety only with the help of the Christian Indians, who had warned them of the treachery in advance, without avail.[39] The town was attacked by the natives almost before the whites could reach it, all the buildings being burned except the one in which the inhabitants had taken refuge. After the inmates, for three days, had warded off the efforts of several hundred savages to set fire to the house which was their only protection, they were rescued by Major Willard and a troop from Lancaster, although the town had to be abandoned.[40]

The Springfield Indians now joined the enemy, and Connecticut and Massachusetts troops were concentrated at Hadley, under command of Major Pynchon. On the first of September, Deerfield was attacked for the first time, and most of the houses burned.[41] The following day the savages fell upon Northfield, killed eight persons, and destroyed the buildings.[42] A relief party, under Captain Beers, which, unaware of the disaster, was bringing up supplies, was ambushed, and twenty men out of the thirty were killed after a desperate fight, the remainder taking refuge at Hadley, as did also the inhabitants of Northfield, who now abandoned their town.[43]

Heretofore, in the Massachusetts operations, Major Treat had been in command of the Connecticut forces, and Major Pynchon of those from the Bay Colony, Treat’s instructions having been to advise with Pynchon but to act with him only when convinced of the wisdom of a move.[44] Massachusetts now decided to abandon the field, and merely to garrison the towns; but this supine policy, which could not have been permanent, and was a virtual admission of defeat, did not satisfy Connecticut. As a result of negotiations, the United Colonies decided to raise the total number of troops to one thousand, and to put Pynchon in supreme command in the upper Connecticut Valley. The Commissioners confessed that they did not know how many troops were already in the field, or anything of the strength of the enemy.[45] This lack of information was characteristic both in the major conduct of the war and in minor operations.

Only a few days after these arrangements were made, Deerfield had been attacked again, and Captain Lathrop, with about sixty men, “the very flower of the county of Essex,” was detailed to convoy some provisions accumulated there into Hadley. Although these troops were operating in a country filled with hostile savages, and the line of march lay in part through a dense forest, where they might easily be ambushed, the company had no scouts ahead, and many of the soldiers had stowed their arms in the carts, while they themselves gathered grapes by the roadside. Lathrop was familiar with the road and its dangerous places; but it was at one of these, the spot where the trail crossed the little stream ever since known as Bloody Brook, that the troop encountered the fatal result of their criminal folly. As they were crossing the ford, with their heavy wagons lumbering in the mud, the Indian war-whoop rang out on all sides, and the soldiers fell under the bullets of their unseen foe. The massacre was virtually complete. Hardly a man escaped, and not one would have done so, had not Colonel Moseley with another small troop, heard the shooting and hurried to the rescue. He, in turn, was being forced back, and was facing annihilation, when Major Treat, having likewise heard firing, hastened up with some Connecticut troops and friendly Indians, and saved the day.[46] The survivors, however, who fell back upon Deerfield, were obliged to evacuate the town a few days later, it thus being the third surrendered to the enemy.

On September 26, a slight attack was made upon Springfield, followed by demonstrations against Hadley. Some troops having been hurried thither from Springfield, the Indians, successful in their ruse, if that had been their plan, returned and attacked that town in force, destroying it on October 5.[47] Major Appleton now replaced Pynchon as commander; but Treat having retired with part of his troops to Connecticut, in view of the danger threatening Hartford, his lieutenant refused to obey Appleton, as he considered Treat to be his immediate superior. The matter became a subject of dispute between the colonies, but, the danger to Connecticut having passed, Treat returned, and Connecticut troops continued to garrison the Massachusetts towns throughout the winter.[48]

Connecticut from the start had adopted the policy of utilizing to the full the services of the friendly Indians, which Massachusetts, for the most part had refused, with disastrous consequences. Not only had she failed to make use of them as scouts and troops, but by removing the Praying Indians from the line of towns in which they had been settled, and placing them in a concentration camp on Deer Island, she had weakened her whole line of defense.[49] But, unfortunately, it was not a question of merely failing to utilize valuable resources. Her treatment of her civilized natives, individually and collectively, must be considered as cruel and inhumane, although the ministers and the magistrates seem, on the whole, to have endeavored to restrain the lawless persecution of the mob, and the savagery of their more brutal leaders, such as Moseley. Innocent Indians were insulted, and plundered of their possessions, and, in some cases, their women and children were murdered in cold blood. Yet juries refused to convict the offenders, and the General Court frequently yielded to the clamor, until letters from England, and the discovery of a hideous plot by the whites to massacre all the converts gathered on Deer Island, awoke them to some sense of their duty. The blind fury against the Praying Indians was by no means confined to the rabble. Moseley, whose refusal to use their services in the war had cost many English lives, treated them at Marlborough and Nashobeh with the most wanton brutality, although the execution of a squaw, taken prisoner on his expedition near Hatfield, is, we hope, unique in American military history. The laconic note of her fate merely reads that she was “ordered to be torn in peeces by Doggs, and she was soe dealt withal.”[50] It recalls, however, the earlier advice of Massachusetts, that the Indians be hunted down with mastiffs.[51] Although he was censured for his various acts of inhumanity and insubordination, no action was taken against Moseley by the authorities, who thus share his guilt; and so high did the feeling run that it became dangerous, even in Boston, for such men as Eliot and Gookin to speak a word in defense of the persecuted Christian natives.

In the early winter, it seemed as if the enemy had been successful everywhere. Philip, who apparently had not been present in any of the fights, had gone into winter quarters near Albany,[52] but it is probable that the war had long since passed out of his control; and there is nothing to indicate any concerted plan governing the actions of the various tribes now, or soon to be, on the war-path. By far he most powerful of those surviving were the Narragansetts; and their Sachem Canonchet, the son of Miantonomo, both in his position and his ability, was probably a more important factor than Philip; although, as yet, in spite of the ancient wrong done him in the judicial murder of his father, and the recent act of the English in forcing the treaty of July 15 upon some of his people, the sachem had committed no overt act against the settlers. A number of hostile Indians, however, had fled to his country for refuge; and in October, either from a deliberate purpose to provoke him into active hostility, or in the vain hope that he would be forced into an alliance with them by threats, the Massachusetts authorities required him to sign a treaty ratifying the one of July 15, and agreeing to give up all refugees to the English.[53] It is doubtful whether the sentiment of his people would have permitted this surrender; but, in any case, little opportunity was given to test it, and on November 2, only two weeks after having forced Canonchet to sign a humiliating peace, the English abruptly declared war.[54] Old Uncas, who had hated the Narragansetts for a lifetime, had long been scheming to bring about the conflict, and the land possessed by Canonchet and the refugee Awashonks was a most potent argument. A journal-letter from a citizen of Boston, dated only a few days after the treaty with the Narragansett, complains of his not having delivered up the squaw-sachem, but that there was prospect of force being used, and that, if she could be captured, “her Lands will more than pay all the charge we have been at in this unhappy War.”[55] About a week after the date of this letter, the Commissioners of the United Colonies, at the same meeting at which war was declared, arranged for a levy of a thousand more troops, and an immediate expedition was planned against the Narragansetts, under command of Governor Winslow of Plymouth.[56] The Massachusetts Council, with an eye to the long-coveted country, proclaimed that, if her soldiers “played the man,” and drove the Narragansetts out of it, the army should receive allotments of the land in addition to their pay.[57]

The various units of the new force, after sundry isolated skirmishes with the enemy, finally united at Pettisquamscott, late in the afternoon of December 18, and lay in the open that night in a severe snowstorm. The Indians, between three and four thousand in number, had taken refuge in a fortified position, on an island of four or five acres, in the middle of a large swamp, about sixteen miles from the English camp. Before daybreak, on the morning of the 19th, the army began its march, reaching the swamp about one in the afternoon. Some of the enemy were encountered upon its edge, but immediately fled, pursued, without order, by the English, straight to the entrance of the native fort. For three hours the fighting was desperate, and it was only after darkness began to fall that the colonists succeeded in capturing the Indians’ blockhouse and other works. Then came the same order which had been issued in the Pequot swamp fight thirty years earlier, and the torch was applied to the four hundred wigwams and accumulated stores of the savages. It is impossible to tell how many of the warriors fell in the fight, or how many of the old people, women, and children were roasted alive in the flames; but the contemporary estimates run from four hundred to a thousand or more. The English loss was about seventy killed and a hundred and fifty wounded.[58]

Warrant Signed by Governor Winslow of Plymouth for the Sale of Indian Captives as Slaves

Although the Narragansetts had received a terrible blow, they had not been so nearly annihilated as had the Pequots in the preceding generation; and the English, in view of their own actions, could now look for nothing less than a war to the death, waged with a ferocity equal at least to their own. An immediate levy of a thousand additional men was arranged for, divided among the colonies, and a new expedition was sent into the Nipmuck country, where the Narragansetts had joined some of Philip’s forces.[59] The commissariat broke down, and the short campaign, known as “the hungry march,” accomplished nothing. On February 10, the savages fell upon Lancaster and nearly destroyed the town. Within the next few weeks, attacks were made upon such widely separated points as Medfield, Northampton, Hatfield, Providence, Groton, Longmeadow, and Marlborough.

The Indians, however, had suffered severely during the winter from want of food, and, as spring came on, Canonchet realized that crops must be raised during the summer if the war were to be maintained. He proposed that the conquered lands in the Connecticut Valley be planted, and he himself, with a small party, volunteered to go back to Seakonk, near Mount Hope, to procure seed-corn. The venture cost him his life, for he was taken captive by a party of Connecticut men and Indians operating in the Narragansett country, and was immediately condemned to death. When told of the sentence, the savage, who possessed to the full the courage lacked by Philip, replied that “he liked it well that he should die before his heart was soft, or had spoken anything unworthy of himself.”[60]

In spite of further attacks by the Indians, one as near Boston as Sudbury, the tide now turned in favor of the English throughout southern New England. A heavy blow was struck at the Upper Falls of the Connecticut, where a great company of natives had gathered to fish, and where Captain Turner inflicted a severe defeat upon them, in spite of his own heavy losses. The privations of the winter, the prospect of semi-starvation to come, the loss of Canonchet, and the breakdown of Philip as a leader, rapidly sapped the morale of the natives, who became disorganized and demoralized. Detachments of English hunted down and slaughtered or captured the scattered bands of savages. Philip, who had returned to his old home near Mount Hope, narrowly escaped being taken early in August, his wife and son falling into the hands of the English. A few weeks later, he himself was slain in a swamp, by one of Captain Church’s Indians, and the main phase of the war, which, by bearing his name, has unduly exalted his part in it, was over.[61]

Hostilities, however, continued in the eastern settlements of Maine and New Hampshire for two years longer. Owing to their scattered character, and the difficulty of inflicting any telling blow upon the savages, who could disappear into the limitless forests, and were supplied by the French with arms and other necessities, Maine suffered proportionately even more severely than its more populous neighbors to the south. The story of the war there is the record of tragedy after tragedy enacted in lonely farmhouse or isolated village. One episode only, and that because of its later effect upon the Indian relations of the settlers, need be alluded to. In the autumn of 1676, following the signing of a treaty in July and a proclamation by the Massachusetts Court, several hundred natives congregated at Major Waldron’s house at Dover, with the intention, apparently, of accepting terms of amnesty, and of testifying to their friendly relations with the whites, although there were some who had borne arms against them. Unexpectedly, they were all taken into custody by Massachusetts agents and carried off to Boston, and a large proportion of them was sold into slavery in the West Indies. There are various versions of the affair, and it is impossible to unravel the truth, but, whether rightly or not, the eastern Indians felt that they had been treacherously dealt with, and never forgot or forgave the transaction.[62] Massachusetts, moreover, was unable to protect the eastern settlements; and the treaty finally made with the Indians, in the spring of 1678, carried the humiliating condition that the whites were to pay an annual tribute to the natives.[63] The unfortunate result of the war in that section was that the Indians felt themselves superior to the whites in power, and they had come to believe that the word of the latter could not be trusted.

Reverend John Cotton’s opinion that Philip’s Son should be put to Death

The captives taken in Philip’s War were variously treated. Some, who were considered especially guilty, were killed, and great numbers were distributed among the whites as servants for a limited period. Many were sold into slavery in the West Indies.[64] Among these unfortunates were the wife and son of Philip, the latter a little lad of nine.[65] Even the life of this grandson of Massasoit hung in the balance, and the clergy, to whom the problem of his disposal was referred, advised that he should be slain; but, as usual, the people were more merciful than the ministers. Although even the Old Testament offered difficulties in the way of precedents, John Cotton and Increase Mather thought that they might be found, and called for the lad’s blood,[66] Mather pointing out that, although David indeed spared the life of little Hadad, it might have been better had he not. The saintly Eliot, who throughout the war had pleaded with the people of Massachusetts for justice and mercy for the Christian Indians, as Williams had pleaded for the Pequots a generation before, protested against the whole system of selling off the natives, and in a letter to the Governor and Council uttered the prophetic saying that “to sell soules for mony seemeth to me a dangerous merchandize.”[67] But his voice, like Williams’s, found no echo.

The losses that the colonies had suffered were enormous. Maine did not recover for half a century, and there was not a white man left in Kennebec County. In Massachusetts sixteen towns were wholly destroyed or abandoned, and four in Rhode Island.[68] Along the entire New England frontier burned buildings and abandoned farms bore mute witness to the fury of the struggle. Plymouth reported her war expenses as £11,743, Connecticut hers as £22,173, and Massachusetts hers as £46,292, a total equivalent to-day of over $2,000,000.[69] One man out of every sixteen of military age had been killed. The struggle, however, had been inevitable, and it is fortunate that it occurred when it did; for it is improbable that the colonies could have sustained a double attack from south and north had the domestic contest coincided with the French war fifteen years later. Although they had been weakened in some respects, their losses were only temporary, while the removal of the Indian menace within their borders was a permanent gain. The ruined towns were rebuilt, new lands were opened up, and the fact that, entirely by their own efforts and without aid from England, the colonists had won possession of their territory with the unlimited expenditure of their own blood and treasure was of no little effect, then and later.


  1. There are no exact figures. The estimate in Century of Population Growth, pp. 4 ff., is about 54,000. Dexter, Estimates of Population in American Colonies, gives about the same (pp. 26 ff.). Palfrey estimates from 40,000 to 45,000 in 1665 (History, vol. iii, pp. 351 ff.). If we accept the usual military ratio of one military effective to five persons, a contemporary estimate in 1675 by [William?] Harris gives 44,000 which would be increased by the fact that Massachusetts insisted upon carrying a smaller proportion of the military burden than the other colonies. Cal. State Pap., Col., 1675-76, p. 220. L. K. Mathews’s estimate of 120,000, in her generally accurate Expansion of New England (p. 56), may be taken from Cal. State Pap., Col., 1675-76 p. 362, where that greatly exaggerated figure is given, but as a query, and is disproved by the additional statistics of 13,000 families and 16,000 effectives given in the same statement. Osgood adopts the figure of 80,000 (American Colonies, vol. i, p. 543).
  2. Palfrey’s suggestion of about equal numbers for the two races seems to have little foundation. History, vol. iii, p. 167. On the other hand, Osgood’s estimate of only 10,500 (American Colonies, vol. i, p. 543) seems a little low.
  3. Hodge, Handbook, vol. ii, p. 29.
  4. The maps in Mathews’s Expansion of New England are of great value in studying the movement of the frontier.
  5. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 169.
  6. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 75.
  7. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, pp. 575 f.
  8. Ibid., p. 257.
  9. Cal. State Pap., Col., 1675-76, p. 307. This document, apparently by Capt. Wyborne, was used in the Mason-Gorges case against Massachusetts.
  10. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 62.
  11. Cf. Conn. Col. Records, vol. i, pp. 74, 79, 163, 263; Massachusetts Records, vols. iv, pt. ii, p. 564, and V, pp. 44, 304; Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 64.
  12. E.g., Conn. Col. Records, vol. i, p. 240.
  13. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 63.
  14. D. Gookin, “Historical Collections of the Indians of New England,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series I, vol. i, pp. 195 ff. For the work of these men, which deserves all praise, vide the tracts reprinted in Ibid., Series III, vol. iv.
  15. D. Gookin, “Christian Indians,” in Archeologia Americana, vol. ii, p. 435.
  16. W. Hubbard, History of the Indian Wars in New England (ed. S. G. Drake, 1865), vol. i, p. 50. A more favorable account of the Alexander incident is given in a letter from John Cotton to Increase Mather, in 1677. Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., Series IV, vol. viii, pp. 233 f.
  17. Plymouth Records, vol. iv, pp. 25 f.
  18. Ibid., pp. 165 f.
  19. Ibid., vol. v, p. 79. The accusations against him are on p. 78. These were only that he had refused to deliver some of his guns; that, on occasion, he had refused to journey to Plymouth when sent for; that he harbored enemy Indians; that he had misrepresented Plymouth to Massachusetts; and that he had been uncivil.
  20. Cf. Winslow’s letter of justification in Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 56 f., and “Narrative of the Beginning of the War,” in Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, pp. 362 f.
  21. Massachusetts Records, vol. v, pp. 59 f.
  22. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, pp. 324, 319, 340 ff.
  23. Cf. Massachusetts Records, vol. v, p. 47; S. G. Drake, Old Indian Chronicle (Boston,. 1836), p. 8; G. M. Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip’s War (Leominster, 1896), pp. 45 ff.
  24. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 359.
  25. Cf. Bodge, Soldiers, pp. 150 f.
  26. Mather, Philip’s War, p. 240 n.; Gookin, Praying Indians, pp. 495 f; Bodge, Soldiers, p. 76. For the mutiny of a Plymouth officer and his men, cf. Plymouth Records, vol. v, pp. 189 f. There were other cases.
  27. Plymouth Records, vol. v, pp. 193, 198.
  28. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, pp. 418, 272.
  29. Massachusetts Records, vol. v, p. 78.
  30. The general reader may consult Ellis and Morris, King Philip’s War; New York, 1906. The volume is more trustworthy than the unfortunate slip in its opening sentence might seem to indicate.
  31. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 61.
  32. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 367.
  33. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 363.
  34. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 66 ff.
  35. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 75.
  36. The text of the treaty is in Hubbard, vol. i, pp. 76 ff.
  37. Cal. State Pap., Col., 1675-76, p. 253.
  38. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 88 ff.; B. Church, History of King Philip’s War (ed. H. M. Dexter, Boston, 1865), pp. 25 ff.
  39. Bodge, Soldiers, pp. 107 ff.; Gookin, Christian Indians, pp. 447 f.; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 99. The latter fails to state that the rescuers were natives. Wheeler, in his report, also ignored it, although he subsequently certified to the Indians’ good conduct.
  40. Mather, Philip’s War, p. 68; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 100 ff.
  41. Mather, Philip’s War, pp. 72 ff.; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 110. For the traditional attack on Hadley, and the story of the regicide judge Goffe, vide S. Judd, History of Hadley (1905), Pp. 138 ff., and G. Sheldon, History of Deerfield (1895), vol. i, pp. 93 f.
  42. Bodge, Soldiers, p. 130; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. ii, p. 44.
  43. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 110; Mather, Philip’s War, p. 79; Bodge, Soldiers, p. 131.
  44. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, p. 358.
  45. Ibid., pp. 364, 367. Massachusetts was to supply 527, Plymouth, 158, Connecticut, 315. The figures were based upon the new Articles of Confederation, which were unduly favorable to Massachusetts. Based upon population, they would probably have been about 640, 100, and 260, respectively.
  46. Mather, Philip’s War, pp. 85 f.; Bodge, Soldiers, pp. 67, 135 f.; Sheldon, Deerfield, vol. i, pp. 100 ff.; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 113 ff.
  47. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 122; Mather, Philip’s War, p. 97.
  48. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, pp. 370, 372 ff., 380 ff.
  49. Massachusetts Records, vol. v, pp. 46, 55, 57, 64, 84.
  50. Mather, Philip’s War, p. 101 n.; Badge, Soldiers, p. 69; Gookin, Christian Indians, pp. 455 ff., 500 ff.
  51. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 168.
  52. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, pp. 397, 407.
  53. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 360.
  54. Ibid., p. 357.
  55. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, p. 236; Old Indian Chronicle, p. 36.
  56. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 357; Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, p. 384; Massachusetts Records, vol. v, p. 69; Plymouth Records, vol. v, pp. 182 f.
  57. Bodge, Soldiers, p. 180.
  58. Ibid., pp. 190 f. Cf. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, p. 398. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, pp. 144 ff.; Mather, Philip’s War, p. 108; Church, King Philip’s War, pp. 53 ff. A Continuation of the State of New England (London, 1676), estimates the English losses as, killed and wounded, 207, and 600 Indians killed.
  59. Plymouth Records, vol. v, p. 184; Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, p. 391.
  60. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. ii, p. 60.
  61. Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. i, p. 265; Church, King Philip’s War, pp. 145 ff.
  62. Cf. Bodge, Soldiers, pp. 304 ff.; N. H. Prov. Papers, vol. i, pp. 354 ff.; Massachusetts Records, vol. v, p. 72.
  63. Belknap, History, vol. i, p. 129. He does not give the text, nor is it in the N. H. Prov. Papers, though there is a letter relative to it in the latter, vol. i, p. 365.
  64. Conn. Col. Records, vol. ii, pp. 297 f. The Assembly in Barbadoes drew a bill to prevent the importation of these Indian slaves from New England. Cal. State Pap., Col., 1674-75, p. 378.
  65. Church, King Philip’s War, p. 127.
  66. Their letters are in Mass. Hist. Sot. Coll., Series IV, vol. VIII, p. 689.
  67. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, p. 452.
  68. Cf. Mathews, Expansion of New England, pp. 57 ff.; Hubbard, Indian Wars, vol. ii, pp. 39 ff.; Old Indian Chronicle, pp. 101 f.
  69. Acts United Colonies, vol. ii, pp. 402, 392, 393.