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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

A Death-Grapple

By Benjamin Church (1639–1718)

[Born in Plymouth, Mass., 1639. Died at Little Compton, R. I., 1718. Entertaining Passages Relating to Philip’s War. 1716.]

IN this march, the first thing remarkable was, they came to an Indian town, where there were many wigwams in sight, but an icy swamp, lying between them and the wigwams, prevented their running at once upon it as they intended. There was much firing upon each side before they passed the swamp. But at length the enemy all fled and a certain Mohegan, that was a friend Indian, pursued and seized one of the enemy that had a small wound in his leg, and brought him before the General, where he was examined. Some were for torturing of him to bring him to a more ample confession of what he knew concerning his countrymen. Mr. Church, verily believing he had been ingenuous in his confession, interceded and prevailed for his escaping torture. But the army being bound forward in their march, and the Indian’s wound somewhat disenabling him for travelling, it was concluded he should be knocked on the head. Accordingly he was brought before a great fire, and the Mohegan that took him was allowed, as he desired to be, the executioner. Mr. Church, taking no delight in the sport, framed an errand at some distance among the baggage horses, and when he had got some ten rods, or thereabouts, from the fire, the executioner fetching a blow with his hatchet at the head of the prisoner, he, being aware of the blow, dodged his head aside, and the executioner missing his stroke, the hatchet flew out of his hand, and had like to have done execution where it was not designed. The prisoner upon his narrow escape broke from them that held him, and, notwithstanding his wound, made use of his legs, and happened to run right upon Mr. Church, who laid hold on him, and a close scuffle they had; but the Indian having no clothes on slipped from him and ran again, and Mr. Church pursued [him], although being lame there was no great odds in the race, until the Indian stumbled and fell, and they closed again—scuffled and fought pretty smartly, until the Indian, by the advantage of his nakedness, slipped from his hold again, and set out on his third race, with Mr. Church close at his heels, endeavoring to lay hold on the hair of his head, which was all the hold could be taken of him. And running through a swamp that was covered with hollow ice, it made so loud a noise that Mr. Church expected (but in vain) that some of his English friends would follow the noise and come to his assistance. But the Indian happened to run athwart a mighty tree that lay fallen near breast high, where he stopped and cried out aloud for help. But Mr. Church being soon upon him again, the Indian seized him fast by the hair of his head, and endeavored by twisting to break his neck. But though Mr. Church’s wounds had somewhat weakened him, and the Indian a stout fellow, yet he held him well in play and twisted the Indian’s neck as well, and took the advantage of many opportunities, while they hung by each other’s hair, to give him notorious bunts in the face with his head. But in the heat of this scuffle they heard the ice break, with somebody’s coming apace to them, which when they heard, Church concluded there was help for one or other of them, but was doubtful which of them must now receive the fatal stroke—anon somebody comes up to them, who proved to be the Indian that had first taken the prisoner; without speaking a word, he felt them out (for it was so dark he could not distinguish them by sight, the one being clothed and the other naked), he felt where Mr. Church’s hands were fastened in the Netop’s hair and with one blow settled his hatchet in between them, and ended the strife. He then spoke to Mr. Church and hugged him in his arms, and thanked him abundantly for catching his prisoner, and cut off the head of his victim and carried it to the camp, and, giving an account to the rest of the friend Indians in the camp how Mr. Church had seized his prisoner, etc., they all joined in a mighty shout.