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Chapter 4

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
King Philip's War

by
George Ellis and John Morris

Grafton Press,
New York, 1906

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]
Chapter 6
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p69 Chapter V

The authors' map of colonial New England in 1675, marking all the most important sites of King Philip's War, may be useful for following along; it opens in its own window.

The Massachusetts forces, reinforced by a body of Christian Indians raised by Major Gookin and sent down from Boston under Captain Isaac Johnson,1 were once more at Swansea, where Cudworth and the main body of the Plymouth men soon joined them.

The whole plan of campaign had completely broken down, every movement had been marked by doubt and hesitation and the failure of the authorities to promptly suppress the outbreak was soon to be seen in the growing disaffection of the Nipmucks.

Suspicious of the Narragansetts, among whom it was said the women and children of the Wampanoags had found a refuge,2 and stirred by the warning letter of Roger Williams before quoted, Governor Leverett and the Council now sent Captain Edward Hutchinson3 to p70take the Massachusetts force into the Narragansett country and compel Canonchet to make a treaty and give hostages for the good behavior of his people.

Immediately on the arrival of Hutchinson and Joseph Dudley,4 a council of war was held and it was resolved to "go make peace with a sword in their hands."

Savage at once began his march by way of Providence, while Moseley and Hutchinson and a party of volunteers accompanied by Roger Williams and Dudley, sailed down the bay to Smith's Landing5 on the Narragansett shore.


[image ALT: A flat landscape, with low ornamental shrubs in the foreground and a group of three trees behind them; a low barn-like clapboarded building can be seen in the background. It is an early-20c photograph of the site of Smith's Landing at Wickford, Rhode Island.]

Site of Smith's Landing and Garrison House

Wickford, Rhode Island. The present structure, erected immediately after the destruction of the garrison in King Philip's War, is said to contain some of the timbers of the original house

Both parties found the country of the Narragansetts deserted. The wigwams stood empty, and though the p71crops were showing above the soil, men, women and children in fear or hostility had withdrawn into the swamps. Again and again Hutchinson sent for the sachems, but, as Roger Williams wrote to Waite Winthrop6 at New London, July 7th, a meeting had not been agreed upon, and if it were he feared it "would end in blows and bloodshed."

A few days later Waite Winthrop with a company of Connecticut troops and a number of Mohegans after a march across country, during which Winthrop having met old Ninigret had secured a promise of neutrality,7 arrived at Smith's Landing and joined the Massachusetts men.

By the 15th a few aged and unimportant Indians had been gathered together and forced to sign a treaty. The totemic marks appearing on the document although designated by the signers of the treaty as counselors and attorneys to Canonicus, Ninigret and Pumham,8 are those p72of obscure individuals. Not a name of importance appears.

By the terms of this one-sided treaty (here given only in part) the signers on behalf of the Narragansetts agreed:

"I. That all and every of the said sachems shall from time to time carefully seize, and living or dead deliver unto one or other of the above-said governments, all and every one of Sachem Philip's subjects whatsoever, that shall come, or be found within the precincts of any of their lands, and that with the greatest diligence and faithfulness.

"II. That they shall with their utmost ability use all acts of hostility against the said Philip and his subjects, entering his lands or any other lands of the English, to kill and destroy the said enemy, until a cessation from war with the said enemy be concluded by both the above-said colonies.

********

"VI. The said gentlemen in behalf of the governments to which they belong, do engage to the said Sachems and their subjects, that if they or any of them shall seize and bring into either the above English governments, or to Mr. Smith, inhabitant of Narragansett, Philip Sachem, alive, he or they so delivering, shall receive for their pains, forty trucking cloth coats; in case they bring his head they shall have twenty like good coats paid them. For every living subject of said Philip's so delivered, the deliverer shall receive two coats, and for every head one coat, as a gratuity for their service herein . . . etc.

Pettaquamscot,9 July 15, 1675."

p73 Well might the unfortunate Narragansetts as they contemplated the forceful invasion of their territory and the terms of this treaty extorted by force, which, signed by no sachem, would be held binding upon them, feel that the burden of past wrongs and present injuries was almost too great to be borne.

Of all the New England tribes they indeed were the most deserving of sympathy. The whole conduct of Massachusetts and Connecticut against the Narragansetts had from the first been often unjust, and always aggressive and high-handed. It had never been a wise policy, and now that the bold and warlike Canonchet had succeeded the pacific Canonicus the results were soon to be reaped.

In the meantime Philip, relieved from pressure by the Massachusetts men and the partial inactivity of the Plymouth forces, found refuge in the wooded swamps and thickets that lay in the interior of the Pocasset territory.10 The Indians along the eastern shore had been forced to join him, and numerous war parties sallying forth ranged the country in all directions, burning solitary farms, shooting at the settlers from ambush and killing the cattle.

Middleboro11 was devastated and the inhabitants forced p74to take refuge in a mill on the Nemasket River; a few days and this too was deserted and the settlers, abandoning all their possessions, removed to Plymouth. Dartmouth12 was beset and partly burned during the latter part of July. Taunton also was threatened and travel along the highways ceased, except under escort. Men feared to work in the fields and the inhabitants of all the border towns sought refuge at night in the largest and strongest houses, which were extemporized as garrisons.

Cudworth, unmindful of Church's persistent advice to strike vigorously and with full force at the main body of the Indians, who, he declared, were with Philip at Pocasset, had moved towards Taunton the better to protect that side of the country from the activities of the war parties. Like most of the commanding officers he possessed no experience in warfare and failed to realize that against the Indians a vigorous offensive was the surest means of defense.


[image ALT: A flat and somewhat barren northern landscape, with a meadow in the foreground, low denuded trees behind it, and in the background a body of water and a slight rise of land on the other side in the distance. It is an early-20c photograph of the Pocasset area of Rhode Island or Massachusetts.]

The Pocasset Country

Looking across the scene of Cudworth's fight. The exact place of the battle is not known

p75 In the hope, however, that Church, who was known to possess considerable influence with the Pocasset Indians, would be able to persuade or force them into peace, he dispatched him with a small force of thirty-six men, with Captain Fuller in command, to Pocasset. Unable to get in touch with them, though informed by his Indian scouts that they were in force close by, the captain placed his men along a well-trodden trail and sat down to wait.

Fuller's men were unfortunately seized with an intense desire to smoke, and "this epidemical plague of lust after tobacco"13 betrayed their presence to a party of Indians coming down the path who instantly turned back.

On their return to the rendezvous certain of the men began to twit Church on his failure to show them any Indians, whereupon he offered to show such as would volunteer to accompany him as many as they desired to see.

It was now determined to divide the force, Fuller marching along the coast, while Church, with nineteen men, moved into the swamp. Fuller had marched only a few miles when he discovered a band of Indians, who had evidently been watching the force for some time, closing in upon him. Urging his men forward he took possession of a deserted house near the water's edge and held his own stoutly until the evening when, a sloop approaching the shore, he embarked his force and passed over to the island of Rhode Island.

Church's party in the meantime marching along the rocky but deeply wooded ground soon came upon a "fresh plain trail," but so infected with rattlesnakes that p76the men were unwilling to proceed. "Had they kept on," says the chronicle, "they would have found enough (Indians) but it is not certain they would have returned to tell how many."14 The desire of the men to turn back must have been welcome to Church who knew the peril of their position. Retracing their steps a short distance they turned off into a pea field in two divisions. Suddenly two Indians appeared. Church and those with him threw themselves on the ground, but the others discovered themselves and the Indians fled. Deeming their position critical the captain drew his men together and marched toward the shore as the glitter of gun barrels in the sunlight showed them a large force of Indians who soon opened a fierce fire.15 The little force, keeping well together and taking advantage of the ground, made their way without loss to the beach,16 and here, burrowing in the sand and lying behind the rocks, they kept the Indians at bay.

For over twenty-four hours the force had been without food, and the boats which they had expected to follow along the shore were seen aground towards Rhode Island. Hard pressed by numbers Church ordered his men to p77throw off their outside garments in order that the Rhode Islanders, watching the fight from the opposite shore, might distinguish his meager force by their white shirts, and send assistance.17

The Indians had now taken possession of the ruins of a stone house near by, but the English lay close in shelter and their fire accomplished little. The fight continued all of a sultry afternoon, until near evening a sloop, commanded by Captain Golding,a came in close to shore and brought them off two at a time in a canoe.

Philip having been definitely located amid the swamps about Pocasset, the Massachusetts troops on their return from the Narragansett country proceeded through Rehoboth to Taunton. On the 18th they were joined by the Plymouth forces under Cudworth and the whole army proceeded into the Pocasset swamp,18 which they reached after an eighteen-mile march.19

Pushing forward in haste and without caution they were met by a murderous volley from a large number of Indians lying in wait for them in a thicket. Five of their number were instantly killed and many were wounded. p78Before they could rally and assume the offensive, the Indians, leaving their wigwams at the mercy of the English, withdrew farther into the swamp.

Hearing from an old Indian found in one of the wigwams that Philip was near by, the English attempted to follow, but the night was coming on and in the dusk the soldiers began to fire at every stump and waving bush, and many, made nervous and confused by the darkness, shot in the gloom even at their comrades. Orders were given to halt, and the force retreated out of the swamp.

It was now decided, from the belief that Philip and his Wampanoags were finally cornered, to leave Captain Henchman and his company, supported by the Plymouth forces to build a fort which it was supposed would prevent the egress of the Indians and lead eventually to their being starved into submission.

Considering that Philip was as good as taken the main army now disbanded,20 while Captain Prentice marched towards Mendon where five or six of the inhabitants had been killed while laboring in the fields by a war party of Nipmucks.21

Philip was very far from being taken, and, while Henchman was building his fort, evaded the outposts during the night of the 31st of July, and, crossing the Taunton River at low tide by swimming and by rafts,22 made his escape. p79He had turned the flank of the colonists and was well on his way to the Nipmuck country before the sun was high. He had outgeneraled his opponents, and could he once pass unmolested through the plains about Rehoboth the whole undefended frontier would be at his mercy.

Fortunately for the settlements Philip's force was discovered while crossing Seekonk Plain by a scouting party from Taunton.

The Reverend Mr. Newman23 of Rehoboth gathered a company of volunteers, and, reinforced by fifty Mohegans and some Natick Indians returning from Boston under the command of Oneco and two other sons of Uncas,24 rushed in pursuit. The troops towards Mount Hope and Swansea were notified and the pursuers were soon joined by Lieutenant Thomas25 with a small force, including some Providence volunteers. Night had fallen, but they continued the chase until notified by the Mohegan scouts that the Wampanoags were near by.

Just before dawn, leaving their horses, the whole force stole upon the Indian encampment and surprised the inmates. It was Weetamoo's camp, and the Indians fled, p80leaving several dead. The settlers were following hard upon the heels of the fugitives when suddenly they found themselves confronted by Philip's fighting men.26

The fight raged fiercely for some time, both sides losing several killed, among the Wampanoag dead being Woonashun,27 one of the signers of the treaty of Taunton, but finally the Indians withdrew and the Mohegans, finding the plunder of Weetamoo's camp to their liking, could not be induced to continue the pursuit.

Captain Henchman was still building his fort at Pocasset when the news reached him that Philip had escaped. Embarking his force he crossed the water and soon came up with the Rehoboth men who were returning for their horses left in the rear.

Henchman failed to energetically pursue the retiring Indians although furnished with supplies by Edmonds28 and Brown.29 He failed to grasp the importance of annihilating p81or turning Philip back toward Mount Hope, though even now the Nipmucks were rising and the unsuspecting settlers along the western frontier were in peril of massacre. Henchman continued his pursuit leisurely until his provisions were exhausted. Near Mendon the Mohegans left him and soon after, meeting Captain Moseley who was bringing up supplies, he gave over the pursuit.30

Philip's force nevertheless had been scattered. Weetamoo and her people turned again to their own territory. Many of the Wampanoags deserted, or, prevented from joining Philip through ignorance of his whereabouts, wandered around in small parties, falling upon the homes of solitary settlers and isolated hamlets.

Negotiations had already been commenced with the Indians left by Philip in the vicinity of Pocasset. By the persistence of Captain Benjamin Church and Captain Eels,31 many were induced to surrender themselves and were taken to Plymouth, but, notwithstanding the terms on which they had submitted and the indignant remonstrances of Church and the other captains, the whole to the number of one hundred and sixty were ordered by the government to be sold into slavery.32

p82 Before we follow the developments which were rapidly unfolding during the month of July toward the western frontier of the Bay towns, let us turn for the moment to the state of affairs in the colony of Connecticut. Here we shall find a prompt realization of the dangers of the warfare which had broken out and an energy and decisiveness in marked contrast with the hesitation and blindness of both Massachusetts and Plymouth. That colony, though engaged in a fierce dispute with Governor Andros of New York, as soon as the first alarm of war was sounded took energetic measures, and, secure in the friendly disposition and active alliance of Uncas, was able not only to guard her eastern frontier but to lend valuable assistance to her neighbors.

The towns were ordered to set themselves in a position of defense, and on the first day of July, when Savage was marching into Mount Hope peninsula, Connecticut troops were being sent to New London, Stonington and Saybrook under Captains Waite Winthrop and Thomas Bull.33 The Mohegans were encouraged to don their war paint by the promise of rewards for every scalp and prisoner taken, and scouting parties scoured the country from Norwich to the Narragansett frontiers. Winthrop, a few days after his arrival at New London, had invaded the Narragansett p83country and joined Hutchinson in forcing the Pettaquamscot treaty on the Narragansetts.

Uncas, though an old man, had not lost his cunning, and the suspicions in regard to the Narragansetts offered too valuable an opportunity for the sagacious sachem to overlook. The report that the Narragansetts were sheltering the women and children of the Wampanoags was certainly spread by him, and there is more than a suspicion that his warriors did not discriminate too carefully between the scalps of neutral Narragansetts and the hostile Wampanoags.

Connecticut realized to the full the value of the Indian auxiliaries as scouts and guides, while the Massachusetts authorities yielded to public clamor which held all the Indian race to be treacherous enemies. Connecticut, whose people tasted little of the bitterness of burned villages and slain settlers, associated the Mohegans with all their expeditions and by their assistance escaped those ambuscades so often fatal to the Massachusetts forces.

While desolation and terror prevailed in the isolated settlements towards Rhode Island and the Plymouth frontier, and Connecticut lay safe in the security of remoteness and the Mohegan alliance, the settlers to the west of the Bay towns and in the Connecticut Valley pursued their customary occupations, disturbed by occasional rumors, yet generally confident in the neutrality of the neighboring Nipmucks.

The Nipmuck and the valley tribes had planted their fields as usual and no unwonted movement had been noticed among them. Warnings, however, had come to the ears of the authorities early in June before Philip had plunged into the conflict.


The Author's Notes:

1 Captain Isaac Johnson was of Roxbury where he was admitted freeman March 4, 1635. He was of the Artillery Company in 1645 and its captain in 1667. He was early in the service of King Philip's war and is heard of at Mount Hope and Mendon.

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2 Uncas supplied this information. Rev. James Fitch of Norwich quotes him as authority for the statement in a letter to the Connecticut Council. Conn. Records, Vol. II, page 336. Age had not abated his cunning or his enmities.

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3 Captain Edward Hutchinson born about 1608, came to America from Alford in Lincolnshire in 1633. He early settled in Newport but removed to Boston. He soon entered service in the Artillery Company and held a captain's commission in 1657. In 1658 he was elected representative to the General Court. He owned a large farm in the Nipmuck country and he and his family were widely known among the Indians with whom he was popular. — New England Register, Vol. I page 299.

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4 Joseph Dudley of Roxbury was the son of Governor Thomas and was born September 23, 1647. Graduated from Harvard College in 1665; was representative 1673‑75; Artillery Company in 1677; assistant from 1676 to 1685. He was of Andros' Council and Chief Justice of an unconstitutional Superior Court. After a long imprisonment he went in 1689 to England and became Deputy Governor of the Isle of Wight under Lord Cutts, and came home in 1702 with a commission as Governor in which office he served until 1715. He died April 2, 1720. — Savage.

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5 Smith's Landing. Richard Smith came from Gloucestershire, England, and became a leading man in Taunton. "On account of matters of conscience" he left that place and settled in the Narragansett country, purchasing from the Indians a large tract of land. He built on the banks of the Annoquatucket River a large trading house where he gave free entertainment to travelers. This was located about one mile north of the present village of Wickford, R. I. At this place he had a wharf. His son Richard inherited this property in 1664 and became his father's successor as a trader and prominent citizen. It was burned during the war, but was rebuilt, some of the timbers of the original house being used in the construction of the new. It still stands, in an excellent state of preservation and is known as the Updike house. — Rhode Island Hist. Soc. Coll., Vol. III, page 166.

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6 Waitstill Winthrop, sometimes written Waite, was the son of Governor John Winthrop of Connecticut, and was born February 27, 1642. He was one of the commissioners of the New England colonies in 1672 and during the years of Philip's war. He was chosen an assistant in 1692 under the old form of government, ten days before the arrival of Sir William Phips with the new charter, in which he was named by the King one of the Council. He died November 7, 1717. — Savage.

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7 Letter of Waite Winthrop to Governor Winthrop. Conn. Records, Vol. II, page 338.

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8 Pumham was sachem of Shawamut, a part of Narragansett territory, and disputed the deed given by Miantonomah to Samuel Gorton, appealing to Massachusetts for protection. There may still be seen on the banks of Warwick Cove the remains of an earthwork erected by the authorities of the Massachusetts colony as an aid in the resistance of the colony to the demands of Rhode Island, and known as Pumham's fort. See Narragansett Historical Register, Vol. VI, page 137.

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9 Pettaquamscot was that section of country lying in the southeasterly part of what is now the town of South Kingstown, R. I. It was separated from Boston Neck by the Pettaquamscot River and Cove. Tower Hill at the southerly end, was the portion of this territory settled by the English.

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10 Although the land of Pocasset along its water front is broken and hilly, behind this ridge and extending the whole length of the territory is an extent of swamp and meadow surrounding Watuppa Pond, among the thickets of which the natives could find shelter from which they could not easily be driven.

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11 Middleboro in Plymouth colony, was so named from the fact that Nemasket, the Indian village of the town, was the halfway or middle place between the settlement at Plymouth and Sowams, the seat of Massasoit. The English settlement grew up around the "Four Corners" a mile or two above Nemasket, and is still the central portion of the village. A short distance to the north, on what is now the main street, stood the fort, overlooking the valley of the Nemasket, and opposite the fort lot still stands an ancient house, said to be a survivor of the destruction of the place in Philip's war. The mill, in which the inhabitants took refuge from the Indians, stood on the river at a spot which now forms the northeastern corner of the village and known as the lower factory.

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12 The portion of Dartmouth that suffered most was that located about five miles southwest from New Bedford and called by the Indian name of Apponagansett, on the river still called by that name. At Russell's Orchard, a short distance north of the bridge spanning the river, there stood on the east bank, Russell's garrison house, into which the inhabitants of that section securely retired. This portion of the town is now known as South Dartmouth or Padanaram. The ruined cellars of the garrison were traceable a few years ago.

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13 Church, page 7.

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14 Church, page 8.

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15 Church, page 9.

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16 The scene of Church's exploit is located on Punkatees Neck, sometimes called Pocasset Neck. It is about five miles south of the village of Tiverton and shoots out from the mainland directly opposite the little village of Tiverton Four Corners. The immediate scene of the conflict was on the shore directly opposite Fogland Point, a spur of land pushing out westwardly and then turning to the north, thus forming a cove of which the point is the western boundary. The spring at which Church records himself as quenching his thirst, has disappeared, and it is most probable that the shore on which Church's force actually stood has been encroached upon and swallowed up by the sea.

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17 Church, page 11.

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18 Hubbard, Vol. I, page 84.

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19 The "swamp" here mentioned was rather a thick growth of woods and tangled underbrush than a wet and miry lowland. There is evidence that the encounter was at a point on the eastern shore of the Taunton River directly opposite the present village of Somerset, between the Assonet River and the railroad track leading to Middleboro, and hemmed in on the east by the highway from Fall River to Assonet village. This section of country is rolling, watered by several streams, with occasional marshes. Hubbard characterizes the Pocasset swamp as being seven miles in length, but this only lends probability to the statement made above that the term applied to a tangled and difficult wooded country rather than to a marsh, there being nothing of the latter sort, of anything like that extent, in this whole region.

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20 Hubbard, Vol. I, page 86.

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21 This is the first attack on any place in the Massachusetts colony, and was led by Matoonas, a Nipmuck chieftain. The wife and son of Matthias Puffer were slain as was also one William Post, and these are the only ones that can now be identified among the victims. The site of the slaughter is marked by a monument.

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22 Hubbard says, "About a hundred or more of the women and children, which were like to be rather burdensome than serviceable, were left behind, who soon after resigned up themselves to the mercy of the English."

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23 Rev. Noah Newman was the son of Rev. Samuel Newman, and succeeded his father in the pastorate of the church at Rehoboth. He died April 26, 1678. — Savage.

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24 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVII, page 215. Curtis' Return and Relation.

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25 Lieutenant Nathaniel Thomas lived at Marshfield, of which town he was representative for eight years from 1672. At the time of Philip's escape from the Pocasset swamp he was stationed at the Mount Hope garrison with twenty men, eleven of whom he took with him on his chase after the other forces, which he overtook at sundown. He died October 22, 1718, in his 76th year. — Bodge. Savage.

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26 The place of this encounter was known as Nipsachick. It is located in the northwest corner of the town of Smithfield, R. I., a mile and a half south from the Tarkiln station of the Providence & Springfield R. R. It is in the midst of a hilly country with the swamp Nipsachick lying in a valley southward of the hill of that name. This was the first encounter upon the soil of Rhode Island.

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27 Nimrod, alias Woonashun, was a great captain and counselor. — Book of the Indians.

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28 Captain Andrew Edmonds of Providence commanded the Providence company which took part in the affair at Nipsachick. He was afterwards granted the privilege of operating a ferry where the red bridge crosses the Seekonk River, by the men whom, he said in his petition, "fought with me at Nipsatteke," as compensation for his valiant services in the war. In 1696 the ferry privilege was continued to his widow. — The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (Edward Field), Vol. I, page 403.

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29 Lieutenant John Brown was the son of John of Wannamoiset. He was an early settler of Swansea of which town he was a leading citizen.

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30 Letter of Captain Nathaniel Thomas to Thomas Winslow. — Mather's History (Appendix), page 231.

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31 Samuel Eels of Milford, Conn., was a military officer in Philip's war and was afterwards at Fairfield, in 1687, but settled later in Hingham from which place he was representative in 1705. He died in 1709. — Savage.

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32 Church, page 13.

A letter written by the Rev. Mr. Fitch of Norwich to the Connecticut Council records the capture by Mohegans of 111 women and children about this time, who were afterwards sold into slavery. — Conn. Records, Vol. II, page 355.

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33 Thomas Bull of Hartford came in the Hopewell, embarking at London in September, 1635. He was first of Boston or Cambridge, but accompanied Hooker to Hartford. He served in the Pequot war in 1637, and in 1675 was in command of the fort at Saybrook when Sir Edmond Andros attempted unsuccessfully to gain the place for the Duke of York. He was appointed lieutenant of a company raised in 1653, by order of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, to fight the Dutch. He died in 1684. — Memorial History of Hartford County, Vol. I, page 232.


Thayer's Note:

a Elsewhere spelled Goulding; his biographical sketch is on p271.


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