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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

The Engagement at Pigwacket

By Thomas Symmes (1678–1725)

[Born 1678. Minister of Bradford, Mass. Died, 1725. Lovewell Lamented. 1725.]

IT was about the 16th of April, 1725, that the brave and intrepid Captain John Lovewell began the arduous and perilous undertaking of marching from Dunstable to Pigwacket, with forty-six men under his command….

From the Thursday before the battle, the company were apprehensive they were discovered and dogged by the enemy; and on Friday night the watch heard the Indians about the camp and alarmed the company, but, it being very dark, they could make no further discovery.

On Saturday, the eight of May, while they were at prayers, very early in the morning, they heard a gun; and some little time after they espied an Indian on a point, that ran into Saco pond.

They now concluded that the design of the gun, and the Indian’s discovering himself, was to draw them that way.—They expected now without fail to be attacked, and it was proposed and consulted, whether it would be prudent to venture an engagement with the enemy (who they perceived were now sufficiently alarmed), or endeavor a speedy retreat. The men generally and boldly answered: “We came to see the enemy; we have all along prayed God we might find them; and we had rather trust Providence with our lives, yea, die for our country, than “try to return without seeing them, if we might, and be called cowards for our pains.”

The captain readily complied to lead them on, though not without manifesting some apprehensions, and, supposing the enemy were ahead of them (when, as it proved, they were in the rear) ordered the men to lay down their packs, and march with the greatest caution, and in the utmost readiness.

When they had marched about a mile and a half or two miles, Ensign Wyman espied an Indian coming towards them, whereupon he gave a signal, and they all squatted and let the Indian come on. In a short time several guns were fired at him, upon which the Indian fired upon Capt. Lovewell, with beaver-shot, and wounded him mortally (as is supposed), though he made but little complaint and was still able to travel, and at the same time wounded Mr. Samuel Whitney.—Ensign Wyman immediately fired at and killed the Indian, and Mr. Frye and another scalped him.

They then marched back towards their packs (which the enemy had found in the mean time and seized), and about ten of the clock, when they came pretty near to where they had laid them, at the northeast end of Saco Pond, on a plain where there were few trees and but little brush, the Indians rose up in front and rear, in two parties, and ran towards the English, three or four deep, with their guns presented: the English also instantly presented their guns, and rushed on to meet them.

When they had advanced to within a few yards of each other, they fired on both sides, and the Indians fell in considerable numbers, but the English, most, if not all of them, escaped the first shot, and drove the Indians several rods. Three or four rounds were fired on both sides; but the Indians being more than double in number to our men, and having already killed Captain Lovewell, Mr. Fullam (only son of Major Fullam of Weston), Ensign Harwood, John Jefts, Jonathan Kittridge, Daniel Woods, Ichabod Johnson, Thomas Woods, and Josiah Davis, and wounded Lieutenants Farwell and Robbins, and Robert Usher, in the place where the fight began, and striving to surround the rest, the word was given to retreat to the pond, which was done with a great deal of good conduct, and proved a great service to the English (the pond covering their rear), though the Indians got the ground where the dead of our party lay.

The fight continued very furious and obstinate, till towards night, the Indians roaring and yelling and howling like wolves, barking like dogs, and making all sorts of hideous noises,—the English frequently shouting and huzzaing, as they did after the first round. At one time, Captain Wyman is confident, the Indians were diverting themselves in powowing, by their striking upon the ground, and other odd motions,—but Wyman, creeping up and shooting their chief actor, broke up their meeting.

Some of the Indians, holding up ropes, asked the English if they would take quarter; but were briskly answered, that they would have no quarter but at the muzzles of their guns.

About the middle of the afternoon, the ingenious Mr. Jonathan Frye (only son of Capt. James Frye of Andover), a young gentleman of a liberal education, who took his degree at Harvard College, 1723, and was chaplain to the company, and greatly beloved by them for his excellent performances and good behavior, and who fought with undaunted courage till that time of day, was mortally wounded. But when he could fight no longer, he prayed audibly several times for the preservation and success of the residue of the company.

Some time after sunset, the enemy drew off, and left the field to our men. It was supposed and believed, that not more than twenty of the enemy went off well. About midnight, the English assembled themselves, and, upon examining into their situation, they found Jacob Farrar just expiring by the pond, and Lieutenant Robbins and Robert Usher unable to travel.

Lieutenant Robbins desired his companions to charge his gun and leave it with him, which they did; he declaring that, “As the Indians will come in the morning to scalp me, I will kill one more of them if I can.”…

Four of the wounded men, viz., Farwell, Frye, Davis and Jones, after they had travelled about a mile and a half, found themselves unable to go any further, and with their free consent the rest kept on their march, hoping to find a recruit at the fort, and to return with fresh hands to relieve them.

As they proceeded on, they divided into three companies one morning, as they were passing a thick wood, for fear of making a track by which the enemy might follow them. One of the companies came upon three Indians, who pursued them some time; meanwhile Elias Barron, one of this party, strayed from the others, and got over Ossapy river, by the side of which his gun case was found, and he was not heard of afterwards. Eleven, in another party, reached the fort at Ossapy, but to their great surprise found it deserted. The coward who fled in the beginning of the battle ran directly to the fort, and gave the men posted there such a frightful account of what had happened, that they all fled from the fort, and made the best of their way home.

Solomon Keyes also came to the fort. When he had fought in the battle till he had received three wounds, and had become so weak by the loss of blood that he could not stand, he crawled up to Ensign Wyman, in the heat of the battle, and told him he was a dead man; “but,” said he, “if it be possible, I will get out of the way of the Indians, that they may not get my scalp.” Keyes then crept off to the side of the pond to where he providentially found a canoe, when he rolled himself into it, and was driven by the wind several miles towards the fort; he gained strength fast, and reached the fort as soon as the eleven before mentioned; and they all arrived at Dunstable on the 13th of May, at night.

On the 15th of May, Ensign Wyman and three others arrived at Dunstable. They suffered greatly for want of provisions. They informed, that they were wholly destitute of all kinds of food, from a Saturday morning till the Wednesday following; when they caught two mouse squirrels, which they roasted whole, and found to be a sweet morsel. They afterwards killed some partridges and other game, and were comfortably supplied till they got home.

Eleazer Davis arrived at Berwick, and reported that he and the other three who were left with him waited some days for the return of the men from the fort, and, at length, despairing of their return, though their wounds were putrefied and stank, and they were almost dead with famine, yet they all travelled on several miles together, till Mr. Frye desired Davis and Farwell not to hinder themselves any longer on his account, for he found himself dying, and he laid himself down, telling them he should never rise more, and charged Davis, if it should please God to bring him home, to go to his father and tell him, that he expected in a few hours to be in eternity, and that he was not afraid to die.—They left him, and this amiable and promising young gentleman, who had the journal of the march in his pocket, was not heard of again.

Lieutenant Farwell, who was greatly and no doubt deservedly applauded and lamented, was also left by Davis within a few miles of the fort, and was not afterwards heard of. But Davis, getting to the fort and finding provision there, tarried and refreshed himself, and recovered strength to travel to Berwick….

Several of the Indians, particularly Paugus, their Chief, were well known to Lovewell’s men, and frequently conversed with each other during the engagement. In the course of the battle, Paugus and John Chamberlain discoursed familiarly with each other; their guns had become foul, from frequent firing; they washed their guns at the pond, and the latter assured Paugus that he should kill him; Paugus also menaced him, and bid defiance to his insinuation. When they had prepared their guns, they loaded and discharged them, and Paugus fell.

A son of Paugus, after it had become a time of peace, went to Dunstable, to revenge his father’s death with the death of Chamberlain. He did not go directly to Chamberlain’s, but to the house of a neighbor, where he tarried several days upon some pretended business, that his design might not be discovered: his errand was, however, suspected, and a hint given to Chamberlain,—who cut a port-hole above his door, through which he very early one morning discovered an Indian behind his woodpile, lying with his gun pointing directly to the door; and it was supposed that the same musket which had conveyed the mean of death to the bosom of the great Paugus, also proved fatal to his son, as he was not afterwards heard of.

It is also reported of this Chamberlain (who was a stout and a courageous man, and who used to say that he was not to be killed by an Indian), that he was once fired at by an Indian, as he was at work in a sawmill, at night; he was in a stooping position, and did not discover the Indian till he fired, who was so near him that he immediately knocked him down with a crowbar, with which he was setting his log….

Ensign Wyman was rewarded with a captain’s commission after his return, and every man was crowned with the grateful thanks of their countrymen, for this heavy blow given to a plundering savage foe, the common enemy of their country.