By Captain John Mason.
THE Pequot Indians, numbering some three thousand and inhabiting Connecticut and Rhode Island, murdered an English trader named John Oldham, who had maltreated them, and subsequently scalped seven members of an armed force sent against them to demand retribution. This "outrage," as the English regarded it, so enraged the colonists that the extermination of the Pequots was decided upon.
Influenced by Roger Williams, the neighboring tribes pledged their neutrality, and the Pequots, left to fight alone, fortified themselves near the Mystic River. Against them was sent a force of Connecticut colonists under Captain Mason, who gives this account of the massacre in the third person.
The fort was stormed and the tribe was virtually destroyed. After this exploit Captain Mason became Deputy Governor of Connecticut and long presided as Chief Judge of the colony.
AFTER a march of some eighteen to twenty miles (along Narragansett Bay) we camped with our Indian allies for the night. Purposing to make our assault before day, we roused early, and briefly commended ourselves and design to God, thinking immediately to go to the assault; the Indians showing us a path, told us that it led directly to the fort. We held on our march about two miles, wondering that we came not to the fort, and fearing we might be deluded. But seeing corn newly planted at the foot of a great hill, supposing the fort was not far off, a Champaign country being round about us, then making a stand, gave the word for some of the Indians to come up. At length Onkos and one Wequash appeared. We demanded of them, "Where is the fort?" They answered, "On the top of that hill." Then we demanded, "Where are the rest of the Indians?" They answered, "Behind, exceedingly afraid." We wished them to tell the rest of their fellows that they should by no means fly, but stand at what distance they pleased, and see whether Englishmen would now fight or not.
Then Captain Underhill came up, who marched in the rear; and commending ourselves to God, divided our men, there being two entrances into the fort, intending to enter both at once; Captain Mason leading up to that on the north-east side, who approaching within one rod, heard a dog bark and an Indian crying "Owanux! Owanux!" which is "Englishmen! Englishmen!" We called up our forces with all expedition, gave fire upon them through the palisade; the Indians being in a dead, indeed their last sleep. Then we wheeling off fell upon the main entrance, which was blocked up with bushes about breast high, over which the captain passed, intending to make good the entrance, encouraging the rest to follow. Lieutenant Seeley endeavored to enter; but being somewhat cumbered, stepped back and pulled out the bushes and so entered, and with him about about sixteen men. We had formerly concluded to destroy them by the sword and save the plunder.
Whereupon Captain Mason seeing no Indians, entered a wigwam ; where he was beset with many Indians, waiting all opportunities to lay hands on him, but could not prevail. At length William Hey-don espying the breach in the wigwam, supposing some English might be there, entered; but in his entrance fell over a dead Indian; but speedily recovering himself, the Indians some fled, others crept under their beds. The captain going out of the wigwam saw many Indians in the lane or street; he making towards them, they fled, were pursued to the end of the lane, where they were met by Edward Pattison, Thomas Barber, with some others ; where seven of them were slain, as they said. The captain facing about, marched a slow pace up the lane he came down, perceiving himself very much out of breath ; and coming to the other end near the place where he first entered, saw two soldiers standing close to the palisado with their swords pointed to the ground. The captain told them that we should never kill them after that manner. The captain also said, "We must burn them" ; and immediately stepping into the wigwam where he had been before, brought out a fire-brand, and putting it into the mats with which they were covered, set the wigwams on fire. Lieutenant Thomas Bull and Nicholas Omsted beholding, came up; and when it was thoroughly kindled, the Indians ran as men most dreadfully amazed.
And indeed such a dreadful terror did the Almighty let fall upon their spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very flames, where many of them Perished. And when the fort was thoroughly fired, command was given, that all should fall off and surround the fort; which was readily attended by all; only one Arthur Smith being so wounded that he could not move out of the place, who was happily espied by Lieutenant Bull, and by him rescued.
The fire was kindled on the north-east side to windward; which did swiftly overrun the fort, to the extreme amazement of the enemy, and great rejoicing of ourselves. Some of them climbing to the top of the palisado; others of them running into the very flames; many of them gathering to windward, lay pelting at us with their arrows ; and we repaid them with our small shot. Others of the stoutest issued forth, as we did guess, to the number of forty, who perished by the sword.
What I have formerly said, is according to my own knowledge, there being sufficient living testimony to every particular.
But in reference to Captain Underhill and his parties acting in this assault, I can only intimate as we were informed by some of themselves immediately after the fight. Thus they marching up to the entrance on the south-west side, there made some pause; a valiant, resolute gentleman, one Mr. Hedge, stepping towards the gate, saying, "If we may not enter, wherefore came we here," and immediately endeavored to enter; but was opposed by a sturdy Indian which did impede his entrance; but the Indian being slain by himself and Sergeant Davis, Mr. Hedge entered the fort with some others; but the fort being on fire, the smoke and flames were so violent that they were constrained to desert the fort.
Thus were they now at their wits end, who not many hours before exalted themselves in their great pride, threatening and resolving the utter ruin and destruction of all the English, exulting and rejoicing with songs and dances. But God was above them, who laughed his enemies and the enemies of his people to scorn, making them as a fiery oven. Thus were the stout-hearted spoiled, having slept their last sleep, and none of their men could find their hands. Thus did the Lord judge among the heathen, filling the place with dead bodies!
And here we may see the just judgment of God, in sending even the very night before this assault, one hundred and fifty men from their other fort, to join with them of that place, who were designed as some of themselves reported to go forth against the English, at that very instant when this heavy stroke came upon them, where they perished with their fellows. So that the mischief they intended to us, came upon their own pate. They were taken in their own snare, and we through mercy escaped. And thus in little more than one hour's space was their impregnable fort with themselves utterly destroyed, to the number of six or seven hundred, as some of themselves confessed. There were only seven taken captive, and about seven escaped.
Of the English, there were two slain outright, and about twenty wounded. Some fainted by reason of the sharpness of the weather, it being a cool morning, and the want of such comforts and necessaries as were needful in such a case; especially our surgeon was much wanting, whom we left with our barks in Narragansett Bay, who had order there to remain until the night before our intended assault.
And thereupon grew many difficulties: Our provision and munition near spent; we in the enemy's country, who did far exceed us in number, being much enraged; all our Indians, except Onkos, deserting us; our pinnaces at a great distance from us, and when they would come we were uncertain.
But as we were consulting what course to take, it pleased God to discover our vessels to us before a fair gale of wind, sailing into Pequot harbor, to our great rejoicing.