Narrative of the Pequot War
by John Mason
Source: Primary Source Documents
14 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
To The Judicious Reader.
I NEVER had thought that this should have come to the Press, until of late: If I had, I should have endeavoured to have put a little more Varnish upon it: But being over perswaded by some Friends, I thought it not altogether amiss to present it to your courteous Disposition, hoping it might find your favourable Entertainment and Acceptance, though rude and impolished. I wish it had fallen into some better Hands that might have performed it to the life; I shall only draw the Curtain and open my little Casement, that so others of larger Hearts and Abilities may let in a bigger Light; that so at least some small Glimmering maybe left to Posterity what Difficulties and Obstructions their Forefathers met with in their first settling these desart Parts of America; how God was pleased to prove them, and how by his wise Providence he ordered and disposed all their Occasions and Affairs for them in regard to both their Civils and Ecclesiasticals.
This with some other Reasons have been Motives to excite me to the enterprizing hereof; no man that I know of having as yet undertaken to write a general History or Relation; so that there is no Commemoration of Matters respecting this War; how they began, how carryed on, and continued, nor what Success they had.* They which think the mentioning of some Par-
* The Author Died before the Reverend Mr. William Hubbard and Mr. Increase Mather Published their accounts of the Pequot War.
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 15
ticulars is sufficient for the understanding of the General, in my Opinion stray no less from the Truth, than if by the separated Parts of a living Man one should think by this Means he knew all the Parts and Perfections of the Creature: But these separated Parts being joyned together having Form and Life, one might easily discern that he was deceived.
If the Beginning be but obscure, and the Ground uncertain, its Continuance can hardly perswade to purchase belief: Or if Truth be wanting in History, it proves but a fruitless Discourse.
I shall therefore, God helping, endeavour not so much to stir up the Affections of Men, as to declare in Truth and Plainness the Actions and Doings of Men; I shall therefore set down Matter in order as they Began and were carried on and Issued; that so I may not deceive the Reader in confounding of Things, but the Discourse may be both Plain and Easy.
And although Some may think they have Wrote in a high Stile, and done some notable Thing, yet in my Opinion they have not Spoken truly in some Particulars, and in general to little Purpose: For how can History find Credit, if in the Beginning you do not deliver plainly and clearly from whence and how you do come to the Relation which you presently intend to make of Actions?
As a Rule, although it hath less length and breadth, yet notwithstanding it retains the Name if it hath that which is proper to a Rule. When the Bones are Separated from a living Creature, it becomes unserviceable: So a History, if you take away Order and Truth, the rest will prove to be but a vain Narration.
16 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
I shall not make a long Discourse, nor labour to hold the Reader in doubt, using a multitude of Words, which is no sure Way to find out the Truth; as if one should seek for Verity in the Current of Pratling, having nothing but a conceit worthy to hold the Reader is suspence: (Sed quo vado) In a word, the Lord was as it were pleased to say unto us, The Land of Canaan will I give unto thee though but few and Strangers in it: And when we went from one Nation to another, yea from one Kingdom to another, he suffered no Man to do us Wrong, but reproved Kings for our sakes: And so through Mercy at length we were settled in Peace, to the Astonishment of all that were round about us: unto whom be ascribed all Glory and Praise for ever and ever.
Norwich, in New England, in America.
Some Grounds of the War Against the Pequots.
ABOUT the Year 1632 one Capt. Stone arrived in the Massachusetts in a Ship from Virginia; who shortly after was bound for Virginia in a small Bark with one Capt. Norton; who sailing into Connecticut River about two Leagues from the Entrance cast Anchor; there coming to them several Indians belonging to that Place whom the Pequots Tyrannized over, being a potent and warlike People, it being their Custom so to deal with their neighbour Indians; Capt. Stone hav-
MASON'S NARRATIVE. l7
ing some occasion with the Dutch who lived at a trading House near twenty Leagues up the River, procured some of those Indians to go as Pilots with two of his Men to the Dutch: But being benighted before they could come to their desired Port, put the skiff in which they went, ashoar, where the two Englishmen falling asleep, were both Murdered by their Indian Guides: There remaining with the Bark about twelve of the aforesaid Indians; who had in all probability formerly plotted their bloody Design; and waiting an opportunity when some of the English were on Shoar and Capt. Stone asleep in his Cabbin, set upon them and cruelly Murdered every one of them, plundered what they pleased and sunk the Bark.
These Indians were not native Pequots, but had frequent recourse unto them, to whom they tendered some of those Goods, which were accepted by the Chief Sachem of the Pequots: Other of the said Goods were tendered to Nynigrett Sachem of Nayanticke, who also received them.
The Council of the Massachusetts being informed of their proceedings, sent to speak with the Pequots, and had some Treaties with them: But being unsatisfied therewith, sent forth Captain John Endicot Commander in Chief, with Captain Underhill, Captain Turner, and with them one hundred and twenty Men: who were firstly designed on a Service against a People living on Block Island, who were subject to the Narragansett Sachem; they having taken a Bark of one Mr. John Oldham, Murdering him and all his Company: They were also to call the Pequots to an Account about the Murder of Capt. Stone; who arriving at
18 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
Pequot had some Conference with them; but little effected; only one Indian slain and some Wigwams burnt. After which, the Pequots grew inraged against the English who inhabited Connecticut, being but a small Number, about two hundred and fifty, who were there newly arrived; as also about twenty Men at Saybrook, under the Command of Lieutenant Lyon Gardner, who was there settled by several Lords and Gentlemen in England. The Pequots falling violently upon them, slew divers Men at Saybrook ; keeping almost a constant Siege upon the Place; so that the English were constrained to keep within their pallizado Fort; being so hard Beset and sometimes Assaulted, that Capt. John Mason was sent by Connecticut Colony with twenty Men out of their small Numbers to secure the Place: But after his coming, there did not one Pequot appear in view for one Month Space, which was the time he there remained.
In the Interim certain Pequots about One Hundred going to a Place called Weathersfield on Connecticut; having formerly confederated with the Indians of that Place (as it was generally thought) lay in Ambush for the English; divers of them going into a large Field adjoyning to the Town to their Labour, were there set upon by the Indians: Nine of the English were killed outright, with some Horses, and two young Women taken Captives.
At their Return from Weathersfield, they came down the River of Connecticut (Capt. Mason being then at Saybrook Fort) in three Canoes with about one hundred Men, which River of necessity they must pass: We espying them, concluded they had been act-
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 19
ing some Mischief against us, made a Shot at them with a Piece of Ordnance, which beat off the Beak Head of one of their Canoes, wherein our two Captives were: it was at a very great distance: They then hastened, drew their Canoes over a narrow Beach with all speed and so got away.
Upon which the English were somewhat dejected: But immediately upon this, a Court was called and met in Hartford the First of May, 1637, * who seriously considering their Condition, which did look very Sad, for those Pequots were a great People, being strongly fortified, cruel, warlike, munitioned, &c. and the English but an handful in comparison: But their outragious Violence against the English, having Murdered about Thirty of them, their great Pride and Insolency, constant pursuit in their malicious Courses, with their engaging other Indians in their Quarrel against the English, who had never offered them the least Wrong; who had in all likelihood Espoused all the Indians in the country in their Quarrel, had not God by more than an ordinary Providence prevented: These Things being duly considered, with the eminent Hazard and great Peril they were in; it pleased God so to stir up the Hearts of all Men in general, and the Court in special, that they concluded some Forces should forthwith be sent out against the Pequots; their Grounds being Just, and necessity enforcing them to engage in an offensive and defensive War; the Management of which War we are nextly to relate.
* May 1, 1637, was Monday.
20 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
An Epitome or brief History of the Pequot War.
IN the Beginning of May 1637 there were sent out by Connecticut Colony Ninety Men under the Command of Capt. John Mason against the Pequots, with Onkos an Indian Sachem living at Mohegan,* who was newly revolted from the Pequots; being Shipped in one Pink, one Pinnace, and one Shallop; who sailing down the River of Connecticut fell several times a ground, the Water being very low: The Indians not being wonted to such Things with their small Canoes, and also being impatient of Delays, desired they might be set on Shoar, promising that they would meet us at Saybrook; which we granted: They hastening to their Quarters, fell upon Thirty or forty of the Enemy near Saybrook Fort, and killed seven of them outright; @ having only one of their's wounded, who was sent back to Connecticut in a Skiff: Capt. John Underhill also coming with him, who informed us what was performed by Onkos and his Men; which we looked at as a special Providence; for before we were somewhat doubtful of his Fidelity: Capt. Underhill then offered his Service with nineteen Men to go with us, if Lieutenant Gardner would allow of it, who was Chief Commander at Saybrook Fort; which was readily approved of by Lieutenant Gardner and accepted by us; In lieu of them we sent back twenty of our Soldiers to Connecticut.
* Onkos; usually called Uncas, the Great Sachem of the Moheags.
@ Mr. Increase Mather, in his History of the Pequot War, says this was on May 15.
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 21
Upon a Wednesday we arrived at Saybrook, where we lay Windbound until Friday; often consulting how and in what manner we should proceed in our Enterprize, being altogether ignorant of the Country. At length we concluded, God assisting us, for Narragansett, and so to March through their Country, which Bordered upon the Enemy; where lived a great People, it being about fifteen Leagues beyond Pequot ; The Grounds and Reasons of our so Acting you shall presently understand:
' First, The Pequots our Enemies, kept a continual
' Guard upon the River Night and Day.
' Secondly, their Numbers far exceeded ours: hav-
' ing sixteen Guns with Powder and Shot, as we were
' informed by the two Captives forementioned (where
' we declared the Grounds of this War) who were taken
' by the Dutch and restored to us at Saybrook; which
' indeed was a very friendly Office and not to be for-
' gotten .
' Thirdly, They were on Land, and being swift on
' Foot, might much impede our Landing, and possibly
' dishearten our Men; we being expected only by Land,
' there being no other Place to go on Shoar but in that
' River, nearer than Narragansett.
' Fourthly, By Narragansett we should come upon
' their Backs, and possibly might surprize them un-
' awares, at worst we should be on firm Land as well
' as they.'
All which proved very Successful as the Sequel may evidently demonstrate.
But yet for all this our Counsel, all of them except the Captain, were at a stand, and could riot judge it meet to sail to Narragansett: And indeed there was a
22 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR
very strong Ground for it; our Commission limiting us to land our Men in Pequot River; we had also the same Order by a Letter of Instruction sent us to Saybrook.
But Capt. Mason apprehending an exceeding great Hazard in so doing, for the Reasons forementioned, as also some other which I shall forbear to trouble you with, did therefore 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 Shoar. In the Morning very early Mr. Stone came ashoar to the Captain's Chamber, and told him, he had done as he had desired, and was fully satisfied to sail for Narragansett.6 Our Council was then called, and the several Reasons alledged: In fine we all agreed with one accord to sail for Narragansett, which the next Morning we put in Execution.
I declare not this to encourage any Soldiers to Act beyond their Commission, or contrary to it; for in so doing they run a double Hazard. There was a great Commander in Belgia who did the States great Service in taking a City; but by going beyond his Commission lost his Life: His name was Grubbendunk. But if a War be Managed duly by Judgment and Discretion as is requisite, the Shews are many times contrary to what they seem to pursue: Whereof the more an Enterprize is dissembled and kept secret, the more facil
6 Mr. J. H. Bromley, in his Oration on John Mason, suggests that "Mason, though a profoundly religious man, had the worldly wisdom to give to Mr. Stone such knowledge of the facts as to be able to lay them intelligently before the Lord."
MASON' S NARRATIVE. 23
to put in Execution; as the Proverb, The farthest way about is sometimes the nearest way home. I shall make bold to present this as my present Thoughts in this Case; In Matters of War, those who are both able and faithful should be improved; and then bind them not up into too narrow a Compass: For it is not possible for the wisest and ablest Senator to foresee all Accidents and Occurrents that fall out in the Management and Pursuit of a War: Nay although possibly he might be trained up in Military Affaires; and truly much less can he have any great Knowledge who hath had but little Experience therein. What shall I say? God led his People through many Difficulties and Turnings; yet by more than an ordinary Hand of Providence he brought them to Canaan at last.
On Friday Morning we set Sail for Narragansett Bay, and on Saturday towards Evening we arrived at our desired Port, there we kept the Sabbath.
On the Monday the Wind blew so hard at North-West that we could not go on Shoar; as also on the Tuesday until Sun set; at which time Capt. Mason landed and Marched up to the Place of the Chief Sachem's Residence; who told the Sachem,
' That we had not an opportunity to acquaint him with our
' coming Armed in his Country sooner; yet not doubt-
' ing but it would be well accepted by him, there being
' Love betwixt himself and us; well knowing also that
' the Pequots and themselves were Enemies, and that
' he could not be unacquainted with those intolerable
' Wrongs and Injuries these Pequots had lately done
' unto the English; and that we were now come, God
' assisting, to Avenge our selves upon them; and that
24 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
' we did only desire free Passage through his Country.'
Who returned us this Answer, ' That he did accept of
' our coming, and did also approve of our Design; only
' he thought our Numbers were too weak to deal with
' the Enemy, who were (as he said) very great Captains
' and Men skilful in War.' Thus he spake somewhat slighting of us.
On the Wednesday Morning, we Marched from thence to a Place called Nayanticke, it being about eighteen or twenty miles distant, where another of those Narragansett Sachems lived in a Fort; it being a Frontier to the Pequots. They carryed very proudly towards us; not permitting any of us to come into their Fort.
We beholding their Carriage and the Falsehood of Indians, and fearing least they might discover us to the Enemy, especially they having many times some of their near Relations among their greatest Foes; we therefore caused a strong Guard to be set about their Fort, giving Charge that no Indian should be suffered to pass in or out: We also informed the Indians, that none of them should stir out of the Fort upon peril of their Lives: so as they would not suffer any of us to come into their Fort, so we would not suffer any of them to go out of the Fort.
There we quartered that Night, the Indians not offering to stir out all the while.
In the Morning there came to us several of Miantomo* his Men, who told us, they were come to assist us in our Expedition, which encouraged divers Indians of
* He was usually called Miantonimo the Great Sachem of the Narragansett Indians.
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 25
that Place to Engage also; who suddenly gathering into a Ring, one by one, making solemn Protestations how galliantly they would demean themselves, and how many Men they would Kill.
On the Thursday about eight of the Clock in the Morning, we Marched thence towards Pequot, with about five hundred Indians: But through the Heat of the Weather and want of Provisions some of our Men fainted: And having Marched about twelve Miles, we came to Pawcatuck River, at a Ford where our Indians told us the Pequots did usually Fish; there making an Alta, we stayed some small time: The Narragansett Indians manifesting great Fear, in so much that many of them returned, although they had frequently despised us, saying, That we durst not look upon a Pequot, but themselves would perform great Things; though we had often told them that we came on purpose and were resolved, God assisting, to see the Pequots, and to fight with them, before we returned, though we perished. I then enquired of Onkos, what he thought the Indians would do? Who said, The Narragansetts would all leave us, but as for Himself He would never leave us: and so it proved: For which Expressions and some other Speeches of his, I shall never forget him. Indeed he was a great Friend, and did great Service.
And after we had refreshed our selves with our mean Commons, we Marched about three Miles, and came to a Field which had lately been planted with Indian Corn: There we made another Alt, and called our Council, supposing we drew near to the Enemy: and being informed by the Indians that the Enemy had two
26 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
Forts almost impregnable; but we were not at all Discouraged, but rather Animated, in so much that we were resolved to Assault both their Forts at once. But understanding that one of them was so remote that we could not come up with it before Midnight, though we Marched hard; whereat we were much grieved, chiefly because the greatest and bloodiest Sachem there resided, whose name was Sassacous: We were then constrained, being exceedingly spent in our March with extream Heat and want of Necessaries, to accept of the nearest.
We then Marching on in a silent Manner, the Indians that remained fell all into the Rear, who formerly kept the Van; (being possessed with great Fear) we continued our March till about one Hour in the Night: and coming to a little Swamp between two Hills, there we pitched our little Camp; much wearied with hard Travel, keeping great Silence, supposing we were very near the Fort; as our Indians informed us; which proved otherwise: The Rocks were our Pillows; yet Rest was pleasant: The Night proved Comfortable, being clear and Moon Light: We appointed our Guards and placed our Sentinels at some distance; who heard the Enemy Singing at the Fort, who continued that Strain until Midnight, with great Insulting and Rejoycing, as we were afterwards informed: They seeing our Pinnaces sail by them some Days before, concluded we were afraid of them and durst not come near them, the Burthen of their Song tending to that purpose.
In the Morning, we awaking and seeing it very light, supposing it had been day, and so we might have lost our Opportunity, having purposed to make our
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 27
Assault before Day; rowsed the Men with all expedition, and briefly commended ourselves and Design to God, thinking immediately to go to the Assault; the Indians shewing us a Path, told us that it led directly to the Fort. We held on our March about two Miles, wondering that we came not to the Fort, and fearing we might be deluded: But seeing Corn newly planted at the Foot of a great Hill, supposing the Fort was not far off, a Champion Country being round about us; then making a stand, gave the Word for some of the Indians to come up: At length Onkos and one Wequash appeared; We demanded of them, Where was the Fort? They answered On the Top of that Hill: Then we demanded, Where were the Rest of the Indians? They answered, Behind, exceedingly afraid: We wished them to tell the rest of their Fellows, That they should by no means Fly, but stand at what distance they pleased, and see whether English Men would now Fight or not. Then Capt. Underhill came up, who Marched in the Rear; and commending ourselves to God, divided our Men: There being two Entrances into the Fort, intending to enter both at once: Captain Mason leading up to that on the North East Side; who approaching within one Rod, heard a Dog bark and an Indian crying Owanux! Owanux! which is Englishmen! Englishmen! We called up our Forces with all expedition, gave Fire upon them through the Pallizado; the Indians being in a dead indeed their last Sleep: Then we wheeling off fell upon the main Entrance, which was blocked up with Bushes about Breast high, over which the Captain passed, intending to make good the Entrance, ecouraging the rest to
28 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR
follow. Lieutenant Seeley endeavoured to enter; but being somewhat cumbred, stepped back and pulled out the Bushes and so entred, and with him about sixteen Men: We had formerly concluded to destroy them by the Sword and save the Plunder.
Whereupon Captain Mason seeing no Indians, entred a Wigwam; where he was beset with many Indians, waiting all opportunities to lay Hands on him, but could not prevail. At length William Heydon7 espying the Breach in the Wigwam, supposing some English might be there, entred; but in his Entrance fell over a dead Indian; but speedily recovering himself, the Indians some fled, others crept under their Beds: The Captain going out of the Wigwam saw many Indians in the Lane or Street; he making towards them, they fled, were pursued to the End of the Lane, where they were met by Edward Pattison, Thomas Barber, with some others; where seven of them were Slain, as they said. The Captain facing about, Marched a slow Pace up the Lane he came down, perceiving himself very much out of Breath; and coming to the other End near the Place where he first entred, saw two Soldiers standing close to the Pallizado with their Swords pointed to the Ground: the Captain told them that We should never kill them after that manner: The Captain also said, We must Burn them; and im-
7 Notwithstanding the statement by Trumbull and others, that Davis cut the bowstring and saved the life of Mason, there is reason, well supported by tradition, for believing that this service was performed by Heydon, and that the incident occurred at this very moment It win be seen that Mason entered the fort on one side, and that Davis entered on the opposite with Captain Underhill, and could therefore not have been near. The sword of Heydon that is said to have cut the bowstring is in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society.
MASON'S NARRATIVE. 29
mediately stepping into the Wigwam where he had been before, brought out a Firebrand, and putting it into the Matts with which they were covered, set the Wigwams on Fire. Lieutenant Thomas Bull and Nicholas Omsted beholding, came up; and when it was thoroughly kindled, the Indians ran as Men most dreadfully Amazed.
And indeed such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished. And when the Fort was thoroughly Fired, Command was given, that all should fall off and surround the Fort; which was readily attended by all; only one Arthur Smith being so wounded that he could not move out of the Place, who was happily espied by Lieutenant Bull, and by him rescued.
The Fire was kindled on the North East Side to windward; which did swiftly over-run the Fort, to the extream Amazement of the Enemy, and great Rejoycing of our selves. Some of them climbing to the Top of the Pallizado; others of them running into the very Flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their Arrows; and we repayed them with our small Shot: Others of the Stoutest issued forth, as we did guess, to the Number of Forty, who perished by the Sword.
What I have formerly said, is according to my own Knowledge, there being sufficient living Testimony to every Particular.
But in reference to Captain Underhill and his Parties acting in this Assault, I can only intimate as we were informed by some of themselves immediately after
30 HISTORY OF THE PEQUOT WAR.
the Fight, Thus They Marching up to the Entrance on the South West Side, there made some Pause; a valiant, resolute Gentleman, one Mr. Hodge, stepping towards the Gate, saying; If we may not Enter, wherefore came we here; and immediately endeavoured to Enter; but was opposed by a sturdy Indian which did impede his Entrance; but the Indian being slain by himself and Sergeant Davis, Mr. Hedge Entred the Fort with some others; but the Fort being on Fire, the Smoak and Flames were so violent that they were constrained to desert the Fort.
Thus were they now at their Wits End, who not many Hours before exalted themselves in their great Pride, threatning and resolving the utter Ruin and Destruction of all the English, Exulting and Rejoycing 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 Hands: 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 Stroak 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, and we through Mercy escaped. And thus in little more than
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This page was last updated September 15, 2000.