Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pratt/Woodruff History-Pequot War III

The elders of the Connecticut General Court (including two Bartram ancestors) having declared war on the Pequots, it was up the the men of the Colony to muster and arm themselves for battle. Two of these men were Woodruff ancestors, John Bronson and Zecharia Field.

There may well have been others that I have not identified since "...every male over the age of sixteen was to keep his firearm at hand. Each man was continually to have in his house 'half a pound of good powder, two pounds of bullets, and a pound of match' Each man was to be trained ten days a year in the art of war by Captain John Mason." That sounds like full mobilization to me.

There were apparently no requirements for swords and in the list of equpment and supplies for the expedition there were only twenty sets of "Armour" Thus it would appear that our men would not be wearing steel breastplates or helmets like you see in illustrations of colonial-era fighters. On the other hand, reading that I have done on the military of those times indicates that all soldiers carried cutting weapons of some kind. Bayonets had not yet been developed. So maybe it was just assumed that everyone would have swords. Also heavy leather protective clothing was worn as a sort of armor..

That they were required to have "a pound of match" means that their firearms were matchlocks. Early matchlocks were clumsy weapons, often heavy enough to require the use of a prop to hold the muzzle up while aiming and firing. The matchlock gun held a burning slow match in a clamp at the end of a small curved lever known as the "serpentine". Upon the pulling of a second lever (or trigger in later models) protruding fom the bottom of the gun and connected to the serpentine, the clamp dropped down, lowering the burning mstch into the flash pan and igniting the priming powder. The flash from the primer traveled through the touch hole igniting the main charge of propellant in the gun barrel.

An inherent weakness of the matchlock was the necessity of keeping the match constantly lit. (The match looked like a rope burning on one end). Being the sole source of ignition for the powder, if the match was not lit when the gun needed to be fired, the mechanism was useless, and the weapon became little more than an expensive club.

John Bronson was born in Essex, England about 1600 and there was married to Sarah Ventris. The had a daughter Dorcas, christened in England in 1633, which means they immigarated to Connecticut sometime after that. He was one of the ninety who set off down the Connecticut River in May of 1637 under Mason's command and participated in the action at the Mystic Fort and the Fairfield swamp. He would have been about 37 years old at the time..

As a reward for his service, he was granted a lot in "Soldier's Field" in Hartford. In 1641 he removed to Farmington which he represented in the Geneal Court in 1651 and was an original member of the Farmington Church. He died about 1680. He would have been in Farmington about the time when Mathew Woodruff, the first known Woodruff in America, arrived.

Zecharia Field was born in Yorkshire in 1596 and was in Boston by 1629 and was in Hartford by 1636. The "Field Genealogy" says "At this time he was still in the vigor of his manhood, and was one of the forty-two men furnished by Hartford to take part in the Pequot War". He was also with Mason at the Mystic Fort and Fairfield swamp. He would have been 41 years old.

He remained in Hartford about twenty years after his service but after the death of Rev. Thomas Hooker "...dissensions arose in the church, and as all attempts at reconciliation proved unsuccessful..sixty proprieters and their families...moved up the Connecticut valley. Mr. Field settled in Noirthampton, Massachusetts, probably in 1659...He received a grant in a new township, and removed to Hatfield, Massachusetts, where he died in 1666."

That was deadly serious business that the two ancestors and their eighty-some comrades were embarked on when they left their wives and children in those exposed settlements and boarded boats to go down the Connecticut River to find and fight the Pequots. In modern terms, their mission could be called genocide. Although much Indian fighting was yet to come in New England, the Pequots were never again a threat.

And what of the Pequots today? They own Foxwoods Resort Casino, the second largest gambling casino in the world, located a few miles from the site of their defeat.

NEXT: The geography of the Pequot war.

Emailed Nov. 17

No comments: