Chronicles of America 

The Pequot War

The Pequot War, which was carried on by Connecticut with a few men from Massachusetts and a number of Mohegan allies, ended in the complete overthrow of the Pequot nation and the extermination of nearly all its fighting force. It began in June, 1637, with the successful attack by Captain John Mason on the Pequot fort near Groton, and was brought to an end by the battle of Fairfield Swamp, July 13, where the surviving Pequots made their last stand. Sassacus, the Pequot chieftain, was murdered by the Mohawks, among whom he had sought refuge; and during the year that followed wandering members of the tribe, whenever found, were slain by their enemies, the Mohegans and Narragansetts. An entire Indian people was wiped out of existence, an achievement difficult to justify on any ground save that of the extreme necessity of either slaying or being slain. The relentless pursuit of the scattered and dispirited remnants of these tribes admits of little defense.

The overthrow of the Pequots opened to settlement the region from Saybrook to Mystic and led to a treaty in 1638 with the Mohegans and Narragansetts, according to which harmony was to prevail and peace was to reign. But the outcome of this impracticable treaty was a five years' struggle between the Mohegan chieftain, Uncas, actively allied with the colony of Connecticut, and Miantonomo, sachem of the Narragansetts, which involved Connecticut in a tortuous and often dishonorable policy of attempting to divide the Indians in order to rule them — a policy which led to many embarrassing negotiations and bloody conflicts and ended in the murder of Miantonomo in 1643, by the Mohegans, at the instigation of the commissioners of the United Colonies. This alliance between Uncas and the colony lasted for more than forty years. It placed upon Connecticut the burden of supporting a treacherous and grasping Indian chief; it created a great deal of confusion in land titles in the eastern part of the colony because of indiscriminate Indian grants; it started the famous Mohegan controversy which agitated the colony and England also, and was not finally settled until 1773, one hundred and thirty years later; and it was, in part at least, a cause of King Philip's War, because of the colony's support of the Mohegans against their traditional enemies, the Narragansetts and Niantics.

The presence of the Indians in and near the colonies rendered frequent dealings with them a matter of necessity. The English settlers generally purchased their lands from the Indians, paying in such goods or implements or trinkets as satisfied savage need and desire. In so doing they acquired, as they supposed, a clear title of ownership, though there can be no doubt that what the Indian thought he sold was not the actual soil but only the right to occupy the land in common with himself. As the years wore on, the problems of reservations, trade, and the sale of firearms and liquor engaged the attention of the authorities and led to the passage of many laws. The conversion of the Indians to Christianity became the object of many pious efforts, and in Massachusetts and Plymouth resulted in communities of "Praying Indians," estimated in 1675 at about four thousand individuals. In contact with the white man the Indian tended to deteriorate. He frequented the settlements often to the annoyance of the men and the dread of the women and children; he got into debt, was incurably slothful and idle, and developed an uncontrollable desire to drink and steal. Where the Indians were not a menace, they were a nuisance, and the colonies passed many laws concerning the Indians which were designed to meet the one condition as well as the other.

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