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Pequod War, the

The most powerful of the New England tribes were the Pequods, whose territory extended from Narraganset Bay to Hudson River, and over Long Island. Sassacus, their emreror, ruled over twenty-six native princes. He was bold, cruel, cool, calculating, treacherous, haughty, fierce, and malignant. Jealous of the friendship of the English for the Mohegans, and believing the garrison at the mouth of the Connecticut River would soon be strengthened and endanger his dominions, Sassacus determined in 1636 to exterminate the white people. He tried to induce the Narragansets and the Mohegans to join him. The united tribes might put 4,000 braves on the war-path at once, while there were not more than 250 Englishmen in the Connecticut Valley capable of bearing arms. Sassacus undertook the task alone. First his people kidnapped children, murdered men alone in the forests or on the waters, and swept away fourteen families. A Massachusetts trading-vessel was seized by the Indians at Block Island, plundered, and its commander, John Oldham, murdered. They were allies of the Pequods, who protected them. The authorities at Boston sent Endicott and Captain Gardiner to chastise them. With a small military force in three vessels they entered Long Island Sound. They killed some Indians at Block Island, and left the domain a blackened desolation. Then they went over to the mainland, made some demands which they could not enforce; desolated fields, burned wigwams, killed a few people, and departed.

The exasperated Pequods sent ambassadors to the Narraganset's urging them to join in a war of extermination. Through the influence of Roger Williams, who rendered good for evil, the Narragansets were not only kept from joining the Pequods, but became allies of the English in making war upon them. All through the next winter the Pequods harassed the settlements in the Connecticut Valley, and in the spring of 1637 the colonists determined to make war upon the aggressors. They had slain more than thirty Englishmen. Massachusetts sent troops to assist the Connecticut people. The English were joined by the Mohegans under Uncas, and the entire army was under the command of Capt. John Mason, who had been a soldier in the Netherlands. The little army proceeded by water to the Narraganset country, whence the Pequods would least expect attack, and marched upon their rear. The Indians, seeing them sail eastward, concluded the English had abandoned the expedition and the Connecticut Valley. It was a fatal mistake. The white people were joined by many Narragansets and Niantics, and while Sassacus was dreaming of the flight of the Europeans more than fifty warriors, pale and dusky, were marching swiftly to attack his stronghold near the waters of the Mystic River. Mason was accompanied by Captain Underhill, another brave soldier.

When the invaders reached the foot of the hill on which the fort of Sassacus [139] stood—a circular structure strongly palisaded, embracing seventy wigwams covered with matting and thatch—they were yet undiscovered. The sentinels could hear the sounds of revelry among the savages within the fortress. At midnight all was still. Two hours before the dawn (May 26) the invaders marched upon the fort in two columns. The Indian allies grew fearful, for Sassacus was regarded as all but a god. Uncas was firm. The dusky warriors lingered behind, and formed a cordon in the woods around the fortress to kill any who might attempt to escape. The moon shone brightly. Stealthily the little army crept up the hill, when an aroused sentinel awakened the sleepers

Where Mason's army landed.

within the fort. Mason and Underhill, approaching from opposite directions, burst in the sally-ports. The terrified Indians rushed out, but were driven back by swords and musket-balls. Their thatched wigwams were fired, and within an hour about 600 men, women, and children were slain. The bloodthirsty and the innocent shared the same fate. Only seven of the Pequods escaped death, and Cotton Mather afterwards wrote: “It was supposed that no less than five or six hundred Pequod souls were brought down to hell that day.” Sassacus was not there; he was at another fort near the Thames, opposite the site of New London. Sassacus sat stately and sullen when told of the massacre at the Mystic. His warriors were furious, and they threatened his life if he did not immediately lead them against the invaders. Just then the blast of a trumpet was heard. The white invaders were near, fully 200 strong. The Indians fled with their women and children across the Thames, through the forest and over green savannas westward, closely pursued. The fugitives took refuge in Sasco Swamp, near Fairfield, where they all surrendered to the English excepting Sassacus and a few followers, who escaped. A nation had perished in a day. That blow gave peace to New England for forty years. The last representative of the pure blood of the Pequods, probably, was Eunice Manwee, who died in Kent, Conn., about 1860, aged 100 years. Sassacus took refuge with the Mohawks, who, at the request of the Narragansets, cut off his head. The Puritans, who believed themselves to be under the peculiar care of Divine Providence, and the Indians to be the children of the devil, exulted in this signal instance of the favor of Heaven. “the Lord was pleased,” wrote Captain Mason, “to smite our enemies in the hinder parts and give us their land for an inheritance.” See Mason, John.

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