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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

“Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal”: The Story of the First Encounter

By Edward Winslow (1595–1655) and William Bradford (1590–1657)

WEDNESDAY, the 6th of December, we set out, being very cold and hard weather. We were a long while, after we launched from the ship, before we could get clear of a sandy point, which lay within less than a furlong of the same. In which time two were very sick, and Edward Tilley had like to have sounded with cold. The gunner also was sick unto death, (but hope of trucking made him to go,) and so remained all that day and the next night. At length we got clear of the sandy point, and got up our sails, and within an hour or two we got under the weather shore, and then had smoother water and better sailing. But it was very cold; for the water froze on our clothes, and made them many times like coats of iron.

We sailed six or seven leagues by the shore, but saw neither river nor creek. At length we met with a tongue of land, being flat off from the shore, with a sandy point. We bore up to gain the point, and found there a fair income or road of a bay, being a league over at the narrowest, and some two or three in length; but we made right over to the land before us, and left the discovery of this income till the next day. As we drew near to the shore, we espied some ten or twelve Indians very busy about a black thing,—what it was we could not tell,—till afterwards they saw us, and ran to and fro, as if they had been carrying something away. We landed a league or two from them, and had much ado to put ashore any where, it lay so full of flat sands. When we came to shore, we made us a barricado, and got firewood, and set out sentinels, and betook us to our lodging, such as it was. We saw the smoke of the fire which the savages made that night, about four or five miles from us.

In the morning we divided our company, some eight in the shallop, and the rest on the shore went to discover this place. But we found it only to be a bay, without either river or creek coming into it. Yet we deemed it to be as good a harbour as Cape Cod; for they that sounded it found a ship might ride in five fathom water. We on the land found it to be a level soil, though none of the fruitfullest. We saw two becks of fresh water, which were the first running streams that we saw in the country; but one might stride over them. We found also a great fish, called a grampus, dead on the sands. They in the shallop found two of them also in the bottom of the bay, dead in like sort. They were cast up at high water, and could not get off for the frost and ice. They were some five or six paces long, and about two inches thick of fat, and fleshed like a swine. They would have yielded a great deal of oil, if there had been time and means to have taken it. So we finding nothing for our turn, both we and our shallop returned.

We then directed our course along the sea sands to the place where we first saw the Indians. When we were there, we saw it was also a grampus which they were cutting up. They cut it into long rands or pieces, about an ell long and two handfull broad. We found here and there a piece scattered by the way, as it seemed for haste. This place the most were minded we should call the Grampus Bay, because we found so many of them there. We followed the track of the Indians’ bare feet a good way on the sands. At length we saw where they struck into the woods by the side of a pond. As we went to view the place, one said he thought he saw an Indian house among the trees; so went up to see. And here we and the shallop lost sight one of another till night, it being now about nine or ten o’clock. So we light on a path, but saw no house, and followed a great way into the woods. At length we found where corn had been set, but not that year. Anon, we found a great burying-place, one part whereof was encompassed with a large palisado, like a church-yard, with young spires, four or five yards long, set as close one by another as they could, two or three foot in the ground. Within it was full of graves, some bigger and some less. Some were also paled about; and others had like an Indian house made over them, but not matted. Those graves were more sumptuous than those at Cornhill; yet we digged none of them up, but only viewed them and went our way. Without the palisado were graves also, but not so costly. From this place we went and found more cornground, but not of this year. As we ranged, we light on four or five Indian houses, which had been lately dwelt in; but they were uncovered, and had no mats about them; else they were like those we found at Cornhill, but had not been so lately dwelt in. There was nothing left but two or three pieces of old mats, and a little sedge. Also, a little further, we found two baskets full of parched acorns hid in the ground, which we supposed had been corn when we began to dig the same; we cast earth thereon again, and went our way. All this while we saw no people.

We went ranging up and down till the sun began to draw low, and then we hasted out of the woods, that we might come to our shallop; which, when we were out of the woods, we espied a great way off, and called them to come unto us; the which they did as soon as they could, for it was not yet high water. They were exceeding glad to see us, for they feared because they had not seen us in so long a time, thinking we would have kept by the shore side. So being both weary and faint,—for we had eaten nothing all that day,—we fell to make our rendezvous and get firewood, which always costs us a great deal of labor. By that time we had done, and our shallop come to us, it was within night; and we fed upon such victuals as we had, and betook us to our rest, after we had set out our watch. About midnight we heard a great and hideous cry; and our sentinels called, “Arm! Arm!” So we bestirred ourselves, and shot off a couple of muskets, and the noise ceased. We concluded that it was a company of wolves or foxes; for one told us he had heard such a noise in Newfoundland.

About five o’clock in the morning we began to be stirring; and two or three, which doubted whether their pieces would go off or no, made trial of them and shot them off, but thought nothing at all. After prayer we prepared ourselves for breakfast, and for a journey; and it being now the twilight in the morning, it was thought meet to carry the things down to the shallop. Some said, it was not best to carry the armor down. Others said, they would be readier. Two or three said, they would not carry theirs till they went themselves, but mistrusting nothing at all. As it fell out, the water not being high enough, they laid the things down upon the shore, and came up to breakfast. Anon, all upon a sudden, we heard a great and strange cry, which we knew to be the same voices, though they varied their notes. One of our company, being abroad, came running in, and cried, “They are men! Indians! Indians!” and withal their arrows came flying amongst us. Our men ran out with all speed to recover their arms; as by the good providence of God they did. In the mean time, Captain Miles Standish, having a snaphance ready, made a shot; and after him another. After they two had shot, other two of us were ready; but he wished us not to shoot till we could take aim, for we knew not what need we should have; and there were four only of us which had their arms there ready, and stood before the open side of our barricado, which was first assaulted. They thought it best to defend it, lest the enemy should take it and our stuff; and so have the more vantage against us. Our care was no less for the shallop; but we hoped all the rest would defend it. We called unto them to know how it was with them; and they answered “Well! Well!” every one, and “Be of good courage!” We heard three of their pieces go off, and the rest called for a firebrand to light their matches. One took a log out of the fire on his shoulder and went and carried it unto them; which was thought did not a little discourage our enemies. The cry of our enemies was dreadful, especially when our men ran out to recover their arms. Their note was after this manner, “Woach, woach, ha ha hach woach.” Our men were no sooner come to their arms, but the enemy was ready to assault them.

There was a lusty man, and no whit less valiant, who was thought to be their captain, stood behind a tree within half a musket shot of us, and there let his arrows fly at us. He was seen to shoot three arrows, which were all avoided; for he at whom the first arrow was aimed, saw it, and stooped down, and it flew over him. The rest were avoided also. He stood three shots of a musket. At length, one took, as he said, full aim at him; after which he gave an extraordinary cry, and away they went all. We followed them about a quarter of a mile; but we left six to keep our shallop, for we were very careful of our business. Then we shouted all together two several times, and shot off a couple of muskets, and so returned. This we did that they might see we were not afraid of them, nor discouraged.

Thus it pleased God to vanquish our enemies and give us deliverance. By their noise we could not guess that they were less than thirty or forty, though some thought that they were many more. Yet, in the dark of the morning, we could not so well discern them among the trees, as they could see us by our fire-side. We took up eighteen of their arrows, which we have sent to England by Master Jones; some whereof was headed with brass, others with harts’ horn, and others with eagles’ claws. Many more no doubt were shot, for these we found were almost covered with leaves; yet, by the especial providence of God, none of them either hit or hurt us, though many came close by us and on every side of us, and some coats which hung up in our barricado were shot through and through.

So after we had given God thanks for our deliverance, we took our shallop and went on our journey, and called this place The First Encounter.