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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

Taking of the Narraganset Fort

By William Hubbard (1621/2–1704)

[From A Narrative of the Troubles with the Indians in New-England. 1677.]

THE WHOLE number of all our forces being now come, the want of provision with the sharpness of the cold minded them of expedition; wherefore the very next day, the whole body of the Massachusets and Plimouth Forces marched away to Pettiquamscot, intending to engage the enemy upon the first opportunity that next offered itself: To the which resolution those of Connecticut presently consented, as soon as they met together, which was about five o’clock in the afternoon. Bulls House, intended for their general rendezvouz, being unhappily burnt down two or three days before, there was no shelter left either for officer or private soldier, so as they were necessitated to march on towards the enemy through the snow in a cold stormy evening, finding no other defence all that night, save the open air, nor other covering than a cold and moist fleece of snow. Through all these difficulties they marched from the break of the next day, December 19th, till one of the clock in the afternoon, without either fire to warm them, or respite to take any food save what they could chew in their march. Thus having waded fourteen or fifteen mile through the country of the old Queen, or Sunke Squaw of Narhaganset, they came at one o’clock upon the edge of the swamp, where their guide assured them they should find Indians enough before night.

Our forces chopping thus upon the seat of the enemy, upon the sudden, they had no time either to draw up in any order or form of battle, nor yet opportunity to consult where or how to assault. As they marched, Capt. Mosley and Capt. Davenport led the van; Major Appleton and Capt. Oliver brought up the rear of the Massachuset forces; General Winslow with the Plimouth forces marched in the centre; those of Connecticut came up in the rear of the whole body. But the frontiers discerning Indians in the edge of the swamp fired immediately upon them, who answering our men in the same language retired presently into the swamp; our men followed them in amain without staying for the word of command, as if every one were ambitious who should go first, never making any stand till they came to the sides of the fort, into which the Indians that first fired upon them betook themselves.

It seems that there was but one entrance into the Fort, though the enemy found many ways to come out; but neither the English nor their guide well knew on which side the entrance lay, nor was it easy to have made another; wherefore the good providence of Almighty God is the more to be acknowledged, who, as he led Israel sometime by the Pillar of Fire and the Cloud of his Preference a right way through the wilderness, so did he now direct our forces upon that side of the Fort, where they might only enter, though not without utmost danger and hazard. The Fort was raised upon a kind of island of five or six acres of rising land in the midst of a swamp; the sides of it were made of palisades set upright, the which was compassed about with an hedge of almost a rod thickness, through which there was no passing, unless they could have fired away through, which then they had no time to do. The place where the Indians used ordinarily to enter themselves was over a long tree upon a place of water, where but one man could enter at a time, and which was so way-laid that they would have been cut off that had ventured there. But at one corner there was a gap made up only with a long tree, about four or five foot from the ground, over which men might easily pass. But they had placed a kind of block-house right over against the said tree, from whence they sorely galled our men that first entered; some being shot dead upon the tree, as Capt. Johnson, and some as soon as they entered, as was Capt. Davenport, so as they that first entered were forced presently to retire and fall upon their bellies till the fury of the enemies’ shot was pretty well spent, which some companies that did not discern the danger, not observing, lost sundry of their men; but at the last, two companies being brought up besides the four that first marched up, they animated one another to make another assault, one of the commanders crying out, They run, they run; which did so encourage the Soldiers that they presently entered amain. After a considerable number were well entered, they presently beat the enemy out of a flanker on the left hand, which did a little shelter our men from the enemies’ shot till more company came up, and so by degrees made up higher, first into the middle, and then into the upper end of the Fort, till at last they made the enemy all retire from their sconces and fortified places, leaving multitudes of their dead bodies upon the place. Connecticut soldiers marching up in the rear, being not aware of the dangerous passage over the tree in command of the block-house, were at their first entrance many of them shot down, although they came on with as gallant resolution as any of the rest, under the conduct of their wise and valiant leader, Major Treat.

The brunt of the battle or danger that day lay most upon the commanders, whose part it was to lead on their several companies in the very face of death, or else all had been lost; so as all of them with great valor and resolution of mind, as not at all afraid to die in so good a cause, bravely led on their men in that desperate assault, leaving their lives in the place as the best testimony of their valor, and of love to the cause of God and their Country. No less than six brave captains fell that day in the assault, viz.: Capt. Davenport, Capt. Gardner, Capt. Johnson of the Massachusets, besides Lieutenant Upham, who died some months after of his wounds received at that time. Capt. Gallop also, and Capt. Siely, and Capt. Marshal were slain of those that belonged to Connecticut Colony. It is usually seen that the valor of the soldiers is much wrapped up in the lives of their commanders; yet it was found here that the soldiers were rather enraged than discouraged by the loss of their commanders, which made them redouble their courage, and not give back after they were entered the second time, till they had driven out their enemies. So as after much blood and many wounds dealt on both sides, the English, feeling their advantage, began to fire the wigwams, where was supposed to be many of the enemies’ women and children destroyed, by the firing of at least five or six hundred of those smoky cells.

It is reported by them that first entered the Indians’ Fort, that our soldiers came upon them when they were ready to dress their dinner; but one sudden and unexpected assault put them besides that work, making their cook-rooms too hot for them at that time, when they and their mitchin fried together; and probably some of them eat their suppers in a colder place that night, most of their provisions as well as their huts being then consumed with fire; and those that were left alive forced to hide themselves in a cedar swamp, not far off, where they had nothing to defend them from the cold but boughs of spruce and pine trees. For after two or three hours’ fight the English became masters of the place; but not judging it tenable, after they had burned all they could set fire upon, they were forced to retreat, after the day-light was almost quite spent, and were necessitated to retire to their quarters, full fifteen or sixteen miles off, some say more, whither with their dead and wounded men they were to march, a difficulty scarce to be believed, as not to be paralleled almost in any former age.

It is hard to say who acquitted themselves best in that day’s service, either the soldiers for their manlike valor in fighting, or the commanders for their wisdom and courage; leading on in the very face of death. There might one have seen the whole body of that little regimental army, as busy as bees in a hive, some bravely fighting with the enemy, others hauling off and carrying away the dead and wounded men; which I rather note, that none may want the due testimony of their valor and faithfulness, though all ought to say, “Not unto us, but unto thy Name, O Lord,” etc.

For though there might not be above three or four hundred at any time within the Fort at once, yet the rest in their turns came up to do what the exigency of the service required in bringing off the dead and wounded men. The Major of the Massachusets regiment, together with Capt. Mosely, was very serviceable; for by that means the Fort being clear of the dead bodies, it struck a greater terror into the enemy to see but eight or ten dead bodies of the English left, than to meet with so many hundreds of their own slain and wounded carcasses. The number of the slain was not then known on the enemies side, because our men were forced to leave them on the ground; but our victory was found afterwards to be much more considerable than at the first was apprehended; for although our loss was very great, not only because of the desperateness of the attempt itself (in such a season of the year, and at such a distance from our quarters, whereby many of our wounded men perished, which might otherwise have been preserved, if they had not been forced to march so many miles in a cold and snowy night, before they could be dressed) yet the enemy lost so many of their principal fighting men,—their provision also was, by the burning of their wigwams, so much of it spoiled at the taking of their Fort, and by surprising so much of their corn about that time also,—that it was the occasion of their total ruin afterwards; they being at that time driven away from their habitations and put by from planting for that next year, as well as deprived of what they had in store for the present winter. What numbers of the enemy were slain is uncertain; it was confessed by one Potock a great councillor among them, afterwards taken at Road Island and put to death at Boston, that the Indians lost seven hundred fighting men that day, besides three hundred that died of their wounds the most of them; the number of men, women and children, that perished either by fire, or that were starved with hunger and cold, none of them could tell. There were above eighty of the English slain, and a hundred and fifty wounded that recovered afterwards.