Simultaneously with the Stuart Restoration another cloud darkened the New England sky. Since the Pequot War, Indians and whites had in the main been friendly. This by itself is proof that our fathers were less unjust to the red men than is sometimes charged. They did assume the right to acquire lands here, and they had this right. The Indians were not in any proper sense owners of New England.
They were few--by 1660 not more numerous than the pale-faces--and, far from settling or occupying the land, roamed from place to place. Had it been otherwise they, as barbarians, would have had no such claim upon the territory as to justify them in barring out civilization. However, the colonists did not plead this consideration. Whenever districts were desired to which Indians had any obvious title, it was both law and custom to pay them their price. In this, Roger Williams and William Penn were not peculiar. If individual white men sometimes cheated in land trades, as in other negotiations, the aggrieved side could not, and did not, regard this as the white man's policy.
Yet little by little the Indians came to distrust and hate the rival race. It did not matter to the son of the forest, even if he thought so far, that the neighborhood of civilization greatly bettered his lot in many things, as, for instance, giving him market for corn and peltry, which he could exchange for fire-arms, blankets, and all sorts of valuable conveniences. The efforts to teach and elevate him he appreciated still less. As has been said, he loved better to disfurnish the outside of other people's heads than to furnish the inside of his own. What he felt, and keenly, was that the newcomers treated him as an inferior, were day by day narrowing his range, and slowly but surely reducing his condition to that of a subject people. Dull as he was, he saw that one of three fates confronted him: to perish, to migrate, or to lay aside his savage character and mode of life. Such thoughts frenzied him.
The beautiful fidelity of Massasoit to the people of Plymouth is already familiar. His son Alexander, who succeeded him, was of a spirit diametrically the reverse. Convinced that he was plotting with the Narragansets for hostile action, the Governor and Council of Plymouth sent Major Winslow to bring him to court--for it must be remembered that Massasoit's tribe, the Pokanokets, had through him covenanted, though probably with no clear idea of what this meant, to be subject to the Plymouth government. Alexander, for some reason, became fatally ill while at Plymouth under arrest, dying before reaching home. The Indians suspected poison.
His brother Philip now became sachem. Philip already had a grudge against the whites, and was rendered trebly bitter by the indignity and violence, if nothing worse, to which Alexander had been subjected. He resolved upon war, and in 1675 war was begun.
We shall never certainly know to what extent Philip was an organizer. We believe correct the view of Hubbard, the contemporary historian, that he had prepared a wide-spread and pretty well arranged conspiracy among the main tribes of New England Indians, which might have been fatal but for "the special providence of God," causing hostilities to break out ere the savages were ready. Palfrey challenges this view of the case, but on insufficient grounds.
One Sausaman, an educated Indian, previously Philip's secretary, had left him and joined the Christian Indians settled at Natick. There were by this time several such communities, and also, according to Cotton Mather, many able Indian preachers. At the risk of his life, as he insisted, Sausaman had warned the Plymouth magistrates that danger impended. He was soon murdered, apparently by Philip's instigation. At least Philip never denied this, nor did he after this time ever again court friendly relations with Plymouth, which he had constantly done hitherto. On the contrary, re-enforcements of strange Indians, all ready for the war-path, were continually flocking to his camp, squaws and children at the same time going to the Narraganset country, manifestly for security.
The Plymouth authorities, preparing for war, yet sent a kind letter to the sachem advising him to peace. In vain. At Swanzey, the town nearest Mount Hope, Philip's home, Indians at once began to kill and ravage, and Majors Bradford and Cudworth marched thither with a force of Plymouth soldiers. A Massachusetts contingent re-enforced them there, and they prepared to advance. Seeing it impossible to hold his own against so many, Philip crossed to Pocasset, now Tiverton, and swept rapidly round to Dartmouth, Middleborough, and Taunton, burning and murdering as he went. He then retired again to Tiverton, but in a few days started with all his warriors for central Massachusetts.
Here the Nipmucks, already at war, which indicated an understanding between them and the Pokanokets, had attacked Mendon. The day after Philip joined them there was a fight at Brookfield, the Nipmucks and their allies being victorious. They proceeded to burn the town nearly entire, though the inhabitants who survived, after a three days' siege in a fortified house, were relieved by troops from Boston just in the nick of time.
The Connecticut Valley was next the theatre of war. Springfield, Hatfield, Deerfield, and Northfield were attacked the last two having to be abandoned. At Hadley the onset occurred on a fast-day. The men rushed from their worship with their muskets, which were ready to hand in church, and hastily formed for battle. Bewildered by the unexpected assault, they were on the point of yielding, when, according to tradition, an aged hero with long beard and queer clothing appeared, placed himself at their head and directed their movements. His evident acquaintance with fighting restored order and courage. The savages were driven pell-mell out of town, but the pursuers looked in vain for their deliverer. If the account is correct, it was the regicide, General Goffe, who had been a secret guest in the house of the Rev. Mr. Russell. He could not in such danger refrain from engaging once again, as he had so often done during the Civil War in England, in the defence of God's people.
From Hadley a party went to Deerfield to bring in the wheat that had been left when the town was deserted. Ninety picked men, the "flower of Essex," led by Captain Lothrop, attended the wagons as convoy. On their return, about seven o'clock in the morning, by a little stream in the present village of South Deerfield, since called Bloody Brook in memory of the event, the soldiers dispersed somewhat in quest of grapes, then ripe, when a sudden and fatal volley from an ambush was delivered upon them. The men had left their muskets in the wagons and could not regain them. Lothrop was shot dead, and but seven or eight of his company escaped alive. A monument marks the spot where this tragic affair occurred.
So early as July, 1675, Massachusetts and Connecticut, acting for the New England Confederation, had effected a treaty with the strong tribe of the Narragansets in southern Rhode Island, engaging them to remain neutral and to surrender any of Philip's men coming within their jurisdiction. This agreement they did not keep. After the attacks on Springfield and Hatfield in October, great numbers of the Pokanoket braves came to them, evidently welcomed. To prevent their becoming a centre of mischief, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Plymouth despatched a thousand men to punish the Narragansets. They met the foe at the old Palisade, in the midst of a dense swamp in what is now South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The terrible cold which rendered this Narraganset campaign so severe had turned the marsh into a bridge, and at once on their arrival the soldiers, weary and hungry as they were from their long march, and spite of its being Sunday, advanced to the attack. Massachusetts was in front, then Plymouth, then Connecticut. Long and bitter was the fight. The Indians, perfect marksmen, took deadly aim at the leaders. Five captains were killed outright and as many more mortally wounded. The fort was taken, re-taken, and taken again, the whites at last, to make sure work, setting fire to the wigwams. The storming party lost in killed and wounded one-fifth of its number. This Swamp Fight, as it was called, broke forever the strength of the Narragansets, the tribe and its allies dispersing in all directions.
In 1676 central Massachusetts was again aflame. Lancaster was sacked and burned, its inhabitants nearly all either carried captive or put to death with indescribable atrocities. Mrs. Rowlandson, wife of the Lancaster Minister, also her son and two daughters, were among the captives. We have this brave woman's story as subsequently detailed by herself. Her youngest, a little girl of six, wounded by a bullet, she bore in her arms wherever they marched, till the poor creature died of cold, starvation, and lack of care. The agonized mother begged the privilege of tugging along the corpse, but was refused. She with her son and living daughter were ransomed, after wandering up and down with the savages eleven weeks and five days.
From Mrs. Rowlandson's narrative we have many interesting facts touching the Indians' habits of life. They carried ample stores from Lancaster, but soon squandered them, and were reduced to a diet of garbage, horses' entrails, ears, and liver, with broth made of horses' feet and legs. The liver they seemed to prefer raw. Their chief food was ground-nuts. They also ate acorns, artichokes, beans, and various sorts of roots. They especially delighted in old bones, which, being heated to drive out maggots and worms, they first boiled for soup, then ground for use as meal.
The captive lady often saw Philip. At his request she made a shirt and a cap for his son, for which he paid her. Says Hubbard, "Such was the goodness of God to these poor captive women and children that they found so much favor in the sight of their enemies that they offered no wrong to any of their persons save what they could not help, being in many wants themselves. Neither did they offer any uncivil carriage to any of the females, nor ever attempt the chastity of any of them." So soon as negotiations were opened for Mrs. Rowlandson's release, Philip told her of this, and expressed the hope that they would succeed. When her ransom had arrived he met her with a smile, saying: "I have pleasant words for you this morning; would you like to hear them? You are to go home to-morrow," Twenty pounds were paid for her, raised by some ladies of Boston, aided by a Mr. Usher.
Hostilities now bore southeastward. Philip was in his glory. All the towns of Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts were in terror, nearly all in actual danger. At Medfield twenty whites were killed. Deserted Mendon was burned. Weymouth was attacked, and eleven persons were massacred in the edge of Plymouth. In Groton and Marlborough every house was laid in ashes, as were all in lower Rhode Island up to Warwick, and in Warwick all but one. Sachem Canonchet of the Narragansets drew into ambush at Pawtuxet a band of Plymouth soldiers, of whom only one escaped. Canonchet was subsequently taken by Captain Denison and executed. Rehoboth lost forty houses, Providence nearly as many.
The Connecticut Valley was invaded afresh. Springfield, Hadley, Northampton, and Hatfield were once more startled by the war-whoop and the whiz of the tomahawk. Captain Turner, hearing of an Indian camp at the falls of the Connecticut, now called by his name, in Montague, advanced with a troop of one hundred and eighty horse, arriving in sight of the encampment at daylight. Dismounting and proceeding stealthily to within sure shot, they beat up the Indians' quarters with a ringing volley of musketry. Resistance was impossible. Those who did not fall by bullet or sword rushed to the river, many being carried over the falls. Three hundred savages perished, the English losing but one man. A large stock of the enemy's food and ammunition was also destroyed. Though so splendidly successful, the party did not return to Hadley without considerable loss, being set upon much of the way by Indians who had heard the firing at the falls and sped to the relief of their friends. Turner was killed in the meadows by Green River; his subordinate, Holyoke, then commanding the retreat.
Turner's victory brought the war to a crisis. The red men lacked resources. The whites had learned the secrets of savage warfare. They could no longer be led into ambush, while their foe at no time during the war ventured to engage them in open field. Large parties of Indians began to surrender; many roving bands were captured. Hostilities continued still many months in Maine, the whites more and more uniformly successful, till the Treaty of Casco, April 12, 1678, at last terminated the war.
Hunted by the English backward and forward, Philip was at last driven to his old home upon Mount Hope. Here Captain Church, one of the most practised of Indian fighters, surprised him on the morning of August 12, 1676, encamped upon a little upland, which it is believed has been exactly identified near a swamp at the foot of the mountain. By residents in the neighborhood it is known as Little Guinea. At the first firing Philip, but partially dressed, seized gun and powder-horn and made for the swamp, Captain Church's ambush was directly in his front. An Englishman's piece missed fire, but an Indian sent a bullet through the Great Sachem's heart.
In this fearful war at least six hundred of the English inhabitants either fell in battle or were murdered by the enemy, A dozen or more towns were utterly destroyed, others greatly damaged, Some six hundred buildings, chiefly dwelling-houses, were consumed by fire, and over a hundred thousand pounds of colonial money expended, to say nothing of the immense losses in goods and cattle.
Not without propriety has the Pokanoket chief been denominated a king. If not a Charlemagne or a Louis XIV., he yet possessed elements of true greatness. While he lived his mind evidently guided, as his will dominated and prolonged, the war. This is saying much, for the Indian's disinclination to all strenuous or continuous exertion was pronounced and proverbial. Philip's treatment of Mrs. Rowlandson must be declared magnanimous, especially as, of course, he was but a savage king, who might reasonably request us not to measure him by our rules. The other party to the war we have a right to judge more rigidly, and just sentence in their case must be severe. Philip's sorrowing, innocent wife and son were brought prisoners to Plymouth, and their lot referred to the ministers. After long deliberation and prayer it was decided that they should be sold into slavery, and this was their fate.