Following the lead of Connecticut the Council of Massachusetts, urged by Reverend Mr. Rowlandson and Major Gookin, had, on the 3d of April, sent Tom Nepanet,1 a Christian Indian, with a letter to Philip, Sagamore Sam and others, expressing the hope that terms of peace might be arranged, but more specifically, for the purpose of reclaiming the considerable number of captives that had fallen into their hands.2 On the 12th, the messenger returned with their reply.3
"We now give answer by this one man, but if you like my answer send one more man besides this one, Tom Nepanet, and send with all true heart and while your mind, by two men, because you and we know your heart great sorrowful with crying for your lost many, many hundred men, all your house and all your land, and women, child, and cattle, and all your thing that you have lost and on your back side stand.
p216 (Then follow messages to individuals.)
"Mr. Rowlandson. — Your wife and all your child is well, but one child dye. Your sister is well and her three child."
"John Kettell. — Your wife and all your child is all well, and them prisoners taken at Nashaway is all well."
"Mr. Rowlandson. — Se your loving sister his hand. C. Hanah, and old Kettle wif his hand. X."
"Bro. Rowlandson — Please send thre pounds Tobacco for me, and if you can, my loving husband, pray send thre pound of tobacco for me.
"This writing by your enemies,
"Samuel Uskattnhgun, and
"Gunrashit, two Indian Sagamores."4
While Nepanet was journeying to Boston, Mrs. Rowlandson was on her way with Philip and his warriors from the Connecticut River to Wachusett. They had forded Miller's River,º when an Indian came up to them saying she must go to Wachusett to her master as there was a letter come from the Council to the Sagamores about redeeming the captives, and that there would be another in fourteen days. "After many weary days" she writes, "I saw Wachusett Hill, but many miles off . . . going along having indeed my life, but little spirit, Philip came up and took my hand, and said, two weeks more and you shall be mistress again. I asked him if he spoke true? Yes, and quickly you shall come to your master again. . . . And after many weary days we came to Wachusett, and glad I was to see him."5
p217 A few days later, Nepanet, accompanied by Peter Conway, another friendly Indian, arrived with a second letter from the Council, and a conference was held to which Mrs. Rowlandson was bid.
They bade her stand up and told her they were the General Court, and asked her what she thought her husband would give. She told them "twenty pounds," and the Christian Indians set out for Boston with the tentative offer from the Indians to ransom her for that sum, and expressing themselves sorry for the wrong done and that when the quarrel began with the Plymouth men they did not think there would be so much trouble.
On the 2d of May, in the early Sunday morning, they returned to Wachusett Hill accompanied by John Hoar.6 The Indians treated him with rude horseplay, firing over and under his horse, and pushed him about.
After a conference, at which Mrs. Rowlandson's release was agreed upon, Hoar asked the sagamores to dinner, but "when we went to get it ready we found they had stolen the greater part of the provisions Mr. Hoar p218had brought with him, and we may see the wonderful Providence of God in that one passage in that when there was such a number of them together and all so greedy for a little good food . . . that they did not knock us on the head and take what we had, but instead of doing us any mischief they seemed to be ashamed of the fact and said it was the bad Indians that did it."7
Negotiations for the release of other captives, and for peace, still continued after her release, and on the 5th of May we find the Council again writing to the sachems, Philip, John, Sam, etc., "Received your letter by John Hoar sent up with John and Peter," and they expressed their disappointment that no answer was returned as to the terms upon which they would release all the prisoners. "You desire not to be hindered by our men in your planting, promising not to do damage to our towns. This is a great matter and cannot be ended by the letters without speaking with one another." "If you will send us home all the English prisoners it will be a true testimony of a pure heart in you for peace;" and they promised that if the councilors and sachems would come to Boston, Concord or Sudbury, the Council would speak to them about their desires and they should safely come and go.8 Further correspondence9 was carried on. John Hoar, Seth Perry, Reverend Mr. Rowlandson, Peter Gardiner,10 p219Jonathan Prescott11 and others acting as intermediaries.
There is no doubt but that, while the main object was to secure the release of the captives, the authorities would gladly at this time have made peace and held in abeyance the active prosecution of the war. The first object was finally accomplished and almost all the captives returned to their homes.12 The negotiations as to peace failed utterly. What reason held the Indians aloof it is difficult to judge, for the suffering among them from the lack of food was now great, and their ammunition scarce.
It may be that they prolonged the negotiations for the sole purpose of gaining time, or from the belief that the English would pay but scant regard to the terms of any treaty, or that they relied on their own supplies from the crops planted in the valley and the opening of the fishing season, to achieve success. Possibly Philip was obstinate and the Narragansetts eager to revenge the death of Canonchet; all is conjectural.
It was commonly believed at the time, that these negotiations and the release of the captives occasioned strained relations between Philip and the Narragansetts, on the one hand, and the Nipmuck tribes on the other.
Sam may have believed it would make for peace and more lenient terms for his own people if the worst came to pass, while Philip, with better judgment, declared that they would make better terms for their own people by retaining the English captives as hostages.
Sagamore Sam's family, like Philip's, was captured and sold into slavery and Sagamore Sam was hanged, his release of the captives serving him not a whit.
The negotiations into which both Connecticut and Massachusetts had entered, led to a policy of inaction, and, save for movements of convoys and reliefs, and the sending out of a force under Henchman, Brattle and Prentice, toward Mendon and Seekonk, the month of April and the early weeks of May were unmarked by any active organization of forces or aggressive movements on a large scale, an inactivity, however, which, when considered in relation to the Sudbury disaster is not without suspicion that the authorities, in view of the constant ambuscade and lack of success, were at their wits' end. Yet among the Indians, also, many were wavering, and some who had been actively hostile were already in communication with the English and professing friendship. "Tell James the Printer and others, to bring in the heads of Indians as a proof of this fidelity," wrote the Council to Major Gookin.13
While, throughout New England, the English held their hands during these negotiations, the Indians continued their attacks and depredations without cessation.
p221 April 26th, while John Woodcock,14 with his sons and several laborers were at work in a cornfield near Woodcock's garrison house,15 a party of Indians concealed in a wooded swamp near the edge of the field fired upon them, killing Nathaniel Woodcock and one of the laborers and wounding John Woodcock and the other son.
Fleeing to the garrison the survivors barred the doors, and though the inmates of the house were but few, they succeeded in driving off the enemy after they had burned a nearby house.
On the 2d of May, Ephraim Kingsbury, a young unmarried man, was killed at Haverhill, and the same day the house of Mr. Kimball16 at Bradford was burned, Kimball himself being killed and his wife and children carried away into captivity.17
It was to the south, within the confines of Plymouth colony, however, that the war parties were the most active. There, on May 8th, Tuspaquin and his band, to whom much of the mischief done in that region may be ascribed, fell upon Bridgewater, but the settlers, forewarned p222of the coming attack, were found prepared, and the marauders were driven off; not, however, until they had burned thirteen dwelling houses. Three days later a party of warriors assaulted Halifax, an outlying part of Plymouth town, and destroyed some eleven houses and five barns, but the inhabitants, aroused by the sudden alarm, precipitately fled and reached a haven of safety. The Indians still continued in the neighborhood and a few days later returned, burning seven more houses and two barns. About the same time the remaining houses of Middleboro, then Nemasket, were destroyed.
May 20th, the Indians came into Scituate from the north, first burning the mill of Cornet Robert Stetson,18 on the Third Herring Brook, about a mile north of the present village of Hanover Four Corners. They avoided the garrison of Joseph Barstow, and followed the general course of the North River into South Scituate (Norwell). They attacked the blockhouse located on the bank of the river, but were repulsed. Marching on they reached the garrison at Charles Stockbridge's19 where a large force of the townsmen were assembled, and after a desperate fight, were driven off and no more seen in the town.
Site of the Block-House, Scituate, Massachusetts
With the exception of several small forces from Connecticut, p223who were constantly beating up the Narragansett country, and in Plymouth, where, as it has been seen, the Indians, divided into numerous parties, were occasioning widespread ruin, little was accomplished by the English during April and the early part of May.
Captain Denison of Connecticut returned to New London after an expedition into the Narragansett country, and reported that he had killed seventy-six hostiles,20 but in general the inclement weather, the rough roads deep with mud, and considerable sickness, combined with the hope that peace might result from the negotiations, held the troops to the garrisons.
Only in the southeast, between Medfield and Providence, was there any considerable force of English engaged in active operations, whither on April 27th, the Council of Massachusetts had dispatched a considerable force under Henchman, consisting of three companies of foot commanded by Captains Sill, Cutler21 and Holbrook,22 and an equal number of horse under Brattle, Henchman and Prentice.
p224 On May 5th, near Mendon, the Natick Indian scouts accompanying the force came suddenly on a large party of Indians engaged in a bear hunt. The English horse immediately pushed forward, and, rushing openly the excited hunters while still intent upon the chase, killed and captured sixteen of them.23
At night the troops returned to their quarters at Medfield, "from whence they saw two hundred fires in the night, yet they could not afterwards come upon the Indians" who kept carefully out of their way, and the whole force soon after being "visited by an epidemical cold, at that time prevailing throughout the country," were (May 10th) temporarily disbanded.
By the middle of May it had become evident that negotiations for a general peace had accomplished nothing, and in the Bay towns and in the Connecticut valley, public opinion was beginning to press for aggressive operations. In the valley of the Connecticut, particularly, the troops and settlers were becoming restive under repeated and annoying attacks by small parties of Indians from the upper valley, whose constant presence around the towns prevented the planting of the crops and whose frequent seizures of cattle threatened the settlers with scarcity of food.
Captain Turner, left by Savage in command of the valley, had divided his meager force and lay, himself, with fifty-one men, at Hadley. Nine had been sent to Springfield, and at Northampton were forty-six. Many of his command were mere lads, and the whole force was so ill-armed and ill-equipped that Turner wrote to p225the Council of Massachusetts (April 25th) complaining of the great distress from want of proper clothing. He himself, he declared, was weak and sickly, but he left it for their consideration whether he should be continued in command or another, more able-bodied, be appointed to succeed him.24
As the spring came on public opinion in the valley became more and more urgent for an attack upon the encampment at Peskeompskut (Turners Falls), but the Connecticut Council of War still believed in the possibility of a successful termination of the negotiations into which they had entered with the valley Indians, and urged the Rev. John Russell and Captain Turner to refrain from all aggressive movements until after the 5th of May.25
A petition of the Rev. John Russell to the Governor and Council of Massachusetts marks the eager desire of the men, both troops and settlers, to go out against the Indians. "We understand from Hartford some inclination to allow some volunteers to come up hither. We believe it is time to distress the Indians. Could we drive them from fishing and keep out small parties to harass them, famine would soon subdue them."
The Indians, in the meantime, relieved of anxiety by the withdrawal of Savage and by the failure of Turner to make any aggressive movement, had grown careless. They were in desperate need of food, their supplies of dried fish and corn had long since been exhausted. Game was scarce and the ground nuts were no longer fit for food. Planting for the new year had but just begun, and until p226the crops were ripe they must depend upon fishing, hunting and the spoil of the English corn and cattle for existence.
The negotiations with Connecticut had tended to increase the sense of security. They were willing to bargain over the price to be paid for the redemption of captives and they took full advantage of the English willingness to negotiate, to gain time.
Their main strength, divided into three villages, was now concentrated about Peskeompskut, the great fishing ground of the valley Indians. One of these villages occupied the high ground on the right bank at the head of the falls, another was on the opposite bank, and a third on Smead's Island, a mile below. Here were gathered promiscuously not only many of the valley Indians but also considerable numbers of the Wampanoags, the Narragansetts, Nashaways, Quabaugs and a few of the far eastern Indians. Here also, besides the sachems of the valley tribes, were Pessacus and Pumham of the Narragansetts, and even the distant Tarratines of Maine were represented by a Minor sachem, Megunneway.
The greater number were undoubtedly women, children and old men, engaged in fishing and planting, while the warriors were continually coming and going in small parties.
Farther up the river, in the cleared fields of what had once been Northfield, was another settlement of the Squakheags, and in the country between still other small parties were planting their crops. Supplies of seed corn for the planting had been obtained, fish were abundant and the cattle plundered from the English by the roving parties of warriors afforded a welcome addition of milk and flesh.
p227 So careless had they grown in their fancied security that John Gilbert,26 who had been taken prisoner at Springfield the month before, had already escaped out of their hands and brought considerable information as to their doings and their attitude to Turner at Hadley.
Throughout the valley the desire to strike an aggressive blow was growing; when, on the 12th, learning that the English had turned their cattle out to graze in the meadows, a war party from Peskeompskut pushed rapidly down the valley and seized the whole herd, amounting to seventy head of horse and cattle, and were gone in safety with their booty before the English could reach the scene. So great a seizure of their property lashed the settlers into rage, and operations were already under way, when, three days later, as Rev. John Russell wrote to the Connecticut Council of War, "This morning about sunrise, came into Hatfield, one Thomas Reed, who was taken captive when Deacon Goodman was slain. He relates that they are now planting at Deerfield and have been so these three or four days or more; saith further that they dwell at the Falls on both sides of the river; and are a considerable number most of them old men and women. He cannot judge that there are on both sides of the river above sixty or seventy fighting men; they are secure but scornful, boasting of the great things they have done and will do. There is Thomas Eames' daughter and child hardly used; one or two belonging to Medfield, and I think, two children belonging to Lancaster. The night before last they came down to Hatfield p228upper meadow and have driven away many horses and cattle, to the number of four score and upwards as they judge. Many of these this man saw in Deerfield meadow and found the bars put up to keep them in. This being the state of things we think the Lord calls us to make some trial which may be done against them suddenly, without further delay; and therefore the concurring resolution of men here seems to be to go out against them to‑morrow night, so as to be with them, the Lord assenting, before break of day."27 But the Connecticut Council, though it promised to send a company up the valley in support, stated its belief that an attack while so many English captives remained in the hands of the Indians, and negotiations were still pending, was inadvisable.
1 Nepanet, commonly called Tom Doublet, was a Christian Natick Indian.
2 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 194.
3 The original of this letter cannot be found but it is printed in full in Drake's Book of the Indians, Vol. III, page 90.
4 Drake's Book of the Indians.
5 Massachusetts Archives. Hutchinson Papers, Vol. II, page 282.
6 Mr. John Hoar of Boston met the Indian sachems for the purpose of negotiating for the redemption of the captives, particularly that of Mrs. Rowlandson, at a well-known gathering place of the tribes known since that event as "Redemption Rock." It lies near the northern boundary of the town of Princeton, Mass., and but a short distance east of the southerly end of Wachusett Pond. It is an isolated rock of large size lying upon the side of a cleared hill and close to the highway passing through the little hamlet of Everettville. From its summit a beautiful view of Mount Wachusett and the surrounding country may be had. Upon its western face it bears an inscription commemorative of the redemption. It may be reached by electric cars from Fitchburg or Gardner to Wachusett Park, and thence from the northern end of the pond by a walk of something less than a mile.
7 Mrs. Rowlandson's Narrative.
8 Massachusetts Colony Records, Vol. V, page 83; also pages 93, 94.
10 Peter Gardiner of Roxbury embarked in April, 1635, on the Elizabeth, at London. He died November 5, 1698. His son Samuel was killed by the Indians April 2, 1676. — Savage.
11 Jonathan Prescott was of Lancaster and driven thence to Concord by the Indians. His second wife was the daughter of John Hoar. He was a man of prominence, captain, and representative in 1692 at the first court under the new charter. He died after February, 1707. — Savage.
12 New England Deliverances, by Rev. Thomas Cobbet of Ipswich. New England Register, Vol. VII, pages 209‑219.
13 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. XXX, page 207.
14 John Woodcock is found at Springfield as early as 1635, before the settlement of the town by Pynchon, and built a house in the Agawam meadows on the west side of the river, which he abandoned on account of the freshets. He removed to Dedham in 1642 and thence perhaps to Rehoboth before 1673. His garrison house was within the bounds of Wrentham. Under date of July 5, 1670, he was allowed by the court "to keep an ordinary at the Ten Mile River (so called) which is on the way from Rehoboth to the Bay." He was representative from Rehoboth in 1691 and was living in 1694.
15 Woodcock's garrison was a well-known place of rendezvous in great Indian war, situated on what became the stage road running from Boston to Providence.
16 Thomas Kimball was an early settler in that part of Rowley that was afterwards called Bradford. — Savage.
17 This was the work of the eastern Indians.
18 Robert Stetson was of Scituate in 1634 and came from County Kent, England. He was a man of great public spirit, cornet of the first body of horse in Plymouth colony; representative 1654‑62, and often afterwards. His service as one of the council of war during Philip's hostilities was active. — Savage.
19 The Stockbridge garrison was in the present village of Greenbush, and the house at present occupying its site contains some of the old garrison timbers. It stands close to the border of the mill pond made famous in the song of the "Old Oaken Bucket," the mill being on the opposite side of the road a few rods distant.
20 Connecticut Archives. War, Vol. I, Doc. 66.
21 Captain John Cutler, blacksmith, was of Charlestown. He was a deacon of the church. In 1681 he was a member of the Artillery Company, and was representative in 1680 and 1682. In Philip's war he was a captain and engaged on various occasions in conducting supply trains to the garrisons, and at the time of the destruction of Wadsworth at Sudbury, April 21, 1676, narrowly escaped being cut off with his company returning from Marlboro. He died September 12, 1694. — Bodge, page 285. Savage.
22 Captain John Holbrook was of Weymouth in 1636. He was an enterprising man of business and a large dealer in real estate. He held the rank of lieutenant in the home company and was its commander at the time of Philip's war. He died November 23, 1699, leaving a large estate. — Bodge, page 280.
23 Massachusetts Colonial Records, Vol. V, page 96. Hubbard.
24 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 228.
25 Connecticut Colony Records, Vol. II, page 440.
26 John Gilbert, aged eighteen, was the son of Thomas Gilbert of Springfield. Mrs. Rowlandson found him above Northfield, sick and turned out into the cold. She befriended him and got him a fire.
27 Connecticut Archives. War, Vol. I, Doc. 67a.
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