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Chapter 16

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
King Philip's War

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.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p281  Chapter XVII

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 drift of the war into the Wampanoag and Narragansett country, and the constant activity of the eastern Indians in northeastern Massachusetts and along the New Hampshire and Maine coasts, had drawn away the troops from the Connecticut Valley and left an opportunity for the escape of many of the Indians toward the west. All through July and August straggling bands, remnants of the Nipmuck and valley tribes, were making off in that direction seeking a refuge along the lower Hudson. Two hundred had been seen near Westfield on July 19th, and the request of the Rev. John Russell​1 to the Connecticut Council for troops testified to the growing alarm of the settlers, who feared hostilities might again break out in the valley and their crops be again destroyed.

After his successful campaign along the western shore of Narragansett Bay, Major Talcott had reorganized his force, and on the 18th of July again started out from New London over the same route, swinging to east around the head of the Bay. He searched the country around Taunton where Major Bradford and a large force had for some time lain more or less inactive, and then in obedience to orders marched north toward Quabaug  p282 where he destroyed a considerable amount of corn stored in pits. Striking the trail of a large body of Indians making for the west, he followed toward the Connecticut.

On the day before Philip's death, August 11th, these Indians, over two hundred and fifty in number, crossed the Connecticut at Chicopee on rafts and passed Westfield the next day. A small body of settlers attempted to oppose them, but were driven off and the Indians continued their march, but Major Talcott, following fast in pursuit, finally overtook them August 15th, as they lay encamped on the bank of the Housatonic River within the limits of the present town of Great Barrington.​2 it was evening when he saw their camp fires blazing among the trees, and in the gathering darkness he determined to divide his force and to surround the whole party and attack them while they slept; but while Talcott and the troopers with him were making their way along the bank they came unexpectedly upon an Indian who had gone down to the river to fish. Lifting his head he looked into the faces of the English closing in upon him, and springing to his feet he shouted a warning to the camp that the English were upon them. One of Talcott's troopers immediately fired and killed him as he stood; the other division, hearing the shot and seeing the Indians leap up to fly, fired into them. Thirty-five of the Indians were killed, among them the sachem of the Quabaugs, and twenty were captured, but the meshes of the  p283 net were loose and the remainder, to the number of nearly two hundred, escaped to the Hudson.3

Many of the fugitives, though at first set upon by the Mohawks, were afterwards received and incorporated with them. Only one of Talcott's force, a Mohegan Indian, was killed in the conflict. Talcott followed the Indians no further, as he lacked supplies, but turned homeward.

While Talcott was following the scattered remnants of the valley tribes to the west, Captain Swaine, in accordance with orders from the Council of Massachusetts, collected a force from among the garrisons, and the settlers of Hadley, Hatfield and Northampton, marched up the valley to Deerfield and Northfield, and destroyed the growing corn.

In the north and east the conflict continued to flame well into the following year, but throughout the country where Philip's war had been waged, fighting had ceased. A few half-famished and hopeless vagrants, fearful of punishment, continued to roam the woods, and bands of friendly Indians continued to hunt them down throughout the year. As late as December, a band of sixty were run down and captured near Rehoboth, mainly through the efforts of Peter Ephraim, a friendly Natick,​4 and the punishments were continued well into the next year.

The Indians who had fled from New England to New York, including several chiefs, among them several chiefs of the Springfield Indians, and several Nonotuck and Pocumtuck chiefs, were the subjects of considerable  p284 negotiations​5 between Andros and the Connecticut and Massachusetts authorities, who requested Andros to either send a force against those who were still at liberty or to allow them to do so, and they urged him to turn over to them for punishment those who had taken refuge in that colony and were in his hands. Andros was not overfond of the New Englanders, and little inclined to conceal his opinions, regarding them as constant and impertinent interferers in the affairs of his province. He did not approve of a New England expedition coming into New York in pursuit of the fugitives, as the Connecticut authorities desired. He had secured them, he wrote, but to all requests that they be surrendered he turned a deaf ear.

He may have thought that punishment enough had been inflicted. He certainly felt that his services in persuading the Mohawks to adopt a threatening attitude toward the New England Indians had received little recognition. A rough, choleric but honest soldier, his character has been persistently misrepresented by the majority of New England historians. His was a temperament certain to strike sparks when rubbed against the New Englander. In fact their mutual disposition, obstinate, recriminative and self-centered, was too near akin for cordial understanding or co-operation.

Of the remainder of the Nipmucks, their crops destroyed, their country overrun by the English and threatened by the Mohawks, many sought shelter among the Pennacooks and the Abenakis.

In July, Squando and Wannalancet had made a treaty  p285 of friendship with the English and in the following month, as the other eastern Indians continued aggressive, came to Major Walderne​6 at Dover, to show the English that they had not re-engaged in hostilities.

Many of the Nipmucks, who considered it an admirable opportunity to accept, under the countenance of the other Indians, the terms of the proclamation made by the General Court in May, came with them, including Muttaump and Sagamore Sam, who hoped that in the company of those who were friends of the English, they might be overlooked or mercy extended. Vain hope, for the authorities knew of their presence, and Hathorne, Walderne and Captain Frost​7 of Kittery, had mutually agreed to seize all that "were met about Major Walderne's dwelling."

The details of what followed are obscure; the contemporary historians tersely describe the plan followed as a "contrivement." At any rate it succeeded and all the Indians were disarmed and seized on the 6th of September. The Rev. Jeremy Belknap​8 furnishes considerable detail as from eyewitnesses, to the effect that the Indians were induced to join in a sham fight, and, after considerable maneuvering, led to deliver the first fire, whereupon, their guns being empty, they were surrounded and disarmed.

 p286  The strategem adopted for the capture of these people was applauded by the colonists, but among the Indians, even by those friendly disposed, it was considered as a breach of faith and was not forgotten. Thirteen years later and Walderne paid the debt of vengeance for this and other acts as soldier and trader, and as they slashed his face and breast with their knives and weighed his severed hands in the scales as he had been wont to do in buying their beaver skins they told the dying man that thus they crossed out their old accounts.

A few days later Monoco and Old Jethro were captured, by what means we know not, only that "that abominable Peter Jethro betrayed his own father and other Indians of his special acquaintance, unto death."​9 "The vile and the wicked were separated from the rest," and, two hundred in number, were sent down to Boston where the General Court turned them over to the Council, declaring it to be "their sense that those who had killed Englishmen should be put to death, and not transported." On the 26th of September, Hubbard saw Monoco "with a few more Bragadozios like himself, Sagamore Sam, Old Jethro and the sagamore of Quabaug (Muttaump), going through Boston streets toward the gallows," with halters about their necks with which they were hanged "at the town's end." And with them,​10 to the death, in stern justice, went Samuel and Daniel Goble of Lancaster, condemned for the wanton murder of Indian women and children.11

As the war drew to a close, orders were given the constables  p287 to seize the bodies of all Indians remaining in the colonies after July, and the treasurers of the various colonies were to dispose of them for the benefit of the respective commanders. All who had been concerned in the death of a colonist or the destruction of property (and to be suspected was often held to be concerned), were summarily executed. Most of those taken captive were sold as permanent bondsmen and the receipts from this source distributed to each colony proportionately, hundreds being shipped into slavery to the Spanish West Indies, to Spain, Portugal, Bermuda and Virginia. There is record of more than five hundred being sold into slavery from Plymouth alone.​12 Rhode Island, to her credit, abstained from this cruelty, and limited their bondage within the confines of the colony for a limited term of years. Some who had surrendered under the proclamations were given lands to dwell on, while young and single persons, particularly in Connecticut, were in many cases settled in English families as apprentices.13

Uncas had made hay while the sun shone, and many a hostile native had been added as warrior or servant to his tribe. He had rendered far greater service than he was ever given credit for, and to stand before the court at Hartford and be told that the success of the war was with the English, and that they meant to dispose of all the captives and enjoy its results, must have been as wormwood.​14 Suspected by the whites, he had aided in the ruin of his own race, and thenceforth he and his  p288 tribe had to accept with humility and subservience the rewards which ultimately fall to those weak allies who take the part of the conquering invader against their own people. A few generations and the Mohegans had disappeared as completely as their old foes the Narragansetts.

The loss suffered by the colonies was appalling. Connecticut alone had escaped the devastation that left vast tracts in the other colonies a wilderness, but even Connecticut had to mourn a fearful list of slain soldiers. In the four colonies, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Connecticut, over six hundred men had perished, or one in eleven of the population able to bear arms, in addition to many women and children.​a Over six hundred dwellings had been destroyed, with innumerable cattle, sheep and horses, and the greater part of a year's harvest. Thirteen settlements had been completely wiped out, and the wilderness had again closed on many a scattered farm and hamlet; but the harvest, threatened with failure in the early summer, was abundant, and the suffering was not severe. No assistance had been asked for or given by the motherland; of men there had been enough.

The war had cost the four colonies heavily. The commissioners reported that Plymouth colony had been put to an expense of not less than £100,000, an immense sum if we consider the feeble resources of the colony at that time. But if the whites had suffered, the Indians had been practically exterminated; their lands had passed to the whites; a few scantily inhabited villages were all that was left of the mighty tribe of the Narragansetts. The  p289 valley Indians had disappeared and were seen no more except for a raid by some fugitive valley Indians, sallying forth from Canada, who over a year later, September 19, 1677, fell upon the inhabitants of Hatfield while they were building a house outside the stockade, and killing several, carried away as captives to Canada some twenty-four of the English, men, women and children, including several from Deerfield, most of whom were ransomed a few months later.

Never again did the southern New England tribes menace the people of these colonies. Their submission was that of death, and the feeble remnants lay quiescent amid the forays of the French and their Indian allies in the years to come, while New England rose rapidly from her ruins.

The Author's Notes:

1 Letter of Rev. John Russell to Connecticut Council of War. Connecticut Colony Records (Journal of the Council of War), Vol. II, page 464.

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2 The Indian encampment was upon the western bank of the Housatonic River near the central bridge and within a quarter of a mile of the business center of Great Barrington. The spot is marked by a monument.

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3 Trumbull's History of Connecticut, New Edition, Vol. I, pages 292, 293. The information is from the manuscripts of Rev. Thomas Ruggles.

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4 Hubbard, Vol. 1, page 285.

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5 Connecticut Colony Records, Vol. II, pages 469, 478, etc.

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6 Major Walderne's report of the matter sheds little light on the details. — Massachusetts Archives, Vol. XXX, page 218.

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7 Charles Frost, born in Tiverton, England, came with his father, Nicholas, about 1637 and settled in Kittery. He was representative, captain and major, and chosen a counselor at the first election under the new charter. He was killed by Indians in ambush as he was going home from public worship on Sunday, July 4, 1697.

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8 Rev. Jeremy Belknap's History of New Hampshire, Vol. I, page 142.

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9 Mather's Prevalency of Prayer, page 257.

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10 Judge Sewall's Diary.

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11 Massachusetts Archives, Vol. XXX, pages 209‑211, 222.

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12 Baylie's Memoirs of Plymouth.

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13 Connecticut Colony Records, Vol. II, pages 481, 482. Massachusetts Colony Records, Vol. V, page 136.

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14 Connecticut Colony Records, Vol. II, page 473.

Thayer's Note:

a The absolute numbers of colonists killed do not seem like much, and the writer does well to give a proportional indication of them. In terms of the total population King Philip's War was the bloodiest in American history, those killed by the enemy numbering about 5% overall; nor does this include the casualties in the eastern war, subject of the Appendix that follows this final chapter. By way of comparison, in the War between the States, of a population of 32,000,000, about 625,000 (2%) died from all causes combined; and in combat far fewer: 213,000.

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Page updated: 1 Jan 09