Turner, well acquainted with Indian habits, realized that such a favorable condition for attack would not long continue, and that as soon as they had finished their planting and dried their fish, they would be on the warpath down the valley.
Help or no help, he resolved to wait no longer, and, calling for volunteers, determined to hazard the venture on the evening of the 18th. Nearly one hundred and eighty mounted men, one-half of them settlers who had supplied their own horses, gathered at Hatfield, and soon after sunset the gates of the stockade were thrown open and the force filed out.
Turner, himself, just arisen from his sick bed could hardly keep his saddle, and among his motley force, ill-equipped and ill-disciplined, were many young boys. It was an expedition fraught with great promises and great dangers. Success depended upon the complete surprise of the Indian encampment, for if the Indians should discover the movement and lead them into an ambush, then the character of the force under his command promised a terrible catastrophe, and the valley, left defenseless, would be harried from end to end.
Their path led them through the depths of the forest and along the meadows, past the ill-omened fields of Wequomps and Bloody Brook. It was near midnight when they entered the broad street of Deerfield and saw, p230 on either hand, in the gloom, the skeleton outlines of blackened beams and tumbling walls that had once been the settlement of Pocumtuck. The moon, overcast with clouds, and the distant roll of thunder, proclaimed an approaching storm. They crossed the Pocumtuck River at the northerly end of the meadows, near the mouth of Sheldon's Brook, narrowly escaping discovery by an Indian fishing outpost at what is now Cheapside. They had made a detour to avoid it, but the noise of their passage, not far away, aroused the Indians who could be seen with flaring torches gathered at the fording place. Finally concluding that the noise was made by a herd of moose crossing the river, they withdrew and the English continued their march. The storm overtook them, drenching them to the skin, and they feared lest the lightning flashes should reveal them to the prying eye of some Indian scout, but the thunder and rain deadened the noise of their passage, and the Indians, unsuspicious of danger, had placed no outpost.
Pushing on they crossed Green River, and skirting the great ash swamp to the east, reached the high ground just under Mount Adams, at daybreak. Picketing their horses they forded the Falls River near its confluence with the Connecticut and climbed the steep hill above the upper encampment of the Indians.
Wet and tired, but full of hope, they had arrived in time. The storm had driven the Indians to shelter, and the camp, its occupants gorged with fish and the milk and flesh of captured cattle, lay silent below them. Neither guards nor dogs were stirring as they rushed in among the wigwams, firing through the frail bark or into the openings.
p231 The attack, fierce and sudden, allowed no time for the Indians to rally. Confused and terrified they made but a feeble resistance. Many fell within the wigwams; others, shouting that the Mohawks were upon them, plunged into the river. "Many" says the writer of the Old Indian Chronicle, "got into canoes to paddle away, but the paddlers being shot, the canoes overset with all therein, and the stream of the river being very violent and swift . . . were carried upon the falls of water and from thence tumbling down were broken in pieces." Many sought refuge among the rocks under the banks, where Captain Holyoke,1 discovering some old persons and children, set the example of indiscriminate massacre by "slaying five of them, old and young, with his sword." No discrimination was made, the same fate was dealt out alike to warriors, women and children. After the first confusion of surprise, the warriors were able to escape, but the women and children fell easy prey and were put to the sword or forced into the rushing river and swept over the falls. "The river Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O! my soul, they have trodden down strength," wrote Mather in exultation.
River Bank Down which the Indians were Driven
At Peskeompskut (Turner's Falls), Massachusetts
The wigwams were fired, with all the dried fish and ammunition, and two forges, used by the Indians for the repairing of their guns, were demolished. Only one of p232 the English had fallen, shot accidentally by a comrade. It seemed as if the victory had been cheaply won but the roar of the muskets and the cries of the assault had already aroused the other Indian camps, and on the other side of the river and on Smead's Island the warriors were astir and hastening to the assistance of their ill-fated comrades. Turner's men, tired with their long march, and carried away with the excitement of the assault, were now out of hand. No guards had been stationed at the ford where the Indians from Smead's Island could cross, and the delay in retreating gave the warriors an opportunity to come up. Swarming in on both flanks, they pressed upon the English in ever increasing numbers, a party even attacking the guard left in charge of the horses, until the approach of the main body of the English caused them to draw off. Turner led the van while Holyoke, in command of the rear guard, kept the Indians in check until the horses were gained.
The attack of the Indians meanwhile was growing every moment fiercer and more determined as they swept around the rear and left flank of the English and endeavored to break the column in two, while the confusion in the English ranks was intensified by the cry of a lad that Philip with a thousand warriors was coming down upon them. Holyoke's horse was shot and several warriors rushed in upon the captain, but he shot the foremost, and his men, hastening to his assistance, drove back the rest.
The rear guard was early cut off and Jonathan Wells,2 a lad of seventeen, appealed to Turner to return to their p233 aid, but the captain refused. "Better lose some than all," he replied and pushed forward; but the rear guard fought its way out in safety.
As the head of the column reached the Green River, at the mouth of Ash Swamp Brook, it was met by a fire from both banks, and Turner,3 shot through the back and thigh, fell dead at the river's edge. The guides grew panic-stricken, each calling out to the troops to follow him to safety. The flight and pursuit continued through the woods and among the ruined houses of Deerfield to the place known as the Bars, in Deerfield South Meadow, the Indians easily keeping up with the troopers in the dense woods, firing upon the column from behind the trees and cutting off the stragglers.
Only the self-possession and courage of Captain Holyoke, p234 who assumed command on Turner's death, saved the force from a terrible disaster. Forty-five were missing when they reached Hatfield late in the morning. Six of these, however, returned in the course of the next few days, among them Jonathan Wells, who, having attached himself in the retreat to one party, continued with them until they entered the swamp, when, seeing the Indians closing in, he left this company, who were all lost, and joined a small party taking another course. Wounded and exhausted he was obliged, soon after, to fall out of the ranks and spent several days hiding in the woods, and, though the Indians at times came close to his hiding-places, he fortunately escaped discovery.
The loss of the Indians has been variously estimated, some of the contemporary writers placing it as high as three or four hundred.
The Reverend Mr. Russell, a man not prone to exaggerate, declared that eyewitnesses said that there were one hundred dead Indians among the wigwams and along the banks.4 William Drew,5 and others, give the Indian loss as six score and ten. Their reports, however, should be received with caution, for it is not likely that, in the heat of such an engagement and the confusion into which the English forces fell, any accurate enumeration was possible. Indians who were afterwards taken, wrote Mather, affirmed that many of the Indians, driven down the falls, got safe on shore again, and that that they lost not more than three score men in the fight, also that they p235 killed thirty-eight Englishmen, which was the exact number of the latter slain.6 The author of the Old Indian Chronicle states "the English did afterwards find of their bodies, some in the river and some cast ashore, about two hundred."7
The Indian loss can reasonably be placed, therefore, at about one hundred, many of them women and children. The blow was a severe one to the Indians, not so much in the loss of life as in its physical and moral effect.
The flight of Turner's men before the furious onslaught of the Indians, marks the last partial success of the latter in the war. The war cry was again to be heard before the stockades of Hatfield and Hadley; a few more English were to fall in desultory conflicts about Narragansett Bay and in the Connecticut valley, but these record only the expiring efforts of a dying cause, the last impotent protest of a doomed race against extinction.
The sudden collapse of the Indian resistance came as a surprise to the whites, who looked forward to a prolonged and bloody struggle. The reasons, however, were not far to seek. Numerically much weaker than the English at the beginning, and more poorly armed and equipped, the Indians lacked the resources, which the English possessed in abundance.
Their hope of terrorizing into inaction the settlers in the valley, while they themselves planted and reaped their crops and laid in stores of fish for themselves and their confederates, had vanished. Their confidence in their own prowess had been rudely shaken and the plan, from which they had hoped so much, had failed. The p236 fallen warriors could not be replaced, and arms and ammunition could be obtained only in meager quantities and with great difficulty from adventurous traders, or from their opponents, as the spoil of victories; precarious sources of supply certainly, for such a life and death struggle as they were now waging. They were improvident and wasteful at best; and, unprovided with strongly fortified depots, their supplies were easily at the mercy of foes, who, though they might themselves be at times in want, found in the neighboring colonies all they could not themselves provide.
Disease, as before noted, had been rife during the winter, and the Indians, weakened by privations, had fallen easy victims to colds and the malignant fevers, to whose ravages even among the settlers Mather bears mournful testimony.
A not less important factor in the collapse of Indian resistance was their total lack of organization. Their variable temperament, traditional feuds and jealousies, combining to make concerted action impossible; not one, but many heads, essayed to direct the operations and every petty chief had his own plans and ambitions to further, and would sacrifice nothing for the common good.
The dissensions among the Nipmucks on the one hand, and the Wampanoags and Narragansetts on the other, had, during the last few months of the war, grown apace, and Philip had openly quarrelled with the Nipmuck chiefs over the surrender of the English captives. To add to the general demoralization the Mohawks had become openly hostile.
The English towns, palisaded and garrisoned, no longer offered an easy booty to their sudden raids, and the English commanders had learned the lesson of Indian tactics. p237 When, therefore, in the spring, the colonies put forth their full force and enlisted the friendly Naticks, Mohegans and Niantics, the weakened tribes were doomed.
May drew to a close amid active operations for a campaign in force. Conscious of the necessity of ending the war before the whole country should be brought to ruin, and no longer held back by apprehension as to the fate that might befall the captives, the authorities worked energetically levying men and impressing food and transport.
In the Connecticut valley guards and scouts were watching the trails against a counterstroke of the Indians, and Captain Newberry8 with eighty men, sent by Connecticut at the request of Holyoke, marched up the valley and, leaving three troopers at Westfield as a reinforcement, for the Westfield volunteers had suffered heavily in the Falls fight, took up his quarters at Northampton on the 24th of May.
From here, a few days later, he wrote to the Connecticut Council of War that there were three hundred Indians at Quabaug; that if Major Talcott9 would come or if the Council would send him a reinforcement of fifty men he would willingly go himself against them, and p238 suggested that Samuel Cross' dogs10 could be used advantageously.11
In the southeast, in the meantime, parties from Plymouth and Massachusetts were scouring the country between Plymouth, Rehoboth and Marlboro, and the Connecticut and Indian forces, under Captain Denison and Major Talcott, were constantly raiding the Narragansett country from their bases at Stonington and Norwich.
In Massachusetts Captain Brattle had again taken the field with a troop of horse and a large body of Natick Indians under Tom Nepanet. On the 24th, the same day that Newberry reached Northampton, Brattle, marching along the Pawtucket River "being on the Seaconck side," saw a considerable body of Indians on the opposite bank. Pushing forward with his troopers he forded the river above their camp and put them to flight with a loss of several killed and a number of prisoners.
In the letter in which the Massachusetts Council announced the success of Captain Brattle to Connecticut, they gave notice of their intention to send an expedition of five hundred men to attack the Indian encampments at Quabaug, Wachusett and Squakheag, by the 1st of June, and requested that Major Talcott with a considerable p239 force of troops and Indians should act with them. Talcott was already at Norwich preparing to march through the Narragansett country, now, in response to this letter, the Connecticut Council bade him leave Denison with seventy men at Norwich, and march with the rest of his force to Quabaug, where it was expected that Henchman would meet him.
While Massachusetts and Connecticut were making these preparations, which it was hoped would crush the Indians in Northern Massachusetts, the Indians in the valley, who had suddenly vanished toward the north after the Falls fight, had again taken the initiative. The scouts had reported no movements among them, but on the 30th of May they appeared before Hatfield in large numbers, burning some twelve outlying barns and houses and driving away a multitude of sheep and cattle. Twenty-five settlers and soldiers from Hadley immediately rowing across the river to the Hatfield side, in the face of a severe fire, pushed on across the meadows to the aid of the town. The Indians, sheltered behind trees and hidden in the long grass, poured in an unremitting fire, but with little effect, and the little band had almost reached the shelter of the stockade in safety when the Indians closed rapidly in, and firing at close range, endeavored to cut them off from both the stockade and the river.12 Within the space of a few minutes five of their number fell, "among whom was a precious young man whose name was Smith (John Smith13 of Hadley), that place having lost many in losing p240 that one man,"14 and all would soon have been lost, when the gates of the stockade were thrown open and the Hatfield garrison, sallying out, drove back the Indians and saved the survivors.
Newberry in Northampton was early informed of the attack, and, fearful that an ambuscade awaited him on the direct road to Hatfield (and such was actually the case), crossed the river below Northampton, and marching up to Hadley, sought to cross the Connecticut River at that point, as had been done by the Hadley volunteers.
It was not a very certain way to bring relief as his passage across the river would expose him to a heavy fire without opportunity to reply, but it at least denoted a change from the usual haphazard rush into an ambuscade. Unfortunately for Newberry the lack of boats and the increased vigilance of the Indians prevented his repeating the feat of the Hadley men, and his force was still waiting on the bank15 when the Indians, finding it impossible to break into the stockade, drew off with the approach of evening. Seven whites had fallen in the fight and five were wounded. The Indian loss was set down as twenty-five killed, but was undoubtedly less.
The news of the attack on Hatfield was already known throughout Connecticut, when, on the 2d of June, Major Talcott with two hundred and fifty whites and two hundred Mohegans, set out from Norwich with the expectation of effecting a juncture with Captain Henchman and the Massachusetts forces, at Quabaug. On the 4th he p241 reached the Indian village of Wabaquasset.16 Everywhere the country was deserted, no Indians were to be seen, but the green shoots of the young corn were showing in the cultivated clearings by the deserted wigwams, and, after trampling it down and firing the village, Talcott continued his search.
The next day he came suddenly upon a small encampment of Indians at Chabanakongomun, near the present town of Webster, and, killing nineteen of its occupants and capturing thirty-three others without loss to himself, passed on to Quabaug where he believed Henchman was awaiting his arrival. Henchman was not there, nor any news of him, but a small body of Indians, the scouts told Talcott, had encamped, unaware of his approach, only •three miles away, and at midnight twelve of the English and a body of Indians marched out and succeeded in capturing two of them, both well supplied with fish and powder.17
The morning brought no news of Henchman, and Talcott, believing his own force not sufficient to attack the Indians at Wachusett, waited no longer but pushed on to Hadley which he reached the next day (June 8th). His march had been through a country made bare of supplies, and his force suffered severely, but Captain Denison with a convoy of powder and stores, sent at his request p242 from Hartford, joined him on the 10th and relieved his necessity. In the meantime, Captain Henchman with five hundred foot and horse and a party of friendly Indians, had left Concord in time to effect a junction with Major Talcott at Quabaug, but his progress was slow and information brought to him by Tom Nepanet and his Indian scouts who had come upon the trail of a party of Indians making for the fishing grounds at Washakim Ponds near Lancaster, caused him to turn aside in pursuit. He came upon them while fishing, killed seven and captured twenty-nine, most of the latter women and children, among them the wife of Muttaump and the wife and children of Sagamore Sam, who had gone, if we are to believe his own testimony, to secure the release of English captives in the hands of the valley tribes.
The pursuit had taken Henchman considerably out of his way and he marched to Marlboro to replenish his ammunition and supplies, and then set out for Hadley.
The Indians, carefully watching Henchman's progress, had, strange to say, entirely missed touch with Talcott, and, confident that Henchman could not reach Hadley for several days, and ignorant of Talcott's arrival, massed their forces and came down the valley on the night of the 11th of June.
Dividing their forces they placed a strong party in the meadows at the north end of the stockade to intercept any English going out or any force attempting to enter the town from Hatfield. The remainder stationed themselves near the south end of the stockade with the intention of attacking from that direction and calling the attention of the garrison away from the north.
p243 In the early morning three soldiers, having been warned not to go far afield, were finally allowed by the sergeant in charge to go out of the south gate. They had gone but a short distance when a warwhoop was heard and the men on guard saw them running back with a score of Indians at their heels. All three fell before the stockade was gained, but the alarm was given, and when the Indians at the north, thinking the garrison had been withdrawn to meet the attack at the south gate, rushed forward to take advantage of the confusion, they found the stockade lined with troops and friendly Indians. Ignorant as they were that five hundred men were within the stockade, the appearance of so large a force, which was evidently ready to sally out against them, so alarmed and disconcerted them that they hastily withdrew up the valley.
General Hoyt and Dr. Holland ascribe the appearance of General Goffe to the occasion of this account.
It was the last action in the valley. Their counterstroke had failed, and, with the massing of such a large force of trained troops and friendly Indians, their position in the valley was rendered untenable. From that day they were seen no more in force.
Henchman arrived on the 14th, and two days later the combined force swept up the valley to Peskeompskut, Henchman along the east and Talcott along the west bank of the Connecticut. The weather was cold and chill, and •three miles out of town a thunderstorm overtook and followed them up the valley. The Indian villages at the Falls were deserted but they found, along the banks of the river and in the neighboring swamps, the bodies of Turner and many his men, and gave them decent p244 burial. The rain continued to fall in torrents, they were wet to the skin, much of the ammunition was ruined, the bread grew musty in the dampness, it was all but impossible to make fire with the wood sodden with constant rain, and, after searching the woods to the east and west, the whole force returned down the valley.18
The terror that had hung over the settlers so long was lifted, the war was drifting back to the starting point, and along the shores of Narragansett Bay the Indian cause was entering on its death agony. The valley Indians, disheartened by their constant repulses and loss of supplies, and threatened by their old enemies the Mohawks, scattered, some far to the north, while others fled for refuge to the tribes in New Hampshire and Maine, who were still holding their own against the English.
1 Captain Samuel Holyoke was the son of Elizur Holyoke of Springfield, and grandson of William Pynchon, the founder of the town. He was born June 9, 1647, and died October 21, 1676, soon after the Falls fight, his health having become impaired by the hardships of the campaign. See First Century of the History of Springfield, by Henry M. Burt, page 591.
2 Jonathan Wells was the son of Thomas of Hadley. An interesting account of his experiences at this time may be found on page 161 of the first volume of Sheldon's History of Deerfield. He was commander of the military forces of Deerfield in Queen Anne's War and at the time of the attack upon that town by the French and Indians, February 29, 1704/1705, occupied a fortified house a few rods south of the stockade, in which those inhabitants who escaped capture or slaughter in the attack on the stockade, took refuge. Captain Wells led the relief force in the attack upon the retreating Indians in the North Meadow. He was, until his death, which occurred January 3, 1738/39, a leader in the civil and military affairs of the town. He was representative; selectman for thirteen years, and the first justice of the peace in Deerfield. See Sheldon's History of Deerfield, Vol. II, page 357 of Genealogies.
3 Captain William Turner came from South Devonshire to Dorchester, in Massachusetts, and was admitted freeman May 10, 1643. He removed to Boston, probably in 1664, and was there a member of the Baptist church. During this period of religious intolerance he was twice imprisoned. Early in Philip's war he raised a company of volunteers, but their services were refused and he denied a commission on the ground that most of the members were "Anabaptists." As early as February, 1676, however, the demand for being then greater than before, Turner had taken the field with a company. — Bodge, page 232.
4 Letter of Rev. John Russell to the Governor and Council of Connecticut (War, I, Doc. 74) contains an account of the expedition.
5 William Drew of Hadley, and Robert Bardwell, afterwards of Hatfield, soldiers of Turner's company, are referred to here.
6 Mather's Brief History, page 149.
7 Old Indian Chronicle, page 261.
8 Captain Benjamin Newberry was of Windsor and commanded the military department of the Connecticut colony. He was representative at twenty-two sessions of the General Court; assistant in 1685, and member of the Council of War; captain of dragoons, and in November, 1675, was made second in command to Major Treat. His service in the field during Philip's war consisted of operations at Northampton and vicinity in the spring of 1676. He died September 11, 1689. See Ancient Windsor, Conn., by Henry R. Stiles, page 518. Colonial Records of Connecticut. Savage.
9 Major John Talcott was a native of Braintree, England, and came to America in the ship Lion in 1632. He settled in Hartford where he became in 1654 deputy to the court at New Haven. He was elected treasurer of the colony May 17, 1660, which office he held until 1675, when he resigned the office and was appointed to the command of the army with the rank of major, and in June of that year took the field at its head. He received promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and died in Hartford July 23, 1688. See Talcott Pedigree, by S. V. Talcott, page 32. See Memorial History of Hartford County, Vol. I, page 263.
10 Samuel Cross was of Windsor. He is called captain in the records. He died November 6, 1707.
11 Connecticut archives. War, Vol. I, Doc. 76.
12 Hubbard, Vol. I, page 235.
13 John Smith was the son of Samuel, and was the ancestor of Oliver and Sophia Smith, the founder of the "Smith Charities" and Smith College at Northampton.
14 Mather's Brief History, page 151.
15 Letter of Captain Newberry. Connecticut Colonial Records, Vol. II, page 450.
16 Wabbaquasset,º "the mat producing country," so called from some marsh or meadow that furnished reeds for mats and baskets, was a tract west of the Quinnebaug River, north of a line running northwesterly from the junction of the Quinnebaug and Assawage Rivers, not far from Southbridge in Massachusetts. – Trumbull's Indian Names in Connecticut. Miss Larned's History of Windham County, Vol. I, page 1.
17 Talcott's Letter to the Governor and Council of Connecticut. Connecticut Archives. War, Vol. I, Doc. 88.
18 Connecticut War, Vol. I, Doc. 93.
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