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Windsor Indian History

It was the Pequot threat that united all the different settlers of the Windsor, Hartford, Wethersfield area. On May 1, 1637 the first Connecticut General Court convened to discuss the Pequots. An army was gathered which consisted of only 90 able men. Of these, 77 went to the battle. The rest were left to guard the three towns. The Indians gathered 70 more. Some of those were even Mohawk mercenaries who did not like the Pequots and would fight for Uncas, the Mohegan, But they were still hopelessly outnumbered by 800 Pequots. Captain John Mason and Uncas stopped at Fort Saybrook to add about 50 soldiers. Proceeding along the coast they found all the Pequots waiting for them at Mystic, so they prudently continued toward Narragansett (Rhode Island). There they gained 200 Narragansett Warriors which doubled their ranks to 400 men.

While marching overland to the Pequot territory the Narragansetts couldn't believe the noisy way soldiers move through the woods. They almost gave up and left but Uncas compelled them to stay and help fight the Pequots. When they got to the Pequot fort they found the Pequot Warriors out on a raiding party. So they trapped about 700 inside and burned the fort, killing all who came out. It was a massacre of mostly women and children. When that was done they ran to their boats at a rendezvous on the Thames River just barely ahead of 300 of Sessacus's warriors. They made it to the boats and had only 2 casualties and 20 wounded. Then in June 1637, Sessacus took the remainder of his tribe (about 400) and went west to find sanctuary among another tribe. He was chased by Thomas Stoughton with 120 men, John Mason with 40 men, and Uncas and his 70 Warriors. The Pequots were caught at a Poquonock Fort in Fairfield, and all but 80 were killed or captured. Sessacus and his 80 people ended up at Mohawk village where Sessacus was beheaded by Mohawk. That was the end of the Pequots. The captured Pequots were placed under control of the Mohegans for several years until 1655 when the English removed them to separate locations. These became the Mashantucket Pequots who now own the casino in Ledyard.

As a result of the Pequot war of 1637 the remains of the tribe were split up. Their numbers were so diminished and scattered that they could hardly be called a tribe. They were not allowed to call themselves Pequots and their choice was to be sold as slaves or join the winners. Mohegans, whose blood is from the same stock as Pequots, were the natural recipient of captured Pequots. They were friends of the English and helped the settlers in every way. Mohegans were the settlers' closest allies. Therefore we did nothing to stop their growing power.

Uncas and the Mohegans suddenly became the most dominant tribe in southern New England, displacing the Narragansetts. Because the Mohegans allied themselves with the White settlers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, there was nothing to stop them, and they began seizing territory and exacting tribute from the smaller Mattabesic and Nipmuc tribes in the area. Rather than stop this, the English looked the other way. However, the Narragansetts grew increasingly alarmed at the growing power of Uncas and in 1640 formed an alliance with the Pocumtuc and Tunxis (Mattabesic) tribes against Mohegans. Sensing that the Narragansetts were on the verge of starting a war, the Boston Puritans forced them to sign a treaty promising not to go to war with the Mohegans without consulting them beforehand.

Despite this agreement, Miontonimo continued his efforts to recruit more allies to fight the Mohegans. Accompanied by 100 of his warriors, he attended councils with the Metoac on Long Island, Mattabesic in western Connecticut, and Mahican and Wappinger of the Hudson Valley during 1642. These tribes weren't willing to join him, but his visits spooked the Dutch in New Netherlands who were already nervous from the growing hostility they were encountering with the Wappinger and Unami Delaware along the lower Hudson River. The Dutch mistook Miontonimo's intentions and, wrongly concluding that a general uprising was being planned against themselves and the English, passed their suspicions along to Massachusetts and Connecticut. That winter, the Dutch decided to strike first and their surprise attack on a sleeping Wecquaesgeek (Wappinger) village (Pavonia Massacre) started the Wappinger War (1643-45).

When Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Hartford, and New Haven joined together in a defensive alliance known as the New England Confederation in 1643, Rhode Island was deliberately excluded. Completely isolated, the Narragansett decided they would have to deal with the Mohegan by themselves. Meanwhile, the Wappinger War had spread to include nearly 20 tribes, and the Dutch were very close to being overwhelmed. After concluding a treaty of friendship with the Mahican and Mohawk, they offered 25,000 guilders to the English colonists in Connecticut for soldiers to help put down the uprising. Captain John Underhill organized two companies, with Mohegan scouts and joined the war in 1644.

With the departure of the English soldiers and Mohegan warriors to fight the Wappinger, Miontonimo decided the time had come, and without consulting the English, who were certain to warn the Mohegans, he led 900 of his warriors in a surprise attack on the Mohegan capital at Shetucket. The Mohegan were pushed back and near defeat until, with a last desperate effort, they managed to capture Miontonimo. With the loss of their sachem, the Narragansetts stopped the battle. The Narragansetts quickly requested that Miontonimo be delivered to the English, to decide his fate, for they knew that Uncas would kill him.

Uncas decided to deliver his important prisoner to the English at Hartford who locked him in a jail, but the Connecticut colonists were uncertain what to do with him until they had consulted with their counterparts in Massachusetts. After much discussion, it was announced that Miontonimo would be released and allowed to return to his people under a combined English and Mohegan escort. That's the official story anyway. The English took Miontonimo from Hartford to pick up the Mohegan part of the escort on the way to Shetucket. The moment they crossed the border into Mohegan territory the brother of Uncas stepped forward and tomahawked Miontonimo from behind, killing him instantly. It is very doubtful this execution could ever have taken place without the express approval of the English authorities.

The death of Miontonimo marked the end of the Narragansett power in southern New England. For their violation of the treaty, the Narragansett were forced to pay an annual tribute of wampum to Massachusetts after 1645.

Uncas was now the most powerful sachem in southern New England. He acquired the Narragansett Prisoners of war the same way he acquired the Pequots. He now controlled all of Rhode Island, half of Massachusetts, and most of Connecticut. His plan was to move west peacefully and acquire tribes into a nation.

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S. Clark Pickens
S. Clark Pickens