Pequot War - History

Pequot War - History

The Pequots lived in what is now Connecticut. In 1634, Indians killed John Stoen and eight companions. The Pequots were blamed, and agreed to a series of Puritan demands. In 1836, an English trader was killed by Narraganseett who fled into Pequot territory. When the Pequots refused to surrender them, the Massachusetts legislature drafted articles of war against the Pequot. They surrounded a Pequot fort on the Mystic river and set it afire. As many as 700 Indians were killed.

The main cause of the Indian Wars of this period was the notion of Manifest Destiny. For decades, Americans from the east were pushing west in an effort to gain control of more land and resources. Many felt that it was their God-given right to control the continent from sea to sea.

The various wars resulted from a wide variety of factors, including cultural clashes, land disputes, and criminal acts committed. The European powers and their colonies also enlisted Indian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other’s colonial settlements.


Etymology Edit

Pequot is an Algonquian word whose meaning is disputed among language specialists. Considerable scholarship on the Pequot claims that the name came from Pequttôog, meaning "the destroyers" or "the men of the swamp". Frank Speck was a leading specialist of the Mohegan-Pequot language in the early twentieth century, and he believed that another term was more plausible, meaning "the shallowness of a body of water", given that the Pequot territory was along the coast of Long Island Sound. [6] [7]

Historians have debated whether the Pequot migrated about 1500 from the upper Hudson River Valley toward central and eastern Connecticut. The theory of Pequot migration to the Connecticut River Valley can be traced to Rev. William Hubbard, who claimed in 1677 that the Pequot had invaded the region sometime before the establishment of Plymouth Colony, rather than originating in the region. In the aftermath of King Philip's War, Hubbard detailed in his Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England the ferocity with which some of New England's tribes responded to the English. Hubbard described the Pequot as "foreigners" to the region not invaders from another shore, but "from the interior of the continent" who "by force seized upon one of the goodliest places near the sea, and became a Terror to all their Neighbors." [8]

Much of the archaeological, linguistic, and documentary evidence now available demonstrates that the Pequot were not invaders to the Connecticut River Valley but were indigenous in that area for thousands of years. [9] By the time of the founding of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, the Pequot had already attained a position of political, military, and economic dominance in central and eastern Connecticut. They occupied the coastal area between the Niantic tribe of the Niantic River of Connecticut and the Narragansett in western Rhode Island. The Pequot numbered some 16,000 persons in the most densely inhabited portion of southern New England. [1]

The smallpox epidemic of 1616–1619 killed many of the Indians of the eastern coast of New England, but it failed to reach the Pequot, Niantic, and Narragansett tribes. In 1633, the Dutch established a trading post called the House of Good Hope at Hartford. They executed the principal Pequot sachem Tatobem because of a violation of an agreement. After the Pequot paid the Dutch a large ransom, they returned Tatobem's body to his people. His successor was Sassacus.

In 1633, an epidemic devastated all of the region's tribes, and historians estimate that the Pequot suffered the loss of 80 percent of their population. At the outbreak of the Pequot War, Pequot survivors may have numbered only about 3,000. [10]

Pequot War Edit

Members of the Pequot tribe killed a resident of Connecticut Colony in 1636, and war erupted as a result. The Mohegan and the Narragansett tribes sided with the colonists. Around 1,500 Pequot warriors were killed in battles or hunted down, and others were captured and distributed as slaves or household servants. A few escaped to join the Mohawk and the Niantic tribes on Long Island. Eventually, some returned to their traditional lands, where family groups of friendly Pequots had stayed. Of those enslaved, most were awarded to the allied tribes, but many were also sold as slaves in Bermuda. [11] [12] The Mohegans treated their Pequot captives so severely that officials of Connecticut Colony eventually removed them. Connecticut established two reservations for the Pequots in 1683: the Eastern Pequot Reservation in North Stonington, Connecticut and the Western Pequots (or Mashantucket Pequot Reservation) in Ledyard.

Modern history Edit

The 1910 census numbered the Pequot population at 66, [13] and they reached their lowest number several decades later. Pequot numbers grew significantly during the 1970s and 1980s, especially the Mashantucket Pequot tribe which opened a casino in the same timeframe, and tribal chairman Richard A. Hayward encouraged them to return to their tribal homeland. He worked for Federal recognition and economic development. [14]

In 1976, the Pequots filed suit with the assistance of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the Indian Rights Association against landowners and residents of North Stonington to get their land, which the Pequots claimed had been illegally sold in 1856 by the State of Connecticut, and they settled after seven years. The Connecticut Legislature passed legislation to petition the federal government to grant tribal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequots, and the "Mashantucket Pequot Indian Land Claims Settlement Act" was enacted by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan on Oct. 18, 1983. [15] This settlement granted federal recognition to the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, enabling them to buy the land covered in the Settlement Act and place it in trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for reservation use. [16] In 1986, they opened a bingo operation, followed by the first phase of Foxwoods Resort Casino in 1992. Revenue from the casino has enabled the development and construction of a cultural museum which opened on August 11, 1998, on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation where many members of the tribe continue to live.

The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation was recognized in 2002. Since the 1930s, both Pequot tribes had serious tension over racial issues, with some people claiming that darker-skinned descendants should not be considered fully Pequot. Two groups of Eastern Pequots filed petitions for recognition with the BIA, and they agreed to unite to achieve recognition. The state immediately challenged the decision, and the Department of the Interior revoked their recognition in 2005. That same year, it revoked recognition for the Schaghticoke tribe who had gained recognition in 2004. The Connecticut state government and Congressional delegation opposed the BIA's recognition because residents were worried that the newly recognized tribes would establish gaming casinos.

The 1130-member Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation has a reservation called "Lantern Hill." The Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation is recognized by the state of Connecticut.

The 800+ Mashantucket Pequot or Western Pequot gained federal recognition in 1983 and have a reservation in Ledyard.

The Poospatuck Reservation on Long Island is also home to a few hundred self-identified Pequot descendants.

Nearly all individuals who are identified as Pequot live in the two above-named communities. They are multi-racial but identify as Pequot. No members of the tribe have solely full-blooded Pequot ancestry.

Historically, the Pequots spoke a dialect of the Mohegan-Pequot language, an Eastern Algonquian language. The Treaty of Hartford concluded the Pequot War in 1637, when the colonists made speaking the language a capital offense. Within a generation or so, it became largely extinct. Pequot from both the Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mashantucket Pequot now speak English as their first language.

In the 21st century, the Mashantucket Pequot are undertaking aggressive efforts to revive the language. They are conducting careful analysis of historical documents containing Pequot words and comparing them to extant closely related languages. So far, they have reclaimed more than 1,000 words, though that is a small fraction of what would be necessary for a functional language. The Mashantucket Pequotshave begun offering language classes with the help of the Mashpee Wampanoag. The Wampanoag recently initiated the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project. The southern New England Indian communities participating in the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project are Mashpee Wampanoag, Aquinnah Wampanoag, Herring Pond Wampanoag, and Mashantucket Pequot.


Before the 17th century, the Pequot people lived in this portion of southeastern Connecticut. [9] They were in control of a considerable amount of territory, extending toward the Pawcatuck River to the east and the Connecticut River to the west.

To the northwest, the Five Nations of the Iroquois dominated the land linked by the Great Lakes and the Hudson River, allowing trading to occur between the Iroquois and the Dutch. The Pequots were settled just distant enough to be secure from any danger that the Iroquois posed. [10] The Pequot War profoundly affected the Mystic area between 1636 and 1638. In May 1637, captains John Underhill and John Mason led a mission through Narragansett land, along with their allies the Narragansetts and Mohegans, and struck the Pequot Indian settlement in Mystic in the event which came to be known as the Mystic massacre. [11] On September 21, 1638, the colonists signed the Treaty of Hartford, officially ending the Pequot War. [12]

English settlement Edit

As a result of the Pequot War, Pequot control of the Mystic area ended and English settlements increased in the area. By the 1640s, Connecticut Colony began to grant land to the Pequot War veterans. [13] John Winthrop the Younger, the son of the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was among those to receive property, much of which was in southeastern Connecticut. [14] Other early settlers in the Mystic area included Robert Burrows and George Denison, who held land in the Mystic River Valley. [15]

Settlement grew slowly. The Connecticut government and Massachusetts Bay government began to quarrel over boundaries, thus causing some conflicting claims concerning governmental authority between the Mystic River and the Pawcatuck River. [16] In the 1640s and 1650s, "Connecticut" referred to settlements located along the Connecticut River, as well as its claims in other parts of the region. [17] Massachusetts Bay, however, claimed to have authority over Stonington and even into Rhode Island.

Connecticut did not have a royal charter that separated it from the Massachusetts Bay Colony the Connecticut General Court was formed by leaders of the settlements. The General Court claimed rule of the area by right of conquest, but the Massachusetts Bay Colony saw matters differently. The Bay Colony had contributed to the war by sending a militia under captains John Underhill and Thomas Stoughton, which they argued gave territorial rights and authority to the Massachusetts Bay Colony rather than the Connecticut Court. [17]

With conflicting views, both colonies turned to the United Colonies of New England to resolve the dispute. The United Colonies of New England was formed in 1643, established to settle disputes such as this one. They voted to establish the boundary between the claims of the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut at the Thames River. As a result, Connecticut would be positioned west of the river, and Massachusetts Bay could have the land to the east, including the Mystic River. [10]

Throughout the next decade, colonists were beginning to settle around the Mystic River. John Mason, one of the captains who led the colonists against the Pequots, had previously been granted 500 acres (2 km 2 ) on the eastern banks of the Mystic River. [19] He also received the island that now bears his name, though he never lived on the property. In 1653, John Gallup, Jr. was given 300 acres (1.2 km 2 ) approximately midway up the east part of the Mystic River.

Within the same year, others joined John Gallup and began to settle around the Mystic River. George Denison, a veteran of Oliver Cromwell's army, was given his own strip of 300 acres (1.2 km 2 ), just south of Gallup's land in 1654. Thomas Miner had immigrated to Massachusetts with John Winthrop and was granted many land plots, the main one lying on Quiambaug Cove, just east of the Mystic River. [19] Other families granted land at their arrival were Reverend Robert Blinman, the Beebe brothers, Thomas Parke, and Connecticut Governor John Hayne.

Like Captain John Mason, not all these men actually lived on their land. Many sold it to profit from or employed an overseer to cultivate their property. Many men, however, actually brought their wives and children, which indicated their plans on forming a community in the Mystic River Valley.

There was one recorded case of a woman who did not come to the Mystic River Valley as a wife. Widow Margaret Lake received a grant from the Massachusetts Bay authority and was the only woman to receive a land grant in her own name. [10] She also did not live on her land but hired other people to maintain it. She took up residence in what is now called Lakes Pond. Her daughter was married to John Gallup, while her sister was married to Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop. [10]

By 1675, settlement had grown tremendously in the Mystic River Valley, and infrastructure was beginning to appear as well as an economy. The Pequot Trail was used as a main highway to get around the Mystic River and played a vital role in the settlers' lives, allowing them to transport livestock, crops, furs, and other equipment to and from their farm lands. However, those families living on the east side of the Mystic River were unable to make any use of the Pequot Trail. As early as 1660, Robert Burrows was authorized to institute a ferry somewhere along the middle of the river's length. This earned his home the name of "Half-way House". [15]

The Pequot Trail also connected the settlers to their church. Stonington residents found it difficult to attend church in Mystic or Groton, and this led to the creation of their own church. The town of Stonington was then established as separate from Mystic in regards to church attendance and was granted leave to build a church of their own. The building became known as the Road Church. [15]

Colonists began public schools in this area around 1679, and John Fish became the first schoolmaster in Stonington, conducting classes and lessons in his home. [10] Education was a very important thing to the New England colonists, enabling boys, girls, African Americans, Indians, and servants to learn literacy skills. Most families throughout New England had six or more children in each household, giving Fish plenty of students.

Fish also gave lectures and insights about marriage and maintenance of a solid family. Divorce was very uncommon in those days however, John Fish's wife ran off with Samuel Culver. In the case of a runaway spouse, the abandoned spouse was not allowed to file for divorce until six years had passed. This law ensured that the spouse was actually gone and not intending to come back. [10] Fish was eventually allowed to divorce in 1680, but this had no impact on his reputation as a school teacher, and parents continued to allow their children to attend his classes.

18th century Edit

By the first decade of the 18th century, three villages had begun to develop along the Mystic River. The largest village was called Mystic (now Old Mystic), also known as the Head of the River because it lay where several creeks united into the Mystic River estuary. [15] Two villages lay farther down the river. One was called Stonington and was considered to be Lower Mystic, consisting of twelve houses by the early 19th century. These twelve houses lay along Willow Street, which ended at the ferry landing. On the opposite bank of the river in the town of Groton stood the village that became known as Portersville. [10]

Through the 18th century, Mystic's economy was composed of manufacturing, road building, and maritime trades. Agriculture was the main component of their economy, since most of the citizens were farmers. In turn, the colonists provided their mother country with raw material resources that led to the emergence of a colonial manufacturing system. Land remained an essential source of wealth, though some land was very rocky and prevented early farmers from producing crops. This, however, did not necessarily lead to poverty. They grew corn, wheat, peas, potatoes, and a variety of fruits. They raised cattle, chicken, pigs, and sheep. They were hunters and fishermen and were generally able to sustain themselves. With an average household of about nine children, labor was easily provided in the fields.

National Register of Historic Places Edit

Mystic has three historic districts: the Mystic Bridge Historic District around U.S. Route 1 and Route 27, Rossie Velvet Mill Historic District between Pleasant Street and Bruggerman Place, and the Mystic River Historic District around U.S. Route 1 and Route 215. Other historic sites in Mystic are:

  • Joseph Conrad (ship) at Mystic Seaport Museum
  • Charles W. Morgan (ship) at Mystic Seaport Museum
  • Emma C. Berry (sloop) at Mystic Seaport Museum
  • L. A. Dunton (schooner) at Mystic Seaport Museum on Pequotsepos Road
  • Sabino (steamer) at Mystic Seaport Museum

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.8 square miles (9.8 km 2 ), of which 3.3 square miles (8.5 km 2 ) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km 2 ), or 11.61%, is water. The village is on the east and west bank of the estuary of the Mystic River. Mason's Island (Pequot language: Chippachaug) fills the south end of the estuary. Most of the bedrock of Mystic is "gneissic, crystalline terrane extending from eastern Massachusetts through western Rhode Island and across southeastern Connecticut north of Long Island Sound," according to geologist Richard Goldsmith. [20]

The village is a major New England tourist destination. It is home to the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, known for its research department, concern with marine life rehabilitation, and its popular beluga whales. The business district contains many restaurants on either side of the bascule bridge where U.S. Route 1 crosses the Mystic River. Local sailing cruises are available on the traditional sailing ship Argia. Short day tours and longer evening cruises are available on the 1908 steamer Sabino departing Mystic Seaport.

Mystic Seaport is the nation's leading maritime museum and one of the premier maritime museums in the world, founded in 1929. It is the home of four National Historic Landmark vessels, including the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, the oldest merchant vessel in the country. The museum's collections and exhibits include over 500 historic watercraft, a major research library, a large gallery of maritime art, a unique diorama displaying the town of Mystic as it was in the 19th century, a working ship restoration shipyard, the Treworgy Planetarium, and a recreation of a 19th-century seafaring village.

Mystic Museum of Art at 9 Water Street features works by members of the Mystic Art Colony along with other contemporary American art. The 2013 Moondance International Film Festival was held in Mystic.

As of the census [22] of 2000, there were 4,001 people, 1,797 households, and 995 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,192.7 people per square mile (461.1/km 2 ). There were 1,988 housing units at an average density of 592.6 per square mile (229.1/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the CDP was 95.8% White, 0.8% African American, 0.4% American Indian, 1.3% Asian, 0.0% Pacific Islander (i.e. 1 person), 0.3% from other races, and 1.30% from two or more races. [23]

There were 1,797 households, out of which 20.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.6% were married couples living together, 7.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 44.6% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10 and the average family size was 2.76.

In the CDP, the age distribution of the population shows 16.7% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 27.4% from 45 to 64, and 19.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $62,236, and the median income for a family was $70,625. Males had a median income of $50,036 versus $32,400 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $33,376. About 1.6% of families and 3.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.9% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.

Mystic is a census-designated place (CDP) that spans the towns of Groton and Stonington, Connecticut. It is not a municipality in the state of Connecticut, and so it has no independent government. [24]

Amtrak stops at the Mystic station. [25] Bus service is provided by Southeast Area Transit. [26] Groton-New London Airport serves private and chartered flights to the area.

[email protected] of Nebraska - Lincoln

John Mason’s posthumously published account is the most complete contemporary history of the Pequot War of 1636–1637. Written around 1670, and published in part in 1677 (although misattributed by Increase Mather to John Allyn), the complete text was issued by Thomas Prince in 1736. That text is reproduced here in a corrected and annotated edition that includes Prince’s biographical sketch of Mason and various dedicatory and explanatory documents.

John Mason (c.1600–1672) commanded the Connecticut forces in the expedition that wiped out the Pequot fort and village at Mystic and in two subsequent operations that effectively eliminated the Pequots as a recognizable nation. He was among the original settlers of Windsor, Connecticut, and afterwards resided at Saybrook and Norwich. Little is known of his antecedents, except that he had served in the wars in the Netherlands before emigrating to Massachusetts.

This online electronic text edition includes the entire 12,000-word Brief History and runs to 49 pages, including notes and bibliography it can be printed out on 25 sheets of letter-sized paper.


Spring 1636

April 1, 1636

  • John Winthrop, Jr. and Lt. Lion Gardiner arrive at Saybrook Point to oversee the settlement. Gardiner remains to oversee fort construction.

June 18, 1636

  • Mohegan Sachem Uncas send intelligence, or rumors, of an aborted Pequot attack on a Plimoth vessel. Uncas also blames the death of shipwrecked Englishmen on Long Island on the Pequot.
  • English under Reverend Thomas Hooker establish Hartford (originally named Newtown) within sight of the Dutch fort.
  • Warehouses are built by individuals from the Connecticut River towns at Warehouse Point, just north of Saybrook Fort.

Mid-July 1636

  • Massachusetts Bay officials return gifts given by the Pequot in the winter of 1634. Lt. Gardiner protests.

July 20, 1636

  • Captain John Oldham of Wethersfield is killed by Block Island inhabitants. The murder is discovered by Captain John Gallop.

Artist depiction (ca. 1888) of Capt. Gallup’s attack to retake Oldham’s ship off Block Island.

August 20-30, 1636

Massachusetts Bay launches a punitive expedition against the inhabitants of Block Island.

  • The attack force led by Captain John Endicott consisted of ninety men, four officers, and two Natives.
  • August 25-26 was spent invading and ranging Block Island.
  • Endicott’s force sailed to Saybrook Fort and remained anchored there between August 26-29. On August 29 a small group of soldiers commanded by Captains Endicott and Underhill sailed to confront the Pequot sachem Sassacus at the Pequot River, but he was on Long Island.
  • After several hours of failed negotiations English forces attacked and destroyed villages on both sides on the river.

Pequot War - History

Pequot bowl, trade item, 17th century. Wood burl with wampum inlay - Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

The outbreak of the Pequot War (1636-37) is best understood through an examination of the cultural, political, and economic changes that occurred after the arrival of the Dutch in 1611 and the English in the early 1630s.

Traditionally and historically Pequot territory before the time of the war consisted of approximately 250 square miles in southeastern Connecticut. Today, this area includes the towns of Groton, Ledyard, Stonington, and North Stonington, as well as southern portions of Preston and Griswold. The Thames and Pawcatuck Rivers formed the western and eastern boundaries, Long Island Sound the southern boundary, and Preston and Griswold the northern boundary. Some historic sources suggest that Pequot territory extended 4 to 5 miles east of the Pawcatuck River to an area called Weekapaug in Charlestown, Rhode Island. During the early 17th century approximately 8,000 Pequot men, women, and children lived within this territory. Following the smallpox epidemics of 1633 and 󈧦, their number fell to an estimated 4,000. Communities of 50 to 400 people resided in 15 to 20 villages located along Long Island Sound and the estuaries of the Thames, Mystic, and Pawcatuck Rivers.

Tensions Rise as Different Parties Seek Control of Trade

During the 1620s the Dutch and Pequot controlled all trade in the region as the Pequot attempted to subjugate other tribes throughout Connecticut and the islands offshore. By 1635, the Pequot extended their political and economic ties through a tributary confederacy using coercion, warfare, diplomacy, and intermarriage. This created a potentially volatile situation.

Detail from Nova Belgica et Anglia Nova by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, ca. 1635. Based on the 1614 explorations of Adrian Block – Boston Public Library, Norman B. Leventhal Map Center

With the arrival of English traders and settlers in the Connecticut River Valley in the early 1630s, the balance shifted, resulting in conflict and intense competition for power as tribes wrested themselves from Pequot subjugation. This struggle to gain—or maintain—control fueled the outbreak of war. The English tried to break the Dutch-Pequot control of trade, while the Pequot attempted to maintain their political and economic dominance in the region. The murders of English traders are often cited as the cause for the Pequot War however, these deaths were the culmination of decades of tension between Native tribes further stressed by the arrival of the Dutch and English.

Trader and privateer John Stone and his crew were killed by the Pequot in the summer of 1634 on the Connecticut River. Although the Pequot provided several explanations for Stone’s death, all of which suggested they viewed their actions as justified, the English decided they could not afford to let any English deaths at the hands of Natives go unpunished. As tensions grew among all parties, the murder of trader John Oldham in July 1636 by the Manisses of Block Island resulted in a military response by the English of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This action, led by Captain John Endicott, sparked a cycle of escalating retaliation—and signaled the start of what is now known as the Pequot War, a Euro-centric interpretation of a conflict that was as much Native vs. Native as it was English vs. Native.

Contributed by staff for the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center’s Battlefields of the Pequot War project.

Native Veterans

Native individuals, such as Pequot sachems Sassacus and Robin Cassacinamon, the Narragansett sachem Canonicus, Pequot guide Wequash, and additional Native men (who later gave testimony about the war’s events) influenced events and major turning points during the Pequot War.

Our term “Native allies” used in technical reports refers to Natives allied with the English forces.

Jump to Native Veterans (listed alphabetically, with short bios)

English Veterans (alphabetically)

Sergeant Benedict [Benedictus] Alvord

(d. after 1674) One of the 30 who went from Windsor to serve in the Pequot War. In 1673, he was granted 50 acres of land for his service in the Pequot War.

Sergeant Thomas Barber

(b. 1612-d. September 11, 1662, Windsor, Connecticut Colony) Captain John Mason mentioned Barber in the Mistick Fort campaign as having served with Edward Pattison.

Thomas Buckland

(b. 1613-d. May 28, 1662) Bore arms at Mistick Fort. On October 12, 1671, his heirs were granted 50 acres for his service in the Pequot War.

Lieutenant Thomas Bull

(b. ca. 1605-d. 1684) Lieutenant, rescued Arthur Smith from Mistick Fort after being severely wounded.

Robert Chapman

(b. 1616-d. 1687) Garrison soldier stationed at Saybrook Fort and served in the Pequot War.

George Chappell

(b. 1614-d. June 8, 1682) Served under Captain John Mason in the Mistick Fort campaign.

Josiah Churchill

(d. 1686) Pequot War soldier enlisted from Wethersfield.

John Clarke

(d. February 5, 1674, Milford, Connecticut Colony) Soldier stationed at Saybrook Fort.

William Comstock

(b. 1595) Of Wethersfield, at the age of 42 served under the command of Mason, and likely with Lieutenant Seeley at the battle of Mistick Fort.

Sergeant William Cornwell

(d. February 21, 1678, Middletown, Connecticut Colony) Of Roxbury, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Served in the Pequot War under Captain John Underhill.

Edward Culver

Served in the Pequot War, and from that time on was noted according to family tradition as an “Indian Scout.”

Barnadas Davis

(b. ca. 1599-d. November 28, 1685) Perhaps of Charlestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Drafted in Boston to serve with the Massachusetts forces.

Sergeant Philip Davis

(d. 1689, Hartford, Connecticut Colony) From Hartford prior to his commission as sergeant to the Hartford troops. Historians William Hubbard and Benjamin Trumbull mentioned Davis saving the life of Captain John Mason by cutting the bowstring of an enemy Pequot with his sword at Mistick Fort.

Nicholas Denslow

(b. 1577-d. 1667) Served at the ripe age of 60.

John Dyer [Dier]

(b. 1606-d. 1680) Windsor soldier present at both Mistick Fort and Fairfield Swamp Fight battles. During the Swamp Fight, Thomas Stiles and John Dyer were both struck by arrows in the knots of their handkerchiefs.

James Eggleston

(b. ca. 1617-d. December 1, 1679) James was enlisted or drafted from Windsor for the Mistick Fort campaign.

Zachariah Field

(b. 1596-d. June 30, 1666, Hatfield, Massachusetts Bay Colony) In 1636, he removed with Rev. Thomas Hooker to Hartford where he enlisted.

John Gallop Jr.

(b. January 25, 1620-d. December 19, 1675) In 1636, John Gallop Jr. with his brother and father, witnessed the murder of Mr. Oldham. Gallop enlisted at Saybrook Fort and was an Indian interpreter.

Nathan Gillet

(b. 1613, d. September 15, 1689, Windsor, Connecticut Colony) Fought in the Battle of Mistick Fort. Granted 50 acres of land for his service in the Pequot War on October 12, 1671.

Ensign William Goodrich

(d. 1676) Enlisted from Wethersfield.

Thomas Gridley

(b. 1586-d. 1655) Removed with Rev. Thomas Hooker’s company to Hartford. Enlisted to serve under Mason. His heirs were granted 50 acres in Hartford for his service in the war on October 12, 1671.

Stephen Hart

(b. 1599-d. March 16, 1682/3, Farmington, Connecticut Colony) One of the “90 white men and 70 Indians who sail forth to attack the mischievous and murderous Pequots.”

William Haydon

(b. 1609-d. October 31, 1678, Braintree, Massachusetts Bay Colony) Enlisted from Windsor and was present at the battle of Mistick Fort. He was said to have cut the bowstring of a Pequot warrior who was about to fire upon Captain John Mason.

Mr. Hedge [William Hedges]

(b. 1612-d. June 30, 1670, Yarmouth) Of Lynn, Massachusetts, served under Captain John Underhill. Mason refers to Mr. Hedge in his narrative as a “valiant, resolute Gentleman.”

Lieutenant Daniel Howe [Haugh]

(b. 1608-d. 1656, England) March 9, 1637, of Lynn, Massachusetts. Commissioned to serve as lieutenant for the Saugus troops under Captain Underhill, with Richard Davenport and Richard Walker.

Thomas Hurlbut

(b. 1610-d. September 1689, Wethersfield, Connecticut Colony) A Saybrook Garrison soldier, blacksmith by trade. Perhaps served with Connecticut Colony forces on the Mistick Fort campaign.

Jeremy Jagger [Jeremiah Gager, Jeremy Gager, Jeremiah Jagger]

For his service his sons John, Jeremiah, and Jonathan of Stamford were granted 20 acres of land each at Connecticut in 1671.

Captain John Mason

(b. 1600-d. January 30, 1672, Windsor, Saybrook and Norwich, Connecticut Colony) Led Connecticut Colony forces to the defeat the Pequot at Mistick Fort. Authored his account of the Pequot War, Brief History of the Pequot War, first published by Rev. Thomas Prince in 1736, Boston. Later Deputy Governor of Connecticut Colony.

Nathaniel Merriman

(b. June 2, 1613-d. February 23, 1693) Of Wethersfield, served with the Connecticut Colony troops. On October 1698, the General Court granted Sergeant John Merriman, Nathaniel’s son, five acres in New Haven for Pequot War service.

Sergeant Thomas Munson

(b. 1612-d. May 7, 1685) A carpenter, civic officer, and soldier. Served under Mason, and one of the first 42 levied from Hartford for the Mistick Fort campaign in May 1637.

Sergeant John Nott

(d. 1681) Of Wethersfield, served under Mason against the Pequot.

John Norton

(b. 1610-d. 1676) Arrived in New England in 1636. Became a soldier serving in the Pequot War.

Nicholas Olmstead

(b. 1612-d. August 31, 1684) Enlisted from Hartford and served under Mason during the Mistick Fort campaign.

Richard Olmstead

(b. ca. 1612-d. after 1686) Of Hartford, served under Mason, evidenced by testimony given with Sergeant Tibbals in 1683.

Richard Osborn

(b. 1612) Present at the Battle of Mistick Fort. In 1639, resident of New Haven, he later removed to Fairfield in 1650 where he was known as Captain Richard Osborn “the hero of the Pequot War.”

Thomas Parsons

(b. ca. 1608-d. 1661) Settled in Windsor as early as 1635. Present at Mistick Fort, May 26, 1637.

Edward Pattison

(b. 1602) Enlisted from Windsor, served with Mason during the Mistick Fort campaign, evidenced by a land grant of 60 acres on May 12, 1670.

Thomas Pell

(b. 1612/13-d. September 1669, Fairfield, Connecticut Colony) As surgeon, served at Saybrook Fort under Lieutenant Lion Gardiner. Later sent as surgeon to aid Mason and Underhill’s men.

John Plum [Plume]

(b. July 28, 1594-d. July 1648) Ship owner and trader, used his vessel to carry Mason’s forces to Narragansett Bay during the Mistick Fort campaign.

Lieutenant William Pratt

Of Saybrook, served under Mason during the Mistick Fort campaign and was granted 100 acres on the west bank of the Connecticut River (six miles from the mouth at Saybrook).

James Rogers

Of Saybrook Fort, fought in the Pequot War under Captain Underhill. James Rogers was known as a very successful businessman of Milford, Connecticut after the war.

Robert Rose Jr.

(b. 1619) Enlisted from Wethersfield to fight in the Pequot War and in May of 1668, he received a grant for his service of 50 acres.

Lieutenant Robert Seeley

(b. ca. July 4, 1602-d. 1668) Second in command to Captain Mason and was wounded at Mistick Fort with an arrow, of which Mason removed.

Arthur Smith

(d. 1655) Enlisted and served under Captain Mason. During Mistick Fort, he was wounded badly and saved by Lieutenant Thomas Bull.

Samuel Smith

(b. 1602-d. 1680) Joined the Wethersfield troops to serve in the Pequot War.

Thomas Standish

(b. 1613-d. December 5, 1693) Claimed he was the son of Myles Standish the “first military officer of New England” out of Plymouth Plantation. In 1637, he was the “keeper of the Fort at Wethersfield” and served in the war.

John Stanley

(b. January 1624-d. December 19, 1706) He removed to Hartford in 1636 with Rev. Thomas Hooker and Rev. Samuel Stone. Served in 1637 at the age of only 13.

Thomas Stanton

(b. 1615-d. December 2, 1677) Served as Indian interpreter for John Winthrop, Jr. and provided his services in the Pequot War.

Sergeant Thomas Stares [Staires, Starr]

(b. 1604-d. September 4, 1640) Came to New England from London in 1634. Served at Mistick Fort and Fairfield Swamp Fight as sergeant and surgeon with the Massachusetts Bay Colony forces.

Aaron Stark

(b. 1608-d. 1685) Of Windsor, fought under Mason and was for his services later granted 50 acres in 1673.

Thomas Stiles

(b. 1614-d. after 1662) Of Wethersfield, served with John Dyer during the Mistick Fort campaign and at the Fairfield Swamp Fight, narrowly escaping with his life.

Reverend Samuel Stone

(b. 1602-d. October 8, 1683, Hartford, Connecticut Colony) Took up service in Hartford to serve as chaplain for the Connecticut Colony forces.

Sergeant John Strickland

Of Watertown, Massachusetts Bay, removed to Wethersfield in spring of 1635 by order to create a new religious establishment in Connecticut. He took up arms in the “Pequot Campaign of 1637.”

William Thrall

(b. 1605, England-d. August 3, 1679, Windsor, Connecticut Colony) Of Windsor, with Mason’s forces in May 1637, and was rewarded with 50 acres of land in Windsor.

Thomas Tibbals

(b. 1615-d. June, 1644) Served under Mason during both Mistick Fort campaign and at the Fairfield Swamp Fight.

William Treat

Enlisted from Wethersfield, may have accompanied Lieutenant Robert Seeley.

Captain John Underhill

(b. 1597-d. September 21, 1672, Killingworth, Long Island). Arrived in Boston in 1630 and was one of the first paid military officers in New England. In 1638, his narrative of the Pequot War, Newes from America, was published by Mr. Cole in London.

Francis Wainwright

(d. 1692) Of Ipswich, served under Captain Underhill during the Pequot War. Underhill referred to Francis Wainwright as “a pretty study youth of new Ipswich, going forth, somwhat rashly, to persue the Salvages.”

Andrew Ward

(d. 1659, Fairfield, Connecticut Colony) Of Wethersfield, soldier and adventurer.

Jacob Waterhouse

(b. 1604-d. 1676) Of Wethersfield, served with Mason during the Mistick Fort campaign. In 1673, he filed a joint petition with Aaron Stark to Connecticut Colony and Secretary John Allyn.

Richard Westcot [alt. sp. Westcott, Wastecoate, or Wastcoat]

Of Wethersfield.

Josiah Willard

Resident of Connecticut Colony, granted 50 acres for his services in the war on October 12, 1671.

Native Veterans


Wartime Pequot Sachem at Monahiganick or Pequot.


An Eastern Niantic accused of John Oldham’s murder.

Robin Cassasinamon

Pequot child messenger sent by Uncas to Boston for the release of Pequot women at the close of war.

Cutshamequin [Kichomiquim]

A Narragansett sachem, Massachusetts Bay, allied with the English forces serving as an interpreter.


A Pequot caught by the Mohegans near Saybrook, tortured and executed by Captain John Underhill and English forces.


A wartime Pequot sachem at Monahiganick, allied to the Pequot.


A Narragansett allied to the English forces during the Quinnipiac campaign and served as a guide alongside Wagonckwhut.


Pequot Sachem at Nayantaquit.


Narragansett sachem. His men assisted Mason’s English allied forces.


Chief sachem at Mistick, identified by the Narragansett on a Roger William’s map.


Served with the Pequots as their captain.


Wartime Pequot sachem at Monahiganick and brother to Puttaquappuonckquame


Wartime Pequot sachem at Long Island. The father to Puttaquappuonckquame as identified by Uncas.


Nebott, sachem or captain, was Western Niantic and allied with the Pequot. Involved in the attack on Lion Gardiner’s garrison at Saybrook Neck, February 22, 1637.

Nepanpuck [Massatunck]

On October 28, 1639, he was accused of murdering Englishmen, in which he cut off their hands to present them to the Pequot sachem Sassacus.


From the Fairfield – Sasqua area. In 1683, he testified that the Pequot fled to them, away from the English.

Ninigret [Yanemo, Juanemo]

A Narragansett sachem at Niantic.


A Pequot warrior present at the attack on Wethersfield in April 1637.


A Pequot warrior, one of the six Pequots who went with Uncas and 34 Mohegans to Boston as envoys in 1638. Possibly involved in the attack of three Englishmen in a shallop on the Connecticut River.


Brother of Sassacus. The Pequot sachem at Monahiganick.


A Pequot sachem and brother to Sassacus and Nanasquiouwut of Monahiganick. He was seized by an English ally named Yotaash.


A Pequot sachem or captain and brother to Sassacus. Possibly led the Pequot forces attack at Nine Mile Island killing Mitchell’s men.

Sassacus [Sasacous]

Sassacus, the son of Tatobam, was the Grand Pequot Sachem who the English allied forces pursued significantly following Mistick Fort. He was eventually caught and killed by the Mohican and/or the Mohawk.

John Sassamon

A Christianized Punkapoag Indian of Dorchester. Allied with the English Massachusetts Bay Colony forces during the Pequot War.

Sassawwaw [Soso]

A Pequot captain, allied to the Narragansett and the English forces.


Western Niantic Indian, Sachem or captain, allied with the Pequot. Involved in the attack on Lieutenant Lion Gardiner’s men at Saybrook Neck on February 22, 1637.

Sequasson [Saqueston]

Son of Wangunk Sachem Sequin, allied with the English forces for much of the war.


Sachem of the Wangunk, in contention with the Pequot prior to the arrival of the English. Allied with the English.

Solomon the Indian

Served with the Massachusetts Bay Colony forces.


Wangunk, son of Sequin, allied to the English forces. His forces captured 20 Pequot women, children, and a sachem fleeing to the Mohawk.

Uncas [Onkos, Poquiam]

Uncas was the Great Sachem of the Mohegans. Uncas and his forces allied with the English.


Narragansett, guide to the English forces during the Quinnipiac campaign.


A Montauk Indian allied to the English. Lion Gardiner refers to Wiandance as the brother to the old Sachem of Long Island.


The son of Carroughhood, a Quinnipiac counselor. He testified against Nepaupuck, accused of murdering two men in a shallop on the Connecticut River, Abraham Finch and other Wethersfield Englishmen, as well as the kidnapping of a Swaine child from the Wethersfield attack.


Pequot, known as the first murderer of the English.


Pequot, one of six who went with Uncas and 34 Mohegans to Boston as envoys in 1638.


The brother of Ninegret and the son of Sassious. Resided at the Eastern Niantic fort on the west bank of the Pawcatuck River. Wepitimock and his men were taken prisoner prior to July 1637.


Pequot or Eastern Niantic, allied to the English forces. Served as a scout during the Mistick Fort campaign.


The wife to Mononatto. Took care of the Swaine girls, surrendered at the Fairfield Swamp Fight. At the end of the battle she was enslaved in Boston, taken in by Governor John Winthrop.


By tribal affiliation, Wuttackquiack was Pequot. Allied with the English soldiers in the Pequot War.


Yotaash, perhaps Narragansett, was the “bearer hereof Miantunnomues brother.”

The Pequot Massacres

Few American-history texts mention or discuss the Pequot War of 1636-37 between the Puritans and the Pequot Indians of Connecticut. Neil Asher Silberman argues, however, that it deserves examination. In both its degree of violence and its covetous motivation, this conflict set the pattern of Anglo-Native American relations through 1890. Marked by racial and cultural differences and often fueled by the settlers’ desire for more land, the Indian wars frequently concluded with the near or total extermination of their adversary. Although New England had seen noth­ing like the Pequot War before, the colonists to the south in Jamestown had already tasted the ferocity of the Indians wars when 350 settlers–the entire settlement numbered under 2,000–died from a surprise Indian attack in 1622. In this and in the Indian wars to come, neither side held the patent on brutality.

The Pequot War displayed another element of future Anglo-Native American relations: Both white and Indian combatants deliberately used the other for their own benefit. The Narragansetts and Mohegans willing­ly joined with the settlers in the war against the Pequots. They were quite content to use the Puritans to gain the upper hand against their tradi­tional Indian rival, just as the colonists were pleased to use the various Indian tribes to their own benefit. It was a partnership that would con­tinue for the next 250 years.

THE OLD GRUDGE WAS TO BE SETTLED DECISIVELY, or so the governor and magistrates of the Massachusetts Bay Colony hoped. Few could have predicted, though, that the hastily organized military cam­paign of fewer than a hundred Englishmen against a small tribe of Indians in southern New England would establish a pattern of violent settler-Indian confrontation that would spread across the entire North American continent during the next 250 years. Until the “Pequot War” of 1636-37, military conflicts in North America between Native Americans and arriving Europeans had been primarily local, meant to settle individ­ual grievances or punish specific cases of kidnapping, murder, or theft.

Now, for the first time, not just individuals but entire nations were pitted against one another, with survival or extermination the ultimate stakes. The explosive chain of events that sparked the first full-scale war between European settlers and Native Americans in New England began on September 5, 1636, when a convoy of three ships from Boston bearing a force of 90 musketeers, officers, and pikemen dropped anchor in Pequot Harbor (now the Thames River between New London and Groton, Con­necticut), determined to make a military point. John Endecott, the commander of the Puritan forces, carried instructions from Governor Henry Vane to parley with the Pequot. He was to demand that they immediately hand over the killers of Captain John Stone, an English trader who had been murdered by local Indians at the mouth of the Connecticut River in 1633. Because three years had passed and that crime had remained un­punished, the Puritans would also demand guaranties that no such incident would happen again. Endecott had further been instructed to demand a huge reparation payment–a thousand strings of the valuable shell beads called wampum-and to take several Pequot children back to Boston as hostages. If the Pequots proved so foolish as to ignore or refuse to comply with the Bay Colony’s ultimatum, Endecott was authorized to engage their warriors in battle and take the prisoners and the booty by whatever force necessary.

When a Pequot ambassador paddled out in a canoe to find out why the Baymen had come into Pequot Harbor, Endecott instructed his interpreter to reiterate the charges that had remained unresolved since the first meet­ ing between the two peoples in October 1634–almost two years before. In reply, Endecott once more heard the same excuses: that the men respon­sible for Stone’s murder were members of the neighboring tribe of Western Niantics, not Pequots that Stone had tried to kidnap those Indians and hold them for ransom and that in any case most of the responsible parties in this unfortunate incident were now dead.

Endecott had neither the time nor the patience to listen to the Pequots’ excuses he had come to establish the Bay Colony’s supremacy over southern New England’s most powerful tribe. After suggesting to the Pequot ambassador that if his people “desire their own peace and welfare, they will peaceably answer our expectation,” he sent the man quickly off to summon Sassacus, the most powerful Pequot sachem (chief). As the ambassador paddled back toward the wooded eastern bank of the river, Endecott ordered his own ship’s boats lowered in order to ferry his well­ armed forces ashore.

Several hours passed as Pequot messengers shuttled back and forth between the sachem’s residence at the village of Weinshauks and the Puritan forces, who stood in a nervous cluster on the riverbank, sweating under their heavy helmets, corselets, and bandoliers. By afternoon it had become clear that the Pequots were merely delaying, and John Endecott resolved to prepare his forces for a fight. Like most of the other military leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Endecott had served in the English mercenary forces during the Dutch-Spanish wars in the Low Countries, where he had learned the art of carefully choreographed European combat. Now the time had come for Pequots and Puritans to join in battle. Therefore, directing one of the ensigns to unfurl the colors and ordering the drummer to begin a steady beat, Endecott led his men to a grassy clearing by the river that he chose as a suitable campaign field.

Unfortunately, the Pequots didn’t have the benefit of European train­ing. A crowd of spectators soon gathered in obvious amusement at the edge of the clearing to watch the strangely attired Englishmen march to a drum­ beat and wave their colorful flag. “None would come near us,” complained Captain John Underhill, one of the Puritan officers, “but standing remote­ly off did laugh at us for our patience.” Naturally the Baymen, tense and ready for battle, did not appreciate the Pequots’ laughter. And as they angrily fired their muskets at the horrified spectators and relentlessly pur­sued them into the thick forests of the interior, a new phase of English­ Indian relations in southern New England got under way.

“We spent the day burning and spoiling the country,” John Underhill later reported with satisfaction, and “no Indians would come near us, but ran from us, as deer from the dogs.” By the following day, when the Baymen returned to their ships and set sail for Boston, their demands were still un­ answered, but they had learned an important lesson: Static battle formations would be of little use in this American wilderness more flexible tactics would have to be used. And the Pequots, for their part, returning to their homes to find a grim landscape of burnt wigwams, plundered com-storage pits, and lifeless bodies, had learned an equally useful lesson. Their conflict with the English would soon become a struggle for survival, and the presence of Puritan forces on their territory would never be a laughing matter again.

Relations between the Pequots and the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had never been easy. Each side confronted in the other a more formidable adversary than either had ever encountered. The Pequots, unlike the small, plague-ravished tribes of eastern Massachusetts, were a powerful nation. They had enjoyed more than 20 years of lucrative commerce in beaver pelts with Dutch traders from Manhattan and had extended their authority over the other tribes of the Connecticut shoreline and far up the Connecticut Valley. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, on the other hand, were no less powerful in seventeenth-century New England politics. Unlike the few canny Dutch traders who cared only for commerce, or the few “Pilgrims” of Plymouth, these Englishmen had begun arriving in large numbers in the early 1630s, bringing along their wives, children, hogs, and cattle, to establish new “plantations” and to take over large amounts of land.

Only a sudden decline in the fur trade of the Connecticut Valley had brought the two peoples together. The Pequots, falling out with the Dutch in a violent trade dispute, sought an alliance with Boston in 1634. The lead­ers of the Bay Colony were wary, but intrigued by the possibilities for trade and settlement. The matter of Captain Stone’s murder by Pequot tribu­taries, though never completely resolved in the treaty negotiations, was not brought up again for nearly two years. But by the summer of 1636, the unpunished death of an Englishman proved a useful pretext for solving an even more pressing problem. For by that time, the leaders of the Bay Colony were engaged in a struggle for power within the colony itself.

During the previous fall and winter, dissident groups from the Bay Colony towns of Dorchester, Watertown, and Newtown (later renamed Cambridge) had founded the towns of Windsor, Hartford, and Wethersfield in a massive westward migration (the first of its kind in American history) to the rich farming lands of the Connecticut Valley. Their aim was to escape the tight political and religious control of the Bay Colony’s leaders, and they settled on land traditionally claimed by the Pequots, where English territorial claims were, at best, vague. The leaders of the Bay Colony were determined to maintain unquestioned legal control over the colonists in Connecticut, and that’s apparently why they suddenly brought up the issue of Stone’s murder. They believed that by conquering or estab­lishing their supremacy over the Pequots, they would inherit a legal claim to the Connecticut Colony’s land.

Endecott’s hit-and-run attack on Pequot Harbor was, however, a disas­ter. The Pequots’ military response was not long in coming, and it was directed squarely at the small garrison at the mouth of the Connecticut River-Fort Saybrook–which the Bay Colony had established to maintain at least the legal fiction of control over the rebellious plantations farther upstream. All through the fall and winter of 1636-37, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner and his garrison at Fort Saybrook faced the wrath of the Pequots, who monitored all English movements and attacked any Puritans foolish enough to wander beyond the fortifications or to sail up the Connecticut River alone.

As frantic messages from Fort Saybrook arrived in Boston, it became clear that something had to be done. If Fort Saybrook were to fall, the Connecticut settlements would be the next targets. And if the dissident colonists there were sufficiently provoked and defeated the Pequots in battle, they would have earned, by right of territorial conquest, complete freedom from Bay Colony control. So on April 18, 1637, seven months after Endecott’s initial attack on Pequot Harbor, the governor and magis­trates of the Bay Colony decided to put an end to the question of the rights to Connecticut once and for all. Meeting in General Court, the assembled magistrates and ministers planned not a raid but an enormous expedition, drawing troops from Boston, Plymouth, and Connecticut–under strict Bay Colony supervision-to deal the Pequots a fatal blow.

There might have been a way out of this looming conflict had the Bay Colony really desired peace and friendship with the Pequots, for by the spring of 1637-with the approach of planting season–the Pequots them­selves were looking for a way out. After months of attacks and relentless siege tactics against Fort Saybrook, and having satisfied their injured honor with the deaths of thirteen Puritan colonists and traders, they sent three ambassadors to meet with Lieutenant Gardiner. “Have you fought enough?” they asked the English commander. They hoped that diplomacy would now take its course and the conflict would be resolved in the tradi­tional Indian way.

But Gardiner, aware of the Bay Colony’s preparations, was in no posi­tion to end the hostilities with the Pequots, and his evasive responses to their cease-fire proposal infuriated the Pequot emissaries. “We are Pequots and have killed Englishmen,” they angrily responded, “and can kill them as mosquitoes, and we will go to Connecticut and kill men, women, and children, and we will take away the horses, cows, and hogs.” Up to this point, they had centered their attacks on Fort Saybrook, but since they had now been dishonorably rebuffed by its commander, they decided to change their strategy. On the morning of April 23, 1637, they struck a more vicious blow against the English. A force of 200 Pequot warriors suddenly descend­ ed on the fields of Wethersfield–a village 30 miles upstream from Fort Saybrook–killing six men and three women, and taking two girls away.

In ordering this direct attack on English settlers rather than soldiers, the Pequot leaders ensured their eventual downfall. They had now pro­voked far more dangerous adversaries than the sedate ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As news of the attack on Wethersfield spread to the other towns of the Connecticut Colony, its outraged inhabitants recog­nized that they had finally gained a legitimate justification for independent conquest. Two weeks later, after the assembled leaders of the Connecticut plantations had authorized their own “offensive and defensive war” against the Pequots, a combined force of 80 Connecticut volunteers and a 100 Indian allies set sail down the river toward Fort Saybrook. The Pequot War would soon turn even bloodier. A race for the right of conquest was on. Major John Mason, commander of the hastily assembled and poorly trained Connecticut militia, arrived at Fort Saybrook on May 16 with a detailed strategy. He was well aware that his force of farmers and trades­ men was not capable of organized battle, and that his erstwhile Indian allies–the inland Mohegans, led by their sachem, Uncas–sought only their own gain by taking advantage of the Pequots’ misfortunes. Mason therefore planned to strike a blow at the Pequots that would not require his men to confront experienced warriors in a fair fight on a campaign field. Since terror had proved effective during Endecott’s earlier expedition, Mason decided to launch a surprise attack on one of the Pequots’ main vil­lages he believed he could “put them to the sword and save the plunder” for his men and the Connecticut Colony.

Mason, like Endecott, was a veteran of the wars in the Low Countries, yet he had perceptively recognized another European model as more appropriate for his military strategy. Southern New England was not, after all, the land of the Prince of Orange. It was much more like the uncivilized countryside of Ireland, where for the last half century English forces had been trying to subdue the local Irish population and establish their own colonies. In the course of that struggle between armies and clansmen, the English had learned that “uncivilized” enemies could be demoralized by raiding and destroying their villages. Since the technique had proved so successful in the Old World, Mason decided to test it in the New.

Bay Colony leaders were already contemplating a similar strategy. They would attack one of the two main Pequot villages under cover of dark­ness, execute all its warriors, and spare only the women and children who might be useful as servants or slaves. On May 17-as it turned out, the day after Mason’s arrival at Fort Saybrook-Governor John Winthrop finally ordered a large Bay Colony expedition to undertake this mission. Three days later he dispatched 40 men under Captain Daniel Patrick to ren­dezvous with the Pequots’ eastern neighbors–and longtime enemies–the Narragansetts, to prepare for the upcoming terror campaign. But Mason, it turned out, had departed from Fort Saybrook by sea and was also headed for Narragansett territory, with the same purpose.

When reports reached Boston of Mason’s unauthorized expedition, Governor John Winthrop and his colleagues became justifiably concerned. Mason’s anticipation of the Bay Colony’s tactics, though aimed at the same military objective, would endanger the Bay Colony’s territorial claims. So as Captain Patrick and his forces made their way southward through thick swamps and forests toward Narragansett Bay, they dispatched a runner to Major Mason to command him to wait. Mason, however, was intent on pur­suing the claims of Connecticut, without any Bay Colony interference. After picking up Narragansett supporters, he crossed westward into Pequot territory at once, to attack where least expected.

The outcome was bloody beyond even the most sordid Puritan expec­tations. Two hours before dawn on Friday, May 26, 1637, the combined Connecticut and Indian forces reached a ford in the Mystic River, stopped to pray, and then proceeded southward to execute their bloody work. At the foot of a hill occupied by one of the two main Pequot villages, Mason divid­ed his forces for the surprise attack. A sudden burst of English musket fire broke the predawn silence, and as Mason led one detachment of soldiers through a gate in the timber palisade that surrounded the village, they drew their swords, prepared to massacre every Pequot they could lay their hands on-in this case, several hundred women, children, and old men.

The Pequots, fearing an attack by the English in the direction of Fort Saybrook, had concentrated their main force of warriors at the other stock­aded village, at Weinshauks, where their sachem, Sassacus, resided. The Pequot village of Mystic (in present-day Groton) was therefore ill equipped to defend itself. As terrified Pequot families began to flee down the main street of the village, they discovered that their only escape route was blocked by the other detachment of Puritans, who, with swords drawn and ready for action, were waiting for them inside the village’s southern gate.

By this time Mason had realized that hacking so many terrified non­ combatants would probably be too bloody for his inexperienced soldiers, and he ordered them to put their swords away. Making his way to the nearest wig­wam, he grabbed a brand from a smoldering hearth fire. “We must burn them!” he screamed to his men. Panic gripped the villagers as Mason’s soldiers set the highly flammable reed shelters alight. “And indeed,” Mason later reported in his memoirs, “such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames.” As the fire spread quickly among the closely packed wigwams, Mason ordered his men to retreat. Once outside the wall, determined not to leave the work unfinished, he arrayed his troops in a tight ring around the burn­ing village to prevent the escape of any of its inhabitants. While some tried desperately to climb over the high stockade wall, others resigned them­ selves to the flames. Only about 40 managed to escape the inferno, but emerging from the gates of the stockade, they were met by a concentrated volley of musket fire. The few who survived the flames and the gunshots, according to one of the Puritan officers, were “received and entertained with the point of a sword.” Never before had there been such a complete massacre of noncombatants. Within an hour approximately 500 Pequot men, women, and children were killed outright only seven were taken prisoner, and not more than a handful escaped with their lives.

“Great and doleful,” reported Captain John Underhill, a participant in both Endecott’s and Mason’s expeditions, “was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that had never been in war, to see so many souls lie gasp­ing on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along.” Mohegans and Narragansetts who had joined the expedition in hope of inheriting the Pequots’ power were now clearly horrified by the Englishmen’s method of war. “It is naught, it is naught,” many of them told Captain Underhill before they fled the scene of the killing, “because it is too furious and slays too many men.”

But Major John Mason had achieved his objective, which, as a good Puritan, he saw as the work of Almighty God. “Let the whole earth be filled with his Glory,” he proudly wrote many years later at the conclusion of his account of the Pequot War. “Thus the Lord was pleased to smite our ene­mies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.”

The massacre at Mystic was not, however, the end of the smiting. The Massachusetts Bay Colony, determined not to allow the Connecticut forces to claim all the glory, went ahead with its own expedition against the Pequots. At the end of June, after a day of thanksgiving had been declared throughout the Bay Colony to celebrate the English victory over the Pe­quots, Captain Israel Stoughton arrived in Pequot Harbor with a force of 120 men. His main objective was to finish the killing, but the eradication of the Pequot tribe proved a more difficult task than it originally seemed. After landing his troops and reconnoitering the former heartland of Pequot territory, Stoughton found few potential victims. The village of Weinshauks, once the seat of the powerful sachem Sassacus, had been emptied of all its inhabitants and burned to the ground.

Mason’s Connecticut troops were not responsible for this additional act of destruction. After the massacre at Mystic, they had made their way over­ land to the Pequot River and, running short of ammunition and attacked by hundreds of enraged Pequot warriors, barely escaped with their lives. It was the Pequots themselves who had put the torch to their village at Weinshauks, for in a tribal conclave hastily convened in the aftermath of Mason’s attack, Sassacus had been powerless to persuade the other Pequot leaders to continue to fight. The English had shown that they had no stan­dards of honor in combat, and most of the Pequot leaders, fearing that many more of their people would inevitably die in continued fighting, decided that they must now flee. Sassacus had no alternative but to do the same, and after setting fire to their fortress and wigwams, he joined a group of about 80 warriors and their families in a desperate flight westward along the coast toward the distant safety of the Hudson Valley. Another group of about 30 warriors and their families fled eastward to seek shel­ter with the Narragansetts, and a third group fled into a large swamp a few miles to the north that had long served the tribe as a secure place of refuge, a place they called Ohomowauke, the “Owl’s Nest.”

Determined to return to Boston with something to show for his efforts, and learning of the whereabouts of that group of fugitives. Captain Stoughton ordered his men to march northward toward the Owl’s Nest under cover of night. Somewhere in the vicinity, they captured 80 Pequot women and children, more than half of whom were quickly shipped off to Boston as slaves. Twenty-four Pequot warriors who were also taken prisoner faced immediate execution, but two escaped beheading by promising to lead Stoughton’s forces to an even more valuable objective: the hiding place of Sassacus.

The Connecticut colonists, in the meantime, were not willing to have their rights of conquest contested, and they dispatched Major Mason and a force of 40 volunteers back to Pequot territory to join Stoughton’s pur­suit of Sassacus. Sailing westward along the coast, the combined Bay Colony and Connecticut forces finally located their quarry at a place called Sasco–later renamed Fairfield–where about 300 of the fugitive Pequots had taken cover, as was their custom, in a heavily overgrown swamp. The Puritans surrounded the Pequots, as they had at Mystic, but this time the massacre was not as complete. Nearly 200 frightened women, children, and old men surrendered to the English forces and soon followed the ear­lier Pequot captives into slavery.

The warriors, however, fought hand to hand for their freedom, and though 20 were killed, more than 60 others escaped. Much to the Puritans’ disappointment, Sassacus, too, remained at large and, it was reported by reliable Indian informants, finally made his way safely–with only about 20 followers–across the Hudson River into Mohawk terri­tory. But with the conquest and dispersion of his people, Sassacus could no longer depend on his wealth and reputation to protect him from danger. On August 5, 1637, several weeks after the demobilization of the Connecticut and Bay Colony forces, the scalps of Sassacus, his brother, and five other Pequot sachems arrived in Boston via messenger as a sign of the Mohawks’ goodwill toward the apparent victors in the Pequot War.

With that symbolic action, the main fighting was over, though the matter of the legal rights of conquest to the Pequots’ territory remained for a while unresolved. Connecticut’s initial plan to establish a settlement at Pequot Harbor was firmly vetoed by the Bay Colony’s leaders, who claimed that they were entitled to share in the spoils. Angry petitions flew back and forth between Boston and Hartford until eventually the two sides reached an uneasy compromise. After a long legal battle, title to the now largely de­ populated Pequot territory was granted to the Connecticut Colony, though with a provision permitting a significant Bay Colony presence there.

In 1646 John Winthrop, Jr., the eldest son of the Bay Colony’s gover­nor, established a new settlement at the former Pequot village of Nameag, just across the Pequot River from the “campaign field” where John Endecott and the Bay Colony forces had struck their first violent blow. To wipe out all memories of the earlier Pequot presence in this region, Winthrop renamed the place “New London” and rechristened the nearby Pequot River “the Thames.”

IT’S CLEAR TODAY THAT THE PURITANS OF MASSACHUSETTS AND CONNECTICUT did not succeed in wiping out the Pequot tribe as thoroughly as they had hoped. Just off Connecticut State Route 214, about nine miles northeast of New London, the modern houses, clinic, and tribal offices on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation provide ample evidence that the Pequot nation refused to die. The massacres of 1637, for all their savagery, killed only about a quarter of the Pequot population–primarily those in large vil­lages along the coast. With the extermination of the old tribal leadership, scattered bands began a long struggle to survive.

One of the largest groups was slowly hemmed into the tract of forest and swampland known as Mashantucket, around their traditional place of refuge, the Owl’s Nest. During the eighteenth century, much of that origi­nal 3,000-acre reservation was taken over by arriving Connecticut settlers, and by the middle of the nineteenth century, barely 200 acres were left. By 1910 only four Pequot families lived on the reservation, and by the early 1970s only three elderly women remained. But the old tribal traditions were never completely forgotten by the Pequot families who lived in other parts of southern New England, and when the state of Connecticut pro­posed that the last, tiny fragment of Pequot territory become a public park, the surviving Pequots were unwilling to see their claim to the land taken away from them.

In 1975 Richard Hayward, the grandson of one of the remaining resi­dents of the reservation, began mobilizing his people for the legal and political struggle that eventually brought the Mashantucket branch of the Pequot tribe to life again. In 1983, with federal recognition and a cash set­tlement of $900,000 to compensate them for the lost lands of their original reservation, the Mashantucket Pequots began to buy back every available parcel of adjoining real estate. Even though the old tribal lands, now occu­pied by cities, towns, shopping malls, beach resorts, and even a nuclear submarine base, could never be fully reclaimed, the Mashantucket Pequots at least established their reputation as wronged parties in early New England history.

In the woods just beyond the tribal offices, on every new parcel of land added to the reservation, and along the nearby coast of Long Island Sound, Dr. Kevin McBride and a team of archaeologists from the University of Connecticut have begun a painstaking reconstruction of 10,000 years of Pequot cultural history. McBride and his staff, supported by funds from the tribe’s annual budget, have already mapped and uncovered dozens of ancient Pequot sites, ranging from prehistoric rock shelters to seventeenth­ century hunting camps and even apparently an early-seventeenth-century settlement thought to be the doomed Pequot village of Mystic. These finds provide modem Pequots with a powerful new connection to their land and traditions, but have also reawakened bitter memories of the Pequot War.

Hayward, now serving as tribal chairman, has a unique perspective on that tragic seventeenth-century conflict, and he spoke about it frankly in his office at tribal headquarters. “I can’t help thinking about that old man,” he said. “I mean that ambassador who paddled out in his canoe when the English soldiers first arrived here. What could he have said to avoid all the bloodshed? What could he have done? So much has changed here that it’s probably impossible to guess how things could have been different. But we’ve got to keep on learning all we can about our history. And we’ve got to use the Pequot War as a lesson to ourselves and our children–about how important it is to keep our traditions alive.”

The landscape of the Pequots’ traditional tribal territory has changed dramatically since the early seventeenth century, but the sites of the major episodes of the Pequot War can still be found. At Saybrook Point, at the mouth of the Connecticut River, a small public park and a low timber fence mark the approximate location of the fort in which the small Puritan gar­rison was besieged and attacked by enraged Pequot warriors throughout the fall and winter of 1636-37. Nothing is left of the original Fort Saybrook its remains were obliterated at the end of the nineteenth century by the construction of a railroad roundhouse and right-of-way. Today, the drifting scent of fried clams from the beachside drive-ins and the continuous hum of pleasure boats cruising up and down the Connecticut River make it dif­ficult to visualize the complete isolation of Fort Saybrook when it stood at the edge of the tidal salt marshes as a lonely symbol of English authority.

A few miles to the east, Pequot Harbor–now the Thames River–is busy with seagoing traffic from the marinas and ferry dock of New London on the western shore and from the naval base at Groton on the east. The riverside “campaign field” where the Puritans, led by John Endecott, first challenged the Pequots is now covered by the sprawling modem ware­houses, workshops, and dry-dock facilities of the Electric Boat shipyard, home and birthplace of America’s nuclear submarine fleet. Farther east, the remains of the Pequot War’s bloodiest battle lie buried in a quiet resi­dential neighborhood of Groton. In the backyards and gardens of the expensive homes along Pequot Avenue, Dr. McBride has excavated portions of what seems likely to be the village destroyed before dawn on May 26, 1637, by Major John Mason and his force of Connecticut volunteers.

A larger-than-lifesize statue of Mason snatching his sword from his scabbard and striding manfully forward stands in the middle of a small traf­fic circle on Pequot Avenue. Erected by the state of Connecticut, belated­ly, in 1889 to mark the 250th anniversary of the Mystic battle, its bronze inscription praises “the heroic achievement of Major John Mason and his comrades who near this spot in 1637 overthrew the Pequot Indians and preserved the settlements from destruction.” But Mason’s military achieve­ment is no longer a cause for celebration in Groton the Pequots’ legal battle to regain their tribal territory has become a source of concern. In fact, many Pequot Avenue homeowners were reluctant to allow archaeo­ logical excavations on their property, fearing that the discovery of ancient Pequot relics would spark a modem Pequot land suit.

The Pequots, however, are realistic. They have abandoned their terri­torial claims along the coastline and are devoting all their efforts to the development of their small inland reservation. There at Mashantucket, contemporary town houses, tribal offices, a clinic, and a highly lucrative bingo hall–attracting eager gamblers from as far away as Hartford, Providence, and Boston–have sprung up on land cleared from the forest. But while the battle sites of the Pequot War are today largely obscured, the Pequots have not forgotten them. Just off Connecticut Route 2, near the thickly wooded swampland that once served as the Pequots’ traditional place of refuge, stands a symbol of both modernization and continuity: an up-to-date restaurant built and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot trib­al council and called, appropriately enough, “The Owl’s Nest.”

The author of Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and National­ism in the Modern Middle East (1989), Neil Asher Silberman is an archaeologist and historian. His latest book is Invisible America: Uncovering Our Hidden Past.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 1989 issue (Vol. 1, No. 3) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: The Pequot Massacres

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Pequot War

In the 17th century the Pequot tribe, rival of the Narragansett, was centered along the Thames River in present-day southeast Connecticut. As the colonists expanded westward, friction began to develop. Points of tension included unfair trading, the sale of alcohol, destruction of Pequot crops by colonial cattle and competition over hunting grounds. Further poisoning the relationship was the disdain in which the Indians were held by the colonists many felt no qualms about dispossessing or killing those whom they regarded as ungodly savages. In July 1636, John Oldham, a trader of questionable honesty, was killed by the Pequot. The incident led Gov. John Endicott to call up the militia. What followed was the first significant clash between English colonists and North American Natives. Allying themselves with the Mohegan and Narragansett, the colonists attacked a Pequot village on the Mystic River (near present-day New London) in May 1637. Encircling their foes under the cover of night, the colonists set the Indian dwellings ablaze, then shot the natives as they fled from their homes. From 400 to 700 Indian men, women and children were killed many of the survivors were sold into slavery in Bermuda. The Pequot chieftain Sassacus was captured by the Mohawks and executed. His tribe was virtually exterminated. Renowned warrior Uncas, son in law of Sassacus, allied his forces with the English colonists in the war and defeated the rival Narragansett in 1643. The colonists and their allies set an infortunate precedent in the Pequot War by ignoring the conventions of European warfare to punitively devastate the homes and lives of men, women and children.

Watch the video: New Englands First Conflict - The Pequot War, Part 1: Origins