May 26, 1637 – Beginning of Massacres of the Pequot Tribes by the Puritans

As summarized on the website of The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut:

In 1633 the English Puritan settlements at Plimoth [sic] and Massachusetts Bay Colonies had begun expanding into the rich Connecticut River Valley to accommodate the steady stream of new emigrants from England. Other than the hardship of the journey and the difficulty of building homes in what the Puritans consider a wilderness, only one major obstacle threatened the security of the expanding settlements: the Pequots.”

Tribal territories of Southern New England tribes about 1600

Tribal territories of Southern New England tribes about 1600

The Pequot tribe had already been weakened by smallpox brought by the English settlers, and by internecine conflict between those who were pro-English and those who were pro-Dutch. Matters were made much worse when the Pequots killed a dishonest trader, John Oldham, in July of 1636. The settlers demanded retribution. Massachusetts raised a military force under the command of John Endicott. This troop landed on Block Island, killed 14 natives and burning the village and crops. They then moved on to Saybrook and burned that village as well.

And on this day in history, May 26, 1637, a military force under John Mason and John Underhill attacked the Pequot settlement near New Haven, Connecticut, destroying the village, which consisted mostly of women, children, and the elderly. Over 500 were killed. The only Pequot survivors were warriors who had been with their leader Sassacus in a raiding party outside the village. Sassacus and many of his followers were surrounded in a swamp near a Mattabesic village called Sasqua and nearly 180 warriors were killed. Sassacus was eventually killed by the Mohawk, who sent his scalp to the English as a symbol of friendship. Surviving captives were sold in the West Indies as slaves. The few Pequots who were able to escape the English fled to surrounding Indian tribes and were assimilated. The Pequot nation was destroyed.

A 19th-century engraving depicting the Pequot War

A 19th-century engraving depicting the Pequot War

Captain John Mason later wrote that they wouldn’t have killed so many Pequots if they could have served as “servants” but “they could not endure that Yoke.” Thus did the Lord, Mason writes, “scatter his Enemies with his strong Arm!:

Let the whole Earth be filled with his Glory! Thus the LORD was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.”

You can read the entire text of Mason’s joyous account of the Pequot massacres here.


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