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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
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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

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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

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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
scalped, and the reeking trophies sent to the English, with the hope of receiving a reward. From the statement of the Indians, it being apparent that there were nearly 200 Pequots dispersed among the various tribes, a price was set upon their heads. They were hunted throughout the country in all directions, any one being not only permitted, but encouraged, to shoot them down at sight. This remnant of the tribe, at last having offered to surrender themselves as vassals to the English, the proposition was considered and accepted. A council convened for this purpose at Hartford, September 21, 1638, at which Uncas and Miontonimo were present. It was decided that eighty of the captives should be assigned to Uncas, eighty to Miontonimo, and twenty to Ninegret, chief of the Nihantics.

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

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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.

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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
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