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The Wessagussett Plantation

Edward Winslow's Account
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Edward Winslow's Account
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Phineas Pratt's Narrative
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Thomas Morton's Account
Wessagussett Cast of Characters

While Edward Winslow of the Plymouth Colony does not appear to have witnessed the events of the attack on Wessagussett first hand, he does leave a detailed chronicle of the events of that time.

Chapter 4, Good Newes from New England

During the time that the Captain was at Manomet, news came to Plymouth, that Massasoit was like to die,

The day before our coming, another Sachem being there, told him, that now he might see how hollow-hearted the English were, saying if we had been such friends in deed, as we were in show, we would have visited him in this his sickness, using many arguments to withdraw his affections, and to persuade him to give way to some things against us, which were motioned to him not long before: but upon this his recovery, he brake forth into these speeches; Now I see the English are my friends and love me, and whilest I live I will never forget this kindness they have showed meet Whilest we were there, our entertainment exceeded all other strangers. Divers other things were worthy the noting, but I fear I have been too tedious.

At our coming away, he called Hobomok to him, and privately (none hearing save two or three other of his Pnieses, who are of his Council) revealed the plot of the Massacheuseucks before spoken of, against Master Weston's Colony, and so against us, saying that the people of Nauset, Paomet, Succonet Mattachiest, Manomet, Agoweywam, and the Isle of Capawack, were joined with them; himself also in his sickness was earnestly solicited, but he would neither join therein, nor give way to any of his. Therefore as we respected the lives of our Countrymen, and our own after safety, he advised us to kill the men of Massachusetts, who were the authors of this intended mischief. And whereas we were wont to say, we would not strike a stroke till they first begun; if said he upon this intelligence, they make that answer, tell them, when their Countrymen at Wessagussett are killed, they being not able to defend themselves, that then it will be too late to recover their lives, nay through the multitude of adversaries they shall with great difficulty preserve their own, and therefore he counseled without delay to take away the principals, and then the plot would cease. With this he charged him thoroughly to acquaint me by the way, that I might inform the Governor thereof at my first coming home. Being fitted for our return, we took out leave of him, who returned many thanks to our Governor, and also to our selves for our labor and love: the like did all that were about him. So we departed.

The day following, in our journey, Hobomok told me of the private conference he had with Massasoit, and how he charged him perfectly to acquaint me therewith (as I showed before) which having done, he used many arguments himself to move us hereunto; That night we lodged at Nemasket, and the day following about the mid way between it and home, we met two Indians, who told us that Captain Standish was that day gone to the Massachusetts: but contrary winces again drive him back, so that we found him at home; where the Indian of Paomet still was, being very importunate that the Captain should take the first opportunity of a faire wind to go with him, but their secret and villainous purposes being through Gods mercy now made known, the Governor caused Captain Standish to send him away without any distaste or manifestation of anger, that we might the better effect and bring to pass that which should be thought most necessary

Chapter 5, Good Newes From New England

Before this journey we heard many complaints both by the Indians and some others of best desert amongst Master Weston's Colony, how exceedingly their Company abased themselves by indirect means, to get victuals from the Indians, who dwelt not far from them, fetching them wood and water, etc. and all for a meals meat, whereas in the mean time, they might with diligence have gotten enough to have served them three or four times. Other by night brake the earth, and robbed the Indians store, for which they had been publicly stocked and whips, and yet was there small amendment. This was about the end of February, at which time they had spent all their bread and come, not leaving any for seed, neither would the Indians lend or sell them any more upon any terms. Hereupon they had thoughts to take it by violence, and to that ends spiked up every entrance into their Town (being well impaled) save one, with a full resolution to proceed. But some more honestly minded, advised John Sanders their Over-seer first to write to Plymouth, and if the Governor advised him thereunto, he might the better do it. This course was well liked, and an Indian was sent with all speed with a letter to our Governor, the contents whereof were to this effect; That being in great want, and. their people daily falling down, he intended to go to Monhiggan, where was a Plantation of Sir Ferdinando Gorges, to buy bread from the Ships that came thither a fishing, with the first opportunity of wind; but knew not how the Colony would be preserved till his return: he had used all means both to buy and borrow of Indians whom he knew to be stored, and he thought maliciously with-held it, and therefore was resolved to take it by violence, and only waited the return of the Messenger, which he desired should be hastened, craving his advice therein, promising also to make restitution afterward. The Governor upon the receipt hereof, asked the Messenger what store of come they had, as if he had intended to buy of them; who answered very little more then that they reserved for seed, having already spared all they could.

Forth-with the Governor and his Assistant sent for many of us to advise with them herein, who after serious consideration, no way approving of this intended course, the Governor answered his Letter, and caused many of us to set our hands thereto, the contents whereof were to this purpose; We altogether disliked their intendment, as being against the law of God and Nature, strewing how it would cross the worthy ends and proceedings of the Kings Majesty, and his honorable Council for this place, both in respect of the peaceable enlarging of his Majesties Dominions, and also of the propagation of the knowledge and Law of God, and the glad tidings of salvation, which we and they were bound to seek, and were not to use such means as would breed a distrust in the Salvages against our persons and professions, assuring them their Master would incur much blame hereby, neither could they answer the same; For our own parts our case was almost the same with theirs, having but a small quantity of Corn left, and were enforced to live on ground nuts, clams, mussels, and such other things as naturally the Country afforded, and which did and would maintain strength, and were easy to be gotten, all which things they had in great abundance, yea, Oysters also which we wanted, and therefore necessity could not be said to constrain them thereunto. Moreover, that they should consider, if they proceeded therein, all they could so get would maintain them but a small time, and then they must perforce seek their food abroad, which having made the Indians their enemies, would be very difficult for them, and therefore much better to begin a little the sooner, and so continue their peace, upon which course they might with good conscience desire and expect the blessing of God, whereas on the contrary they could not.

Also that they should consider their own weakness, being most swelled, and diseased in their bodies, and therefore the more unlikely to make their party good against them, and that they should not expect help from us in that or any the like unlawful actions. Lastly, that howsoever some of them might escape, yet the principal Agents should expect no better then the gallows, whensoever any special Officer should be sent over by his Majesty, or his Council for New England, which we expected, and who would undoubtedly call them to account for the same. These were the contents of our Answer, which was directed to their whole Colony. Another particular Letter our Governor sent to John Sanders, strewing how dangerous it would be for him above all others, being he was their leader and commander; and therefore in friendly manner advised him to desist.

With these Letters we dispatched the Messenger; Upon the receipt whereof they altered their determination, resolving to shift as they could, till the return of John Sanders from Monhiggan, who first coming to Plymouth, notwithstanding our own necessities, the Governor spared him some Corn to carry them to Monhiggan. But not having sufficient for the Ships store, he took a Shallop and leaving others with instructions to oversee things till his return, set forward about the end of February, so that he knew not of this conspiracy of the Indians before his going; neither was it known to any of us till our return from Sawaams or Pokanoket: At which time also another Sachem called Wassapinewat, brother to Obtakiest the Sachem of the Massachusetts, who had formerly smarted for par taking with Corbitant, and fearing the like again, to purge himself revealed the same thing.

The three and twentieth of March being now come, which is a yearly Court-day, the Governor having a double testimony, and many circumstances agreeing with the truth thereof, not being to undertake war without the consent of the body of the Company; made known the same in public Court, offering it to the consideration of the Company, it being high time to come to resolution, how sudden soever it seemed to them, fearing it would be put in execution before we could give any intelligence thereof. This business was no less troublesome then grievous, and the more, because it is so ordinary in these times for men to measure things by the events thereof: but especially for that we knew no means to deliver our Countrymen and preserve our selves, then by returning their malicious and quell purposes upon their own heads, and causing them to fall into the same pity they had digged for others, though it much grieved us to shed the blood of those whose good we ever intended and aimed at, as a principal in all our proceedings. But in the end we came to this public conclusion, that because it was a matter of such weight as every man was not of sufficiency to judge, nor fitness to know because of many other Indians which daily as occasion serveth converse with us; therefore the Governor, his Assistant, and the Captain, should take such to themselves as they thought most meet, and conclude thereof; which done we came to this conclusion, That Captain Standish should take so many men as he thought sufficient to make his party good against all the Indians in the Massachusetts-bay; and because (as all men know that have had to do in that kind) it is impossible to deal with them upon open defiance, but to take them in such traps as they lay for others; therefore he should pretend trade as at other times: but first go to the English and acquaint them with the plot, and the end of his own coming, that comparing it with their carriages towards them he might the better judge of the certainty of it, and more fitly take opportunity to revenge the same: but should forbear if it were possible till such time as he could make sure Wituwamat, that bloody and bold villain be fore spoken of, whose head he had order to bring with him, that he might be a warning and terror to all of that disposition.

Upon this Captain Standish made choice of eight men, and would not take more because he would prevent jealousy, knowing their guilty consciences would soon be provoked hereunto: but on the next day before he could go, came one of Mr. Weston's Company by land unto us, with his pack at his back, who made a pitiful narration of their lamentable and weak estate, and of the Indians carriages, whose boldness increased abundantly, insomuch as the victuals they got they would take it out of their pots and eat before their faces, yea if in any thing they gainsaid them, they were ready to hold a knife at their breasts; that to give them content, since John Sanders went to Monhiggan, they had hanged one of them that stole their come, and yet they regarded it not; that another of their Company was turned Salvage, that their people had most forsaken the town, and made their rendezvous where they got their victuals, because they would not take pains to bring it home; that they had sold their clothes for corn, and were ready to starve both with cold and hunger also, because they could not endure to get victuals by reason of their nakedness; and that they were dispersed into-three Companies scarce having any powder and shot left. What would be the event of these things (he said) he much feared; and therefore not daring to stay any longer among them, though he knew not the way yet adventured to come to us, partly to make known their weak and dangerous estate, as he conceived, and partly to desire he might there remain till things were better settled at the other plantation. As this relation was grievous to us, so it gave us good encouragement to proceed in our intendments, for which Captain Standish was now fitted, and the wince coming faire, I the next day set forth for the Massachusetts.

The Indians at the Massachusetts missed this man, and suspecting his coming to us as we conceive, sent one after him and gave out there that he would never come to Patuxet, but that some Wolves or Bears would eat him: but we know both by our own experience and the report of others, that though they find a man sleeping, yet so soon as there is life discerned they fear and shun him. This Indian missed him but very little, and missing him passed by the town and went to Manomet, whom we hoped to take at his return, as afterward we did. Now was our Fort made fit for service and some Ordnance mounted; and though it may seem long work it being ten months since it begun, yet we must note, that whereso great a work is begun with such small means, a little time cannot bring to perfection: beside those works which tend to the preservation of man, the enemy of mankind will hinder what in him lieth, sometimes blinding the judgment and causing reasonable men to reason against their own safety, as amongst us diverse seeing the work prove tedious, would have dissuaded from proceeding, flattering themselves with peace and security, and accounting it rather a work of superfluity and vain-glory, then simple necessity. But God (whose providence hath waked and as I may say, watched for us whilst we slept) having determined to preserve us from these intended treacheries, undoubtedly ordained this as a special means to advantage us and discourage our adversaries, and therefore so stirred up the hearts of the Governors and other forward instruments, as the work was just made serviceable against this needful and dangerous time, though we ignorant of the same.

But that I may proceed, the Indian last mentioned in his return from Monomet, came through the town pretending still friendship and in love to see us, but as formerly others, so his end was to see whether we continued still in health and strength, or fell into weakness like their neighbors, which they hoped and looked for (though God in mercy provided better for us) and he knew would be glad tidings to his Country men. But here the Governor stayed him, and sending for him to the Fort, there gave the Guard charge of him as their prisoner, where he told him he must be contented to remain till the return of Captain Standish from the Massachusetts, so he was locked in a chain to a staple in the Court of guard, and there kept. Thus was our Fort hanselled, this being the first day as I take it, that ever any watch was there kept. The Captain being now come to the Massachusetts, went first to the ship, but found neither man, or so much as a dog therein: upon the discharge of a Musket the Master and some others of the plantation showed themselves, who were on the shore gathering ground-nuts and getting other food. After salutation Captain Standish asked them how they durst so leave the ship and live in such security, who answered like men senseless of their own misery, they feared not the Indians, but lived and suffered them to lodge with them, not having sword, or gun, or needing the same. To which the Captain answered, if there were no cause he was the gladder but upon further inquiry, understanding that those in whom John Sanders had received most special confidence and left in his stead to govern the rest were at the Plantation, thither he went, and to be brief, made known the Indians purpose and the end of his own coming, as also (which formerly I omitted) that if afterward they durst not there stay, it was the intendment of the Governors and people of Plymouth there to receive them till they could be better provided: but if they conceived of any other course that might be more likely for their good, that himself should further them therein to the uttermost of his power. These men comparing other circumstances with that they now heard, answered, they could expect no better, and it was Gods mercy that they were riot killed before his coming, desiring therefore that he would neglect no opportunity to proceed: Hereupon he advised them to secrecy, yet withal to send special command to one third of their Company that were farthest off to come home, and there enjoin them on pain of death to keep the town, himself allowing them a pint of Indian come to a man for a day (though that store he had was spared out of [our] seed.) The weather proving very wet and stormy, it was the longer before he could do any thing.

In the mean time an Indian came to him and brought some furs, but rather to gather what he could from the Captains then coming then for trade; and though the Captain carried things as smoothly as possibly he could, yet at his return he reported he saw by his eyes that he was angry in his heart, and therefore began to suspect themselves discovered. This caused one Pequot who was a Pinese, being a man of a notable spirit to come to Hobomok, who was then with them, and told him he understood that the Captain was come to kill himself and the rest of the Salvages there, tell him said he we know it, but fear him not, neither will we shun him; but let him begin when he dare, he shall not take us at unawares: many times after diverse of them severally, or few together, came to the Plantation to him, where they would whet and sharpen the points of their knives before his face, and use many other insulting gestures and speeches. Amongst the rest, Witawamat bragged of the excellency of his knife; on the end of the handle there was pictured a woman's face, but said he, I have another at home wherewith I have killed both French and English, and that hath a mans face on it, and by and by these two must marry: Further he said of that knife he there had; Hinnaim namen, hinnaim michen, rnatta cuts: that is to say, By and by it should see, and by and by it should eat, but not speak. Also Pecksuot being a man of greater stature then the Captain, told him though he were a great Captain, yet he was but a little man: and said he, though I be no Sachem, yet I am a man of great strength and courage. These things the Captain observed, yet bare with patience for the present.

On the next day, seeing he could not get many of them together at once, and this Pecksuot and Wituwamat both together, with another man, and a youth of some eighteen years of age, which was brother to Wituwamat, and villain-like bode in his steps, daily putting many tricks upon the weaker sort of men, and having about as many of his own Company in a room with them, gave the word to his men, and the dove being fast shut began himself with Pecksuot, and snatching his own knife from his neck though with much struggling killed him therewith, the point whereof he had made as sharp as a needle, and ground the back also to an edge: Wituwamat and the other man, the rest killed, and took the youth, whom the Cap. caused to be hanged; but it is incredible how many wounds these two Pneeses received before they dyed, not making any fearful noise, but catching their weapons and striving to the last. Hobomok stood by all this time as a spectator and meddled not, observing how our men demeaned themselves in this action; all being here ended, smiling he brake forth into these speeches to the Captain, Yesterday Pecksuot bragging of his own strength and stature, said, though you were a great Captain yet you were but a little man; but to day I see you are big enough to lay him on the ground. But to proceed, there being some women at the same time, Captain Standish left them in the custody of Mr. Weston's people at the town, and sent word to another Company that had intelligence of things to kill those Indian men that were amongst them, these killed two more: himself also with some of his own men went to another place, where they killed another, and through the negligence of one man an Indian escaped, who discovered and crossed their proceedings.

Not long before this execution, three of Mr. Weston's men which more regarded their bellies then any command or Commander, having formerly fared well with the Indians for making them Canoes, went again to the Sachem to offer their service, and had entertainment. The first night they came thither within night late came a Messenger with all speed, and delivered a sad and short message: Whereupon all the men gathered together, put on their boots and breeches, trussed up themselves, and took their bows and arrows and went forth, telling them they went a hunting, and that at their return they should have venison enough. Being now gone, one being more ancient and wise than the rest, calling former things to mind, especially the Captain's presence, and the strait charge that on pain of death none should go a musket shot from the plantation, and comparing this sudden departure of theirs therewith, began to dislike and wish himself at home again, which was further off than divers other dwelt. Hereupon he moved his fellows to return, but could not persuade them. So there being none but women left, and the other that was turned savage, about midnight came away, forsaking the paths, lest he should be pursued; and by this means saved his life.

Captain Standish took one half of his men, and one or two of Mr. Weston's, and Hobomok, still seeking to make spoil of them and theirs. At length they espied a file of Indians, which made towards them amain; and there being a small advantage in the ground, by reason of a hill near them, both companies strove for it. Captain Standish got it; whereupon they retreated, and took each man his tree, letting fly their arrows amain, especially at himself and Hobomok. Whereupon Hobomok cast off his coat, and being a known pinese, (theirs being now killed,) chased them so fast, as our people were not able to hold way with him; insomuch as our men could have but one certain mark, and then but the arm and half face of a notable villain, as he drew at Captain Standish; who together with another both discharged at once at him, and brake his arm; whereupon they fled into a swamp. When they were in the thicket, they parleyed, but to small purpose, getting nothing but foul language. So our Captain dared the sachem to come out and fight like a man, showing how base and woman-like he was in tonguing it as he did; but he refused, and fled. So the Captain returned to the Plantation; where he released the women, and would not take their beaver coats from them, nor suffer the least discourtesy to be offered them.

Now were Mr. Weston's people resolved to leave their plantation, and go for Monhiggan, hoping to get passage and return with the fishing ships. The Captain told them, that for his own part he durst there live with fewer men than they were; yet since they were otherways minded, according to his order from the governors and people of Plymouth, he would help them with corn competent for their provision by the way; which he did, scarce leaving himself more than brought them home. Some of them disliked the choice of the body to go to Monhiggan, and therefore desiring to go with him to Plymouth, he took them into the shallop: and seeing them set sail and clear of the Massachusetts bay, he took leave and returned to Plymouth, whither he came in safety (blessed be God) and brought the head of Wituwamat with him.

Amongst the rest there was an Indian youth that was ever of a courteous and loving disposition towards Us, he notwithstanding the death of his Countrymen came to the Captain without fear, saying his good conscience and love towards us emboldened him so to do. This youth confessed that the Indians intended to kill Mr. Weston's people, and not to delay any longer then till they had two more Canoes or Boats, which Mr. Weston's men would have finished by this time (having made them three already) had not the Captain prevented them, and the end of stay for those Boats, was to take their Ship therewith.

Now was the Captain returned and received with joy, and the head being brought to the fort and there set up, the Governors and Captains with divers others went up the same further to examine the prisoner, who looked piteously on the head, being asked whether he knew it, he answered, yea: Then he confessed the plot, and that all the people provoked Obtakiest their Sachem hereunto, being drawn to it by their importunity: Five there were (he said) that prosecuted it with more eagerness then the rest, the two principal were killed, being Pecksuot and Witowamat, whose head was there, the other three were Powahs, being yet living, and known unto Us, though one of them was wounded, as aforesaid. For himself he would not acknowledge that he had any hand therein, begging earnest for his life, saying, he was not a Massachusetts man, but as a stranger lived with them. Hobomok also gave a good report of him, and besought for him but was bribed so to do:

Nevertheless, that we might show mercy as well as extremity, the Governor released him, and the rather because we desired he might carry a message to Obtakiest his Master. No sooner were the irons from his legs, but he would have been gone, but the Governor bid him stay and fear not, for he should receive no hurt, and by Hobomok commanded him to deliver this message to his Master; That for our parts, it never entered into our hearts to take such a course with them, till their own treachery enforced us hereunto, and therefore might thank themselves for their own over-throw, yet since he had begun, if again by any the like courses he did provoke him, his Country should not hold him, for he would never suffer him or his to rest in peace, till he had utterly consumed them, and therefore should take this as a warning. Further, that he should send to Patuxet the three Englishmen he had and not kill them; also that he should not spoil the pale and houses at Wessagussett, and that this Messenger should either bring the English, or an answer, or both, promising his safe return.

This message was delivered, and the party would have returned with answer, but was at first dissuaded by them, whom afterward they would but could not persuade to come to us. At length (though long) a Woman came and told us that Obtakiest was sorry that the English were killed before he heard from the Governor, otherwise he would have sent them. Also she said, he would fain make his peace again with us, but none of his men durst come to treat about it, having forsaken his dwelling, and daily removed from place to place, expecting when we would take further vengeance on him.

Concerning those other people that intended to join with the Massachuseucks against us, though we never went against any of them, yet this sudden and unexpected execution, together with the just judgment of God upon their guilty consciences, hath so terrified and amazed them, as in like manner they forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof very many are dead, as Canacum the Sachem of Manomet, Aspinet, the Sachem of Nauset, and Ianough, Sachem of Mattachuest. This Sachem in his life, in the midst of these distractions, said the God of the English was offended with them, and would destroy them in his anger, and certainly it is strange to hear how many of late have, and still daily die amongst them, neither is there any likelihood it will easily cease, because through fear they set little or no Corn, which is the staff of life, and without which they cannot long preserve health and strength. From one of these places a boat was sent with presents to the Governor, hoping thereby to work their peace, but the boat was cast away, and three of the persons drowned, not far from our plantation, only one escaped, who durst not come to us, but returned, so as none of them dare come amongst us.

I fear I have been too tedious both in this and other things, yet when I considered how necessary a thing it is that the truth and grounds of this action, especially should be made known, and the several dispositions of that dissolved Colony, whose reports undoubtedly will be as various, I could not but enlarge my self where I thought to be most brief; neither durst I be too brief, least I should eclipse and rob God of that honor, glory, and praise, which belongeth to him for preserving us from falling when we were at the pits brim, and yet feared nor knew not that we were in danger.

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