Narrative of the Pequot War, by Lion Gardiner (1660) - Part 1

Narrative of the Pequot War,
by Lion Gardiner

(Part 1)

Gardener's Narrative

[from History of the Pequot War: The Contemporary Accounts of Mason, Underhill, Vincent and Gardener. Reprinted from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. With additional notes and an Introduction by Charles Orr, Librarian of Case Library. 1980. Reprint of the 1897 ed. published by Helman-Taylor Co., Cleveland, from an original in the collection of the Newark Public Library.]

[Captain Lion Gardener's account of the war (as will be seen from his letter of June 12, 1660, printed herewith,) was drawn up partly from old papers and partly from memory. It remained in manuscript until 1833, when it was printed in 3. Mass. Hist. Coll., III, 131-160. It is reprinted also in Penhallow's Indian Wars (edited by Dodge, Cincinnati, 1859,) as an appendix. It is, after Mason's, perhaps the best account. Gardener was a man of ability, a good soldier, and an actual participant in the leading events of the war. In the present reprint, Gardener's own spelling of his name is used in preference to that of a later date.-EDITOR'S NOTE.]


[The following manuscript Letter and Commission directed to John Winthrop Jun. Esq., the first Governor of Connecticut, and signed by Sir Henry Vane, the Governor, and John Winthrop Esq. the Deputy Governor of Massachusetts, were found among the papers of the elder Gov. Trumbull of Connecticut in the year 1809 and were kindly furnished to the Publishing Committee of the Massachusetts Historical Society for publication in its Collections, by William T. Williams, Esq. of Lebanon, Con. The Society is also deeply indebted to Mr. Williams for several other manuscripts of interest published in this collection. These papers, it is understood, formerly belonged to the Connecticut branch of the Winthrop family.-Publishing Committee, Mass. Hist. Soc.]

" Whereas it so falls out by the good Prouidence of God, that the place of your present residence is neare adjoyning unto certaine of the Natiues who are called the Pequots, concerning whom we haue diuers things to enquire and satisfy ourselues in; our request to you therefore is, and by these presents we do giue you full power, authority, and commission to treate and conferre with the sayd Pequots, in our names according to the instructions to these annexed, as if wee ourselues were present: and to make report backe agayne unto vs of the issue and successe of the whole before the next Generall Court (which, God willing is intended in the beginning of the 7th month). Thus, recommending you, and your affayres to the blessing of Allmighty God, wee rest
Your louing freinds
H Vane. Govr
Jo: Winthrop Dept
Massatuchets the 4th day
Of the 5th month. 1636."


" Massatuchets Month: 5th. 4.1636

The instructions which are recommended to John Winthrop Junr Esqr in his negotiation with the Pequots.

" 1. To giue notice to the principall Sachem that you haue receaued a commission from vs to demaund a solemne meeting for conference with them in a friendly manner about matters of importance.

" 2. In case they slight such a message and refuse to giue you a meeting (at such place as yourself shall apoynt) then you are in our names to returne backe their present, (which you shall receaue from vs) and to acquaint them with all, that we hold ourselues free from any peace or league with them as a people guilty of English blood.

" 3. If they consent, and giue you a meeting as afore sayd, that then you lay downe vnto them how unworthily they haue requited our friendship with them; for as much as that they haue broken the very condition of the peace betwixt vs, by the not rendring into our hands the murtherers of Capt Stone, (which we desire you once agayne solemly to require of them), as also in that they so trifled with vs in their present which they made proffer of to vs, as that they did send but part of it, and put it off with this, as to say the old men did neuer consent to the giuing of it; which dealings sauour so much of dishonour and neglect, as that no people that desire friendship should put them in practice.

" 4. To let them know first what credible relation hath beene given vs, that some of the cheif of them were actors in the murder of Mr Hamond and the other vpon Long Iland; and since of another English-


man there: and of their late determination to haue seized vpon a Plimouth Barke lying in their harbour for trade; as by the more large descriptions of these things, which we also send vnto you, will more distinctly appear. Of all these things we desire you to take the relation from their owne mouths, and to informe vs particularly of their seuerall answers: giuing them to vnderstand that it is not the manner of the English to take reuenge of injury vntill the partys that are guilty haue beene called to answer fairely for themselves.

" 5. To let them know that if they shall cleare themselues of these matters, we shall not refuse to hearken to any reasonable proposition from them for confirmation of the peace betwixt vs. But if they shall not giue you satisfaction according to these our instructions, or shall bee found guilty of any of the sayd murthers, and will not deliuuer the actours in them into our hands, that then (as before you are directed) you returne them the present, and declare to them that we hold ourselues free from any league or peace with them, and shall reuenge the blood of our countrimen as occasion shall serue.
H: Vane Govr
Jo: Winthrop Dept "

Leift Lion Gardener his relation of the Pequot Warres.

[The original manuscript of this "Relation" and a copy in the handwriting of Gov. Trumbull were furnished to the Publishing Committee by William T. Williams, Esq. The Committee, on account of the difficulty the printer would find in deciphering the original, have followed the orthography of the copy, excepting in the proper names, where they thought it of more importance to adhere to the ancient orthography. Mr. Williams in his interesting letters of July 19 and 23, 1832, addressed to a member of the Committee, has given some few particulars in relation to Lion Gardener; also a description of the battle-ground where the Pequots were destroyed, and of the burial place of Uncas and Miantunnomoh, together with a succinct account of the present condition of the remnant of the ancient and powerful tribes of the Pequots, Mohegans and Narragansets. These portions of the letters are of historical value, and the Committee therefore take the liberty of publishing the following extracts.-Publishing Committee, Mass. Hist. Soc.]

"Lion Gardener was sent over by Lords Say and Seal and Lord Brook to construct a fort at the mouth of Connecticut river, to command it, &c. He was said to be a skilful engineer, and on that account was selected. He had seen some service in the Low Countries under Gen. Fairfax. He came into this Country about the year 1633 or 16341 and erected the fort at Saybrook in Connecticut, which was so named in honour of Lords Say and Seal and Lord Brook: but how long he continued to command the fort I do not recollect.2 He commanded it when Capt. John Mason conquered the Pequots, for Mason in his history, you recollect, says, 'he, Lt. Gardiner, complimented or entertained him with many big guns,' on his arrival at the fort after the conquest of the Pequots.

1Gardener arrived in Boston 28., Nov. 1635.
2He remained at Saybrook four years. A son was born to him 29., April 1636, which was the first white child born in Connecticut.


"Gardener continued some time in the command of the fort, but it does not appear when he left it. While he commanded it, he once very narrowly escaped being captured by the Pequots. He had five men with him, one of whom was taken and tortured; the fort was burnt down, and he and his family narrowly escaped being burnt in it. Gardener's Island, lying in Gardener's Bay, to which he removed and where he died, was taken possession of by him soon after his coming into this country. You will perceive he has reference to his island: it is a very beautiful island of good land, perhaps twenty-five hundred or three thousand acres, with a long sand point of not much value. It now wholly belongs to the family and was until the decease of the last proprietor, Jonathan Gardiner, an entailed estate; but I am told that the entail is now broken. The proprietors have always been called Lords.

"In the mouth of Mistic river there is in island, now and always called Mason's Island from old Capt. Mason, containing five or six hundred acres. This island he took possession of by right of conquest, and the most of it is now possessed by his descendants. I believe it is the only spot in Connecticut claimed in that way.

"Summer before last I went to the battle-ground on purpose to view it. The spot where the fort stood is in the present town of Groton, Connecticut, on the west side of Mistic river. Sassacus had this fort in the eastern part of his dominions to look after the


Narragansetts. The hill is commanding and beautiful though not steep. The land is now owned by Roswell Fish, Esq. of Groton. There are no remains of the fort; Capt. Mason says it was of timber mostly, and of course when he burnt it, it must have been principally consumed. Mr. Fish told me that within his recollection (and he is about sixty) some few Indian arrowheads and spears have been found on the ground, and also some bullets. The river is at the bottom of the hill, less than half a mile, I should think, from the site of the fort, and perhaps three miles from the head of the little village of Mistic in the town of Stonington, where the small streams that form the river meet the tide water. The river is the dividing line between the towns of Groton and Stonington. Porter's rocks, where Capt. Mason lodged, are near the village, and perhaps two miles above the site of the fort.

"Sassacus had another fort, about two miles west of the one taken by Mason, in the town of Groton, from which the one taken was recruited on the night before the attack. The whole of the shore of Mistic river, which is about six or seven miles from what is called head of Mistic, to its mouth, and particularly the west side, is rough, rugged, and rocky, but particularly pleasant, and filled with dwellings wherever they can be placed, inhabited chiefly by sailors and seamen. There is a pretty meeting-house among the rocks.

"There is a remnant of the Pequots still existing. They live in the town of Groton, and amount to about forty souls, in all, or perhaps a few more or less; but do not vary much from that amount. They have


about eleven acres of poor land reserved to them in Groton, on which they live. They are more mixed than the Mohegans with negro and white blood, yet are a distinct tribe and still retain a hatred to the Mohegans. A short time since, I had an opportunity of seeing most of the tribe together. They are more vicious, and not so decent or so good looking a people as the Mohegans. This however may be owing to their being more mixed with other blood. It is very rare that there are any intermarriages with either of the tribes to each other, they still, so far as circumstances admit, retaining the old grudge. The most common name among them is Meazen; nearly half call themselves by that surname.

"The Indians formerly called Ninegrate's men, seem to be now called the Narragansetts, and live principally in Charlestown, Rhode Island. There are perhaps eighty, or more; though I am not so well informed concerning them, as of the Pequots or Mohegans.

"Considerable exertion is making now in favor of the Mohegans. A small, but neat church, has lately been erected by charity for them, and the United States have appropriated nine hundred dollars to build a school-master's house, and for his salary. The house for the school-master is erected and a schoolmaster hired, who also preaches to the tribe. All of the tribe are anxiously sought out, and the benevolent are trying to bring them all together to their ancient seat. There are about seventy men on their land, or perhaps a few more. They own about three thousand acres of good land in Montville, about three miles below Norwich landing. The Trading Cove brook is their north-


ern bound; their eastern is the Thames river. The General Assembly of this State, immediately after the Pequot war was finished, declared, and I think unfortunately, that the name of the Pequots should become extinct; that the river that used to be called Pequot should be called Thames; and the place called Pequot should no longer be so called, but its name be changed to New London, in "remembrance," as the records declare, and as the Assembly say, of the chief city in our dear native country."

"I have visited the ground where the rival chiefs, Uncas and Miantunnomoh, are buried. Uncas is buried in the royal burying ground, so called, which was appropriated to the Uncas family. It is just by the falls in the Yantic river in Norwich city; a beautiful and romantic spot. Calvin Goddard, Esq. of Norwich, owns the ground, and has (honorably) railed it in, and keeps it appropriated to its use. I saw him a few days since; he intends to enlarge it, and I hope to have an appropriate stone to mark the place. Miantunnomoh is buried in the east part of Norwich, at a place called Sachem's Plain, from the event of his death; and is buried on the spot where he was slain. But a few years since a large heap of stones, thrown together by the wandering Indians, according to the custom of their country, and as a melancholy mark of the love the Narragansets had for their fallen chief, lay on his grave: but the despicable cupidity of some people in that vicinity has removed them to make common stone wall, as it saved them the trouble of gathering stones for that purpose. The spot of his sepulture is, however, yet known."


"East Hampton, June 12, 1660.

"Loving Friends, Robert Chapman and Thomas Hurlburt, my love remembered to you both, these are to inform, that as you desired me when I was with you and Major Mason at Seabrooke two years and an half ago to consider and to call to mind the passages of God's Providence at Seabrooke in and about the time of the Pequit [Pequot] War, wherein I have now endeavoured to answer your Desires and having rumaged and found some old papers then written it was a great help to my memory. You know that when I came to you I was an engineer or architect, whereof carpentry is a little part, but you know I could never use all the tools, for although for my necessity, I was forced sometimes to use my shifting chissel and my holdfast, yet you know I could never endure nor abide the smoothing plane; I have sent you a piece of timber scored and forehewed unfit to join to any handsome piece of work, but seeing I have done the hardest work, you must get somebody to chip it and to smooth it lest the splinters should prick some men's fingers, for the truth must not be spoken at all times, though to my knowledge I have written nothing but truth, and you may take out or put in what you please, or if you will, may throw it all into the fire; but I think you may let the Governor and Major Mason see it. I have also inserted some additions of things that were done since, that they may be considered together. And thus as I was when I was with you, so I remain still Your loving friend,


"In the year 1635, I, Lion Gardener, Engineer and Master of works of Fortification in the legers of the Prince of Orange, in the Low Countries, through the persuasion of Mr. John Davenport, Mr. Hugh Peters with some other well-affected Englishmen of Rotterdam, I made an agreement with the forenamed Mr. Peters for 100 per annum, for four years, to serve the company of patentees, namely, the Lord Say, the Lord Brooks [Brook,] Sir Arthur Hazilrig, Sir Mathew Bonnington [Bonighton?], Sir Richard Saltingstone [Saltonstall], Esquire Fenwick, and the rest of their company, [I say] I was to serve them only in the drawing, ordering and making of a city, towns or forts of defence. And so I came from Holland to London, and from thence to New-England, where I was appointed to attend such orders as Mr. John Winthrop, Esquire, the present Governor of Conectecott, was to appoint, whether at Pequit [Pequot] river, or Conectecott, and that we should choose a place both for the convenience of a good harbour, and also for capableness and fitness for fortification. But I landing at Boston the latter end of November, the aforesaid Mr. Winthrop had sent before one Lieut. Gibbons, Sergeant Willard, with some carpenters, to take possession of the River's mouth, where they began to build houses against the Spring; we expecting, according to promise, that there would have come from England to us 300 able men, whereof 200 should attend fortification, 50 to till the ground, and 50 to build houses. But our great expectation at the River's mouth, came only to two men, viz. Mr. Fenwick, and his man, who came with Mr. Hugh Peters, and Mr. Oldham and Thomas Stanton,


bringing with them some Otter-skin coats, and Beaver, and skeins of wampum, which the Pequits [Pequots] had sent for a present, because the English had required those Pequits [Pequots] that had killed a Virginean [Virginian], one Capt. Stone, with his Bark's crew, in Conectecott River, for they said they would have their lives and not their presents; then I answered, Seeing you will take Mr. Winthrop to the Bay to see his wife, newly brought to bed of her first child, and though you say he shall return, yet I know if you make war with these Pequits, he will not come hither again, for I know you will keep yourselves safe, as you think, in the Bay, but myself, with these few, you win leave at the stake to be roasted, or for hunger to be starved, for Indian corn is now 12s. per bushel, and we have but three acres planted, and if they will now make war for a Virginian and expose us to the Indians, whose mercies are cruelties, they, I say, they love the Virginians better than us: for, have they stayed these four or five years, and will they begin now, we being so few in the River, and have scarce holes to put our heads in? I pray ask the Magistrates in the Bay if they have forgot what I said to them when I returned from Salem? For Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Haines, Mr. Dudley, Mr. Ludlow, Mr. Humfry, Mr. Belingam [Bellingham], Mr. Coddington, and Mr. Nowell; these entreated me to go with Mr. Humfry and Mr. Peters to view the country, to see how fit it was for fortification. And I told them that Nature had done more than half the work already, and I thought no foreign potent enemy would do them any hurt, but one that was near. They asked me who that was, and


I said it was Capt. Hunger that threatened them most, for, (said I,) War is like a three-footed Stool, want one foot and down comes all; and these three feet are men, victuals, and munition, therefore, seeing in peace you are like to be famished, what will or can be done if war? Therefore I think, said I, it will be best only to fight against Capt. Hunger, and let fortification alone awhile; and if need hereafter require it, I can come to do you any service: and they all liked my saying well. Entreat them to rest awhile, till we get more strength here about us, and that we hear where the seat of the war will be, may approve of it, and provide for it, for I had but twenty-four in all, men, women, and boys and girls, and not food for them for two months, unless we saved our corn-field, which could not possibly be if they came to war, for it is two miles from our home. Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Fenwick, and Mr. Peters promised me that they would do their utmost endeavour to persuade the Bay-men to desist from war a year or two, till we could be better provided for it; and then the Pequit Sachem was sent for, and the present returned, but full sore against my will. So they three returned to Boston, and two or three days after came an Indian from Pequit, whose name was Cocommithus, who had lived at Plimoth, and could speak good English; he desired that Mr. Steven [Stephen] Winthrop would go to Pequit with an 100 worth of trucking cloth and all other trading ware, for they knew that we had a great cargo of goods of Mr. Pincheon's, and Mr. Steven Winthrop had the disposing of it. And he said that if he would come he might put off all his goods, and the Pequit Sachem

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