Immediately after the attack on Northampton, a considerable force of Narragansetts had left the valley for the Indian rendezvous at Wachusett Hill, from whence Canonchet almost immediately set forth with a picked band of warriors, toward his own territory.
Here, in the midst of the unknown land, was a secure base of operations within easy distance of both the valley towns and frontier of the Bay settlements. Here, if the worst came to the worst, they could seek a refuge among the Pennacooks and Tarratines in the wilderness to the north.
The attack on Northampton had failed, yet the whites were idle in the valley; along the eastern frontier the tribes had left a swath of blood and fire from Groton to Warwick. They derided the slowness and dullness of the English, and asked Mrs. Rowlandson when they should come after them. "I could not tell," said she. "It may be they will come in May,"1 they said with fine irony.
But if the English in the valley could not move they would, and, April 1st, a party of them, encompassing a small body of Hadley settlers as they made their way under escort to the meadows at Hockanum, •three miles south of Hadley, killed Deacon Goodman2 as he was p199examining his boundary fence, and two guards who had set out to make an ascent of Mount Holyoke; a third, Thomas Reed3 (of whom we shall hear more hereafter), was captured.
The burning of Providence, Rehoboth (Seekonk), Marlboro and Simsbury, the practical annihilation of Peirse's force, and the serious condition of affairs in Maine, had so intensified the alarm and terror in the eastern towns that the Council of Massachusetts wrote to Major Savage, April 1st, ordering his immediate return. They noted his advice as to the unwillingness of the settlers to concentrate for defense, and the peril to which the towns would be exposed by the withdrawal of the army. They would allow him to leave one hundred and fifty men, all single, under Captain Turner, to protect the valley, "but we explicitly command you to draw homeward with the remainder and endeavor on your return to visit the enemy about Wachusett and be careful not to be deceived by their lapwing strategems by drawing you off from the nest to follow some men."4 He was at liberty before his return, to attack the Indians at Deerfield if Major Treat returned in time.
Treat did not return, and on the 7th of April, despite the protests of the valley towns, leaving Captain Turner with a nondescript force of one hundred and fifty men, with headquarters at Hadley, he started homeward. On reaching p200Quabaug, a council of war was held as to the advisability of a dash and attack on Wachusett as ordered by the Council, but though the chaplain, the Reverend Samuel Nowell,5 voted in the affirmative, Captains Moseley, Gillam, Whipple, and Lieutenant Drinker6 decided against the plan on account of the scarcity of provisions,7 and Savage continued his journey homeward.
With the departure of Major Savage and his army vanished every prospect for the negotiation of a peace opened by the overtures of Connecticut. The Indians up the valley saw with delight the opportunity for planting their crops and catching fish without molestation. Their joy was short-lived, for Savage had not reached Boston when there came the news that Canonchet had fallen into the hands of the English and was dead.
On the 30th of March, Major Palmes8 of Connecticut, p201in charge of the forces operating toward the Narragansett country, had sent from Norwich some seventy-nine soldiers, under the command of Captains George Denison,9 James Avery10 and John Stanton,11 accompanied by a mixed force of Niantics, Pequots and Mohegans, the latter under Uncas' son, Oneko. Passing through the Narragansett country they reached the Pawtucket on the 3d p202of April, and fell in with a fat Indian, whom they slew, and two squaws, one of whom informed them that Canonchet was encamped near by. Pushing forward with all speed they came upon two Narragansett sentinels, on the crest of a small hill,12 who fled in panic down the further slope, past the place where Canonchet and a few of his men, were lying at ease. The English, following close at their heels, were almost upon the camp when another sentinel, rushing among the startled Narragansetts, called out that the English were upon them. Canonchet himself ran swiftly around the back of the hill to get out of sight on the opposite side, but, seeing the Niantics and Mohegans in close pursuit, he threw off his blanket, then his silver trimmed coat and the royal belt of wampum. Recognizing immediately from these articles that the fugitive "was the right bird" the friendly Indians and a few of the English followed with renewed zeal.
Forced by his pursuers toward the river, through which his only way to safety lay, he rushed into the stream, but his foot slipped, and falling heavily into the water he wet the priming of his gun. His pursuers were upon him before he could recover himself, and Monopoide, a Mohegan Pequot, seized him "within thirty rods of the river side."
Defenseless, and finding escape impossible, he faced p203his foes and yielded himself with dignity. A young man, Robert Stanton,13 the first of the whites to reach him, ventured to ask him a question. "Looking with a little neglect upon his youthful face" the sachem answered: "You much child, no understand matters of war. Let your brother or chief come, him I will answer."
Having put to the sword all the stoutest of their prisoners to the number of forty-three, the English set out with their prize for Stonington. Offering him his life if he could persuade his people to make peace, he indignantly refused and told them his death would not end the war.14
"The heir of all his father's pride and insolence and also of his malice toward the English." "A most perfidious villain," says Hubbard, "for he was as good as his word, acting herein as by a Pythagorean metamorphosis, some old Roman ghost had possessed the body of this western pagan, and like Attilius Regulusa he would accept his own life when it was tendered to him upon that (in his account) low compliance with the English, refusing to send an old councillor of his to make any motion that way, saying he knew they would not yield."
Charged, as the Old Chronicle tells us, with his breach of faith in making war, and twitted with his boast that he would "not give up a Wampanoag nor the paring of a Wampanoag's nail, but would burn the English alive in their houses," he replied that "Others were as forward p204for the war as himself and that he desired to hear no more thereof."15
Asked "why he did foment that war," he would make no other reply than this, "That he was born a prince, and if princes came to speak with him he would answer, but none present being such, he thought himself obliged in honor to hold his tongue."16 He told them he would rather die than remain a prisoner and requested that Oneko might put him to death as he was of equal rank.
The author of the Old Indian Chronicle tells us that the Mohegans "and most of the English soldiers, declaring to the commanders their fear that the English should, upon conditions, release him, and that then he would (though the English might have peace with him) be very pernicious to those Indians that now assisted us;" it was determined to put him to death.
When told his sentence was to die, he "liked it well that he should die before his heart was soft or he had spoken words unworthy of himself."17
They carried out the sentence at Anguilla, near Stonington, all the Indians being encouraged to inculpate themselves equally in his death and mutilation "the more firmly to engage the said Indians against the treacherous Narragansetts, whereby they are become most abominable to all the other Indians." The Pequots shot him; the Mohegans cut off his head and quartered his body, and the Niantics built a fire, burned his quarters sent his head to the Council at Hartford as a token of love and fidelity (acknowledged April 8th). "This was the p205confusion of a damned wretch that had often opened his mouth to blaspheme the name of the living God, and those that made profession thereof."18
So perished Canonchet, the most romantic figure that we know among the New England Indians; the unfortunate son of a most unfortunate father, both worthy of a kinder fate. Young and impetuous, he lacked the far-sighted craft and subtilty that distinguished Philip, but as a leader of men and a warrior, the younger man was the superior, and his death was a terrible blow to the Indian cause. His death was as honorable to him as its infliction and the shameful mutilation of his body was disgraceful to his enemies. Something of his lofty and dignified character seems to have impressed itself upon the grudging minds of his foes, but it called upon no corresponding chivalry of action.
Before the middle of the month, Philip, after a month spent with the valley tribes, left his quarters near Northfield, with his Wampanoags, and joined the bands of the Narragansetts and Nipmucks assembled at Wachusett Hill.
The death of Canonchet had left him, through the support of the Narragansetts, the chief figure of the war, and his removal to Wachusett was more for the purpose of directing operations against the Bay towns than through fear for his personal safety from the disaffection of the valley tribes, among whom Pessacus and Pumham, Narragansett sachems, friendly to his interests, still remained.
Like all leaders of a confederation ill organized and ill equipped among people so susceptible to sudden extremes, p206Philip's influence no doubt had its ups and downs, but it should be borne in mind that neither Hubbard nor Mather, who were the principal contemporary historians of the war, are safe guides either to Philip's character or his standing among the tribes.
Canonchet's death, as he had warned his captors, brought no overtures of peace from the Narragansetts. The blow they had suffered was not fully realized, nor was its effect immediately felt.
April 9th, a small party of the Wampanoags, probably under Tuspaquin,19 came upon Bridgewater, destroying a few houses and barns before they were driven off. The same day the Indians at Wachusett fell upon Billerica. On the 15th, fourteen houses were burnt at Chelmsford, where, on the 18th of the previous month, the two sons of Samuel Varnham had been killed and several houses destroyed. Two days later the remaining houses at Marlboro were given over to the flames. The next day but one the Indians applied the torch to Weymouth, and in Hingham20 young John Jacob, who had served against the Indians in the Narragansett Swamp fight, on going into the field back of his father's house to shoot deer that had been disturbing the crops, was shot and killed. Wrentham was raided the same month, its deserted houses were fired and only two dwellings, which sheltered victims of the smallpox, a disease greatly feared by the Indians, were left unmolested.
p207 From Casco Bay to Stonington the flames of burning buildings lit the sky; death lay in every bush. So great was the alarm that even towns as near to Boston as Cambridge applied and received permission from the court to erect stockades.
Philip's appearance at Wachusett was soon followed by one of the fiercest conflicts of the war. By the abandonment of Groton, Billerica, Lancaster and Marlboro, Sudbury had become the frontier town of the Bay settlements. Situated, with the exception of a few houses, on the east bank of the Sudbury River it was a point of considerable importance, since from it as a center, the roads radiated to the settlements, east, south and west.21
Small parties of soldiers with supplies were continually passing through it on the way to and from the valley, finding shelter along the way at night in the military garrisons maintained at Marlboro and Quabaug.
The concentration of the Indians at Wachusett was known early in the month, and among the force ordered out was that of Captain Wadsworth, who was dispatched by the Council with a company of foot to relieve the garrison at Marlboro. As was the case too often in the latter part of the conflict, the full force assigned to him could not be collected.22 Many of those impressed failed to appear and he began his march with only seventy troops, many of them boys.
The advance parties of the warriors were already in the woods about Sudbury when Wadsworth, in the evening of the 20th of April, passed through the town unmindful p208of the large number of Indians near by, for during the day, some of the Sudbury settlers had been fired upon and a house or two upon the distant outskirts had been burned, a warning sufficient to drive the settlers into the garrison. It was believed, however, that this was the work of only a small party, and Wadsworth, ignorant that over five hundred warriors, Philip probably among them, were lying in wait to fall upon the town, continued on to Marlboro, his destination, which he reached about midnight.
Knowing well the layout of the town the Indians crept upon it before the dawn of the 21st and many of the houses, whose occupants had sought refuge in the garrisons, were in flames before the settlers knew the town was in danger.
Near the west bank of the Sudbury River was a small isolated garrison, known as the Deacon Haynes house,23 well fortified but badly situated. It was at this point that their first efforts, continuing from dawn to noon, were directed. The attack, however, was not vigorously pressed, being probably in the nature of a feint, and the garrison even made several successful sallies.
Captain Edward Cowell24 marching by the north road from Quabaug to Boston, with eighteen troopers, had reached the outskirts of the town early in the morning, p209when the sound of intermittent firing and the appearance of small bodies of Indians at different points warned him of the danger. Keeping his men well in hand he abandoned the main road and set out by a circuitous route to approach it from another direction.
An ambush had evidently been prepared for him and the Indians hung upon his flanks and rear, firing on his men and endeavoring to bring on a decisive action. Cowell wisely refused to commit himself to battle, but ordered his men to hold their fire and keep the Indians at a distance by constantly raising their guns as if about to shoot. By skillful maneuvering he was able to reach Sudbury with the loss of only four men who, lagging behind, had been cut off.
The news of the attack on Sudbury was soon known in Boston, Watertown and Concord. A small party of eleven men from the latter town, coming down the west bank of the river, were the first to arrive, and the occupants of Haynes' garrison saw them lured into an ambuscade in the river meadows where a large body of the enemy lying hidden in the grass rose up and closed in upon them, massacring all but one of their number.
Soon after, Captain Hugh Mason,25 with a company from Watertown, reached the east bank of the river, then in flood, drove the Indians out of the village and passed over the bridge to the west bank, attracted by the sound p210of heavy firing from Green Hill. In vain Mason and his men endeavored to force their way toward the hill which lay not far away, but the Indians held them sternly at bay, and, beginning to circle around their flanks, compelled them to retreat to Captain Goodnow's garrison.26 All the afternoon the sound of firing at Green Hill continued, gradually growing fainter and dying down with the sun, and there was foreboding among all that some great disaster had taken place.
In the evening the worst was confirmed. Captain Wadsworth had learned, soon after his already at Marlboro, of the storm gathering in the rear. Leaving the least efficient of his command in garrison, and taking with him Captain Brocklebank and the troops who had been relieved, he marched back without delay. He was expected. As he neared Sudbury by the south road, a few warriors appearing across the path ahead amid the trees, fled before him toward Green Hill. Experienced soldier though he was he believed that the main body of the foe had been seized with a panic on his approach, and, leaving the road, in eager pursuit rushed into the woods. The flitting of dusky forms and the roar of musketry from all sides soon undeceived him. The troops rallied and fought their way to the crest of the hill and, sheltering themselves behind the trees and rocks, held their own until the evening fell. Then the Indians fired the bushes and grass to windward, and as Wadsworth's weary men fell back in the dusk, blinded by the smoke, and their p211nerves shaken by the loss of many of their comrades, a panic seized them, the Indians closed in, there was a brief hand to hand conflict, and all was over.
Scene of the Sudbury Fight
The monument in memory of Wadsworth and his men
Few details of the death struggle of Wadsworth27 and his men have come down to us, but, wrote the author of the Old Indian Chronicle, "I am creditably informed, that in that Fight an elderly Englishman endeavoring an escape from the Indians by running into a swamp, was overtaken by an Indian, and, being destitute of weapons to defend himself, the Indian insulted over him with the Blasphemous Expression, 'Come, Lord Jesus, save this poor Englishman if thou canst, whom I am about to kill.' This (I even tremble to relate it) was heard by another Englishman hiding in a bush close by. Our Patient, Long-suffering Lord permitted that Bloody Wretch to knock him down and leave him dead."
Thirteen or fourteen of the fifty escaped to Noyes' stone mill,28 a quarter of a mile away, barricaded the doors and windows and waited with anxious hearts for attack or rescue.
p212 Captain Mason, reinforced in the meantime by Cowell and small parties from the nearby towns, had repelled successfully and with some loss the Indians opposed to him. The night was coming on, the firing from Green Hill had died away, and as the Indians withdrew in the gathering darkness, Mason assumed the offensive and set out to Noyes' mill.
No people were dwelling there but the mill was known to be easy of defense, and, lying as it did, in the near vicinity of Green Hill, it was believed that if any of Wadsworth's men escaped they would find refuge there.
Late that night they reached it without opposition and found that the survivors of Wadsworth's party29 had already been rescued by Captain Hunting30 with a company of Indian scouts and a body of Prentice's horse. This force had been on the eve of setting out from Charlestown to establish a fort at the fishing grounds on the Merrimac, but when the news of the attack on Sudbury became known, Major Gookin, in charge of the party, dispatched them immediately to the scene, and on reaching the mill they were soon joined by Cowell and his command.31
p213 Early on the following morning Captain Mason found and buried the bodies of the Concord men slain in the river meadow, and the united forces, confident in their numbers, soon after marched to Green Hill, where they gathered and buried the stripped bodies of Wadsworth, Brocklebank, and twenty-seven others of the ill-fated company. In the thickets, doubtless, there remained undiscovered the bodies of several others killed in their flight to the mill.
A few of the whites, probably of the Concord men, since of the eleven believed to have been slain the bodies of only five had been found, were taken prisoners and were said to have been put to the torture.
The Indians, after annihilating Wadsworth's force, drew off to the westward, and Lieutenant Jacob, in command of the garrison at Marlboro, saw them the next morning, two hours after sunrise, firing their guns, shouting "seventy-four times to signify to us how many were slain," and, after firing the remaining houses and seizing all the cattle, they departed.32
The loss of the Indians is not known. Gookin says that four dead Indians were found hidden in the brush but their losses were undoubtedly considerably greater. They boasted of their victory to Mrs. Rowlandson and one of them told her he had killed two Englishmen whose clothes were behind her. "I looked behind me and then I saw the bloody clothes behind me with bullet holes in them." They seemed very pensive after they came to their quarters, showing no such signs of rejoicing as they were usually wont to do in like cases, "but I could not p214perceive that it was from their own loss of men as I missed none except from one wigwam."
The appearance of Captain Hunting's force of Indian scouts on this occasion, was an event of great significance. The representations of Eliot, Gookin, Savage, Henchman and Prentice, strengthened by the example of Connecticut, had at last prevailed,33 and their enlistment by the direct order of Governor Leverett and the Council marked a radical departure from the suspicious attitude so long maintained toward the friendly Indians and which had occasioned so many injustices and injuries. It meant that the lesson of Indian warfare had at last been grasped. The days of disastrous ambuscades had come to an end and their employment contributed not a little to the sudden collapse of the Indian resistance that soon followed.
1 Mrs. Rowlandson's Narrative.
2 Deacon Richard Goodman was of Cambridge in 1632. He removed early to Hartford, and went with others to the founding of Hadley.
3 The writer believes this Thomas Reed to have been the son of Thomas of Sudbury, and that one who married, May 30, 1677, Mary, daughter of John Goodrich of Wethersfield. Both families came from Levenham in England. Thomas Reed served under the immediate command of Captain Gillam.
4 Council of Massachusetts to Major Savage. — Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 192.
5 Rev. Samuel Nowell of Charlestown was a chaplain in Philip's war, both on Connecticut River and in the Narragansett campaign. He was freeman 1677; assistant 1680, and October, 1685, was chosen treasurer of the colony, but was relieved the next year. He died in London in November, 1688. Mather says of him, "At this fight (Narragansett) there was no person more like a true son of 'Abraham in arms,' or that with more courage and hazard fought in the midst of a shower of bullets from the surrounding savages." — Mather's Magnalia, Book VII, chapter 6.
6 Lieutenant Edward Drinker of Charlestown was a potter, and constable in 1652. He removed to Boston and was one of the founders of the first Baptist church. A lieutenant in Captain Turner's company, though at first refused a command by the bigoted government of the day. He preached in 1678 in Boston, and died in 1700. — Savage.
7 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 235.
8 Major Edward Palmes was of New Haven in 1659. A merchant. He removed in 1660 to New London and married Lucy, daughter of Governor John Winthrop. He was representative 1671 and 1674 and 1677, and major in Philip's war. He was named in the royal commission, 1683, to adjust claims in the King's Province, or Narragansett country. He died March 21, 1715. — Savage.
9 Captain George Denison came from England in the Lion at thirteen years of age. Lived with his father at Roxbury, and in 1649 moved with his family to the Pequot settlement, now New London, Conn., but in 1654 settled at Stonington. He was early a military leader and from 1671 to 1694 represented Stonington. He held a commission as captain and participated in the Narragansett Swamp fight, and later was associated with Captain James Avery in a series of forays against the Indians in Philip's war. He also served under Major Talcott in the expedition up the Connecticut Valley at the time of the termination of the troubles in that section. He died at Hartford, October 23, 1694. See Descendants of George Denison, by John D. Baldwin and William Clift, page 297.
10 Captain James Avery, born in England about 1620, came to America with his father and lived at Gloucester, but removed to New London in 1651. In 1656 he built a house at the head of Poquonnock Plain in Groton, where he passed the remainder of his life. This house remained standing until within a few years, when it was destroyed by fire caused by a spark from a passing locomotive. Its site is commemorated by a handsome monument. He was much interested in military affairs and became a captain in the militia. At the Narragansett Swamp fight the Pequot allies were commanded by Captain Avery, and he was prominent in the subsequent forays into the Indian territory which occurred in the latter part of Philip's war. In civil life he served many years as representative to the General Court and as a judge upon the bench. He died April 18, 1700. See The Averys of Groton, by H. D. L. Sweet.
11 Captain John Stanton of Stonington was sent to Harvard College at the desire of the Connecticut authorities, that he might be educated for an Indian teacher and interpreter. He was made freeman in 1666. A captain in Philip's war and much employed in everything relating to the Indians. — Savage.
12 This hill is recognized by some as the "Study Hill" of William Blackstone in Lonsdale, R. I. There is no vestige of it now remaining, it having been leveled for the purpose of filling and grading the railroad yards.
13 Robert Stanton, son of Thomas of Stonington, "was" says Savage, "that youthful soldier, 1676, to which the Indian captive, Prince Nauunteno made reproachful answer, as Hubbard tells." He died October 25, 1724, aged seventy.
14 Hubbard, Vol. II, page 59.
15 Hubbard, Vol. II, page 60.
16 Old Indian Chronicle (Present State of New England), page 231.
17 Hubbard, Vol. II, page 60.
18 Hubbard, Vol. II, page 60.
19 Tuspaquin, sachem of Assowamset, was one of Philip's most faithful captains and very active in the war, doing much mischief in the Plymouth colony.
20 An old fort on Cemetery Hill in Hingham, built for defense in those days, is still preserved.
21 The eastern part of Sudbury, now the town of Wayland, was originally known as "The five paths."
22 Massachusetts Colony Records, Vol. V, page 78.
23 The Haynes garrison stood on the "Water-Row Road" by the margin of the river meadow. It was about one-eighth of a mile northerly from the Wayland and Sudbury Center highway, two or three rods from the road, and fronted south. It was standing in 1876 but has since been demolished.
24 Captain Edward Cowell was of Boston in 1645, and was a cordwainer. He served as captain in King Philip's war, and died September 12, 1691. — Savage.
25 Captain Hugh Mason was one of the first settlers of Watertown. He was admitted freeman March 4, 1634/35. He was a tanner by trade, selectman of the town twenty-nine years, representative to the court ten years. He was a commissioner to determine small causes, or what would now be a justice of the peace. He was commissioned as captain May 5, 1652, and died October 10, 1678, aged 73. See Bond's Genealogies and History of Watertown, page 356.
26 The Goodnow garrison stood a few rods northeast of the East Sudbury R. R. station, and perhaps twenty or thirty rods from the South Sudbury and Wayland highway. This house was standing •about ninety years ago.
27 Captain Samuel Wadsworth came with his father to Duxbury and about 1656 removed to Milton. In December, 1675, Captain Wadsworth, with his company, took part in the "hungry march" from Narragansett to Marlboro. He was of service in dispersing the enemy at Lancaster, but is better known by his brave but fruitless efforts at defense at Sudbury, where, with the greater part of his command, he was killed April 21, 1676. A monument erected by the State of Massachusetts and the town of Sudbury, stands upon the burial place of Wadsworth and his men at the foot of the battlefield. See Bodge, page 218.
28 The stone mill was located at what is now South Sudbury village, on the site of the present Parmenter mill. The distance from the top of Green Hill is from a quarter to half a mile. This mill was erected in 1659 by Thomas and Peter Noyes. In 1699 the mill property was given to the town by Mr. Peter Noyes for the benefit of the poor.
29 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 224. Petition of Daniel Warren and Joseph Pierce.
30 Captain Samuel Hunting was born at Dedham, July 22, 1640. He settled first at Chelmsford and later at Charlestown. He commanded a company of friendly Indians during Philip's war; did good service at Sudbury and this fact aided greatly to abate the hostility felt by Massachusetts toward Indian allies. In the summer of 1676 this company destroyed or captured a very large number of the enemy and performed most effective work in the closing operations of the war. He was killed by the accidental discharge of his gun, August 19, 1701. — Bodge, page 289.
31 Gookin's Christian Indians. American Antiquarian Society Coll., Vol. II, page 512.
32 Lieutenant Jacobs to Governor and Council. Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 223.
33 Massachusetts Colony Records, Vol. V, pages 85, 92.
a Marcus Atilius Regulus (Atilius is the usual spelling) was a Roman general captured by the Carthaginians, sent by the latter back to Rome in 250 B.C. to persuade the Roman senate to make peace — on the condition that he pledge to return to Carthage if they did not. He pledged, went to Rome, and used his energies to persuade the Senate, on the contrary, to continue the war. He then honored his pledge and returned to Carthage, knowing that he would most likely be put to death there, as indeed he was. The story is an often quoted example of Roman rectitude and courage; see Dion Cassius (XI.43.26), Livy (Periochae, XVII.7) and Gellius (VII.4).
Images with borders lead to more information.
King Philip's War
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 1 Jan 09