Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: INDIAN WARS, 1675-1763 -- KING PHILIP'S WAR, 1675-6

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When the settlement was made at Winnacunnet, the war with the Pequots having recently closed, all New England was enjoying a respite from open hostility with the natives. There was some friendly intercourse between the races, and this continued many years. Still there was a feeling of insecurity on the part of the settlers, arising from their want of confidence in the sincerity of the Indians in their professions of friendship. Sufficient evidence of this is found in the legislation of the times. A careful perusal of the documents in the archives of Massachusetts will give an insight into the condition of the country, which we fail to get from any history of that period. Provision was early made for organizing military companies and for the frequent drilling of soldiers. Even boys from ten to sixteen years of age were to be exercised with small guns, half-pikes, bow and arrows. Powder was distributed in all the town, and every man was obliged by law to have one pound in his house at all times. Watches and wards were constantly required; houses provided in all the town, as places of retreat for the women and children, and for the safe-keeping of ammunition. In 1644 it was ordered that all inhabitants, as well as others, should "have armes ready in their houses always ready fixed for service." Provision was made for calling out companies in case of an alarm, and every trained soldier was required to turn out immediately under penalty of £5 for neglect. Military officers were impowered to "appoint what armes to be brought to the meeting houses on the Lord's days & other times of meeting."

The foregoing are only a few of the many regulations made for the security of the people; but they are enough to give us some conception of the dangers to which they felt themselves exposed. Still, there was comparative safety throughout New England til 1675. In that year was commenced the disastrous Indian war which, at the time, being thought to be occasioned by the jealousies and intrigues of Philip of Pokanoket, has usually been called King Philip's War. The first attack made by the Indians was on the town of Swanzey, in the Colony of Plymouth, in June of that year. Not long after, there was an uprising of some of the Eastern Indians in the Province of Maine.

Their first acts of hostility were in places more remote, but in the month of September they came into New Hampshire and attacked the settlement at Oyster River (Durham), where they burned two houses, killed two men and took captive two others, who, however, soon after escaped.

The next month as Goodman Robinson, of Exeter, and his son were coming from that town to Hampton, they were waylaid by three Indians, who shot the old man and left him dead on the spot. His son, who was a little distance from him, hearing the report of the guns, ran into a neighboring swamp, and, although at first pursued by the Indians, succeeded in reaching Hampton, where he arrived about midnight. The next day, Lieut. Benjamin Swett, with about a dozen soldiers of the town, went and searched the woods and found the body of the murdered man. He had been shot in his back, the bullet having passed nearly through his body.

Before the close of the year small parties of Indians committed depredations in several places near the Piscataqua. The inhabitants of Hampton suffered less than those in the river town, though they lived in constant dread, and sometimes the enemy was known to be lurking among them. One instance (a matter of record) may be given:

There appears to have been a plot to burn the house of Thomas Sleeper -- a frontier-house in the easterly part of the town. About nine o'clock in the evening of the first Saturday of November, 1675, an Indian was discovered passing from the barn, about eight rods distant, towards the house, with fire in his right hand -- "in appearance about the bigness of an egg" -- and straw under his left arm. When about midway between the two buildings, he was fired upon from the house and immediately fell. The straw took fire and blazed up, and by the light of it another Indian was seen running away between the fire and the barn. Thus their design was frustrated. The fire soon went out, having done no injury. The people of the house, fearing that others might be lying in ambush, dared not go out in the night to the place where the Indian fell. In the morning, no dead Indian was to be found, but pieces of birch-bark lay scattered around where the fire had been kindled.

In the early part of the following week scouts were out in Hampton, Exeter, Salisbury and Haverhill, searching the woods to track the Indians on the snow which had already fallen, but they appear to have returned without success.

Just before the year closed, it was ordered that the majors of the several regiments in this part of Massachusetts should raise three hundred men to reduce the enemy by attacking them at their headquarters at Ossipee and Pequacket. Of this number, Hampton was required to furnish twenty-eight men. But the winter was very severe. We have already stated that snow had fallen early in November. By the tenth of December it was four feet deep in the woods. The soldiers not being provided with snow-shoes, it was impossible to carry out the plan proposed. But the depth of the snow and the severity of the winter were equally unfavorable to the Indians. They were also suffering from famine, and having from this cause and by the war lost a large number of their men, they were glad to make peace, which was obtained through the mediation of Major Waldron, of Dover, to whom they had applied for this purpose. The captives they had taken were restored, thus bringing joy to many families, though the peace was of short duration.

Hostilities were renewed the next summer, partly, perhaps, through fault of the Indians; but partly also through that of the English, or some of them, whose dealings with the red-men had not been such as were likely to secure a permanent peace. The occurrences of this year, though not unimportant, will be passed over, as not coming within the scope of this work.

On the 16th of April, 1677, the house of John Kenniston was burned, and himself killed within the limits of the present town of Greenland, which borders North Hampton, then a part of Hampton.

About two months later the enemy appeared in Hampton and killed four men in that part of the town called North Hill (now North Hampton). These were: Edward Colcord, Jr., Abraham Perkins, Jr., Benjamin Hilliard and Caleb Towle. Perkins had a wife and three daughters. The others were unmarried. Colcord's age was 25; Perkins', 37; Hilliard's, 24; Towle's, 16.

The eastern settlements in the Province of Maine, being very much exposed, and needing assistance, the government of Massachusetts determined to send a force of two hundred friendly Indians and forty English soldiers against the enemy in those parts. Lieut. Benjamin Swett, of Hampton, who received a captain's commission, June 21, was made "the conductor and chief commander of the English and Indian forces now raised to go forth on the service of the country against the Eastern Indian Enemy, as also to order and dispose of the masters and mariners and vessels now going on said service, for the better management of that affairs."

Dr. Belknap and some other writers state that Captain Swett was sent to Taconic falls on the Kennebec, one of the strongholds of the enemy, but nothing to corroborate this is found in the instructions of the government, dated on the next day after he received his commission. The instructions are as follows:

Capt. Swett,

You are ordered with the forces now raysed & by your comission put under your command, to repayr to Black-poynt, & there use all possible dilligence, by scouting & otherwise, to understand the state & Motion of the enemy, & with your force to assayle & annoy them as much as in you lyeth. If any other small quarter of the enemy lye near & your force be in any manner capable in a short time to visit & fall upon them, you are accordingly ordered with all yr force, Indians & English, to make your March thither & assalt them. If otherwise no service against the enemy offer, advising with Maj. Clark to whom the Council doth refer you for advice, you shall with your whole force March down toward Pascataway or the backside of Winter-Harbour . . . . . if possible to discovere the lurking places of the enemy & fall upon them: after which you shall supply out of your company the places of ye old garrison-soldiers which went out under Capt. Swayn or other, dismissing them home, & lodge ye remaynder in most convenient & necissary places for the Countrys service, & in such companyes that upon . . . exigence or order you may call ym again for further execution or expedition, keeping your corespondence with giving account to ye governr & Councill, of all occurrences.

Dated at Charlestown ye 22d of June, 1677.

"The forces were embarked in vessels which came to anchor off Black Point in Scarborough, on the 28th of June, where Captain Swett being informed that some Indians had been seen, went on shore with a party, confident in his strength, and began to test the valor and courage of his company before he had disciplined th;em, or had any experience of their ability to fight." This was undoubtedly an error; but the government had committed a greater error in sending a force so inadequate to the work to be done. Not only was the number of men sent far too small, but many, even of that small number, were young, raw and inexperienced soldiers, not able to look danger, much less death, calmly in the face.

"The forces landed at Black Point, were joined by some of the inhabitants, so as to make ninety in all, besides the 200 friendly Indians. The next morning the enemy showed themselves on a plain, in three parties. A large decoy, supposed to be the main body of the Indians, feigned a retreat, and were pursued a distance of about two miles from the fort, when the English soldiers found themselves in a most exposed situation, between a thicket and a swamp, upon the declivity of a hill; and instantly from an ambush on each side, great numbers of Indians, rising with a war-whoop, fired at once upon the two division, and turning so violently and so suddenly upon them, threw the young and undisciplined soldiers into confusion. Capt. Swett with a few of the more resolute, fought bravely on the retreat, till he came near the fort, when he was killed. Sixty more, among them Lieut. Richardson, were left dead or wounded, and the rest got into the fort."

Such is the account of this fatal engagement, derived from a manuscript letter of Rev. Nathaniel Gookin, of Hampton, and drawn up by one of his descendants, the late John Wingate Thornton, of Boston.

Williamson, in his History of Maine, gives the following account, which is substantially that of Hubbard:

"Though the ranks were broken, the engagement was sharp and protracted. Richardson was presently slain, and many on both sides soon shared the same fate. Swett fought the enemy hand to hand; displaying upon the spot and in a retreat of two miles, great presence of mind, as well as personal courage, in repeated rallies of his men, in his exertions to bring off the dead and wounded, and in defense of his rear, upon which the savages hung with destructive fury. At last, wounded in twenty places, and exhausted by loss of blood and by fatigue, he was grappled, thrown to the ground, and barbarously cut in pieces at the gates of the garrison. With this intrepid officer, fell sixty of his men -- forty English and twenty Indians. Seldom is the merit of a military officer more genuine; seldom is the death of one more deeply lamented."

Nowhere was the death of Captain Swett more deeply lamented than in Hampton, by the people among whom he had many years lived, and by whom he was well known and highly esteemed. The loss of him was more severely felt in consequence of the imminent danger which they then conceived the town to be in, of an attack by the enemy. This is abundantly evident from a petition of the militia and inhabitants of the town, to Major General Denison, stating that they had eighteen impressed men in daily service, besides the ordinary ward; and urging that, owing to threats of the Indians upon "our Towne in particular," about thirty able and stout men might be impressed and sent to their aid. This petition was signed by Rev. Seaborn Cotton, Samuel Dalton and the military officers, Capt. Christopher Hussey, Ensign John Sanborn and Deputy Thomas Marston.

So urgent appeared the necessity for immediate relief, that another petition was the same day prepared and sent to General Denison, begging him to send them, if it were possible, about thirty men from Newbury, or some place near, with a suitable commander, sos that, if practicable, they might be at Hampton as soon as the next Thursday morning, as an attack had been threatened for that day.

Whether any relief was afforded in answer to these petitions, does not appear; but the anticipated attack was not made; and soon afterwards the Indians ceased their depredations,s and in the following spring concluded a peace at Casco, and restored their captives.

A considerable number of Hampton men performed military service in this war. How many were with Captain Swett in his unfortunate expedition, is not known. In March, 1676, some forces were sent for the defense of Marlborough, Mass., and among them were at least eight men from this town, viz.:

Mr. John Stanyan
Thomas Cram
Caleb Perkins
John Huggins
Jacob Garland
Abraham Chase
John Philbrick
John Palmer

The following persons are known to have been in the service of the country sometime during the two years, 1675 and 1676.

Israel Blake
John Brown
Thomas Brown
Joseph Cass
John Chapman
Samuel Chapman
Israel Clifford
Edward Colcord
Henry Dow
Abraham Drake
Joseph Griffin
James Hobbs
Morris Hobbs
Thomas Hobbs
Francis Jenness
Samuel Johnson
Israel Leavitt
John Leavitt
Ephraim Marston
John Marston
Benjamin Moulton
John Palmer
------ Palmer
Ebenezer Perkins
Thomas Robie
William Samborne
John Sleeper
Joseph Smith
Benjamin Swett
Michael Towsley
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