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XIV. LOVEWELL'S WAR.
THE story of Maine from 1675 to 1725 was only the old one of constant war with the Indians. King William's War, Queen Anne's, the French and Indian, were only continuations of the dreadful bloody struggle. And yet the undaunted settlers hailed every interval of peace, like that which followed the treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, and set to work with renewed courage to build up the province. It was hoped that the Indians had been subdued when, in one terrible battle, in which the devoted Jesuit missionary was killed, the whole powerful tribe of Norridgewocks was blotted out.
The Indians had, indeed, been driven from their fastnesses, but many desperate bands lurked about the frontiers, ready for any opportunity of murder or pillage.
A regiment of several hundred men was raised to range the country in the region which was the favorite hunting and fishing ground of the savages. But the wily Indians, ever on the watch, were seldom caught. They skulked in the forests as warily as the wild beasts, and were almost as swift of foot as the deer. Massachusetts, in which Maine was then included, had gone to such desperate and, it must seem to us, brutal lengths in her war upon the savages as to offer "to all volunteers who, without pay or rations, would embark, at their own expense, in the search for scalps, a bounty of £100 for each one taken." A bounty of £15 was offered for the scalp of every Indian boy of the age of twelve years.
This was in 1725, almost a hundred years after the settlement of Boston. In December of that year, Captain John Lovewell, who had, before that time, been a doughty Indian-fighter, went on an expedition, with thirty men, to Lake Winnepesaukee, in New Hampshire. They killed and scalped one Indian, and captured an Indian boy; and for these deeds they received, in Boston, the bounty promised by law.
Later in the winter, Captain Lovewell, this time with forty men, came upon some Indian wigwams on the shore of a small lake, since called Lovewells Pond, near Salmon Falls. There were ten Indians there, just returned from the hunt, and soundly sleeping around their camp fires.
The English stole upon their sleeping victims silently, and fired simultaneously upon them, instantly killing nine and wounding the tenth. When the wounded Indian attempted to escape, a powerful dog, which the Englishmen had brought with them, pursued and held him until he was dispatched with the settlers' hatchets.
Encouraged, apparently, by his scalps and his £1,000, Lovewell set out again, in the middle of April, in quest of more. He took with him forty-six volunteers, thoroughly armed; but it is related that, from the severity of the march and the hardships of the way, three of the company gave out and returned home. A chaplain accompanied the party. He was a young theological student, named Jonathan Frye, a recent graduate of Harvard College.
On the side of Great Ossipee Pond, in New Hampshire, about ten miles beyond the western boundary of Maine, they built a small fort, which was already needed as a hospital,—eight of the men being too ill to go any farther,—and also as a place of retreat if they should be obliged to flee from the enemy.
The sick men were left here, with a surgeon and a guard of three men, and the company again took up the march. At Fryeburg, a distance of twenty-two miles from their fort, they encamped for the night. They were on the shore 'of Lovewells Pond, and only about two miles from them was the Indian village of Pegwacket.
In the morning, while engaged in their devotions,—for it was their invariable custom to have morning prayers,—they were interrupted by the report of a gun. Moving cautiously to the water's edge, they saw, across the pond, a mile away, an Indian hunter, who had fired at some game. He was valuable game indeed to them; fair game, too: by the law of the land his scalp was worth five hundred dollars.
It is not pleasant to relate, but, just from their prayers, the party set out to catch him. In a little pine grove, free from underbrush, they threw off their packs, and left them in a heap; the tall pines were a landmark, and they could easily find them again.
Keeping near to the shore of the pond, yet skulking, in savage fashion, behind the trees, they came within shooting distance of the Indian. He was quite unaware of their approach, and was sauntering along, looking for birds, of which he had a few, already shot, in his hand.
The eager Englishmen fired upon him too hurriedly, and every gun missed its aim. He sprang behind a tree and took a survey of the enemy. Then he took deliberate aim and fired at the leader, Captain Lovewell, inflicting a dangerous, but not a mortal, wound. Ensign Wyman fired almost simultaneously, and the Indian fell dead.
They scalped him, and supporting their wounded leader as well as they could, they returned to the little clearing where they had left their packs.
Meanwhile a band of Indian warriors, led by the great chiefs Paugus and Wahwa, returning from an expedition down the Saco River, came, by chance, upon the little pine grove and the packs. It was easy to see that the owners meant to return for them. It was also easy to tell the number of their owners by counting the packs. It was not difficult for the keen eyes of the savages to discover the path upon which the Englishmen had gone, and by which they would probably return.
Around the little clearing they ranged themselves in ambush, and awaited their victims. The Englishmen were marching easily along, probably well satisfied with their morning expedition, when the Indians rushed upon them from their ambush, with their terrible war whoops. These Indians, having often visited the western settlements of Maine, and been on friendly terms with Captain Lovewell and his men, were loath to kill their former friends, and preferred to take them captive.
They might have shot every man from ambush, but, instead, they came out and presented their guns. Then the English, aroused to renewed courage, poured forth a deadly fire from their guns, and killed two or three Indians.
Instantly the Indians, who outnumbered their enemies two to one, sprang back into the natural ambuscade, and, completely surrounding the English, poured upon /hem a slaughtering volley. Nine men, including Captain Lovewell, fell dead, and two more were severely wounded.
The survivors, including the two badly wounded men, made their way to the pond, only a few rods away. Here there was a bank five feet high, and a sandy beach, and no Indian ambush was possible. The bank was a rampart to protect them from the Indians' bullets, and from behind it, for eight hours, they fought with the courage of despair.
They knew that they could not long hold out, but, with their small number, flight was hopeless. They had no provisions, and their packs, with their extra supply of ammunition, had been seized by the Indians. Their fate seemed certain, yet they fought on; and in a brief cessation of hostilities, while the Indians seemed to be holding a council, Ensign Wyman stole stealthily into the forest and shot and 'killed one of the chiefs.
Even after that, one of the chiefs came within hailing distance of the rampart, and shouted: "Will you have quarter?" The English probably understood their foes well enough to know that, after they had killed so many of them, especially after Ensign Wyman's shooting of the chief, there would be no quarter, but only torture to the death for them. So they answered desperately: "We will have no quarter but at the muzzles of our guns."
It was a strange contest, for, as it continued, both sides concealed as far as possible from each other, the deadly enemies often talked together, calling each other by name, as if their relations were the most friendly.
John Chamberlain stepped down to the water to wash his gun, which had become too foul to use, at the same moment that Paugus, the Pegwacket chief, jumped over the bank for the same purpose. Both men were of great stature and of heroic courage, and both leaders in the wars. Paugus could speak English, and the two men were well acquainted, and had been on friendly terms. Paugus, instantly loading his gun, said quietly to his former friend: "I shall now very quick kill you!" "Perhaps not," returned Chamberlain, whose gun, in charging, primed itself. With his words came a flash, a report, and the Indian chief fell dead.
The English were helpless and at the mercy of the savages, for their ammunition was nearly exhausted. And yet, at nightfall, the Indians withdrew. It is not improbable that the Indians had expended all their ammunition, of which they could obtain supplies only by tedious journeys through the forests to Canada. Forty of the Indians were killed outright, and eighteen mortally wounded.
Of the English there were twenty-two survivors, and of these two were mortally wounded and were left to die alone. They could not be moved; and to stay with them meant almost inevitably death, by horrible torture, at the hands of the Indians. Eight others were badly wounded, and all were enfeebled and half famished. They were forced to leave the dead unburied and take up their painful march, in the midnight darkness, destitute of tents, of food, of any covering for the injured, or any means of dressing their wounds.
Chaplain Frye, although mortally wounded, toiled along for a mile or more, and then gave up the struggle for life. "I cannot take another step," he said. "Here I must die. Should you ever, through God's help, reach your homes, tell my father that I expect in a few hours to be in eternity, but that I do not fear to die."
Struggling on through the forest, the remnant of Lovewell's men divided themselves into three companies in an effort to conceal their trail from the Indians, whose war whoops they constantly expected to hear. It was supposed that the savages had gone to Pegwacket for a fresh supply of ammunition. If this was so, they probably failed to find it, for they gave up the pursuit, and sixteen of Lovewell's men reached the fort, after a journey of three or four days through the woods.
All through the sufferings of the journey the prospect of the security and comforts of the fort had sustained them; but when they reached it, to their keenest disappointment they found it abandoned. It was learned afterwards that the feeble holders of the garrison had fled for their lives, when one of Lovewell's men, escaping when the savages first rushed upon them in the grove, had appeared at the fort with the frightful news.
To the great relief of the fugitives, some provisions were found in the garrison, which the men in their hasty Right had left behind them. When they had eaten and rested as well as they could; expecting every moment to hear the yells of the coming savages, they resumed their painful march, and fourteen of them finally reached their homes.
This Pegwacket battle is said to have had such an effect upon the Sokokis tribe that they were never again the valiant warriors they had been before. They wandered away from their "pleasant and ancient dwelling places," and "the star of the tribe, pale and declining, gradually settled in darkness."
A poet of those days celebrated "Lovewell's Victory," as it was called, in a ballad whose quaint simplicity shows curiously the primitive old times, when it did not provoke a smile. We give a few of the many verses:
THE BALLAD OF LOVEWELL'S VICTORY.
Anon there eighty Indians rose,
Who'd hid themselves in ambush dread;
Their knives they shook, their guns they aimed,
The famous Paugus at their bead.
Good heavens! they dance the powwow dance.
What horrid yells the forest fill!
The grim bear crouches in his den,
The eagle seeks the distant hill.
"What means this dance, this powwow dance?"
Stern Wyman said. With wondrous art
He crept full near, his rifle aimed,
And shot the leader through the heart.
John Lovewell, captain of the band,
His sword he waved that glittered bright;
For the last time he cheered his men
And led them onward to the fight.
"Fight on, fight on!" brave Lovewell said;
"Fight on while Heaven shall give you breath"
An Indian ball then pierced him through,
And Lovewell closed his eyes in death.
'Twas Paugus led the Pequ'att tribe;
As runs the fox would Paugus run,
As howls the wild wolf would he howl,
A large bearskin had Paugus on.
Ah! many a wife shall rend her hair,
And many a child cry, " Woe is me,"
When messengers the news shall bear
Of Lovewell's dear-bought victory.
Lovewell was dead, and his little company killed or scattered; but the war that they had inaugurated continued for three years, until two hundred of the Maine settlers had been killed or carried into captivity, and the native tribes had dwindled away and lost all their bravest warriors. Oldtown, the old island of Lett, far up the Penobscot, where the Indians had their strongest fort and a pleasant little village dear to their hearts, had been, in 1723, captured by the English and wholly destroyed.
Colonel Thomas Westbrook, who commanded the expedition against the Indian stronghold, made the following official report of his proceedings. He first describes the prosperous settlement and the fine buildings which the French and Indians had erected, and continues: "We set fire to them all, and by sunrise the next morning they were all in ashes. We then returned to our nearest guard, thence to our tents. On our arrival at our transports, we concluded we must have ascended the river about thirty-two miles."
The Indians wandered back to their once beautiful island and their desolated homes, but they had no heart to try to rebuild. The grasp of the powerful English was upon them, and they understood, at last, that no Indians could withstand it. They were half famished, for they could scarcely obtain ammunition for hunting; and if they planted corn, even in remotest regions, the determined English would find their trails through the forest, and trample their harvests in the dust.
A bitter belief in the survival of the fittest was entering the Indian's always fatalistic mind. Squando had foretold the destruction of the white man, but it had become easy to see, now, that he was the favored child of the Great Spirit. It was the Indian who was doomed.
Down the western banks of the river the despoiled savages wandered from their beautiful Lett. They must settle upon the shore, for they were forced to subsist upon fish; yet there the English could easily swoop down upon them with their ships and the great whaleboats which they were constantly fitting out.
At Bangor, then the primitive forest, they rebuilt their village. It was a delightful place. A high bank sloped gently to the Penobscot, and the Kenduskeag slipped peacefully down through the woods to the greater river. There were probably French families with them, as there had been at Lett, for some of the houses had cellars and chimneys, which at that time no Indian dwelling had ever had.
The Indians had always affiliated much more readily with the French than with the English, and in this case there was the bond of a common religious faith; for the Lett Indians were all Roman Catholic. In fact, it was probably their natural adaptation to the Roman Catholic faith that had first drawn them to the French.
"The French are our friends," they said. "They advocate our rights, and become, as it were, one with us. They sell us whatever we want, and never take away our lands. They send the kind missionaries to teach us how to worship the Great Spirit; and, like brothers, they give us good advice when we are in trouble. When we trade with them we have good articles, full weight, and free measure. They leave us our goodly rivers where we catch fine salmon, and leave us unmolested to hunt the bear, the moose, and the beaver where our fathers have hunted them. We love our own country, where our fathers were buried, and where we and our children were born. We have our rights, as well as the English; we also know, as well as they, what is just and what is unjust."
Besides the French houses in the new village on the Penobscot, there were about fifty of the Indian huts which had replaced their ancient wigwams, to the entire loss of the picturesque, and a doubtful gain of the comfortable. They built a church also, the French and Indians together, of which we hear only that it was "commodious," and that the cross on its roof made it a sightly object from the river. Better, perhaps, for the Indians if it had been less "sightly," for their village was soon discovered by their enemies. At the Richmond garrison, a hundred miles to the south, the settlers heard of this new village of the Indians, and Captain Heath, the commander of the garrison, with a company of men, marched across the country from the Kennebec to destroy it.
It made no difference to the valiant Captain Heath that the thoroughly subdued and weakened Indians had made proposals for a peace conference. The Indians received warning, in some way, of the approach of the enemy, and the whole population deserted the village and fled to the forest. The attacking party found not an Indian, but they burned every dwelling and the church, and laid waste the newly planted cornfields.
The Indians made their way back to Lett, and rebuilt their homes on the island that had belonged to their fathers,—one of the few ancient Indian settlements in America that remain in possession of the Indians to this day. In spite of all Indian overtures for peace, the war continued. The English seem to have adopted, almost by common consent, a policy of extermination, and an Indian was as much lawful game as a wild beast. Even when a few chiefs with a flag of truce approached Fort St. George, at Thomaston, to sue for peace, they were fired upon by a detachment from the fort, and one of them was killed.
Young Castine, of whom we have heard before, always a friend of peace, and of great influence in maintaining friendly relations between the Indians and the English, was fired upon from an English sloop, while fishing in a small sailboat off Naskeag Point (now Sedgwick). He had with him in his boat his young son, the grandson of an Indian chief, and Samuel Trask, a Salem boy, taken captive by the Indians, whom he had kindly ransomed.
They made for the land and took shelter there, when the captain of the sloop raised the white flag, and called to Castine that the shooting had been a mistake.
Incapable of suspecting such base treachery as this proved to be, Castine, with the two boys, immediately rowed out to the ship. As soon as they stepped on board, young Trask was seized, and the captain said to Castine: "Your bark and all it contains are a lawful prize. You yourself are justly my prisoner. You may think yourself well off to escape without further molestation." One of the crew accompanied Castine and his son to the shore, and there attempted to kidnap the boy. Finding it impossible to rescue the boy otherwise, Castine shot the rascal dead, and with his son fled to the woods.
In spite of outrages like this, the Indians continued to sue for peace. Two commissioners from Boston were met at Fort St. George by thirteen Indian chiefs, who declared that they came for peace, and wished to recall all their young men from the war. Councils were appointed, and one of them, at Boston, in which four great sagamores from the Eastern tribes participated, lasted for more than a month.
The great grievance of the Indians was that their hunting grounds, the lands which had belonged to their fathers before them, had been seized. They had also been defrauded of them by those who had given fire water to the Indians, and when their wits were gone had made them sign any contracts they chose. The deadly fire water frenzied the Indians and made them utterly reckless. Loron, one of the chiefs, wrote to Governor Dummer: "Do not let the trading houses deal in rum. It wastes the health of our young men. It makes them behave badly, both to your people and to their own brethren. This is the opinion of all our chief men. I salute you, great governor, and am your good friend."
The Indians had no way to enforce their claims to their lands, and were obliged to submit to any terms of peace that the English chose to make. The Dummer treaty was an unconditional surrender on the part of the Indians. It was signed on the 15th of December, 1725, and continued in force for many years. By its terms the government of Massachusetts was authorized to arrange all intercourse between the English and the Indians. If any Indians refused to ratify the treaty, the chiefs in council pledged their tribes to join the English and force the offenders to submit.
A fuller council was held at Falmouth, July 30, 1726. Forty chiefs were there, representing nearly all the Maine, Canada, and Nova Scotia tribes. They were accompanied by a large number of Indians of their
various tribes. The lieutenant governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, representing the English, were attended by a brilliant retinue of soldiers. The Indians carried themselves with great dignity, and the scene is said to have been very impressive. Wenemonet, a great sagamore, and twenty-six of his tribe signed the treaty.
At the close of the conference, a banquet was given in the great tent erected for the council on Munjoys Hill. The Indians are said to have immediately flocked to the settlements when peace was established, as happy as children, and apparently quite forgetful of the terrible tragedies that had been enacted, and of their own great losses.
Lovewell's War was practically the end of Maine's troubles with the Indians. The colony suffered somewhat during the French and Indian War, but the old power of the savages was never regained; and when, in 1763, a treaty of peace was signed between France and England, Maine entered upon a season of security and prosperity.