The Pequot War

 

"Thus we may see, How the face of God is set against them that do Evil, to cut off the Remembrance of them from the Earth. Our Tongue shall talk of thy Righteousness all the Day long; for they are confounded, they are brought to Shame that sought our Hurt! Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wonderful Things; and blessed be his holy Name for ever: Let the whole Earth be filled with his Glory! Thus the Lord was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance; Who remembered us in our low Estate, and redeemed us out of our Enemies Hands: Let us therefore praise the Lord for his Goodness and his wonderful Works to the Children of Men!"

 

~ Captain John Mason

 

It has been written that the Pequot War had a great influence on the destiny of the New England Colonies. It turned the tide which threatened to overwhelm the colonies and established a peace that remained unbroken for nearly forty years, until the King Phillips War. As long as the settlements clustered around the Massachusetts Bay area and occupied territory from which the Indians had been swept by the plague of 1616-1617, the conflict for possession of more fertile ground was deferred. However, in 1636 when the emigrants from Watertown, Dorchester and Newton had pushed their way through the dense forests and occupied the Connecticut Valley, a struggle for existence became inevitable. The country was dominated by the Pequots, the most dreaded of all the tribes of New England, who had driven away the weaker tribes, or held them under subjection.

 

The Pequots controlled all the tribes east of the Connecticut River, westward to near New Haven and nearly all of Long Island. They originally formed one tribe with the Mohegans. The Mohegan later seceded under Uncas and remained faithful allies of the colonists, due in large part to their friendship with Roger Williams of Rhode Island. The total strength of the Pequots is estimated to have been about three thousand; their chief sagamore was Sassacus and their stronghold was at the mouth of the Thames.

 

There were a number of incidents historians have written about that led up to a formal declaration of war by the colonists, but it seemed clear to them, that the Indians intended to harass the settlers until they drove them from the country. By a special session of the General Court on May 1, 1637, offensive war was declared by Connecticut, and by order of the Court a force of ninety men was organized. The company was placed under the command of John Mason. Massachusetts at a special session of her General Court on April 18, 1637, organized one hundred sixty men.

 

May 10th, Mason started his expedition and they sailed down the Connecticut River to Fort Saybrook, and there he had orders to proceed to the Pequot River and to attack the fort from the west. He chose to disobey this order. He knew the Pequots would be expecting them by that route and their numbers were much greater than the English. There was some dispute among the men about their course and Captain Mason , "did earnestly desire Mr. Stone that he would commend our Condition to the Lord, that Night, to direct how and in what manner we should demean ourselves in that Respect: He being our Chaplain and lying aboard our Pink, the Captain on Shore. In the morning very early Mr. Stone came ashore to the Captain’s Chamber, and told him, he had done as he had desired, and was fully satisfied to sail for Narragansett." After they arrived at their desired port, they made contact with the local tribe of Indians in that area, asking for passage through their country. These groups were enemies of the Pequots and they agreed, although they thought the English were too small in number to fight the Pequots. About five hundred of their Indians joined them; however, as they approached the Pequots’ forts, the Indian allies became fearful and hung back.

 

The company surprised the fort and their attack was fierce. The captain laid a torch to the wigwams and soon, the whole place was engulfed in flames. Those that tried to run from the fire were killed. There were only about seven taken captive, and about that many escaped. Some six or seven hundred men, women and children were killed. The night before, the English had heard them singing and rejoicing into the night, for they had seen them sail past the fort days earlier and supposed they were afraid to attack them. Mason wrote in his account:

 

"Thus were they now at their Wits End, who not many Hours before exalted themselves in their great Pride, threatening and resolving the utter Ruin and Destruction of all the English, Exulting and Rejoicing with Songs and Dances: But God was above them, who laughed his Enemies, and the Enemies of his people to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven: Thus were the Stout Hearted spoiled, having slept their last Sleep, and none of their Men could find their Hand: Thus did the Lord judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!"

 

"And here we may see the just Judgment of God, in sending even the very Night before this Assault, One hundred and fifty Men from their other Fort, to join with them of that Place, who were designed as some of themselves reported to go forth against the English, at that very Instant when this heavy Stroke came upon them where they perished with their Fellows. So that the Mischief they intended to us, came upon their own Pate: They were taken in their own snare…"

 

Captain Mason’s account of the ensuing days is fairly detailed. He describes the troubles they encountered and the hardships they endured. He ends his account with the following:

 

"The Way and the manner in how God dealt with us in our Delivery was very Remarkable; The story would be somewhat long to trouble you with at this time; and therefore I shall forbear…And was not the Finger of God in all this? By his special Providence to lead us along in the Way we should go…and which is yet more, that we should be carried in our March among a treacherous and perfidious People, yea in our allodgment so near the Enemy, all Night in so populous a Country, and not the least notice of us, seemeth somewhat strange, and more than ordinary: Nay, that we should come to their very Doors: What shall I say; God was pleased to hide us in the Hollow of his Hand; I still remember a Speech of Mr. Hooker at our going aboard; "that they should be Bread for us". "And thus the Lord turned the captivity of his People, and turned the Wheel upon their Enemies; we were like Men in a Dream; then was our Mouth filled with Laughter, and our Tongues with Singing; thus we may say the Lord hath done great Things for us among the Heathen, whereof we are glad. Praise ye the Lord!"

 

"I shall mention two or three special Providences that God was pleased to vouchsafe to Particular Men…namely, John Pier and Thomas Stiles, were both of them Shot in the Knots of their handkerchiefs, being about their necks, and received not Hurt. Lieutenant Seeley was Shot in the Eyebrow with a flat headed Arrow, the Point turning downwards, I pulled it out myself. Lieutenant Bull had an Arrow Shot into a hard piece of Cheese, having no other Defense: Which may verify the old saying, a little armor would serve if a Man knew where to place it. Many such providences happened."

 

In the aftermath of the Pequot War, the Mohegan and Narragansett who had aligned themselves with the English, met with the remainder of the Pequot tribe and signed the first Hartford Treaty. This treaty basically dissolved the tribe. The surviving Pequots could find no place of refuge and offered themselves as slaves to those tribes in exchange for life.

 

"They were then given to Onkos, Sachem of Monheag, Eighty; to Mynin Tonimo, Sachem of Narragansett, Eighty, and to Nynigrett, Twenty, when he should satisfy for a mare of Edward Pomroye’s, killed by his men. The Pequots were then bound by Covenant, that none should inhabit their native country, nor should any of them be called Pequots anymore, but Moreheags and Narraagansetts forever"

 

It would seem that as in the days of Joshua, so was it. Chapter 8 of the book of Joshua is an account of the children of Israel when God sent them to possess the city of Ai. "Joshua 8:7 Then shall you rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the Lord shall ye do. See, I have commanded you".

 

Hebrews 12:8 "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever."

Sources: History of the Pequot War, Mason’s Narrative; Wikipedia.org/Pequot War

Contributed by Kathryn Currier

posted August 11, 2009

 

 

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