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Chapter 7

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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Chapter 9
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p125  Chapter VIII

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 enforced withdrawal of the Connecticut troops was a blow to the new commander. They alone were accompanied by a band of Mohegans, whose presence had saved them repeatedly from running into ambuscades, and Appleton had depended upon these Mohegans for his guides and scouts in the coming campaign. Notwithstanding the refusal of Seeley​1 to join him, Appleton, having concentrated the bulk of his command, set out for Northfield on the 15th of October. He had but started, however, when information reached him that a large force of Indians was encamped on the west bank of the river. He hastened back to Hadley, and, crossing the river to Hatfield in the evening, struck the Deerfield trail and pushed forward in the hope of effecting a surprise, but the flash of a gun and the shouts of the Indians soon made clear that his movement had been discovered. A tempestuous night was setting in, and, fearful for the unguarded towns of Hadley and Hatfield in his rear, he turned back.

Hardly had he arrived at Hadley than Seeley at Northampton asked for reinforcements, as the Indians were near by. The air was full of rumors. Indians were here, there, everywhere, but Appleton, marching from one place  p126 to another, could not get in touch with them. Vague unrest prevailed throughout the towns and insubordination grew more rife among the troops as their long and hurried marches proved ever fruitless. The Connecticut troops were unwilling to remain in garrison at Westfield and among the captains jealousies and misunderstandings were frequent.

Across the river, a mile through the meadows from its north bank, and opposite Hadley, stands the little village of Hatfield. Here, on the 19th of October, Captains Poole​2 and Moseley were resting their companies, when, about noon, several large fires were observed to the north of the village. Moseley immediately sent out a party of men to reconnoiter. The building of these fires was a trap such as the Indians delighted to set and in which the colonial forces were only too prone to be caught. There is little doubt but that the ambuscade was laid with full expectation that the whole garrison would march out and fall into it, for the scouting party had progressed but a short two miles beyond the stockade when a fierce volley fired from brush practically exterminated them. Six were killed, three captured, and a lone survivor found his way back.3

 p127  Moseley was too well acquainted with the Indian character to believe this ambuscade the work of any but a large and aggressive force, who meant to attack the village. Sending word to Appleton who soon joined him, having left only twenty men at garrison at Hadley, the arrangements for defense were quickly completed. Several hours passed and no Indian had yet appeared, when suddenly, about four o'clock, a large body of warriors made their appearance at the edge of the meadows, rushing toward the stockade. Several heavy volleys, however, told them that the force on guard was large and well prepared, and after killing Freegrace Norton,​4 a sergeant of Appleton's company, and sending a bullet through Appleton's hat, "by that whisper telling him that death was very near,"​5 they retired, as Treat, who had at last returned to Northampton, appeared upon the scene. Hatfield had escaped the intended stroke, but no safety existed outside the stockade. The crops, ungathered in the fields, afforded subsistence to the Indians, and the scattered farms throughout the valley and to the eastward lay in ruins or deserted.

From Springfield northward the warriors lay in wait for any too venturesome settler or small body of troops and watched patiently for any opportunity to surprise the towns themselves.

The mill at Springfield had been destroyed and the people found it necessary to carry their corn to the mill at Westfield.​6 On the 27th Major Pynchon and a small  p128 force, having ground the corn they were escorting, were fired upon from ambush and three of the party were killed.7

The previous day a party of seven or eight Northampton settlers, gathering their crops from the Pynchon meadow,​8 had been surprised by a small force of Indians. No sentinels had been posted; their arms were deposited under the carts, but, cutting the traces, they mounted their horses and fled, followed almost up to the stockade by the Indians, who retired only after having burned four or five houses and several barns. The next day the same band surprised and killed two men and a boy in the meadows in Northampton opposite the town mill,9  p129 but in an attempt to destroy the mill were driven off.10

Operations conducted in other parts of the field in a more or less perfunctory manner had brought but little result and the end of the war seemed farther off than ever and the Council found fault with Appleton for his failure. "I am not without feeling some smart in your lines, though I would not be over tender," he wrote them in reply, and the fault was as much theirs as his.11

Captain Henchman, marching from Boston, November 1st, to reconnoiter the country around Hassamenesit, came, November 3d, on some fires recently kindled by the Indians and, urged by his officers, continued on to the Indian encampment. No Indians were found, but the scouts, under Captain Sill, early in the morning discovered a miller's lad who, recently captured near Marlboro, had been abandoned on their approach.

A few days later Henchman, drawing near to Mendon, received information of Indian wigwams about ten miles off. Mounting twenty-two of the company, Henchman and Philip Courtice,​12 his lieutenant, set out in the hope of surprising them. Having come within a short distance  p130 of the Indian encampment they tied their horses and divided, Henchman taking one-half the company and Courtice the remainder. Henchmen's men were closing in upon the village when the Indian dogs began to bark. All halted, then slowly moved forward; but then "the captain's foot slipping, he could hardly recover himself and suddenly looking behind him he saw no man following him."

Courtice, however, had pushed on and coming upon the wigwams was met by a sharp and sudden fire. Courtice himself was shot as he reached the door of a wigwam, one of his men also fell dead, while the remainder took to flight. Henchman called upon them to shoot into the wigwams and "they replied that they only went back to fall on and charge, yet left the field entirely."13

Winter was near at hand, the trees were shedding their foliage, the naked forests no longer offered opportunities for ambuscades, and as November progressed hostilities ceased and the Indians vanished.

In the valley operations also had come to a close. Treat, who had maintained a friendly attitude toward Appleton during the campaign at the instance of the Connecticut Council, finally returned to Connecticut, and Appleton, having destroyed the Indian crops wherever he could find them in the valley, left small garrisons in Hadley,  p131 Northampton and Springfield, and departed with most of the troops for Boston, where plans were already prepared for a blow at the Narragansetts in their winter quarters.

The campaign in the Connecticut Valley had been a disastrous failure through lack of harmony, hampering commands from the Council and commissioners, and the absence of a definite plan of operations. The anxious inhabitants settled down with meager supplies to face the hard winter, while houses were strengthened against attack, and the burned out settlers of Springfield crowded the houses of their friends or covered over their cellars for a winter refuge. The Indians, their crops destroyed, their powder scarce, and without their winter supply of dried fish, faced winter in the recesses of the swamps or wandered to remote parts in search of sustenance. The constant defeats, the wiping out of settlements where destruction and death struck so near and poignantly to all, aroused the stern but latently emotional New Englanders to vengeance. With the spread of the war from one end of the land to the other, the conflict assumed a religious and racial character that could have no other outcome than the extermination of one or the other of the combatants. The fury of fire and sword, without mercy, was to sweep alike over cabin and Indian village. Suspicion and hatred of all Indians became intense throughout Massachusetts. Though many of the Christian Indians remained faithful, there were others who joined the hostiles and distinguished themselves by their cruelty. It was but natural that the settlers, knowing not whom to trust and suspicious of all, should include innocent and guilty in the same condemnation. It is unnecessary to  p132 enumerate the results born of this attitude. Even a year later when peace had come in the south, the women of Marblehead, coming from church, massacred Indian prisoners from Maine who were being convoyed through the town.​14 The rough element of the community plundered the wigwams of the neighboring friendly Indians and in several cases wounded and murdered the women and children.​15 Indian prisoners were tortured for the purpose of eliciting information and women, children and old men were sold into slavery. Christian Indians who had served successfully as scouts were driven to join the hostiles. The Indians in the stockaded towns near Boston were ordered by the General Court not to be received in any town except in the prison, and were finally removed to Deer Island where, ill supplied with the necessaries of life, they suffered great hardships during the winter.​16 A mob called upon Captain Oliver​17 to lead them in an attack on the jail where the Indians were confined, but Oliver, though an exponent of the harsh policy, belabored the  p133 ringleaders with a stick.​18 It became necessary for the time being for the authorities to bend to the popular tempest and disband the companies of Indians organized by Gookin,​19 and the courts appeased popular clamor by convicting prisoners whom they afterwards released. "O come, let us go down to Deer Island and let us kill all these praying Indians," was the cry of the irresponsible. But the Council, informed of the plot of about thirty men to pull out to the Island from Pullings Point to kill the Indians, sent for two or three of the ringleaders and warned them to attempt it at their peril.20

Whoever adopted most repressive measures won popular approval, and the appeals of men like Major Gookin and Rev. John Eliot for humane treatment, and their representations as to the folly of estranging the friendly Indian, alike fell upon deaf ears. "The error of selling away such Indians unto the islands for perpetual slaves" wrote Eliot to the commissioners, "may produce we know not what evil consequences upon all the land, . . . this usage of them is worse than death. Christ hath said, Blessed be the merciful. . . . All men (of reading) condemn the Spaniards for cruelty . . . in destroying men and depopulating the land. Here is land enough for them and us too."21

Gookin and Eliot were threatened by angry mobs, and the former was defeated at the election for magistrate.  p134 Several curious depositions show the feelings of the baser element toward him. One Rie Scott called him an "Irish dog, never faithful to his king or his country, . . . a rogue, God confound him, he is the devil's interpreter. I and a few more designed to cut off all Gookins' brethren on the island and some English dog discovered it."22

Warnings were sent both to Gookin and Eliot purporting to be from a secret society, calling them traitors and warning them to prepare for death.​23 The men of Captain Henchman refused to serve under him on account of his moderate views, and even Major Savage and Captain Prentice were held up to popular hatred as friends of the "incarnate devils."

These measures cost Massachusetts dear; it left her forces hopeless to carry on a successful campaign. Many a company was ambushed because of the lack of Indian scouts, and many a town was burned because of the refusal to credit the reports of friendly Indians and their own Indian spies. Connecticut, comparatively free from Indian attacks, was naturally able to take a broader view, and, by employing the Mohegans, did not suffer a reverse or surprise in the whole campaign.

For some time the mutual suspicion between the Narragansetts and the settlers had been drawing to a head. It was believed that numerous women and children of the Wampanoags had taken refuge in Canonchet's domains, and Uncas had spread the story that many young warriors were to be found in the Narragansett villages recovering  p135 from wounds received in the conflicts in the valley.

The unprovoked invasion of the Narragansett country at the beginning of the campaign had added fresh fuel to the bitter remembrance of Miantonomah's fate and the harsh and arbitrary acts of Massachusetts constantly repeated in the intervening years; nor can Canonchet have been blind to the fact that, whatever Philip's failings might be, every hope of Narragansett independence would fall with him.

The treaty, wrung by Captains Moseley and Savage at the sword's point from the old men, requiring the surrender of all Philip's subjects, even women and children who should take refuge with the Narragansetts, was for a long time openly flouted by Canonchet, yet on the demand of the commissioners of the United Colonies he confirmed, on the 18th of October, the terms of the treaty of July to deliver all the men, women and children to the Governor or Council at Boston before October 28th and was presented with a coat trimmed with silver, and dismissed.24

The sachems would have remained neutral if possible. They had kept aloof from any alliance with Philip and were held by both Philip and his allies to be friendly to the English. Such was the testimony of James Quanapohit, an Indian spy in the service of the English among the Quabaugs and Nashaways, who, questioned by Captain  p136 Nathaniel Davenport as to "whether the Narragansetts had aided or assisted Philip and his company in the summer, against the English," replied that they had not and that the hostiles "regarded them as friends of the English all along, and their enemies." This view of the Narragansetts was also held by the Indians around Plymouth, for when Peter, Awashonk's son, who had warned Church of Philip's designs just previous to the outbreak of hostilities, was examined at Plymouth in June, 1676, he testified that the Saconet Indians when the English had fired their houses, "understanding that the Narragansetts were friends to the English, we went to them." No hostile actions marked their course, but in the excited state of mind that existed among both magistrate and people of New England at the time, neutrality was impossible.

If the friendly Indians were objects of keen distrust and suspicion, a neutral tribe could only be regarded as hostile, harboring evil intention and waiting only a favorable opportunity for war and massacre.

The policy of peace at any price among the Narragansetts, so diligently pursued by Canonicus and Pessacus,º had broken down. Submission and subserviency had neither mitigated the white man's suspicions nor made the English less diligent in furthering their own interests and those of Uncas. The lesson taught by the Pequot war had grown dim in memory, and the young warriors found in Canonchet a leader who represented far more than his father or uncles, the warlike spirit of their traditionary leaders.

Swayed by such influence the Narragansetts were in no mood to commit so great an outrage against the traditions  p137 of Indian hospitality as to surrender the women and children who sought their protection, among them, no doubt, many from the sub-tribes of the Wampanoags who feared the resentment both of the English and their own kindred.

The attitude of reserve and suspicion assumed by the Narragansetts and the sullen temper of the young warriors had not passed unnoticed by those who knew them best. Pessacus, soon after the signing of the Pettaquamscat treaty in July had told several of the Rhode Islanders that the young warriors would not listen to his words of peace, and were desirous of war. Roger Williams had warned the authorities late in July that their words of peace were treacherous. He knew only too well the humiliations to which the whole tribe had been subjected, and weighed the desire for vengeance which burned in their hearts.

Immediately after the signing of the October treaty, Williams, while carrying one of the sachems (probably Canonchet,º returning from Boston) in his canoe to Smith's Landing, took the opportunity to warn him against breaking the treaty.

"I told him and his men that Philip was his looking-glass, and how Philip was dead to all advice and now was over set.

"He asked me in a consenting, considering kind of a way 'Philip over set?' . . . and I told him that if they were false to his engagements we would pursue them with a winter's war when they should not, as mosquitoes and rattlesnakes in warm weather, bite us. They gave me leave to say anything, acknowledging loudly your great kindness in Boston, and mine, and yet Captain  p138 Fenner​25 told me yesterday he thinks they will prove our worst enemies at last."26

The warning did not fall upon deaf ears. The 28th of October came and the anxious but resolute commissioners knew that the treaty had been in vain.

It was believed at the time that Philip was Canonchet's evil counselor, but there exists no doubt that the Narragansett had himself determined to submit no more to every demand and threat Massachusetts might see fit to make, for his was a nature imbued with a strength and temper more certain to act on its own initiative than on the persuasion of others.

One more attempt at persuasion the English are reported by a popular tradition of the time to have made, only to meet in the stern, inclusive reply, "No, not a Wampanoag nor the paring of a Wampanoag's nail,"​27 a refusal that bade them do their worst.

The commissioners, as well as public opinion, racked with the anxiety and depression over the disasters in the valley and the failure of the plan of campaign, felt it was safer to strike at the Narragansetts immediately, while concentrated in winter quarters, than to be hampered by fear of their rising in the spring.

On the refusal of Canonchet to keep the terms of the treaty, the commissioners of the United Colonies assembled at Boston, November 2d, and, without further  p139 negotiations, practically declared war in the following proclamation:

"For as much as the Narragansett Indians are deeply accessory in the present bloody outrages of the barbarous Indians that are in open hostilities with the English, this appearing by their harboring the actors thereof, relieving and succoring their women and children and wounded men, and detaining them in their custody notwithstanding the covenant made by their sachems to deliver them to the English, and as is creditably reported, have killed and taken away many cattle from the English, their neighbors, and did for some days seize and keep under a strong guard Mr. Smith's house and family, and at the news of the said lamentable mischief that the Indians did at or near Hatfield, did in a most reproachful and blasphemous manner triumph and rejoice. . . . The commissioners do agree to raise one thousand men beside the number of soldiers formerly agreed upon, and the commander-in‑chief shall with the said soldiers march into Narragansett country, and in case they be not permitted by the Narragansett sachems the actual performance of their covenant made with the commissioners, by delivering up those of our enemies that are in their custody, as also making reparation for all damages sustained by their neglect hitherto, together with security for their further conduct, then to compel them thereunto by the best means they may."​28

The commissioners appointed Governor Josiah Winslow of Plymouth commander-in‑chief, referred the appointment of a second in command to the Council or  p140 General Court of Connecticut, fixed the allotment of men to be furnished by each of the colonies and advised that all troops be picked men, well equipped, warmly clothed, and supplied with a week's provisions in knapsacks and a supply in reserve. The 2d of December was named as a day of humiliation and prayer.

The fact that the Rhode Islanders, within whose boundaries the Narragansett country lay, were opposed to hostilities, and the contemplated invasion was in defiance of the royal charter of that colony was entirely ignored.

The hierarchy of the other colonies seldom wasted courtesy upon the authorities of heretical Rhode Island, and in this case, when they deemed time all important, they can hardly be blamed for considering that the safety of their people must not be endangered by the attitude of a weak government and the terms of a general charter.

The Author's Notes:

1 Lieutenant Nathaniel Seeley, son of Robert of Wethersfield, was of New Haven in 1646 and later removed to Fairfield. He early entered upon military duty in the service of Connecticut, and fell in the Narragansett Swamp fight at the head of his company, December 19, 1675. — Savage.

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2 Captain Jonathan Poole was of Reading. In October, 1671, he was appointed quartermaster, and in May, 1674, cornet of the "Three County Troop," and held that office when the war broke out in 1675. He served at Quabaug and Hadley and when Major Appleton was given command of the army of the west he appointed Poole to a captaincy. The Council refused for a time to confirm the appointment, but, later, when the main army was withdrawn for the Narragansett campaign Captain Poole was placed in command of the garrison forces in the valley towns. He served as representative to the General Court in 1677, and died December 24, 1678. — Bodge, page 258. Savage.

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3 Drake's "Old Indian Chronicle," page 166.

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4 Freegrace Norton was the son of George of Salem. He was first of Saco but removed to Ipswich.

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5 Hubbard, Vol. I, page 125.

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6 The original location of Westfield was at the junction of the Westfield and Little Rivers. Here was the log fort, under which a cellar had been provided for the retreat of the women and children in case of an attack. The ground on which this stood has disappeared through the encroachment of the river. Close upon the present highway stood the church, built of logs, "barn fation with a bell coney." The settlement was surrounded by a stout palisade. The original saw and gristmill was built upon the brook in the easterly part of the town, probably near the present village of "Little River," two and a half miles east of the center of the present Westfield.

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7 These were John Dumbleton, and William and John Brooks.

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8 Pynchon's meadow was a tract of 120 acres of ground granted to Major John Pynchon, situated at the most northerly turn of the "Ox Bow," and bounded on the south by Hurlburt's Pond, into and through which the Mill River at that time flowed. The Indians followed the fleeing settlers along what is now South Street, and the houses and barns destroyed by them were located not far from the present iron bridge over Mill River, and were at that time the most southerly buildings of the town. — See Trumbull's History of Northampton.

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9 Northampton Town Mill, built in 1671 at "Red Rocks," was located on the bend of Mill River between what is now College Lane and Paradise Road, and upon the land of Praisever Turner, who had been murdered and scalped on the 29th of the previous month (September) while cutting wood on the hill just above the mill. Opposite the mill on the west side of the river was the meadow, now known as Paradise meadow, where the Indians had killed two men and a boy just before the attack on the mill.

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10 Appleton to Governor Leverett, November 10th. — Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 52.

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11 Appleton to Governor Leverett, November 17th. — Massachusetts Archives, Vol. LXVIII, page 63.

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12 Philip Curtis, born in 30, was of Roxbury.

Note. — Other correspondence of Governor Leverett and Council, and of Major Appleton, with each other, during October and November 17, will be found in the Massachusetts Archives:



Vol. 67,

page 245.



Vol. 68,

page 14.



Vol. 68,

page 19.



Vol. 68,

page 23.



Vol. 68,

page 58.

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13 The account is taken from Henchman's letter in Massachusetts Archive, Vol. LXVIII, page 80, and Hubbard.

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14 Letter of Increase Mather, May 23, 1677.

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15 Gookin's Christian Indians. — American Soc. Coll., Antiquarian Vol. II, page 482.

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16 Ibid. page 485.

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17 Captain James Oliver came to New England from the mother country with his parents, March 9, 1632. He was admitted freeman of Boston, October 12, 1640; became a merchant; was of the Artillery Company, ensign 1651, lieutenant 1653, captain 1656 and again in 1666. He was of the First Military Company of Boston and elected captain about 1673.º His appointment to the command of a company for the Narragansett campaign was dated November 17, 1675. He was one of the few officers commanding companies that came out from the Swamp Fight unscathed. After this campaign his company returned to Boston where it was dismissed February 5, 1675/1676. He died in 1682. — Bodge.

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18 Old Indian Chronicle, page 152.

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19 Order dated August 30th.

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20 American Antiquarian Soc. Coll., Vol. II, page 404. Gookin's Christian Indians.

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21 Letter from Rev. John Eliot to Commissioners of United Colonies. Acts of Commissioners, Vol. II, page 451. Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. X.

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22 Massachusetts Archive, Vol. XXX, pages 192‑193.

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23 Ibid.

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24 The signers on behalf of the English include no members of the Massachusetts Council, but Samuel Gorton, James Brown and Richard Smith, all neighbors of the Narragansetts.

Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, Vol. II, page 361. Plymouth Records, Vol. X.

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25 Captain Arthur Fenner of Providence was born in England in 1622. He was made freeman in 1655. He was commissioned captain of the trainband in 1672 and when a garrison was established at Providence he was appointed commander, and is sometimes called "the Captain of Providence."

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26 Roger Williams to Gov. Leverett, Mass. Archives, Vol. 67, 296.

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27 See Hubbard's account of Canonchet's Trial, Vol. 2, page 60.

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28 Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies, Vol. II, page 357. (not literal). Plymouth Colony Records, Vol. X.

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