"There are some that have hopes of their greatest and chiefest sachem, named Philip. Some of his chief men, as I hear, stand well-inclined to hear the Gospel, and himself is a person of good understanding and knowledge in the best things. I have heard him speak very good words, arguing that his conscience is convicted. But yet, though his will is bound to embrace Jesus Christ, his sensual and carnal lusts are strong bands to hold him fast under Satan's dominion."
Some time after this, Rev. Mr. Elliot records that, in conversation with King Philip upon the subject of religion, the Wampanoag chieftain took hold of a button upon Mr. Elliot's coat, and said, very deliberately,
"Mr. Elliot, I care no more for the Gospel of Jesus Christ than I do for that button."
For nine years Philip was probably brooding over the subject of the encroachments of the English, and the waning power of the Indians. This was the inevitable result of the idle, vagabond life of the Indians, and of the industry and energy of the colonists. The Indians had not thus far been defrauded. Mr. Josiah Winslow, governor of Plymouth Colony, writes, in a letter dated May 1, 1676:
"I think I can truly say that, before these present troubles broke out, the English did not possess one foot of land in this colony but what was fairly obtained by honest purchase of the Indian proprietors."
The discontent of Philip did not, however, escape the notice of the English, and for a long time they saw increasing indications that a storm was gathering. The wary monarch, with continued protestations of friendship, was evidently accumulating resources, strengthening alliances, and distributing more extensively among the Indians guns and other weapons of Indian warfare. His warriors soon rivaled the white men in skill as sharp-shooters, and became very adroit in the use of their weapons. They were carefully laying up stores of powder and bullets, and Philip could not conceal the interest with which he endeavored to learn how to manufacture gunpowder.
Under this state of affairs, it is easy to perceive that mutual suspicions and recriminations must have rapidly ensued. The Indians and the colonists, year after year, became more exasperated against each other. The dangers of collision were constantly growing more imminent. Many deeds of violence and aggression were perpetrated by individuals upon each side. Still, candor compels us to admit, as we carefully read the record of those days, that the English were very far from being patterns of meekness and long-suffering. Haughtiness and intolerance when in power has marked the career of our venerated, yet far from faultless ancestors in every quarter of the globe.
The Narraganset tribe had now lost its pre-eminence. Canonicus had long since died, at the age of eighty years. Miantunnomah had been taken prisoner by the Mohegans, and had been executed upon the plain of Norwich. Ninigret, who was now sovereign chief of the Narragansets, was old, infirm, and imbecile. His character illustrates the saying of Napoleon, that "better is it to have an army of deer led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a deer."
Philip, by his commanding genius and daring spirit, had now obtained a great ascendency over all the New England tribes excepting the Mohegans. They, under Uncas, were strongly attached to the English, to whom they were indebted for their very existence. The character of Philip is illustrated by the following incident. In 1665, he heard that an Indian had spoken disrespectfully of his father, Massasoit. To avenge the insult, he pursued the offender from place to place, until, at last, he tracked him to the island of Nantucket. Taking a canoe, Philip proceeded to the island. Assasamooyh, who, by speaking ill of the dead, had, according to Indian law, forfeited his life, was a Christian Indian. He was sitting at the table of one of the colonists, when a messenger rushed in breathlessly, and informed him that the dreaded avenger was near the door. Assasamooyh had but just time to rush from the house when Philip was upon him. The Indian fled like a frighted deer, pursued by the vengeful chieftain. From house to house the pursued and his pursuer rushed, while the English looked with amazement at this exhibition of the energy of Indian law. According to their code, whoever spoke ill of the dead was to forfeit life at the hand of the nearest relative. Thus Philip, with his brandished tomahawk, considered himself but the honored executor of justice. Assasamooyh, however, at length leaped a bank, and, plunging into the forest, eluded his foe. The English then succeeded, by a very heavy ransom, in purchasing his life, and Philip returned to Mount Hope, feeling that his father's memory had been suitably avenged.
In the year 1671, the English, alarmed by the threatening aspect of affairs, and seeing increasing indications that Philip was preparing for hostilities, sent an imperious command to him to come to Taunton and explain his conduct. For some time Philip made sundry rather weak excuses for not complying with this demand, at the same time reiterating assurances of his friendly feelings. He was, as yet, quite unprepared for war, and was very reluctant to precipitate hostilities, which he had sufficient sagacity to foresee would involve him in ruin, unless he could first form such a coalition of the Indian tribes as would enable him to attack all the English settlements at one and the same time. At length, however, he found that he could no longer refuse to give some explanation of the measures he was adopting without giving fatal strength to the suspicions against him.
Accordingly, on the 10th of April of this year, he took with him a band of warriors, armed to the teeth, and painted and decorated with the most brilliant trappings of barbarian splendor, and approached within four miles of Taunton. Here the proud monarch of the Wampanoags established his encampment, and, with native-taught punctiliousness, sent a message to the English governor, informing him of his arrival at that spot, and requiring him to come and treat with him there. The governor, either afraid to meet these warriors in their own encampment, or deeming it beneath his dignity to attend the summons of an Indian chieftain, sent Roger Williams, with several other messengers, to assure Philip of his friendly feelings, and to entreat him to continue his journey to Taunton, as a more convenient place for their conference. Philip, with caution which subsequent events proved to have been well timed, detained these messengers as hostages for his safe return, and then, with an imposing retinue of his painted braves, proudly strode forward toward the town of Taunton.
When he arrived at a hill upon the outskirts of the village, he again halted, and warily established sentinels around his encampment. The governor and magistrates of Massachusetts, apprehensive that the Plymouth people might get embroiled in a war with the Indians, and anxious, if possible, to avert so terrible a calamity, had dispatched three commissioners to Taunton to endeavor to promote reconciliation between the Plymouth colony and Philip. These commissioners were now in conference with the Plymouth court. When Philip appeared upon the hill, the Plymouth magistrates, exasperated by many outrages, were quite eager to march and attack him, and take his whole party prisoners, and hold them as hostages for the good behavior of the Indians. With no little difficulty the Massachusetts commissioners overruled this rash design, and consented to go out themselves and persuade Philip to come in and confer in a friendly manner upon the adjustment of their affairs.
Philip received the Massachusetts men with reserve, but with much courtesy. At first he refused to advance any farther, but declared that those who wished to confer with him must come where he was. At length, however, he consented to refer the difficulties which existed between him and the Plymouth colony to the Massachusetts commissioners, and to hold the conference in the Taunton meeting-house. But, that he might meet his accusers upon the basis of perfect equality, he demanded that one half of the meeting-house should be appropriated sacredly to himself and his followers, while the Plymouth people, his accusers, should occupy the other half. The Massachusetts commissioners, three gentlemen, were to sit alone as umpires. We can not but admire the character developed by Philip in these arrangements.
Philip managed his cause, which was manifestly a bad one, with great adroitness. Talleyrand and Metternich would have given him a high position among European diplomatists. He could not deny that he was making great military preparations, but he declared that this was only in anticipation of an attack from the Narraganset Indians. But it was proved that at that moment he was on terms of more intimate friendship with the Narragansets than ever before. He also brought charge for charge against the English; and it can not be doubted that he and his people had suffered much from the arrogance of individuals of the domineering race. Philip has had no one to tell his story, and we have received the narrative only from the pens of his foes. They tell us that he was at length confounded, and made full confession of his hostile designs, and expressed regret for them.
As a result of the conference, all past grievances were to be buried in oblivion, and a treaty was entered into in which mutual friendship was pledged, and in which Philip consented to the extraordinary measure of disarming his people, and of surrendering their guns to the governor of Plymouth, to be retained by him so long as he should distrust the sincerity of their friendship. Philip and his warriors immediately gave up their guns, seventy in number, and promised to send in the rest within a given time.
It is difficult to conceive how the Indians could have understandingly, and in good faith, have made such a treaty. The English had now been fifty years in the country. The Indians had become familiar with the use of guns. Bows and arrows had long since been laid aside. As game was with them an important element of food, the loss of their guns was apparently a very serious calamity. It is not improbable that the English magistrates humanely hoped, by taking away the guns of the Indians, to lead them from the precarious and vagabond life of hunters to the more refining influences of agriculture. But it is very certain that the Indians cherished no such views. It was also agreed in the council that, in case of future troubles, both parties should submit their complaints to the arbitration of Massachusetts.
This settlement, apparently so important, amounted to nothing. The Indians were ever ready, it is said, to sign any agreement whatever which would extricate them from a momentary difficulty; but such promises were broken as promptly as they were made. Philip, having returned to Mount Hope, sent in no more guns, but was busy as ever gaining resources for war, and entering into alliances with other tribes. Philip denied this, but the people of Plymouth thought that they had ample evidence that such was the case.
The summer thus passed away, while the aspect of affairs was daily growing more threatening. As Philip did not send in his guns according to agreement, and as there was evidence, apparently conclusive, of his hostile intentions, the Plymouth government, late in August, sent another summons, ordering the Wampanoag sovereign to appear before them on the 13th of September, and threatening, in case he did not comply with this summons, to send out a force to reduce him to subjection. At the same time, they sent communications to the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, stating their complaints against Philip, and soliciting their aid in the war which they thought evidently approaching.
In this movement Philip gained a manifest advantage over the Plymouth colonists. It will be remembered that, according to the terms of the treaty, all future difficulties were to be referred to the arbitration of Massachusetts as an impartial umpire. But Plymouth had now, in violation of these terms, imperiously summoned the Indian chieftain, as if he were their subject, to appear before their courts. Philip, instead of paying any regard to this arrogant order, immediately repaired to Boston with his councilors, and thus manifestly placed himself in the position of the "law and order" party. It so happened that he arrived in Boston on the very day in which the Governor of Massachusetts received the letter from the Plymouth colony. The representations which Philip made seemed to carry conviction to the impartial umpires of Massachusetts that he was not severely to be censured. They accordingly wrote a letter to Plymouth, assuming that there was perhaps equal blame on both sides, and declaring that there did not appear to be sufficient cause for the Plymouth people to commence hostilities. In their letter they write:
"We do not understand how Philip hath subjected himself to you. But the treatment you have given him, and your proceedings toward him, do not render him such a subject as that, if there be not a present answering to summons, there should presently be a proceeding to hostilities. The sword once drawn and dipped in blood, may make him as independent upon you as you are upon him."
Arrangements were now made for a general council from the united colonies to assemble at Plymouth on the 24th of September. King Philip agreed to meet this council in a new attempt to adjust all their difficulties. At the appointed time the assembly was convened. King Philip was present, with a retinue of warriors, all decorated in the highest style of barbaric splendor. Bitter complaints were entered upon both sides, and neither party were disposed to draw any very marked line of distinction between individual acts of outrage and the measures for which the two governments were responsible. Another treaty was, however, made, similar to the Taunton treaty, and the two parties again separated with protestations of friendship, but quite hostile as ever at heart. The colonists were, however, all anxious to avoid a war, as they had every thing to lose by it and nothing to gain. Philip, on the contrary, deemed the salvation of the Indians was depending upon the extermination of the colonists. He was well aware that he was quite unprepared for immediate hostilities, and that he had much to do in the way of preparation before he could hope successfully to encounter foes so formidable as the English had now become.
Three years now passed away of reserved intercourse and suspicious peace. The colonists were continually hearing rumors from distant tribes of Philip's endeavors, and generally successful endeavors, to draw them into a coalition. The conspiracy, so far as it could be ascertained, included nearly all the tribes of New England, and extended into the interior of New York, and along the coast to Virginia. The Narragansets agreed to furnish four thousand warriors. Other tribes, according to their power, were to furnish their hundreds or their thousands. Hostilities were to be commenced in the spring of 1676 by a simultaneous assault upon all the settlements, so that none of the English could go from one portion of the country to aid another.
The English, month after month, saw this cloud of terror increasing in blackness; yet measures were so adroitly adopted by King Philip that, while the air was filled with rumors, it was difficult to obtain any positive proof, and still more difficult to decide what course to pursue to avert the calamity. As these deep-laid plans of the shrewd Wampanoag chieftain were approaching maturity, Philip became more independent and bold in his demeanor. The Massachusetts colonists now began to feel that the danger was indeed imminent, and that their Plymouth brethren had more cause for complaint than they had supposed. The evidence became so convincing that this dreadful conspiracy was in progress, that the Governor of Massachusetts sent an embassador to Philip, demanding an explanation of these threatening appearances, and soliciting another treaty of peace and friendship. The proud sachem haughtily replied to the embassador,
"Your governor is but a subject of King Charles of England. I shall not treat with a subject. I shall only treat with the king, my brother. When he comes, I am ready."
Such was the alarming aspect of affairs at the close of the year 1674.
COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES.
Enthusiasm of the young Indians.—John Sassamon.—Betty's Neck.—Private secretary of Philip.—The conspiracy.—Incredulity of the English.—Sassamon to be murdered.—Death of Sassamon.—Indians arrested.—Proof of the murder.—Execution of the Indians.—Superstitious notions.—Insolence of the Indians.—They capture a settler.—The first blood.—Day of fasting.—Letter of Governor Winslow.—Murders by the Indians.—Flight of the colonists.—Energy of Philip.—Assistance implored.—Flight of Philip.—March of the army.—The Soykonate tribe.—Awashonks.—Captain Church.—The embassadors of Philip.—The council.—Appearance of the embassadors.—Exciting conference.—Rage of Captain Church.—Awashonks to remain friendly.—The Pocasset tribe.—Wetamoo joins Philip.—Indian warfare.—The colonists much scattered.—An illustration.—Heroic woman.—Dispatching the Indians.—Succor arrives.—Defiance of the English.—Horrible sight.—Destruction of corn.—An ambush.—Attempt to surround them.—A retreat.—Apparent hopeless situation.—Bravery long continued.—Relief at hand.—All rescued.—Narrow escape of Captain Church.—Dartmouth burned.—Perfidy of the English.—Attempts to capture Philip.—An unfortunate ambush.—Lesson of caution dearly purchased.—Indian allies.—Preaching politics.—Escape of Philip.—A conference agreed upon.—Suspicions of treachery.—Furious attack.—Escape to Brookfield.—Attack upon the town.—Brookfield consumed.—Attempts to burn the garrison.—Relief comes.—A shower.—The garrison saved.—The Indians elated by victory.
The old warriors, conscious of the power of the foe whose fury they were about to brave, were not at all disposed to precipitate hostilities, but Philip found it difficult to hold his young men under restraint. They became very insolent and boastful, and would sharpen their knives and tomahawks upon the door-sills of the colonists, vaporing in mysterious phrase of the great deeds they were about to perform.
There was at this time a Christian Indian by the name of John Sassamon, who had learned to read and write, and had become quite an efficient agent in Christian missions to the Indians. He was esteemed by the English as truly a pious man, and had been employed in aiding to translate the Bible into the Indian language, and also in preaching to his countrymen at Nemasket, now Middleborough. He lived in semi-civilized style upon Assawompset Neck. He had a very pretty daughter, whom he called Assowetough, but whose sonorous name the young Puritans did not improve by changing it into Betty. The noted place in Middleborough now called Betty's Neck is immortalized by the charms of Assowetough. This Indian maiden married a warrior of her tribe, who was also in the employment of the English, and in all his interests had become identified with them. Sassamon was a subject of King Philip, but he and his family were on the most intimate and friendly relations with the colonists.
Philip needed a private secretary who could draw up his deeds and write his letters. He accordingly took John Sassamon into his employment. Sassamon, thus introduced into the court and cabinet of his sovereign, soon became acquainted with the conspiracy in all its appalling extent and magnitude of design. He at once repaired to Plymouth, and communicated his discovery to the governor. He, however, enjoined the strictest secrecy respecting his communication, assuring the governor that, should the Indians learn that he had betrayed them, his life would be the inevitable forfeit. There were many who had no faith in any conspiracy of the kind. Rumors of approaching perils had been rife for many years, and the community had become accustomed to them. Most of the Massachusetts colonists thought the Plymouth people unnecessarily alarmed. They listened to the story of Sassamon with great incredulity. "His information," says Dr. I. Mather, "because it had an Indian original, and one can hardly believe them when they do speak the truth, was not at first much regarded."
Sassamon soon after resigned his situation as Philip's secretary, and returned to Middleborough, where he resumed his employment as a preacher to the Indians and teacher of a school.
By some unknown means Philip ascertained that he had been betrayed by Sassamon. According to the Indian code, the offender was deemed a traitor and a renegade, and was doomed to death; and it was the duty of every subject of King Philip to kill him whenever and wherever he could be found. But Sassamon had been so much with the English, and had been for years so intimately connected with them as their friend and agent, that it was feared that they would espouse his cause, and endeavor to avenge his death. It was, therefore, thought best that Indian justice should be secretly executed.
Early in the spring of 1675 Sassamon was suddenly missing. At length his hat and gun were found upon the ice of Assawompset Pond, near a hole. Soon after his body was found beneath the ice. There had been an evident endeavor to leave the impression that he had committed suicide; but wounds upon his body conclusively showed that he had been murdered. The English promptly decided that this was a crime which came under the cognizance of their laws. Three Indians were arrested under suspicion of being his murderers. These Indians were all men of note, connected with the council of Philip. An Indian testified that he happened to be upon a distant hill, and saw the murder committed. For some time he had concealed the knowledge thus obtained, but at length was induced to disclose the crime. The evidence against Tobias, one of the three, is thus stated by Dr. Increase Mather:
"When Tobias came near the dead body, it fell a bleeding on fresh, as if it had been newly slain, albeit it was buried a considerable time before that." In those days of darkness it was supposed that the body of a murdered man would bleed on the approach of his murderer.
The prisoners were tried at Plymouth in June, and were all adjudged guilty, and sentenced to death. The jury consisted of twelve Englishmen and four Indians. The condemned were all executed, two of them contending to the last that they were entirely innocent, and knew nothing of the deed. One of them, it is said, when upon the point of death, confessed that he was a spectator of the murder, which was committed by the other two.
The summary execution of three of Philip's subjects enraged and alarmed the Wampanoags exceedingly. As the death of Sassamon had been undeniably ordered by Philip, he was apprehensive that he also might be kidnapped and hung. The young Wampanoag warriors were roused to phrensy, and immediately commenced a series of the most intolerable annoyances, shooting the cattle, frightening the women and children, and insulting wayfarers wherever they could find them. The Indians had imbibed the superstitious notion, which had probably been taught them by John Sassamon, that the party which should commence the war and shed the first blood would be defeated. They therefore wished, by violence and insult, to provoke the English to strike the first blow. The English established a military watch in every town; but, hoping that the threatening storm might blow over, they endured all these outrages with commendable patience.
On the 20th of June, eight Indian desperadoes, all armed for fight, came swaggering into the town of Swanzey, and, calling at the door of a colonist, demanded permission to grind their hatchets. As it was the Lord's day, the colonist informed them that it would be a violation of the Sabbath for them to do such work, and that God would be displeased. They replied, "We care neither for your God nor for you, but we will grind our hatchets." They then went to another house, and, with insulting carousals, ransacked the closets, helping themselves abundantly to food. The barbarian roisterers then proceeded blustering along the road, when they chanced to meet a colonist. They immediately took him into custody, kept him for some time, loading him with taunts and ridicule, and then dismissed him, derisively telling him to be a good man, and not to tell any lies or work on the Lord's day.
Growing bolder and more insolent as they advanced, they began to shoot the cattle which they saw in the fields. They encountered no opposition, for the houses were at some distance from each other, and most of the men were absent at public worship. At last they came to a house where the man chanced to be at home. They shot his cattle, and then entered the house and demanded liquor. Being refused, they became very boisterous in threats, and attempted to get the liquor by violence. The man at last, provoked beyond endurance, seized his gun and shot one of them, inflicting a serious but not mortal wound. The first blood was now shed, and the drama of war was opened. The young savages retired, bearing their wounded companion with them, and breathing threatenings and slaughter.
The next Thursday, June 24th, had been set apart by the colonists as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer, in view of the alarming state of affairs. Upon an impartial review of all the transactions, it is difficult to see how the colonists could have avoided the war.
"I do solemnly protest," says Governor Winslow, in a letter written July 4th, 1675, "we know not any thing from us which might have put Philip upon these motions, nor have heard that he pretends to have suffered any wrong from us, save only that we had killed some Indians, and intended to send for himself for the murder of John Sassamon."
As the people in Swanzey were returning from church on fast-day, a party of Indians, concealed in a thicket by the road side, fired upon them, killing one instantly, and severely wounding many others. Two men who set off in haste for a surgeon were waylaid and murdered. At the same time, in another part of the town, a house was surrounded by a band of Indians, and eight more of the colonists were shot. These awful tidings spread rapidly, causing indescribable alarm. One man, afraid to remain in his unprotected dwelling, hastily sent his wife and only son to the house of the Rev. Mr. Miles, which was fortified, and could be garrisoned. He remained a few moments behind to take some needful things. The wife had gone but a short distance when she heard behind her the report of a gun. True to woman's heroic love, she instantly returned to learn the fate of her husband.
He was lying in his blood on the threshold of his door, and the savages were ransacking the house. The wretches caught sight of her, pursued her, killed both her and her son, and took their scalps. In this terrible state of alarm, the scattered and helpless colonists fled with their families, as rapidly as they could, to the garrison house. Two men went from the house to the well for water. They fell, pierced by bullets. The savages rushed from their concealment, seized the two still quivering bodies, and dragged them into the forest. They were afterward found scalped, and with their hands and feet cut off. Such were the opening acts of the tragedy of blood and woe.
With amazing energy and with great strategetic skill, the warriors of Philip, guided by his sagacity, plied their work of destruction. It was their sole, emphatic mission to kill, burn, and destroy. The savages, flushed with success, were skulking every where. No one could venture abroad without danger of being shot. Runners were immediately sent, in consternation, from all the frontier towns, to Plymouth and Boston, to implore assistance. In three hours after the arrival of the messenger in Boston, one hundred and twenty men were on the march to attack Philip at Mount Hope. But the renowned chieftain was too wary to be caught in the trap of Mount Hope Neck. He had sent his women and children to the hospitality of distant tribes, and, abandoning the Neck, which was nearly surrounded by water, traversed with his warriors the country, where he could at any time plunge into the almost limitless wilderness.
The little army from Massachusetts moved promptly forward, pressing into its service all the available men to be found by the way. They marched to Swanzey, and established their head-quarters at the garrison house of the Rev. Mr. Miles, a Baptist clergyman of exalted character and of fervent piety, who was ready to share with his parishioners in all the perils of protecting themselves from the border ruffians of that day. About a dozen of the troops, on a reconnoitring party, crossed the bridge near the garrison house. They were fired upon from an ambush, and one killed and one wounded. The Indians fled, hotly pursued by the English, and took refuge in a swamp, after having lost sixteen of their number.
Upon the eastern shore of Narraganset Bay, in the region now occupied by Little Compton and a part of Tiverton, there was a small tribe of Indians in partial subjection to the Narragansets, and called the Soykonate tribe. Here also a woman, Awashonks, was sachem of the tribe, and the bravest warriors were prompt to do homage to her power. Captain Benjamin Church and a few other colonists had purchased lands of her, and had settled upon fertile spots along the shores of the bay. Awashonks was on very friendly terms with Captain Church. Though there were three hundred warriors obedient to her command, that was but a feeble force compared with the troops which could be raised both by Philip and by the English. She was therefore anxious to remain neutral. This, however, could not be. The war was such that all dwelling in the midst of its ravages must choose their side.
Philip sent six embassadors to engage Awashonks in his interest. She immediately assembled all her counselors to deliberate upon the momentous question, and also took the very wise precaution to send for Captain Church. He hastened to her residence, and found several hundred of her subjects collected and engaged in a furious dance. The forest rang with their shouts, the perspiration dripped from their limbs, and they were already wrought to a pitch of intense excitement. Awashonks herself led in the dance, and her graceful figure appeared to great advantage as it was contrasted with the gigantic muscular development of her warriors.
Immediately upon Captain Church's arrival the dance ceased. Awashonks sat down, called her chiefs and the Wampanoag embassadors around her, and then invited Captain Church to take a conspicuous seat in the midst of the group. She then, in a speech of queenly courtesy, informed Captain Church that King Philip had sent six of his men to solicit her to enter into a confederacy against the English, and that he stated, through these embassadors, that the English had raised a great army, and were about to invade his territories for the extermination of the Wampanoags. The conference was long and intensely exciting. Awashonks called upon the Wampanoag embassadors to come forward.
They were marked men, dressed in the highest embellishments of barbaric warfare. Their faces were painted. Their hair was trimmed in the fashion of the crests of the ancient helmets. Their knives and tomahawks were sharp and glittering. They all had guns, and horns and pouches abundantly supplied with shot and bullets.
Captain Church, however, was manifestly gaining the advantage, and the Wampanoag embassadors, baffled and enraged, were anxious to silence their antagonist with the bludgeon. The Indians began to take sides furiously, and hot words and threatening gestures were abundant. Awashonks was very evidently inclined to adhere to the English. She at last, in the face of the embassadors, declared to Captain Church that Philip's message to her was that he would send his men over privately to shoot the cattle and burn the houses of the English who were within her territories, and thus induce the English to fall in vengeance upon her, whom they would undoubtedly suppose to be the author of the mischief. This so enraged Captain Church that he quite forgot his customary prudence. Turning to the Wampanoag embassadors, he exclaimed,
"You are infamous wretches, thirsting for the blood of your English neighbors, who have never injured you, but who, on the contrary, have always treated you with kindness."
Then, addressing Awashonks, he very inconsiderately advised her to knock the six Wampanoags on the head, and then throw herself upon the protection of the English. The Indian queen, more discreet than her adviser, dismissed the embassadors unharmed, but informing them that she should look to the English as her friends and protectors.
Captain Church, exulting in this success, which took three hundred warriors from the enemy and added them to the English force, set out for Plymouth. At parting, he advised Awashonks to remain faithful to the English whatever might happen, and to keep, with all her warriors, within the limits of Soykonate. He promised to return to her again in a few days.
Just north of Little Compton, in the region now occupied by the upper part of Tiverton, and by Fall River, the Pocasset tribe of Indians dwelt. Wetamoo, the former bride of Alexander, was a princess of this tribe. Upon the death of her husband and the accession of Philip to the sovereignty of the Wampanoags, she had returned to her parental home, and was now queen of the tribe. Her power was about equal to that of Awashonks, and she could lead three or four hundred warriors into the field. Captain Church immediately proceeded to her court, as he deemed it exceedingly important to detach her, if possible, from the coalition.
He found her upon a high hill at a short distance from the shore. But few of her people were with her, and she appeared reserved and very melancholy. She acknowledged that all her warriors had gone across the water to Philip's war-dance, though she said that it was against her will. She was, however, brooding over her past injuries, and was eager to join Philip in any measures of revenge. Captain Church had hardly arrived at Plymouth before the wonderful successes of Philip so encouraged the Indians that Wetamoo, with alacrity and burning zeal, joined the coalition; and even Awashonks could not resist the inclinations of her warriors, but was also, with reluctance, compelled to unite with Philip.
War was now raging in all its horrors. A more harassing and merciless conflict can hardly be imagined. The Indians seldom presented themselves in large numbers, never gathered for a decisive action, but, dividing into innumerable prowling bands, attacked the lonely farm-house, the small and distant settlements, and often, in terrific midnight onset, plunged, with musket, torch, and tomahawk, into the large towns. These bands varied in their numbers from twenty to thirty to two or three thousand. The colonists were very much scattered in isolated farm-houses through the wilderness. In consequence of the gigantic growth of trees, which it was a great labor to cut down, and which, when felled, left the ground encumbered for years with enormous stumps and roots, the colonists were eager to find any smooth meadow or natural opening in the forest where, for any unknown cause, the trees had disappeared, and where the thick turf alone opposed the hoe. They often had neither oxen nor plows. Thus these widely-scattered spots upon the hill-sides and the margins of distant streams were eagerly sought for, and thus these lonely settlers were exposed, utterly defenseless, to the savage foe.
The following scene, which occurred in a remote section of the country at a later period, will illustrate the horrible nature of this Indian warfare. Far away in the wilderness, a man had erected his log hut upon a small meadow, which had opened itself in the midst of a gigantic forest. The man's family consisted of himself, his wife, and several children, the eldest of whom was a daughter fifteen years of age. At midnight, the loud barking of his dog alarmed him. He stepped to the door to see what he could discover, and instantly there was a report of several muskets, and he fell upon the floor of his hut pierced with bullets, and with a broken leg and arm. The Indians, surrounding the house, now with frightful yells rushed to the door. The mother, frantic with terror, her children screaming around her, and her husband groaning and weltering in his blood, barred the door and seized an axe. The savages, with their hatchets, soon cut a hole through the door, and one of them crowded in. The heroic mother, with one blow of the axe, cleft his head to the shoulder, and he dropped dead upon the floor. Another of the assailants, supposing, in the darkness, that he had made good his entrance, followed him. He also fell by another well-directed stroke. Thus four were slain before the Indians discovered their mistake.
They then clambered upon the house, and were soon heard descending through the capacious flue of the chimney. The wife still stood with the axe to guard the door. The father, bleeding and fainting, called upon one of the little children to roll the feather bed upon the fire. The burning feathers emitted such a suffocating smoke and smell that the Indians were almost smothered, and they tumbled down upon the embers. At the same moment, another one attempted to enter the door. The wounded husband and father had sufficient strength left to seize a billet of wood and dispatch the half-smothered Indians. But the mother was now so exhausted with terror and fatigue that her strength failed her, and she struck a feeble blow, which wounded, but did not kill her adversary. The savage was so severely wounded, however, that he retreated, leaving all his comrades, six in number, dead in the house. We are not informed whether the father recovered of his wounds. Some distant neighbors, receiving tidings of the attack, came with succor, and the six dead Indians, without much ceremony, were tumbled into a hole.
Volumes might be filled with such terrible details. No one could sleep at night without the fear of an attack from the Indians before the morning. In the silence of the wilderness, many a tragedy was enacted of terror, torture, and blood, which would cause the ear that hears of it to tingle.
The day after the arrival of the English force in Swanzey the Indians again appeared in large numbers, and with defiant shouts dared them to come out and fight. Philip himself was with this band. A party of volunteers rushed furiously upon the foe, killed a number, and pursued the rest more than a mile. The savages retired to their fastnesses, and the English traversed Mount Hope Neck until they came to the imperial residence of Philip. Not an Indian was to be found upon the Neck. But here the English found the heads of eight of their countrymen, which had been cut off and stuck upon poles, ghastly trophies of savage victory. They took them down and reverently buried them.
It was now the 29th of June, and the Indian corn-fields were waving in luxuriant growth. Philip had not anticipated so early an outbreak of the war, and had more than a thousand acres planted with corn. These fields the English trampled down, and destroyed all the dwellings of the Indians, leaving the Neck barren and desolate. This was a heavy blow to Philip. The destruction of his corn-fields threatened him with starvation in the winter. The Indians scattered in all directions, carrying every where terror, conflagration, and death.
Captain Church, with twenty men, crossed the Taunton River, and then followed down the eastern shores of the bay, through Pokasset, the territory of Wetamoo, toward Sogkonate Neck, where Awashonks reigned. At the southern extremity of the present town of Tiverton they came to a neck of land called Punkateeset. Here they discovered a fresh trail, which showed that a large body of Indians had recently passed. Following this trail, they came to a large pea-field belonging to Captain Almy, a colonist who had settled there. They loitered a short time in the field, eating the peas. The forest, almost impenetrable with underbrush, grew very densely around. Just as they were emerging from the field upon an open piece of ground, with the woods growing very thickly upon one side, a sudden discharge of musketry broke in upon the silent air, and bullets were every where whistling fiercely around them. Instantly three hundred Indians sprang up from their ambush. Captain Church "casting his eyes to the side of the hill above him, the hill seemed to move, being covered with Indians, with their bright guns glistening in the sun, and running in a circumference, with a design to surround them." Captain Church and his men slowly retreated toward the shore, where alone they could prevent themselves from being surrounded. The Indians, outnumbering them fifteen to one, closely pressed them, making the forest resound with their hideous outcries.
As the savages emerged from their ambush, they followed at a cautious distance, but so directed their steps as to cut off all possibility of retreat from the Neck. They felt so sure of their victims that they thought that all could be killed or captured without any loss upon their own part.
The situation of the English now seemed desperate. They had no means of crossing the water, and the exultant foe, in overwhelming numbers and with fiendlike yells, were pressing nearer and nearer, and overwhelming them with a storm of bullets.
But the colonists resolved to sell their lives as dearly as possible. It was better to die by the quick ministry of the bullet, than to fall as captives into the hands of the savages, to perish by lingering torment. Fortunately, the ground was very stony, and every man instantly threw up a pile for a breastwork. The Indians were very cautious in presenting their bodies to the unerring aim of the white men, and did not venture upon a simultaneous rush, which would have secured the destruction of the whole of Captain Church's party.
For six hours the colonists beat back their swarming foes. The Indians availed themselves of every stump, rock, or tree in sight, and kept up an incessant firing. Just as the ammunition of the colonists was about exhausted, and night was coming on, a sloop was discerned crossing the water to their rescue. Captain Golding, a man of great resolution and fearlessness, had heard the firing, and was hastening to their relief. The wind was fair, and as the vessel approached the shore the Indians plied their shot with such effect that the colors, sails, and sides of the sloop were soon pierced full of bullet holes. The water was so shoal that they dropped anchor, and the vessel rode afloat several rods from the beach. Captain Golding had a small canoe, which would support but two men. Attaching a cord to this, he let it drift to the shore, driven by the fresh wind. Two men entered the canoe, and were drawn on board. The canoe was then returned, and two more were taken on board. Thus the embarkation continued, covered by the muskets of those on board and those on the shore, until every man was safe. Not one of their number was even wounded. The English, very skillful with the musket, kept their innumerable foes at a distance. It was certain death for any Indian to step from behind his rampart. The heroic Church was the last to embark. As he was retreating backward, boldly facing his foes, presenting his gun, which all the remaining powder he had did but half charge, a bullet passed through his hat, cutting off a lock of his hair. Two others struck the canoe as he entered it, and a fourth buried itself in a stake which accidentally stood before the middle of his breast. Discharging his farewell shot at the enemy, he was safely received on board, and they were all conveyed to the English garrison which had been established at Mount Hope. Many Indians were killed or wounded in this affray, but it is not known how many.
Captain Church then went, with a small army, to ravage the territories of Wetamoo. When he arrived at the spot where Fall River now stands, he found that Wetamoo, with her warriors, had taken refuge in a neighboring swamp. Just then news came that a great part of the town of Dartmouth was in flames, that many of the inhabitants were killed, and that the survivors were in great distress. Captain Church marched immediately to their rescue. But the foe had finished his work of destruction, and had fled into the wilderness, to emerge at some other spot, no one could tell where, and strike another deadly blow. The colonists, however, took one hundred and sixty Indians prisoners, who had been induced by promises of kind treatment to come in and surrender themselves. To the extreme indignation of Captain Church, all these people, in most dishonorable disregard of the pledges of the capitulation, were by the Plymouth authorities sold into slavery. This act was as impolitic as it was criminal. It can not be too sternly denounced. It effectually deterred others from confiding in the English.
The colonists, conscious of the intellectual supremacy of King Philip as the commanding genius of the strife, devoted their main energies to his capture, dead or alive. Large rewards were offered for his head. The barbarian monarch, with a large party of his warriors, had taken refuge in an almost impenetrable swamp upon the river, about eighteen miles below Taunton. All the inhabitants of Taunton, in their terror, had abandoned their homes, and were gathered in eight garrison houses. On the 18th of July, a force of several hundred men from Plymouth and Taunton surrounded the swamp. They cautiously penetrated the tangled thicket, their feet at almost every step sinking in the mire and becoming shackled by interlacing roots, the branches pinioning their arms, and the dense foliage blinding their eyes. Philip, with characteristic cunning, sent a few of his warriors occasionally to exhibit themselves, to lure the English on. The colonists gradually forgot their accustomed prudence, and pressed eagerly forward. Suddenly from the dense thicket a party of warriors in ambush poured upon their pursuers a volley of bullets. Fifteen dropped dead, and many were sorely wounded. The survivors precipitately retired from the swamp, "finding it ill," says Hubbard, "fighting a wild beast in his own den."
The English, taught a lesson of caution by this misadventure, now decided to surround the swamp, guarding every avenue of escape. They knew that Philip had no stores of provisions there, and that he soon must be starved out. Here they kept guard for thirteen days. In the mean time, Philip constructed some canoes and rafts, and one dark night floated all his warriors, some two hundred in number, across the river, and continued his flight through the present towns of Dighton and Rehoboth, far away into the unknown wilderness of the interior of Massachusetts. Wetamoo, with several of her warriors, accompanied Philip in his flight. He left a hundred starving women and children in the swamp, who surrendered themselves the next morning to the English.
A band of fifty of the Mohegan Indians had now come, by direction of Uncas, to proffer their services to the colonists. A party of the English, with these Indian allies, pursued the fugitives. They overtook Philip's party not far from Providence, and shot thirty of their number, without the loss of a single man. Rev. Mr. Newman, pastor of the church in Rehoboth, obtained great commendation for his zeal in rousing his parishioners to pursue the savages.
Philip had now penetrated the wilderness, and had effected his escape beyond the reach of his foes. He had the boundless forest around him for his refuge, with the opportunity of emerging at his leisure upon any point of attack along the vast New England frontier which he might select.
The Nipmuck Indians were a powerful tribe, consisting of many petty clans spread over the whole of the interior of Massachusetts. They appear to have had no sachem of distinction, and at one time were tributary to the Narragansets, but were now tributary to the Wampanoags. They had thus far been living on very friendly terms with the inhabitants of the towns which had been settled within the limits of their territory. The court at Boston, apprehensive that the Nipmucks might be induced to join King Philip, sent some messengers to treat with them. The young warriors were very surly, and manifestly disposed to fight; but the old men dreaded the perils of war with foes whose prowess they appreciated, and were inclined to a renewal of friendship.
It was agreed that a conference should be held at a certain large tree, upon a plain about three miles from Brookfield, on the 2d of August. At the appointed time, the English commissioners were there, with a small force of twenty mounted men. But not an Indian was to be seen. Notwithstanding some suspicions of treachery, the English determined to advance some miles farther, to a spot where they were assured that a large number of Indians were assembled. They at length came to a narrow pass, with a steep hill covered with trees and underbrush on one side, and a swamp, impenetrable with mire and thickets, upon the other. Along this narrow way they could march only in single file. The silence of the eternal forest was around them, and nothing was to be seen or heard which gave the slightest indication of danger.
Just as they were in the middle of this trail, three hundred Indians rose up on either side, and showered upon them a storm of bullets. Eight dropped dead. Three were mortally, and several others severely wounded. Captain Wheeler, who was in command, had his horse shot from under him, and a bullet also passed through his body. His son, who rode behind him, though his own arm was shattered by a ball, dismounted, and succeeded in placing his father in the saddle. A precipitate retreat was immediately commenced, while the Indians pursued with yells of exultation. But for the aid of three Christian Indians who accompanied the English party, every Englishman must have perished. One of these Indians was taken captive. The other two, by skill and bravery, led their friends, by a by-path, back to Brookfield.
This town was then a solitary settlement of about twenty houses, alone in the wilderness, half way between the Atlantic shore and the settlements on the Connecticut. The terrified inhabitants had but just time to abandon their homes and take refuge in the garrison house when the savages were upon them. With anguish they saw, from the loop-holes of their retreat, every house and barn consumed, their cattle shot, and all their property of food, clothing, and furniture destroyed. They were thus, in an hour, reduced from competence to the extreme of want.
The inhabitants of Brookfield, men, women, and children, amounted to but eighty. The nearest settlement from whence any help could come was at Lancaster, some forty miles northeast of Brookfield. The Indians surrounded the garrison, and for two days exerted all their ingenuity in attempting to destroy the building. They wrapped around their arrows hemp dipped in oil, and, setting them on fire, shot them upon the dry and inflammable roof. Several times the building was in flames, but the inmates succeeded in arresting the conflagration. It was now the evening of the 4th of August. The garrison, utterly exhausted by two days and two nights of incessant conflict, aware that their ammunition must soon be exhausted, and knowing not from what quarter to hope for relief, were in despair. The Indians now filled a cart with hemp, flax, and the resinous boughs of firs and pines. They fastened to the tongue a succession of long poles, and then, setting the whole fabric on fire, as it rolled up volumes of flame and smoke, pushed it back against the log house, whose walls were as dry as powder. Just then, when all hope of escape was abandoned, relief came.
Major Willard had been sent from Boston to Lancaster with a party of dragoons for the defense of that region. By some chance, probably through a friendly Indian, he was informed of the extreme distress of the people at Brookfield. Taking with him forty-eight dragoons, he marched with the utmost possible haste to their relief. With Indian guides, he traversed thirty miles of the forest that day, and arrived at the garrison in the evening twilight, just as the Indians, with fiendish clamor, were all engaged in their experiment with the flaming cart. Though the Indian scouts discovered his approach, and fired their guns and raised shouts of alarm, there was such a horrid noise from the yells of the savages and the uproar of musketry that the scouts could not communicate intelligence of the approach of the English, and the re-enforcement, with a rush, entered the garrison. At the same moment a very heavy shower arose, which aided greatly in the extinguishment of the flames.
The savages, thus balked of their victims, howled with rage, and, after firing a few volleys of bullets into the walls of the fortress, retired to their fastnesses. During this siege many of the whites were wounded, and about eighty of the Indians were killed. The day after the defeat, Philip, with forty-eight warriors, arrived at the Indian encampment at Brookfield. Though the Indians had not taken the garrison, and though they mourned the loss of many warriors, they were not a little elated with success. They had killed many of their enemies, and had utterly destroyed the town of Brookfield.
AUTUMN AND WINTER CAMPAIGNS.
Philip's influence.—Simultaneous attacks.—Deerfield burned.—Re-enforcement.—An ambuscade.—Dreadful slaughter and tortures.—Rescue of Northfield.—Northfield abandoned.—Attempts to save some corn.—Unsuspicious of danger.—Sudden attack.—A scene of carnage.—The English overpowered.—Captain Mosely attempts a rescue.—A prolonged fight.—The Indians vanquished.—Burial of the dead.—Deerfield destroyed.—Plot against Springfield.—A timely warning.—Lieutenant Cooper shot.—The attack.—The conflagration.—Loss of books.—Alarm of the inhabitants.—Decree of the general court.—Arrangement of forces.—Attack upon Hatfield.—The Indians defeated.—Narrow escape of Major Appleton.—The Indian rendezvous.—Philip's employments.—Attempts to secure the Narragansets.—Mission to the Narragansets.—Compulsory treaty.—Erection of an Indian fort.—Advantages of the Indians.—Indian warfare.—Endurance of the Indians.—Losses of the colonists.—Anxious deliberations.—Arguments pro and con.—The Indians to be attacked.—A day of fasting.—John Woodcock.—Mode of collecting debts.—March of the army.—Skirmishes.—Fortifications of the Indians.—The Indian fort.—Deplorable condition of the colonists.—A friendly traitor.—Terrible march.—Entrance to the swamp.—Appearance of the fort.—Fearless bravery.—Terrible slaughter.—An entrance effected.—Capture of the fort.—A scene of carnage.—Continuance of the battle.—The houses fired.—Flight of the Indians.—Helplessness of the English.—Necessity for a retreat.—A second retreat from Moscow.—Horrors of the night.—Want of provisions.—Disappointment at not finding food.—Arrival of a vessel.
Philip now directed his steps to the valley of the Connecticut, and gave almost superhuman vigor to the energy which the savages were already displaying in their attack upon the numerous and thriving settlements there. Even most of the Christian Indians, who had long lived upon terms of uninterrupted friendship with the English, were so influenced by the persuasions of Philip that they joined his warriors, and were as eager as any others for the extermination of the colonists.
Attacks were made almost simultaneously upon the towns of Hadley, Hatfield, and Deerfield, and also upon several towns upon the Merrimac River, in the province of New Hampshire. In these conflicts, the Indians, on the whole, were decidedly the victors. As Philip had fled from Plymouth, and as the Narragansets had not yet joined the coalition, the towns in Plymouth colony enjoyed a temporary respite.
On the 1st of September the Indians made a rush upon Deerfield. They laid the whole town in ashes. Most of the inhabitants had fortunately taken refuge in the garrison house, and but one man was slain. They then proceeded fifteen miles up the river to Northfield, where a small garrison had been established. They destroyed much property, and shot eight or ten of the inhabitants. The rest were sheltered in the garrison. The next day, this disaster not being known at Hadley, Captain Beers was detached from that place with thirty-six mounted infantry and a convoy of provisions to re-enforce the feeble garrison at Northfield. They had a march before them of thirty miles, along the eastern bank of the river. The road was very rough, and led through almost a continued forest.
When they arrived within a few miles of Northfield, they came to a wide morass, where it was necessary to dismount and lead their horses. They were also thrown into confusion in their endeavors to transport their baggage through the swamp. Here the Indians had formed an ambuscade. The surprise was sudden, and disastrous in the extreme. The Indians, several hundred in number, surrounded the doomed party, and, from their concealment, took unerring aim. Captain Beers, a man of great valor, succeeded, with a few men, in retreating to a small eminence, since known as Beers's Mountain, where he bravely maintained the unequal fight until all his ammunition was expended. A ball then pierced his bosom, and he fell dead. A few escaped back to Hadley to tell the mournful tidings of the slaughter, while all the rest were slain, and all their provisions and baggage fell into the hands of the exultant savages. The barbarian victors amused themselves in cutting off the heads of the slain, which they fixed upon poles at the spot, as defiant trophies of their triumph. One man was found with a chain hooked into his under jaw, and thus he was suspended on the bough of a tree, where he had been left to struggle and die in mortal agony. The garrison at Northfield, almost destitute of powder and food, was now reduced to the last extremity.
Major Treat was immediately dispatched with a hundred men for their rescue. Advancing rapidly and with caution, he succeeded in reaching Northfield. His whole company, in passing through the scene of the disaster, were most solemnly affected in gazing upon the mutilated remains of their friends, and appear to have been not a little terror-stricken in view of such horrid barbarities. Fearing that the Indians were too numerous in the vicinity to be encountered by their small band, they brought off the garrison, and retreated precipitately to Hadley, not tarrying even to destroy the property which they could not bring away. It is said that Philip himself guided the Indians in their attack upon Captain Beers.
Hadley was now the head-quarters of the English army, and quite a large force was assembled there. Most of the inhabitants of the adjoining towns in tumult and terror had fled to this place for protection. At the garrison house in Deerfield, fifteen miles above Hadley, on the western side of the river, there were three thousand bushels of corn standing in stacks.
On the 18th of September, Captain Lothrop, having been sent from Hadley to bring off this corn, started with his loaded teams on his return. His force consisted of a hundred men, soldiers and teamsters. As no Indians had for some time appeared in that immediate vicinity, and as there was a good road between the two places, no particular danger was apprehended. The Indians, however, from the fastnesses of the forest, were all the time watching their movements with eagle eye, and with consummate cunning were plotting their destruction.
After leaving Deerfield, the march led for about three miles through a very level country, densely wooded on each side of the road. The march was then continued for half a mile along the borders of a morass filled with large trees and tangled underbrush. Here a thousand Indians had planted themselves in ambuscade. It was a serene and beautiful autumnal day. Grape-vines festooned the gigantic trees of the forest, and purple clusters, ripe and juicy, hung in profusion among the boughs. Captain Lothrop was so unsuspicious of danger that many of his men had thrown their guns into the carts, and were strolling about gathering grapes.
The critical moment arrived, and the English being in the midst of the ambush, a thousand Indians sprang up from their concealment, and poured in upon the straggling column a heavy and destructive fire. Then, with savage yells, which seemed to fill the whole forest, they rushed from every quarter to close assault. The English were scattered in a long line of march, and the Indians, with the ferocity of wolves, sprang upon them ten to one. A dreadful scene of tumult, dismay, and carnage ensued.
The tragic drama was soon closed. The troops, broken and scattered, could only resort to the Indian mode of fighting, each one skulking behind a tree. But they were so entirely surrounded and overpowered that no one could discharge his musket more than two or three times before he fell. Some, in their dismay, leaped into the branches of the trees, hoping thus to escape observation. The savages, with shouts of derision, mocked them for a time, and then pierced them with bullets until they dropped to the ground. All the wounded were indiscriminately butchered. But eight escaped to tell the awful story. Ninety perished upon this bloody field. The young men who were thus slaughtered constituted the flower of Essex county. They had been selected for their intrepidity and hardihood from all the towns. Their destruction caused unspeakable anguish in their homes, and sent a wave of grief throughout all the colonies. The little stream in the south part of Deerfield, upon the banks of which this memorable tragedy occurred, has in consequence received the name of Bloody Brook.
Captain Mosely had been left in the garrison at Deerfield with seventy men, intending to go the next day in search of the Indians. As he was but five miles from the scene of the massacre, he heard the firing, and immediately marched to the rescue of his friends. But he was too late. They were all, before his arrival, silent in death. As the Indians were scalping and stripping the dead, Captain Mosely, with great intrepidity, fell upon them, though he computed their numbers at not less than a thousand. Keeping his men in a body, he broke through the tumultuous mass, charging back and forth, and cutting down all within range of his shot.
Still, aided by the swamp and the forest, and being so overwhelmingly superior to the English in numbers, the savages maintained the fight with much fierceness for six hours. Captain Mosely and all his men might perhaps also have perished, had not another party providentially and very unexpectedly come to their relief.
Major Treat, from Connecticut, was ascending the river with one hundred and sixty Mohegan Indians, on his way to Northfield, in pursuit of the foe in that vicinity. It was so ordered by Providence that he approached the scene of action just as both parties were exhausted by the protracted fight. Hearing the firing, he pressed rapidly forward, and with fresh troops fell vigorously upon the foe. The Indians, with yells of disappointment and rage, now fled, plunging into the swamps and forests. They left ninety-six of their number dead by the side of the English whom they had so mercilessly slaughtered in the morning. It is supposed that Philip himself commanded the Indians on this sanguinary day. The Indians, though in the end defeated, had gained a marvelous victory, by which they were exceedingly encouraged and emboldened.
Captains Mosely and Treat encamped in the vicinity for the night, and the next morning attended to the burial of the dead. They were deposited in two pits, the English in one and the Indians in another. A marble monument now marks the spot where this battle occurred, and a slab is placed over the mound which covers the slain.
Twenty-seven men only had been left in the garrison at Deerfield. The next morning the Indians appeared in large numbers before the garrison, threatening an attack. They tauntingly exhibited the clothes they had stripped from the slain, and shouted messages of defiance and insult. But the captain of the garrison, making a brave show of resistance, and sounding his trumpets, as if to call in forces near at hand, so alarmed the Indians that they retired, and soon all disappeared in the pathless forest. Deerfield was, however, utterly destroyed, and the garrison, abandoning the fortress, retired down the river to afford such protection as might be in their power to the lower towns.
About thirty miles below Hadley, upon the river, was the town of Springfield, a very flourishing settlement, containing forty-eight dwelling-houses. A numerous tribe of Indians lived in the immediate vicinity, having quite a spacious Indian fort at Long Hill, a mile below the village. These Indians had for forty years lived on terms of most cordial friendship with their civilized neighbors. They now made such firm protestations of friendliness that but few doubted in the least their good faith. But, while thus protesting, they had yielded to the potent seductions of King Philip, and, joining his party secretly, were making preparations for the destruction of Springfield.
On the night of the 4th of October, three hundred of King Philip's warriors crept stealthily through the forest, and were received into the Indian fort at Long Hill. A friendly Indian by the name of Toto, who had received much kindness from the whites, betrayed his countrymen, and gave information of the conspiracy to burn the town and massacre the inhabitants. The people were thrown into consternation, and precipitately fled to the garrison houses, while a courier was dispatched to Hadley for aid.
Still, many had so much confidence in the sincerity of the Springfield Indians that they could not believe in their treachery. Lieutenant Cooper, who commanded there, was so deceived by their protestations that he the next morning, taking another man with him, rode toward the fort to ascertain the facts. He had not advanced far before he met the enemy, several hundred in number, marching to the assault. The savages immediately fired upon him. His companion was instantly shot, and several bullets passed through his body. He was a man of Herculean strength and vigor, and, though mortally wounded, succeeded, by clinging to his horse, in reaching the garrison and giving the alarm before he died.
The savages now came roaring on like ferocious wild beasts. The town was utterly defenseless. Thirty-three houses and twenty-five barns were almost instantly in flames. Fortunately, nearly all of the inhabitants were in the block-houses, and but five men and one woman were killed. The Indians kept cautiously beyond the reach of gun-shot, vigorously plundering the houses and applying the torch. The wretched inhabitants, from the loop-holes of the garrison, contemplated with anguish the conflagration of their homes and all their earthly goods. The Reverend Mr. Glover, pastor of the church in this place, was a man of studious habits, and had collected a valuable library, at an expense of five thousand dollars. He had, for some time, kept his library in the garrison house for safety; but, a short time before the attack, thinking that Philip could not venture to make an assault upon Springfield, when it was surrounded by so many friendly Indians, he removed the books to his own house. They were all consumed. The loss to this excellent man was irreparable, and a source of the keenest grief. In the midst of the conflagration and the plunder Major Treat appeared with a strong force from Hadley, and the Indians, loaded down with booty, retreated into their forest fastnesses. Fifteen houses only were left unburned.
This treachery on the part of the Springfield Indians caused very great alarm. There were, henceforward, no Indians in whom the colonists could confide. The general court in Boston ordered:
"That no person shall entertain, own, or countenance any Indian, under penalty of being a betrayer of this government.
"That a guard be set at the entrance of the town of Boston, and that no Indian be suffered to enter, upon any pretense, without a guard of two musketeers, and not to lodge in town."
Animated by his success, Philip now planned a still bolder movement. Hatfield was one of the most beautiful and flourishing of the towns which reposed in the fertile valley of the Connecticut. Its inhabitants, warned by the disasters which had befallen so many of their neighbors, were prepared for a vigorous defense. They kept a constant watch, and several garrison houses were erected, to which the women and children could fly in case of alarm. All the male inhabitants were armed and drilled, and there were three companies of soldiers stationed in the town; and Hadley, which was on the opposite side of the river, was the head-quarters of the Massachusetts and Connecticut forces, then under the command of Major Appleton. An attack upon Hatfield would immediately bring the forces of Hadley to its relief.
On the 19th of October, Philip, at the head of eight hundred warriors, boldly, but with Indian secrecy, approached the outposts of Hatfield. He succeeded in cutting off several parties who were scouring the woods in the vicinity, and then made an impetuous rush upon the town. But every man sprang to his appointed post. Every avenue of approach was valiantly defended. Major Appleton immediately crossed with his force from Hadley, and fell furiously upon the assailants, every man burning with the desire to avenge the destruction of Northfield, Deerfield, and Springfield. Notwithstanding this determined defense, the Indians, inspired by the energies of their indomitable leader, fought a long time with great resolution. At length, repulsed at every point, they retreated, bearing off with them all their dead and wounded. They succeeded, however, in burning many houses, and in driving off many cattle. The impression they made upon the English may be inferred from the fact that they were not pursued. In this affair, six of the English were killed and ten wounded. A bullet passed through the bushy hair of Major Appleton, cutting a very smooth path for itself, "by that whisper telling him," says Hubbard, "that death was very near, but did him no other harm."
Winter was now approaching, and as Philip found that the remaining settlements upon the Connecticut were so defended that he could not hope to accomplish much, he scattered his forces into winter quarters. Most of his warriors, who had accompanied him from the Atlantic coast to the Connecticut, returned to Narraganset, and established their rendezvous in an immense swamp in the region now incorporated into the town of South Kingston, Rhode Island. Upon what might be called an island in this immense swamp, they constructed five hundred wigwams, and surrounded the whole with fortifications admirably adapted to repel attack. Three thousand Indians were soon assembled upon this spot.
There is some uncertainty respecting the movements of Philip during the winter. It is generally supposed that he passed the winter very actively engaged in endeavors to rouse all the distant tribes. It is said that he crossed the Hudson, and endeavored to incite the Indians in the valley of the Mohawk to fall upon the Dutch settlements on the Hudson. It is also probable that he spent some time at the Narraganset fort, and that he directed several assaults which, during this season of comparative repose, fell upon remote sections of the frontier.
Straggling parties of Indians lingered about Northampton, Westfield, and Springfield, occasionally burning a house, shooting at those who ventured into the fields, and keeping the inhabitants in a state of constant alarm.
At the commencement of the war, just before the discomfiture of Philip in the swamp near Taunton, a united force of the Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut colonies had been sent into the Narraganset country to persuade, and, if they could not persuade, to compel the Narraganset Indians to declare for the English. It was well known that the Narragansets in heart espoused the cause of Philip; for the Wampanoag chieftain, to relieve himself from embarrassment, had sent his old men, with his women and the children, into the Narraganset territory, where they were received and entertained with much hospitality.
In this mission to the Narraganset country, a part of the troops crossed the bay in boats, while others rode around by land, entering the country by the way of Providence. The two parties soon met, and advanced cautiously together to guard against ambush. They could, however, for some time find no Indians. The wigwams were all deserted, and the natives, men, women, and children, fled before them. At length they succeeded in catching some Narraganset sachems, and with them, after a conference of two or three days, concluded a treaty of peace. It was virtually a compulsory treaty, in which the English could place very little reliance, and to which the Narragansets paid no regard.
According to the terms of this treaty, which was signed on the 15th of July, 1675, the Narragansets agreed,
1st. To deliver to the English army every subject of King Philip, either living or dead, who should come into their territories.
2dly. To become allies of the English, and to kill and destroy, with their utmost ability, all the subjects of King Philip.
There were several other articles of the treaty, but they were all comprehended in the spirit of the two first. But now, in three months after the signing of this treaty, Philip, with the aid of the Narragansets, was constructing a fort in the very heart of their country, and was making it the general rendezvous for all his warriors. The Narragansets could bring a very fearful accumulation of strength to the cause of Philip. They could lead two thousand warriors into the field, and these warriors were renowned for ferocity and courage. Dwelling so near the English settlements, they could at any time emerge from their fastnesses, scattering dismay and ruin along their path.
The Indians enjoyed peculiar advantages for the rude warfare in which they engaged. They were not only perfectly acquainted with the wilderness, its morasses, mountains, and impenetrable thickets, but, from their constant intercourse with the settlements, were as well acquainted with the dwellings, fields, and roads of the English as were the colonists themselves. They were very numerous and widely scattered, and could watch every movement of their foe. Stealthily approaching through the forest under cover of the night, they could creep into barns and out-houses, and lie secreted behind fences, prepared for murder, robbery, and conflagration. Often they concealed themselves before the very doors of their victims. The first warning of their presence would be the ring of the musket, as the lonely settler, opening his door in the morning, dropped down dead upon his threshold. The house was then fired, the mother and her babes scalped, and the work of destruction was accomplished. Like packs of wolves they came howling from the wilderness, and, leaving blood and smouldering ruins behind them, howling they disappeared. While the English were hunting for them in one place, they would be burning and plundering in another. They were capable of almost any amount of fatigue, and could subsist in vigor where a civilized man would starve. A few kernels of corn, pounded into meal between two stones, and mixed with water, in a cup made from rolling up a strip of birch bark, afforded a good dinner for an Indian. If to this he could add a few clams, or a bird or a squirrel shot from a neighboring tree, he regarded his repast as quite sumptuous.
The storms of winter checked, but by no means terminated the atrocities of the savages. Marauding bands were wandering every where, and no man dwelt in safety. Many persons were shot, houses and barns were burned, and not a few men, women, and children were taken captive and carried into the wilderness, where they miserably perished, often being subjected to the most excruciating torture. The condition of the colonies was now melancholy in the extreme. Their losses had been very great, as one company after another of their soldiers had wasted away. Industry had been paralyzed, and the harvest had consequently been very short, while at the same time the expenses of the war were enormous. The savages, elated with success, were recruiting their strength, to break forth with new vigor upon the settlements in the early spring.
The commissioners of the united colonies deliberated long and anxiously. The all-important question was whether it were best to adopt the desperate enterprise of attacking the Narraganset fort in the dead of winter, or whether they should defer active hostilities until spring. Should they defer, the warriors now collected upon one spot would scatter every where in the work of destruction. The Narragansets, who had not as yet engaged openly in the conflict, would certainly lend all their energies to King Philip. Another year of disaster and blood might thus be confidently anticipated.
On the other hand, the severity of the winter was such that a whole army, houseless, on the march, might perish in a single night. Storms of snow often arose, encumbering the ground with such drifts and masses that it might be quite impossible to force a march through the pathless expanse.
But, in view of all the circumstances, it was at length decided best to make the attack. A thousand men were to be raised. Of these, Massachusetts contributed five hundred and twenty-seven. Plymouth furnished one hundred and fifty-eight. Connecticut supplied three hundred and fifteen, and also sent one hundred and fifty Mohegan Indians. Josiah Winslow, governor of the Plymouth colony, was appointed commander-in-chief. The choicest officers in the colonies were selected, and the men who filled the ranks were all chosen from those of established reputation for physical vigor and bravery. All were aware of the perilous nature of the enterprise. In consequence of the depth of the snow, it would probably be impossible to send any succor to the troops by land in case of reverse. "It was a humbling providence of God," wrote the commissioners, "that put his poor people to be meditating a matter of war at such a season." The second of December was appointed as a solemn fast to implore God's aid upon the enterprise.
The Massachusetts troops rendezvoused at Dedham, and on the morning of the 9th of December commenced their march. They advanced that day twenty-seven miles, to the garrison house of John Woodcock, within the limits of the present town of Attleborough. Woodcock kept a sort of tavern at what was called the Ten Mile River, which tavern he was enjoined by the court to "keep in good order, that no unruliness or ribaldry be permitted there." He was a man of some consequence, energetic, reckless, and not very scrupulous in regard to the rights of the Indians. An Indian owed him some money. As Woodcock could not collect the debt, he paid himself by going into the Indian's house and taking his child and some goods. For this crime he was sentenced to sit in the stocks at Rehoboth during a training day, and to pay a fine of forty shillings.
At this garrison house the troops encamped for the night, and the next day they advanced to Seekonk, and were ferried across the river to Providence. On the morning of the twelfth they resumed their march, and followed down the western shore of the bay until they arrived at the garrison house of Mr. Smith, in the present town of Wickford, which was appointed as their head-quarters. Here, in the course of a few days, the Connecticut companies, marching from Stonington, and the Plymouth companies were united with them. As the troops were assembling, several small parties had skirmishes with roving bands of Indians, in which a few were slain on both sides. A few settlers had reared their huts along the western shores of the bay, but the Indians, aware of the approach of their enemies, had burned their houses, and the inhabitants were either killed or dispersed. Nearly the whole region was now a wilderness.
The Indians, three thousand in number, were strongly intrenched, as we have before mentioned, in a swamp, which was in South Kingston, about eighteen miles distant from the encampment of the colonists. It is uncertain whether Philip was in the fort or not; the testimony upon that point is contradictory. The probability, however, is that he was present, sharing in the sanguinary scene which ensued.
The swamp was of immense extent and quite impenetrable, except through two or three paths known only to the Indians. In the centre of the swamp there were three or four acres of dry land, a few feet higher than the surrounding morass. Here Philip had erected his houses, five hundred in number, and had built them of materials far more solid and durable than the Indians were accustomed to use, so that they were quite bullet-proof. They were all surrounded by a high palisade. In this strong encampment, in friendly alliance with the Narragansets, Philip and his exultant warriors had been maturing their plans to make a terrible assault upon all the English settlements in the spring. Whether Philip was present or not when the fort was attacked, his genius reared the fortress and nerved the arms of its defenders.
The condition of the colonial army seemed now deplorable. Their provisions were nearly consumed, and they could hardly hope for any supply except such as they could capture from the savages. They knew nothing of the entrances to the swamp, and were entirely unacquainted with the nature of the fortification and the points most available for attack. The ground was covered with snow, and they huddled around the camp-fires by night, with no shelter from the inclemency of frost and storm.
The morning of the 19th dawned cold and gloomy. The supper of the previous night had utterly exhausted their stores. At break of day they commenced their march. A storm was then raging, and the air was filled with snow. But for the treachery of one of Philip's Indians, they would probably have been routed in the attack and utterly destroyed. A Narraganset Indian, who, for some cause, had become enraged against his countrymen, deserted their cause, and, entering the camp of the colonists, acted as their guide.
Early in the afternoon of the cold, short, and stormy winter's day, the troops, unrefreshed by either breakfast or dinner, after a march of eighteen miles, arrived at the borders of the swamp. An almost impenetrable forest, tangled with every species of underbrush, spread over the bog, presenting the most favorable opportunity for ambuscades, and all the stratagems of Indian warfare. The English, struggling blindly through the morass, would have found themselves in a helpless condition, and exposed at every point to the bullets of an unseen foe. The destruction of this army would have so emboldened the savages and paralyzed the English that every settlement of the colonists might have been swept away in an inundation of blood and flame. The fate of the New England colonies trembled in the balance.
The Narraganset deserter guided them to the entrance of a narrow and intricate foot-path which led to the island. The Indians, watching their approach, were lying in ambush upon the edge of the swamp. They fired upon the advancing files, and retreated. The English, returning the fire, vigorously pursued. Led by their guide, they soon arrived at the fort. It presented a formidable aspect. In addition to the palisades, a hedge of fallen trees a rod in thickness surrounded the whole intrenchment; outside the hedge there was a ditch wide and deep. There was but one point of entrance, and that was over the long and slender trunk of a tree which had been felled across the ditch, and rested at its farther end upon a wall of logs three or four feet high. A block-house, at whose portals many sharp-shooters were stationed in vigilant guard, commanded the narrow and slippery avenue. It was thus necessary for the English, in storming the fort, to pass in single file along this slender stem, exposed every step of the way to the muskets of the Indians. Every soldier at once perceived that the only hope for the army was in the energies of despair.