King Philip - John S. C. Abbott

Conclusion of the War

The war was now at an end in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, as nearly all the hostile Indians were either killed, captured, or had submitted to the mercy of their victors. A few hundred desperate warriors, too proud to yield and too feeble to continue the fight, fled in a body through the wilderness, beyond the Hudson, and were blended with the tribes along the banks of the Mohawk and the shores of the great lakes. There were also many bloody wretches, who, conscious that their crimes were quite unpardonable, fled to the almost impenetrable forests of the north and the east.

In the remote districts of New Hampshire and Maine the war still raged with unabated violence. Bands of savages were roving over the whole territory, carrying conflagration and blood to the homes of the lonely settlers. There were no large gatherings for battle, but prowling companies of from two or three to a hundred spread terror and devastation in all directions.

At this period the towns and plantations in the State of Maine were but thirteen. The English population was about six thousand; the Indians, divided into many petty tribes, were probably about eighteen thousand in number. These Indians had for some time been rather unfriendly to the English, and an act of gross outrage roused them to combine in co-operation with King Philip. An illustrious Indian, by the name of Squando, was sachem of the Sokokis tribe, which occupied the region in the vicinity of Saco. He was a man of great strength of mind, elevation of character, and of singular gravity and impressiveness of address. One day his wife was paddling down the River Saco in a canoe, with her infant child. Some English sailors, coming along in a boat, accosted her brutally, and, saying that they had understood that Indian children could swim as naturally as young ducks, overset the canoe. The infant sank like lead. The indignant mother dove to the bottom and brought up her exhausted child alive, but it soon after died. Squando was so exasperated by this outrage, that, with his whole soul burning with indignation, he traversed the wilderness to rouse the scattered tribes to a war of extermination against the English.

Just then the appalling tidings came of the breaking out of Philip's war. The Plymouth colony sent a messenger to York to inform the inhabitants of their danger, and to urge them to disarm the Indians, and to sell them no more powder or shot. A party of volunteers was immediately sent from York to ascend the Kennebec River, inform the settlers along its banks of their impending danger, and ascertain the disposition of the Indians. With a small vessel they entered the mouth of the river, then called the Sagadahock, and ascended the stream for several miles. Here they met twelve Indians, and, strange to relate, induced them to surrender their guns. One of the Indians, more spirited than the rest, was not disposed to yield to the demand, and, becoming enraged, struck at one of the English party with his hatchet, endeavoring to kill him. He was promptly arrested, bound, and confined in a cellar.

The Indians plead earnestly for his release, offering many apologies for his crime, They said that he was subject to fits of insanity, and that he was intoxicated. They offered to pay arty beavers' skins for his ransom, and to leave hostages for his good behavior in the hands of the English. Upon these terms the prisoner was released. They then, in token of amity, partook of an abundant repast, smoked the pipe of peace, and the Indians had a grand dance, with shouts and songs which made the welkin ring. The promises of the Indians, however, were not fulfilled. The hostages all run away, and not a beaver skin was ever paid.

A man by the name of Thomas Purchas had built him a hut in the lonely wilderness, just below the Falls of the Androscoggin, in the present town of Brunswick. His family dwelt alone in the midst of the wilderness and the Indians. He purchased furs of the natives, and took them in his canoe down to the settlements near the mouth of the Sagadahock, from whence they were transported to England. He is reputed to have been a hard-hearted, shrewd man, always sure to get the best end of the bargain. The Indians all disliked him, and he became the first sufferer in the war.

On the 5th of September, a few months after the commencement of hostilities in Swanzey, twenty Indians came to the house of Purchas under the pretense of trading. Finding Purchas and his son both absent, they robbed the house of every thing upon which they could lay their hands. They found rum, and soon became frantically drunk. There was a fine calf in the barn, and a few sheep at the door. The Indians were adroit butchers. The veal and the mutton were soon roasting upon their spits. They danced, they shouted, they clashed their weapons in exultation, and the noise of the Falls was drowned in the uproar of barbarian wassail. One of their exploits was to rip open a feather bed for the pleasure of seeing the feathers float away in the air. They, however, inflicted no violence upon Mrs. Purchas or her children.

In the midst of the scene, a son of Mr. Purchas was approaching home upon horseback. Alarmed by the clamor, he cautiously drew near, and was in consternation in view of the savage spectacle. Conscious that his interposition could be of no possible avail, he fled for life. The Indians caught sight of him, and one pursued him for some distance with his gun, but he escaped. Soon after the Indians left, telling Mrs. Purchas that others would soon come and treat them worse.

There was an old man by the name of Wakely, who had settled near the mouth of Presumpscot River, in Falmouth. His family consisted of nine persona. A week after the robbery of Mr. Purchas's house, a band of savages made a fierce onset upon this solitary cabin. They burnt the house and killed all the family, except the youngest daughter, who was about eleven years of age. This unfortunate child was carried away captive, and for nine months was led up and down the wilderness, in the endurance of all the horrors of savage life. At one time she was led as far south as Narraganset Bay, which led to the supposition that some of the Narraganset Indians were engaged in the capture. The celebrated Squando, in whose character humanity and cruelty were most singularly blended, took pity upon the child, rescued her, and delivered her to the English at Dover.

A family living several miles distant from Falmouth, at Casco Neck, saw the smoke of the burning house, and the next day a file of men repaired to the place. A scene of horror met their eye in the smoldering ruins and the mangled corpses. The bodies of the slain the savages had cut up in the most revolting manner. The tidings of these outrages spread rapidly, and the settlers, in their solitary homes, were plunged into a state of great dismay.

There were at this time in Brunswick two or three families who had erected their houses upon the banks of New Meadows. A party of twenty-five English set out from Casco in a sloop and two boats, sailed along the bay, and entered the river. The inhabitants had already fled, and the Indians were there, about thirty in number, rifling the houses. Seeing the approach of the English, they concealed themselves in an ambush. When the English had advanced but a few rods from their boats, the savages rushed upon them with hideous yells, wounded several, drove them all back to their sloop, and captured two boat-loads of Indian corn.

Emboldened by their success, a few days after, on the 18th of September, they made a bold attack upon Saco. A friendly Indian informed Captain Bonython, who lived on the east side of the river, about half a mile below the Lower Falls, that a conspiracy was formed to attack the town. The alarm was immediately communicated to all the settlers, and in a panic they abandoned their houses, and took refuge in the garrison house of Major Phillips, which was on the other side of the river. The Indians, unaware that their plot was discovered, came the same night and established themselves in ambush. The assailants were not less than one hundred in number. There were fifty persons, men, women, and children, in the garrison, of whom but ten were effective men. At eleven o'clock in the morning they commenced the assault. The besieged defended themselves with great energy, and many of the savages fell before their unerring aim. The savages at length attempted to set fire to the house, after having assailed it with a storm of shot all the day, and through the night until four in the morning. They filled a cart with birch bark, straw, and powder, and, setting this on fire, endeavored to push is against the house with long poles. They had ingeniously constructed upon the cart a barricade of planks, which protected those who pushed it against the fire of the house. When they had got within pistol shot, one wheel became clogged in a rut, and the other wheel going, whirled the cart around, so as to expose the whole party to a fatal fire. Six men almost instantly fell dead, and before the rest could escape, fifteen of them were wounded. Disheartened by this disaster, the rest sullenly retired.

Soon after this, Phillips abandoned his exposed situation, and his house was burned down by the savages. On the 20th the Indians attacked Scarborough, destroyed twenty-seven houses, and killed several of the inhabitants. The principal settlement in Saco was at Winter Harbor. Many families in the vicinity had fled to that place for refuge. They were all in great danger of being cut off by the savages. A party of sixteen volunteers from South Berwick took a sloop and hastened to their rescue. As they were landing upon the beach, they were assailed by one hundred and fifty of their fierce foes. The English, overpowered by numbers, were in great danger of being cut off to a man, when they succeeded in gaining a shelter behind a pile of logs. From this breastwork they opened such a deadly fire upon their thronging foes that the Indians were compelled to retire with a loss of many of their number. The inhabitants of the garrison, hearing the report of the guns, sent a party of nine to aid their friends. These men unfortunately fell into an ambush, and by a single discharge every one was cut down. This same band then ravaged the settlements in Wells, Hampton, Exeter, and South Berwick.

Great exertions had been made to prevent the Indians upon the Kennebec from engaging in these hostilities. About ten miles from the mouth of the Sagadahock is the beautiful island of Arrowsic. It is so called from an Indian who formerly lived upon it. Two Boston merchants, Messrs. Clark and Lake, had purchased this island, which contains many thousand acres of fertile land. They had erected several large dwellings, with a warehouse, a fort, and many other edifices near the water-side. It was a very important place for trade, being equally accessible by canoes to all the Indians on the Androscoggin, Kennebec, and Sheepscot. Captain Davis was the general agent for the proprietors upon this island.

The Indians in all this region were daily becoming more cold and sullen. Captain Davis, to conciliate them, sent a messenger up all these rivers to invite the Indians to come down and live near him, assuring them that he would protect them from all mischief, and would sell them every needed supply at the fairest prices. The messenger, thinking to add to the force of the invitation, overstepping his instructions, threatened them that if they did not accede to his request the English would come and kill them all. This so alarmed the Indians that they fled to the banks of the Penobscot, which was then in possession of the French. Here they held a general council.

Mr. Abraham Shurte was chief magistrate of the flourishing plantation of Pemaquid. He was a man of integrity, of humanity, and of great good sense. By indefatigable exertions, he succeeded in obtaining an interview with the sachems, and entered into a treaty of peace with them. In consequence of this treaty, the general court of Boston ordered considerable sums of money to be disbursed to those Indians who would become the subjects or allies of the colony. There was thus a temporary respite of hostilities in this section of the country. Upon the banks of the Piscataquis, however, the warfare still continued unabated. On the 16th of October, one hundred Indians assailed a house in South Berwick, burned it to the ground, killed the master of the house, and carried his son into captivity. Lieutenant Plaisted, commander of the garrison, viewing the massacre from a distance, dispatched nine men to reconnoiter the movements of the enemy. They fell into an ambuscade, and three were shot down, and the others with difficulty escaped.

The next day Lieutenant Plaisted ordered out a team to bring in the bodies for interment. He himself led twenty men as a guard. As they were placing the bodies in a cart, a party of one hundred and fifty savages rushed upon them from a thicket, showering a volley of bullets upon the soldiers. The wounded oxen took fright and ran. A fierce fight ensued. Most of the soldiers retreated and regained the garrison. Lieutenant Plaisted, too proud to fly or to surrender, fought till he was literally hewn in pieces by the hatchets of the Indians. His two sons also, worthy of their father, fought till one was slain, and the other, covered with wounds of which he soon died, escaped. The Indians then ravaged the regions around, plundering, burning, and killing.

The storms of winter now came with intense cold, and the snow covered the ground four feet deep upon a level. The weather compelled a truce. Though the Indians, during this short campaign, had killed eighty of the English, had burned many houses, and had committed depredations to an incalculable amount, still they themselves were suffering perhaps even more severely. They had no provisions, and no means of purchasing any. There was but little game in these northern forests, and the snow was too deep for hunting. Their ammunition was consumed, and they knew not how to obtain any more. Thus they were starving and almost helpless. Under these circumstances, they manifested a strong desire for peace.

There were, however, individuals of the English who, by the commission of the most infamous outrages, fanned anew the flames of war.

Early in the spring, one Laughton had obtained a warrant from the court in Massachusetts to seize any of the Eastern Indians who had robbed or murdered any of the English. This Laughton, a vile kidnapper, under cover of this warrant, lured a number of Indians at Pemaquid on board his vessel. None of them were accused of any crime, and it is not known that they had committed any. He enticed them below, fastened the hatchet's upon them, and carried them to the West Indies, where they were sold as slaves. This fact was notorious; and, though the government condemned the deed, and did what it could to punish the offender, still the unenlightened Indians considered the whole white race responsible for the crimes of the individual miscreant.

Some of the Indian chiefs went to Pemaquid to confer with Mr. Shurte, in whom they reposed much confidence. Their complaint was truly touching.

"Our brothers," said they, "are treacherously caught, carried into foreign parts, and sold as slaves. Last fall you frightened us from our corn-fields on the Kennebec. You have withholden powder and shot from us, so that we cannot kill any game; and thus, during the winter, many have died of starvation."

Mr. Shurte did what he could to conciliate them, and proposed a council. It was soon convened. The Indians appeared fair and honorable, but they said they must have powder and shot; that, without those articles, they could have no success in the chase, and they must starve.

"Where," exclaimed Madockawando, earnestly and impatiently, "shall we buy powder and shot for our winter's hunting when we have eaten up all our corn? Shall we leave Englishmen and apply to the French, or shall we let our Indians die? We have waited long to have you tell us, and now we want yes or no."

To this the English could only reply, "You admit that the Western Indians do not wish for peace. Should you let them have the powder we sell you, what do we better than to cut our own throats? This is the best answer we can return to you, though you should wait ten years."

At this the chiefs took umbrage, declined any farther talk, and the conference was broken up angrily. War was soon resumed in all its horrors.

Early in August a numerous band of savages made an incursion upon Casco Neck and swept it of its inhabitants. Thirty-four of the colonists were either killed or carried into captivity. On the 14th of August, two days after King Philip was slain in the swamp at Mount Hope, a party of Indians landed from their canoes upon the southeast corner of the island of Arrowsic, near the spot where the fort stood. They concealed themselves behind a great rock, and, with true Indian cunning, notwithstanding the sentinels, succeeded in creeping within the spacious enclosure which constituted the fortress: They then opened a sudden and simultaneous fire upon all who were within sight. The garrison, thus taken by midnight surprise, were in a state of terrible consternation. A hand-to-hand fight ensued of the utmost ferocity. The Indians, however, soon overpowered their opponents and applied the torch. Captain Davis, who was in command of the fort, with Mr. Lake, who was one of the owners of the island, escaped with two others from the massacre by a back passage, and, rushing to the water's edge, sprang into a canoe and endeavored to reach another island. The savages, however, pursued them, and, taking deliberate aim as they were padding to the opposite shore, killed Mr. Lake, and wounded Mr. Davis, so as to render him helpless, just as he was stepping upon the shore. The savages then took a canoe and crossed in pursuit of their victims. Captain Davis succeeded in hiding himself in the cleft of a rock, and eluded their search. Here he remained for two days, until after the savages had left, and then, finding an old canoe upon the beach, he succeeded in paddling himself across the water to the main land, where he was rescued. The other two who were not wounded, plunging into the forest, also effected their escape.

The exultant savages rioted in the destruction of the beautiful establishment upon Arrowsic. The spacious mansion house, the fortifications, the mills, and all the out-buildings, were burned to the ground. Works which had cost the labor of years, and the expenditure of thousands of pounds, were in an hour destroyed, and the whole island was laid desolate. Thirty-five persons were either killed or carried into captivity. The dismay which now pervaded the plantations in Maine was terrible. The settlers were very much scattered; there was no place of safety, and it was impossible, under the circumstances, for the court in Massachusetts to send them any effectual relief. Most of the inhabitants upon the Sheepscot River sought refuge in the fort at Newagen. The people at Pemaquid fled on board their vessels; some sailed for Boston; others crossed over to the island of Monhegan, where they strongly fortified themselves. They had hardly left their flourishing little village of Pemaquid ere dark columns of smoke informed them that the savages were there, and that their homes were in a blaze. In one month, fifty miles east of Casco Bay were laid utterly desolate. The inhabitants were either massacred, carried into captivity, or had fled by water to the settlements in Massachusetts.

Many of the beautiful islands in Casco Bay had a few English settlers upon them. The Indians paddled from one to another in their canoes, and the inhabitants generally fell easy victims to their fury. A few families were gathered upon Jewell's Island, in a fortified house. On the 2nd of September a party of Indians landed upon the island for their destruction. Several of the men were absent from the island in search of Indian corn, and few were left in the garrison excepting women and children. A man was in his boat at a short distance from the shore fishing, while his wife was washing clothes by the river side, surrounded by her children. Suddenly the savages sprang upon them, and took them all captives before the eyes of the husband and father, who could render no assistance. One of the little boys, shrieking with terror, ran into the water, calling upon his father for help. An Indian grasped him, and, as the distracted father presented his gun, the savage held up the child as a shield, and thus prevented the father from firing. A brave boy in the garrison shot three of the Indians from the loop-holes. Soon assistance came from one of the neighboring islands, and the Indians, were driven to their canoes, after having killed two of the inhabitants and taken live captives.

In this state of things, Massachusetts sent two hundred men, with forty Natick Indians, to Dover, then called Cocheco, from whence they were to march into Maine and New Hampshire, wherever they could be most serviceable. Here they met unexpectedly about four hundred Indians, who had come from friendly tribes professedly to join them in friendly coalition. The English had offered to receive all who in good faith would become their allies. Many, however, of these men were atrocious wretches, whose hands were red with the blood of the English. Others were desperate fellows, who had ravaged Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts under King Philip, and, upon his discomfiture, had fled to continue their barbarities in the remote districts of New Hampshire and Maine.

Major Waldron, who had command of the English troops, was in great perplexity. Many of the Indians of this heterogeneous band had come together in good faith, relying upon his honor and fidelity. But the English soldiers, remembering the savage cruelties of perhaps the majority, were impatient to fall upon them indiscriminately with gun and bayonet. In this dilemma, Major Waldron adopted the following stratagem, which was by some applauded, and by others censured.

He proposed a sham fight, in which the Indians were to be upon one side and the English upon the other. In the course of the maneuvers, he so contrived it that the Indians gave a grand discharge. At that moment, his troops surrounded and seized their unsuspecting victims, and took them all prisoners, without the loss of a man on either side. He then divided them into classes with as much care as, under the circumstances, could be practiced, though doubtless some mistakes were made. All the fugitives from King Philip's band, and all the Indians in the vicinity who had been recently guilty of bloodshed or outrage, were sent as prisoners to Boston. Here they were tried; seven or eight were executed; the rest, one hundred and ninety-two in number, were transported to the West Indies and sold as slaves.

This measure excited very earnest discussion in the colony. Many condemned it as atrocious, others defended it as a necessity; but the Indians universally were indignant. Even those, two hundred in number, who were set at liberty as acting in good faith, declared that it was an act of infamy which they would never forget nor forgive. The next day these troops proceeded by water to Falmouth, touching at important points by the way.

On the 23rd of September, a scouting party of seven visited Mountjoy's Island. An Indian party fell upon them, and all were massacred. These men were all heads of families, and their deaths occasioned wide-spread woe: Two days after this, on the 25th, a large party of Indians ravaged Cape Neddock, in the town of York, and killed or carried into captivity forty persons. The cruelties they practiced upon the inhabitants are too revolting to be described.

Winter now set in again with tremendous severity. All parties experienced unheard-of sufferings. An Indian chieftain by the name of Rugg, notorious for his sagacity and his mercilessness, now came to the Piscataqua River and proposed peace. The English were eager to accept any reasonable terms. On the 6th of November the treaty was concluded. Its terms were these:

  1. All acts of hostility shall cease.
  2. English captives and property shall be restored.
  3. Full satisfaction shall be rendered to the English for damages received.
  4. The Indians shall purchase ammunition only of those whom the governor shall appoint.
  5. Certain notorious murderers were to be surrendered to the English.
  6. The sachems included in the treaty engaged to take arms against Indians who should still persist in the war.

Notwithstanding this treaty, the aspect of affairs still seemed very gloomy. The Indians were sullen, the conduct of Mugg was very suspicious, threats of the renewal of hostilities were continually reaching the English, and but few captives were restored. Appearances continued so alarming that, on the 7th of February, 1677, a party of one hundred and fifty English and sixty Natick Indians sailed for Casco Bay and the mouth of the Kennebec, to overawe the Indians and to rescue the English captives who might be in their hands. On the 18th of February, Captain Waldron, who commanded this expedition, landed upon Mair Point, about three miles below Maquoit, in Brunswick. They had hardly landed ere they were hailed by a party of Indians. After a few words of parley, in which the Indians appeared far from friendly, they retired, and the English sought for them in vain. About noon the next day a flotilla of fourteen canoes was discovered out in the bay pulling for the shore. The savages landed, and in a few moments a house was seen in flames. The English party hastened to the rescue, fell upon the savages from an unexpected quarter, and killed or wounded several. A flag of truce was presented, which produced another parley.

"Why," inquired Captain Waldron, "do you not bring in the English captives as you promised, and why do you set fire to our houses, and begin again the war?"

"The captives," the Indians replied, "are a great way off, and we cannot bring them through the snow; and your soldiers fired upon us first; the house took fire by accident. These are our answers to you."

Captain Waldron, unwilling to exasperate the Indians by useless bloodshed, and finding that no captives could be recovered, sailed to the mouth of the Kennebec, then the Sagadahock. Here he established a garrison on the eastern bank of the river, opposite the foot of Arrowsic Island. With the remainder of his force he proceeded in two vessels to Pemaquid. Here he met a band of Indians, and sending to them a flag of truce, which they respected, the two parties entered into a conference. The Indians, under the guise of peace, were plotting a general massacre. Though both parties had agreed to meet without arms, the savages had concealed a number of weapons, which at a given signal they could grasp.

Captain Waldron; suspecting treachery, was looking around with an eagle eye, when he saw peering from the leaves the head of a lance. Going directly to the spot, he saw a large number of weapons concealed. He immediately brandished one in the air, exclaiming,

"Perfidious wretches! You intended to massacre us all."

A stout Indian sprang forward and endeavored to wrest the weapon from Waldron's hand. Immediately a scene of terrible confusion ensued. All engaged in a hand to hand fight, with any weapons which could be grasped. The Indians were soon overcome, and fled, some to the woods and others to their canoes. Eleven Indians were killed in this fray, and five were taken captive. The expedition then returned to Arrowsic, where they put on board their vessels some guns, anchors, and other articles which had escaped the flames, and then set sail for Boston.

As soon as the snow melted, the savages renewed their depredations, but Maine was now nearly depopulated. With the exception of the garrison opposite Arrowsic, there was no settlement east of Portland. There was a small fort at Casco, and a few people in garrison at Mack Point and Winter Harbor. A few intrepid settlers still remained in the towns of York, Wells, Kittery, and South Berwick. The Indians harassed them during the whole summer with robberies, conflagrations, and murders. Winter again came with its storms and its intensity of cold. The united Sagamores now, with apparent sincerity, implored peace. On the 12th of February; 1678, Squando, with all the sachems of the tribes upon the Androscoggin and the Kennebec, met the commissioners from Massachusetts at the fort At Casco. The English were so anxious for peace that they agreed to the following terms, which many considered very humiliating, but which were nevertheless vastly preferable to the longer continuance of this horrible warfare.

  1. The captives were to be immediately released, without ransom.
  2. All offenses on both sides, of every kind, were to be forgiven and forgotten.
  3. The English were to pay the Indians, as rent for the land, a peck of corn for every English family, and for Major Phillips, of Saco, who was a great proprietor, a bushel of corn.

Thus this dreadful war was brought to a close. It is estimated that during its continuance six hundred men lost their lives, twelve hundred houses were burned, and eight thousand cattle destroyed. But the amount of misery created can never be told or imagined. The midnight assault, the awful conflagration, the slaughter of women and children, the horrors of captivity in the wilderness, the impoverishment and moaning of widows and orphans, the diabolical torture, piercing the wilderness with the shrill shriek of mortal agony, the terror, universal and uninterrupted by day or by night all, all combined in composing a scene in the awful tragedy of human life which the mind of Deity alone can comprehend.