SGT. WM. HAYDEN IN THE PEQUOT INDIAN WAR 1637
Pequot means "Destroyer"
Cutting sword above of Sgt. (later became Major) William Hayden, Pequot Indian War. On display now at the Conn. Historical Society, in Hartford. Item #1839-1-0. It has stag horn grips and no knuckle bow with broad quillions and pierced iron plate. This sword was presented by the family minister, Rev. Thomas Robbins.
Sword of Major John Mason, founder of Windsor and Norwich and conqueror of the Pequot Indians. The blade is stamped "Mefecit (maker's mark) Solingen" Presented by Elizabeth Colgrove and Dr.Gurden Allyn to the Stonington Historical Society. Now displayed in the Old Lighthouse Museum, Stonington, Connecticut.
"William Hayden, of Windsor Conn., may have been one of the greatest unsung war heroes of early New England. Although he was not a professionally trained soldier, and probably in his twenties in 1637, his heroic action in the main battle with the Pequot Indians at Mystic, undoubtedly changed the history of New England.
Prior to 1637, the native Indian tribes of Connecticut were peaceful and friendly with the New England settlers. But the fierce, Pequot tribe that had previously lived on the banks of the Hudson River dominated them. For a few years the English and the Pequots were adjusting to each other’s presence in the new Connecticut territory, but in 1636 the situation changed. A number of murders and attacks on white settlements including Wethersfield also where inhabitants were either killed or captured were attributed to the Pequots, and when the English retaliated the battle lines were drawn. The Pequots then concluded there was no chance for peace with the English.
There were less than 300 settlers in all of Connecticut, amongst thousands of Indians, and there was a constant fear of attacks from Pequot Indians in every household in the area. No woman felt certain, when her husband left her in the morning, that his tomahawked body would not be returned to her by sundown. And no man could be sure that after he spent a day in the fields he would not find his family murdered or captured and his house burned to the ground. The settlers were so filled with fear that they urged the neighboring government of Massachusetts to launch a war that would rid the territory of the Pequot tribe forever.
The Pequots concluded that the only way they could survive was to wipe out all of the settlers in Connecticut, and they were concentrated in only three settlements, Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield. The Indians made plans to waylay the settlers as they worked in the fields, burn their houses and destroy their crops and live stock. Their ultimate goal was to force the English, through fear and starvation, to abandon New England, and return across the ocean to their homeland. If they had succeeded, the early New England of colonies might have been destroyed.
Since the settlers were so heavily outnumbered they knew they could not fight the Pequots on the Indian’s terms of hit-and-run. The total tribe strength if permitted to become concentrated was about 2500. They had to strike a single decisive blow that would break the power of the Pequot forever. On May 20, 1637, under the leadership of the skillful military officer, Captain John Mason, they formed a force of 90 Englishmen, which was about one-third of the total population of Connecticut. Seventy Indians also accompanied them from friendly tribes.
Mason knew the two main hideouts of the Pequots were at Mystic, near the coast. He knew the Indians would never meet the English on an open battlefield to be destroyed by musket fire. Everytime soldiers would encounter Indians the latter would disappear into the forests. Mason concluded he must use the element of surprise and launch an attack so sudden and decisive that the warriors could not escape and regroup again. He devised a plan to sail down the Connecticut River from Hartford and land on the coast east of Mystic. From there he led his small army of hastily trained young men in days of a forced march to the edge of Pequot country. He neared the main Indian fort at nightfall so he made camp for the night to rest his exhausted men and he began to plan a morning attack. He sent out scouts and they found the fill-top fort was well hidden and protected, with only two gateways. (See drawing below -a magnifying glass will help) Mason’s plan was to strike quickly, kill the warriors and spare the women and children. He did not intend to burn the camp because he wanted to gain plunder.
The young Englishmen rose before daybreak on June 5, 1637, still tired from their previous days of marching. The plan was for Captain Mason to lead one force to attack through the west gate and Captain Underhill attack through the south gate. As Mason’s force neared the gate everyone in the camp was asleep, but than a dog began to bark, and then one of the Indians began shouting, “Owanux, Owanux” (Englishmen, Englishmen). The Indians were so shocked and fearful at the sound of the musketry they remained in their huts and began returning fire.
Captain Mason forced his way into one of the wigwams and he was attacked by several warriors. William Hayden followed him in and he saw a Pequot with his bow drawn with the arrow aimed at Mason Hayden attacked and sliced through the bowstring and the Indian with his sword, just in time to save the life of his Commander.
When the fatigued Captain left the wigwam, he saw that the battle was in doubt. The Indians remained in their shelters, firing arrows and wounding his confused, young soldiers and he saw victory slipping away. At that moment he changed his battle plan and decided that the only course to take was to burn the fort and force the Indians out of their protective shelters. Mason’s men retreated outside of the burning fort and in a short time 400 Indians died from the flames and musket fire. Seven were taken prisoner. The crucial battle was won but final victory was not yet assured because Pequots from the second nearby fort soon arrived to threaten the retreat of the English force. Again, Mason’s military experience foiled the Pequots attempts to hinder the retreat and the English force escaped. Fighting continued at various points during the following months, but the battle at Mystic essentially broke the back and spirits of the Pequot tribe and ended its domination in Connecticut. The other tribes in the area were as elated with this victory as the English were.
Captain John Mason has been credited with gaining victory over the Pequots, and rightly so. Without his skillful leadership, his strategy, planning and execution, the English could not have overcome the Pequot tribe. Had the battle been lost, Mason’s young soldiers would have been destroyed and soon after, their families would have been annihilated on their unprotected homesteads.
Capt. Mason speaks of Hayden coming to his rescue when he (Mason) was “beset by many Indians waiting all opportunities to lay hands on him,” but,” William Hayden espying a breach in the wigwam, entered, and in his entrance fell over a dead Indian; but speedily recovering himself, the Indians some fled, others crept under their beds.”
Governor Wolcott of Windsor, in recounting still the heroic struggles of Capt. Mason, says:
“But fate that doth the rule of action know,
Did this unequal combat disallow,
To beat an army, take a garrison,
Sent Hayden in, who, with his sure steeled blade,
Joining the General, (?) such a slaughter made,
That soon the Pequots ceased to oppose
The matchless force of such resistless foes.”
As for William Hayden, if he had not followed Captain Mason into the wigwam and cut the bowstring and skewered the Indian at the crucial moment, there would have been no commander to make that critical decision to burn the fort. The Pequots would have wiped out the English force and regained control of Connecticut. If they then carried the war into Massachusetts, the history of early New England would have been drastically changed.
This sword remained in the family of the eldest son until the third Daniel moved to East Windsor, when it remained in the hands of his brother Thomas at Haydens. From the family of Thomas, it passed, within the memory of one of them, to the hands of the late Rev. Dr. Thomas Robbins, who deposited it with the Connecticut Historical Society, in Hartford, Conn. where it remains today (2001).
References: Search for The Passengers Of The Mary & John-1630, Volume2, also,
Descendants’ Return To The Ancestral Homes, by Burton W. Spear, 1986.
Address by Jabez H. Hayden, of Windsor Locks, Conn.
Sgt William Hayden's Sword
PORTION OF 1625 CONNECTICUT MAP SHOWING INDIAN TRAILS
A magnifying glass may be helpful
A Brief History of
THE PEQUOT WAR:
Especially of the memorable Taking of their Fort at Mistick in Connecticut in 1637. Written by Major John Mason, a principal Actor therein, as then chief Captain and Commander of Connecticut Forces.
With an Introduction and some Explanatory Notes by the Reverend Mr. Thomas Prince.
PSAL. XLIV. 1-3. We have heard with our Ears, O God, our Fathers have told us, what Work Thou didst in their Days, in the times of old; How Thou didst drive out the Heathen with thy Hand, and plantedst Them: how Thou did afflict the People and cast them out. For they got not the Land in Possession by their own Sword, neither did their own Arm save them: but thy right Hand, and thine Arm, and the Light of thy Countenance, because Thou hadst a Favour unto them.
PSAL. CII. 18. This shall be written for the Generation to come: and the People which shall be Created, shall praise the Lord.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Introduction.
IN my Contemplations of the Divine Providence towards the People of New England, I have often tho't what a special Favour it was, that there came over with the first Settlers of Plimouth and Connecticut Colonies, which in those Times were especially exposed to the superiour Power of the Barbarians round about them; Two brave Englishmen bred to arms in the Dutch Netherlands, viz. Capt. Miles Standish of Plimouth, and Capt. John Mason of Connecticut: Gentlemen of tried Valour, Military Skill and Conduct, great Activity, and warm Zeal for that noble Cause of Pure Scriptural Religion, and Religious Liberty, which were the chief original Design and Interest of the Fathers of these Plantations; and who were acted with such eminent Degrees of Faith and Piety, as excited them to the most daring Enterprizes in the Cause of God and of his People, and went a great way to their wonderful Successes.
Like those inspired Heroes of whom we read the History in the Eleventh Chapter to the Hebrews-By Faith, they not only rather chose to suffer Affliction with the People of God than to enjoy the Pleasures of Sin for a Season; esteeming the Reproach of Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt: But by Faith they even forsook the same, passed thro' the Sea, subdued Kingdoms, wrought Righteousness, obtained Promises, waxed valiant in Fight, and turned to flight the armies of the Aliens.
The Judicious Reader that knows the New English History, cannot think these Scripture Phrases or religious Turns unsuitable on this Occasion: For as these Colonies were chiefly, if not entirely Settled by a Religious People, and for those Religious Purposes; It is as impossible to write an impartial or true History of them, as of the ancient Israelites, or the later Vaudois or North-Britons, without observing that Religious Spirit and Intention which evidently ran through and animate their Historical Transactions.
Capt. Standish was of a low Stature, but of such a daring and active Genius, that even before the Arrival of the Massachusetts Colony, He spread a Terror over all the Tribes of Indians round about him, from the Massachusetts to Martha's Vineyard, and from Cape Cod Harbour to Narragansett.
Capt. Mason was Tall and Portly, but never the less full of Martial Bravery and Vigour; that He soon became the equal Dread of the more numerous Nations from Narragansett to Hudson's River. They were Both the Instrumental Saviours of this Country in the most critical Conjunctures: And as we quietly enjoy the Fruits of their extraordinary Diligence and Valour, both the present and future Generations will for ever be obliged to revere their Memory. Capt. Mason, the Writer of the following History, in which he was a principal Actor, as Chief Commander of the Connecticut Forces, is said to have been a Relative of Mr. John Mason the ancient Claimer of the Province of New-Hampshire: However, the Captain was one of the first who went up from the Masschusetts, about the Year 1635 to lay the Foundation of Connecticut Colony: He went from Dorchester, first settled at Windsor,1 and thence marched forth to the Pequot War.
But it being above Threescore Years since the following Narrative was Written, near an Hundred since the Events therein related, and the State of the New England Colonies being long since greatly Changed; it seems needful for the present Readers clearer Apprehension of these Matters, to Observe-That in the Year 1633, and 1634, several Englishmen arriving from England, at the Massachusetts went up in the Western Country to discover Connecticut River; the next Year began to remove thither; and by the Beginning of 1637, Hartford, Windsor and Weathersfield were Settled, besides a Fortification built at Saybrook on the Mouth of the River. At that Time there were especially three powerful and warlike Nations of Indians in the South Western Parts of New England; which spread all the Country from Aquethneck, since called Rhode Island, to Quinnepiack, since called New-Haven; viz. the Narragansetts, Pequots and Mohegans. The Narragansetts reached from the Bay of the same Name, to Pawcatuck River, now the Boundary between the Governments of Rhode-Island and Connecticut: And their Head Sachem was Miantonimo. The Pequots reached from thence Westward to Connecticut River, and over it, as far as Branford, if not Quinnepiack; their Head Sachem being Sassacus. And the Mohegans spread along from the Narragansetts through the Inland Country, on the Back or Northerly Side of the Pequots, between them and the Nipmucks; their Head Sachem being Uncas.
1 The names of those who are known to have gone from Windsor are as follows: Capt. John Mason, Sergt. Bendict Alvord, Thomas Barber, Thomas Buckland, George Chappel, John Dyer, James Eggleston, Nathan Gillet, Thomas Gridley, Thomas Stiles, Sergt. Thomas Staires, Richard Osborn, Thomas Parsons, William Thrall. They were absent three weeks and two days. Every soldier received 1s. 6d. per day, reckoning six days in the week; sergeants, 20d. per day; lieutenants, 20s. per week; the captain, 40s. per week.-Stiles' History of Ancient Windsor.
The most terrible of all those Nations were then the Pequots; who with their depending Tribes soon entered on a Resolution to Destroy the English out of the Country. In 1634, they killed Capt. Stone and all his Company, being seven besides Himself, in and near his Bark on Connecticut River. In 1635, they killed Capt. Oldham in his Bark at Block-Island; and at Long-Island they killed two more cast away there. In 1636, and the following Winter and March, they killed six and took seven more at Connecticut River: Those they took alive they tortured to Death in a most barbarous Manner. And on April 23. 1637, they killed nine more and carried two young Women Captive at Weathersfield.
They had earnestly solicited the Narragansetts to engage in their Confederacy: very politickly representing to them, That if they should help or suffer the English to subdue the Pequots, they would thereby make Way for their own future Ruin; and that they need not come to open Battle with the English; only Fire our Houses, kill our Cattle, lye in Ambush and shoot us as we went about our Business; so we should be quickly forced to leave this Country, and the Indians not ex-posed to any great Hazard. Those truly politick Arguments were upon the Point of prevailing on the Narragansetts: And had These with the Mohegans, to whom the Pequots were nearly related, joined against us; they might then, in the infant State of these Colonies, have easily accomplished their desperate Resolutions.
But the Narragansetts being more afraid of the Pequots than of the English; were willing they Should weaken each other, not in the least imagining the English could destroy them; at the same time an Agency from the Massachusetts Colony to the Narragansetts, happily Preserved their staggering Friendship.2 And as Uncas the Great Sachim of the Moheags, upon the first coming of the English, fell into an intimate Acquaintance with Capt. Mason, He from the Beginning entertained us in an amicable Manner: And though both by his Father and Mother He derived from the Royal Blood of the Pequots, and had Married the Daughter of Tatobam their then late Sachim; yet such was his Affection for us, as he faithfully adhered to us, ventured his Life in our Service, assisted at the Taking their Fort, when about Seven Hundred of them were Destroyed, and thereupon in subduing and driving out of the Country the remaining greater Part of that fierce and dangerous Nation.
2 The proposed Indian league was prevented by the diplomacy of Roger Williams. For, though he had been banished by the colony of Massachusetts, the magistrates sought his counsel, which he gave freely, and was thus able to render the infant colonies a service which proved to be of the greatest importance. In a letter to John Mason in 1670, when both were old men, he writes as follows: " When, the next year after my banishment, the Lord drew the bow of the Pequot war against the country . . . . the Lord helped me immediately to put my life in my hand, and scarce acquainting my wife, to ship myself all alone in a poor canoe, and to cut through a stormy wind with great seas, every minute in hazard of my life, to the sachem's house. Three days and nights my business forced me to lodge and mix with the bloody Pequot ambassadors, whose hands and arms reeked with the blood of my countrymen, murdered and massacred by them on Connecticut River, and from whom I could not but nightly look for their bloody knives at my own throat also."
Soon after the War, Capt. Mason was by the Government of Connecticut, made the major General of all their forces, and so continued to the day of his death: The Rev. Mr. Hooker of Hartford, being desired by the Government in their Name to deliver the Staff into his Hand; We may imagin he did it with that superiour Piety, Spirit and Majesty, which were peculiar to him: Like an ancient Prophet addressing himself to the Military Officer, delivering to him the Principal Ensign of Martial Power, to Lead the Armies and Fight the Battles of the Lord and of his People.
Major Mason having been trained up in the Netherland War under Sir Thomas Fairfax;3 when the Struggle arose in England between K. Charles I. and the Parliament about the Royal Powers and the National Liberties; that Famous General had such an esteem for the Major's Conduct and Bravery, that He wrote to the Major to come over and help Him.4 But the Major excusing himself, continued in this Country as long as he lived, and had some of the greatest Honours his Colony could yield him.
3 Fairfax went to the Netherlands in April of 1630, and though but eighteen, was a volunteer in the army and was with Sir Horace Vere at the siege of Bois-le-Duc, which surrendered in July of that year. Young Fairfax was then ordered by his grandfather to leave camp and travel in France; and there he remained for about eighteen months, returning to England in February of 1632. Since the total service of Fairfax in the Low Countries extended over but four months, and was somewhat in the nature of a youthful adventure, it can hardly be said that Mason was " trained up " under him. though the story has been repeated by nearly every biographer of Mason since Prince. He may, however, have been a companion in arms with Fairfax, though of this there is no direct proof.
For besides his Office of Major General, the Colony in May 1660 chose him their Deputy Governour; continued him in the same Post by annual Re-elections, by virtue of their first Constitution to1662 inclusively. The same Year K. Charles II. comprehending the Colonies of Connecticut and New Haven in One Government by the name of Connecticut Colony; He in the Royal Charter, signed April 23. appointed Major Mason their first Deputy Governour till the second Thursday of October following: After which, the General Court being left to chuse their Officers, they continued to chuse him their Deputy Governour every Year to May 1670; when his Age and Bodily Infirmities advancing, he laid down his Office and retired from Publick Business.
After the Pequot War, he had removed from Windsor to Saybrook: But in 1659, he removed thence to Norwich; where he Died in 1672, or 1673, in the 73d Year of his Age: leaving three sons, viz. Samuel, John and Daniel, to imitate their Fathers Example and inherit his Virtues.
I have only now to observe, that in The Relation of the Troubles which happened to New England by the Indians from 1614 to 1675, Published by the then Mr. Increase Mather in 1677, I find a copy of the following Narrative, but without the Prefaces, had been communicated to him by Mr. John Allyn then the Secretary of Connecticut Colony; which that Rev. Author took for Mr. Allyn's and calls it his. But we must inform the Reader, that the Narrative was originally drawn by Major Mason. And as his Eldest Grandson Capt. John Mason now of New London has put it into my Hands; I have been more than usually careful in Correcting the Press according to the Original; as the most authentick Account of the Pequot War, and as a standing Monument both of the extraordinary Dangers and Courage of our pious Fathers, and of the eminent Appearance of Heaven to save them. The other actions of Major Mason must be referred to the General History of this country, when some Gentleman of greater Qualifications and Leisure than I may claim, shall rise up among us, to undertake it I shall give some Hints in my Brief Chronology; which through numerous Hindrances, is now in such a Forwardness that near 200 Pages are Printed already; and in a little Time, Life and Health allowed, I hope to present the Politick with the first of the two intended Volumes. In the mean while I cannot but Regret it, that such considerable and ancient Towns as Saybrook, Fairfield, Stamford, Canterbury, Groton
To The Honourable The General Court of Connecticut.
You Well know how often I have been requested by yourselves to write something in reference to the Subject of the ensuing Treatise (who have power to Command) and how backward I have been, as being conscious to my own unfitness; accounting it not so proper, I being a Chief Actor therein myself. Yet considering that little hath been done to keep the memory of such a special Providence alive, though I could heartily have wished that some other who had been less interested and better qualified might have undertaken the Task, for I am not unacquainted with my own Weakness; yet I shall endeavour in plainness and faithfulness impartially to declare the Matter, not taking the Crown from the Head of one and putting it upon another. There are several who have Wrote and also Printed at random on this Subject, greatly missing the Mark in many Things as I conceive.5 I shall not exempt my self from frailties, yet from material Faults I presume you may pronounce it not Guilty, and do assure you that if I should see or by any be convinced of an Error, I shall at once confess and amend it.
I thought it my Duty in the Entrance to relate the first Grounds upon which the English took up Arms against the Pequots; for the Beginning is the Moiety of the Whole; and not to mention some Passages at Rovers, as others have done, and not demonstrate the Cause. Judge of me as you please; I shall not climb after Applause, nor do I much fear a Censure; there being many Testimonies to what I shall say. 'Tis possible some may think no better can be expected in these distracting Times; it being so hard to please a few, impossible to please all: I shall therefore content myself that I have attended my rule: You may please to improve some others who were Actors in the Service to give in their Apprehensions, that so the severals being compared, you may enlarge or diminish as you shall see meet. I desire my Name may be sparingly mentioned: My principal Aim is that God may have his due praise. By your unworthy Servant,
Mason refers, no doubt, to the accounts by Underhill and Vincent, which had then been printed.
To The American Reader.
ALTHOUGH it be too true indeed that the Press labours under, and the World doth too much abound with pamphleting Papers; yet know that this Piece cannot or at least ought not to be disaccepted by thee; For by the help of this thou mayest look backward and interpret how God hath been working, and that very wonderfully for thy Safety and Comfort: And it being the Lord's doing, it should be marvellous in thine Eyes.
And when thou shalt have viewed over this Paper, thou wilt say the Printers of this Edition have done well to prevent the possible Imputation of Posterity; in that they have consulted the exhibition at least to the American World, of the remarkable Providencies of God, which thou mayest at thy leisure read, consider and affect thy self with, in the Sequel.
History most properly is a Declaration of Things that are done by those that were present at the doing of them: Therefore this here presented to thee may in that respect plead for liking and acceptance with thee: The Historiographer being one of the principal Actors, by whom those English Engagements were under God carried on and so successfully effected. And for a President for him in this his Publication of his own, in Parte Rei Bellicae, he hath that great Man at arms the first of the noble Caesars, being the Manager and Inditer of his martial Exploits.
He has also that necessary Ingredient in an Historian; Ut nequid falsi dicere, et nequid veri non dicere audeat; That he will tell the Truth and will not say a jot of Falsehood.
And Memorandum that those divine Over-rulings, their Recollection, as they ought to be Quickeners of us up to a Theological Reformation, and Awakeners of us from a lethargilike Security, least the Lord should yet again make them more afflicting Thorns in our Eyes and slashing Scourges in our Sides; so also they may well be Pledges or Earnests to us of his future saving Mercies; and that if we by our Declensions from him in his ways do not provoke him, he will not forsake us, but have respect to us in our Dwellings, and lend us the desirable Providence of his perpetual Salvation.
N. B. This Epistle to the American Reader appears to have been written by another Hand than Major Mason's.
To The Judicious Reader.
I NEVER had thought that this should have come to the Press, until of late: If I had, I should have endeavoured to have put a little more Varnish upon it: But being over perswaded by some Friends, I thought it not altogether amiss to present it to your courteous Disposition, hoping it might find your favourable Entertainment and Acceptance, though rude and impolished. I wish it had fallen into some better Hands that might have performed it to the life; I shall only draw the Curtain and open my little Casement, that so others of larger Hearts and Abilities may let in a bigger Light; that so at least some small Glimmering maybe left to Posterity what Difficulties and Obstructions their Forefathers met with in their first settling these desart Parts of America; how God was pleased to prove them, and how by his wise Providence he ordered and disposed all their Occasions and Affairs for them in regard to both their Civils and Ecclesiasticals.
This with some other Reasons have been Motives to excite me to the enterprizing hereof; no man that I know of having as yet undertaken to write a general History or Relation; so that there is no Commemoration of Matters respecting this War; how they began, how carryed on, and continued, nor what Success they had.* They which think the mentioning of some Particulars is sufficient for the understanding of the General, in my Opinion stray no less from the Truth, than if by the separated Parts of a living Man one should think by this Means he knew all the Parts and Perfections of the Creature: But these separated Parts being joyned together having Form and Life, one might easily discern that he was deceived.
* The Author Died before the Reverend Mr. William Hubbard and Mr. Increase Mather Published their accounts of the Pequot War.
If the Beginning be but obscure, and the Ground uncertain, its Continuance can hardly perswade to purchase belief: Or if Truth be wanting in History, it proves but a fruitless Discourse.
I shall therefore, God helping, endeavour not so much to stir up the Affections of Men, as to declare in Truth and Plainness the Actions and Doings of Men; I shall therefore set down Matter in order as they Began and were carried on and Issued; that so I may not deceive the Reader in confounding of Things, but the Discourse may be both Plain and Easy.
And although Some may think they have Wrote in a high Stile, and done some notable Thing, yet in my Opinion they have not Spoken truly in some Particulars, and in general to little Purpose: For how can History find Credit, if in the Beginning you do not deliver plainly and clearly from whence and how you do come to the Relation which you presently intend to make of Actions?
As a Rule, although it hath less length and breadth, yet notwithstanding it retains the Name if it hath that which is proper to a Rule. When the Bones are Separated from a living Creature, it becomes unserviceable: So a History, if you take away Order and Truth, the rest will prove to be but a vain Narration.
I shall not make a long Discourse, nor labour to hold the Reader in doubt, using a multitude of Words, which is no sure Way to find out the Truth; as if one should seek for Verity in the Current of Pratling, having nothing but a conceit worthy to hold the Reader is suspence: (Sed quo vado) In a word, the Lord was as it were pleased to say unto us, The Land of Canaan will I give unto thee though but few and Strangers in it: And when we went from one Nation to another, yea from one Kingdom to another, he suffered no Man to do us Wrong, but reproved Kings for our sakes: And so through Mercy at length we were settled in Peace, to the Astonishment of all that were round about us: unto whom be ascribed all Glory and Praise for ever and ever.
Some Grounds of the War Against the Pequots.
ABOUT the Year 1632 one Capt. Stone arrived in the Massachusetts in a Ship from Virginia; who shortly after was bound for Virginia in a small Bark with one Capt. Norton; who sailing into Connecticut River about two Leagues from the Entrance cast Anchor; there coming to them several Indians belonging to that Place whom the Pequots Tyrannized over, being a potent and warlike People, it being their Custom so to deal with their neighbour Indians; Capt. Stone having some occasion with the Dutch who lived at a trading House near twenty Leagues up the River, procured some of those Indians to go as Pilots with two of his Men to the Dutch: But being benighted before they could come to their desired Port, put the skiff in which they went, ashoar, where the two Englishmen falling asleep, were both Murdered by their Indian Guides: There remaining with the Bark about twelve of the aforesaid Indians; who had in all probability formerly plotted their bloody Design; and waiting an opportunity when some of the English were on Shoar and Capt. Stone asleep in his Cabbin, set upon them and cruelly Murdered every one of them, plundered what they pleased and sunk the Bark.
These Indians were not native Pequots, but had frequent recourse unto them, to whom they tendered some of those Goods, which were accepted by the Chief Sachem of the Pequots: Other of the said Goods were tendered to Nynigrett Sachem of Nayanticke, who also received them.
The Council of the Massachusetts being informed of their proceedings, sent to speak with the Pequots, and had some Treaties with them: But being unsatisfied therewith, sent forth Captain John Endicot Commander in Chief, with Captain Underhill, Captain Turner, and with them one hundred and twenty Men: who were firstly designed on a Service against a People living on Block Island, who were subject to the Narragansett Sachem; they having taken a Bark of one Mr. John Oldham, Murdering him and all his Company: They were also to call the Pequots to an Account about the Murder of Capt. Stone; who arriving at Pequot had some Conference with them; but little effected; only one Indian slain and some Wigwams burnt. After which, the Pequots grew inraged against the English who inhabited Connecticut, being but a small Number, about two hundred and fifty, who were there newly arrived; as also about twenty Men at Saybrook, under the Command of Lieutenant Lyon Gardner, who was there settled by several Lords and Gentlemen in England. The Pequots falling violently upon them, slew divers Men at Saybrook ; keeping almost a constant Siege upon the Place; so that the English were constrained to keep within their pallizado Fort; being so hard Beset and sometimes Assaulted, that Capt. John Mason was sent by Connecticut Colony with twenty Men out of their small Numbers to secure the Place: But after his coming, there did not one Pequot appear in view for one Month Space, which was the time he there remained.
In the Interim certain Pequots about One Hundred going to a Place called Weathersfield on Connecticut; having formerly confederated with the Indians of that Place (as it was generally thought) lay in Ambush for the English; divers of them going into a large Field adjoyning to the Town to their Labour, were there set upon by the Indians: Nine of the English were killed outright, with some Horses, and two young Women taken Captives.
At their Return from Weathersfield, they came down the River of Connecticut (Capt. Mason being then at Saybrook Fort) in three Canoes with about one hundred Men, which River of necessity they must pass: We espying them, concluded they had been acting some Mischief against us, made a Shot at them with a Piece of Ordnance, which beat off the Beak Head of one of their Canoes, wherein our two Captives were: it was at a very great distance: They then hastened, drew their Canoes over a narrow Beach with all speed and so got away.
Upon which the English were somewhat dejected: But immediately upon this, a Court was called and met in Hartford the First of May, 1637, * who seriously considering their Condition, which did look very Sad, for those Pequots were a great People, being strongly fortified, cruel, warlike, munitioned, &c. and the English but an handful in comparison: But their outragious Violence against the English, having Murdered about Thirty of them, their great Pride and Insolency, constant pursuit in their malicious Courses, with their engaging other Indians in their Quarrel against the English, who had never offered them the least Wrong; who had in all likelihood Espoused all the Indians in the country in their Quarrel, had not God by more than an ordinary Providence prevented: These Things being duly considered, with the eminent Hazard and great Peril they were in; it pleased God so to stir up the Hearts of all Men in general, and the Court in special, that they concluded some Forces should forthwith be sent out against the Pequots; their Grounds being Just, and necessity enforcing them to engage in an offensive and defensive War; the Management of which War we are nextly to relate.
* May 1, 1637, was Monday.
An Epitome or brief History of the Pequot War.
IN the Beginning of May 1637 there were sent out by Connecticut Colony Ninety Men under the Command of Capt. John Mason against the Pequots, with Onkos an Indian Sachem living at Mohegan,* who was newly revolted from the Pequots; being Shipped in one Pink, one Pinnace, and one Shallop; who sailing down the River of Connecticut fell several times a ground, the Water being very low: The Indians not being wonted to such Things with their small Canoes, and also being impatient of Delays, desired they might be set on Shoar, promising that they would meet us at Saybrook; which we granted: They hastening to their Quarters, fell upon Thirty or forty of the Enemy near Saybrook Fort, and killed seven of them outright; @ having only one of their's wounded, who was sent back to Connecticut in a Skiff: Capt. John Underhill also coming with him, who informed us what was performed by Onkos and his Men; which we looked at as a special Providence; for before we were somewhat doubtful of his Fidelity: Capt. Underhill then offered his Service with nineteen Men to go with us, if Lieutenant Gardner would allow of it, who was Chief Commander at Saybrook Fort; which was readily approved of by Lieutenant Gardner and accepted by us; In lieu of them we sent back twenty of our Soldiers to Connecticut.
* Onkos; usually called Uncas, the Great Sachem of the Moheags.
Upon a Wednesday we arrived at Saybrook, where we lay Windbound until Friday; often consulting how and in what manner we should proceed in our Enterprize, being altogether ignorant of the Country. At length we concluded, God assisting us, for Narragansett, and so to March through their Country, which Bordered upon the Enemy; where lived a great People, it being about fifteen Leagues beyond Pequot ; The Grounds and Reasons of our so Acting you shall presently understand:
First, The Pequots our Enemies, kept a continual Guard upon the River Night and Day.
Secondly, their Numbers far exceeded ours: having sixteen Guns with Powder and Shot, as we were informed by the two Captives forementioned (where we declared the Grounds of this War) who were taken by the Dutch and restored to us at Saybrook; which indeed was a very friendly Office and not to be forgotten .
Thirdly, They were on Land, and being swift on Foot, might much impede our Landing, and possibly dishearten our Men; we being expected only by Land, there being no other Place to go on Shoar but in that River, nearer than Narragansett.
Fourthly, By Narragansett we should come upon their Backs, and possibly might surprize them unawares, at worst we should be on firm Land as well as they.'
All which proved very Successful as the Sequel may evidently demonstrate.
But yet for all this our Counsel, all of them except the Captain, were at a stand, and could riot judge it meet to sail to Narragansett: And indeed there was a very strong Ground for it; our Commission limiting us to land our Men in Pequot River; we had also the same Order by a Letter of Instruction sent us to Saybrook.
But Capt. Mason apprehending an exceeding great Hazard in so doing, for the Reasons forementioned, as also some other which I shall forbear to trouble you with, did therefore earnestly desire Mr. Stone that he would commend our Condition to the Lord, that Night, to direct how and in what manner we should demean ourselves in that Respect: He being our Chaplain and lying aboard our Pink, the Captain on Shoar. In the Morning very early Mr. Stone came ashoar to the Captain's Chamber, and told him, he had done as he had desired, and was fully satisfied to sail for Narragansett.6 Our Council was then called, and the several Reasons alledged: In fine we all agreed with one accord to sail for Narragansett, which the next Morning we put in Execution.
I declare not this to encourage any Soldiers to Act beyond their Commission, or contrary to it; for in so doing they run a double Hazard. There was a great Commander in Belgia who did the States great Service in taking a City; but by going beyond his Commission lost his Life: His name was Grubbendunk. But if a War be Managed duly by Judgment and Discretion as is requisite, the Shews are many times contrary to what they seem to pursue: Whereof the more an Enterprize is dissembled and kept secret, the more facil to put in Execution; as the Proverb, The farthest way about is sometimes the nearest way home. I shall make bold to present this as my present Thoughts in this Case; In Matters of War, those who are both able and faithful should be improved; and then bind them not up into too narrow a Compass: For it is not possible for the wisest and ablest Senator to foresee all Accidents and Occurrents that fall out in the Management and Pursuit of a War: Nay although possibly he might be trained up in Military Affaires; and truly much less can he have any great Knowledge who hath had but little Experience therein. What shall I say? God led his People through many Difficulties and Turnings; yet by more than an ordinary Hand of Providence he brought them to Canaan at last.
6 Mr. J. H. Bromley, in his Oration on John Mason, suggests that "Mason, though a profoundly religious man, had the worldly wisdom to give to Mr. Stone such knowledge of the facts as to be able to lay them intelligently before the Lord."
On Friday Morning we set Sail for Narragansett Bay, and on Saturday towards Evening we arrived at our desired Port, there we kept the Sabbath.
On the Monday the Wind blew so hard at North-West that we could not go on Shoar; as also on the Tuesday until Sun set; at which time Capt. Mason landed and Marched up to the Place of the Chief Sachem's Residence; who told the Sachem, That we had not an opportunity to acquaint him with our coming Armed in his Country sooner; yet not doubt ing but it would be well accepted by him, there being Love betwixt himself and us; well knowing also that the Pequots and themselves were Enemies, and that he could not be unacquainted with those intolerable Wrongs and Injuries these Pequots had lately done unto the English; and that we were now come, God assisting, to Avenge our selves upon them; and that we did only desire free Passage through his Country.' Who returned us this Answer, ' That he did accept of our coming, and did also approve of our Design; only he thought our Numbers were too weak to deal with the Enemy, who were (as he said) very great Captains and Men skilful in War.' Thus he spake somewhat slighting of us.
On the Wednesday Morning, we Marched from thence to a Place called Nayanticke, it being about eighteen or twenty miles distant, where another of those Narragansett Sachems lived in a Fort; it being a Frontier to the Pequots. They carryed very proudly towards us; not permitting any of us to come into their Fort.
We beholding their Carriage and the Falsehood of Indians, and fearing least they might discover us to the Enemy, especially they having many times some of their near Relations among their greatest Foes; we therefore caused a strong Guard to be set about their Fort, giving Charge that no Indian should be suffered to pass in or out: We also informed the Indians, that none of them should stir out of the Fort upon peril of their Lives: so as they would not suffer any of us to come into their Fort, so we would not suffer any of them to go out of the Fort.
There we quartered that Night, the Indians not offering to stir out all the while. In the Morning there came to us several of Miantomo* his Men, who told us, they were come to assist us in our Expedition, which encouraged divers Indians of that Place to Engage also; who suddenly gathering into a Ring, one by one, making solemn Protestations how galliantly they would demean themselves, and how many Men they would Kill.
He was usually called Miantonimo the Great Sachem of the Narragansett Indians.
On the Thursday about eight of the Clock in the Morning, we Marched thence towards Pequot, with about five hundred Indians: But through the Heat of the Weather and want of Provisions some of our Men fainted: And having Marched about twelve Miles, we came to Pawcatuck River, at a Ford where our Indians told us the Pequots did usually Fish; there making an Alta, we stayed some small time: The Narragansett Indians manifesting great Fear, in so much that many of them returned, although they had frequently despised us, saying, That we durst not look upon a Pequot, but themselves would perform great Things; though we had often told them that we came on purpose and were resolved, God assisting, to see the Pequots, and to fight with them, before we returned, though we perished. I then enquired of Onkos, what he thought the Indians would do? Who said, The Narragansetts would all leave us, but as for Himself He would never leave us: and so it proved: For which Expressions and some other Speeches of his, I shall never forget him. Indeed he was a great Friend, and did great Service.
And after we had refreshed our selves with our mean Commons, we Marched about three Miles, and came to a Field which had lately been planted with Indian Corn: There we made another Alt, and called our Council, supposing we drew near to the Enemy: and being informed by the Indians that the Enemy had two Forts almost impregnable; but we were not at all Discouraged, but rather Animated, in so much that we were resolved to Assault both their Forts at once. But understanding that one of them was so remote that we could not come up with it before Midnight, though we Marched hard; whereat we were much grieved, chiefly because the greatest and bloodiest Sachem there resided, whose name was Sassacous: We were then constrained, being exceedingly spent in our March with extream Heat and want of Necessaries, to accept of the nearest.
We then Marching on in a silent Manner, the Indians that remained fell all into the Rear, who formerly kept the Van; (being possessed with great Fear) we continued our March till about one Hour in the Night: and coming to a little Swamp between two Hills, there we pitched our little Camp; much wearied with hard Travel, keeping great Silence, supposing we were very near the Fort; as our Indians informed us; which proved otherwise: The Rocks were our Pillows; yet Rest was pleasant: The Night proved Comfortable, being clear and Moon Light: We appointed our Guards and placed our Sentinels at some distance; who heard the Enemy Singing at the Fort, who continued that Strain until Midnight, with great Insulting and Rejoycing, as we were afterwards informed: They seeing our Pinnaces sail by them some Days before, concluded we were afraid of them and durst not come near them, the Burthen of their Song tending to that purpose.
In the Morning, we awaking and seeing it very light, supposing it had been day, and so we might have lost our Opportunity, having purposed to make our Assault before Day; rowsed the Men with all expedition, and briefly commended ourselves and Design to God, thinking immediately to go to the Assault; the Indians shewing us a Path, told us that it led directly to the Fort. We held on our March about two Miles, wondering that we came not to the Fort, and fearing we might be deluded: But seeing Corn newly planted at the Foot of a great Hill, supposing the Fort was not far off, a Champion Country being round about us; then making a stand, gave the Word for some of the Indians to come up: At length Onkos and one Wequash appeared; We demanded of them, Where was the Fort? They answered On the Top of that Hill: Then we demanded, Where were the Rest of the Indians? They answered, Behind, exceedingly afraid: We wished them to tell the rest of their Fellows, That they should by no means Fly, but stand at what distance they pleased, and see whether English Men would now Fight or not. Then Capt. Underhill came up, who Marched in the Rear; and commending ourselves to God, divided our Men: There being two Entrances into the Fort, intending to enter both at once: Captain Mason leading up to that on the North East Side; who approaching within one Rod, heard a Dog bark and an Indian crying Owanux! Owanux! which is Englishmen! Englishmen! We called up our Forces with all expedition, gave Fire upon them through the Pallizado; the Indians being in a dead indeed their last Sleep: Then we wheeling off fell upon the main Entrance, which was blocked up with Bushes about Breast high, over which the Captain passed, intending to make good the Entrance, ecouraging the rest to follow. Lieutenant Seeley endeavoured to enter; but being somewhat cumbred, stepped back and pulled out the Bushes and so entred, and with him about sixteen Men: We had formerly concluded to destroy them by the Sword and save the Plunder.
Whereupon Captain Mason seeing no Indians, entred a Wigwam; where he was beset with many Indians, waiting all opportunities to lay Hands on him, but could not prevail. At length William Heydon7 espying the Breach in the Wigwam, supposing some English might be there, entred; but in his Entrance fell over a dead Indian; but speedily recovering himself, the Indians some fled, others crept under their Beds: The Captain going out of the Wigwam saw many Indians in the Lane or Street; he making towards them, they fled, were pursued to the End of the Lane, where they were met by Edward Pattison, Thomas Barber, with some others; where seven of them were Slain, as they said. The Captain facing about, Marched a slow Pace up the Lane he came down, perceiving himself very much out of Breath; and coming to the other End near the Place where he first entred, saw two Soldiers standing close to the Pallizado with their Swords pointed to the Ground: the Captain told them that We should never kill them after that manner: The Captain also said, We must Burn them; and immediately stepping into the Wigwam where he had been before, brought out a Firebrand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire. Lieutenant Thomas Bull and Nicholas Omsted beholding, came up; and when it was thoroughly kindled, the Indians ran as Men most dreadfully Amazed.
7 Notwithstanding the statement by Trumbull and others, that Davis cut the bowstring and saved the life of Mason, there is reason, well supported by tradition, for believing that this service was performed by Heydon, and that the incident occurred at this very moment It win be seen that Mason entered the fort on one side, and that Davis entered on the opposite with Captain Underhill, and could therefore not have been near. The sword of Heydon that is said to have cut the bowstring is in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society.
And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. And when the Fort was thoroughly Fired, Command was given, that all should fall off and surround the Fort; which was readily attended by all; only one Arthur Smith being so wounded that he could not move out of the Place, who was happily espied by Lieutenant Bull, and by him rescued.
The Fire was kindled on the North East Side to windward; which did swiftly over-run the Fort, to the extream Amazement of the Enemy, and great Rejoycing of our selves. Some of them climbing to the Top of the Pallizado; others of them running into the very Flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their Arrows; and we repayed them with our small Shot: Others of the Stoutest issued forth, as we did guess, to the Number of Forty, who perished by the Sword.
What I have formerly said, is according to my own Knowledge, there being sufficient living Testimony to every Particular.
But in reference to Captain Underhill and his Parties acting in this Assault, I can only intimate as we were informed by some of themselves immediately after the Fight, Thus They Marching up to the Entrance on the South West Side, there made some Pause; a valiant, resolute Gentleman, one Mr. Hodge, stepping towards the Gate, saying; If we may not Enter, wherefore came we here; and immediately endeavoured to Enter; but was opposed by a sturdy Indian which did impede his Entrance; but the Indian being slain by himself and Sergeant Davis, Mr. Hedge Entred the Fort with some others; but the Fort being on Fire, the Smoak and Flames were so violent that they were constrained to desert the Fort.
Thus were they now at their Wits End, who not many Hours before exalted themselves in their great Pride, threatning and resolving the utter Ruin and Destruction of all the English, Exulting and Rejoycing with Songs and Dances: But God was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven: Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hands: Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!
And here we may see the just Judgment of God, in sending even the very Night before this Assault, One hundred and fifty Men from their other Fort, to join with them of that Place, who were designed as some of themselves reported to go forth against the English, at that very Instant when this heavy Stroak came upon them where they perished with their Fellows. So that the Mischief they intended to us, came upon their own Pate: They were taken in their own snare, and we through Mercy escaped. And thus in little more than one Hour's space was their impregnable Fort with themselves utterly Destroyed, to the Number of six or seven Hundred, as some of themselves confessed. There were only seven taken captive, and about seven escaped.*
* The place of the Fort being called Mistick, this Fight was called Mistick Fight: And Mr. Increase Mather, from a Manuscript he met with, tells us; It was on Friday, May 26. 1637, a memorable Day!
Of the English, there were two Slain outright, and about twenty Wounded: Some Fainted by reason of the sharpness of the Weather, it being a cool Morning, and the want of such Comforts and Necessaries as were needful in such a Case; especially our Chyrurgeon 8 was much wanting, whom we left with our Barks in Narragansett Bay, who had Order there to remain until the Night before our intended Assault.
And thereupon grew many Difficulties: Our Provision and Munition near spent; we in the enemies Country, who did fax exceed us in Number, being much enraged: all our Indians, except Onkos, deserting us; our Pinnaces at a great distance from us, and when they would come we were uncertain. But as we were consulting what Course to take, it pleased God to discover our Vessels to us before a fair Gale of Wind, sailing into Pequot Harbour, to our great Rejoycing.
We had no sooner discovered our Vessels, but immediately came up the Enemy from the other Fort; Three Hundred or more as we conceived. The Captain lead out a file or two of Men to Skirmish with them, chiefly to try what temper they were of, who put them to a stand: we being much encouraged thereat, presently prepared to March towards our Vessels: Four or Five of our Men were so wounded that they must be carried with the Arms of twenty more. We also being faint, were constrained to put four to one Man, with the Arms of the rest that were wounded to others; so that we had not above forty Men free: at length we hired several Indians, who eased us of that Burthen, in carrying of our wounded Men. And Marching about one quarter of a Mile; the Enemy coming up to the Place where the Fort was, and beholding what was done, stamped and tore the Hair from their Heads: And after a little space, came mounting down the Hill upon us, in a full career, as if they would over run us; But when they came within Shot, the Rear faced about, giving Fire upon them: Some of them being Shot, made the rest more wary: Yet they held on running to and fro, and shooting their Arrows at Random. There was at the Foot of the Hill a small Brook, where we rested and refreshed our selves, having by that time taught them a little more Manners than to disturb us.
We then Marched on towards Pequot Harbour; and falling upon several Wigwams, burnt them: The Enemy still following us in the Rear, which was to windward, though to little purpose; yet some of them lay in Ambush behind Rocks and Trees, often shooting at us, yet through Mercy touched not one of us; And as we came to any Swamp or Thicket, we made some Shot to clear the Passage. Some of them fell with our Shot; and probably more might, but for want of Munition; But when any of them fell, our Indians would give a great Shout, and then would they take so much Courage as to fetch their Heads. And thus we continued, until we came within two Miles of Pequot Harbour; where the Enemy gathered together and left us; we Marching on to the Top of an Hill adjoining to the Harbour, with our Colours flying; having left our Drum at the Place of our Rendezvous the Night before: We seeing our Vessels there Riding at Anchor, to our great Rejoycing, and came to the Water-Side, we there sat down in Quiet.
Captain Patrick being Arrived there with our Vessels, who as we were informed was sent with Forty Men by the Massachusetts Colony, upon some Service against the Block Islanders; Who coming to the Shore in our Shallop with all his Company, as he said to Rescue us, supposing we were pursued, though there did not appear any the least sign of Such a Thing.
But we could not prevail with Him by any Means to put his Men ashore, that so we might carry our Wounded Men a Board; although it was our own Boat in which he was: We were very much Troubled; but knew not how to help our selves. At length we were fetched a Board to the great Rejoycing of our Friends.
Shorty after our coming a Board, there fell out a great Contest between Captain Underhill and Capt. Patrick: Captain Underhill claiming an Interest in the Bark where Captain Patrick was, which indeed was Underhill's Right; The Contest grew to a great Heighth. At length we propounded, that if Patrick would Ride there with that Bark in Contention, and secure the Narragansett Indians, it being also the Place of Rendezvous to those Vessels that were expected from Massachuset, until we Transported our Wounded Men to Saybrook five Leagues distant; then we would immediately return our Pink to convey the Narragansetts home: The which Captain Patrick seemed very readily to accept.
Capt. Underhill soon after set sail in one of our Barks for Saybrook: But before he was out of Sight; Captain Patrick signified by Writing, that he could not attend that Service, but he must wait for the Bay Vessels at Saybrook, wishing us, having the Honour of that Service to compleat it, by securing the Narragansett Indians; which at first seemed very Difficult, if not Impossible: For our Pink could not receive them, and to march by Land was very Dangerous; it being near twenty Miles in the Enemies Country, our Numbers being much weakened, we were then about twenty Men; the rest we had sent home for fear of the Pequots Invasion. But absolutely neccesitated to March by Land, we hasted ashore, with our Indians and small Numbers. Captain Patrick seeing what we intended, came ashore also with his Men; although in truth we did not desire or delight in his Company, and so we plainly told him: However he would and did March a long with us.
About the midway between that and Saybrook, we fell upon a People called Nayanticks, belonging to the Pequots, who fled to a Swamp for Refuge: They hearing or espying of us, fled: we pursued them a while by the Track as long as they kept together: But being much spent with former Travel, and the Sabbath drawing on, it being about Two or Three of the Clock on the Saturday in the Afternoon; we leaving our Pursuit, hasted towards Saybrook, about Sun set we Arrived at Connecticut River Side; being nobly Entertained by Lieutenant Gardner with many great Guns: But were forced there to Quarter that Night: On the Morrow we were all fetched over to Saybrook, receiving many Courtesies from Lieut. Gardner.
And when we had taken Order for the safe Conduct of the Narragansett Indians, we repaired to the Place of our Abode: where we were Entertained with great Triumph and Rejoycing and Praising God for his Goodness to us, in succeeding our weak Endeavours, in Crowning us with Success, and restoring of us with so little Loss. Thus was God seen in the Mount, Crushing his proud Enemies and the Enemies of his People: They who were ere while a Terror to all that were round about them, who resolved to Destroy all the English and to Root their very Name out of this Country, should by such weak Means, even Seventy seven (there being no more at the Fort) bring the Mischief they plotted, and the Violence they offered and exercised, upon their own Heads in a Moment: burning them up in the fire of his Wrath, and dunging the Ground with their Flesh: It was the Lord's Doings, and it is marvellous in our Eyes! It is He that hath made his Work wonderful, and therefore ought to be remembred.
Immediately the whole Body of Pequots repaired to that Fort where Sessacous the Chief Sachem did reside; charging him that he was the only Cause of all the Troubles that had befallen them; and therefore they would Destroy both him and his: But by the Intreaty of their Counsellors they Spared his Life; and consulting what Course to take, concluded there was no abiding any longer in their Country, and so resolved to fly into several Parts. The greatest Body of them went towards Manhatance:* And passing over Connecticut, they met with three English Men in a Shallop going for Saybrook whom they slew: The English Fought very stoutly, as themselves confessed, Wounding many of the Enemy.
* I suppose this the same which is sometimes called Manhatan or Manhatoes; which is since called New York.
About a Fortnight after our Return home, which was about one Mouth after the Fight at Mistick, there Arrived in Pequot River several Vessels from the Massachusetts, Captain Israel Stoughton being Commander in Chief; and with him about One hundred and twenty Men; being sent by that Colony to pursue the War against the Pequots: The Enemy being all fled before they came, except some few Straglers, who were surprised by the Moheags and others of the Indians, and by them delivered to the Massachusetts Soldiers.
Connecticut Colony being informed hereof, sent forthwith forty Men, Captain Mason being Chief Commander; with some other Gent, to meet those of the Massachusetts, to consider what was necessary to be attended respecting the future: Who meeting with them of the Massachusetts in Pequot Harbour; after some time of consultation, concluded to pursue those Pequots that were fled towards Manhatance, and so forthwith Marched after them, discovering several Places where they Rendezvoused and lodged not far distant from their several Removes; making but little haste, by reason of their Children, and want of Provision; being forced to dig for Clams, and to procure such other things as the Wilderness afforded: Our Vessels sailing along by the Shore. In about the space of three Days we all Arrived at New Haven Harbour, then called Quinnypiag. And seeing a great Smoak in the Woods not far distant, we supposing some of the Pequots our Enemies might be there; we hastened ashore, but quickly discovered them to be Connecticut Indians. Then we returned aboard our Vessels, where we stayed some short time, having sent a Pequot Captive upon discovery, we named him Luz; who brought us Tydings of the Enemy, which proved true: so faithful was he to us, though against his own Nation. Such was the Terror of the English upon them; that a Moheage Indian named Jack Eatow going ashore at that time, met with three Pequots, took two of them and brought them aboard.
We then hastened our march towards the Place where the Enemy was: And coming into a Corn Field, several of the English espyed some Indians, who fled from them: They pursued them; and coming to the Top of an Hill, saw several Wigwams just opposite, only a Swamp intervening, which was almost divided in two Parts. Sergeant Palmer hastening with about twelve Men who were under his Command to surround the smaller Part of the Swamp, that so He might prevent the Indians flying; Ensign Danport,* Sergeant Jeffries &c, entering the Swamp, intended to have gone to the Wigwams, were there set upon by several Indians, who in all probability were deterred by Sergeant Palmer. In this Skirmish the English slew but few; two or three of themselves were Wounded: The rest of the English coming up, the Swamp was Surrounded.
* It should be Davenport, who was afterwards Captain of the Castle in Boston Harbour
Our Council being called, and the Question propounded, How we should proceed, Captain Patrick advised that we should cut down the Swamp; there being many Indian Hatchets taken, Captain Traske concurring with him; but was opposed by others: Then we must pallizado the Swamp; which was also opposed: Then they would have a Hedge made like those of Gotham; all which was judged by some almost impossible, and to no purpose, and that for several Reasons, and therefore strongly opposed. But some others advised to force the Swamp, having time enough, it being about three of the Clock in the Afternoon: But that being opposed, it was then propounded to draw up our Men close to the Swamp, which would much have lessened the Circumference; and with all to fill up the open Passages with Bushes, that so we might secure them until the Morning, and then we might consider further about it. But neither of these would pass; so different were our Apprehensions; which was very grievous to some of us, who concluded the Indians would make an Escape in the Night, as easily they might and did: We keeping at a great distance, what better could be expected? Yet Captain Mason took Order that the Narrow in the Swamp should be cut through; which did much shorten our Leaguer. It was resolutely performed by Serjeant Davis.
We being loth to destroy Women and Children, as also the Indians belonging to that Place; whereupon Mr. Tho. Stanton a Man well acquainted with Indian Language and Manners, offered his Service to go into the Swamp and treat with them: To which we were somewhat backward, by reason of some Hazard and Danger he might be exposed unto: But his importunity prevailed: Who going to them, did in a short time return to us, with near Two Hundred old Men, Women and Children; who delivered themselves, to the Mercy of the English. And so Night drawing on, we beleaguered them as strongly as we could. About half an Hour before Day, the Indians that were in the Swamp attempted to break through Captain Patrick's Quarters; but were beaten back several times; they making a great Noise, as their Manner is at such Times, it sounded round about our Leaguer: Whereupon Captain Mason sent Sergeant Stares to inquire into the Cause, and also to assist if need required; Capt. Traske coming also in to their Assistance: But the Tumult growings to a very great Heighth, we raised our Siege; and Marching up to the Place, at a Turning of the Swamp the Indiana were forcing out upon us; but we sent them back by our small Shot.
We waiting a little for a second Attempt; the Indians in the mean time facing about, pressed violently upon Captain Patrick, breaking through his Quarters, and so escaped. They were about sixty or seventy as we were informed. We afterwards searched the Swamp, and found but few Slain. The Captives we took were about One Hundred and Eighty; whom we divided, intending to keep them as Servants, but they could not endure that Yoke; few of them continuing any considerable time with their masters.
Thus did the Lord scatter his Enemies with his strong Arm! The Pequots now became a Prey to all Indians. Happy were they that could bring in their Heads to the English: Of which there came almost daily to Winsor, or Hartford. But the Pequots growing weary hereof, sent some of the Chief that survived to mediate with the English; offering that If they might but enjoy their Lives, they would become the English Vassals, to dispose of them as they pleased. Which was granted them. Whereupon Onkos and Myantonimo were sent for; who with the Pequots met at Hartford. The Pequots being demanded, how many of them were then living? Answered, about One Hundred and Eighty, or two Hundred. There were then given to Onkos, Sachem of Monheag, Eighty; to Myantonimo, Sachem of Narragansett, Eighty; and to Nynigrett,* (He was usually called Ninnicraft.)Twenty, when he should satisfy for a Mare of Edward Pomroye's killed by his Men. The Pequots were then bound by Covenant, That none should inhabit their native Country, nor should any of them be called Pequots any more, but Moheags and Narragansetts forever. Shortly after, about Forty of them went to Moheag; others went to Long Island; the rest settled at Pawcatuck, a Place in Pequot Country, contrary to their late Covenant and Agreement with the English.
Which Connecticut taking into Consideration, and well weighing the several Inconveniences that might ensue; for the Prevention whereof, they sent out forty Men under the command of Captain John Mason, to supplant them, by burning their Wigwams and bringing away their Corn, except they would desert the Place: Onkos with about One Hundred of his Men in twenty Canoes, going also to assist in the Service. As we sailed into Pawcatuck-Bay We met with three of those Indians, whom we sent to inform the rest with the end of our coming, and also that we desired to speak with some of them: They promised speedily to return us an Answer, but never came to us more.
We ran our Vessel up into a small River, and by reason of Flatts were forced to land on the West Side; their Wigwams being on the East just opposite, where we could see the Indians running up and down Jeering of us. But we meeting with a narrow place in the River between two rocks, drew up our Indians Canoes, and got suddenly over sooner than we were expected or desired; Marching immediately up to their Wigwams; the Indians being all fled, except some old People that could not.
We were so suddenly upon them that they had not time to convey away their Goods: We viewed their Corn, whereof there was Plenty, it being their time of Harvest: And coming down to the Water Side to our Pinnace with half of Onkos's his Men, the rest being plundering the Wigwams; we looking towards a Hill not far remote, we espyed about sixty Indians running towards us; we supposing they were our absent Men, the Moheags that were with us not speaking one word, nor moving towards them until the other came within thirty or forty paces of them; then they ran and met them and fell on pell mell striking and cutting with Bows, Hatchets, Knives, &c. after their feeble Manner: Indeed it did hardly deserve the Name of Fighting. We then endeavoured to get between them and the Woods, that so we might prevent their flying; which they perceiving, endeavoured speedily to get off under the beach: we made no Shot at them, nor any hostile Attempt upon them. Only seven of them who were Nynigrett's Men, were taken. Some of them growing very outrageous, whom We intended to have made shorter by the Head; and being about to put it in Execution; one Otash a Sachem of Narragansett, Brother to Myantonimo stepping forth, told the Captain, They were his Brother's Men, and that he was a Friend to the English, and if he would spare their Lives we should have as many Murtherer's Heads in lieu of them which should be delivered to the English. We considering that there was no Blood shed as yet, and that it tended to Peace and Mercy, granted his Desire; and so delivered them to Onkos to secure them until his Engagement was performed, because our Prison had been very much pestered with such Creatures.
We then drew our Bark into a Creek, the better to defend her; for there were many Hundreds, within five Miles waiting upon us. There we Quartered that Night: In the Morning as soon as it was Light there appeared in Arms at least Three Hundred Indians on the other Side the Creek: Upon which we stood to our Arms; which they perceiving, some of them fled, others crept behind the Rocks and Trees, not one of them to be seen. We then called to them, saying, We desired to speak with them, and that we would down our Arms for that end: Whereupon they stood up: We then informed them, That the Pequots had violated their Promise with the English, in that they were not there to inhabit, and that we were sent to supplant them:
They answered saying, The Pequots were good Men, their Friends, and they would Fight for them, and protect them: At which we were somewhat moved, and told them, It was not far to the Head of the Creek where we would meet them, and then they might try what they could do in that Respect.
They then replied, That they would not Fight with English Men, for they were Spirits, but would Fight with Onkos. We replyed, That we thought it was too early for them to Fight, but they might take their opportunity; we should be burning Wigwams, and carrying Corn aboard all that Day. And presently beating up our Drum, we Fired the Wigwams in their View: And as we Marched, there were two Indians standing upon a Hill jeering and reviling of us: Mr. Thomas Stanton our Interpreter, Marching at Liberty, desired to make a Shot at them; the Captain demanding of the Indians. What they were? Who said, They were Murtherers: Then the said Stanton having leave, let fly, Shot one of them through both his Thighs; which was to our Wonderment, it being at such a vast distance.
We then loaded our Bark with Corn; and our Indians their Canoes: And thirty more which we had taken, with Kittles, Trays, Mats, and other Indian Luggage, That Night we went all aboard, and set Sail homeward: It pleased God in a short Time to bring us all in safety to the Place of our Abode; although we strook and stuck upon a Rock. The Way and Manner how God dealt with us in our Delivery was very Remarkable; The Story would be somewhat long to trouble you with at this time; and therefore I shall forbear.
Thus we may see, How the Face of God is set against them that do Evil, to cut off the Remembrance of them from the Earth. Our Tongue shall talk of thy Righteousness all the Day long; for they are confounded, they are brought to Shame that sought our Hurt! Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doth wondrous Things; and blessed be his holy Name for ever: Let the whole Earth be filled with his Glory! Thus the Lord was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance: Who remembred us in our low Estate, and redeemed us out of our Enemies Hands: Let us therefore praise the Lord for his Goodness and his wonderful Works to the Children of Men!
I shall add a Word or two by way of Coment.
OUR Commons were very short, there being a general scarcity throughout the Colony of all sorts of Provision, it being upon our first Arrival at the Place. We had but one Pint of strong Liquors among us in our whole March, but what the Wilderness afforded; (the Bottle of Liquor being in my Hand.) and when it was empty, the very smelling to the Bottle would presently recover such as Fainted away, which happened by the extremity of the Heat: And thus we Marched on in an uncoath and unknown Path to the English, though much frequented by Indians. And was not the Finger of God in all this? By his special Providence to lead us along in the Way we should go: Nay though we knew not where their Forts were, how far it was to them, nor the Way that led to them, but by what we had from our Indian Guides; whom we could not confide in, but looked at them as uncertain: And yet notwithstanding all our Doubts, we should be brought on the very fittest Season; nay and which is yet more, that we should be carried in our March among a treacherous and perfidious People, yea in our allodgment so near the Enemy, all Night in so populous a Country, and not the least notice of us; seemeth somewhat strange, and more than ordinary: Nay that we should come to their very Doors: What shall I say: God was pleased to hide us in the Hollow of his Hand; I still remember a Speech of Mr. Hooker at our going aboard; That they should be Bread for us. And thus when the Lord turned the Captivity of his People, and turned the Wheel upon their Enemies; we were like Men in a Dream; then was our Mouth filled with Laughter, and our Tongues with Singing; thus we may say the Lord hath done great Things for us among the Heathen, whereof we are glad. Praise ye the Lord!
I shall mention two or three special Providences that God was pleased to vouchsafe to Particular Men; viz. two Men, being one Man's Servants, namely, John Dier and Thomas Stiles, were both of them Shot in the Knots of their Handkerchiefs, being about their Necks, and received no Hurt. Lieutenant Seeley was Shot in the Eyebrow with a flat headed Arrow, the Point turning downwards: I pulled it out myself. Lieutenant Bull had an Arrow Shot into a hard piece of Cheese, having no other Defence: Which may verify the old Saying, A little Armour would serve if a Man knew where to place it. Many such Providences happened; some respecting my self; but since there is none that Witness to them, I shall forbear to mention them.
The Year ensuing, the Colony being in extream Want of Provision, many giving twelve Shillings for one Bushel of Indian Corn; the Court of Connecticut imploying Captain Mason, Mr. William Wadsworth and Deacon Stebbin, to try what Providence would afford, for their Relief in this great Straight: Who notwithstanding some discouragement they met with from some English, went to a Place called Pocomtuck:* Since called Deerfield. where they procured so much Corn at reasonable Rates, that the Indians brought down to Hartford and Windsor, Fifty Canoes laden with Corn at one time. Never was the like known to this Day! So although the Lord was pleased to shew his People hard Things; yet did he execute Judgment for the Oppressed, and gave Food to the Hungry. O let us meditate on the Great Works of God: Ascribing all Blessing and Praise to his Great Name, for all his Great Goodness and Salvation! Amen, Amen. FINIS.
CONNECTICUT'S OWN MAJOR
Major John Mason Monument in Mystic as it was on the site of the Pequot Fort.
Impeached EX-President Bill Clinton ordered this statue removed just prior to his own removal in 2000.
The statue now stands on the “Town Green” in Windsor, Connecticut.
There are four contemporary accounts of the Pequot Indian War: Mason's own, John Underhill's, Lion Gardiner's, and Phillip Vincent's, all reprinted in Mass. Hist. Col. Our Major John Mason of The Pequot Indian Wars is often confused, even by historians, with two other contemporaries: (1) a different (not ours) John Mason, 1586-1685), founder of New Hampshire, who had a large land grant, and was a partner of Sir Ferdinando Gorges in the Laconia Co. which sponsored the Piscataqua River settlement in Maine. (2) A George Mason (ca 1629-86, cavalier emigrant to the northern neck of Virginia during the rule of Cromwell and founder of a family of distinguished landowners and Revolutionary and Civil War patriots. Now, let's go forward with Major John Mason, hero of the Pequot Indian Wars.
Everyone called him "The Major;" his friends and neighbors, his own family. So he appears in their letters and diaries, in court orders and the minutes of town meetings. He is even thus simply designated in land grants. But there was no mistaking the man: for thirty-five years -from 1637 to 1672- he was the only Major in all the Colony of Connecticut, Major John Mason. So he appears in their letters and diaries, in court orders and the minutes of town meetings. He is even thus simply designated in land grants. But there was no mistaking the man: for thirty-five years -from 1637 to 1672- he was the only Major in all the Colony of Connecticut, Major John Mason.
A big man was this Major, inclined to stoutness, but never fat; a sturdy frame enclosing ahardy spirit that bore hunger and thirst unflinchingly and defied alike sultry summer heat and winter's biting cold. He was fair-haired with steel-blue eyes and a jutting chin-not an Apollo. But to his contemporaries the beau ideal of a soldier, "full of martial Bravery and Vigor," which in the 17th century plainly implied plenty of commando hand-to-hand fighting.
He was one of a trio of renowned professional soldiers who came with the earliest settlers to New England. Standish, Gardiner, and Mason all trained in the Low Countries in the wars against the Spaniards. None as well remembered, as they deserve to be. Capt. Myles Standish of Plymouth is perhaps the best known and for possibly the least cause - a sugary romantic poem. Lt. Lion Gardner, who built the fort at Saybrook, commanded that hazardous outpost at the mouth of the Connecticut River throughout the critical Pequot Indian troubles. Mason led the expedition that freed the infant colony of Connecticut from the awful threat of Indian torture and massacre.
However, as Lion Gardiner himself wrote in 1660, Our New-England twelvepenny Chronicle is stuffed with a catalogue of the names of some, as if they deserved immortality. The names of our right New-England military worthies are left out for want of room.
True, it is the governors and the magistrates, the Bradfords and the Winthrops; the bold religious rebels, Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams; and especially the Puritan Clergy, the Cottons, Eliot, Hooker, Fitch, and many others, who have held the spotlight during the first act of the New England historical drama. That brave soldier, who having saved Connecticut played other important roles in the colony, has been almost jostled off-stage.
John Mason's life in England and his military career on the Continent are almost a blank. We deduce the year of his birth from the fact that he died in 1672, aged 72 years. But we do not know his parents or whether he was born in London or Oxford or Paddleton cum Piddleford. Because he christened the town he founded in Connecticut "Norwich" some have guessed that his birthplace was Norwich in Norfolk, but the records of the English city do not confirm this surmise. Mason's excellent prose style suggests that he was well educated, possibly at one of the Universities, for he quotes Virgil aptly and correctly. He must have been of good family: he held the rank of Lieutenant in His Majesty's forces at a time when "an officer and a gentleman" were synonymous and when, furthermore, the generic noun "gentleman" had very precise meanings.
He saw active service in the Netherlands under Sir Horace de Vere. Likely he joined up in 1625 amid the wave of religious patriotism that raised the English army for the disastrous expedition to relieve the siege of Breda. Coming from a Puritan home, the opportunity to fight the Papist Spaniards in aid of the Protestant Hollanders must have gripped his imagination as it did that of many another venturesome English lad. The last important engagement in which Mason could have been engaged was the siege of Bois-le-due during the summer of 1629.
March 20, 1630, John Mason sailed from Plymouth with the Rev. Mr. Warham's company and landed at Nantasket, May 30. After that hard, 63 day passage, the newcomers stepped ashore into a land and housing shortage as difficult in its way as the cramped quarters of their tiny vessel. The Great Puritan Exodus was in full swing. Already there were over 3,000 inhabitants in the Bay Colony, and their number would double in the next five years. Over crowded Boston had spawned half a dozen surrounding towns and as many little settlements were strung along the coast as far as Cape Ann.
The Warham party took up the best vacant land they could find and thus settled Dorchester. They elected Lt. Mason as Captain of their Train Band, the Militia Company every town was compelled to organize and in which every able-bodied male between eighteen and sixty must drill regularly and, if the need arose, must go on active service. Their Captain's reputation must have been more than local, for in December 1632; the Governor called him to a unique duty.
Down on the Maine Coast, an English sea captain, Dixie Bull, had turned pirate and was preying upon Massachusetts shipping and fishing. Accordingly, the Magistrates hired Capt. John Gallup, a well-known coastwise skipper, and his shallop; manned it with twenty volunteers under command of Mason; and sent off the first American naval task force.
They made two sallies and scored but a left-handed success. The December expedition ran into headwinds, blizzards, and ice, and so got nowhere. There next spring they cruised the ragged Down East coast and never did find their quarry. However, they scared Bull away, for shortly he turned up in Virginia and later in London, where, to quote Clapp," God destroyed this wicked man"-the pirate's proper fate, upon the gallows. The General Court voted Mason 10 Pounds "pay and expenditures" for these expenditures and assigned him new duties in constructing forts to defend Boston Harbor.
Next year, 1634, Mason was elected to represent his town on the General Court, and during this session, after much wrangling, permission was granted the Dorchester people to move to Connecticut. The year previous, John Oldham, a trader in furs and corn with the Indians, had brought back enthusiastic accounts and tangible proof of animal, vegetable, and mineral resources: beaver skins, wild hemp, and black lead, and their rosy report clinched the decision to abandon Dorchester. This idea, if bold, was not original. Many sharp, covetous eyes were fixed on the Connecticut Valley.
The Dutch from New Amsterdam were already in possession. They had a fort at the mouth of the river and upstream on the site of Hartford, a trading post with a tiny blockhouse that mounted two fat, little cannon. Their claims to this promised land was based on the discoveries of Capt. Adrian Block who in 1614 had been the first to explore Long Island Sound.
Both the Plymouth and the Massachusetts colonists considered that they had a perfect right to settle here because they had been cordially invited to do so by the Connecticut River Indians. All the tribes welcomed trade with the white men since steel knives and axes, linen shirts and woolen blankets to say nothing of firearms, meant to them fabulous comfort and security. But these river Indians had also an ulterior motive. They were all the unwilling subjects of a cruel, arrogant tribe, the Pequots, who three generations before had come from the Hudson River, overran Connecticut, and appropriated the coast from what is now Lyme to Stonington as the headquarters. The native Connecticut tribes hoped that English settlers in their midst would temper Pequot tyranny.
To further complicate matters, a dozen wealthy influential Puritans had received a grant to the land from Narragansett Bay west to the Connecticut River and were planning a refuge here should the religious persecutions in England become intolerable. Already they had sent Lion Gardiner and a work party to build a fort at the mouth of the river, and just as the Dorchesterans were about to leave, a ship, owned, outfitted, and manned with twenty craftsmen and farmers by Sir Richard Saltonstall, put into Boston bound for Connecticut. Its arrival hastened the departure of the Dorchester People who, on reaching Connecticut, sailed past the Dutch post at Hartford and landed at the mouth of the Farmington River where Windsor now stands.
There was a frame house, surrounded by a palisade and a half a dozed rude huts, occupied by men from Plymouth who had established themselves here two years previously. Defying the Dutch cannon, they had picked this excellent trading post and purchased a block of land from the local Indians.
The Plymouth pioneers welcomed the Dorchester immigrants cordially and thus, unwittingly, but with the best intentions, made two grievous and costly mistakes. By buying land from the Connecticut Natives, who were vassals of Sassacus, chief sachem of the Pequots, the Plymouth men violated Indian custom and outraged the dignity of that proud chief, cheating him, as he believed, out of the just reward of his conquest. Helping the newcomers from Massachusetts was indeed warming a viper within one's bosom.
The Dorchesterans-John Mason was in this party-immediately went upstream hunting for a choice site to settle. Finding no location to their liking, they returned to the Plymouth outpost. During their absence the Saltoonstall party had arrived, and the Dorchester men drove them off with staves and cudgels. Then the Bay men calmly appropriated the best land at Windsor, "New Land," they said glibly quoting Genesis to their own ends, was "the Lord's waste," and they claimed a right to it "along with the other sons of Noah." After years of dispute and brawls, they paid Plymouth $187.50 for almost four-fifths of the original Indian purchase. But it is recorded that their "unkindness was not soon forgiven" although a common, outside threat soon forced all English on the River to band together.
The Connecticut frontier was promptly occupied. Weathersfield and Springfield had already been settled, and in the spring of 1636, thirty-five men with their wives and children and some servants trekked overland from Newton, now Cambridge, and founded Hartford.
The Pequots resented this mass occupation of their tributary lands; all the benefits were going to the River Indians. Their wise chief, Sassacus, foresaw that the coming of the white men meant the banishment of his people, and he was the first of a long line of Indian leaders who tried in vain to repel this fatal invasion. First, he employed diplomacy, At Boston, he negotiated an offensive3-defensive alliance with the Puritans against his rivals, the powerful Narragansetts of Rhode Island, and a trade treaty that he hoped would secure the benefits of barter without the risks of an English settlement within his territory. The Bay men failed to send the promised trading ships to his headquarters at Piquet, now New London, and then a couple of typical "border incidents" spurred Sassacus to direct action.
Two well-known English traders were murdered: John Stone of Virginia on the Connecticut River and John Oldham, the Connecticut pioneer, at Block Island. Though not directly guilty in either case, the Pequots were involved in both, and the Massachusetts Magistrates held Sassacus accountable for these unforgivable crimes. They dispatched ninety men under Capt. John Endicott with orders to wreck vengeance upon the Block Island Indians and to collect damages and hostages from the Pequots. This expedition fizzled. All that Endicott did was to burn a few wigwams on the Island and carry off corn and other loot from the Thames River villages. The net result was summed up by Lion Gardiner: "You come hither to raise up these wasps about my ears, and then you take wings and fly away." His sarcastic prophecy came bitterly true.
Failing to enlist his ancient enemies, the Narragansetts, in a war of extermination against the whites, Sassacus determined to undertake this desperate venture on his own. It was a courageous decision. The surrounding tribes were all his sworn enemies and his own forces had been stripped of many of his best braves. These had deserted to Uncas, an ambitious young sachem who, defying Sassacus, had withdrawn from the Pequot councils.
Sassacus struck like a falcon, swiftly, unexpectedly. He surrounded the Saybrook fort with a cordon of lurking warriors, thus immobilizing the only semblance of a military force in the colony. Anyone stepping outside the stockade was immediately attacked, and two soldiers, sent out to gather corn were killed. A rash old man, ignoring Gardiner's warning, went to harvest hay on one of the river islands where he was captured and roasted alive.
All up and down the Connecticut, settlers were ambushed and killed, their skulls bashed in with a tomahawk, or were carried off to die slowly of unspeakable tortures. Cattle and hogs were slaughtered or driven off; outlying homes were burned; two Englishwomen were brutally murdered. The colonist's casualty list reached twenty-six: their enemies exalted openly and defiantly. Grim terror gripped the whole valley.
As the winter of hunger and horror was breaking up, John Mason and twenty-six men were sent to lift the siege of Saybrook. They remained a month and the Pequots withdrew. When Capt. Underhill and twenty Massachusetts volunteers arrived in response to desperate calls for help, Mason and his company returned to their homes, for it was time for the spring planting and food was dangerously scarce.
April 23, 1637, a fine spring morning when all Weathersfield men, women, and children, were out hoeing and planting, 200 painted savages leaped upon them from the surrounding forest. Six men and two women were massacred; two young girls were captured.
Eight days later, representatives of the three Connecticut towns convened at Hartford and voted unanimously "an offensive war against the Pequots." They further resolved that 90 men be levied out of the three plantations, viz. Hartford 42, Windsor 30, and Weathersfield 18," under the command of Capt. John Mason.
Two weeks afterwards, on May 15, the expedition started down the river in three boats, accompanied by Uncas and 100 of his disgruntled Mohegan braves. At Saybrook, Capt. Underhill and his men offered to join them, so Mason sent twenty of his own men back to defend their homes.
Mason's orders were to attack the Pequot stronghold at New London. But at a council of war he unfolded his plan to sail beyond the Pequot country; land among the Narragansetts; enlist more Indian allies; and fall upon the Pequot forts unexpectedly from the rear. Underhill disapproved of this strategy; Gardiner supported it. All agreed to lay this problem before God, and through the night their chaplain, the Rev. Samuel Stone, prayed for guidance. The Lord was on the side of Mason, as he himself modestly confessed, and with good reason, too, for looking back on that amazing campaign it seems truly that several miracles were performed on behalf of that little band of Puritans-and by them.
Friday morning three little ships and their gunwales awash with their overload of 90 soldiers, 100 Indians, and their supplies, sailed past the mouth of the Thames. The Pequots, mustered to repel and attack, crowded Ocean Beach and Eastern Point, shouting taunts and insults, for they deduced that Mason had abandoned the expedition and was bound for Boston and safety. Delayed by headwinds, the flotilla did not round Point Judith and make Wickford Harbor in Rhode Island till late Saturday afternoon.
Mason at once sent word to Cannonicus, the Narragansett sachem, assuring him of friendly intent and asking for a council of war against the Pequots. But the next day was Sunday, and the Puritans remained aboardship in proper observance of the Sabbath; a significant "day of rest." Mason, the trained soldier, surely knew that any delay was dangerous, yet his detailed account of the campaign contains no hint of any thought that the rigid religious rule might, under these circumstances, have been relaxed.
For two days an offshore wind prevented a landing, so it was Wednesday before the Major and the Narragansett chief met. Such was the fear of Sassacus that it required several days to persuade Cannonicus, first, to grant passage through his territory, and then, to enlist 100-odd dubious volunteers from among his warriors.
With these reinforcements, Mason marched twenty miles to the fort of Ninagret, chief of the Niantics, a tribe the Pequots had forced from their homeland on the foreshore of Connecticut into a refuge among the Narragansetts. Here the English were received with open hostility. Many Niantic braves had married Pequot squaws and the tribal sympathies were distinctly anti-whiteman. Another two precious days were taken up in pipe smoking and pow-wows. The next Sabbath was spent at the fort of the Pawcatuck, on the very frontier of the Pequot country.
The little army followed the Pequot Trail, even then Route 1 through this region, until they came to Taugwonk Hill. Here, on the urgent advice of Uncas, they turned north and following by-paths reached the head of the Mystic River. They camped the second night in a secure hiding place among Porter's Rocks on the west bank. They were now so close to the Pequot fort that they could plainly hear the enemy singing and shouting in triumphant celebration.]
It was now over two weeks since they had sailed past New London, and it is miraculous indeed that the Indian grapevine, usually so quick and so ubiquitous, had not warned the Pequots of their arrival at the threshold of the tribe's outpost. This typical Indian fort covered a couple of acres, crowded with bark wigwams and surrounded by a six-foot palisade with overlapping, narrow entrances at both ends. It dominated the hilltop overlooking the Mystic valley where the statue of John Mason now stands. (Since removed under Bill Clinton's orders in 2000). The strategy of attack was masterful. The ninety Englishmen were divided into three parties. Mason and Underhill each picked ten stalwarts for the task of forcing entrance through the two brush-blocked entrances of the stockade. The remainder encircled the fort to prevent the excape of fleeing Pequots.
Ever since the invaders had splashed through the ford at Pawcatuck into Sassacus' domains, their Narragansett allies had been slipping away. But Uncas and his Mohegans remained steadfast - a fact the Major was never to forget - and they formed a second line surrounding the palisade.
At daybreak, June 7, the forces were all in position and the two attack parties crept forward. A dog in the fort barked. A startled cry of "Owanux! Owanux!" (Englishmen! Englishmen!) Rang out. Realizing they had been discovered, the encompassing line fired a volley and the task forces rushed forward. Tearing aside the brush crammed into the entrances, they burst into the stockade.
There was confused hand to hand fighting in the narrow passageway. Some Indians dashed to the entrance to escape, only to be shot down, but most of the Pequots huddled, dazed within their bark huts. An Englishman was killed and several were wounded crawling through the long doorways, and Mason, realizing that it would be impossible to dislodge the enemy in this piecemeal and hazardous fashion, shouted, "We must burn them out!"
He plunged into a wigwam and grabbing a brand from the fire brought it out and began to rub vigorously against the bark walls. An Indian across the narrow street drew his bow and John Mason's story would have been brought to sudden, tragic end had not William Hayden cut the bowstring and skewered the Indian with the slash of his sword. The fire spread rapidly and within minutes the interior of the palisade was a crackling inferno of flames and choking smoke. The English withdrew and joined the blockading line of their companions now boldly reinforced by the Mohegans.
The slaughter that followed is horrifying for us to contemplate. Only a handful of the 700-odd Pequots escaped the flames, the bullets (but primarily swords, as it took approximately 30 seconds and more to reload shot in a musket) of the soldiers, and the war clubs of Uncas' warriors. Two hours after the bark of a dog sounded the futile alarm, the boasted stronghold of the imperious conquerors of Connecticut was a smoldering ruin; the power of those merciless, relentless foes of the white settlers was broken.
The following is an insert from a separate report of the battle: In his eyewitness account of the fight Captain Underhill (had to steel himself against his own pity for the innocent as well as his admiration for the enemy's courage by remembering the torture, scalping and burning of the English traders and seamen on the Connecticut river, the killing of settlers as they planted corn and the capture of the English girls.) In his own words: Why should you be so furious? (You say…)Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? But I would refer you to David's war. When a people is grown to such a height of blood, and sin against God and man…there he hath no respect to persons but harrows them and saws them, and puts them to the sword, and the most terrible death that may be. Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents…We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings. And so, every man bereft of pity, fell upon the work without compassion, considering the blood they had shed of our native countrymen, and how barbarously they had dealt with them. And Mason himself said speaking of the Pequot Indians, "Thus they were now at their wits end who not many hours before exalted themselves,….threatening the utter ruin and destruction of all the English, exulting and rejoicing with songs and dances; but God was above them who laughed the enemies of his people to scorn, making them as a fiery oven; thus…did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the place with dead bodies.
This has a Cromwellian ring: Of the English, only 2 soldiers were killed and about 20 wounded. There were some narrow escapes. Two Windsor men, John Dyer and Thomas Stiles, both received arrows in the knots of their neckerchiefs; Lieutenant Seeley was shot in an eyebrow, Mason himself pulling out the arrow, and Lieutenant Bull received an arrow in a piece of cheese he was carrying; which, wrote Mason, 'verifies the old saying, just a little armour would serve if a man knew where to place it.'
Into the consciousness of those ninety Englishmen was seared the blood-curdling dread of Pequot massacre and tortures. They had declared defensive war against these cruel enemies. They waged that war with incredible boldness and bravery and with a justifiable ruthlessness, for they knew first hand what we can now but dimly appreciate that this was a righteous war of self-preservation against bloody extermination.
FORT HILL CAMP DESTROYED
Destruction of the Mystic Fort did not end the campaign. Sassacus and the better half of his braves and their families had escaped the holocaust by their absence. Mason's forces, burdened by two dead and twenty wounded, fought their way over ten rocky, hilly miles to the Thames. On the way they set fire to the Pequot's headquarters, another, greater stockade overlooking the coast and countryside from the crest of what is still called Fort Hill.
At the river they came up with their supply ship, a shallop owned by Capt. Underhill. Aboard her were forty Massachusetts men who had reached the Narragansett country just in time to embark. Their commander, Capt. Patrick, greeted the war-torn victors with a tactless remark that he had come from the Bay to rescue them. No wonder an unpleasant squabble arose over the niceties of command of the Massachusetts troops and the use of the shallop.
The pettiness of his officers and especially the attitude of the Massachusetts men, who after months of senseless delay arrived too late to be of real assistance, profoundly disturbed Mason. Soon all these unpleasantries were forgotten in the joyful welcome that met him and his Connecticut men when, after two days' weary march overland, they reached Saybrook. On they went, up the river by boat. Hartford held a great religious festival of thanksgiving for deliverance from the Pequot menace and gave a public dinner in grateful recognition of the bravery and exertions of the little army.
After the slaughter at Mystic the main body of Pequots, led by Sassacus, fled westward along the Sound, followed by 100 Massachusetts men and a large band of Narragansetts under Israel Staughton. On June 26, Mason and 40 men from the Connecticut River towns with Uncas and his braves joined the expedition, for it was determined to break completely the power of their defeated enemies. A week later, scouts found the Pequots in the heart of a large swamp near Fairfield. There was some desperate skirmishing and Thomas Staunton, the interpreter then entered the swamp to offer a truce to the women and children and he returned with nearly 200. That night, July 13, the Pequots attempted to fight their way through the surrounding English and in the fog and darkness some 70, among them Sassacus, escaped. This was the end. The scattered remnants of the tribe were hunted down by the Narragansetts and Mohegans, and Sassacus, who reached the Mohawks on the Hudson River, was killed by these kinsmen of his and his head sent to Hartford.
MASON THE NEGOTIATOR
Mason was commissioned Major, the colony's chief military officer charged with training the militia and the distribution and storage of munitions with a salary of 40 pounds a year. He was later granted the island that bears his name, lying close inshore within sight of the scene of his triumph, and just for good measure, 200 acres adjoining on the mainland.
Having triumphantly concluded his military assignment, Mason was sent next year on a diplomatic mission. The Connecticut colonists were hard pressed by their first depression intensified by the recent Indian disturbances. All necessities were scarce, prices were sky high. Corn cost 12s. A bushel, a very ordinary cow or any kind of horse, 30 pounds which is $18.00 and $900 respectively in 1955 dollars. To stave off starvation, William Pynchon, first settler at Agawam (Springfield, Mass.) and friend of the Upper River Indians, was commissioned to buy corn. His shipments came down by canoe in driblets.
Among the hungry settlers the ugly story circulated that Pynchon was holding back grain for higher prices, and Mason was sent to investigate with orders to bring back substantial supplies. The two met and forthwith agreed that an Indian's promise was "noe more than a pig by the tayle," but on how to get corn as promptly and cheaply as possible they disagreed completely. Pynchon would coax the natives and pay only upon delivery. Mason wanted to strike a bargain, pay cash, and compel immediate fulfillment of the contract. He got the most corn quickest. Later, Pynchon was thrice (3 times) charged with "deliberately raising the price of corn" and found guilty in the courts in Hartford and Windsor, but absolved of any culpable blame in the Roxbury court. The verdict of history is "not guilty," but the immediate results of the unsavory episode were to establish Mason as a masterful negotiator with the Indians and to win some cordial enemies in Massachusetts.
For the next 8 years the Major lived at Windsor, serving as Magistrate and the town's representative at the General Court. While here, he married his second wife, Anne Peck, daughter of the Rev. Robert Peck of Hingham, who bore him three sons and four daughters. Of his first wife there is but one brief note. In the Windsor Records, among a list of those who died before 1637, is the entry, "ye Captain's Wife," but she left him an infant daughter, Judith, who grew up and married her childhood playmate, John Bissell. All the Major's children lived to present him with grandchildren - itself a notable fact at a time when infant mortality ran a third of the births - and his three sons all followed his footsteps along the Indian warpath. His first born son, Samuel, rose to his own rank of Major, and Captain John, Jr. died of wounds received at the Swamp Fight in the Narragansett country during King Phillip's War.
COMMAND AT SAYBROOK
In 1647, when the Saybrook fort was turned over by the gentlemen in England to the jurisdiction of Connecticut, the colony put Major Mason in command of this key military post and made him administrator of civil affairs in the adjacent town. While at Saybrook, he received a most flattering proposal. The New Haven colonists found their location so disadvantageous that they proposed to move to land they had bought on the Delaware River. They invited Mason to become manager of the enterprise at a generous salary and with profitable perquisites in land and trading rights. He was about to accept when Connecticut paid him the backhanded compliment of virtually forbidding him to leave his post.
Mason's years at Windsor and Saybrook were busy ones. Twice he led punitive expeditions against the Indians of Long Island and once into the Narragansett country. Continually he was called upon to negotiate the purchase of Indian Lands or write a treaty or arbitrate some native quarrel. His friend, Uncas, caused him many troubles, for that unprincipled, self-seeking chief was almost constantly embroiled in subtle disputes with his white neighbors or open hostilities with the Narragansetts and the river Tribes.
In 1660, with his son-in-law, the Rev. James Fitch, and most of the people of Saybrook, Mason moved from the mouth of the Connecticut to the head of the Thames, thus founding Norwich. Here they purchased nine square miles of land from Uncas, and that crafty sachem made over to Mason all the territory of the Mohegans not then actually occupied by the tribe. This loosely drawn title to untold thousands of acres was to be disputed by the Major's children and grandchildren for seventy years. It would take twelve months to read all the testimony in all the cases tried in Connecticut, in Massachusetts, even in England, and Solomon himself could not render a fair and logical judgement. During the first eight crowded years of the Norwich settlement, John Mason was Deputy Governor of the Colony and during two of these years, when Governor Winthrop was in England diplomatically wrangling Connecticut's Charter from King Charles, he fulfilled the heavy duties of the colony's chief executive. In 1669, pleading age and infirmities, he asked to be relieved of his public responsibilities. Graciously, the legislature appointed him Assistant to the Governor, and he was present in Hartford at the election of May 1671. He died in Norwich on the 30th of the following January.
Plainly, this illustrious Major was a man of deeds, not words. That facile characterization tells little, but fortunately it is possible to round out his personality from his own writings and accounts of his contemporaries. Major Mason was a blunt, forthright man, a bit too prone to call a spade a damned shovel. Accordingly, he was not a good diplomat, though he was a curiously successful negotiator because he could quickly size up a man and accurately appraise a situation while being bold and persistent in pressing his points. Alert and essentially fair-minded, with the courage of his convictions he made an excellent magistrate or arbitrator - except where his ancient ally, Uncas, was involved. Mason was a pious Puritan, but no religious fanatic, for he took no part in the savage theological controversies that raged around him. Generally well liked, he was universally respected, but he had a goodly quota of enemies, won by his brutal frankness and his disdain for of subtlety and double- dealing. His interest in the common welfare far outweighed his personal ambitions, and all his life he was a devoted and valuable public servant.