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JOURNEY TO PROVINCE TOWN.
Groton-Account of the Pequods—War between the Colonists and that tribe
Gallant attack and destruction of one of their forts by Captain Mason and his troops-Pursuit of the Pequods to Fairfield, and their final destruction-Death of Sassacus.
GROTON is a township, lying on the Thames about twelve miles, and on the sound about six or seven. A tract, extending along the sound through the whole breadth of the township, and another, a mile wide, along the Thames, extending through the whole length of the township, are rich and pleasant. The remainder is generally very stony, difficult of cultivation, and to a great extent forested. The soil of Groton is better fitted for grass than for grain. Several of the farms are cultivated by tenants.
The inhabitants carry' on some commerce upon the Thames, from the shore immediately opposite to New-London; and at Packer's ferry on the Mystic; a mill-stream, which separates Groton from Stonington. At each of these places there is a small village. That, which was opposite to New-London, was principally burnt by the British troops in Arnold's expedition. The damage was estimated at $78,390. It is now chiefly re-built. Throughout the rest of the township, plantations, thinly scattered, are formed in many places. The grounds, which are sufficiently fertile and easy of cultivation to invite the hand of the farmer, are every where taken up. The remainder seems destined to continue in a forested state: for its surface is in a great measure covered with rocks and stones.
The inhabitants of Groton have been more generally regardless of religion, than those of most other places in Connecticut. It is a long period since they have had a minister of the Gospel; and the last, a very worthy man, was obliged to leave them, for the want of support. This must have resulted from a general indisposition to support the worship of God. The people are so numerous, that they might support three ministers at least, without any inconvenience to themselves.* There are some honourable exceptions to these remarks.
Groton began to be settled soon after New-London, i. e. soon after the year 1648; but was not incorporated until 1705. In 1756, it contained 2,532 whites, 179 blacks, and 158 Indians; in 1774, 3,488 whites, 169 blacks; and 191 Indians : in 1790, 3,946; in 1800, 4,372 ; and, in 1310, 4,451.
Of the Indians in the year 1770,) it is said, 44 were able to read ; and 17 were members of the Christian church. The number of these people is supposed now to be diminished by their customary vices. The Aboriginal name of Groton was Mystic.
This township was the principal seat of the Pequods; who occupied New-London, Norwich, Lisbon, Bozrah, Franklin, Plainfield, Preston, Groton, Stonington, and most probably several other townships : a tract, not far from thirty miles square.f Un
* Since the paragraph above was written, a number of the inhabitants, as if awaked out of a long slumber, have embodied themselves in a congregation, built a church, and settled a respectable minister. The blessings usually flowing from these measures, or more properly, following them, they have already began to realize, and their children will hereafter rise up and call them blessed.
+ The Legislature of the Colony of Connecticut, in their answer to Heads of Enquiry relative to the state and condition of the Colony, signified by the Secretary of State July 5th, 1773, say, page 5th, “The original title to the lands on which the colony was first settled was, at the time the English came hither, in the Pequod nation of Indians, who were numerous and warlike. Their country extended from Narrhagansett to Hudson River, and over all Long-Island. Sassacus, their Great Sagamore, had under him twenty-six Sachems. He injuriously made war upon the English, exercised despotic dominion over his subjects, and, with all his Sache and people, were conquered, and made tributary to the English. This account of the territories of the Pequods must not be understood to denote the country
der the command of several shrewd and brave chiefs, these people rendered themselves very formidable to most of the inhabitants in Southern New-England. Sassacus particularly, who was their principal Sachem, at the time when the Colonists arrived, appears to have been regarded by his neighbours, as well as by his subjects, with that peculiar awe, which is inspired by superiour personal strength, activity, courage, and cunning. By most of them he was considered as invincible ; and by all, as a singularly dangerous enemy. To those bodily endowments, which are the great means of savage glory, he united a mind, possessed of uncommon native vigour, sagacity, and resolution; and proved his personal superiority by the most difficult exploits, and by the successful conduct of many bold, military enterprises. For an Indian, he was unquestionably a great man; and had he been born in an enlightened age and country, might perhaps have been a Charles, or an Alexander. Under his instruction, and by his example, a number of his chiefs, also, had become intrepid and sagacious warriours. Animated by this band of heroes, the Pequods had risen to the summit of glory; and held among the Southern tribes of New-England, a station, scarcely less distinguished, than that of the Iroquois, in the Western parts of New-York.
Sassacus, soon after the establishment of the first New-England Colonists, appears thoroughly to have comprehended the danger, which, from this source, threatened his countrymen. He beheld them gaining quiet possession of several important tracts in the neighbourhood of his own territory, as well as others in parts more remote. They erected houses, and fortresses; built, and navigated, vessels ; and exhibited a skill, and policy in government; to which he and bis countrymen had before been strangers. They possessed weapons, also, of a new and terrible kind; conveying death from an unexampled distance, and with a cerwhich they actually inhabited, but that which they either subdued or awed into subjection by the terror of their name.''
Sassacus is here called their great Sagamore ; and is said to have had under him twenty-six Sachems. These titles were, I think, mistaken by the Legislature. Sachem, as far as I have been able to learn, denoted the chief ruler, and Sagamore the subordinate.
tainty and extent of execution, pre-eminently alarming. At the same time, they appeared to be perfectly united; had already become numerous; and were continually increasing. They had also begun to demand of the Indians an adherence to their engagements, to which they had never been habituated; to regulate commerce by new rules; and to construe treaties, on principles, more strict than savages had ever been obliged to admit. To all these disagreeable things they added a kind of authority, in their proposals, and requisitions, which savage independence could not brook, and which savage pride, and resentment, were impatient to retribute.
This haughty Indian seems to have been the first, who formed the politic design, afterwards executed by Philip, the son of Massasoit, of embarking all the Indians, in New-England, in a general enterprise, for the purpose of driving the English Colonists out of the country. The design was undoubtedly conceived with the soundest policy; and, had Sassacus been able to carry it into complete execution, would probably have terminated in the entire ruin of the Colonies. But, happily for our ancestors, and for us, there were at this time insuperable obstacles to a successful effort of this nature. Sassacus and his people were more dreaded by all the neighbouring tribes, than were the English themselves. They were hated, and envied, as well as dreaded. Every proposal to embark with them in any enterprise, was, therefore, considered by their neighbours as treacherously made, and dangerously accepted. Those, from whom we have already received injuries, and by whom we have been often alarmed and distressed, are always regarded with more disgust and terror, than new enemies. A proffer of friendship and union from such a source is always suspected, as intending concealed mischief: and, whatever advantages it may promise, it will be believed to promise them only to those, by whom the proffer is made. With such prepossessions against him and his people, Sassacus attempted, without success, to unite the surrounding nations in this enterprise. They heard his proposals ; and seem in several instances to have admitted their justice and propriety without opposition. But they hesitated, and declined, on various pretences, to embark with him in any measure for carrying them into execution.
Even the Narrhagansetts, who greatly outnumbered the Pequods, regarded these people and their chief, (having often suffered from their prowess,) with such apprehension, that they could never be brought to an open and determined adoption of the design. They were plainly bitter enemies of the English; and ardently wished for their extermination. They also perfectly understood the policy and wisdom of the proposal; and felt the force of the arguments, by which it was urged. The scheme of attack was too evidently wise, and practicable, to fail of their approbation. This was, to burn the houses, and destroy the cattle, of the English; to ambush their roads ; to hang upon the skirts of their settlements; and to waste them away by continual loss, alarm, discouragement, watching, and fatigue. Few as the Colonists were at that time, no other kind of warfare seems to have been necessary, in order to break up their settlements. The Narrhagansetts, however, were still reluctant to unite with their mortal enemies : and, upon a proposal made by the Governour of Massachusetts to renew the treaty between them and the English, Miantonimoh, their chief Sachem, together with several subordinate chieftains, went to Boston ; and engaged in a peace with the English, openly hostile to the Pequods.
Sassacus and his people, not discouraged by the disappointment, persisted in their favourite design with an intrepidity, which, in a nation of Europe, would have commanded praise from the pen of every historian.
In the year 1634, Captains Stone and Norton, with eight men, in a vessel from St. Christophers entered Connecticut river for the purpose of trade, under the pilotage of twelve Indians; friends and allies of the Pequods; and were all murdered by their pilots. Stone and two of his men were dispatched, while they were asleep. Norton made a gallant defence; but, having placed some powder in an open vessel, that he might load with the greater expedition, he accidentally set it on fire ; and was so burned, as to be Vol. III.