Wednesday, March 11, 2015

1637 - The Pequot War


January, 1637 - John Harvey is back to Jamestown. He has been confirmed as governor of Virginia by King Charles 1 after 18 months of enforced exile in England. John West has been appointed as acting-governor during his leave.

John Harvey was determined to make major efforts to further the development of the city. The Assembly passed moreover during the year a law offering a plot of land with a garden to anyone who would commit to begin construction within the next two years. This provision was for Jamestown the starting point of a significant activity.


January, 1637 - William Bradford is elected governor of Plymouth for a 12st one year- term

January 1637- In a sermon delivered in Boston, John Wheelwright supports the religious influence of her sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson, introducing throughout the colony what will be called the Antinomian Controversy. He is soon accused of insult and revolt.

Rev. John Wheelwright (c.1676)
John Wheelwright (1592-November 15, 1679) 
Hailing from Saleby, Lincolnshire, he graduated from Cambridge University in 1618. He held the vicar position at Bilsby from 1623 till 1633 before traveling to New England in September 1629 beside John Endecott, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It seems that he spent winter there and was, at the time, interested in a possible move to New Hampshire. He returned nevertheless shortly after to his parish of Bilsby from which he was however expelled by the Church of England for non-conformism. This penalty decided him to move permanently to America and he arrived on June 12, 1636 in Boston with his mother, his second wife and five children. Well received by local authorities, he was in the following months appointed minister at Mount Wollaston. All went well until, with his sister-in-law Anne Hutchinson and Governor Henry Vane, he enters a deep controversy with the conservatives of the colony, opposing the covenant of grace to the covenant of works usually preached by orthodox ministers. John Wheelwright was defending freedom of thought and expression but community rivalry was to outweigh theological disputes anticipating the return of John Winthrop at the head of the colony.

Anne Hutchinson
 Anne Hutchinson (July 20, 1591- Aug. 20, 1643) 
Born in Alford, Lincolnshire, she was the daughter of Francis Marbury, deacon in Cambridge and of Bridget Dryden, a descendant among others of King Edward 1 of England. Her father considered that the clergymen of the Church of England were incapable and ignorant, what had led him to a one year-sentence.
Anne was educated at home and read the books in the family’s library. She grew up in admiration of paternal ideals and began to argue about principles of faith and Church authority.
She married William Hutchinson when she was 21 and listened with him to John Cotton's sermons, a minister whose teachings raised the banner of Puritanism. Many Protestants found that the Church that had bequeathed them King Henri VIII was corrupt and expressed the need to purify it. Rev. John Cotton finally had to leave England to escape persecution organized by the bishops. In order to find in America the religious freedom that she hoped, Anne and her family emigrated in 1634, to Massachusetts for the same reasons.
Most European settlers who had come to America thought they could practice their own religion freely and, in some cases, impose to others. But in the early stages, most colonies had a consistency rather close to that of their country of origin. Puritan intolerance was ruling in Massachusetts and Connecticut and Anne Hutchinson was considered heretical since she stated that being a woman was a blessing, not a curse. She freely expressed in a hierarchical context dominated by men who never heard a woman talking. She studied the Holy Bible that she interpreted in the light of what seemed to be divine inspiration. She generally believed in the principles of Puritan orthodoxy but was at odds with the prevailing cultural attitudes when she talked about equality and women's rights. She spoke with such authority that she quickly sowed confusion within the government of the colony.

She created in particular at her home conversation groups where everyone could speak freely about his faith but also went on other matters as damage to Indians or the problem of slavery. She studied the Bible in-depth and her spiritual interpretation differed widely from the one that was formally taught.
She challenged, among others, the usual reading of the story of Adam and Eve to the extent that it was used as a pretext to accuse women of being the cause of original sin. She also attacked the rules and laws among the Puritans as well as the clergy authority. She subsequently attracted more and more followers up to Henry Vane, governor of Massachusetts Bay, even receiving home over 80 people.
The retort did not delay. Criticism first displayed in mysogine terms but Anne did not fold. Called the modern Jezabel, she was accused of infecting women with perverse and ignominious ideas about their dignity and their rights. Henry Vane had to renounce his governorship in favor of John Winthrop, a tireless opponent of her ideas who soon accused her of heresy and blasphemy. As for John Cotton, whom she knew since he was vicar in Lincolnshire, he was first one of her fervent supporters before retracting and become a violent opponent.


March, 1637 - Foundation of Cohannet (present-day Taunton) in the Plymouth colony

April 3, 1637 - a group of colonists from Saugus, in the Bay of Massachusetts, gets permission from the government of Plymouth to settle down on its territory. They found a village where are going to live about sixty families which will become the city of Sandwich.

April, 1637 - Dorothy Talbye appears before the Court of Salem for violence against her husband. She is condemned to be chained to a pole until she returns to normality.
She went regularly to the church of Salem when she began to turn in on herself and became prone to violent outbursts. Governor John Winthrop judged that she was suffering from mental disturbance certainly caused by a devilish influence. He ordered the involvement of the elder church members but she refused to listen and turned upon her own husband. In July 1637, she was publicly whipped for domestic violence. She stood then quiet before getting worse.

English forces in training at Salem 
April 23, 1637 -  200 Pequot warriors led by Wangunk sachem Sequin, attack the village of Wethersfield, in the Connecticut Valley. They kill 6 men and 3 women, cattle, horses, and abduct the two daughters of Abraham Swaine.

After the deadly raid operated by John Endecott in August 1636, the Massachusetts forces had returned home leaving the Connecticut settlers deal with angry Pequots. These had at first tried in vain to besiege Fort Saybrook and spent the rest of winter to join villages to their cause. The Western Niantics had sided with them but Mohegans and Narragansetts had, meanwhile, chosen the English camp. These did’nt have any sympathy for the Pequots who had taken over a part of their lands in 1622 and put rather their faith in Roger Williams of Providence, whom they considered a friend and who urged them to join the English.   
For his part, Director General of New Amsterdam Woutter Van Twiller sent a sloop from Manhattan with order to get back the two girls at any price. The Dutch met half a dozen Pequots on the Thames River banks (Mystic River) and offered them a ransom but they refused it. Lack of agreement, the captain decided to keep the Indians as hostages until the girls are made safe and sound to their parents.

The Wangunks lived in the South of Hartford. Their leader Sowhaeg (Sequin) had been in trouble with the Wetehersfield settlers, following which his tribe had to move to Mattabesett (now Middletown).

May 1, 1637 - the representatives chosen by the English settled along the Connecticut River hold their first General Court in Hartford. 

They took decision to train a group of armed men under the command of John Mason, from Windsor, and to declare war on the Pequots.

May 3, 1637 - Eager to confirm the revocation of the Massachusetts Bay Company charter, the king’s Privy Council appoints Sir Ferdinando Gorges to require administrators of the colony to return it to him 

Sir Gorges set sail to Boston but was never able to carry out his duties due to a damage in his boat.

Mystic massacre
May 26, 1637Mystic massacre
Captain John Mason and a party of 400 soldiers encircle the Pequot village of Misistuck (Mystic). They take advantage of the fact that their leader Sassacus and most of his warriors are missing to kill more than 600 Indians, mainly women and children.

While about thirty people had already died from Indian attacks, leaders of the Connecticut colonies had decided earlier this month to train their own troops and appointed Captain John Mason to head them. It consisted of 90 men who were joined by 70 Mohegan warriors. John Underhill and twenty men from Fort Saybrook provided additional help. These new forces had from the outset tried to seize Groton, the main Pequot village, but given up because it was well fortified. Mistakenly thinking that the English were left to Boston, Sachem Sassacus had decided to send his warriors to attack Hartford while John Mason had gone at the same time to the Narragansetts to get sure of their support.

John Mason setting fire to Mystic
Arriving at the wooden palisade of Mystic, John Mason estimated they were inside 600 to 700 Pequots, including many women and children in the absence of Sassacus and 150 of his warriors, left to Hartford. He set fire to the stockade and ordered the killing of all the inhabitants. There were only seven prisoners and no more than seven Pequots managed to escape into the woods. Narragansetts and Mohegans were dismayed by the behavior of the English forces they judged too violent and murderous. Turned off by the horrors of the so-called total war tactics, they preferred to go home. Mason justified himself afterward by pleading that he had acted in the name of God whose Pequots were enemies. He thought his mission accomplished and the troops were disbanded after a stop at Fort Saybrook where Lieutenant Gardiner gave them guns. Back in Mystic and horrified by the extent of the slaughter, Sassacus and his warriors did not delay to take the warpath.

John Mason (1602 - December 19, 1675)
A former lieutenant of the English army who had fought in the Netherlands under Thomas Fairfax's command, he emigrated to New England in 1632 and settled down in Dorchester, the representative of which he soon became at the General Court. Elected as a " free man " on March 4, 1634, he was appointed to a committee to locate new settlement places and to build fortifications at Dorchester, Charlestown and Castle Island. He joined the settlers of Massachusetts Bay eager to go further west and left in 1635 to Windsor, Connecticut, together with John Warnham and  Henry Wolcott. Knowing his  military experience, the General Court of Connecticut chose him on May 1, 1637 to train and command a new 90 men-force designed to fight the Pequots.

Fairfield Swamp Fight
May 27, 1637 - John Winthrop is reelected governor Massachusetts Bay after defeating Henry Vane, openly criticized for supporting Anne Hutchinson.

June, 1637 - the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies quarrel about the demarcation of their common border. The dividing line is finally set between Hingham and Scituate.
Duxbury is incorporated.



July 13-14, 1637 - Fairfield Swamp Fight 
Appointed by the General Court of Connecticut, captains Israel Stoughton, John Mason and a troop of 120 men, supported by 40 Mohegans led by their sachem Uncas, destroy the Pequot camp at Sasqua near present-day Fairfield, Connecticut.

After the Mystic massacre, Sassacus and the survivors of his tribe had roamed one moment along the coastline. They had during their trip killed 3 white men in retaliation, butchering and hanging their bodies on trees as a warning. They had eventually found refuge next to the Sasqua tribe which had some 200 members.
Their village was encircled by the English soldiers and most women and children allowed to release as well the Sasquas. Sassacus and nearly 300 Pequots refused then to surrender. About 180 Indians were captured while 100 warriors chose to remain with their sachem in the fight that followed. Most were killed or drowned in the surrounding swamps but Sassacus managed however in escaping during the night with a party of his men.
He sought help from the Mohawks not far from present-day New York but aware of the superiority of the English, these instead decided to kill him as well as his warriors. They sent his scalp to Hartford as a token of their friendship with the Connecticut colony.
It was during this battle that the Pequots used firearms for the first time.














July 28, 1637 - the Pequots who were able to escape from Sasqua are slain near Mystic by joint forces from Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The few survivors were mostly sent as slaves to Mohegan's and Narragansett's. Some even were sent to Bermuda and the British islands of Providence and Nevis, West Indies. The Pequot nation of which the number of killed is estimated to 1500, was simply blown off the map and its land shared between the winners. By showing their superior military organization, the English impressed especially by the ferociousness of their commitment.
The Pequot War remained one of the most badly interpreted events of the colonial period. Many documents testified the complex social, political, diplomatic and military relationships that divided at the time, the Indian Nations of the region. The Mohegans as much as Narragansetts chose in particular to fight alongside the English for their own territorial ambitions.

Summer 1637- Back from a trading expedition, Richard Thompson, who owns a plantation on Poplar Island (Talbot County, Maryland), finds on his way home the bodies of his wife, his children and servants, killed by Indians.

August 5, 1637 -  Massachusetts Indians leaders Wibbacowett and his wife Squaw Sachem (the widow of paramount leader Nanapashemit, killed in 1619 during the Tarratine War), Tahattawants, Nataquatick (alias Old Man) and Karte (alias Goodman) give up Nahshawtuck hunting grounds (present-day Concord) located 30 miles West of Boston. Simon Willard, John Jones and Mr. Spencer, the first settlers in this area, agree to barter with the Indians in exchange for game and raccoons (the flesh of which is of clearly lower quality than lamb).

Wouter Van Twiller
August 30, 1637 - To meet the strife caused by the teachings of Anne Hutchinson, a synod consisted of 25 puritan clergymen takes place in Newtown to clarify the religious doctrine.

September 2, 1637 - Accused of mismanagement, religious intolerance and illicit trade, Director General of the New Netherland, Wouter Van Twiller is dismissed and replaced by merchant Willem Kieft.


Van Twiller's governship matched with the golden age of the Dutch West India Company. A string of windmills recovered then the heights of Manhattan, like a guarantee of prosperity. It has been said that Van Twiller worked more on defending his own interests than those of the Company, that he was profligate and dishonest but there is actually little evidence to support these charges. He had, however, a  rather difficult life as it compensated for his friendliness and a forceful character. He was certainly a talented agronomist and devoted himself to the development of dairy farming, fruit growing and agriculture. He restored the fort, built many mills. The Indians yielded him large portions of their lands and he knew to develop trade with them. They became friends and continued long after his leaving, to consider him as a benefactor. His knowledge of the country and livestock allowed him, in addition, to become the biggest farmer of New Netherlands, after "patroons". Confident in the future of the colony, he had bought 15,000 acres of land consisting of small islands and part of Long Island.
He maybe abused his position and too much favored including Rensselaerwijk patroons. It is clear that while the farms of the Company hardly paid their operational expenses, Van Twiller and some of his friends grew rich and purchased the best lands. He eventually had against him people of common sense, then servicemen, clergy and at last all the settlers.

Anne Hutchinson preaching at home

 November 7, 1637 - after debate, the General Court of Massachusetts Bay decides to banish Anne Hutchinson, known as a heretic and an instrument of the devil. Her accusers include minister John Eliot, a missionary to the Indians who will translate into Nantic the first Bible printed in America.

Considered as a woman not fit for their society, the members of the Court ordered to put her under house arrest until following March, pending her trial.  

John Eliot (May 1604 - 1690) 
Born at Widford, Hertfordshire, he studied at Jesus College, Cambridge. Arrived to Boston on November 3, 1631 aboard the Lyon, he was soon promoted to an instructor's position in Roxbury church, led by Thomas Hooker.

Autum, 1637 - After several years without real government, the residents of Dover (New Hampshire) and the Piscataque form a "Combination" headed Rev. George Burdett.
George Burdett was known as a representative of the church of England and his appointment was hardly palatable to nearby Puritan Massachusetts.

November 12,1637  - minister John Wheelwright is sentenced to banishment by the General Court of Massachusetts. He has to leave the colony within 14 days.

December 31, 1637 - Peter Minuit and a group of Swedish settlers leave the port of Gotteborg aboard the Kalmar Nickel and the Fogel Grip planning to base a new colony on the Delaware River. The expedition has been overseen by admiral Klas Fleming.

Former Director General of the New Netherlands Peter Minuit, had been relieved of his duties in 1631 by the Dutch West India Company. He was then befriended with Willem Usselincx, another disappointed by the Company who had informed him of the efforts made by the Swedes to founds a colony. He concluded in 1636 an agreement with Samuel Blommaert and the Swedish government to create the first Scandinavian colony of the New World. This settlement which would take the name of New Sweden will be located near the mouth of the Delaware River on a land previously claimed by the Dutch, near present-day Wilmington.


Anne Hutchinson facing Puritan ministers

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