In the early morning of March 14th, a large force of the valley Indians fell upon Northampton, but fortunately, in addition to Captain Turner and seventy-eight men of the original garrison, Major Treat with two hundred of the Connecticut troops, without their knowledge, were quartered in the town. Breaking through the stockade at the lower end of Pleasant Street, the Indians found themselves, in the first flush of triumph, in a trap, and were glad to withdraw after losing one of their number killed and four wounded. Four men and one woman were killed, and several houses and barns, all with one exception outside the stockade, were burned.1 Yet, despite this repulse the Indians still hung around waiting for opportunity to strike, and the garrisons at Hatfield and Hadley slept on their arms.
The spring was opening with terror. No man dared go out to his fields unless guarded by his neighbors and soldiers. Food was scarce. No husbandman stirred from his door save with arms in hand, and at night the town guards watched upon the stockade. Families on the outskirts dared not occupy their homes, and even in the villages people left their homes at night for the protection of the garrison.
Savage, his pursuit of the Quabaugs having failed as p185we have seen, marched over to Hadley where Turner, who had been left at Quabaug, joined him, and was promptly sent over to garrison Northampton.
Moseley took up his station at Hatfield, while Major Treat came back to his old territory — the west bank of Connecticut from Westfield to Northampton. In the meanwhile and unknown to the English commanders, an event of great importance had taken place near Northfield. There, on the 9th of March, Canonchet and Philip met for the first time during the war and a great council of war was held. Besides the two sachems were Pumham, Quinnapin, Pessacus, Sancumachu of the Pocumtucks, Annawan, several other chiefs of the Wampanoags, Queen Weetamoo and representatives of the various tribes of the Nipmucks, dressed in all the glory of wampum and deerskin.
Now full of hope, yet within six months the bullet, the gallows, or slavery were to claim them all, and Increase Mather should write of them, "Where are the six Narragansett sachems and all their captains and councillors? Where are the Nipmuck sachems with their captains and councilors? Where is Philip and the squaw-sachem of Pocasset with all their captains and councillors? God do so to all the implacable enemies of Christ and of his people of New England."2
No record of their plans has come down in history, but the knowledge of the conditions that confronted them and the operations that followed the council furnish considerable evidence of its general scope.
Above Deerfield, to the north, for miles, lay a safe refuge for women and children if need came. Spring was coming and with it the game and fish would be abundant. Between Northfield and Deerfield lay fertile fields where corn and maize and beans could be cultivated in abundance, while the reaches of the river at Peskeompskut afforded a rare fishing ground.
If war could be carried fiercely to the east they believed the colonists would concentrate their force in that direction, and the valley, denuded of troops and held by the valley tribes would be left unmolested. If the English would only commit the follies that had marked the last year's campaign, there was hope. Alas for Indian hopes; the plan had not foreseen the employment of the friendly Indians by the whites. It underrated the force and character of the colonists and it was to receive at the beginning a disastrous blow.
How nearly the plan succeeded, however, and how clearly they gauged the measure of the authorities and the panic of the eastern communities will soon be made evident.
By Savage's march to the valley, the eastern frontier of the Bay settlements and the countries south of Plymouth and Narragansett Bay were again left open to attack, and here the blows fell thick and fast and the war parties roamed at will.
A short time after the breaking up of the Indian council at Northfield, Canonchet set out with a small or picked body of warriors to his own territory to procure seed corn from the supplies hidden in the Indian pits and tree p187trunks. Monoco, or One-Eyed John, had preceded him and the cowed bands of the Wampanoags, left behind on Philip's retreat, again arose to arms at their approach, while Philip and the gathering forces of the valley tribes struck at the valley settlements.
All the winter the settlers had been fortifying their houses and stockading their towns. Now the storm burst upon them. No man dared pass alone from one village to another, and there were nights when the sentinels saw on the outskirts the light of burning farms and houses.
Throughout the Connecticut Valley eastward, even to Plymouth and Providence, the war parties of the tribes were spreading death and desolation. On the evening of February 25th several dwellings and other buildings in Weymouth3 were destroyed, and on March 12th the garrison house of William Clark,4 near Plymouth, was attacked by Totoson; an Indian who had enjoyed the hospitality of the Clarks a few days before having notified of the careless guard maintained. Totoson and his band, coming early in the morning, lay in hiding until most of the men had marched forth to church, then they fell furiously upon it.5 Eleven persons were killed and the Indians, after plundering the house of provisions, eight guns, and thirty pounds of powder, set it on fire and retired.6
Everywhere there was terror and fear and every day p188brought news of buildings burnt and settlers killed. The towns around Narragansett Bay were abandoned save by the soldiers and the most resolute, who took refuge in the garrisons, and even Providence could count but fifty of its five hundred inhabitants.
"Brother Williams," said one of a band of Narragansett warriors, replying to Roger Williams who, going out to parley, leant upon his staff and bade them make peace, for their doom was certain in the end if they fought on, "Brother Williams, you are a good man, you have been kind to us many years, not a hair of your head shall be touched." They told him he must venture no further among them for there were strange Indians about, but they did not cease to devastate the settlement of which he was the founder, and the people of Providence, who had taken refuge on the island of Rhode Island, heard, before the month was out, of the destruction of their homes and belongings left behind, the garrison being unable to protect them. "And one Wright was killed, that was neither a Quaker nor Anabaptist, but opinionated."7 The author of the Old Indian Chronicle relates that he had a strange conceit that while he held a Bible in his hands he was "secure from all kinds of violence, but Indians finding him in that posture, deriding his groundless apprehension or folly, ripped him open and put his Bible in his belly."
On the 17th the flames wiped out deserted Warwick, down the bay, with the exception of a stone house known as Green's stone castle, and a band of straggling Indians from the valley tribes, marching down past Pine Meadow p189(now Windsor Locks, Conn.), where they killed Henry Denslow, plundered the deserted houses of Simsbury,8 across the mountains from Hartford, and gave them over to the flames on March 26th. A cave in the hills above the town, from which Philip, according to local tradition, watched the burning of Simsbury, is known as Philip's (Phelps) cave, though Philip was never there.9
On that most gloomy day of the year, the 26th of March, the people of Marlboro10 were at church; the hymn had p190just been sung when the Reverend Mr. Brinsmead,11 who had been compelled to come down from his pulpit and seek relief from the extremity of the toothache by walking to the door, discovered the Indians and, rushing back to the church with the cry, "the Indians are upon us," drove the congregation to the garrison. Only one of their number was cut off, but eleven barns and thirteen dwellings were burned and the cattle driven away.12
That evening brought some satisfaction, for Lieutenant Jacob, setting out in pursuit, fell upon a part of the marauders in the woods that night as they slept around their camp-fire and claimed to have killed and wounded nearly forty of their number, among the slain, according to Hubbard, being Netus, leader of the Indians who had attacked the Eames house in Sudbury.
It was a day, however, fated with misfortunes, for Canonchet, returning homeward with a large band of warriors, had near Seekonk, on the 25th fallen in with Captain Michael Peirse13 of Scituate, who had been sent from Plymouth with some fifty soldiers and a score of friendly Indians under Captain Amos.
Canonchet had divided his force into two parties, one circling around the flanks to a selected position while the other, some of them "limping along to make believe they were lame" or had been wounded, lured the impetuous captain over the Pawtucket into a position unfavorable for defense.
In vain Peirse, realizing too late the numbers confronting him, fell back to the river bank.14 Unable to draw off across the river, and galled by the fire from the opposite side, he formed his men in a circle, according to some chroniclers, or in two lines, back to back, and fought on15 in the vain hope that Captain Edmunds, whose co-operation he had requested that morning, would come up from Providence, only eight miles distant, and relieve him. But it was Sunday, and while the messenger waited for Edmunds at the church door, not wishing to disturb the meeting,16 Pierse, cut off from all retreat, fell, and almost the whole of his command were killed or captured,17 nine of the latter, it is said, being led by a circuitous p192route to a swamp ever since known as "Nine Men's Misery," some miles to the north, where they were tortured and killed. Only eight whites and a few friendly Indians survived to tell the fate of the party and relate their own marvelous achievements.
The loss of the Indians, set by both Hubbard and Mather at one hundred and forty slain, is palpably an exaggeration, for, taking the wounded at the conservative figure of two wounded to one killed, the Indian casualties would have reached four hundred and twenty, or six times the total number of Peirse's party, who, drawn into an ambuscade and exposed to a flanking fire, were at a most fatal disadvantage. Their losses were probably considerable, however, as Tom Nepanet, a Christian Indian, employed by Massachusetts in negotiations with the Indians, in April, reported that in the fight they had lost many score. The high figures claimed must be regarded merely as a customary measure of consolation. Two days after the destruction of Captain Peirse the victorious Indians descended upon and burned Seekonk.18
On the same day, a party of settlers and soldiers under Captain Whipple, sixteen or eighteen men, and a number of women and children from Longmeadow, journeying to Springfield on their way to church, were attacked.19 p193John Keep20 and a maid, riding in the rear, were killed, and Sarah Keep with another woman and two children captured. Thrown into a panic the settlers and their guard, who far outnumbered their assailants, fled with the other women and children to Springfield, "a matter of great shame and humbling to us," wrote the Council on receipt of the news.
Soldiers and settlers, under Major Pynchon, hurried to the scene of the attack and the next day overtook the Indians who struck down the women and children and escaped into a swamp where the miry ground forbade pursuit. Sarah Keep died from her injuries, but the other woman survived and gave considerable information. Their captors, she said, were Springfield Indians, who, until their pursuers came up had treated them kindly. They told her two Dutch traders, named Jacob and Jarrard, had supplied them with four bushels of powder; that there were three hundred Indians at Deerfield, three hundred above that place (probably at Turners Falls), and three hundred at Northfield; that Frenchmen had been among them and there had been a quarrel with the Mohawks, but peace was now made again.21
As early as the 14th of March, the Council of Massachusetts, alarmed by the activity of the Indians in the east, had set out to do the very thing the Indians expected p194of them, writing Savage that they deemed it wise, on account of the appearance of the Indians on the frontier towns the day before, to retain one hundred and fifty men whom they had intended to send him.22 A few days later they advised him to withdraw his command from the valley, abandoning all the towns but Hadley and Springfield. "The lesser towns must gather to the greater," they wrote, "for unless they come together and well fortify the large towns all will be lost, the enemy being so many in these parts (the eastern townships) that the army must remove from the (valley)."23
Both these letters reached Savage on the same day, March 26th, but the settlers refused to abandon their goods and houses to destruction and Savage did not accept the advice proffered him.
Compelled to break up his force in order to guard the towns, deprived of expected reinforcements, and weakened by the withdrawal of Major Treat, who, recalled by Connecticut to co-operate with the forces operating in the Narragansett country,24 had been retained at Hartford on the burning of Simsbury, Savage felt himself powerless to assume the offensive. A more resolute and capable commander would have marched with the greater part of his troops against their villages, but Savage was cautious and held his men to the towns, while war parties roamed at will throughout the length of the valley, watching p195their opportunities to surprise and attack the settlers who should attempt to break ground for the spring plowing, and constantly seizing cattle and sheep to supply their wants, which, Mrs. Rowlandson records, were so pressing that "many times they would eat that that a hog or dog would hardly touch."
In the meantime, the Connecticut Council was engaged in a spirited correspondence, far from creditable to either party, with Governor Andros of New York, for the purpose of securing the co-operation of the Mohawks. They owed him more than they ever gave him credit for, but the art of conciliatory expression and tactfulness was as wanting in one as in the other, and the pious expressions and constant accusations and advice of the Council kept the irascible soldier in constant ill-temper.
In reply to their request that he should induce the Mohawks to help them by attacking the valley tribes, he asked whether they would provide these savage allies with food and receive them in their own towns. Their reply implied a suspicion that the Mohawks, if once in the field, would strike at the Mohegans as readily as at the hostiles, and their request for permission to send their own representatives to confer with the Mohawks aroused Andros' wrath as an impertinent interference in the affairs of his governorship. He did not intend to have the war spread in his own province if he could help it, and told them that they seemed as ignorant in respect to the Mohawks as they did in regard to their own Indians.25
The Mohawks were of considerable assistance to them, however, for the fear of their hostility hung heavily upon p196the valley tribes, and in March or April their war parties attacked the New England Indians who were encamped near the Hudson, and drove them westward.
The Connecticut Council entered into negotiations with the Indians above Deerfield, declaring in a letter to Pessacus, the Narragansett, and the chiefs of the valley tribes, that they had done them no injury but had been obliged, by treaty, to succor Massachusetts and Plymouth, and if the Indians could show that any of them had been wronged they would endeavor to have that wrong righted. They had some Indian captives and were willing to exchange prisoners, and if the sachems desired to negotiate a treaty they should have liberty to come and go without molestation.26
The Narragansett sachems, Pessacus and Pumham, were among the valley Indians exhorting the young men to defiance, and even those most inclined to peace were probably suspicious that the object of the negotiations was not so much to establish peace as to secure the release of the captives. Their answers were, therefore, unsatisfactory; they accepted nothing; they proposed nothing.
The expectations of the war party, from the plans formed early in March, seemed near to fulfillment, and, in connection with the belief that these negotiations had been opened for the purpose of securing the release of the English captives, and that the English were discouraged, utterly discredited the little influence possessed by the older sachems who hoped for peace. Among the Wampanoags and the Narragansetts there was no desire for p197peace. Philip had never wavered from his determination of war to the death. He knew, that for him at least, there was no mercy. Canonchet, too, was firm, and would have no peace such as the English would give.
1 Rev. John Russell to Governor Leverett. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 163.
2 Mather's Prevalency of Prayer, page 265.
5 Plymouth Records, Vol. V, page 205.
6 Old Indian Chronicle (Present State of New England), page 220.
7 Connecticut Records (Letter from Governor and Council of Massachusetts, quoted), Vol. II, page 433.
8 The plantation of Simsbury was spread out over a distance of about seven miles in length, and lay on both sides of the Tunxis (Farmington) River, an unfordable stream of considerable width, and contained about forty houses.
9 An Indian named Menowniet was taken near Farmington about the 12th of August, 1676. He said he was "halfe a Moheag and halfe a Narragansett." That he was engaged in hunting, but had taken part in the several engagements in the Connecticut Valley. He was examined by the Council. In reply to the question, "Who killed Henry Denslow?" he said, "Wequash, Weawwosse, Whowassamoh, Pawwawwoise and Mawcahwat, Sanchamoise and Wesoncketichen, and these were those that burnt Simsbury." — Connecticut Records, Vol. II, page 472. Three of these were Springfield Indians, the rest were of other tribes. Philip's cave and Philip's mountain is undoubtedly a corruption of the name of the contemporary owner, "Phelps."
10 Marlboro was built very "scatteringly," and the original town covered a wide territory. By separating into small companies it was possible for the enemy to compass and destroy the town dwellings without much hindrance from the garrisons. The meetinghouse stood near the center of the present city on what are now the high-school grounds and immediately in front of that building. The town held a prominent place in Philip's war by reason of its being used almost constantly as a military garrison. There were at least four garrison houses in the town, two of them within the limits of what is now the town of Westboro, one situated about two miles west from the center, on the present boundary line separating Marlboro from Northboro, and the remaining one was located on what is now Hayden Avenue, on land known as "the Daniel Hayden farm," scarcely more than a quarter of a mile from the site of the old meetinghouse. It was probably to this that the people fled when driven from the meetinghouse by the attack of March 26, 1676.
11 Rev. William Brinsmead was bred at Harvard College but left before graduation. He preached 1660‑65, at Plymouth, and thence went to the new town of Marlboro, where he was ordained October 3, 1666. He never married and died July 3, 1701. — Savage.
12 Massachusetts Council to Major Savage, April 1. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 191.
13 Captain Michael Peirse was of Scituate and has a record of usefulness in public affairs. He served in the Narragansett fight in December, 1675, and fell in the fierce battle on the Pawtucket River, March 26, 1676. See Deane's History of Scituate, page 325.
14 Mr. Welcome Arnold Greene of Providence, has located the scene of Peirse's fight at a point a few rods west of the railroad bridge across the Pawtucket River, just north of Central Falls, R. I. Peirse proceeding from Seekonk marched a few miles in a northwesterly direction, and crossed the river at a wading place diagonally under the present bridge. His stand was made on the west bank of the river within a few rods of the water. This spot is now in the street between two manufacturing buildings. Mr. Green remembers the spot before it had been touched by the hand of improvement.
15 Deane's History of Scituate, page 121.
16 Backus Hist. of New Eng., Vol. I, page 423.
17 Letter of Rev. Mr. Newman to Rev. John Cotton. Deane's Scituate, page 122. The original is in possession of the Antiquarian Society of Worcester, Mass. Council to Major Savage, April 1. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 192.
18 This town was built in a semi-circular form around what is now Seekonk Common, with the meetinghouse in the center. This circle is alluded to in the records as "The Ring of the Town." The garrison house which stood on the southerly side of the Common, and one other, were the only dwellings not destroyed.
19 It is commonly believed that the attack on the Longmeadow people was made at the point where the path crossed Pecowsic Brook, now in Forest Park at the southern end of Springfield.
20 John Keep was of Springfield, 1660, living in that part of the town now Longmeadow. He was freeman 1669. His wife Sarah, was the daughter of John Leonard. — Keep Genealogy.
21 Major Savage to the Governor and Council of Massachusetts, March 28. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 189.
22 Council of Massachusetts to Major Savage, March 14. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 166.
23 Council of Massachusetts to Major Savage, March 20. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 166.
24 Connecticut Records (Journal of the Council of War), Vol. II, page 423.
25 Connecticut Records (Journal of the Council of War, February to August, 1676), Vol. II, page 404.
26 Connecticut Records (Journal of the Council of War), Vol. II, pages 425, 439.
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