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Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.

Vol. II. The Beginnings of Americanism: 1650–1710

William Hubbard

WILLIAM HUBBARD, a New England clergyman of decided historical bent, was born in England in 1621, and died in 1704 at Ipswich, where he had been pastor from 1665 until a year before his death. He was brought to New England as a child in 1630, and was graduated at Harvard in 1642. A friend describes him as “hospitable, amiable, equal to any of his contemporaries in learning and candor, and superior to all as a writer,” but the specimens that we present will hardly bear out the last judgment. His abilities were, however, highly regarded by his fellow New Englanders, for the Government commissioned him to write a history of New England, for the manuscript of which he was paid fifty pounds. This was not then printed, and barely escaped destruction by the mob that burned Governor Hutchinson’s house in 1765. It was rescued by Dr. Andrew Elliot and presented by his son to the Massachusetts Historical Society, by whom it was printed in 1815. It is more voluminous than interesting, and is not represented in our selections. His Narrative of the Trouble with the Indians of New England, a less ambitious but very popular work, a volume of sermons, and a Testimony of the Order of the Gospel in Churches, alone appeared in the lifetime of their author. Our selections are taken from the Narrative of the Troubles, a book which, with many others dealing with the subject of Indian warfare, aroused breathless interest around New England firesides.

The Beginning of Hostilities.
[From “A Narrative of the Indian Wars in New England.” 1677.]

THE OCCASION of Philip’s so sudden taking up arms the last year, was this: There was one John Sausaman, a very cunning and plausible Indian, well skilled in the English language, and bred up in the profession of Christian Religion, employed as a schoolmaster at Natick, the Indian Town, who upon some misdemeanor fled from his place to Philip, by whom he was entertained in the room and office of secretary, and his chief councillor, whom he trusted with all his affairs and secret counsels. But afterwards, whether upon the sting of his own conscience, or by the frequent solicitations of Mr. Eliot, that had known him from a child, and instructed him in the principles of our religion, who was often laying before him the heinous sin of his apostacy, and returning back to his old vomit; he was at last prevailed with to forsake Philip, and return back to the Christian Indians at Natick where he was baptized, manifested public repentance for all his former offences, and made a serious profession of the Christian Religion: and did apply himself to preach to the Indians, wherein he was better gifted than any other of the Indian nation; so as he was observed to conform more to the English manners than any other Indian: yet having occasion to go up with some others of his countrymen to Namasket, whether for the advantage of fishing or some such occasion, it matters not; being there not far from Philip’s country, he had occasion to be much in the company of Philip’s Indians, and of Philip himself: by which means he discerned by several circumstances that the Indians were plotting anew against us; the which out of faithfulness to the English the said Sausaman informed the Governor of; adding also, that if it were known that he revealed it, he knew they would presently kill him. There appearing so many concurrent testimonies from others, making it the more probable, that there was certain truth in the information; some inquiry was made into the business, by examining Philip himself, several of his Indians, who although they could do nothing, yet could not free themselves from just suspicion; Philip therefore soon after contrived the said Sausaman’s death, which was strangely discovered; notwithstanding it was so cunningly effected, for they that murdered him, met him upon the ice upon a great pond, and presently after they had knocked him down, put him under the ice, yet leaving his gun and his hat upon the ice, that it might be thought he fell in accidentally through the ice and was drowned: but being missed by his friend, who finding his hat and his gun, they were thereby led to the place, where his body was found under the ice: when they took it up to bury him, some of his friends specially one David, observed some bruises about his head, which made them suspect he was first knocked down, before he was put into the water: however, they buried him near about the place where he was found, without making any further inquiry at present: nevertheless David his friend, reported these things to some English at Taunton (a town not far from Namasket), occasioned the Governor to inquire further into the business, wisely considering, that as Sausamin had told him, If it were known that he had revealed any of their plots, they would murder him for his pains: wherefore by special warrant the body of Sausaman being digged again out of his grave, it was very apparent that he had been killed, and not drowned. And by a strange providence an Indian was found, that by accident was standing unseen upon a hill, had seen them murder the said Sausamin, but durst never reveal it for fear of losing his own life likewise, until he was called to the Court at Plymouth, or before the Governor, where he plainly confessed what he had seen. The murderers being apprehended, were convicted by his undeniable testimony, and other remarkable circumstances, and so were all put to death, being but three in number; the last of them confessed immediately before his death, that his father (one of the councillors and special friends of Philip) was one of the two that murdered Sausaman, himself only looking on. This was done at Plymouth Court, held in June 1674. Insomuch that Philip apprehending the danger his own head was in next, never used any further means to clear himself from what was like to be laid to his charge, either about his plotting against the English, nor yet about Sausaman’s death: but by keeping his men continually about him in arms, and gathering what strangers he could to join with him, marching up and down constantly in arms, both all the while the Court sat, as well as afterwards. The English of Plymouth hearing of all this, yet took no further notice, than only to order a militia watch in all the adjacent towns, hoping that Philip finding himself not likely to be arraigned by order of the said Court, the present cloud might blow over, as some others of like nature had done before; but in conclusion, the matter proved otherwise; for Philip finding his strength daily increasing, by the flocking of neighbor Indians unto him, and sending their wives and children to the Narhagansets for security (as they use to do when they intend war with any of their enemies,) immediately they began to alarm the English at Swanzy, (the next town to Philip’s country,) as it were daring the English to begin; at last their insolencies grew to such an height, that they began not only to use threatening words to the English, but also to kill their cattle and rifle their houses; whereat an Englishman was so provoked, that he let fly a gun at an Indian, but did only wound, not kill him; whereupon the Indians immediately began to kill all the English they could, so as on the 24th of June, 1675, was the alarm of war first sounded in Plymouth Colony, when eight or nine of the English were slain in and about Swanzy: They first making a shot at a company of English as they returned from the assembly where they were met in way of humiliation that day, whereby they killed one and wounded others: and then likewise at the same time, they slew two men on the highway, sent to call a surgeon, and barbarously the same day murdered six men in and about a dwelling house in another part of the town: all which outrages were committed so suddenly, that the English had no time to make any resistance. For on the 14th of the same month, besides endeavors used by Mr. Brown of Swanzy, one of the magistrates of Plymouth jurisdiction, an amicable letter was sent from the Council of Plymouth to Philip, showing a dislike of his practices, and advising him to dismiss his strange Indians, and not suffer himself to be abused by false reports concerning them that intended him no hurt: but no answer could be obtained, otherwise than threatning of war, which it was hoped might have been prevented, as heretofore it had been, when things seemed to look with as bad a face as then they did. However the Governor and Council of Plymouth, understanding that Philip continued in his resolution, and manifested no inclination to peace, they immediately sent us what forces they could to secure the towns thereabouts, and make resistance as occasion might be: and also dispatched away messengers to the Massachusetts Governor and Council, letting them know the state of things about Mount Hope: and desiring their speedy assistance, upon which, care was immediately taken with all expedition to send such supplies as were desired: But in the mean time two messengers were dispatched to Philip, to try whether he could not be diverted from his bloody enterprize, so as to have prevented the mischief since fallen out, hoping, that as once before, viz., anno 1671, by their mediation, a stop was put to the like tragedy; so the present war might by the same means have been now turned aside. For in the said year, Philip had firmly engaged himself, when he was at Boston, not to quarrel with Plymouth until he had first addressed himself to the Massachusetts for advice and approbation: But the two messengers aforesaid, finding the men slain in the road, June 24, as they were going for the surgeon, apprehended it not safe to proceed any further, considering also, that a peace now could not honorably be concluded after such barbarous outrages committed upon some of the neighbor colony: Wherefore returning with all speed to Boston, the Massachusetts forces were dispatched away with all imaginable haste, as the exigent of the matter did require, some of them being then upon, or ready for their march, the rest were ordered to follow after, as they could be raised. The sending forth of which, because it was the first engagement in any warlike preparations against the Indians shall be more particularly declared.

On the 26th of June a foot company under Capt. Daniel Henchman, with a troop under Capt. Thomas Prentice, were sent out of Boston towards Mount Hope; it being late in the afternoon before they began to march, the central eclipse of the moon in Capric happened in the evening before they came up to Neponset River, about twenty miles from Boston, which occasioned them to make an halt for a little repast, till the moon recovered her light again. Some melancholy fancies would not be persuaded, but that the eclipse falling out at that instant of time was ominous, conceiving also that in the centre of the moon they discerned an unusual black spot, not a little resembling the scalp of an Indian: As some others not long before, imagined they saw the form of an Indian bow, accounting that likewise ominous (although the mischief following was done by guns, not by bows) both the one and the other, might rather have thought of what Marcus Crassus, the Roman General, going forth with an army against the Parthians, once wisely replied to a private soldier, that would have dissuaded him from marching at that time, because of an eclipse of the moon in Capricorn, (that he was more afraid of Sagitarius than of Capricornus) meaning the arrows of the Parthians (accounted very good archers) from whom, as things then fell out, was his greatest danger. But after the moon had waded through the dark shadow of the earth, and borrowed her light again, by the help thereof the two companies marched on towards Woodcok’s House, thirty miles from Boston, where they arrived next morning….

The Turn of the Tide.
[From the Same.]

THERE was at this time no small hopes of surprising Philip; several reports being brought that he was seen in this and that place, not having above twenty or thirty men attending on him; but his time was not yet fully come, nor had he as yet fully accomplished all that mischief he was like to be suffered to do. For on the 1st of July, 1676, a party of his Indians committed a horrid and barbarous murder upon Mr. Hezekiah Willet, of Swanzey, an hopeful young gentleman as any in those parts. They used frequently to keep a sentinel on the top of their house from a watch house built thereon, whence they could discover any Indians before they came near the house, but not hearing of the enemy in those parts for a considerable time, that necessary piece of circumspection was omitted that day, whereby that deserving person was betrayed into their cruel hands; for within a quarter of an hour after he went out of his own door, within sight of his own house, he was shot at by three of them at once, from every one of whom he received a mortal wound; they after their barbarous manner took off his head, and carried it away with them (which, however, was soon after recovered) leaving the trunk of his body behind as a sad monument of their inhuman cruelty. The same Indians, not being above thirty in number, took away a negro belonging to the same family, who, being faithful to his master’s and his country’s interest, ventured his life to make his escape, which was the preservation of many others; for the said negro, being a little acquainted with their language, discovered to the English after his escape Philip’s purpose to seize such and such places. In the first place to assault Taunton, which in all probability had been in great danger, if their treacherous plot and purposes had not so wonderfully been made known beforehand. The said negro affirmed that there was near a thousand of them; for he observed that although they had killed twenty head of neat cattle over night, yet there was not any part of them left the next day at eight o’clock in the morning. By this special providence the enemy was defeated of their purpose, and never after had an opportunity to do any considerable damage to the English in that part of the country. So, after this day, we may truly date the time of our deliverance and beginning of revenges upon the enemy; now is their own turn come, when it shall be done unto them as they have done unto us: they that before led others into captivity must henceforth go into captivity themselves; and they that killed with the sword must themselves be killed with the sword, as in the sequel of this narrative will abundantly be manifest….

Philip’s Death.

THIS bloody wretch had one week or two more to live, an object of pity, but a spectacle of divine vengeance; his own followers beginning now to plot against his life, to make the better terms for their own, as they did also seek to betray Squaw Sachem of Pocasset, Philip’s near kinswoman and confederate. For,

August 6.An Indian willing to shift for himself, fled to Taunton, offering to lead any of the English that would follow him, to a party of Indians, which they might easily apprehend; which twenty attempted, and accordingly seized the whole company to the number of twenty-six; all but that Squaw Sachem herself, who intending to make an escape from the danger, attempted to get over the river or arm of the sea near by, upon a raft of some pieces of broken wood; but whether tired and spent with swimming, or starved with cold and hunger, she was found stark naked in Metapoiset, not far from the waterside; which made some think, that she was first half drowned, and so ended her wretched life just in that place where the year before she had helped Philip to make his escape: her head being cut off and set upon a pole in Taunton, was known by some Indians then prisoners, which set them into an horrid lamentation; but such was the righteous hand of God, in bringing at the last that mischief upon themselves, which they had without cause thus long acted against others.

Philip, like a savage and wild beast, having been hunted by the English forces through the woods, above an hundred miles backward and forward, at last was driven to his own den, upon Mount-Hope, where retiring himself with a few of his best friends into a swamp, which proved but a prison to keep him fast, till the messengers of death came by divine permission to execute vengeance upon him, which was thus accomplished.

Such had been his inveterate malice and wickedness against the English, that despairing of mercy from them, he could not bear that anything should be suggested to him about a peace, insomuch as he caused one of his confederates to be killed for propounding an expedient of peace; which so provoked some of his company, not altogether so desperate as himself, that one of them (being near of kin that was killed) fled to Road-Island (whither, that active champion Capt. Church was newly retired, to recruit his men for a little time, being much tired with hard marches all that week) informing them that Philip was fled to a swamp in Mount-Hope whither he would undertake to lead them that would pursue him. This was welcome news, and the best cordial for such martial spirits: whereupon he immediately, with a small company of men, part English and part Indians, began another march, which shall prove fatal to Philip, and end that controversy betwixt the English and him: for coming very early to the side of the swamp, his soldiers began presently to surround it, and whether the Devil appeared to him in a dream that night, as he did unto Saul, foreboding his tragical end (it matters not); as he intended to make his escape out of the swamp, he was shot through the heart by an Indian of his own nation, as is said, that had all this while kept himself in a neutrality until this time, but now had the casting-vote in his power, by which he determined the quarrel that had held so long in suspense. In him is fulfilled what was said in the Prophet, Wo to thee that spoileth, and thou wast not spoilt, and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee; when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee, Isa. 33. 1.

With Philip at this time fell five of his truest followers, of whom one was said to be the son of his chief captain, that had shot the first gun at the English the year before. This was done August 12, 1676, a remarkable testimony of divine favour to the Colony of Plymouth, who had for their former successes, appointed the 17th day of August following, to be kept as a day of solemn Thanksgiving to Almighty God.