Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
The End of a Majestical Embassy
By Captain John Underhill (15971672)
[From Newes from America or a Late and Experimental Discovery of New-England. 1638.]
THE PEQUEATS having slain one Captain Norton, and Captain Stone, with seven more of their company, order was given us to visit them, sailing along the Nahanticot shore with five vessels. The Indians, spying of us, came running in multitudes along the water-side, crying, What cheer, Englishmen, what cheer? What do you come for? They, not thinking we intended war, went on cheerfully until they came to Pequeat river. We, thinking it the best way, did forbear to answer them; first, that we might the better be able to run through the work; secondly, that by delaying of them, we might drive them in security, to the end we might have the more advantage of them. But they, seeing we would make no answer, kept on their course, and cried, What, Englishmen, what cheer, what cheer, are you hoggery, will you cram us? That is, Are you angry, will you kill us, and do you come to fight? That night the Nahanticot Indians and the Pequeats made fires on both sides of the river, fearing we would land in the night. They made most doleful and woful cries all the night, (so that we could scarce rest,) hallooing one to another, and giving the word from place to place, to gather their forces together, fearing the English were come to war against them.
The next morning they sent early aboard an ambassador, a grave senior, a man of good understanding, portly carriage, grave and majestical in his expressions. He demanded of us what the end of our coming was. To which we answered, that the governors of the Bay sent us to demand the heads of those persons that had slain Captain Norton and Captain Stone, and the rest of their company, and that it was not the custom of the English to suffer murderers to live; and therefore, if they desired their own peace and welfare, they will peaceably answer our expectation, and give us the heads of the murderers.
They being a witty and ingenious nation, their ambassador labored to excuse the matter, and answered: We know not that any of ours have slain any English. True it is, saith he, we have slain such a number of men; but consider the ground of it. Not long before the coming of these English into the river, there was a certain vessel that came to us in way of trade. We used them well, and traded with them, and took them to be such as would not wrong us in the least matter. But our sachem or prince coming aboard, they laid a plot how they might destroy him; which plot discovereth itself by the event, as followeth: They keeping their boat aboard, and not desirous of our company, gave us leave to stand hallooing ashore, that they might work their mischievous plot. But as we stood they called to us, and demanded of us a bushel of wampam-peke, which is their money. This they demanded for his ransom. This peal did ring terribly in our ears, to demand so much for the life of our prince, whom we thought was in the hands of honest men, and we had never wronged them. But we saw there was no remedy; their expectation must be granted, or else they would not send him ashore, which they promised they would do if we would answer their desires. We sent them so much aboard, according to demand, and they, according to their promise, sent him ashore, but first slew him. This much exasperated our spirits, and made as vow a revenge. Suddenly after came these captains with a vessel into the river, and pretended to trade with us, as the former did. We did not discountenance them for the present, but took our opportunity and came aboard. The sachems son succeeding his father, was the man that came into the cabin of Captain Stone, and Captain Stone having drunk more than did him good, fell backwards on the bed asleep. The sagamore took his opportunity, and having a little hatchet under his garment, therewith knocked him in the head. Some being upon the deck and others under, suspected some such thing; for the rest of the Indians that were aboard had orders to proceed against the rest at one time; but the English, spying treachery, run immediately into the cook-room, and, with a fire-brand, had thought to have blown up the Indians by setting fire to the powder. These devils instruments spying this plot of the English, leaped overboard as the powder was a-firing, and saved themselves; but all the English were blown up. This was the manner of their bloody action. Saith the ambassador to us, Could ye blame us for revenging so cruel a murder? for we distinguished not between the Dutch and English, but took them to be one nation, and therefore we do not conceive that we wronged you, for they slew our king; and thinking these captains to be of the same nation and people as those that slew him, made us set upon this course of revenge.
Our answer was: They were able to distinguish between Dutch and English, having had sufficient experience of both nations; and therefore, seeing you have slain the king of Englands subjects, we come to demand an account of their blood, for we ourselves are liable to account for them.
The answer of the ambassador was: We know no difference between the Dutch and the English; they are both strangers to us; we took them to be all one; therefore we crave pardon; we have not wilfully wronged the English.
This excuse will not serve our turns, for we have sufficient testimony that you know the English from the Dutch. We must have the heads of those persons that have slain ours, or else we will fight with you.
He answered: Understanding the ground of your coming, I will entreat you to give me liberty to go ashore, and I shall inform the body of the people what your intent and resolution is; and if you will stay aboard, I will bring you a sudden answer.
We did grant him liberty to get ashore, and ourselves followed suddenly after before the war was proclaimed. He seeing us land our forces, came with a message to entreat us to come no nearer, but stand in a valley, which had between us and them an ascent, that took our sight from them; but they might see us to hurt us, to our prejudice. Thus, from the first begining to the end of the action, they carried themselves very subtilely; but we, not willing to be at their direction, marched up to the ascent, having set our men in battalia. He came and told us he had inquired for the sachem, that we might come to a parley; but neither of both of the princes were at home; they were gone to Long Island.
Our reply was: We must not be put off thus; we know the sachem is in the plantation, and therefore bring him to us, that we may speak with him, or else we will beat up the drum, and march through the country and spoil your corn.
We gave them leave to take their own course, and used as much patience as ever men might, considering the gross abuse they offered us, holding us above an hour in vain hopes. They sent an Indian to tell us that Mommenoteck was found, and would appear before us suddenly. This brought us to a new stand the space of an hour more. There came a third Indian persuading us to have a little further patience, and he would not tarry, for he had assembled the body of the Pequeats together, to know who the parties were that had slain these Englishmen. But seeing that they did in this interim convey away their wives and children, and bury their chiefest goods, we perceived at length they would fly from us; but we were patient and bore with them, in expectation to have the greater blow upon them. The last messenger brought us this intelligence from the sachem, that if we would but lay down our arms, and approach about thirty paces from them, and meet the heathen prince, he would cause his men to do the like, and then we shall come to a parley.
But we seeing their drift was to get our arms, we rather chose to beat up the drum and bid them battle. Marching into a champaign field, we displayed our colors; but none would come near us, but, standing remotely off, did laugh at us for our patience. We suddenly set upon our march, and gave fire to as many as we could come near, firing their wigwams, spoiling their corn, and many other necessaries that they had buried in the ground we raked up, which the soldiers had for booty. Thus we spent the day burning and spoiling the country. Towards night embarked ourselves. The next morning, landing on the Nahanticot shore, where we were served in like nature, no Indians would come near us, but run from us, as the deer from the dogs. But having burnt and spoiled what we could light on, we embarked our men and set sail for the Bay. Having ended this exploit, came off, having one man wounded in the leg; but certain numbers of theirs slain, and many wounded.