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COLONIZATION OF CONNECTICUT.
younger Winthrop, the future benefactor of Connec- CHAP. ticut, one of those men in whom the elements of human excellence are mingled in the happiest union, 1635. returned from England with a commission from the proprietaries of that region, to erect a fort at the mouth of the stream; a purpose, which was accomplished. Yet before his arrival in Massachusetts Bay, settlements had been commenced by emigrants from the environs of Boston at Hartford, and Windsor, and Wethersfield; and in the last days of the pleasantest of the autumnal months a company of sixty pilgrims, women and children being of the number, began their march to the west. Never before had the forests of America witnessed such a scene. But the journey was begun too late in the season; the winter was so unusually early and severe, that provisions could not arrive by way of the river; imperfect shelter had been provided; cattle perished in great numbers; and the men suffered such privations, that many of them in the depth of winter abandoned their newly-chosen habitations, and waded through the snows to the sea-board.
Yet in the opening of the next year a government 1636. was organized, and civil order established; and the 26. budding of the trees and the springing of the grass were signals for a greater emigration to the Con- May. necticut. Some smaller parties had already made their way to the new Hesperia of puritanism. In June the principal caravan began its march, led by Thomas Hooker, "the light of the Western Churches." There were of the company about one hun
CHAP. dred souls; many of them, persons accustomed to af
fluence and the ease of European life. They drove 1636. before them numerous herds of cattle; and thus they
traversed on foot the pathless forests of Massachusetts; advancing hardly ten miles a day through the tangled woods, across the swamps and numerous streams, and over the highlands that separated the several intervening vallies; subsisting, as they slowly wandered along, on the milk of the kine, which
browsed on the fresh leaves and early shoots; having June. no guide through the nearly untrodden wilderness,
but the compass, and no pillow for their nightly rest but heaps of stones. What hardships did they endure in crossing the hills of Worcester county ? What dangers in following the windings of the Chickapee, and fording with their cattle its rapid current ? How did the hills echo with the unwonted lowing of the herds! How were the forests enlivened by the loud and fervent piety of Hooker!! Never again was there such a pilgrimage from the seaside “to the delightful banks” of the Connecticut. The emigrants had been gathered from among the most valued citizens, the earliest settlers and the oldest churches of the Bay. John Haynes had for one year been the governor of Massachusetts; and Hooker had no rival in public estimation but Cotton, whom he surpassed in force of character, in boldness of spirit, and in honorable clemency. Historians, investigating the causes of events, have endeavored to find the motives of this settlement in the jealous
1 Hooker was “a Son of Thunder.” See Morton, p. 239, and 240.
WAR WITH THE PEQUODS.
ambition of the minister of Hartford. Such inge- CHAP. nuity is gratuitous. The Connecticut was at that time supposed to be the best channel for a great internal traffic in furs; and its meadows, already proverbial for the richness of their soil, had acquired the same celebrity as in a later day the banks of the Genesee, or the bottom lands of the Miami.
The new settlement that seemed so far towards the West, was environed by perils. The Dutch still indulged a hope of dispossessing the English, and the natives of the country beheld the approach of Europeans with malignant hatred. No part of New-England was more thickly covered with aboriginal inhabitants than Connecticut. The Pequods, who were settled round the Thames, could muster at least seven hundred warriors; the whole number of the effective men of the emigrants was much less than two hundred. The danger from the savages was incessant; and while the settlers, with hardly a plough or a yoke of oxen, turned the wild fertility of nature into productiveness, they were at the same time exposed to the incursions of a savage enemy, whose delight was carnage.
For the Pequods had already shown a hostile spirit. 1633. Several years had elapsed, since they had murdered the crew of a small trading vessel in Connecticut river. With some appearance of justice they pleaded the necessity of self-defence; and sent messen- 1634. gers to Boston to desire the alliance of the white men. The government of Massachusetts accepted the excuse, and immediately conferred the benefit, which
CHAP. was due from civilization to the ignorant and pas
sionate tribes; it reconciled the Pequods with their hereditary enemies, the Narragansetts. No longer
at variance with a powerful neighbor, the Pequods 1636. again displayed their bitter and emboldened hostility July.
to the English by murdering Oldham, near BlockIsland. The outrage was punished by a sanguinary but ineffectual expedition. The warlike tribe was not overawed; but rather courted the alliance of its neighbors, the Narragansetts and the Mohegans, that a union and a general rising of the natives might sweep the hated intruders from the ancient hunting grounds of the Indian race. The design could be frustrated by none but Roger Williams; and the exile, who had been the first to communicate to the governor of Massachusetts the news of the impending conspiracy, encountered the extremity of peril with magnanimous heroism. Having received letters from Vane and the council of Massachusetts, requesting his utmost and speediest endeavors to prevent the league, neither storms of wind nor high seas could detain the adventurous envoy. Shipping himself alone in a poor canoe, every moment at the hazard of his life, he hastened to the house of the sachem of the Narragansetts. The Pequod ambassadors, reeking with blood, were already there; and for three days and nights the business compelled him to lodge and mix with them; having cause every night to expect their knives at his throat. The Narragansetts were wavering; but Roger Williams succeeded in dissolving the formidable conspiracy.
CONNECTICUT LEVIES TROOPS FOR THE WAR.
It was the most intrepid and most successful achieve- CHAP. ment in the whole Pequod war; an action, as perilous in its execution, as it was fortunate in its issue. When the Pequods were to contend single-handed against the common interests of all the English settlements, it was their ignorance only, which left them confidence. The honor of military success belongs almost ex- 1637.
May clusively to Connecticut. The court of the three infant towns, decreed a war; ninety men, one half of the colony, were levied for actual service; and the continued depredations and murders, committed by the Pequods, demanded immediate action. Massachusetts and Plymouth both desired to send assistance; but the brave men of Connecticut, under the command of John Mason, resolved on immediate action. Uncas, the Sachem of the Mohegans, was their ally. They descended the river; and had de- May signed to sail for the mouth of the Thames. It was deemed better to proceed to Narragansett Bay, and, by crossing the country, to effect a surprise. The tribes of Miantonomoh watched the progress of the expedition with doubtful friendship; and all the Indians, but Uncas and the Mohegans, deserted the enterprise, which to them seemed desperate. But there was no room for apprehension. Never was the superiority of Europeans more signally manifested; never was the feebleness of the natives more plainly displayed.
The unhappy Pequods were as yet so little familiar with the English, that they had not learned to