Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pratt/Woodruff History-King Phillip's War V

As I work on these messages I am continually impressed with how really nasty the Pequot War and King Philip's War were. Much of the combat was at close quarters or hand-to-hand with hatchets and tomahawks or musket butts as weapons. Women and children and old people on both sides were massacre victims. White captives were tortured to death. Indian captives were sold as slaves in the West Indies. Hundreds of Indians were burned to death in their fire-trap fortresses.
 But while I contemplate that 17th century awfulness I am forced to remember my own 20th century with the Holocaust, the London Blitz, the Bataan Death March, the bombing of Dresden, the Tokyo fire bombings, Hiroshima and the Rawanda genocide.The Indians and the colonists were really a bunch of bush-leaguers when it came to killing innocents.
Nevertheless, I will continue to tell tales of our ancestors' involvement in bloody King Philip's War:
After his defeat by the English at his home base at Mount Hope near Bristol, Rhode Island, King Philip (Indian name Metacom) moved west into the Nipmuc country of central Massachusetts. From there he renewed the war. The Nipmuc raided Brookfield and Worchester and then combined with the Pocumtuc to attack settlements in the Connecticut River valley.
Following an Indian raid at Northfield, Massachusetts, a relief force under Captain Richard Beers was ambushed south of  that town and more than half were killed. Three survivors were captured and later burned at the stake. This was on September 5, 1675.
 On the next day Major Robert Treat (my Gx7 grandfather) who had come from Hartford to Hadley with a company of about 100 Connecticut men, marched up to Northfield. That night they camped, probably near the camp of Beers, and on 6th went forward to the scene of battle, finding a ghastly sight, for many of the heads of the slain had been cut off and set upon poles by the wayside.* Pausing only long enough to perform hasty funeral rites, they passed on to the garrison and found all safe. Hurriedly collecting the people and all their effects possible, but obliged to leave the cattle, they marched for Hadley that same evening. Thus Northfield was abandoned.
* Like Miles Standish did at Plymouth. Beheading was a Japanese practice during World War II and still happens in Iraq. So what's new?
Small bodies of enemies were still lurking in the vicinity of the village and a party of English that ventured into the fields were attacked; they were probably engaged in burying the dead, and Major Treat was slightly wounded in the thigh. It is said that many of the cattle followed the retreat of the English, and afterward came into Hadley.
The attacks on the towns of Deerfield and Northfield forced the colonists to abandon their homes and fort-up in Hadley. Facing a winter without food, 80 soldiers under Captain Thomas Lathrop were dispatched with eighteen teamsters to gather the abandoned crops at Deerfield..  All went well until the return journey, when the expedition spotted some grapes along the road just south of Deerfield where a small stream named Muddy Brook crossed the road.. Many of the militiamen laid down their muskets and began to pick the grapes. Then the expedition was ambushed by hundreds of Pocumtuc warriors. Only seven or eight escaped. Sixty four were buried in one mass grave. Forever after Muddy Brook became known as "Bloody Brook".
One of those eighteen teamsters was Deerfield settler Joshua Carter, my Gx7 Grandfather. He left a widow, Mary Field and two small children.
Another version of Bloody Brook: The English seem to have taken no precaution whatsoever against surprise, and many of the soldiers, it is said, had placed their arms upon the carts to be carried, and were gathering wild grapes by the roadside. The main part of the troop had apparently passed over the brook and were waiting the slow movement of the lumbering teams over the rough road when the Indians attacked. 
Our ancestor Major Treat and his Connecticut soldiers have been praised by historians because they always employed friendly Indians to keep them from ever being ambushed like those Massachusetts troops were
NEXT: More ancestors in the war.

Emailed Dec. 7

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