Posted: November 30th, 2013
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The Pequot War
The Mystic Massacre occurred on 26 May 1637 in the period of the Pequot War when the English settlers burnt a village close to the Mystic River. The settlers, who were led by Captain John Mason, allied with Narraganset and Mohegan (who were major opponents and competitors of the Pequot) and burnt the Fortified Pequot Village. Anyone who tried to escape through the fortress was murdered. Most of the victims were women and children as this was a retaliatory attack for prior Pequot attacks. The war erupted when a trader, John Oldham was murdered, and the ship he was trading with was looted by suspected Pequot natives. What ensued were retaliatory raids by the settlers leading to the war. The warriors survived the massacre, as they were preoccupied with a raiding party together with their Sachem Sassacus. The war was concluded by the signing of The Treaty of Hartford, 21 September 1638.The treaty stated the remainder of the Pequot was to be incorporated into the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes and not to identify themselves as Pequot any more. The captured Pequot were sold as slaves, servants, and their land taken by the English.
The killing and looting of a trader John Oldham by suspected Pequot natives sparked off series retaliation raids by settler and natives culminating in the Pequot war. Under the command of Captain John Mason, the militia was composed of 90 men, 70 Mohegan of Sachems, Uncas and Wequash and was joined at Fort Saybrook by 20 supplementary men led by Captain John Underhill. They also summed up 200 Narragansett and Niantic warriors to join forces. The Pequot warriors had also set on to carry out a raid at Hartford, Connecticut. Both forces of the English and American natives descended on village nearby the Mystic River with two entrances and exits. Their attempts to carry out a surprise attack were met with stiff resistance by the Pequot. Under the orders of Captain Mason, they burnt the village. This caused the Pequot to be trapped from the inside while others attempting to escape and climb over the Palisade would be shot dead. Those who managed to cross over were murdered by Narragansett forces consequently, an estimate of about 400 to700 with a majority being women, children and the elderly. Majority of those who fled were hunted down and eliminated. In the ensuing battle, Sassacus and 80 others were able to escape after they were surrounded at a swamp close to the Mattabesic village, Sasqua. Close to 180 warriors were also hurt, captured and murdered. Eventually, Sassacus was murdered by the Mohawk. The war was finally concluded at Hartford, and a treaty was signed on September 21, 1638.The remainder of the Pequot was sold as either slaves or servants while their land was taken by the settlers.
This war was a hard blow on the Pequot community, already reeling from the effects of the European disease. The Englishmen had established a military system and distinct method of war from the natives. Consequently, this affected their mode of attack. The natives who were engaged in continuous wars among themselves used the objective of capturing their enemies. The women and children were never harmed or killed. Captain John however, was used to the norms of European total war. Thus, explaining the killing of helpless women and children in his Journal News from America, he stated that the scriptures decreed that women and children die with their men folk. On the other hand, their native allies the Narragansett and Mohegan would offer a different method. In their native battles, they were frequently warring, and their aim was not to kill their foes but to capture them. Very few warriors would be killed, but the women and children were protected. They were considered a prize that would increase the tribes’ population. The total population of a tribe set the basis of power and wealth. They had no profound meaning in property ownership and, as a result, did not go to war to acquire property. However, due to the competition, they were glad to eliminate their long-term enemies and arch rivals.
The impact of the war had a profound effect on the European settlers as they considered America their own. They had previously been alarmed and afraid of the natives surrounding them. They were also aware of various savage wars among the natives in Virginia. With Captain Underhill and his establishment of one of the best defenses, the area was now cleared of any of these threats including the Pequot. This also relieved the settlers as they considered the natives as a savage, barbaric and uncivilized group if people. Their traditions, culture and intertribal wars were a true indication to the settler’s perception. They had thus developed a negative attitude and a cause to eliminate the natives. It also set a clear and systematic pattern among European – Native American relations in New England. The New Englanders were now convinced that they were acting in the interest of God. Consequently, their interests would also be those of the Lord. Their military and activities would be those of God too.
Thus, the religious segment of colonialism in New England made the area unique as they now had acquired an improved morality in terms of conquest and colonialism. In conclusion, the war terrorized and transformed a community that was already suffering from the effects of European diseases. The remainder of the Pequot were virtually eliminated or sold as salves. The settlers viewed it as a religious purpose ordained by God. They were now free and secure with no problematic situations from a community they considered savage. With newfound freedom, they were also able to acquire territories and continue their colonization process. The war was a major event that shaped American history.
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