Narrative of the Pequot War, by John Mason

Narrative of the Pequot War,
by John Mason

(Part 1)

A Brief History



Especially of the memorable Taking of their Fort at Mistick in Connecticut in 1637.

Written by Major John Mason, a principal Actor therein, as then chief Captain and Commander of Connecticut Forces.

With an Introduction and some Explanatory Notes by the Reverend Mr. Thomas Prince.

PSAL. XLIV. 1-3. We have heard with our Ears, O God, our Fathers have told us, what Work Thou didst in their Days, in the times of old; How Thou didst drive out the Heathen with thy Hand, and plantedst Them: how Thou did afflict the People and cast them out. For they got not the Land in Possession by their own Sword, neither did their own Arm save them: but thy right Hand, and thine Arm, and the Light of thy Countenance, because Thou hadst a Favour unto them.

PSAL. CII. 18. This shall be written for the Generation to come: and the People which shall be Created, shall praise the Lord.

Printed and Sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green in Queen Street, 1736.

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IN my Contemplations of the Divine Providence towards the People of New England, I have often tho't what a special Favour it was, that there came over with the first Settlers of Plimouth and Connecticut Colonies, which in those Times were especially exposed to the superiour Power of the Barbarians round about them; Two brave Englishmen bred to arms in the Dutch Netherlands, viz. Capt. Miles Standish of Plimouth, and Capt. John Mason of Connecticut: Gentlemen of tried Valour, Military Skill and Conduct, great Activity, and warm Zeal for that noble Cause of Pure Scriptural Religion, and Religious Liberty, which were the chief original Design and Interest of the Fathers of these Plantations; and who were acted with such eminent Degrees of Faith and Piety, as excited them to the most daring Enterprizes in the Cause of God and of his People, and went a great way to their wonderful Successes.

Like those inspired Heroes of whom we read the History in the Eleventh Chapter to the Hebrews-By Faith, they not only rather chose to suffer Affliction with the People of God than to enjoy the Pleasures of Sin for a Season; esteeming the Reproach of Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt: But by Faith they even forsook the same, passed thro' the Sea, subdued Kingdoms, wrought Righteousness, obtained


Promises, waxed valiant in Fight, and turned to flight the armies of the Aliens.

The Judicious Reader that knows the New English History, cannot think these Scripture Phrases or religious Turns unsuitable on this Occasion: For as these Colonies were chiefly, if not entirely Settled by a Religious People, and for those Religious Purposes; It is as impossible to write an impartial or true History of them, as of the ancient Israelites, or the later Vaudois or North-Britons, without observing that Religious Spirit and Intention which evidently ran through and animate their Historical Transactions.

Capt. Standish was of a low Stature, but of such a daring and active Genius, that even before the Arrival of the Massachusetts Colony, He spread a Terror over all the Tribes of Indians round about him, from the Massachusetts to Martha's Vineyard, and from Cape Cod Harbour to Narragansett. Capt. Mason was Tall and Portly, but never the less full of Martial Bravery and Vigour; that He soon became the equal Dread of the more numerous Nations from Narragansett to Hudson's River. They were Both the Instrumental Saviours of this Country in the most critical Conjunctures: And as we quietly enjoy the Fruits of their extraordinary Diligence and Valour, both the present and future Generations will for ever be obliged to revere their Memory.

Capt. Mason, the Writer of the following History, in which he was a principal Actor, as Chief Commander of the Connecticut Forces, is said to have been a Relative of Mr. John Mason the ancient Claimer of the Province of New-Hampshire: However, the Captain


was one of the first who went up from the Masschusetts, about the Year 1635 to lay the Foundation of Connecticut Colony: He went from Dorchester, first settled at Windsor,1 and thence marched forth to the Pequot War.

But it being above Threescore Years since the following Narrative was Written, near an Hundred since the Events therein related, and the State of the New England Colonies being long since greatly Changed; it seems needful for the present Readers clearer Apprehension of these Matters, to Observe-That in the Year 1633, and 1634, several Englishmen arriving from England, at the Massachusetts went up in the Western Country to discover Connecticut River; the next Year began to remove thither; and by the Beginning of 1637, Hartford, Windsor and Weathersfield were Settled, besides a Fortification built at Saybrook on the Mouth of the River.

At that Time there were especially three powerful and warlike Nations of Indians in the South Western Parts of New England; which spread all the Country from Aquethneck, since called Rhode Island, to Quinnepiack, since called New-Haven; viz. the Narragansetts, Pequots and Mohegans. The Narragansetts reached from the Bay of the same Name, to Pawcatuck River, now the Boundary between the Governments of

1 The names of those who are known to have gone from Windsor are as follows: Capt. John Mason, Sergt. Bendict Alvord, Thomas Barber, Thomas Buckland, George Chappel, John Dyer, James Eggleston, Nathan Gillet, Thomas Gridley, Thomas Stiles, Sergt. Thomas Staires, Richard Osborn, Thomas Parsons, William Thrall. They were absent three weeks and two days. Every soldier received 1s. 6d. per day, reckoning six days in the week; sergeants, 20d. per day; lieutenants, 20s. per week; the captain, 40s. per week.-Stiles' History of Ancient Windsor.


Rhode-Island and Connecticut: And their Head Sachem was Miantonimo. The Pequots reached from thence Westward to Connecticut River, and over it, as far as Branford, if not Quinnepiack; their Head Sachem being Sassacus. And the Mohegans spread along from the Narragansetts through the Inland Country, on the Back or Northerly Side of the Pequots, between them and the Nipmucks; their Head Sachem being Uncas.

The most terrible of all those Nations were then the Pequots; who with their depending Tribes soon entered on a Resolution to Destroy the English out of the Country. In 1634, they killed Capt. Stone and all his Company, being seven besides Himself, in and near his Bark on Connecticut River. In 1635, they killed Capt. Oldham in his Bark at Block-Island; and at Long-Island they killed two more cast away there. In 1636, and the following Winter and March, they killed six and took seven more at Connecticut River: Those they took alive they tortured to Death in a most barbarous Manner. And on April 23. 1637, they killed nine more and carried two young Women Captive at Weathersfield.

They had earnestly solicited the Narragansetts to engage in their Confederacy: very politickly representing to them, That if they should help or suffer the English to subdue the Pequots, they would thereby make Way for their own future Ruin; and that they need not come to open Battle with the English; only Fire our Houses, kill our Cattle, lye in Ambush and shoot us as we went about our Business; so we should be quickly forced to leave this Country, and the Indians not ex-


posed to any great Hazard. Those truly politick Arguments were upon the Point of prevailing on the Narragansetts: And had These with the Mohegans, to whom the Pequots were nearly related, joined against us; they might then, in the infant State of these Colonies, have easily accomplished their desperate Resolutions.

But the Narragansetts being more afraid of the Pequots than of the English; were willing they Should weaken each other, not in the least imagining the English could destroy them; at the same time an Agency from the Massachusetts Colony to the Narragansetts, happily Preserved their staggering Friendship.2 And as Uncas the Great Sachim of the Moheags, upon the first coming of the English, fell into an intimate Acquaintance with Capt. Mason, He from the Beginning entertained us in an amicable Manner: And though both by his Father and Mother He derived from the Royal Blood of the Pequots, and had Married the Daughter of Tatobam their then late Sachim; yet such was his Affection for us, as he faithfully adhered to us, ventured his Life in our Service, assisted at the Taking their Fort, when about Seven Hundred of them

2 The proposed Indian league was prevented by the diplomacy of Roger Williams. For, though he had been banished by the colony of Massachusetts, the magistrates sought his counsel, which he gave freely, and was thus able to render the infant colonies a service which proved to be of the greatest importance. In a letter to John Mason in 1670, when both were old men, he writes as follows: " When, the next year after my banishment, the Lord drew the bow of the Pequot war against the country . . . . the Lord helped me immediately to put my life in my hand, and scarce acquainting my wife, to ship myself all alone in a poor canoe, and to cut through a stormy wind with great seas, every minute in hazard of my life, to the sachem's house. Three days and nights my business forced me to lodge and mix with the bloody Pequot ambassadors, whose hands and arms reeked with the blood of my countrymen, murdered and massacred by them on Connecticut River, and from whom I could not but nightly look for their bloody knives at my own throat also."


were Destroyed, and thereupon in subduing and driving out of the Country the remaining greater Part of that fierce and dangerous Nation.

Soon after the War, Capt. Mason was by the Government of Connecticut, made the major General of all their forces, and so continued to the day of his death: The Rev. Mr. Hooker of Hartford, being desired by the Government in their Name to deliver the Staff into his Hand; We may imagin he did it with that superiour Piety, Spirit and Majesty, which were peculiar to him: Like an ancient Prophet addressing himself to the Military Officer, delivering to him the Principal Ensign of Martial Power, to Lead the Armies and Fight the Battles of the Lord and of his People.

Major Mason having been trained up in the Netherland War under Sir Thomas Fairfax;3 when the Struggle arose in England between K. Charles I. and the Parliament about the Royal Powers and the National Liberties; that Famous General had such an esteem for the Major's Conduct and Bravery, that He wrote to the Major to come over and help Him.4 But the Ma-

3 Fairfax went to the Netherlands in April of 1630, and though but eighteen, was a volunteer in the army and was with Sir Horace Vere at the siege of Bois-le-Duc, which surrendered in July of that year. Young Fairfax was then ordered by his grandfather to leave camp and travel in France; and there he remained for about eighteen months, returning to England in February of 1632. Since the total service of Fairfax in the Low Countries extended over but four months, and was somewhat in the nature of a youthful adventure, it can hardly be said that Mason was " trained up " under him. though the story has been repeated by nearly every biographer of Mason since Prince. He may, however, have been a companion in arms with Fairfax, though of this there is no direct proof.
4 This statement by Prince seems to have been also without authority. However, Fairfax, who was no doubt the ablest general of the Civil War and a great organizer, must have known of the service of Captain Mason, and his " esteem " may have led him to write Mason in Connecticut to join Cromwell's Army.


jor excusing himself, continued in this Country as long as he lived, and had some of the greatest Honours his Colony could yield him.

For besides his Office of Major General, the Colony in May 1660 chose him their Deputy Governour; continued him in the same Post by annual Re-elections, by virtue of their first Constitution to1662 inclusively. The same Year K. Charles II. comprehending the Colonies of Connecticut and New Haven in One Government by the name of Connecticut Colony; He in the Royal Charter, signed April 23. appointed Major Mason their first Deputy Governour till the second Thursday of October following: After which, the General Court being left to chuse their Officers, they continued to chuse him their Deputy Governour every Year to May 1670; when his Age and Bodily Infirmities advancing, he laid down his Office and retired from Publick Business.

After the Pequot War, he had removed from Windsor to Saybrook: But in 1659, he removed thence to Norwich; where he Died in 1672, or 1673, in the 73d Year of his Age: leaving three sons, viz. Samuel, John and Daniel, to imitate their Fathers Example and inherit his Virtues.

I have only now to observe, that in The Relation of the Troubles which happened to New England by the Indians from 1614 to 1675, Published by the then Mr. Increase Mather in 1677, I find a copy of the following Narrative, but without the Prefaces, had been communicated to him by Mr. John Allyn then the Secretary of Connecticut Colony; which that Rev. Author took for Mr. Allyn's and calls it his. But we must inform


the Reader, that the Narrative was originally drawn by Major Mason. And as his Eldest Grandson Capt. John Mason now of New London has put it into my Hands; I have been more than usually careful in Correcting the Press according to the Original; as the most authentick Account of the Pequot War, and as a standing Monument both of the extraordinary Dangers and Courage of our pious Fathers, and of the eminent Appearance of Heaven to save them.

' The other actions of Major Mason must be referred
' to the General History of this country, when some
' Gentleman of greater Qualifications and Leisure than
' I may claim, shall rise up among us, to undertake it
' I shall give some Hints in my Brief Chronology;
' which through numerous Hindrances, is now in such
' a Forwardness that near 200 Pages are Printed al-
' ready; and in a little Time, Life and Health allowed,
' I hope to present the Politick with the first of the two
' intended Volumes. In the mean while I cannot but
' Regret it, that such considerable and ancient Towns
' as Saybrook, Fairfield, Stamford, Canterbury, Groton
' in the County of Middlesex, Chelmsford, Billerica,
' Woburn, Dunstable and Bristol, should afford no
' more than their bare Names in the Published Rec-
' ords of this Country.
BOSTON, Dec. 23, 1735.


To The Honourable The General Court of Connecticut.

Honoured Gentlemen,

You Well know how often I have been requested by yourselves to write something in reference to the Subject of the ensuing Treatise (who have power to Command) and how backward I have been, as being conscious to my own unfitness; accounting it not so proper, I being a Chief Actor therein myself. Yet considering that little hath been done to keep the memory of such a special Providence alive, though I could heartily have wished that some other who had been less interested and better qualified might have undertaken the Task, for I am not unacquainted with my own Weakness; yet I shall endeavour in plainness and faithfulness impartially to declare the Matter, not taking the Crown from the Head of one and putting it upon another. There are several who have Wrote and also Printed at random on this Subject, greatly missing the Mark in many Things as I conceive.5 I shall not exempt my self from frailties, yet from material Faults I presume you may pronounce it not Guilty, and do assure you that if I should see or by any be convinced of an Error, I shall at once confess and amend it.

I thought it my Duty in the Entrance to relate the first Grounds upon which the English took up Arms against the Pequots; for the Beginning is the Moiety of the Whole; and not to mention some Passages at

5 Mason refers, no doubt, to the accounts by Underhill and Vincent, which had then been printed.


Rovers, as others have done, and not demonstrate the Cause. Judge of me as you please; I shall not climb after Applause, nor do I much fear a Censure; there being many Testimonies to what I shall say. 'Tis possible some may think no better can be expected in these distracting Times; it being so hard to please a few, impossible to please all: I shall therefore content myself that I have attended my rule: You may please to improve some others who were Actors in the Service to give in their Apprehensions, that so the severals being compared, you may enlarge or diminish as you shall see meet. I desire my Name may be sparingly mentioned: My principal Aim is that God may have his due praise.
By your unworthy Servant,


To The American Reader.

Judicious Reader,

ALTHOUGH it be too true indeed that the Press labours under, and the World doth too much abound with pamphleting Papers; yet know that this Piece cannot or at least ought not to be disaccepted by thee; For by the help of this thou mayest look backward and interpret how God hath been working, and that very wonderfully for thy Safety and Comfort: And it being the Lord's doing, it should be marvellous in thine Eyes.

And when thou shalt have viewed over this Paper, thou wilt say the Printers of this Edition have done well to prevent the possible Imputation of Posterity; in that they have consulted the exhibition at least to


the American World, of the remarkable Providencies of God, which thou mayest at thy leisure read, consider and affect thy self with, in the Sequel.

History most properly is a Declaration of Things that are done by those that were present at the doing of them: Therefore this here presented to thee may in that respect plead for liking and acceptance with thee: The Historiographer being one of the principal Actors, by whom those English Engagements were under God carried on and so successfully effected. And for a President for him in this his Publication of his own, in Parte Rei Bellicae, he hath that great Man at arms the first of the noble Caesars, being the Manager and Inditer of his martial Exploits.

He has also that necessary Ingredient in an Historian; Ut nequid falsi dicere, et nequid veri non dicere audeat; That he will tell the Truth and will not say a jot of Falsehood.

And Memorandum that those divine Over-rulings, their Recollection, as they ought to be Quickeners of us up to a Theological Reformation, and Awakeners of us from a lethargilike Security, least the Lord should yet again make them more afflicting Thorns in our Eyes and slashing Scourges in our Sides; so also they may well be Pledges or Earnests to us of his future saving Mercies; and that if we by our Declensions from him in his ways do not provoke him, he will not forsake us, but have respect to us in our Dwellings, and lend us the desirable Providence of his perpetual Salvation.

N. B. This Epistle to the American Reader appears to have been written by another Hand than Major Mason's.

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This page last updated August 9, 2000.