King Philip - John S. C. Abbott

The Pequot War

The energetic, yet just and conciliatory measures adopted by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, in their intercourse with the Indians, were productive of the happiest results. For several years there was a period of peace and prosperity. The colony had now become firmly established, and every year emigrants, arriving from they mother, country, extended along the coasts and, into the interior the comforts and the refinements of civilization.

In the year 1630, ten years after the landing of the Pilgrims, a company of gentlemen of fortune and of social distinction organized a colony, upon a much grander scale than the one at Plymouth, to emigrate to Massachusetts Bay, under the name of the Massachusetts Colony. The leaders in this enterprise were men of decidedly a higher cast of character, intellectual and social, than their brethren at Plymouth. On the 12th of June this company landed at Salem, and before the close of the year their number amounted to seventeen hundred. The tide of emigration now began to flow very rapidly, and eight or ten towns were soon settled Toward the close of this year n few families moved to the end of the peninsula now called Boston. The dense wilderness spread around them. They reared their log-huts near the beach; at the north end, and by fishing, hunting, and raising Indian corn, obtained a frugal existence. In the five following years very great accessions were made to this important colony. Thriving settlements sprang up rapidly all along the coast. The colonists appear to have been conscientious in their dealings with the natives, purchasing their lands of theta at a fair price. Nearly all these men came to the wilderness of this new world inspired by as lofty motives as can move the human heart. Many of them were wealthy and of high rank. At an immense sacrifice; they abandoned the luxuries and refinements to which they had been accustomed at home, that they might enjoy in New England that civil and religious liberty which Old England no longer afforded them.

The Dutch had now established a colony at the mouth of the Hudson River, and were looking wistfully at the fertile meadows which their traders had found upon the banks of the Connecticut. The English were apprehensive that the Dutch might anticipate them in taking possession of that important valley. In 1630 the Earl of Warwick had obtained from Charles I. a patent, granting him all the land extending west from Narraganset Bay one hundred and twenty miles. This grant comprehended the whole of the present state of Connecticut and considerable more, reaching west to the Dutch settlements on the Hudson River. Preparations were immediately made for the establishment of a small company on the Connecticut River. Governor Winthrop sent a message to the Dutch governor at New Netherlands, as New York was then called, informing him that the King of England had granted all the region of the Connecticut River to his own subjects, and requesting that the Dutch would not build there. Governor Van Twiller returned a very polite answer, stating that the authorities in Holland had granted the same country to a Dutch company, and he accordingly requested the English not to settle there.

Governor Winthrop immediately dispatched some men through the wilderness to explore the country, and several small vessels were sent to ascend the river, and, by trade, to establish friendly relations with the Indians. The Plymouth colony also sent a company of men with a frame house and boards for covering. When William Holmes, the leader of this company, had sailed up the Connecticut as far as the present city of Hartford, he found that the Dutch were before him, and had erected a fort there. The Dutch ordered him to go back, and stood by their cannon with lighted torches, threatening to fire upon him.

Mr. Holmes, an intrepid man, regardless of their threats, which they did not venture to execute, pushed boldly by, and established himself at the mouth of Little River, in the present town of Windsor. Here he put up his house, surrounded it with palisades, and fortified it as strongly as his means would allow. Governor Van Twiller, being informed of this movement, sent a band of seventy men, under arms, to tear down this house and drive away the occupants. But Holmes was ready for battle, and the Dutch, finding him so well fortified that he could not be displaced without a bloody conflict, retired.

The whole region of the State of Connecticut was at this time a wilderness, covered with a dense and gloomy forest, which overshadowed both mountain and valley. There were scattered here and there a few spots where the trees had disappeared, and where the Indians planted their corn. The Indians were exceedingly numerous in this lovely valley. The picturesque beauty of the country, the genial climate, the fertile soil, and the vast variety of fish and fowl which abounded in its bays, ponds, and streams, rendered Connecticut quite an elysium for savage life.

These Indians were divided into very many tribes or clans, more or less independent, each with its sachem and its chief warriors. The Pequots were by far the most powerful and warlike among them. Their territory spread over the present towns of New London, Groton, and Stonington. Just north of them was a branch of the same tribe, called the Mohegans, tinder their distinguished sachem Uncas. The Pequots and the Mohegans, thus united, were resistless. It is said that, a few years before the arrival of the English in this country, the Pequots had poured down like an inundation from the forests of the north, sweeping all opposition before them, and had taken possession of the sea-coast as a conquered country.

Sassacus was the sovereign chief of this nation. The present town of Groton was his regal residence. Upon two commanding and beautiful eminences in this town, from which the eye ranged over a very extensive prospect of the Sound and the adjacent country, Sassacus had erected, with much barbarian skill, his royal fortresses. The one was on the banks of the Mystic; the other, a few miles west, on the banks of the Pequot River, now called the Thames. His sway extended over all the tribes on Long Island, and along the coast from the dominions of Canonicus, on Narraganset Bay, to the Hudson River, and spreading into the interior as far as the present county of Worcester in Massachusetts. Thus there seem to have been, in the days of the Pilgrims, three dominant nations, with their illustrious chieftains, who held sway over all the petty tribes in the south and easterly portions of New England. The Wampanoags, under Massasoit, held Massachusetts generally. The Narragansets, under Canonicus, occupied Rhode Island. The Pequots, under Sassacus, reigned over Connecticut. These powerful tribes were jealous of each other, and were almost incessantly engaged in wars.

Sassacus had twenty-six sachems under him, and could lead into the field four thousand warriors. He, was shrewd, wary, and treacherous, and with great jealousy watched the increasing power of the English, who were now spreading rapidly over the principal parts of New England.

In the autumn of the year 1634, just after William Holmes had put up his house at Windsor, two English traders, Captains Norton and Stone, ascended the Connecticut River in a boat, with eight men, to purchase furs of the Indians. They had a large assortment of those goods which the natives prized, and for which they were eager to barter any thing in their possession. The Indians one night, as the vessel was moored near the shore, rushed from an ambush, overpowered the crew, murdered every individual, and plundered and sunk the vessel. The Massachusetts colony, which had then become far more powerful than the Plymouth, demanded of Sassacus redress and the surrender of the murderers. The Pequot chieftain, not being then prepared for hostilities, sent an embassy to Massachusetts with a present of valuable furs, and with an artfully contrived story in justification of the deed.

The barbarian ambassadors, with diplomatic skill which Talleyrand or Metternich might have envied, affirmed that the English had seized two peaceable Indians, bound them hand and foot, and were carrying them off in their vessel, no one knew where. As the vessel ascended the river, the friends of the two captives followed cautiously through the forest, along the banks, watching for an opportunity to rush to their rescue. The Indians were well acquainted with the treachery of the infamous Englishmen in stealing the natives, and transporting them to perpetual slavery. One night the English adventurers, according to the representation of the Indians, drew their vessel up to the shore, and all landed to sleep. At midnight, the friends of the captives watched their opportunity, and made a rush upon the English while they were asleep, killed all, and released their friends. They also stated that all the Indians engaged in the affray, except two, had since died of the smallpox.

This was a plausible story. The magistrates of Massachusetts, men of candor and justice, could not disprove it; and as, admitting this statement to be true, but little blame could be attached to the Indians, the governor of Massachusetts accepted the apology, and entered into friendly alliance with the Pequots. In the treaty into which he at this time entered with the Indian ambassadors, the Pequots conceded to the English the Connecticut River and its immediate shores, if the English would establish settlements there and open trade with them.

Accordingly, arrangements were immediately made for the planting of a colony in the valley of the Connecticut. In the autumn of 1635, five years after the establishment of the Massachusetts colony at Salem, and fifteen years after the establishment of the Plymouth colony, a company of sixty persona, men, women, and children, left the towns of Dorchester, Roxbury, Watertown, and Cambridge, and commenced a journey through the pathless wilderness in search of their future home. It was the 12th of October when they left the shores of Massachusetts Bay. For fourteen days they toiled along through the wilderness, driving their cattle before them, and enduring incredible hardships as they traversed mountains, forded streams, and waded through almost impenetrable swamps. On the 9th of November they reached the Connecticut at a point near the present city of Hartford. The same journey can now be taken with ease in two and a half hours. In less than a year three towns were settled, containing in all nearly eight hundred inhabitants. A fort was also erected at the entrance of the river, to exclude the Dutch, and it was garrisoned by twenty men.

The Indians now began to be seriously alarmed in view of the rapid encroachments of the English. They became sullen, and annoyed the colonists with many acts of petty hostility. There were soon many indications that Sassacus was meditating hostilities, and that he was probably laying his plans for a combination of all the tribes in a resistless assault upon the infant settlements.

The Wampanoags, under Massasoit, were still firm in their friendship; but it was greatly feared that the Narragansets, whose power was very formidable, might be induced to yield to the solicitations of the Pequots.

Roger Williams, who had taken refuge in Rhode Island to escape from his enemies in Massachusetts, was greatly beloved by the Indians. He had become quite a proficient in the Indian language, and by his honesty, disinterestedness, and courtesy, had particularly won the esteem of the Narragansets, in the midst of whom he resided. The governor and council of Connecticut immediately wrote to Mr. Williams, soliciting him to visit the Narragansets, and exert his influence to dissuade them from entering into the coalition.

This great and good man promptly embarked in the humane enterprise. Bidding a hurried farewell to his wife, he started alone in a dilapidated canoe to sail along the shores of Narraganset Bay upon his errand of mercy. A violent tempest arose, tumbling in such a surf upon the shore that he could not land, while he was every moment threatened with being swallowed up in the abysses which were yawning around him. At length, after having encountered much hardship and surmounted many perils, he arrived at the imperial residence of Canonicus. The barbarian chieftain was at home, and it so happened that some Pequot ambassadors had but a short time before arrived, and were then conferring with the Narragansets in reference to the coalition. All the arts of diplomacy of civilized and of savage life, of the wily Indian and of the sincere and honest Christian, were now brought into requisition. With heroism which was the more signal in that it was entirely unostentatious, this bold man remained three days and three nights with the savages, encountering the threats of the Pequots, and expecting every night that they would take his life before morning. Grandeur of character always wins applause. The Indians marveled at his calm, unboastful intrepidity, and Canonicus, who was also a man of heroic mould, was so influenced by his arguments, that he finally not only declined to enter into an alliance with the Pequots, but pledged anew his friendship for the English, and engaged to co-operate with them in repelling the threatened assault.

This was an achievement of immense moment. Other distant tribes, who were on the eve of joining the coalition, intimidated by the withdrawal of the Narragansets, and by their co-operation with the English, also refused to take part in the war, and thus the Pequots were left to fight the battle alone. But the Pequots, with their four thousand merciless warriors, were a fearful foe to rush from their inaccessible retreats, with torch and tomahawk, upon the sparse and defenseless settlements scattered along the banks of the Connecticut River.

Various acts of individual violence were perpetrated by the savages before war broke out in all its horrors. The English were anxious to avert hostilities, if possible, as they had nothing to gain from war with the natives, and their helpless families would be exposed to inconceivable misery from the barbarism of the foe.

The colonists now learned that the excuse which had been offered for the assault upon Captains Norton and Stone was a fabrication, and false in all its particulars. These men had engaged several Indians to pilot them up the river. They often stopped to trade with the natives. One night, as they were moored along-side of the shore, while many of the men had gone upon the land, and the captain was asleep in the cabin, a large number of Indians made a premeditated assault, and murdered all on board. The rest, as they returned in the darkness and unsuspicious of danger, were easily dispatched.

This new evidence of the treachery of the Pequots exasperated the colonists. Still, they did not think it best to usher in a war with such powerful foes by any retaliation. The Pequots, encouraged by this forbearance, became more and more insolent. In July, 1635, John Oldham ventured on a trading expedition to the Pequot country; for the Pequots, notwithstanding all the appearances against them, still pretended to friendship, and solicited trade. One object of sending Captain Oldham upon this expedition was to ascertain more definitely the real disposition of the savages.

A few days after his departure, a man by the name of John Gallop was in a small vessel of about twenty tons, on his passage from Connecticut to Massachusetts Bay. A strong northerly wind drove him near Manisses, or Block Island. This island is about fourteen miles from Point Judith. It is eight miles long, and from two to four wide. To his surprise, he saw near the shore an English vessel, which the immediately recognized as Captain Oldham's, filled with Indians, and evidently in their possession. Sixteen savages, well armed with their own weapons, and with the guns and swords which they had taken from the English, crowded the boat.

Captain Gallop was a man of lion heart, inspirited by that Puritan chivalry which ever displayed itself in the most amazing deeds of daring, without the slightest apparent consciousness that there was any thing extraordinary in the exploit. His little vessel was considerably larger than the boat which the Indians had captured. His crew, however, consisted of only one man and two boys. And yet, without the slightest hesitancy, he immediately decided upon a naval fight with the Indians. Loading his muskets and spreading all sail, he bore down upon his foe. The wind was fair and strong, and, standing firmly at the helm, while his crew were protected by the bulwarks from the arrows and bullets of the Indians, and were ready with their muskets to shoot any who attempted to board, he guided his vessel so skillfully as to strike the smaller boat of the foe fairly upon the quarter. The shock was so severe that the boat was nearly capsized, and six of the Indians were knocked into the sea and drowned.

Captain Gallop immediately stood off and prepared for another similar broadside. In the meant time, he lashed the anchor to the bows of the vessel in such a way that the fluke should pierce the side of the boat, and serve as a grappling iron. As there were now only ten Indians to be attacked, he decided to board the boat in case it should be grappled by the fluke of his anchor. Having made these arrangements, he again came running down before a brisk gale, and, striking the boat again, tore open her side with his anchor, while at the same moment he poured in a heavy discharge of buckshot upon the terrified savages. Most of them, however, had plunged into the hold of the little pinnace, and the shot effected but little execution. A third time he ran down upon the pinnace, and struck her with such force that five more, in their turn, leaped overboard and were drowned. There were now but five savages left, and the intrepid Gallop immediately boarded the enemy. Three of the savages retreated to a small cabin, where, with swords, they defended themselves. Two were taken captive and bound. Having no place where he could keep these two Indians apart, and fearing that they might get loose, and, in co-operation with the three savages who had fortified themselves in the cabin, rise successfully upon him, Captain Gallop threw one of the Indians overboard, and he was drowned. This was rough usage; but the savages, who had apparently rendered it necessary by their previous act of robbery and murder, could not complain.

The pinnace was then stripped of her rigging and of all the goods which remained. The body of Captain Oldham was found, awfully mutilated, beneath a sail. The rest of the crew, but two or three in number, had been carried as captives by the savages on the shore. Captain Gallop buried the corpse as reverently as possible in the sea, and then took the pinnace in tow, with the three savages barricaded in the cabin. Night came on, dark and stormy; the wind increased to a tempest, and it was necessary to cut the pinnace adrift. She was never heard of more.

Block Island, where these scenes occurred, belonged to the Narragansets; but many who were engaged in the murder, as if fearful of the vengeance of Canonicus, their own chieftain, fled across the Sound to the Pequot country, and were protected by them. The Pequots thus became implicated in the crime. Canonicus, on the other hand, rescued the captives taken from the boat, and restored them to their friends. The English now decided that it was necessary for them so to punish the Indians as to teach them that such outrages could no longer be committed with impunity. It was a fearful vengeance which was resolved upon. An army of one hundred men was raised, commissioned to proceed to Block Island, burn every wigwam, destroy all the corn, shoot every man, and take the women and children captive. Thus the island was to be left a solitude and a desert.

On the 25th of August, 1636, the detachment sailed from Boston. The Indians were aware of the punishment with which they were threatened, and were prepared for resistance. Captain John Endicott, who was in command of the expedition, anchored off the island, and seeing a solitary Indian wandering upon the beach, who, it afterward appeared, had been placed there as a decoy, took a boat and a dozen armed men, and rowed toward the shore. When they reached within a few rods of the beach, suddenly sixty warriors, picked men, tall, athletic, and of established bravery, sprang up from behind the sand-hills, rushed to the water's edge, and poured in upon the boat a volley of arrows. Fortunately, the boat was so far from the land that not much injury was done, though two were seriously wounded. As the water was shoal, the colonists, musket in hand, sprang from the boat and waded toward the shore, piercing their foes with a well-directed volley of bullets. Had the Indians possessed any measure of the courage of the English, the sixty savages might have closed upon the twelve colonists, and easily have destroyed them all; but they had no disciplined courage which would enable them to stand a charge. With awful yells of fury and despair, they broke and fled into the forests and the swamps.

Captain Endicott now landed his force and commenced the work of destruction. There were two Indian villages upon the island, containing about sixty wigwams each. The torch was applied, and they were all destroyed. Every canoe that could be found was staved. There were also upon the island about two hundred acres of standing corn, which the English trampled down. But not an Indian could be found. The women and children had probably been removed from the island, and the warriors who remained so effectually concealed themselves that the English sought them in vain. After spending two days upon the island, the expedition again embarked, and sailed across the Sound to the mouth of the Thames, then called Pequot Harbor. As the vessel entered the harbor, about three hundred warriors assembled upon the shore. Captain Endicott sent an interpreter to inform them that he had come to demand the murderers of the English, and to obtain compensation for the injuries which the Indians had inflicted. To this the Pequots defiantly replied with a shower of arrows. Captain Endicott landed on both sides of the harbor where New London now stands. The Indians sullenly retired before him to the adjacent rocks and fastnesses, rendering it necessary for the English to keep in a compact body to guard against assault. Two Indians were shot, and probably a few others wounded. The wigwams along the shore were burned, and the canoes destroyed, and then the expedition again spread its sails and returned to Boston, having done infinitely more harm than good. They had merely exasperated their haughty foes. They had but struck the hornets' nest with a stick. The Connecticut people were in exceeding terror, as they knew that savage vengeance would fall mercilessly upon them.

Sassacus was a stern man of much native talent. He laughed to scorn this impotent revenge. To burn an Indian wigwam was inflicting no great calamity. The huts were reared anew before the expedition had arrived in Boston. The Pequots now despised their foes, and, gathering around their council fires, they clashed their weapons, shrieked their war-whoop, and excited themselves into an intensity of rage. The defenseless settlers along the banks of the Connecticut were now at the mercy of the savages, who were roused to the commission of every possible atrocity. No pen can describe the scenes of woe which, during the autumn and winter of 1636 and 1637, transpired in the solitudes of the wilderness. The Indians were everywhere in marauding bands: At midnight, startled by the yell of the savage, the lonely settler sprang to his door but to see his building in flames, to be pierced with innumerable arrows, to fall upon his floor weltering blood, and to see; as death was stealing over him, his wife, and his children brained; by the tomahawk. The tortures inflicted by the savages upon their captives were too horrible to be narrated. Even the recital almost causes the blood to chills in one's veins.

Sassacus was indefatigable in his endeavors to rouse all the tribes to combine in a war of extermination.

"Now," said he, "is our time. If we, do not now destroy the English, they will soon prove too powerful for us, and they will obtain all our lands. We need not meet them in open battle. We can shoot and poison their cattle; burn their houses and barns, lay in ambush for them in the fields and on the roads. They are now few. We are numerous. We can thus soon destroy them all."

Why did they not succeed in this plan? The only answer is that God willed otherwise. The Indians planned their campaign with great skill, and prosecuted it with untiring vigor. Not a boat could pass up or down the river in safety. The colonists were compelled to keep a constant guard, to huddle together in block-houses, and could never lie down at night without the fear of being murdered before morning. Almost every night the flame of their burning dwellings reddened the sky, and the shriek of the captives expiring under demoniac torture blended with the hideous shout of the savages.

At the mouth of the Connecticut River the fort of Saybrook had been erected. It was built strongly of timber, to resist the approaches of the Dutch as well as of the Indians, and was garrisoned by about fifty men. As this point commanded the entrance of the river, it was deemed of essential importance that it should be effectually fortified. But the Pequots were now so emboldened that they surrounded the fort, and held the garrison, in a state of siege. They burned every house in the vicinity, razed all the out-houses of the fort, and burned every stack of hay and every useful thing which was not within reach of the guns of the fortress.

The cattle were all killed, and no person could venture outside of the fort. The Indians, keeping beyond the reach of gunshot, danced with insulting and defiant gestures, challenging the English to come out, and mocking them with the groans and pious invocations which they had extorted from their victims of torture.

This awful state of affairs rendered it necessary to prosecute the war with a, degree of energy which should insure decisive results. The story of Indian atrocities caused every ear in the three colonies to tingle, and all united to punish the common enemy. Plymouth furnished a vessel, well armed and provisioned, and manned by fifty soldiers under efficient officers. Massachusetts raised two hundred men to send promptly to the theatre of conflict. Connecticut furnished ninety men from the towns of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield. This was an immense effort for the feeble colonists to make.

The Mohegans dwelt in the interior of the country, and were consequently nearer the English settlements. Their sachem, Uncas, had his royal residence in the present town of Norwich. He was a stem, reckless man, and quite ambitious of claiming independence of Sassacus, with his powerful section of the tribe. The Mohegans, Pequots, and Narragansets all spoke the same language, with but a slight diversity in dialect. The Mohegans, with apparent eagerness, united with the English. The Narragansets also continued firm in their pledged friendship to the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonists, and promised a liberal supply of warriors to aid them in punishing the haughty Pequots. Sassacus had now raised a storm which he well might dread. The doom of his tribe was sealed.

On Wednesday, the 10th of May, 1637, the Connecticut troops, consisting of ninety Englishmen and seventy Mohegans, embarked at Hartford in three vessels, and sailed down the river to the fort at Saybrook. The expedition was commanded by Captain John Mason. Uncas, the Mohegan sachem, led the Indian warriors. When they arrived near the mouth of the river, the Indians desired to be set on shore, that they might advance by land to the fort, and attack the Pequots by surprise. The English were very apprehensive that their unreliable allies were about to prove treacherous, and to desert to the Pequots. But, as it was desirable to test them before the hour of battle arrived, they were permitted to land. The Mohegans, however, proved faithful. On their way to the fort they fell in with forty Pequots, whom they attacked fiercely and put to rout, after having killed seven of their number, and taken one a captive. Their wretched prisoner they bound to a stake, and put to death with every barbarity which demoniac malice could suggest.

The two parties met at Fort Saybrook. Sassacus was strongly entrenched, about twenty miles east of them, in two forts, or, rather; fortified towns. These Pequot fortresses were about five miles distant from each other, on commanding hills, one on the banks of the Thames, and the other on the banks of the Mystic. It was the original plan to sail directly into the mouth of the Thames, then called Pequot Harbor, and attack the savage foe in his concentrated strength. But these fortresses were so situated as to command an extensive view of the ocean, as well as of the adjacent country: The vessels, consequently, could not enter Pequot Harbor without being seen by the Indians; and thus giving them several hours' warning.

After long and anxious deliberation, the chaplain of the expedition, Rev. Mr. Stone, having been requested to pass the night in prayer for Divine guidance, it was decided to sail directly by the mouths of Pequot Harbor and the Mystic, and to continue along the shore to Narraganset Bay. Here they hoped to meet with the troops dispatched from Plymouth and Massachusetts. They could then march across the country about forty miles, and, approaching the Pequot forts in the night and through the forest, could attack them by surprise.

On Friday, the 19th of May, the expedition sailed from the mouth of the Connecticut. The Pequots, through their runners, kept themselves informed of every movement, and when they descried the vessels approaching, they felt that the decisive hour had come, and prepared for battle. But when they saw the vessels pass directly by without entering the harbor, they were exceedingly elated, supposing the English were afraid to attack them. They shouted; and danced, and clashed their weapons, and assailed their foes with all the artillery of barbarian derision. But the colonists, unconscious of the ridicule to which they were exposed, continued their course, and came to anchor in Narraganset Bay just as the twilight of Saturday evening was darkening into night. It was too late then to land, and the next day being the Sabbath, they all remained on board their vessels, in the sacred observance of the day. All of Monday, and until late in the afternoon of Tuesday, a fearful gale swept the ocean, so that no boat could pass to the shore. Tuesday evening, however, Captain Mason landed, and had an interview with Miantunnomah, a chief very high in rank, who seems to have shared with his uncle Canonicus in the government of the Narragansets.

"Two mighty chiefs—one cautious, wise, and old;

One young, and strong, and terrible in fight—

All Narraganset and Coweset hold;

One lodge they build, one council-fire they light."

The fiery-spirited young sachem, hating the Pequots, and eager for a fight with them in conjunction with such powerful allies as the English, cordially received Captain Mason, granted him a passage through his country, and immediately called out a re-enforcement of two hundred men to join the expedition. That night an Indian runner arrived in the camp, and informed Captain Mason that Captain Patrick, with forty men, who had been sent in advance of the Massachusetts and Plymouth contingent, had reached Mr. Roger Williams' plantation in Providence, and were hastening to meet him. Desirable as this junction was deemed, after mature deliberation, it was decided not to wait for Captain Patrick, as it was very important to strike a sudden and unexpected blow: The Narragansets stood in great dread of the Pequots, and it was feared that their zeal might grow cold. It was also feared that if they did not proceed immediately, the Pequots might receive tidings of their approach.

The little army, therefore, the very next morning, Wednesday, May 24th, commenced its march. The force consisted of seventy-seven Englishmen, sixty Mohegans, and two hundred Narragansets. The Narragansets were great braggarts. They made the forest resound with their vainglorious boasts, and, with the most valiant gestures, declared that they would now show the English how to fight. Guided by Indians through the forest, they pressed along rapidly through the day, and at night, having traversed about twenty miles, bivouacked upon the banks of a small stream. The next morning they resumed their march, and, crossing the stream, approached the territory of the Pequots. As they had advanced, large numbers of Narraganset warriors had flocked to join them, and they had now five hundred of these boastful savages in the advance leading them on.

The day was intensely hot, and, in their rapid march, several of the troops fainted by the way. But, conscious that mush depended upon taking the Pequots by surprise, Captain Mason urged his men forward, and about noon reached the banks of the Pawoatuck River, about twelve miles from the previous night's encampment. The Indians led them to a point in the river where they could pass it by a ford. They halted here for an hour, and refreshed themselves, and then moved on with much caution, as they were now almost in the country of their foe. It was but twelve miles from the ford to the first Pequot fort on the banks of the Mystic.

It had been the intention to attack both the forts, the Mystic and the Pequot, at once; but Wegnash, a Pequot sachem, who had revolted from Sassacus, and, treacherous to his tribe, acted as their guide, here gave them; such information respecting the situation and strength of these fortresses as induced them to alter their resolution, and to decide to make a united attack upon the fort at Mystic. When the Narragansets found that Captain Mason was actually intending to march directly up to The very palisades of the fort, and assail those fierce and terrible warriors in their strongholds, they were filled with amazement and consternation. Many deserted and returned to Narraganset. All who remained lingered irresolutely in the rear. The English now found that their Indian allies could render them but very little service. Undaunted, however, by the great odds against which they would have to contend, they pressed vigorously and silently on, followed by a vagabond train of two or three hundred savages. The sun had gone down, and the shades of night were descending upon the forest when they reached the banks of the Mystic.

They were now within three miles of one of the great Pequot forts, on what is still called Pequot Hill, in the present town of Groton. Crossing the stream, here narrow and shallow, by a ford; they crept cautiously along; in the deepening darkness, until they came to a smooth and level plot of ground between two craggy bluffs now called Porter's Rocks.

The troops, excessively fatigued by travel and the heat of the sultry day, threw themselves upon the ground for a few hours' repose, intending to advance and make the attack upon the fort just before the break of day. The night was serene and cloudless, and a brilliant moon illumined the couch of the weary soldiers. They were now so near the fort that they could hear the shouts of the savages in their barbaric carousals. A few moments after midnight they were all aroused from their sleep to march to the perilous assault. Devoutly these Christian heroes gathered around their chaplain, the Reverend Mr. Stone, and, with uncovered heads, united with him in fervent prayer that God would bless their enterprise. They were not going into the battle inspired by ambition, or the love of conquest, or the greed of gain. They were contending only to protect their wives and their children from the vengeance of a savage and a merciless foe. The Narragansets, now that the stern hour of trial had come, were in such a state of consternation that Captain Mason gathered them around him and said,

"We ask no aid from you. You may stand at any distance you please, and look on, and see how Englishmen can fight."

The fort was on the summit of a heavy swell of land, and consisted of a village of seventy wigwams, surrounded by a palisade. These palisades consisted of posts planted side by side, And so high that they could not be climbed over. The warriors stationed behind them were safe apparently from assault, for even a musket ball would not pass through the posts. There were but two entrances to the fort, one on the northeastern and the other on the southwestern side. Between six and seven hundred Indians were within the fort.

The English troops were divided into two parties, one headed by Captain Mason, and the other by Captain Underhill, who had been in command of the fort at Saybrook. They decided to make a simultaneous attack upon each of the entrances. Though the moon shone very brilliantly, rendering it almost as light ns day, yet the Indians, unsuspicious of danger and soundly asleep, gave not the slightest indication of alarm until the two parties had each silently approached within a rod of the entrances. A dog was then heard to bark, and immediately one solitary voice shouted frantically, "Englishmen! Englishmen!" The entrances were merely blocked up with bushes about breast high. The assailants instantly poured a volley of bullets in upon their sleeping foes, and, sword in hand, rushed over the feeble barriers. Notwithstanding the surprise and the appalling thunder of the guns, the Pequots sprang to arms and made a fierce resistance. The two parties, advancing from the opposite entrances, forced their way along the main street, firing to the right and the left, and making fearful slaughter of their foes. They speedily swept the street clear of all opposition. The savages, however, who still vastly outnumbered their assailants, retreated into their wigwams, and, taking ad vant4ge of every covert, almost overwhelmed the compact bands of the English with a shower of arrows and javelins. The conflict was now fierce in the extreme, and for a time the issue was very doubtful. Several of the colonists were already killed, and many severely wounded.

The wigwams, composed of the boughs and bark of trees, and covered with mats, were as dry as powder. Captain Mason, at this critical moment, shouted to his exhausted men, Set fire to the wigwams!" Torches were immediately applied; the flames leaped from roof to roof: and in a few moments the whole village was as a furnace of roaring, crackling flame. The savages, forced by the fire from their lurking-places, presented a sure mark for the bullet, and they were shot down and cut down without mercy. It was no longer a fight, but a massacre. The Indians, bewildered with terror, threw down their arms, and rushed to and fro in vain attempts to escape: Some climbed the Palisades, only to present a sure target for innumerable bullets; others plunged into the eddying flames which were fiercely devouring their dwellings. For a moment their dark bodies seemed to tremble and vibrate in the glowing furnace, and then they fell as crisped embers.

The heat soon became, so intense and the smoke so smothering, that the English were compelled to retire outside of the fort. But they surrounded the flaming fortress, and every Indian who attempted to escape was shot: In one short hour the awful deed was accomplished, The whole interior of the fort was in ashes and all the inmates, were destroyed with the exception, of seven only who escaped, and seven who were taken captives. The English knew that at a short distance from them there was another fort filled with Pequot warriors. It consequently was not safe to burden their little band with prisoners whom they could neither guard nor feed. They also wished to strike a blow which would appall the savages and prevent all future outrages. Death was, therefore, the doom of all.

The Mohegans and Narragansets, who had timidly followed the English, and who had not ventured into the fort of the dreaded Pequots, stood tremblingly at a distance, gazing with dismay upon their swift and terrible destruction. The morning was cold, and a strong wind swept the bleak hills. The little army was entirely destitute of provisions, for no baggage-wagons could accompany them through the wilderness. They had hoped to obtain corn from the Indian fort, but the conflagration to which they had been unexpectedly compelled to resort had consumed every thing. Several of their number had been killed; more than twenty were severely wounded. Their surgeon and all their necessaries for the wounded were on board the vessels, which were to have sailed the night before from Narraganset Bay for Pequot Harbor. Nearly all their ammunition was consumed. At a short distance from them there was another still more formidable fort filled with fierce Pequot warriors, where Sassacus himself commanded. Thus, even in this hour of signal victory, starvation and ruin stared them in the face.

The officers met together in anxious consultation. Just then the sun rose brilliantly, and revealed the vessels but a few miles distant, sailing before a fair wind toward Pequot Harbor. These strange men, of cast-iron mould, gave expression to their joy, not in huzzas, but in prayers and thanksgivings. But in the midst of this joy their attention was arrested by another spectacle. Three hundred Pequots, like a pack of tumultuous, howling wolves, came rushing along from the other fort. They had heard the guns and seen the flames, and were hurrying to the rescue.

As soon as the savages came in sight of the fort, and saw its utter destruction, they stopped a moment, as if aghast with rage and despair. They howled and tore out their hair, and, by their frenzied gestures, appeared to be in a delirium of fury. They then made a simultaneous rush upon the English, resolved to take revenge at whatever sacrifice of their own lives. There were now but forty-four Englishmen in a condition to fight. Three hundred savages—seven to one rushed upon them in demoniac rage. But European weapons, and the courage and discipline of civilized life, were equal to the emergency.

Captain Mason promptly led forward a body of chosen men, who gave the savages so warm a reception as to check their advance and cause them to recoil. These intrepid colonists, with cool, unerring aim, wasted not a bullet. Every report of the musket was the death of an Indian. The savages, thus repulsed, took refuge behind trees and rocks, and with great bravery pressed and harassed the English with every missile of savage warfare. A rear-guard was now appointed, under Captain Underhill, which kept the savages at a distance, while the whole party marched slowly toward the vessels, which were now entering Pequot Harbor.

Several of the English had been slain. Five were so severely wounded that they were utterly helpless, and had to be carried in the arms of their friends. Twenty others were also so disabled that, though they could with difficulty bobble along, they were unable to bear the burden of their own weapons. Nearly all the Narraganset Indians had now abandoned the English, and, with cowardice which it is difficult to explain, had retired precipitately through the woods to their own country. But the Mohegans had no place of refuge; their only safety was in clinging to the English. Captain Mason, that he might avail himself of the energies of all his men who were able to fight, employed these panic-stricken and impotent allies in carrying the wounded, four taking in their arms one man. The Indians also bore the weapons of those who were too weak to carry them themselves. In this way the colonists marched in an uninterrupted battle for several miles to their vessels. The Pequots pressed them closely, assailing them with great fierceness and bravery, sending parties in advance to form ambushes in the thickets, and shooting their barbed and poisoned arrows from behind every rock and tree. At last the colonists reached the water's side in safety, and the Pequots, with yells of rage, retired.

Sassacus was quite overwhelmed by this disaster. All his warriors were terror-stricken, and feared to remain in the fort, lest they should experience the same doom which had overwhelmed their companions. In their desultory wars, the loss of a few men was deemed a great disaster. To have six or seven hundred of their warriors, hitherto deemed invincible, in one hour shot or burned to ashes, was to them inexpressibly awful. In dismay, they set fire to the royal fortress and to all the adjacent wigwams, and fled into the fastnesses of the forest. Captain Mason placed his wounded on board the vessels, obtained a supply of food and a slight re-enforcement, and then commenced his march for the fort at Saybrook, which was about twenty miles distant. The Indians, whose wigwams were scattered here and there through the forest, fled in terror before him. The English, however, burned every dwelling, and destroyed all the corn-fields. At Saybrook the victorious party were received with great exultation. They then ascended the river to Hartford, and the men returned to their several families, having been absent but three weeks.

It is impossible for us to conceive, in these days of abundance and security, the rapture which this signal victory excited through all the dwellings on the banks of the Connecticut. One half of the effective men of the colony had gone forth to the battle, while the rest remained at home, armed, and sleeplessly vigilant, to protect the women and the children from a foe demoniac in mercilessness. The issues of the conflict were doubtful. Defeat was death to all—more than death—midnight conflagration, torture, and hopeless captivity of mothers and daughters in the dark wilderness and in the wigwams of the savage. Tears of gratitude gushed from the eyes of parents and children; heartfelt prayers and praises ascended from every family altar and from every worshiping assembly.

An Indian runner was immediately dispatched to Massachusetts to carry the news of the decisive victory gained by the Connecticut troops alone. To complete the work thus auspiciously begun, Connecticut raised another band of forty men, and Massachusetts sent one hundred and twenty to meet them at Pequot Harbor. The latter part of June, four weeks after the destruction of the forts there, these two bodies met, in strong martial array, upon the ruins of the empire of Sassacus, resolved to prosecute the war to the utter extermination of the Pequots. The despairing fugitives had retired into the wilderness toward the west. The Indians, encumbered with their women and children, and destitute of food, could move but slowly. They were compelled to keep near the shore, that they might dig clams, which food was almost their only refuge from starvation.

The English vigorously pursued them, occasionally shooting a straggler or picking up a few captives, whom they retained as guides. When they arrived at Saybrook, one party followed along the coast in boats, while the others, accompanied by Uncas and a band of Mohegan Indians, scoured the shore. They came at length to Menunkatuck, now called Guilford. The south side of the harbor here is formed by a long peninsula. Some Pequots, pursued by the English, ran down this neck of land, hoping that their tireless enemies would miss their track and pass by. But Unarm, with Indian sagacity, led the party on the trail. The Pequots, finding their foes upon them, plunged into the water and swam across the narrow mouth of the harbor. But another party of English was already there, who seized them as they waded to the shore. The chief of this little band of Pequots was sentenced to be shot. He was bound to a tree, and Uncas, with nervous arm, sent an arrow through his heart. The head of the savage was then cut off and placed in the crotch of a large oak tree, where it remained for many years, dried and shriveled in the sun, a ghastly memorial of days of violence and blood. From this extraordinary incident, the bluff, to the present day, bears the name of Sachem's Head.

The little army pressed vigorously on, by land and by sea, some twenty miles farther west, to a place called Quirmipiac, now New Haven. Here they found a good harbor for their vessels, and they remained several days for rest. They saw the smokes of great fires in the woods, and sent out several expeditions in search of the Indians, but could find none. A Pequot, a traitor to his tribe, came in and informed them that a hundred Pequot warriors, with some two hundred men, women, and children of an adjacent tribe, had taken refuge in a large swamp about twenty-five miles west. This swamp was in the present town of Fairfield, directly back of the village. The army immediately advanced with all dispatch to the swamp. The bog was so deep and wet, and tangled with underbrush, that it seemed impossible to enter it. A few made the attempt, but they sank in the mire, and were sorely wounded by arrows shot from an invisible foe.

The English, with their Indian allies, surrounded the swamp. They were enabled to do this by placing their men at about twelve feet distance from each other. Several skirmishes ensued, in which a number of Indians were shot. At length the Indians who lived in that vicinity, and who had taken no part in the outrages committed against the colonists, but who, in their, terror, had followed the Pequots into the swamp, sent a delegation to the English imploring quarter. The poor creatures were perishing of starvation. The fierce and haughty Pequots, however, scorned to ask for mercy. They resolved to cut their way through the enemy, or to sell their lives as dearly as possible. The English promised life to all who would surrender, and who had never shed the blood of the colonists. Two hundred men, women, and children immediately emerged from the swamp. The sachem declared that neither he nor his people had ever done any harm to the English. They were accordingly left unmolested.

There were now nearly two hundred Pequots in the swamp. Night came on, and the English watched with sleepless vigilance lest they should make their escape. Toward morning a dense fog rose, adding to the gloom and darkness of the dreary scene. Availing themselves of this, the shrewd savages made several feints at different points, and then, with a simultaneous rush, made a desperate effort to break through. About seventy of the most vigorous of the warriors effected their escape; all the rest were either killed or taken prisoners.

Sassacus, with this remnant of his once powerful tribe, fled over the mountains and beyond the Hudson to the land of the Mohawks. The fierce Mohawks, regarding him and his companions as intruders, fell upon them, and they were all slain but one, who, bleeding with his wounds, made his escape. They cut off the head of Sassacus, and sent his scalp, as evidence of his death, to Connecticut. A part of his skin and a lock of his hair was sent to Boston. During these conflicts many women and children were taken prisoners. We blush to record that the boys were all sent to the West Indies, and sold into bondage. The women and girls were divided about among the colonists of Connecticut and Massachusetts as servants.

The Narragansets and the Mohegans now became very valiant, and eagerly hunted through the woods for the few straggling Pequots who remained. Quite a number they killed, and brought their gory heads as trophies to Windsor and to Hartford. The Pequots had been so demoniac in their cruelty that the colonists had almost ceased to regard them as human beings. The few wretched survivors were so hunted and harassed that some fled far away, and obtained incorporation into other tribes. Others came imploringly to the English at Hartford, and offered to be their servants, to be disposed of at their pleasure, if their lives might be spared.

Such is the melancholy recital of the utter extermination of the Pequot tribe. Deeply as some of the events in this transaction are to be condemned and deplored, much allowance is to be made for men exasperated by all the nameless horrors of Indian war. A pack of the most ferocious of the beasts of the forest was infinitely less to be dreaded than a marauding band of Pequots. The Pequots behaved like demons, and the colonists treated them as such. The man whose son had been tortured to death by the savages, whose house and barns had been burned by the midnight conflagration, whose wife and infant child had been brained upon his hearthstone, and whose daughters were, perhaps, in captivity in the forest, was not in a mood of mind to deal gently with a foe so fiendlike. We may deplore it, but we cannot wonder, and we cannot sternly blame.

This destruction of the Pequots so impressed the New England tribes with the power of the English, and struck them with so much terror, that for nearly forty years the war-whoop was not again heard. The Indian tribes had conflicts with each other, but the colonists, blessed with ever-increasing prosperity, slept in peace and safety.

In view of the exploits of the Pequot warriors, Dr. Dwight, with some poetic license, exclaims:

"And O, ye chiefs! in yonder starry home,

Accept the humble tribute of this rhyme.

Your gallant deeds in Greece or haughty Rome,

By Mare sung, or Homer's harp sublime,

Had charm's the world's wide round, and triumph'd over