NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us

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:

Previous section

Next section

Chapter IV. — Philip Carries the War into the Plymouth Colony. It Assumes a Wider and More Sanguinary Aspect. The Narragansetts are Involved in the Conspiracy.


After Philip's flight from Pocasset, the war assumed a fiercer character. Five or six laborers were waylaid and killed in a field in Mendon; Middleborough and Dartmouth, in the Plymouth plantations, were attacked; no agricultural labor could be pursued; every clump of bushes hid an enemy, and every fence and wall served as an ambuscade. The Nipmucks who had, heretofore, occupied a doubtful position, now commenced open hostilities, spreading the alarm westward. At Lancaster, a man and his wife were killed on the Lord's day; a boy, tending sheep, in Marlborough, was fired at; non-combatant Indians were arrested and committed for trial; and no Indian was safe, or free from the suspicion of treachery, no matter how good his conduct had previously been, except those of the communities of praying Indians, who were also closely watched. A short time subsequent to the alarm at Lancaster, a detachment of soldiers was sent out to make reconnoissances as far as Hadley.

The authorities at Boston, still entertaining the idea that the Nipmucks could be restrained by negotiation, the latter agreed to meet commissioners at Brookfield; but it proved to be a mere ruse on the part of the Indians. The officers sent thither were accompanied by twenty horsemen, and were joined on the route by a considerable number of the citizen soldiery. Finding no Indians at Brookfield, they marched four or five miles further, to a narrow defile, flanked by a swamp, where 300 Indians rose from an ambuscade, and poured upon them a heavy fire. Eight of the men were killed by the first discharge, and the commander, as well as several others, wounded. They then retreated to Brookfield, whither they were pursued by the Indians, who set the town on fire in several places. The inhabitants retired to a log-house, slightly fortified, where they defended themselves. The Indians surrounded it, keeping up an incessant fire, and attempted to burn it by discharging blazing arrows upon it, and by thrusting combustibles against it, placed on the ends of long poles. They then filled a cart with hemp, and, setting it on fire, backed it up to the house. Had this effort succeeded, seventy men, women, and children, who were huddled together within, would have

-- 159 --

been roasted alive; but, fortunately, a shower of rain, which fell at this moment, extinguished the flames. The Indians were eventually frightened off by the reported arrival of reinforcements, which they supposed to be very large, from their being preceded by a drove of frightened cattle. Only one man was killed, and one wounded, in this tumultuary siege.

The affair was scarcely over, when four separate bodies of troops, under different commanders, reached Brookfield. But the Indians had fled westward, effecting a union with the Poemtucks, at Deerfield and at Northfield. Being pursued in that direction, a battle was fought near Sugar-loaf Hill, in which ten English, and twenty-six Indians fell; the rest of the Indians then joined Philip's forces. Hadley was now occupied by the troops, the natives in the vicinity having begun to show a hostile disposition, and to menace the towns above it in the Connecticut valley. On the 1st of September (1675), they attacked Deerfield, burned several dwellings to ashes, and killed one man. Nine or ten men were killed by them in the woods, at Northfield, two or three days subsequently. The day after the latter occurrence, a reinforcement of thirty-six mounted infantry, with a convoy of provisions for the garrison at Northfield, fell into an Indian ambuscade within two miles of their destination; Beers, the commander, with sixteen men, being killed, and the baggage and wounded captured by the enemy.

On the 18th of September, a force of eighty men, convoying a train of teams, loaded with grain, left Deerfield, to proceed to Hadley; but, while passing through a dense forest, in the vicinity of a place now called Muddy Brook, some seven hundred Indians, who had been screened from view by the bushes of a morass, rushed furiously upon them. The troops, being thrown into complete confusion, broke their ranks, and attempted to fight the enemy, from behind trees, in their own customary manner. But it was to no purpose; they suffered an utter and most appalling defeat; Lathrop and ninety men, including the teamsters, being slain. The firing being heard at Deerfield, four or five miles distant, a reinforcement was hurried forward, but did not reach the scene until after the close of the action, when the victors were engaged in stripping the dead, and mangling their bodies. Rushing on boldly, without breaking their ranks, they drove the enemy from the field, killing many, and compelling the survivors to seek safety in flight. The loss of the Indians, in the several actions fought on this day, is reported to have been quite heavy.

It is to be inferred that, in these systematic attacks, Philip himself was either the leader, or the inciting spirit of the Indians. Throughout a large extent of country, the Indians were actuated by one motive and one policy; for, like his own fabled Hobbamok, Philip appeared to be ubiquitous, shifting his position with inconceivable rapidity, from one point to another. From information subsequently obtained, he is believed to have led the attack at Muddy Brook. The following day, he displayed his forces, in numbers, on the west banks of the Connecticut, at Deerfield, which was garrisoned by only

-- 160 --

twenty-seven men. This circumstance led to the abandonment of that post, as being too distant to secure proper support, and it was soon after destroyed by the enemy.

Emboldened by these successes, the Indians, in the vicinity of Springfield, attacked that town, killed an officer and one man, who were out reconnoitering, and burned twenty-two dwelling-houses, together with a valuable library, as also twenty-five barns, including their contents; a loss which reduced the inhabitants to great straits during the winter.

Flushed with his triumphs, Philip ascended the valley, with the determination of attacking the English headquarters. On the 19th of October, he appeared, with seven or eight hundred warriors, near the town of Hatfield, and, having cut off several scouting parties in the woods, made a rapid attack on the town, from various quarters. It was defended with great resolution, having been reinforced a short time previous, and, after a severe contest, Philip was compelled to withdraw his forces. This he effected during the night, not without some confusion, as he was encumbered with his dead and wounded. He also lost some of his guns in the river. He succeeded, however, in firing several dwellings, which were consumed, and in driving off a number of cattle and sheep belonging to the colonists.

Autumn now drawing to a close, it became necessary for the large mass of the Indians to disperse to places where they could readily obtain their wonted supplies. Philip had determined to pass the winter with the Narragansetts; but, in a short time, his guerilla parties were kept busy on the waters of the Connecticut. Late in October, some unprotected teams, near Northampton, were attacked; three men were killed in a meadow near that town; and the Indians attempted to burn a mill. Three men were also killed between Springfield and Westfield, and four houses burned at the latter place. Other depredations were committed at Longmeadows, and, likewise, at Springfield.

While the knife, club, gun, and incendiary brand were thus actively wielded on the waters of the Connecticut, Philip's warriors were busy in the east and south-east. Two separate companies of militia marched from Boston and Cambridge, to repress Indian hostilities at Mendon, Groton, and other places. In effecting this, several encounters occurred, in one of which, an officer, named Curtiss, and one soldier fell. A considerable quantity of corn was destroyed, and one poor captive was released.

Prior to the last-mentioned action, an affair occurred at Wrentham. One of the colonists, having one evening discovered a party of Indians on their march, silently followed their trail, and saw them encamp near a precipice. Returning, and giving immediate notice of his observations, thirteen men accompanied him to the spot, where they concealed themselves until the Indians arose at daybreak, when they fired upon them, and, driving them over the precipice, killed twenty-four. The rest effected their escape.

-- 161 --

Previous section

Next section

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:
Powered by PhiloLogic