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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter III. — Philip Developed his Plot: His Attacks on the Weak Frontier Line of the New England Colonies.

It was these settlements, weakened by their geographical position, though strengthened by the energy of character innate in their inhabitants, that Philip plotted to destroy. It was his design that the onslaught should have taken place on the same day, and that the war-cry should have been simultaneously raised, from the shores of the Piscataqua to the steeps of Mount Hope. Had such a combination been effected in the days of Sassacus, the hopes of the New England colonies might have been extinguished in blood. But the revelations of Sausaman had placed the colonists on their guard. Battles and experience had made them familiar with the Indian mode of warfare, and had taught them that sleepless watchfulness and caution are essential to the prosperity of settlements bordering on Indian frontiers. They numbered among them several men, noted for their skill and tact in repelling the Indians in their guerilla warfare. Every settler was, in fact, on the alert; fire-arms were kept in every family. The assumed tranquil air, and calm manner, of the Indian, in his ordinary visits, his studied secresy, and his deep deception, were closely observed, and the horrid cruelty of the Indians was well known to all, both young and old.

The Indian has lost America through discord, procrastination, and deliberation, without decision; action being postponed from time to time, and period to period, until it became, in effect, a dream of something to be done, something that it was pleasing to the natives to deliberate upon, to think about, to powwow over. There have occurred a few striking exceptions in the course of their history, and these are precisely the cases which developed extraordinary men. Two of these exceptions have already been mentioned; the one was Uncas, who determined to divide the ancient Pequot sovereignty, and to range himself under the banner of the English; the other was Sassacus, who, finding his affairs in a desperate condition, after the flower of his forces had been consumed by what was, clearly, the result of a mere accident (Mason never having premeditated that tragical and revolting sacrifice), determined instantly to forsake his country, and flee to the west. A third instance of decision, conjoined with ability to combine the power of united action, and, probably, the most remarkable of the three, in point of intellectual vigor, was that of Pometacom, whose acts we are about to narrate.

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To qualify himself for his great effort against the New England colonies, and to relieve his men from domestic cares, he sent his own family, and all the women and children of his nation, into the country of his friends and neighbors, the Narragansetts. Canonchet, the son of Miontonimo, who had been the reigning sachem since the death of his father, by this course involved himself deeply with the colonies, and it ultimately cost him his life; for the colonists could now no longer doubt, that the Narragansetts not only sympathized deeply with Philip, but had acceded to his plans. They, therefore, organized a strong force against this tribe, and, after the capture of Canonchet, in a conflict, which occurred near Sekonk, the tribe succumbed, and formed a new treaty with their conquerors. Canonchet himself was sent to the Mohicans, under Uncas, and by them executed.

Political wisdom is of very slow growth among the Indians. Having no records, tradition performs its duty very defectively; much being forgotten, disbelieved, or imperfectly understood; and, where the ruling passions are so strong, as they are in all the tribes, that they all take one direction only, namely, hatred to the whites, imagination obtains the mastery over facts. These inferences regarding the race are forced upon us by the notorious fact, that past experience exercises but little influence over their future actions, and none whatever on the present of their history. Had Canonchet reflected that the fate of his father Miontonimo had been the result of the supposed or real hostility of the Narragansetts to the colonists, he would have avoided the offence of allowing his territory to become a shelter for the refugee Pokanokets; and the renowned sachem of the latter might have foreseen that the fate of Sassacus, incurred by opposing himself openly to the colonists, was likely to presage his own destiny. They knew nothing, it is true, of English history, except what had occurred before their own eyes; but, had they been cognisant of even more, they could have formed no other conclusion, than that a class of stern men, who had abandoned their homes and country, in support of deeply cherished opinions, would not be easily hurled back, or driven into the Atlantic, by a wild and undisciplined horde of savage hunters.

Philip had endeavored to lull suspicion by keeping up his communications with the central powers of the colonies, particularly by two personal visits to Plymouth, in 1662 and 1671, during which time he renewed the fealty, first pledged by his father Massasoit. After the disclosure made by Sausaman, his intentions could no longer be concealed; and, when it became known that he had abandoned his ancestral seat, at Mount Hope, and sent the women and children to a place of safety, it was supposed, and with truth, that he was ranging up and down among the tribes, like some eastern Mongol chief, in the central plains of Asia, arousing his followers, and exciting in them a desire for war, blood, and plunder. The tragedy soon opened along the entire line of the New England frontiers, and was, indeed, much the severest ordeal the New England colonies passed through.

Philip's energies appeared to be almost superhuman, for it was either his voice which

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animated, or his hand which directed every attack. The war commenced near Mount Hope, on the 24th of June, 1675. A party of Philip's warriors, being sent to the English settlement at Mattapoisett, Swanzey, they plundered the houses, and killed some of the cattle. In this foray, an Indian being shot, the others rushed forward, and murdered eight or nine of the English. Intelligence of the affray was quickly spread, and the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies immediately sent troops into the field. Within four days thereafter, one company of horse and two of infantry were on the spot. Several skirmishes ensued, and a few Indians, as well as English, were killed. The force of the latter being soon recruited, they proceeded to Mount Hope, which was found to be deserted, and the enemy to have fled. The dragoons, while reconnoitering the vicinity, discovered a small party of Indians, and killed four or five of the number. The troops then received orders to march into the country of the Narragansetts, to bring them to an account, but were met with many professions of a desire for peace. Negotiations having been opened, the Narragansetts signed a treaty, binding themselves "as far as was in their power," to oppose Philip. At this time, a price was placed on Philip's head, delivered "dead or alive."

Meantime, Church had penetrated Pocasset Neck, where he found and engaged some straggling parties; but, not meeting with the success he desired, he soon after returned to the same locality, with fifty men. Dividing these, for the purpose of more effectually pursuing the search, Fuller led one party towards the open bay, while Church, with the other, penetrated the interior, where, encountering the enemy in force, he was driven back. Fuller was also attacked by superior numbers, and, after reaching the shore, both parties were only saved from destruction by the fortunate proximity of a Rhode Island sloop. As soon as the English force could be concentrated, another expedition was sent to Pocasset, and several desultory engagements resulted in the killing of fourteen or fifteen Indians. On the arrival of the entire allied force, Philip, after some slight skirmishing, retired to that favorite natural fortress of the Indians — a swamp. With the approach of night, the English retired; but, being reinforced the following day by 100 men, and observing that Philip occupied a narrow peninsula, seven miles in length, having an impenetrable swamp in the interior, they resolved to cut off his communications, and starve him out. The chief, seeing his critical position, took advantage of a dark night, and, constructing rafts of timber, escaped across the Assonet, or Taunton river, to his allies, the Nipmucks, an erratic tribe, whose segregated bands occupied a large area of territory. When, the following morning, it was discovered that Philip had fled, the allies hotly pursued him, and, tracing his trail, by the aid of the Mohicans, they overtook him at night, and captured thirty of his warriors; the wily chief, with the rest of his force, succeeding in making good their escape. Philip had fled to the quarter where he had the greatest number of allies. His plan, apparently, was, if defeated in New England, to retire toward the territory occupied by the Baron de Castine, an influential trader, or Indian factor, who resided in

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Maine, had intermarried with the Penobscots, and sympathized with the effort of Philip, with whom he is said, by all the authorities of that period, to have been in league. There is no doubt of his friendship for, and alliance with, the Pennacooks, and their affiliated bands of the Merrimac, extending northward to the Penobscot, Canada, and Acadia, where an adverse political element existed. France was regarded by the aborigines, in all respects, as the friend of the Indian race; and the destruction of the English colonies was truly as much of an object to the French, as it ever could have been considered by Philip. The Indians acting under Philip had been, without doubt, supplied with fire-arms and ammunition from the commercial depot of the Baron de Castine; and the powerful effect of this species of aid and sympathy, connected with the fact, that many years had been spent by Philip in maturing his plans, accords very well with the energy of character, secresy of purpose, and power of combination, which all writers have ascribed to him, and goes far towards relieving the war, in which he engaged with the colonies, of the desperate character of some of its general features.

In after years, when the Pennacooks, and the Indians generally, of southern New Hampshire, fled to the north, and allied themselves with the Abinakies, it was this very French influence upon which they relied. After a few years spent in various employments in the west, subsequent to the year 1689, Sebastian Rasle established himself at Norridgwock, on the Kennebec, when this illicit connection with the New England Indians became more fully apparent. The fugitive Indians were encouraged in their hostility to the English, and became expert in the use of fire-arms, which, at that era, had entirely superseded bows and arrows. Returning in detached parties, like hyenas in search of prey, they fell upon the people of the new and isolated settlements, from whose precincts they had previously fled, with the exterminating knife and tomahawk, marking their course with scenes of arson and murder, which are heart-rending, and horrible to contemplate.

But, to return to the Baron de Castine; it is affirmed that he was a French nobleman of distinction, a colonel in the king's body guard, and a man noted for his intrigue, as well as his enterprise, who had formed an alliance with the Abinakies and other Indians of this part of the country, the object of which was to impede the progress of the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and other parts of New England. He had married, and had living with him, at one time, six Indian wives. Several Roman Catholic priests also resided with him in his palace, which formed a sort of aboriginal court, and was located on the eastern bank of the Penobscot, near its mouth, where the present town of Castine, in Maine, now stands. By these means, as well as by his genius and enterprize, he had acquired a vast influence over the natives; not only furnishing them with, but also instructing them in the use of, fire-arms. He began his career among the Penobscots in 1661, and followed it up with such success that,

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at the commencement of Philip's war, the knowledge of the use of gunpowder and fire-arms was universal among the Indians. 197

It must not, however, be forgotten that Philip, independently of his expectations from the sympathy of the French, was actuated by his own natural antipathies in his attempt to drive the English out of New England, and that, when he abandoned Mount Hope, he threw himself among his Indian friends and allies, with the purpose of inciting them to make incessant attacks on the settlements. To do this effectually, it was necessary to surprise them in detail. Places known to be in the occupancy of the militia were avoided, unless when a small force could be suddenly attacked by a larger one. The Indians have seldom been willing to meet a large regular force in the field; they prefer the guerilla system, which is pursued in the same manner in Oregon, at the present day, as it was in New England 180 years since.

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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
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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