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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 VI. — Capture and Death of Canonchet. Overthrow of the Narragansetts.

1676.

WHILE the eastern townships presented a scene of universal devastation, the English inhabitants on the western borders experienced but little disturbance from the Indians. But, when the latter were driven from the eastern section, they commenced a series of attacks, by night and by day, on the scattered settlements of the west. To repress these outrages, Massachusetts and Plymouth sent a considerable force into that quarter.

After the storming of his principal fort, in the swamp of South Kingston, Canonchet, the reigning chieftain of the Narragansetts, fled to another intricate position; but there is no evidence that defeat had humbled him. His grandfather, Canonicus, had been the ruling chief of his tribe, and had sold Aquidnec, now Rhode Island, to the English. His son, Miontonimo, equally noted for his politic character and personal bravery, had acted a distinguished part in the war which followed the overthrow of the Pequots. Canonicus, himself, could look back to no period of the Narragansett history, which did not afford him cause for pride. Though the Narragansetts may not have defeated the tribes of the Dighton Hock League, 199 who had, at an early period, occupied parts of New England, probably Maine, they had, at least, been confederated with the great magician and warrior, Mong, 200 who drove them from the banks of the Assonet. Whatever course the reflections of Canonchet took, he appears only to have been hardened in feeling, and more than ever incited to hatred of the English, by the contest with Winslow.

As spring advanced, he issued from his place of retreat, and, accompanied by a party, came to Seekonk to procure seed-corn for planting. This movement was revealed by two Indian females who were captured, and who also informed the colonists that his place of refuge was on Black river. The army of Massachusetts, which happened to be in the vicinity at the time, proceeded to make search for him, and succeeded in finding some of his party. They then immediately scattered, with the view of intercepting him, each squad taking different routes. Canonchet had adopted a similar policy, dividing his followers into separate parties. He was accidentally seen by a

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person who recognised him, and hotly pursued. The sachem, in order to expedite his flight, threw off his laced coat and wampum belt, and would have escaped, had he not made a false step and fell into the water, wetting his gun. A swift-footed Pequot, who was in the English army, immediately seized and held him, until some of the soldiers arrived. He was desired to indicate his submission, but refused, maintaining, both in his air and manner, a proud, unconquered aspect, and disdaining to make any answers compromising his honor.

He was taken, under a strong guard, to Stonington, where he was allowed the formality of a trial. This local tribunal condemned him to be shot, which sentence was executed by the Mohicans and Pequots.

With Canonchet the Narragansett power in reality expired. The Narragansett nation had, doubtless, produced greater chiefs than the last named, but none who had possessed a higher or a firmer sense of his power and authority, or who had entertained a greater repugnance to the influx of the English race. Canonicus dreaded the approach of the foreign race; but he saw some advantages in that commerce, which supplied a market for what the natives could most easily procure, and furnished them with articles of which they stood in great need. These circumstances, coupled with the influence of Roger Williams, induced him to adopt a conservative course, and to prevent his tribe from committing hostile acts. His son, Miontonimo, was greatly his superior, both in mental and personal endowments; but he possessed a fiery, ungovernable spirit. Impatient under the pressure of wrongs he could not redress, he was too eager to avenge injuries received from his kinsmen, the Mohicans, by a sudden, impulsive movement, the object of which might have been attained by more deliberation. His unjustifiable death, on Sachem's Plain, is not so remarkable as an act of savage cruelty, as it is of English casuistry. An Indian hand was made to strike the executionary blow, which Indian clemency, or diplomacy, had withheld. Canonchet, also, fell by the same questionable system.

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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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