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1630 Through The Pequot War



*** NOTE: See the Key in each section of Sources for Abbreviations ***


1500?-1600    Sachem Tamaquashad and “Mahican” people migrate into Connecticut country from regions south of “Albany” on the Hudson. Tamaquashad is a.k.a. Pekoath, or Pequot (Caulkins 1895: 221: 1), and these “Mahicans” become known as Mohegans and Pequots. Also, c.1600 their Sachem is one Wopigwooit (Woppequoit), poss. known to the Dutch as Tatobem (Caulkins 1895: 21; DeForest 73; Cave 298n34). Salwen reports evidence (65; and 1969) for “ situ development” on Connecticut lands; Salisbury agrees (263n82). Good differing analysis of Uncas’ “Genealogy” in WCL1: 115-116n11.

Some Algonquian-speakers use “Pequot” or Paquatauog (Peale) to signify “Destroyer”; for the Mohegans/Pequots rapidly establish home territory of appr. 30 sq. mi. between the Niantic and Pawcatuck Rivers, from the Atlantic coast to inland headwaters of the Pequot/Thames River abutting Nipmuc lands. With as many as 13,000 persons just before “Contact” (Starna 46; Snow Archaeology 34, 39), the Mohegans/Pequots impose wider “tributary” status on neighboring peoples by intermarriage, control of trade and force of arms.

Affected peoples include the Niantics, split into Eastern poss. under Sequeen (Salisbury 277n14), and Western under Sassious (Swanton 1952: 1, Brasser 1971: 68); as well as southern Nipmucs of “Quinabaag” (Drake 104, Gookin 7); the small “River Tribes,” from the Weekapaug River (eastern RI) south to “New Haven” Bay, and the Long Island Shinnecock (Gardener 138). Only the more numerous Narragansetts can “successfully stand up to” the Pequots (Soulsby 2). Trade, marriage and feud continue into “Contact” times.

1590?        Pequot Sachem Wopigwooit/Tatobem’s main village stands on Pequot Hill (in “Groton”) near the Mystic River, site of the 1637 assault. His braves fight three “battles” (DeForest 54-61) with those of Sequeen/Sequassen: the latter takes refuge among Narragansetts, with many Niantics. Tatobem’s son, Sassacus, lives 5 mi. west at Noank (Fort Hill, a.k.a. Pequot/New London), on the Thames/Pequot River. Drake (1833 [2001]: 104) calls it Weinshauks. Sassacus’ “tributaries” include as many as 26 villages (McBride, Peale, DYW 126).

1614         Dutch adventurer Adriaen Block explores Connecticut coasts and records “Pequatoos...enemies of the Wapanoos [Wappingers?]” (DeLaet in Jameson 1909: 42-3). His map locates “Pequats” west of Mystic River, “Morhicans” west of Pequot/Thames.

NOTE: For more evidences on origins of the Mohegans under Sachem Uncas (at Shantok/Uncasville) see 1627 and 1634 below. Cave 66 cites Weinstein 1991, Means 26-33 on clues that Mohegans were a “distinct separate” people, whose Sachems disputed Pequot hunting-rights north of main Pequot villages (Salisbury 206).

Gardener (G136) and Mason (M20) say they “had but that year [1637] come from the Pequots.”

1616-1618      Amid increasing transatlantic contacts, European diseases ravage Native New England, killing up to 90% of Massachusetts and other groups. The Narragansetts reportedly suffer “less” than most (FBH1: 223), but by 1637, Mohegan/Pequot numbers fall by 77% (Starna 46; Orr viii). Their powerful reputation persists (Wood 80, “a stately warlike people.. .just and equal in their dealings”) though reduced to about 3000 persons.

1620        England’s Puritan “Pilgrims” arrive at Patuxet/Plimoth, Massachusetts. Promising 1621 tribal treaties give way to rancor, fort-construction, mutual suspicions of attack-conspiracies.

1622-1623        Wessagussett/ first Weymouth Colony (MA) begins and disperses on Mass. Bay: English misunderstandings of and disregard for Native and transatlantic practices, plus rivalries with Plimoth, bring about a “massacre” with most deaths on the Native side(s).

1624                    Thomas Morton’s Ma-Re Mount (Merrymount) on Mass. Bay begins, soon to thrive by transatlantic methods incl. gun-trade, cohabitation and “revels.” Morton’s Canaan (1637) notes “trade and traffic” with Pequots through the region.

1627       Mohegan/Pequot Sachem Uncas marries daughter of Sachem Tatobem (M7; Johnson 31), giving him “royal” affiliation as brother-in-law of Sassacus. The Dutch bring wampum-trade to Plimoth (Robinson 19). The trade’s gradual expansion greatly enriches both Narragansetts and Pequots.

1629            Mass. Bay Company “advance men” under Capt. Endecott settle Salem. Thomas Morton returns after first arrest/exile by Plimoth.

1630       “The Great Migration” begins as Massachusetts Bay Colony founded under Puritan Governor John Winthrop, Sr. Morton’s Ma-Re Mount plantation burned, Morton hoisted out of the country to begin 13-year second exile, and lawsuit.

1631    Plimoth’s Edward Winslow travels Connecticut River regions. Several Sachems (Podunk, Wagincut and other Pequot “tributaries”) visit Boston to invite English traders, are refused (WJH1: 61). Sassacus struggles to hold his 26 villages together incl. those of Wequash and Soso on banks of Pawcatuck River (Salisbury 210, Cave 56). Narragansetts under Canonicus and Miantonomo reportedly hope to ally with the English against Pequots.

1632        Miantonomo visits Gov. Winthrop’s house at Boston. JUNE: Pequot Sachem Tatobem allows Dutch West Indian Co. to establish Fort New Hope at Dutch Point (near future Hartford: Jennings 188; NY Coll. Docs. II: 139-140). Plimothers too obtain rights from Sachem Natawanute (FBH2: 301, Salwen 173); but smallpox kills most Natives of the area within 2 years.

1633       Another epidemic decimates Native New England through 1634, incl. 700 Narragansetts (Salisbury 191; WJH1: 118). English/Dutch rivalries over Connecticut land and Pequot trade increase as colonist John Oldham and others explore and plan to establish Wethersfield and Windsor “above” the Dutch river-post, to intercept rich fur-trade from the north. By next year, they secure permission from local Wangunk Sachem Sowheag (Peale 23).

The Pequots kill several (Narragansett?) Native people poss. trying to trade at Dutch Point. The Dutch close down the post: the Narragansetts prepare for war (DeForest 72-3; Salisbury 82, 210; Jennings 189; Cave 58-9).

1634        The Dutch take Pequot Tatobem hostage: when they receive ransom, they murder him (DeForest 72-3; Salisbury 263, 289). Mamoho (FBH2: 257) becomes Sachem of Mystic Village/Fort: Sassacus becomes Pequot Great Sachem at Weinshauks/Noank, and pursues justice.

Mohegan Uncas conflicts with Sassacus over Pequot Sachemship, for which Uncas has made five attempts. Councils confirm Sassacus. Uncas is exiled to the Narragansetts, returns forgiven, is driven out again (DeForest, Johnson).

MAY: A letter from Thomas Morton announces King Charles’ voiding of the Mass. Bay charter for various abuses of powers. Boston resolves to resist seizure of their charter, begins to fortify the harbor.

The Mohegans’ numbers? Roger Williams (WCL1: 117) claims “not above 40 or 50,” others say 70 braves, 400-500 people (U67); poss. 1700 persons (more citations end of Mystic Fiasco Ch. 6). They settle not far up the Pequot/Thames River near Montville. As Soulsby (3) summarizes records, the Mohegans bitterly resent Sassacus, but lack adequate allies to “overwhelm” his Pequots.

The Narragansetts invite John Oldham to live/trade on Dutch Island: he declines (WJH1: 146; WPF3: 502). Western Niantics, Pequots strike on the Connecticut River (U56-8), killing Virginia interloper Capt. Stone (banished by Mass. Bay), Capt. Norton and crew in revenge for Tatobem (WPF3: 177, WJH1: 138-40; Jennings 189, 195).

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER    Trade halted, the Pequots invite Mass. Bay to establish relations, ask help ending Narragansett conflict (WJH1: 138-9, 148- 9, Cave 124-7). Boston demands Stone’s killers: Pequots try to explain their justice. Narragansetts watch closely, accept English mediation (Cave 70). This Mass. Bay/Pequot “treaty” maintains peace till 1636, but parties’ different understandings of it become manifest (WJH1: 199, DeForest 104).

1635       As English with Samuel Stone/Wm. Goodwin establish Hartford (Peale 23), English under John Winthrop Jr. and Lion Gardener (for Lords Say/Brook) erect Saybrook Fort on the Connecticut River, against further Dutch access (Drake 188). SUMMER-OCTOBER: Religious/social issues within Mass. Bay Colony result in migrations to “river towns” Wethersfield, Hartford, Windsor. Plimoth’s claims and colonists there are effectively forced out (Soulsby “Pequot” 4; Jennings 196-7, 203; Cave 99).

1636         March: Henry Vane (younger) defeats Winthrop for Boston governorship, latter becomes “deputy.” May: Rev. Hooker and more Mass. Bay colonists migrate to Connecticut river-towns, secure permission from Suckiaug Sachem Sequassen/ Sequin to plant “six large miles into the wilderness” (Peale 23). June: Plimoth’s Jon. Brewster (WPF3: 271) reports statements by Uncas that Sassacus killed Stone’s men and planned to attack a Plimoth boat. Uncas also says the Pequots are “certain of an English attack,” as river-town colonists hold “training days” and make “indiscreet speeches” (V101; Jennings 202).

Mohegan numbers-estimates now range from “too few for a deer hunt” to “less than 400” (Johnson 31), from “not fifty adult men” to 600 persons (WCL1: 117, 119; Mooney 1928: 4).

Sassacus’ Pequots, at war with Dutch and uneasy with English newcomers, repeat efforts to make peace with Canonicus’/ Miantonomo’s Narragansetts (Bradford 1962: 182). Summer: Roger Williams banished from Mass. Bay amid Antinomian and other controversies: Narragansetts permit his “Providence” homestead (Salisbury 212).

JULY:  Mass. Bay’s Gov. Vane informs Winthrop Jr. at Saybrook of Boston’s ultimatum: Pequots must either fulfill 1634 treaty (as construed by Mass. Bay), or consider it void and English “revenge” imminent (Salisbury 212). At Saybrook Fort, Pequot negotiators and W. Niantic Sachem Sassious meet with Gardener, Winthrop Jr. and others. The English demand surrender of Stone’s killers and 1634’s massive “treaty tributes.” As Pequots hold to their views, Sassious places his people under Winthrop Jr.’s “protection,” but they realign with Pequots as hostilities begin (WPF3: 285; M34; WCL1: 69; Jennings 204).

Amid July stalemate, trader John Oldham is killed near Block Island, most likely “at random” by E. Niantic sagamore Audsah (WJH1: 189-92, WPF3: 412, 500; and see 1639). By Aug. 8, Miantonomo’s Narragansetts have “good success” avenging Oldham (WPF3: 192). But on AUGUST 25, Mass. Bay sends John Endecott, Underhill and soldiers to kill “the men of Block Island” and “from thence,” hopefully to the Pequots “to draw them to a parley, and so to some quiet end” Vane/Winthrop in FBH2: 243; WPF3: 193).

After costly failures at Block Island, Endecott lands at Saybrook, is scolded by Gardener for “raising wasps” with hostile actions. Delayed by Pequot diplomatic feints, Endecott attacks villages/crops along Connecticut River (DeForest 96-99). Pequots harrass Saybrook, seek negotiations, safety for noncombatants. “Rebuffed” by Gardener (Jennings 213), Pequots again seek alliance with Narragansetts (Cave 124-7).

Since May, Mass. Bay has outcast Williams monitor/discourage any Pequot-Narragansett alliance (4 MHSC6: 189); Williams Letters 6: 231-2). For 3 days, Williams does his “utmost” to foil their plans (WCL2: 611). With his help, Gov. Vane makes a treaty with Narragansetts (WJH1: 198, FBH2: 243); but the Antinomian Vane departs for England by next August.

Williams, poss. via Miantonomo, sends Boston a sketch-map of Pequot home territory (MHSC3: 1: 161; rpt. FBH2: 250), and urges a stealth-attack led by alienated Pequots Wequash and Wuttack­quiackommin, “valiant men” living 3-4 years with Narragansetts, and who “know every pass and passage” (Drake 105). Later, Williams notes that Wequash “was suspected to deal falsely when he went to hunt for the Pequots” (WPF3: 450). Neither individual plays any recorded role in the war.

OCTOBER: At Boston, Miantonomo pledges mostly neutrality against Pequots (Williams Correspondence 1: 72-3; WJH1: 199, 3: 237-8; DeForest 104). Nov.: As-yet unmolested river-towns “mock” Gardener’s plea for help at Saybrook (Jennings 215; Cave 128-33). Acc. to Salisbury (214-5), Mass. Bay Sachem Cutshamekin (brother of Neponset’s Chikatawbak) is “most effective” arguing that Narragansetts should abandon the Pequots. Miantonomo offers a Narragansett attack on Pequots with Mass. Bay assent but is refused (WPF3: 411-14; WCL1: 78-9).

1637        APRIL: Boston General Court authorizes levy of men and taxes for war. Miantonomo visits Williams, agrees to help Boston if they “spare women and children” (Robinson 23; WPF3: 414). Mass. Bay plans 200-man assault by June (Jennings Invasion 215), but divisions among colonial parties persist (Cave 136-8). Wethersfield’s English evict (and later reinstate) local Native people. They appeal to the Pequots, who attack Wethersfield April 23 (WJH1: 213; WPF3: 407- 8). May: The river-towns commission Capt. John Mason and 90 men to make “offensive war” on the Pequots (FBH2: 249). He and Capt. Underhill (Saybrook Company with 20 men) arrive at Saybrook (WJH1: 217), as Rev. Hooker urges Winthrop/Boston to “execution” and “not to do this work of The Lord’s revenge slackly” (WPF3: 408).

Mason’s/Underhill’s commission calls for attack on Sassacus’ Weinshauks (WPF3: 407-8). At Saybrook, Gardener doubts the adequacy of Mason’s forces, and Uncas’/Mohegans’ loyalty: Uncas kills several nearby Natives assumed to be Pequots (WJH1: 223-4).

For reasons much debated (see Cave 209n47 vs. Jennings 218-221; Ch. 1 here), the English captains decide to attack not Weinshauks but Pequot Sachem Mamoho’s Mystic “from the rear.” They sail to Miantonomo’s village, join with their and E. Niantic “auxiliaries.” Boston’s Capt. Patrick (via runner) urges Mason to wait for his 40 soldiers (WPF3: 421). Mason arranges Pequot River rendezvous with him instead.

MAY 23 (approx.)     Mason’s/Underhill’s force marches overland, pass through East Niantic Ninigret’s village. Complaints are rife at “desertions” of Native allies through the action (WPF3: 411, FBH2: 252; Orr xvi-xvii). Williams later works “to perswade” the English they are gone “for provision” or to attack other Pequot forts (WPF3: 426).

MAY 26: At dawn the English surround Mystic Village/Fort and attack. Native allies waver between weak participation and withdrawal (WPF3: 427). As this book argues, Mystic by now is likely an empty decoy. Acc. To Winthrop (WJH1: 225), slain Pequots include “two chief sachems,” 150 braves and 150 women/children. Accounts in Orr disagree with higher estimates.

At Weinshauks, Sassacus’ main force learns of the attack (Jennings 225). Pequot braves assault Narragansetts/Mohegans and the English, who retreat with many wounded (“opprest with multitudes...wanting powder and...arrows” (Williams in WPF3: 426). They manage rendezvous with Capt. Patrick sailing their boats, who sees their state, hesitates to land (WJH1: 223-4). Patrick and Underhill collide.

With Underhill embarked for Saybrook, Mason and Patrick march there too, attack W. Niantic allies of Pequots (M34). More Pequots flee to Ninigret’s E. Niantic villages (Drake 106; Ch. 5 here). Some take refuge in Mystic’s Owl’s Nest Swamp (FBH2: 249). Through summer, others flee to Long Island, to Quinnipiac and Nipmuc villages and, beyond, to the Mohawks. “At least 300” Natives (likely W. Niantics, M42-3) defend Pequots as “good men,” skirmish with Uncas’ Mohegans.

English captains, supplied with many towns” levies of men (Orr x, xii, xiv) pursue Pequots and Sassacus (M36-9; WPF3: 427-31, 451- 53; Cave overview 157-162). Orr: records show “ exterminate and to follow up the advantage gained” (x). Underhill records 1500 “souls” killed in 2 months (U49).

At last, rumors report Sassacus, Mystic’s Mamoho and many others “fled up toward the [Mohawks]” (WPF3: 451, 456: Mamoho’s wife/children captured, 457). Williams (452) reports that “The body of the [Pequot] men yet live, and are only removed from their dens”---and adds “suspicions” of “new” Pequot/Mohawk alliance. Winthrop tells Wm. Bradford of estimates that Pequots “slain and taken [are] in all about 700,” that “the Indians in all quarters [are] so terrified, as all their friends are afraid to receive them” (457). By August Winthrop estimates 800-900 Pequot casualties (DYW 127).

Acc. to Williams via Miantonomo (WPF3: 448), Sassacus must “beg” allies for help. August: Acc. to Winthrop (WJH1: 229, DYW 127), Messrs. Ludlow and Pynchon present to Boston what they (and they alone) claim is “part of the skin and lock of hair” of Sassacus. Bradford (2:258) suggests Narragansetts “hired” Mohawks to kill Sassacus, but Mamoho and others are spared.

E. Niantic Sachem Ninigret refuses to surrender “his” Pequots (DYW 131); is later “delinquent” paying English tributes and “inveigling with the Mohawks” (Vaughan 172, 378n39). By 1645 amid new tensions, Ninigret says that “No Englishman should step out of his door to piss, but killed.” Mason (M40) and Uncas’ braves drive Pequots from Pawcatuck River village, and they become Mohegans. Miantonomo complains of many English lies/injustices to “friends” (Robinson 24).

Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan is printed and distributed this year.

1638     MARCH: Antinomian exiles incl. Anne Hutchinson remove to “Portsmouth” RI. JUNE: Mohegan Sachem Uncas, refuting Narragansett accusations, promises to “submit” to English rule “touching the Pequots he had” (WJH1: 271; Williams in WPF3: 496). Acc. to Johnson’s citations (35), Mohegan numbers jump from “400 to 600” pre-war to 2,500 “six years later.”

SEPTEMBER 21: Treaty of Hartford (rpt. in Vaughan 340) divides “200 Pequot…men besides squaws and papooses” among Narragansetts/ Mohegans: the conquered “shall no more be called Pequots but” members of the latter nations. Underhill’s Newes from America and Vincent’s True Relation published. Masons composition uncertain (see Chs. 4-5 here, Mather/Drake ed.). Gardener’s chronicle in mss. till 1833 (3 MHSC 3: 131-160).

Acc. to Burgess (42-3), McBride (97, 105) and Salisbury (“Indians” 83), Pequots gather at Stonington (Eastern) and Mashantucket (Groton). They are forbidden their tribal and home-river’s name (G120), language; cannot trade or provide own subsistence; “whites” also forbidden to live with them. By 1675 their religion is also “illegal,” but no Christian conversions are recorded.

1639    MAY: Miantonomo denied Boston’s permission to take in more Pequots (Williams 1988: 1: 196). June: Acc. to Dutch David de Vries (Voyages 86), the “real” killer of Capt. Stone (poss. Audsah) boasts of the act on the Connecticut River (Jennings 227). Earlier (Aug. 1637, DYW 128; WJH1: 237), Narragansetts had “sent us the hands of three Pequots. the chief of those who murdered ...Stone.”

1640      SEPTEMBER: Winthrop (WJH2: 6-7) and Bradford begin to worry rumors of Narragansett-Mohawk alliance against New England.

1641        AUGUST: Miantonomo visits Montauk, Long Island, to appeal for pan-Native alliance (G142; Robinson 22, 27-8). Sachem Waiandance/Wyandot reports it to Boston, thence to Uncas (Sainsbury 1971: 118-19).

Thomas Morton witnesses new charter to Agamenticus (York, Maine). Financial woes and rising Puritan opposition prevent any action against Mass. Bay charter. Approx. 20,000 Puritans now in New England: Mass. Bay Body of Liberties includes formal recognition of slavery. Eve of The English Civil War.

1643       New England’s Articles of Confederation (WJH2: 100-105) link Mass. Bay, Plimoth, Connecticut, New Haven and exclude Providence. Miantonomo and Narragansetts allow Mass. Bay dissident Samuel Gorton to settle at Warwick RI. Gardener (G119) numbers  Mohegans at “about 70 or perhaps a few more” on 3000 acres at Montville.

MAY: As United Colonies of New England form (WJH2: 131-2), Uncas attacks a kinsman of Miantonomo’s (Sequassen). Mass. Bay sanctions Miantonomo’s revenge, loans body-armor; but Uncas captures Miantonomo at Shantok fight (Drake 64-5). Sept.: Miantonomo held at Hartford. The United Colonies’ com­missioners’ first official act orders him killed (Cave 167), and 5 of 50 Native “elders” assent to his murder by “friend to the English” Uncas (FBH2: 364-66; Drake 65, 90; Jennings 268-9). Narragansett­-Mohegan bitterness increases (WPF3: 444).

That same year, the Narragansetts appeal to beleaguered King Charles I “not to be forced from their religion” or “invaded by war” for refusing (in Pulsifer ed., Acts of the United Colonies 2: 43-9).

AUGUST:  Thomas Morton seals his will and returns to New England. In September of next year he is imprisoned at Boston so that evidence can be gathered against him.

1644     Plimoth’s Winslow (WPF4: 427-8) informs Winthrop that “the Narragansetts prepare for war [and] the Mohawks have promised [them]...a thousand men” (also in Gardener G140-142). Winslow reports also the Dutch killing of Capt. Patrick in Underhill’s presence.

1645     SPRING    Thomas Morton, his health apparently broken, is released by Mass. Bay, joins West Country planters at Agamenticus. According to friend Maverick, he dies “soon after.” A problematic Winthrop Journal entry (of this year) states anachronistically that Morton dies there about “two years” later.

1650       After assisting United Colonies war against Ninigret’s Niantics (Johnson 43), Pequots receive 500 acres at Noank. McBride, Burgess detail the Pequots’ subtle forms of cultural syncretism and long-term maneuvering (via leaders such as Robin Cassasinamon and many later others) to preserve tribal identity through the 20th century’s and today’s “renaissance.”

1675-76         Captain Benjamin Church, the most successful tactical officer of “King Philip’s War,” describes his own struggles with fellow colonists’ persistently unsuccessful tactics in his Entertaining Passages (Slotkin ed., 403-4, 412):

        Mr. Church now begins (no succor coming to him) to think it time to retreat, saying The Lord have mercy on us, if such a handful of Indians shall thus dare such an Army! Upon this, it is immediately resolved, and orders are given, to march down into [Mount Hope] Neck...

          “There Philip [the son of Massasoit, Metacomet, the Wampanoag leader] has staved all his drums, and conveyed all his canoes to the east side of Mattapoysett River. Hence it is concluded, by those that were acquainted with the motions of those people, that they have quitted the Neck...which they soon find to be true.


        “The enemy are not really beaten out of Mount Hope Neck, though it is true they fled from thence; yet it was before any pursued them. It was but to strengthen themselves, and to gain a more advantageous post. However, some and not a few [Englishmen] please themselves with the fancy of a mighty conquest.

         “A grand council is held, and a resolve passes, to build a Fort there....And to speak the truth, it must be said that as they gain not that field by their sword, nor their bow, so it is rather their fear than their courage that obliges them to set up the marks of their conquest.

       “Mr. Church looks upon it, and talks of it with contempt.... [He] had rather do anything in the world than stay there to build the fort....[While] these things are [happening], Philip makes his escape, leaving his country, flees over Taunton River, and Rehoboth Plain, and Patuxet River....And now another Fort is built at Pocasset, that proves as troublesome and chargeable as that at Mount Hope…while our enemies are fled some hundreds of miles into the country, near as far as Albany. And now strong suspicions begin to arise of the Narragansett Indians, that they are ill affected, and design mischief….”


1983    The United States Federal Government recognizes the Pequots.






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