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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
WHEN the New England colonies were established, the Pokanoket tribe was in the ascendency. The coast tribes, indeed, if not almost annihilated, had been decimated by a pestilential disease; but there is every reason to believe that the chiefs who sat in the council lodges, surrounding the great and noble waters of Massachusetts Bay, acknowledged fealty to the reigning sachem of Mount Hope. Such was the complexion of political affairs, when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, in 1620.
The Pokanokets were descended from an ancient stock, and, it is believed, they established themselves on the peninsula, with the aid of their friends and allies, the Narragansetts and Pequots, after conquering the tribes which then held possession. Evidences of their ancient triumphs have, it is believed, been found, in the rude and simple pictographs of the country a few heads and cross-bones, or clubs, sculptured on a boulder, or on a cliff, as mementoes of battle. These simple historical memorials were more common among the hills and valleys of the country, when it was first occupied, than they are at the present day. It is to be regretted that a wanton spirit should have led the yeomanry, and their playful children, to mutilate, alter, or destroy, many of the primitive monuments of the Indian nations. The most noted, as also the largest of these
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The Pokanokets, who may be considered to have been allied with the Narragansetts in the victory, represented in the above pictograph, had preserved friendly relations with that powerful coast tribe from the earliest dates. It is evident that they were also allied with the Pennacooks of the Merrimac in the north, and with the Pequots, 104 who, under Sassacus, were so unfortunate as to wage war against Uncas and his Mohicans, protected, as the latter were, by the aegis of the infant Connecticut colony.
The name of Wampanoag, by which the Pokanokets were also designated, appears to denote the fact that they were, from early times, the custodians of the imperial shell, or medal. They were so brave and warlike, that the surrounding tribes regarded them as the most powerful organization on the coast, from the Narragansett to the Massachusetts Bay.
When the Plymouth colony was founded, the Pokanoket tribe was governed by Massasoit, then a venerable man, numbering, probably, seventy years. Though the fire of youth had departed from his eye, yet his step was firm and dignified, and he bore himself with an air that betokened he not only had a vivid remembrance of the achievements of his tribe, but also deemed himself the true monarch of the land. The colonists found the vicinity of their location unoccupied; old cornfields, deserted lodges, and graves hastily covered, denoting the ravages of the pestilence which had depopulated this region. They made it their early endeavor to seek an interview with Massasoit, and establish friendly relations with him, the conference being managed carefully, with a view to effect; musicians and soldiers, armed with muskets, accompanied the English governor, and the negotiations afforded a fair specimen of both Indian and colonistic diplomacy. It was characterized, also, by the introduction to the Indians of that element, which has since proved a source of so much injury to the race. Here the Indians first learned to drink alcoholic liquors. (Plate VI.)
Political power among the Indians of New England was, at this time, wielded principally by two influential bashabaries; namely, by the Pokanoket and by the Pennacook tribal leagues. Both confederations comprised a union of the religious and
political elements. A simple sagamore appears only to have wielded a local geographical power, while the bashaba also filled the priestly office of chief jossakeed, powwow, or prophet. The Pennacook bashabary was confined almost exclusively to the country north of the Merrimack, extending through New Hampshire into Maine, and gave the early colonists but little trouble. But the Mount Hope government included the territory immediately around the new homes of the colonists. Every foot of land they added to their possessions was by permission of, agreement with, or purchase from, the chiefs and sagamores of this confederacy. Neither the Narragansetts nor the Pequots in the west, nor the Pennacooks in the north, having made grants in the territory of Massachusetts, is conclusive proof that the authority of Massasoit was supreme. One of the first objects of the colonists was to secure peace on their frontiers, by concluding treaties of amity with the Indians. Considering the influence of this central organization, it is not at all as surprising as it has been frequently represented, that, for so long a period, they kept the storm of open Indian warfare from their continually progressing settlements; Massasoit being in allegiance with the three great powers around him, namely, the Narragansetts, the Pequots, and the Pennacooks. These barbarians and their component septs and bands, all originally spoke one language, practised one religion, were conversant with precisely the same arts, and under the influence of identical customs and manners. According to Prince (p. 202), the news of the massacre in Virginia, in March, 1622, perpetrated by Opechanganough, reached Plymouth in May, and made the colonists more fearful of Indian treachery. By great vigilance, and caution in circumventing the little schemes, and diverting the animosities of the petty chiefs, the colonists succeeded in securing some twenty years of undisturbed peace. It was not until about the year 1640, when John Eliot began to preach the gospel to the Indians, and held his religious conference with them under the old oaks at Natic, that the Indian jossakeeds began to be seriously alarmed.
Massasoit died previous to this period. He was an old man when the first colony was founded, and the administration of that powerful bashabary had been conducted by his son, Pometakom, a chief of great subtlety, profound dissimulation, and entertaining a strong secret hostility to the English race, to their manners, and particularly to their (to him) hateful gospel. On account of some fancied resemblance to the Macedonian heroes, the colonists named him Philip, and his brother, Alexander. Philip was observed to keep up a clandestine confidential communication with the Indian priesthood, and, by his energy, he soon obtained the popular title of king. A short time thereafter, he became the most dreaded secret enemy of New England.
Chapter II. History of the Pequot Tribe, and of the Pequot War.
THE name of this tribe, which appears to mean an arrow a wooden arrow, reveals its Algonquin origin. In a map, published at Amsterdam, in 1659, these Indians are called Pequatoas, on what account, or when the title was conferred upon them, is unknown. Most of the subdivisions of our aboriginal tribes have trivial names assigned them, on account of some event, important or otherwise, the history of which has not been transmitted to us by tradition. It is certain, both from their language and traditions, that the Lenapee-Algonquins, after crossing the Hudson towards the north-east, divided into a multiplicity of clans and tribes. In this ancient migration, the Wolf totem, or Mohicans, was the first to cross the Hudson, and they appear to have regarded its valley, from the sea to the present site of Albany, as their rightful domain. The Iroquois penetrated into it from the north, and, subsequently, continued their conquests down the river.
The Mohican language and blood still constituted a tie of affiliation, but each class and sept either adopted some distinctive appellation themselves, or received one from their neighbors. Thus, the tribe whose totem included the whirlpool of Hellgate, called themselves Manhattans; the Long Island Indians, whose shores abounded in the prized sea-shells of which wampum is made, denoted themselves, or were named by others, Metoacs; those living near the stone cliffs of Westchester, were called Singsings; and those residing on the wide expanse of the Hudson, below the Highlands, Tapanses. The early colonists, finding the tribes of this valley to be of one species and lineage, called them Mohikander, a compound, formed from the Mohican and Belgic languages. The clans located nearest to Albany retained the name of Mohicans; and when they were, eventually, driven over the Hoosic and Taconic ranges into the valley of the Housatonic, they carried with them their primitive appellation. That the Pequots, who once held possession of the territory along the East River, and on the Connecticut shores, also bore this name, is very probable, from the recurrence of Uncas to the parent term, when he became involved in a political feud with Sassacus. At what time this dissension commenced, is unknown; the first intimation of it dates from the era of the primary settlement of Connecticut, in 1633. The colonists were necessarily
dispersed over a wide surface, unprotected, and exposed to the caprices, as well as to the incursions, of the Indians. The oldest settlement had been located but a few years, when the inhabitants found a contest was being waged for the Indian sovereignty, between Uncas and Sassacus.
Uncas held possession of a beautiful point of land, now called Norwich, at the source of the river Pequot (now the Thames), and, it is evident, had but recently segregated from the Pequots. His comprehensive mind immediately discerned the advantages that would result to his cause from an alliance with the Connecticut settlers, and it was as clearly the policy of the latter to form such an alliance. Their very safety depended on it, and wisdom was evinced in their choice. Uncas became the protector of the colonists; his scouts watched over the infant settlement, and not only reported the advance of hostile parties, but hastened to repel them. This alliance was never broken by either White or Red man, and affords one of the most complete and satisfactory evidences to be found in history, of the beneficial effects produced on Indian character by unwavering justice, and uniform kindness and good will. Half a century later, it was not in the power of Penn, with equally benevolent views, to maintain the Delawares in their position; yet, through every change in their affairs, the tribe of Uncas was protected and cherished, by the people, and by the authority of the state of Connecticut. Even after the venerated chief had passed from the stage of life, his successor and family were regarded with kind interest, and a monument has been erected to mark the resting place of the great aboriginal sage of Norwich.
At the time we have indicated, 1637, the Pequots had the prestige of being a powerful and warlike people. They had escaped the great pestilence which had desolated the Massachusetts coast, about the year 1617, could bring 600 fighting-men into the field, and might then have numbered a population of about 3000 souls. They were expert bowmen, and possessed sixteen guns, 105 purchased from the traders. The military strength of Connecticut was then estimated at 200 men. If the Pequots had obtained the ascendency, the question of the very existence of the colony would have been settled forever.
John Mason, the man selected to conduct this war, was a veteran soldier, who, with Miles Standish, and Underbill, had learned the art of war in the Lowlands, under that renowned military tactician, William, Prince of Orange. The infant colonies required men possessing his decision of character, and unflinching nerve, to baffle the wiles of their savage enemies. It was evident that the Pequots meant to annihilate the colonists. Recent and most shocking murders having been perpetrated in the settlements, energetic and prompt action was necessary to enable the colony to maintain its ground. To begin the war, Mason could muster but ninety men, which force is stated to have been half the militia of the colony. Uncas joined him with seventy Mohicans,
who were chiefly useful as guides and scouts. The auxiliaries promised by the Plymouth colony, and from other quarters, were slow in making their appearance.
Mason, however, pushed forward with energy, as, in his opinion, their operations must be conducted with vigor; delay only furnishing Sassacus an opportunity to mature his plans. With the hope that the expected reinforcements would arrive in season to be of service, on the 10th of May he embarked his force at Hartford, in three small vessels, and, dropping down the Connecticut river to Port Saybrook, was there joined by Underbill, his second in command. After coasting along the shore to the entrance of the Narragansett Bay, he landed in the vicinity of the village ruled by Conanicut, whose permission he obtained to march across his territory, and attack the Pequots. The old chief thought his force too small for such a purpose, but, though he evidently did not expect much from the auxiliary Mohicans, he yet allowed 200 of his men, under his son, Miontonimo, to accompany them, without, however, engaging to take an active part. The Pequots had two forts, the principal of which, located on the Mystic river, was occupied by Sassacus in person. A march of eighteen or twenty miles, through the forest, brought Mason to a fort of the Nehantics, on the borders of the Pequot territory. These people were tributaries and covert allies of the Pequots. The chief treated Mason haughtily, and would not allow him to enter the fort. Fearing that intelligence of his arrival might be transmitted by runners, during the night, Mason encamped his men around the fort, giving them strict orders to intercept every person who attempted to leave it.
The following morning, several of Miontonimo's men tendered their services as auxiliaries, making many professions of their anxiety to aid in carrying on the war. The number of Indians who now accompanied Mason, being 500, made a great display; but not much dependence could be placed in their courage on the battle-field, notwithstanding their lavish professions. Although Mason placed but little, or no reliance on them, he was yet willing to avail himself of the effect their appearance would produce on the enemy. Uncas, when questioned as to how many of his Indian allies would run away when the battle commenced, answered, "Every one but myself;" and such proved to be the result.
After a tedious march of twelve miles from the Nehantic borders, the army arrived at Pawcatuk Ford (now Stonington), weary, hungry, and foot-sore. Resting themselves there for some time, they continued their march with Uncas and Wequa, a recreant Pequot, for their guides, sometimes passing through corn-fields. Warm weather having set in unusually early, these marches, conjoined with the scarcity of food, were very irksome to men unaccustomed to the toil. Yet they pressed onward energetically, and, one hour after midnight, encamped on the head waters of the Mystic river. They had now been two days on the march. Their guides informed them that the Pequots held two strong forts in the vicinity, but four or five miles asunder. Although Mason had resolved to make simultaneous attacks on both forts, yet the fatigues and sufferings
endured by the men, while threading the mazes of the forest, without provisions or tents, and exposed to every inconvenience, induced him to concentrate his efforts on the nearest position, within the present bounds of Groton. They reposed but a short time, and then, taking up their line of march, arrived before the fort, which was distant two miles, about two hours before daybreak. The moon was shining brightly when they reached the foot of the eminence on which the fort was situated; and, by this time, their boastful red allies had fallen in the rear, quaking at the very name of Pequot.
The walls of the fortification enclosed one or two acres of ground, and consisted of trunks of trees, cut in lengths of twelve feet, sunk three feet deep in the ground, and embanked with earth. These palisades were placed so far apart that missiles could be discharged through the interstices, yet not so much so as to admit a man. Twelve small gates, or sally-ports, placed at opposite ends, were closed with trees and brush. The tops of the palisades were bound together with withes, and within, on a level esplanade, were about seventy lodges, constructed of thick matting, covering a light frame-work. These lodges, arranged in parallel rows, were surrounded by a ronda, or circular line of lodges next to the palisades. Mason had approached within a rod of the north-east sally-port, without arousing suspicion, when he heard a dog bark within the fort. Instantly an Indian cried out, Owanux! Owanux! Englishmen! Englishmen! which brought the Pequots to their feet, some of whom were thought to be laboring under the effects of previous revels. Mason, removing the obstacles, entered the fort, with sixteen followers, at one end, while Underhill did the same at the opposite sally-port, before the Pequots had time to oppose them. Surprised and confused, they ran about, foaming with rage. The fight became desperate, the superiority of fire arms and swords over arrows and clubs, being signally demonstrated. Many of the Indians took shelter in the wigwams, covering themselves with the thick mats, from which it was impossible to dislodge them. Wearied with pursuing them, Mason, at length, exclaimed, "We must burn them." Suiting the action to the word, he applied a brand to the windward side of the lodges, and Underhill immediately followed his example. The fire spread with great rapidity through the combustible materials, soon filling the whole area with roaring flames. The living and the dead together were roasted in heaps. The English, being themselves expelled by the furious flames, formed a circle outside the palisades, to prevent any of the enemy from effecting their escape. Their Indian auxiliaries, having recovered their courage, now came up, and completed the work. Forty of the Pequots, who attempted to scale the palisades, were shot as they emerged from their flaming prison. How many hundred men, women, and children were roasted on this gigantic funeral pyre, has never been estimated.
Though the Pequots had, with dreadful cruelty, massacred the unsuspecting Oldham, and Sleeping Stone and his companions, though they had invaded the sanctity of dearly-loved homes with the fury of the tiger and the hyena, yet this was a dreadful
retribution, the severity of which could not have been premeditated, and for which we have not a word to offer in palliation. Having inflicted this terrible blow upon the Pequots, Mason deemed his position to be a perilous one. He anticipated the speedy vengeance of Sassacus, who was but a few miles distant, at the upper fort; and many of his men were wounded, although but two had been killed in the conflict. It was necessary to carry the wounded on biers, and the soldiers were unprovided with either food or ammunition. In this emergency, not a moment was lost in returning to the vessels, which had sailed round to the neighboring port of Pequot harbor; and all speed was made toward the Connecticut.
Chapter III. Death of Sassacus, and Extinction of the Pequots.
THE capture and burning of the Pequot fort on the Mystic, exercised a controlling influence on the future prosecution of the war. It was a blow more terrible, even, than at first appeared. The night previous to the attack, the post had been reinforced by a hundred and fifty warriors from the upper fort, 106 as Sassacus was conscious of the perils of this position. More than half of his available force had certainly been destroyed; and the warriors he had despatched from his own fortification to reinforce the other, had so diminished his strength, that he did not deem himself able to sustain another attack. The war had now assumed the acme of bitterness on both sides. Spring, the season of planting, was passing away, and, though food was equally as scarce with the Indians as with the English, not a grain of corn could be planted in the Connecticut valley, without incurring the danger of being pierced by a Pequot arrow. With the English, it was a struggle for existence; and the name of Pequot was to them identified with that of fiend. Delay would only enhance the danger of the whites, while, on the other hand, the situation of the Pequots was equally as perilous.
Sassacus, realizing his hazardous position, determined to abandon his country, and fly westward. Although the Mohawks had been his most dreaded enemies for untold years, 107 he hoped to find some friendly shelter in the small unoccupied valleys of the tributaries to the Hudson, or among the western affluents of the Mohawk. With the energy of a man whose necessities are pressing, he resolved to throw himself on the mercy of his Indian foes, and fly immediately. Collecting his people, he crossed the Connecticut, on his passage killing three Englishmen, who were found descending the river, on their way to Fort Saybrook.
The capture of Fort Mystic occurred on the 26th of May, and the 15th of the following June was observed, by the colonists, as a day of thanksgiving for the victory. About a fortnight after the return of the victors to their homes, one hundred and
twenty men, under Captain Staughton, landed at Pequot harbor, to prosecute the war, and, on the 26th of June, Mason descended the river, with forty men, to join him. The allies having resolved to pursue Sassacus, Uncas accompanied them, with an effective force of Mohicans, this species of warfare requiring the exercise of that peculiar skill in following a trail, for which the minute observation and knowledge of Indian habits has so admirably adapted the aborigines.
Sassacus, being encumbered with a large body of women, children, and invalids, marched slowly, and kept near the open coast, in order to avail himself of the abundant supply of shell-fish to be found on these shores. The allies, while pursuing the fugitives, sometimes came to localities where clams had been dug up. The duty of scouting along these shores being committed to Uncas and his men, they captured a Pequot sachem, who was beheaded at a place now called Guilford harbor, and his head placed in the forks of an oak tree. From this circumstance, a promontory in the vicinity received the name of Sachem's Head.
After passing the Quinnipiak river, now the site of New Haven, they espied a large body of Pequots, and pursued them. From an eminence they beheld, in the distance, a cluster of wigwams, situated between the foot of a hill and a swamp, within the present boundaries of the township of Fairfield. A straggling Pequot, who had been captured, guided them to this retreat. But Sassacus, and Mononotto, his principal war captain, suspecting the design of the English, fled towards the Mohawk country, taking with them most of their active warriors. About eighty of the Pequots, with a few Indian residents of the place, who were vassals of the latter, and nearly 200 old men, women, and children, took refuge in this swamp, which occupied the area of a mile. Portions of it were impassable quagmires, and tangled bushes, but running into it, and nearly subdividing it, was a dry passage.
Being doubtful how to approach it, some of the men waded in, stuck fast in the mud, were wounded severely, and were with difficulty extricated. The assailants then formed a circle around the margin of the swamp. Not wishing to punish the feeble and innocent, alike with the guilty, a negotiation was opened, which resulted in the surrender of 180 old men, women, and children, to the English. The warriors, however, refusing to capitulate, were still closely besieged.
A night thus passed away, and was followed by a foggy morning. As the besiegers stood nearly a rod apart, about three o'clock in the morning the Pequots made a sally to pass the circle, which proved unsuccessful. Another attempt at a different point resulted in the same manner. Shifting their ground, a third and desperate dash was attended with such success, that about seventy of the enemy escaped. The number of Pequots killed on this occasion, and in the other struggles immediately preceding, was twenty.
But the stern foe of the English, he who had been dignified by the title of the tyrant
of Connecticut, was yet at liberty. Sassacus approached the upper Hudson by a point in possession of Indians, linked, in the ancient ties of affinity, with the Mohicans, dwelling beyond the mountain range of the Taconic. Sassacus having been at variance with the race residing in New England, it is not improbable that the sympathies of the Mohicans of the Hudson leaned towards Uncas. However this may be, the Mohicans of the Hudson, from its head waters to its mouth, were the vassals of the Mohawks. 108 In throwing himself upon the mercy of his enemies, the Mohawks, as a defeated and ruined sachem, who was obliged to forsake his country, Sassacus adopted a course sanctioned by the previous example of wiser and greater men. But he did not reflect that the Mohawks were a merciless race, at least, they so appeared in this instance, for the fugitive chief was no sooner recognised by them, than an arrow was driven through his heart. With him fell the Pequots; the power, once the terror of the New England colonies, was destroyed, and from this time forth, they ceased to be known as a tribe.
With Sassacus fell his brother, and Mononotto, his second in command, who, at first, only wounded, was finally killed, together with five other sachems, all of whom were
Some members of the non-combatant families, who surrendered at the swamp, were dispersed, as domestics, over the country which had been the scene of the conflicts. Forty-eight women and children came to Boston. A portion of those distributed as domestics, fled from servitude, but, being retaken by the Indians, they were branded on the shoulder. The best authorities state that they were very restive under the yoke of slavery, and were valueless to their masters. One of the males was given to a gentleman to take to England; fifteen boys, and two girls, were sold as slaves to a resident of the Bermudas. The superannuated old men, mournful witnesses of the terrible retribution visited on their country, were allowed to descend into the grave unmolested.
Those of the tribe who accompanied Sassacus to the Hudson, or followed the seventy warriors who broke through the cordon militaire at the swamp, after reaching the
valley of the Hudson, sent a messenger to the Mohawks, requesting their permission to settle on this unclaimed territory. They were assigned the position of Scaghticoke, whence they eventually fled to Missisqui Bay, near the foot of Lake Champlain, in Lower Canada. 109
For a long time the name of Pequot was a hated epithet, and twenty years after the occurrence of these events, viz.: in March, 1658, the Connecticut court passed an act changing the name of the Pequot river to the Thames, and that of Pequot Point, or harbor, to New London.
Chapter IV. The Narragansetts. War Between Uncas and Miontonimo.
DURING the greater part of the seventeenth century, the three most potent tribes of southern and western New England, were the Pokanokets, or Wainpanoags, the Pequots, and the Narragansetts. The bands who claimed the name of Massachusetts Indians, may be deemed to have been represented at that period by the Natics. These were the bands to whom the gospel was especially preached, and over whom all the elements of civilization had obtained more or less influence, and the natural result of their progress in civilization was, non-interference in the Indian wars. The Pennacooks and Abenakies, powerful tribes on its northern borders, did not come into collision with the colony, and their history more properly belongs to that of New Hampshire and Maine.
By the displacement of the Pequots, the Mohicans, a minor branch of that tribe, under the government of Uncas, were placed in antagonism to the Narragansetts. After the death of their first chief, Canonicus, the power devolved on his son, Miontonimo, a more talented, energetic, intrepid, and wily individual. Uncas, having sustained the English with all his power in their contest with the Pequots, under Sassacus, against whose domination he had rebelled, was henceforth regarded as the guardian spirit of Connecticut. His bravery in war, his decision of character, his wisdom, and his amenity of manners, won praises from every lip. But in the field, as well as in the council, he found a rival in Miontonimo, who ruled the more numerous and powerful nation of the Narragansetts. At that period, this tribe possessed, probably, a greater numerical strength than any other of the New England tribes. They were located on the large islands in and along the fertile shores of Narragansett Bay, having, a few years earlier, sold Aquidneck, now Rhode Island, to Roger Williams. Their principal position was on the large island of Canonicus, which afforded all the requisites for a people, who, being most expert in the use of the canoe, levied contribution alike upon the game of the neighboring forests, and the fish in the surrounding waters.
The Narragansetts had never been hearty friends of the English, and, although they seemed to be amicably inclined, they pursued a devious line of policy, holding an apparently neutral position between the colonists, the Pequots, the Mohicans, and the Pokanokets. The pacific influence exercised by Williams, who had located himself at
an Indian village on the head waters of the west fork of the bay, called by him Providence, kept them in check. But no sooner were the Pequots defeated, and the power of Sassacus destroyed, than a secret enmity against the Mohicans, under Uncas, developed itself. The details of this feud are too unimportant to be stated at length. A few years passed over, characterized only by a surly and suspicious intercourse between the two rival chiefs. The sympathies of the English inhabiting the three central positions of Hartford, Boston, and Plymouth, were undoubtedly with Uncas and the Mohicans. They negotiated treaties with the Narragansetts, with the expectation that this powerful Indian tribe would execute their agreements, with the precision, and under the operation of the same moral principles which govern civilized nations. The compact entered into with the English, bound the Narragansetts not to engage in hostilities against Uncas, without apprizing the then united colonies.
In 1644, after some six or seven years of mutual distrust had elapsed, the Narragansetts, eluding even the sleepless vigilance of Roger Williams, suddenly marched a body of nine hundred warriors into the Mohican territories, with the design of attacking Uncas at a disadvantage; but it happened that some of the Mohican hunters discovered them, and, with all speed, conveyed the intelligence to their chief. The tribal seat of Uncas was then located, as it had been from time immemorial, at the head of the Pequot River, now the Thames, on the site of the present city of Norwich.
Collecting a force of five or six hundred warriors, Uncas determined not to await the onset of his adversary, but to advance and attack him. After marching five or six miles, he encountered Miontonimo and his army on a plain, stretching along the banks of the Shetucket, whereupon he halted his force. There appeared to be no choice of position on either side, the plain being level and spacious. Uncas, who had become somewhat versed in English strategy, and understood the advantage to be gained by prompt movements, perceived, at once, that, if he could, by a sudden attack, produce confusion, and drive Miontonimo down the banks of the Shetucket, he would be able to overcome his foe's superior numbers. This is the only explanation that can be given of the course he adopted. No sooner had he halted within speaking distance, than he stepped forward, and tendered his adversary the choice of deciding the fate of the day by personal combat. Miontonimo replied, that his men had come to fight, and fight they should. Oh the instant, Uncas, who was a very tall man, threw himself on the ground, that being a concerted signal for his troops to advance, which they did with such ardor and fury, that they drove the enemy down the escarpment of the river, and pursued them so vigorously that some of the swift Mohican runners, knowing Uncas to be near at hand, caught Miontonomi by some portion of his dress, temporarily impeding his flight, which enabled the former to make the capture himself. Uncas then sounded the whoop of victory, to recall his men, and to signify that Miontonimo was a prisoner, as if his capture had been alone the object of the Mohicans.
Not a look of the Narragansett sachem, far less a word, evinced any dread of his
enemies. He bore himself before his captor with unflinching dignity and pride. "Had you taken me," said Uncas, with some of that suavity of manner derived from his English associations, "I should have asked you to spare me." Not a word, however, was deigned in reply. Notwithstanding, Uncas spared his life, the usual privilege of an Indian victor; but he carried him with him to Norwich, as a trophy of his victory, whence he conducted him to Hartford. The question of his fate was submitted to the English for their advice, as being one requiring grave deliberation. It had been felt, ever since the close of the Pequot war, that the Narragansetts exercised an influence adverse to the growth and prosperity of the settlements. The very war in which they had just been engaged, was in violation of a solemn agreement made with commissioners formally appointed, and was waged against the worthiest and most trusty sachem who had befriended the colonies. Yet, they considered the case to be beyond their jurisdiction; the territory being Indian, they decided that aboriginal customs and laws must be allowed to take their course.
Miontonimo was, therefore, conducted back to the battle-field, on the banks of the Shetucket, escorted by two Englishmen, to shield him from any attempt at cruelty. The retinue traversed the plain of the late conflict with all the impressive dignity of an official cortege. Uncas, who knew the chief personally, determined to have no hand in the execution, and, therefore, deputed the duty to one of his war captains, enjoining him to leave the Narragansett in entire ignorance of his fate. He only knew that he was remanded to the spot of his capture. Ere reaching this point, the warrior entrusted with the task, and who walked immediately behind him, suddenly drew a tomahawk, and, with one blow, laid him dead at his feet. The scene of this tragedy has since been called SACHEM'S PLAIN. 110
Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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