The Project Gutenberg EBook of Once Upon A Time In Connecticut, by Caroline Clifford Newton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Once Upon A Time In Connecticut Author: Caroline Clifford Newton Posting Date: March 16, 2014 [EBook #6697] Release Date: October, 2004 First Posted: January 16, 2003 Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ONCE UPON A TIME IN CONNECTICUT *** Produced by Curtis A. Weyant, David Maddock, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
This book is dedicated to the school children of the state by the Connecticut Society of the Colonial Dames of America
The Colonial Dames of Connecticut, under whose auspices this book is published, desire to express their indebtedness to Professor Charles M. Andrews, of Yale University, who generously offered to supervise the work on its historical side. They also gratefully acknowledge help from many friends in the preparation of the volume. Thanks are due to Mrs. Charles G. Morris for criticism of the manuscript and to Mr. George Dudley Seymour for advice in the selection of the illustrations. Courtesies have been extended by the officials of the New Haven Free Public Library, of the Connecticut Historical Society, and of the Library of Yale University.
It is a pleasure to write a few words of introduction to this collection of stories dealing with the early history of Connecticut, a state that can justly point with pride to a past rich in features of life and government that have been influential in the making of the nation. Yet the history of the colony was not dramatic, for its people lived quiet lives, little disturbed by quarrels among themselves or by serious difficulties with the world outside. The land was never thickly settled; few foreigners came into the colony; the towns were scattered rural communities largely independent of each other; the inhabitants, belonging to much the same class, were neither very rich nor very poor, their activities were mainly agricultural, and their habits of thought and ways of living were everywhere uniform throughout the colonial period. The colony was in a measure isolated, not only from England and English control, but also from the large colonial centers such as Boston and New York, through which it communicated with the older civilization. Connections with other colonies were neither frequent nor important. Roads were poor, ferries dangerous, bridges few, and transportation even from town to town was difficult and slow.
The importance of Connecticut lay in the men that it nurtured and the forms of government that it established and preserved. Few institutions from the Old World had root in its soil. In their town meetings the people looked after local affairs; and matters of larger import they managed by means of the general assembly to which the towns sent representatives. They made, their own laws, which they administered in their own courts. Their rules of justice, though sometimes peculiar, were the same for all. They did what they could to educate their children, to uphold good morals, to help the poor, and to increase the prosperity of the colony. Though they could not entirely prevent England from interfering in their affairs, they succeeded in reducing her interference to a minimum and were well content to be let alone. Yet when called upon to furnish men in time of war, they did so generously and, in the main, promptly. They became a vigorous, strong, determined community, and though unprogressive in agriculture, they were enterprising in trade and commerce, and in the opening up of new opportunities prepared the way for the later career of a progressive, highly organized manufacturing state. To the larger colonial world they furnished men and ideas that, during the period of revolution and constitution-making, played prominent parts in shaping the future of the United States of America.
If this little volume gives to the children of Connecticut a truer appreciation of the early history of the state in which they live, its purpose will have been achieved. A knowledge of Connecticut’s history, its men and the work they have accomplished, should arouse the devotion and loyalty of every Connecticut boy and girl to the state and its welfare; and that it shall do so is the hope of those by whom this work has been projected and under whose auspices it has been published.
Charles M. Andrews.
A great oak tree fell in the city of Hartford on August 21, 1856. The night had been wild and stormy; in the early morning a violent wind twisted and broke the hollow trunk about six feet above the ground, and the old oak that had stood for centuries was overthrown.
All day long people came to look at it as it lay on the ground. Its wood was carefully preserved and souvenirs were made from it: chairs, tables, boxes, picture-frames, wooden nutmegs, etc. One section of the trunk is to-day in the possession of the Connecticut Historical Society. Tradition says that this tree was standing, tall and vigorous, when the first English settlers reached Hartford and began to clear the land; that the Indians came to them then, as they were felling trees, and begged them to spare that one because it told them when to plant their corn. “When its leaves are the size of a mouse’s ears,” they said, “then is the time to put the seed in the ground.”
At sunset, on the day when it fell, the bells of Hartford tolled and flags draped in mourning were displayed on the gnarled and broken trunk, for this tree was the Charter Oak, and its story is bound up with the story of the Connecticut Colony.
About the year 1613, five little ships set sail from Holland on voyages for discovery and trade in the New World. They were the Little Fox, the Nightingale, the Tiger, and two called the Fortune. The Tiger was under the command of a bold sailor named Adriaen Block and he brought her across the ocean to New Netherland, which is now New York. There was then a small Dutch village of a few houses on Manhattan Island.
While she was anchored off the island, the Tiger took fire and burned. But Block was not discouraged. He set to work at once and built another boat—one of the first built in America. She was 40 feet, 6 inches long by 11 feet, 6 inches wide, and he called her the Restless. In the summer of 1614 he sailed her up the East River and out into Long Island Sound where no white man had ever been before. He named both the Bast River and the Sound “Hellegat,” after a river in Holland, and a narrow passage in the East River is still known as “Hell-Gate.”
Block sailed along the low wooded shores of Connecticut, past the mouth of the Housatonic, which he named the “River of the Red Mountain,” and reported it to be “about a bowshot wide,” and by and by he came to a much larger stream emptying into the Sound. This was the Connecticut, and Block turned and sailed up the river as far as the point where Hartford now stands. He noticed that the tide did not flow far into this river and that the water near its mouth was fresh, so he called it the “Fresh River.”
When the Dutch in Manhattan heard of this new country which he had discovered, they began a fur trade with the Indians who lived there. In June, 1633, they bought from the Indians a strip of land on the river, one Dutch mile in length by one third of a mile in width, and they paid for it with “one piece of duffel [that is, heavy cloth] twenty-seven ells long, six axes, six kettles, eighteen knives, one sword-blade, one pair of shears, some toys and a musket.” On this land, which is now in the city of Hartford, the first block-house in Connecticut was built and was called the “House of Hope.” Although two small cannon were mounted upon it the Dutch said the place should be a peaceful trading-post only and free to all Indians who came in peace.
Very soon after this little Dutch fort of the House of Hope was finished, Lieutenant William Holmes, from the Plymouth Colony, sailed up the river, and he and his men carried with them on their boat a frame house all ready to put together. The Dutch challenged the Plymouth boat as it passed their fort, but Holmes paid no attention. He had been told by the Governor of Plymouth to go up the river and he went, and at the mouth of the Farmington, where Windsor is to-day, he set up the first frame house in Connecticut and surrounded it with a palisade for protection.
Other Englishmen from Massachusetts Bay, hearing of these new fertile lands and of friendly Indians and a profitable fur trade, came overland, making their way through the wilderness. By and by their numbers were so great that the Dutch were crowded out and driven away and Connecticut was settled by the English.
One of the most interesting parties of settlers who came from Massachusetts to Hartford was “Mr. Hooker’s company.” Thomas Hooker, the minister in Cambridge, led one hundred members of his church overland to new homes in Connecticut in June, 1636. These people had come from England a few years before, hoping to find religious and political freedom in America, and, after a short stay in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, they decided to remove to Connecticut. Their journey was made in warm weather, under sunny skies, with birds singing in the green woods. They traveled slowly, for there were women and little children with them, old people too, and some who were sick. Mrs. Hooker was carried all the way in a litter. They followed a path toward the west which by that time had probably become a well-marked trail. Part of it, no doubt, led through deep forests. Sometimes they passed Indian villages. Sometimes they forded streams. They drove with them a herd of one hundred and sixty cattle, letting them graze by the way. They had wagons and tents, and at night they camped, made fires, and milked the cows. There were berries to be picked along the edges of the meadows and clear springs to drink from, and the two weeks’ journey must have been one long picnic to the children.
When “Hooker’s company” arrived on the banks of the Connecticut River, three little English settlements had already been made there. They were soon named Hartford, Windsor, and We(a)thersfield. These three settlements were the beginning of the Connecticut Colony.
At first the people were under the government of Massachusetts because Massachusetts thought they were still within her borders. But before long it became necessary for them to organize a government of their own. They had brought no patent, or charter, with them from England, and so, finding themselves alone in the wilderness, separated by many long miles of forests from Massachusetts Bay, they determined to arrange their own affairs without reference to any outside authority. They set up a government on May 1, 1637, and the next year, under the leadership of such men as Thomas Hooker, John Haynes, who had once been Governor of Massachusetts Bay, and Roger Ludlow, who had had some legal training, this government, made up of deputies from each of the three little settlements, drafted eleven “Fundamental Orders.” These “Fundamental Orders” were not a written constitution, but a series of laws very much like those of the colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. There is a tradition that they were read to the people and adopted by them in the Hartford Meetihg-House on January 14, 1639.
Connecticut continued under this form of government, which she had decided upon for herself, for more than twenty years—until after the civil war in England was over. Then, when royalty was restored and Charles the Second became king, in 1660, the people feared that they might lose something of the independence they had learned to love and value, and they sent their governor, John Winthrop, to England to get from the king a charter to confirm their “privileges and liberties.”
Winthrop was a man who had had a university education in England and the advantages of travel on the continent of Europe. He had a good presence and courteous manners. Best of all, he had powerful friends at court. There is a story that in an audience with the king he returned to him a ring which the king’s father, Charles the First, had given to Winthrop’s grandfather, and that the king was so pleased with this that he was willing to sign the charter Winthrop asked for. Whether this is true or not, the king did sign one of the most liberal charters granted to any colony in America. It gave the Connecticut people power to elect their own governor and to make their own laws. This is the famous charter which is said to have been hidden later in the Charter Oak Tree. Two copies were made of it, and one of these Governor Winthrop sent home, September, 1662, in an odd-shaped, leather-covered box. This box, which is lined with sheets from an old history of King Charles the First and has a compartment at one side that once held the royal seal of green wax attached to the charter, can be seen to-day in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society.
When the people understood what a good charter they had received they were greatly pleased. The record of the General Assembly for October 9, 1662, says, “The Patent or Charter was this day publickly read to the Freemen [that is, the voters] and declared to belong to them and to their successors”; and October 29 was appointed a “Thanksgiving Day particularly for the great success God hath given to the endeavors of our Honored Governor in obtaining our Charter of His Majesty our Sovereign.” Samuel Wyllys, in front of whose home stood the oak tree which was afterward to become known as the “Charter Oak,” was appointed one of the first keepers of the charter.
For about a quarter of a century the government of Connecticut was carried on under the charter. Then King Charles the Second died, and his brother, the Duke of York, became king. The advisers of the new king, James the Second, wished to unite all the little scattered New England colonies under one strong government which should be able to resist not only Indian attacks, but also attacks from the French on the north. So in 1686, James sent over Sir Edmund Andros, who had once been Governor of New York, with a commission as Governor of the Dominion of New England. It was the duty of Andros to take over the separate governments of the different colonies and to demand the surrender of their charters.
But the people of New England did not like the new policy. Each colony wished to preserve its independence; each wished to be left entirely free to manage its own affairs, yet each expected help from England against its enemies. England, on the other hand, felt that the isolation of these small colonies, their jealousy of one another and their frequent quarrels, were a source of weakness, and that a single strong government was necessary to preserve order, to encourage trade, and to secure defense. The plan of union, however, as has been said, was greatly disliked by the colonies, and Connecticut sent a petition to the king praying that she might keep her privileges and her charter, and meanwhile she put off submission to the new governor as long as possible.
At last, however, Sir Edmund Andros wrote from Boston to Governor Treat of Connecticut that he would be “at Hartford about the end of the next week.” This was on October 22, 1687. He left Boston on the 26th. A record written at that time says, “His Excellency with sundry of the Council, Justices and other gentlemen, four Blue Coats, two trumpeters, 15 or 20 Red Coats, with small Guns and short Lances in the tops of them, set forth in order to go to Connecticut to assume the government of that place.” He reached Hartford on the 31st, having crossed the Connecticut River by the ferry at Wethersfield. “The troop of horse of that county conducted him honorably from the ferry through Wethersfield up to Hartford, where the train-bands of divers towns united to pay their respects at his coming” and to escort him to the tavern.
Governor Andros had come from Norwich since morning, a forty-mile ride over rough roads and across streams without bridges or ferries, and it was late when he arrived. The fall days were short and probably candles were already lighted in the court chamber where the Assembly was in session. The Connecticut magistrates knew something of Sir Edmund Andros. Twelve years before, while he was Governor of New York, he had appeared at Saybrook and demanded the surrender of the fort and town by order of the Duke of York who claimed part of Connecticut under his patent. The claim was not made good, for Captain Bull, who commanded at Saybrook, raised the king’s colors over the fort and forbade the reading of the duke’s patent, and Andros, not wishing to use force and pleased with this bold action although it was against himself, sailed away. Now, however, the Duke of York had become King of England with a new policy for the colonies, and Andros was obeying the king’s orders.
He was a soldier who had served with distinction in the army and had held responsible positions. He was also a man used to courts as well as to camps, for as a boy he had been a page in the king’s household and later was attached to the king’s service. He must have presented a contrast in appearance and manner to the Connecticut magistrates who so anxiously awaited his coming.
When he entered the room he took the governor’s seat and ordered the king’s commission to be read, which appointed him governor of all New England. He then declared the old government to be dissolved and asked that the charter under which it had been carried on should be given up to him. The Assembly was obliged to recognize his authority and to accept the new government; but a story of that famous meeting has been handed down in Connecticut from one generation to another telling how the people contrived to keep their charter, the document they loved because it guaranteed their freedom.
“The Assembly sat late that night,” says the story, “and the debate was long.” When Sir Edmund Andros asked for the charter it was brought in and laid on the table. Then Robert Treat, who had been Governor of Connecticut, rose and began a speech. He told of the great expense and hardship the people had endured in planting the colony, of the blood and treasure they had expended in defending it against “savages and foreigners,” and said it was “like giving up life now, to surrender the patent and privileges so dearly bought and so long enjoyed.” Suddenly, while he was speaking, all the candles went out. There was a moment of confusion; then some one brought a tinder-box and flint and the candles were relighted. The room was unchanged; the same number of people were there; but the table where the charter had lain was empty, for in that moment of darkness the charter had disappeared.
No one knew who had taken it. No one could find it. No one saw the candles blown out. Was it done on purpose, or did a door or a window fly open and a gust of the night wind put them out? It chanced that the night was Allhallowe’en, when the old tales say that the witches and fairies and imps are abroad and busy. Were any of them busy that night with Connecticut’s charter?
“Two men in the room, John Talcott and Nathaniel Stanley, took the charter when the lights were out.” So said Governor Roger Wolcott long afterward. He was a boy nine years old at the time and had often heard the story. But these two men never left the room; they were members of the Assembly; they could not carry off the charter. However, Major Talcott had a son-in-law, Joseph Wadsworth, and he was waiting outside,—so says another story. Wadsworth was young and daring. The charter was passed out to him and he hid it under his cloak and made his way swiftly through the crowd that had gathered around the tavern and through the dim, deserted streets beyond, to where an old oak tree grew in front of the Wyllys house. This tree had a hollow in its trunk and Wadsworth slipped the charter into this safe hiding-place and left it there. Houses might be searched, but no one would think of looking for a missing paper in the hidden heart of a hollow oak. And because the old tree proved a good guardian and gave shelter in a time of trouble to Connecticut’s charter it was known and honored later as the Charter Oak.
We are not told what was said or done in the court chamber after the charter disappeared. The stories of that night are full of mystery and contradiction. Perhaps, after all, no very serious search was made for it. Perhaps its loss brought about a compromise between the two parties. For Governor Andros had already gained his object; he had taken over the government of Connecticut, and the people had saved their pride because they had not surrendered their charter.
The charter lay hidden for two years; not all that time in the oak tree, of course, but in some other safe place. One tradition says it was kept for a while in Guilford in the house of Andrew Leete. At the end of two years there was a revolution in England, and William and Mary came to the English throne. Then the charter was taken out of its hiding-place—wherever that was—and government was at once resumed under the same old patent which had disappeared so mysteriously on that famous Allhallowe’en night.
In the Memorial Hall of the State Library at Hartford, under a glass shield, in a fireproof compartment built into the end wall of the room, there hangs to-day one of the two original copies of the Connecticut Charter. It is in a good state of preservation, its lettering is clear and distinct, and so is the portrait engraved upon it of King Charles the Second who gave it to Governor John Winthrop. A part of its present frame is made from the wood of the Charter Oak. The other copy, that is, what remains of it, can be seen in the box which is owned by the Historical Society.
When, after the Revolutionary War, the Colony of Connecticut became the State of Connecticut, the charter of the colony was adopted without alteration as the State Constitution. No change was made in it until 1818.
The old oak tree, known to Indian legend and better known in Connecticut’s story, lived, honored and protected, until its fall in the great storm of August 21, 1856.
The two Indian chiefs of whom we hear most in the early history of Connecticut were Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans, and Miantonomo, sachem of the Narragansetts. A great Indian battle called the “Battle of the Plain” took place once, near Norwich, between these rival tribes led by these two rival chieftains.
The Mohegans were a part of the Pequot tribe, and the Pequots, or “Gray Foxes,” were the fiercest, most cruel, and warlike of all the Indians who roamed through the forests of Connecticut before the English came. The white settlers soon had trouble with them, and when the Pequot War, which was a war between the settlers and the Indians, began, in 1637, Uncas came with some of his Mohegan warriors and offered to guide the English troops through the woods to the Pequot fort.
Now Uncas was himself a Pequot by birth and belonged to the royal family, and it seems strange that he should not take part with his own people. But not long before this he had rebelled against the chief sachem, Sassacus, and had tried to make himself independent. “He grew proud and treacherous to the Pequot sachem,” says the old chronicle, “and the Pequot sachem was very angry and sent up some soldiers and drove him out of his country.” Afterward, when “he humbled himself to the Pequot sachem, he received permission to live in his own country again.” But he was restless and dissatisfied. He was said to be of great size and very strong; he was brave too, and had a good deal of influence among the Indians. The settlers needed his help, yet they were half afraid to trust him, knowing that he would be “faithful to them as the jackal is faithful to the lion, not because it loves the lion, but because it gains something by remaining in his company.” Before he would accept him as a guide, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, commander of the fort at Saybrook, said to him, “You say you will help Captain Mason, but I will first see it; therefore send twenty men to Bass River, for there went six Indians there in a canoe, fetch them, dead or alive; and you shall go with Mason or else you shall not.”
Uncas went off with his men and found these Indians. He killed four of them and brought back another as a prisoner, and the colonists, feeling more certain of his fidelity, took him with them on their expedition.
Miantonomo, the Narragansett sachem, did not go himself, but he sent one hundred of his warriors, for he, too, hated the Pequots, who had lately overrun the country and made themselves a terror to their neighbors. The Narragansetts lived near them, just over the Rhode Island border. They were a larger tribe than the Pequots and more peaceful and civilized, and their chief, Miantonomo, was friendly to the English settlers and had been generous in his dealings with them. He and his uncle Canonicus, who was at this time an old man over eighty, governed the Narragansetts together and were on the best of terms with each other. “The old sachem will not be offended at what the young sachem doth,” says the English record, “and the young sachem will not do what he conceives will displease his uncle.”
The Pequot War was soon over, for the bows and arrows of the Indians had no chance against the guns of the English. Most of the Pequot warriors were killed, their fort and wigwams were burned, and many of their women and children perished in the flames. It is a pitiful story, because the settlers felt it necessary for their own safety to put an end to the Pequot tribe. The few poor Pequots who escaped this terrible destruction were scattered among other tribes. The Narragansetts took some, but more went to the Mohegans because they were related to them. In this way the tribe of the Mohegans grew larger and stronger and Uncas became an important chief. He showed great skill in building up his tribe and he remained faithful to the English all through his life, while they, on their side, protected him as a reward for his services. As his power increased, however, his jealous and quarrelsome disposition showed itself more plainly, and the Indians complained that “the English had made him high” and that he robbed and oppressed them. When the colonists demanded that he should give up to them any fugitive Pequots who had murdered white settlers, Uncas put off complying on one pretext or another, because he did not wish to weaken his tribe, which was still much smaller than that of the Narragansetts.
The year after the war he went to Boston with thirty-seven of his warriors carrying a present of wampum for the governor. But the governor would not accept the present until Uncas had given satisfaction about the Pequots he was hiding. Uncas seemed “much dejected” by this reception, and at first he denied that he had any Pequots, but after two days he admitted the fact and promised to do whatever the council demanded. Half an hour later he came to the governor and made the following speech. Laying his hand on his breast, he said:—
“This heart is not mine, but yours; I have no men, they are all yours; command me any difficult thing, I will do it; I will not believe any Indian’s word against the English. If any man shall kill an Englishman I will put him to death were he never so dear to me.”
The governor in response “gave him a fair red coat, and defrayed his and his men’s diet, and gave them corn to relieve them homeward, and a letter of protection to all men, and he departed very joyful.”
Uncas had now become a dangerous rival of Miantonomo, and the jealousy between them soon grew so great that it threatened to break out in open war. In 1638 they were both called to Hartford by the Connecticut authorities to settle the differences between them.
Miantonomo obeyed this summons at once and set out with a great company, “a guard of upwards of one hundred and fifty men and many sachems and his wife and children,” and traveled through the forests that lay between the villages of the Narragansetts in Rhode Island and the English settlements in the Connecticut valley. On the way he heard that the Mohegans had planned to attack him, that they had laid an ambush for him, and had threatened to “boil him in a kettle.” Some Indians of a friendly tribe met him and told him that a band of Mohegans had fallen upon them and robbed them two days before, and had destroyed twenty-three fields of their corn. Miantonomo had already come about halfway, and, after holding a council with his chiefs, he decided to push on. “No man shall turn back,” he said; “we will all rather die.”
He reached Hartford in safety, but Uncas was not there. Uncas had sent word by a messenger that he was lame and could not come. The Governor of Connecticut “observed that it was a lame excuse and sent for him to come without delay.” So Uncas decided that it was safer for him, on the whole, to get well quickly and to go to Hartford.
In the council that followed, each chieftain stated his grievances and made complaint against the other, and the English tried to reconcile them. At last a treaty of peace was signed, and then Miantonomo stepped forward and held out his hand to Uncas and invited him to a feast. But Uncas would not eat with him, and the two chiefs parted no better friends than before.
Not long after this, Miantonomo was accused of trying to unite all the Indian tribes against the English settlers. It was said that he had made a speech to the Long Island Indians in these words:—
“Brothers, we must be one as the English are, or we shall soon all be destroyed. You know our fathers had plenty of deer and skins, and our plains were full of deer and of turkeys, and our coves and rivers were full of fish. But, brothers, since these English have seized upon our country, they cut down the grass with scythes, and the trees with axes. Their cows and horses eat up the grass, and their hogs spoil our beds of clams; and finally we shall starve to death. Therefore, I beseech you to act like men. All the sachems both to the east and west have joined with us and we are resolved to fall upon them.”
The English were much alarmed on hearing this. It was quite true that the Indians had sold their lands without realizing that the settlers would use them for anything else than for hunting grounds and for fishing places, as they themselves had done. They could not know that the forests would be cleared, that farms would spread over the countryside, and towns grow up along the river courses, and they themselves be driven farther and farther back into the wilderness. But Miantonomo denied that he had planned a united attack on the settlements. He told the messengers who were sent to him from Boston that all such reports came from Uncas, and he agreed to go to Boston and appear before the court of Massachusetts. He said, too, that he would like to meet his accusers face to face and prove their treachery.
Miantonomo was a tall, fine-looking chief with serious and stately manners, and he made a favorable impression in Boston on the magistrates who were not very well disposed toward him. “When he came in, the court was assembled and he was set down at the lower end of the table over against the governor.” A Pequot interpreter was given him. Now, in his own country he had refused to make use of a Pequot as interpreter because he was not on good terms with that tribe and could not trust them, but here, “surrounded by armed men,” he could not help himself. He protested, however, saying gravely, “When your people come to me, they are permitted to use their own fashions and I expect the same liberty when I come to you.”
The sessions of the court lasted for two days, and every one was astonished at the wisdom and dignity of the great sachem of the Narragansetts. He answered all the questions put to him deliberately, and would not speak at all unless some of his councilors were present as witnesses. At meal-times, when a separate table was set for him, he was not pleased and refused to eat until some food was brought to him from the governor’s table. In the end he convinced the council of his innocence and he returned in peace to his own country.
Meanwhile, Uncas, who was both feared and hated for his sudden rise to power, had several narrow escapes from death. One of the captured Pequots in his own tribe shot an arrow at him and wounded him in the arm. Uncas complained to the English that Miantonomo had engaged this Pequot to kill him, and Miantonomo retorted that Uncas had cut his own arm with a flint to make it appear that he had been wounded, and no one knew where the truth lay. Soon after this an attempt was made to poison him. Then, at last, one day as he was paddling down the Connecticut River in a canoe, some Indians who were friends of the Narragansetts sent a shower of arrows at him from the bank. He at once made a raid into their country, killed seven or eight of their warriors, burned their wigwams and carried off the booty.
This brought matters to a climax, for their chief, Sequassen, was related to Miantonomo and Miantonomo took up his quarrel. The trouble, which had so long been smouldering between the Mohegans and the Narragansetts, broke out in earnest. Miantonomo collected all the Narragansett warriors and led them swiftly and secretly through the forests toward the land of the Mohegans, which lay along the banks of the Pequot, or Thames, River. He hoped in this way to fall upon Uncas while he was unprepared.
But Uncas was on his guard. His watchmen on the hills caught sight of the Narragansetts as they came out of the woods by the fords of the Shetucket River,—above the present city of Norwich. Uncas had a fort five miles below on the Pequot River, which was his headquarters, and the old story says:—
“Being warned by his spies of the approach of the Narragansetts toward his seat, Uncas called his warriors together, stout, hard men, light of foot and skilled in the use of bow and arrow, and upon a conference he told them that it would not do to let the Narragansetts come to their town, but that they must go and meet them. Accordingly they marched about three miles, and on a large plain the armies met, and both halted within bowshot. A parley was sounded, and Uncas proposed a conference with the Narragansett sachem, who agreed. And being met, Uncas saith to his enemy words to this effect:—
“’You have a number of brave men and so have I. It is a pity that such brave men should be killed for a quarrel between you and me. Only come like a man, as you pretend to be, and we will fight it out. If you kill me, my men shall be yours, but if I kill you, your men shall be mine.’
“Upon which the Narragansett sachem replied,
“‘My men came to fight and they shall fight.’”
Now, Uncas knew well that his army, being much smaller, had no chance against the army of the Narragansetts in a fair fight, and before he met the Narragansett sachem he had planned a stratagem with his own men.
As soon as Miantonomo had spoken Uncas threw himself face down on the ground and his men drew their bows and shot their arrows over his head and rushed “like lions” upon their astonished enemies. The Narragansetts broke in terror and confusion. They did not stop to fight, but turned and fled panic-stricken, through woods and swamps and over rocks and hills, by the way they had come, back to the river fords. The Mohegans pursued them, killing a number of them and wounding more. They drove them headlong, like sheep, before them, and the pursuit lasted for five or six miles. Some of the Narragansetts lost their way and came upon the Yantic River near its falls and were driven over the steep rocks on the banks and drowned in the water. Others were taken prisoners. “Long afterwards, some old Mohegans were heard to boast of having found a poor Narragansett struggling and panting in a thicket that bordered the river, and so frantic with fear and excitement as to suppose himself in the water and actually attempting to swim among the bushes.”
Miantonomo was strong and a swift runner, but that day he wore for protection a coat of mail which an Englishman had given him and the heavy garment impeded his flight. The Mohegans recognized him by it and followed him eagerly. He kept his distance until he had nearly reached the river, but there, “the foremost of Uncas’s men got ahead of him.” They threw themselves against him and prevented his escape. They did not kill him or try to take him prisoner, but they ran beside him until Uncas came up, when they dropped back and gave their chieftain the “opportunity to take him.”
“At a place since called ‘Sachem’s Plain,’ Uncas took him by the shoulder and Miantonomo sat down, knowing Uncas. Uncas then gave a whoop and his men returned to him.” But Miantonomo sat silent.
At last Uncas spoke to him and said, “If you had taken me I would have besought you for my life.”
Now it was against the Indian’s code of honor to ask for mercy. An Indian brave must never complain, no matter how hard his fate. If he were put to torture, if he were even burned at the stake, he must let no sound of pain escape him. He might boast of his own exploits and tell how many of his enemies he had killed, but he must never admit defeat. Courage and endurance were the great Indian virtues. Therefore Miantonomo made no reply to the taunts of Uncas and his men; he kept silence, as befitted a great sachem and a brave warrior, “choosing rather to die than to make supplication for his life.”
Uncas had the right, according to Indian custom, to put his prisoner to death at once, but he had agreed to consult the English in all important matters, so he carried him to Hartford. This was late in the summer of 1643. In September the commissioners of the United Colonies met in Boston and the case of Miantonomo came before them. The commissioners were afraid to take the responsibility of setting the Narragansett sachem free, because they had promised to protect Uncas and they felt that Uncas would not be safe while Miantonomo lived, yet they had no reason to put him to death. At last, after long deliberation, they decided that he should be given back to Uncas and that Uncas, if he chose, might put him to death; but he must do it in his own land, not in the English settlements, and there must be no torture.
So Uncas came to Hartford “with some considerable number of his best and trustiest men,” and having received his prisoner, he set out with him on the fatal journey. The English sent two of their own men with him to see that the sentence was duly executed. They went through the forests until they had passed the English boundaries and had come upon land that belonged to the Mohegans, and, therein the wilderness, the brother of Uncas, who walked behind Miantonomo, lifted his hatchet and silently drove it through the captive chieftain’s head.
On Sachem’s Plain a great heap of stones soon marked the spot where Miantonomo had been overtaken, for each Mohegan warrior who passed the place cast a stone on the pile with a shout of triumph, and each Narragansett added to it with cries of sorrow and lamentation for the loss of a noble leader. In after years the stones disappeared, and a monument was erected on the spot in 1841, in honor of the Narragansett sachem. It is a large, square block of granite with the name and the date carved upon it, “Miantonomo, 1643.” It can be seen to-day in Greeneville, two miles from Norwich.
Uncas lived on for many years and was a very old man before he died; “old and wicked and wilful,” one account describes him. He quarreled with his neighbors and gave much trouble to his friends, the English. The Narragansetts attacked him after the death of Miantonomo, to avenge the death of their chief, and they drove him into one of his forts on the Pequot River. The colonists had helped him to build this fort on a point of land running out into the water, and it was too strong for the Indians to take it by assault. They took possession of the Mohegan’s canoes, however, and they sat down patiently before the fort, on the land side, to starve out Uncas and his warriors.
But the story says that one night Uncas sent out a swift runner, who got safely past his enemies and carried the news to the English. Thomas Leffingwell, one of the settlers at Saybrook, “an enterprizing, bold man, loaded a canoe with beef, corn, and peas, and under cover of night paddled from Saybrook” around into the mouth of the Thames, or Pequot, River and succeeded in getting the provisions into the fort without the knowledge of the Narragansetts. The next morning there was great rejoicing among the Mohegans and they lifted a large piece of beef on a pole to show the besiegers that they had plenty to eat. The Narragansetts, finding that the English had once more come to the rescue of Uncas, gave up the siege in despair and melted away into the forest.
There is an old legend which says that each night while he was waiting for relief, Uncas himself secretly left the fort and crept along through the shadows on the river-bank until he came to a ledge of rocks from which he could look down the stream; that he sat there stern and motionless until morning watching and hoping for help from the strange, new owners of the lands which had belonged to his fathers. These rocks afterward went by the name of “Uncas’s Chair.”
Uncas was buried in the royal burying-ground of the Mohegans near the falls of the Yantic River. His monument is there now in the heart of the city of Norwich.
“It hath a fair river, fit for harboring of ships, and abounds with rich and goodly meadows.” This description of New Haven, or Quinnipiac, as the Indians called it, was brought back to Boston in the summer of 1637, after the Pequot War, by some of the English soldiers who had pursued the flying Pequots into that part of Connecticut and had noticed the good harbor of New Haven as they passed.
The report sounded so pleasant and so satisfactory in the ears of a company of London merchants, who, with their families and their fortunes, had recently come to New England and were looking about for a suitable spot in which to settle, that they decided to visit this place and judge of it for themselves.
These people, about two hundred and fifty in number, had arrived in Boston in June of that same year, after a voyage of two months. Of course in the small ships of those days there must have been many discomforts, even in a pleasant season, and no doubt some of the people were seasick. An old record of that time says, “We fetched out the children and others that lay groaning in the cabins, and having stretched a rope from the steerage to the mainmast, made them stand some on one side and some on the other and sway it up and down till they were warm. By this means they soon grew well and merry. ... When the ship heaved and set more than usual a few were sick, but of these such as came upon deck and bestirred themselves were presently well again, therefore our captain set our children and young men to some harmless exercises, in which the seamen were very active and did our people much good, though they would sometimes play the wags with them.” When at last the Hector dropped anchor in Boston Harbor, and “there came a smell off the shore like the smell of a garden,” her passengers must have been glad that the long voyage was over.
The two leaders of the company were Theophilus Eaton, a successful shipping merchant of London, a man of affairs and of great personal dignity and kindliness, and his friend, Reverend John Davenport, a London clergyman, who, like many other Puritan ministers of those days, had been obliged to leave England on account of his religious opinions. These two men had been schoolboys together in the town of Coventry, they had been associated later in London, they came together to America, and they remained friends to the end of their lives.
As many of their party were merchants, and not farmers like a large number of the settlers on the Connecticut River at Hartford, it was important to select a place for their colony which would be convenient for trade and where there was a good harbor for the commerce they hoped to establish. For this reason the report of Quinnipiac interested them, and in September several members of the company went to Quinnipiac and liked it so well that seven men were left there through the winter to prepare for the coming of the rest in the spring. In April the whole number removed there from Boston.
The people of Massachusetts Bay were sorry to have them go. They would have been glad to have this rich and influential company join their colony, but these new settlers wished to found a colony of their own in which they could carry out their own ideas of what a model state should be, both in civil and religious matters. They took ship, therefore, from Boston for Quinnipiac, carrying all their goods and provisions with them. The expedition was well fitted out and all its details had been carefully planned before they left England. Friends already in the colonies had written offering suggestions: “Bring good store of clothes and bedding with you; bring paper and linseed oil for your windows, with cotton yarn for your lamps.”
As they sailed into Quinnipiac Harbor they saw for the first time the two great cliffs, the East and West Rocks, called by the Dutch “the Red Hills,” which still stand like guardians, one on each side of the present city of New Haven. On the level plain between them, which is watered by several small streams, they determined to build their town and to place it at the head of the beautiful harbor.
They made large and generous plans for it. They laid it out in regular squares and set aside a great open space in the center for a market-place. This is the New Haven Green, which exists to-day just as John Brockett, the surveyor, laid it out in 1638. It is still the largest public square in the heart of any city in the United States. In the middle of the Green they built the first “meeting-house.” It was fifty feet square, made of rough timbers, with a small tower on top where the drummer stood on Sundays to “drum” the people to church; for at first there were no bells. Each person had a seat carefully assigned to him, or her, in the meeting-house. Sometimes the boys sat with the soldiers near the door. We read later in the records that at one time the children in the galleries were so restless during the long sermons, that “tithing-men” were appointed “to take a stick or wand and smite such as are of uncomely behavior in the meeting and acquaint their parents.” On week-days the children went to school in a schoolhouse which was built on the Green.
The town of New Haven was soon noted for its large and fine houses, Eaton’s having nineteen fireplaces according to tradition, and Davenport’s, thirteen. But at first any kind of shelter was used for protection. The people met under an oak tree for service on the first Sunday after landing and Reverend John Davenport preached a sermon to them on the “Temptation of the Wilderness,” so it is said. During the first winter some of them slept in cellars dug out in the banks of one of the creeks and covered with earth. A boy named Michael Wigglesworth, who came to New Haven with his parents in October, 1638, when he was nine years old, lived in one of these cellars. When he grew up he wrote his autobiography and in it he says, “I remember that one great rain brake in upon us and drenched me so in my bed, being asleep, that I fell sick upon it, but the Lord in mercy spared my life and restored my health.”
When the settlers at Quinnipiac, or New Haven, as it was soon called, had been there a little more than a year, they met in Robert Newman’s barn “to consult about settling civil government” and also about establishing a church. Up to this time they had lived under what was known as the “Plantation Covenant,” which was a simple agreement among themselves that they would all “be ordered by those rules which the Scripture holds forth.” At this meeting on June 4, l639, they decided that they would continue to accept the Bible as a code of laws, and that only church members should hold office or have the right to vote for magistrates. They did this under the direction of John Davenport, who in one of his writings had described this colony as “a new Plantation whose design is religion.” This agreement, made in Robert Newman’s barn, was known as the “Fundamental Agreement.” Twelve men were appointed on that day who chose seven from among themselves to found a church. These seven men were called the “Seven Pillars.” On August 22, the “Seven Pillars” met and established a church, and on the 25th of October they met again and set up the civil government.
Like the Connecticut Colony, the New Haven Colony in setting up its government made no reference to any authority beyond itself; the people elected their own magistrates and made their own laws. But the New Haven Colony was unlike Connecticut in one important respect. In New Haven no man could vote or hold a place in the government unless he was a church member. This led later to much discontent among some of the people, and was one reason, among others, for the failure of New Haven as a separate colony and for its beng absorbed, twenty-five years afterward,—in 1664,—into the larger and more liberal Connecticut Colony.
Meanwhile, even before the government was organized, the merchants and shippers of the company had bought or built boats and had begun to trade along the coasts to the north and to the south. During the first winter while some of the people, like the family of Michael Wigglesworth, were still living in cellars dug in the river-banks, Master George Lamberton was sailing in his sloop, the Cock, on a trading voyage to Virginia. Other New Haven ships soon established commercial relations with Boston and New Amsterdam, with Delaware, where beaver skins could be obtained in abundance, with Virginia, whose great staple was tobacco, and with other plantations still farther away, such as Barbados in the West Indies, where sugar was the most important article of exchange. Now and then we hear of a New Haven ship in strange and foreign parts of the world.
There was one which set out in December, 1642, for the Canary Islands, laden with clapboards, and fell in with pirates near the Island of Palma, one of the Canaries. A Turkish pirate ship of three hundred tons with two hundred men on board and twenty-six guns, attacked this small New Haven ship of one hundred and eighty tons, which had only seven guns fit for use and twenty men armed with rusty muskets. The fight lasted for three hours, and Captain Carman, the master of the New Haven ship, and his men succeeded in killing a good many Turks in spite of being taken at a disadvantage. But at last the pirates put their ship alongside and sent one hundred men on board the New Haven ship, When, however, they found that their captain was shot and the rudder of their ship broken, the pirates hauled, down their flag and drew off so quickly that they left fifty of their men behind. “Then the master [Captain Carman] and some of his men came up and fought those fifty hand to hand and slew so many of them that the rest leaped overboard. The master had many wounds on his head and body and divers of his men were wounded, yet but one slain. So with much difficulty he got to the Island [of Palma], where he was very courteously entertained, and supplied with whatever he needed.”
But New Haven ships did not always come off as well as in this encounter with the pirates, and their voyages were not always successful. Some members of the New Haven Colony bought land in Delaware and attempted to establish a trading-post in order to take advantage of the profitable trade in beaver skins. But the Dutch and Swedes, who had settled there, objected to the coming of the English, and once, in 1642, they seized Captain Lamberton, who had come in his ship the Cock, accused him of inciting the Indians against them, and threw him into prison. As the charges against him could not be proved he was soon released, but the hostility of the Dutch and Swedes continued until the New Haven merchants were driven away from that coast and out of the rich fur-trade of Delaware. This was a great blow to the colony. Other losses, too, were met with, and at last the people became greatly discouraged as they saw their hopes of founding a successful commercial colony slowly, but surely, disappearing.
The voyage of the “Great Shippe” which took place about this time is the most tragic adventure in the story of New Haven’s early shipping days. It began in this way. In 1646, as a last resource, the merchants of New Haven decided to fit out a ship with what was left of their “tradeable estate,” and send her to London. Up to this time they had sent goods to England by way of Boston or of the West Indies; there might be more profit, they thought, in a direct trade, cutting out the cost of reshipment. So they bought a ship. We do not know her name, she is always spoken of as the “Great Shippe,” although she was only one hundred tons; perhaps the title was given her because the colonists were staking so much on this venture. If it succeeded, their prosperity might be assured; if it failed, they must give up the sea and commerce as a dependence and turn their energies to agriculture. The “Great Shippe” was a new boat, said to have been built in Rhode Island, and she was loaded principally with wheat and peas shipped in bulk, with West Indies hides, beaver skins, and what silver plate could be spared for exchange in London. Her cargo altogether was worth about twenty-five thousand dollars, which was a large sum in those days, especially in a new and struggling colony.
The master of the ship was the same Captain Lamberton we have heard of before. He was a brave and bold skipper, but it is said that he was not altogether pleased with the ship when he first saw her; that he did not like her lines and thought her not quite seaworthy. Other people, too, besides Captain Lamberton, complained that she was not only badly built, but badly loaded, with the light goods of the cargo below and the heavy above, and some old seamen predicted that the grain would shift in rough weather and make trouble. These were mostly rumors, however, and few paid attention to them at the time; but long afterward, when people talked over the strange fate of the “Great Shippe,” Captain Lamberton’s words, “This ship will be our grave,” were recalled and believed to have been a prophecy.
That winter of 1646 was a bitterly cold one in Connecticut, and New Haven Harbor was frozen over. When the “Great Shippe” was ready to sail, it was necessary to cut a way out for her with handsaws through the thick ice for nearly three miles. A good many people from the town walked out on the harbor ice beside the ship to see her begin her voyage, and to bid good-bye to a number of their friends who were going home to England on business of one kind or another. Seventy people had taken passage in the “Great Shippe,” and among them were some who were very prominent in the colony, as, for instance, Captain Nathaniel Turner, who, having had experience in the war with the Pequot Indians, had been given “the command and ordering of all martial affairs” in the plantation, and Thomas Gregson, one of the magistrates, who was charged by the colony to obtain a charter for them, if possible, from the English Parliament, then in control in England.
Reverend John Davenport, the minister, stood in the crowd of people on the ice that winter day and offered a prayer to God for the protection of the travelers. “Lord,” he said, “if it be thy will to bury these our friends in the bottom of the sea, they are thine, save them.” This does not sound like a very cheerful send-off, but we must remember that a long voyage was a serious undertaking in those days and that people sometimes made their wills even before sailing from New Haven for Boston.
When the “Great Shippe” had really gone, when the people had seen the last of Captain Lamberton standing on her deck giving orders, and had watched her white sails dwindle and disappear, they walked back over the ice to their homes on the shore remembering sadly that it would be a long time before they could expect to have any news from her. It might be two or three months before she reached London and as many more before word of her arrival could come back to them. So they waited patiently through the hard New England winter and the early spring, but by summer time they were eagerly looking for tidings of her. Ships came from England as usual to the colonies, but no one of them brought news of the safe arrival in London of the “Great Shippe” from New Haven. Then the people began to question the skippers of other boats, boats from the West Indies and from the plantations on the southern coasts, and to ask if anything had been heard of her in that direction. For they remembered that there had been an unusually violent storm soon after the ship had sailed, and they began to fear that she might have been blown out of her course and possibly wrecked on some such coast or island. Public prayers were offered for her safety and for the safety of her passengers. Meanwhile, the summer passed and the cold weather came again, and still there was no word from the fated ship. Few vessels put into New England harbors during the winter, and, as the chance of news grew less and less, the anxiety of the people gradually changed to despair. They recalled the sacrifices they had made to fit out that ship, the precious cargo she carried, all the things that could not be replaced (such as the sermons and other writings of Mr. Davenport which he had sent to England for publication); and in the loss of the ship on which they had set all their hopes they saw the final blow to the prosperity of New Haven. No one now had the courage or the money for another venture of that kind. Slowly and reluctantly the people turned to agriculture instead of trade, and the days of New Haven as a commercial colony were numbered.
But far worse to them than any material loss was the loss of the dear friends and relatives who had sailed with the “Great Shippe” for England. No compensation could come to those who had loved them. In November, 1647, the passengers on the ship were finally given up as lost and counted among the dead and their estates settled.
Yet many to whom they were dear could not rest satisfied. They remembered all the perils of the sea, the dangers of shipwreck on some barren coast, of possible capture by pirates, such as those who had attacked Captain Carman off the Canary Islands not many years before, and they came to feel at last that they would be thankful to learn that the ship had foundered at sea and that their friends had gone down with her to a natural death in the waters.
Two years and a half after the sailing of the “Great; Shippe” (so the story stands in a strange old book called the Magnolia Christi, by the Reverend Cotton Mather), a wonderful vision came to the people of New Haven. On that June afternoon in the year 1648, a great thunderstorm came up from the northwest. The sky grew black and threatening, there was vivid lightning, and a cold wind swept over the harbor. Before the rain had ceased and calm had come again, it was nearly sunset.
Then, against the clear evening light, a strange ship sailed into New Haven Harbor. Around the point she came with her sails full set and her colors flying. “There’s a brave ship,” cried the children, and they left their play to stand and gaze at her. Men and women gathered on the water-front and the same startled hope thrilled every heart: “It may be the ‘Great Shippe’ come home again!” For there was the old familiar outline, there were her three masts, her tackling, and her sails. And yet there was something new and mysterious, something awe-inspiring about her, and the watchers held their breath as they realized that she was sailing toward them straight against the wind that blew strong off the north shore. For a full half-hour they stood and gazed, until they could distinguish the different parts of her rigging, until they could see, standing high on her poop, the figure of a man with “one hand akimbo under his left side and in his right hand a sword stretched out toward the sea.” Then, all at once, a mist rose out of the sea behind her and covered her like smoke, and through the mist and smoke men saw dimly her shrouds give way, and her masts break and fall, as though a hurricane had struck her, and slowly she careened and plunged beneath the surface of the water.
The people turned to their pastor. “What does it mean?” they asked. “It was the form of Master Lamberton. Why is this vision sent us?” And he replied that doubtless God had sent it in answer to their prayers, to show them the fate of their friends and to set their hearts at rest, for “this was the mould of their ship, and thus her tragic end.”
In the year 1661, when the city of New Haven was a small village not much more than twenty years old, a family of boys named Sperry lived out on a farm some two or three miles west of that settlement. There was only one house then besides theirs outside the town in that direction and the woods all about were thick and wild.
That summer something mysterious was going on near the Sperry farm. Every morning Richard Sperry himself, or one of his boys, carried food, in dishes covered with a cloth, into the woods on the steep side of West Rock about a mile from the house, and left it there on a stump. Every evening he, or one of his sons, went for the empty bowls and brought them home. The boys were curious to know who had eaten the food, for they never met any one coming or going, and never saw any one up on the Rock. In reply their father told them that there were men at work in the forest near by; yet they never heard voices nor the sound of an axe, and it was only long afterward that they learned the real reason for what they had done. If one of the boys had waited long enough some morning, lying still and hidden in the bushes, he might have seen a man come slowly and cautiously through the woods toward him, a dignified, grave-looking person with something foreign in his dress, something soldierly in his bearing, as if he were accustomed to commanding others; he might have watched this stranger—so different from the people he knew—take up the dishes of food and disappear again into the dark forest. And he would have wondered why a man like that, who was evidently not a hunter and not a new settler, should be hiding in the woods around New Haven.
Twelve years before, in England, this same man had taken part in a very different scene. There was a great trial held in the stately old Hall of Westminster and the prisoner at the bar was the King of England himself, and among the fifty-nine judges who condemned him to death was the man who was now hunted for his own life and was in hiding near the Sperry farm that summer, three thousand miles away from all he loved in England.
There were nearly one hundred men who had some part, large or small, in the trial and death of King Charles the First, and all of them were in great danger eleven years later when the Royalists returned to power and his son, Charles the Second, became king. A few who had very little to do with the king’s sentence were pardoned; others were seized at once, tried, condemned, and executed in the barbarous way the English law then allowed, and still others tried to escape by leaving England. Some got safely to the Continent and wandered about from one foreign city to another, trying to pass unnoticed in the crowd, and always in danger of being discovered and arrested by the messengers the English Government sent after them.
Three of them came to New England and spent some time in Connecticut. This is their story.
Early in May, 1660, a ship named the Prudent Mary lay at Gravesend near London, getting ready to sail under her master, Captain Pierce, for the colonies in the new world. Two of the regicides, General Edward Whalley and General William Goffe, had taken passage in her, but they dared not sail under their own names and they came aboard as Edward Richardson and William Stephenson. While the ship was waiting in Gravesend the new king was proclaimed. That was on Saturday, May 12. The next day General Goffe wrote in his diary,—“May 13. Wee kept Sabbath abord.”
On Monday they sailed and were happy to get away from England before an order could be given for their arrest. The ships of those days were very small and the little Prudent Mary took ten weeks to make her way across the ocean, but at last Goffe wrote in his journal: “July 27. We came to anchor between Boston and Charlestown; between 8 and 9 in the morning; all in good health through the good hand of God upon us.”
When the judges landed they were among friends, for most of the people in New England were of their political party. They took their own names again, called on the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony and went about freely. Goffe’s diary says: “Aug. 9. Went to Boston lecture and heard Mr. Norton. Went afterwards to his house where we were lovingly entertained with many ministers and found great respects from them.” And on the 26th: “We visited Elder Frost, who received us with great kindness and love.”
This diary and his letters show that Goffe was sincere and religious, but his life tells us that he was brave and energetic too. He had made his own way, and both he and Whalley, who was his father-in-law, had been important men in England; they were major-generals who had fought in great battles and had taken part in great events in history. There is an old story about their skill in fencing.
“At Boston,” so the story runs, “there appeared a gallant person, some say a fencing-master, who, on a stage erected for the purpose, walked for several days challenging and defying any to play with him at swords. At length one of the judges disguised in a rustic dress, holding in one hand a cheese wrapped in a napkin for a shield, with a broomstick, whose mop he had besmeared with dirty puddle water as he passed along, mounted the stage. The fencing-master railed at him for his impudence, asked what business he had there, and bade him begone. The judge stood his ground, upon which the gladiator made a pass at him with his sword to drive him off. An encounter ensued. The judge received the sword into the cheese and held it till he drew the mop of the broom over the other’s mouth, and gave the gentleman a pair of whiskers. The gentleman made another pass, and plunging his sword a second time, it was caught and held in the cheese till the broom was drawn over his eyes. At a third lunge, the sword was caught again, till the mop of the broom was rubbed gently all over his face. Upon this, the gentleman let fall, or laid aside, his small sword and took up the broadsword and came at him with that, upon which the judge said, ’Stop, sir! Hitherto, you see, I have only played with you and have not attempted to hurt you, but if you come at me now with the broadsword, know that I will certainly take your life.’ The firmness and determination with which he spoke struck the gentleman, who, desisting, exclaimed, ’Who can you be? You are either Goffe, Whalley, or the devil, for there was no other man in England that could beat me.’”
For seven months the two judges lived in Cambridge at the house of Major Daniel Gookin, a member of the governor’s council and a fellow passenger of theirs in the Prudent Mary. They went to church on Sundays, and no doubt on “training-days” they watched the train-bands practice, for they were famous fighters themselves. But meantime the news of their being in the colonies was carried to England by a royalist named Captain Breedon, and the governor debated with his council what to do about it. He wanted to protect them, but he feared the king’s displeasure might bring trouble on the colony. Before he decided, the two judges, or “the two Colonels” as they were called, finding they were not safe in Boston, left for New Haven.
This was their first journey in the new wilderness; it was winter time, and probably there was snow on the ground and hanging heavy on the trees-more snow than they had ever seen in England. Most of the road between Boston and New Haven was a trail through forests where a guide was necessary. They stopped at Hartford, were kindly received there, and reached New Haven early in March. For three weeks they were guests of the minister, Reverend John Davenport. He was their friend and is said to have preached a sermon from the text, “Hide the outcasts; betray not him that wandereth,” to prepare people for their coming. Whalley’s sister had once lived in New Haven and they had other friends there too. But it was very dangerous for these friends to try to protect them, and when word came that a reward had been offered in England for their arrest, the hunted judges left New Haven as they had left Boston before, pretending, this time, to go to New York. However, they only went as far as Milford and turned back secretly in the night to New Haven where the minister received them again and hid them, in his own house and in the houses of other friends, until May, when a still greater danger threatened them.
The royal order for their arrest at last reached Boston and the governor there was obliged to forward it. He gave it to two young royalists, Thomas Kellond and Thomas Kirk, and on Saturday, May 11, they arrived with it in Guilford at the house of William Leete, the Governor of the New Haven Colony. Governor Leete took the paper and began to read it aloud, hoping some one in the room would overhear it and send word to warn the judges. Kirk and Kellond interrupted him and said the paper was too important to read in public. Then they asked for horses and a search-warrant to carry with them to New Haven. It took a long time to get the horses; there was one delay after another, and the governor said he could not give them the warrant without consulting the other magistrates, but he would write a letter. It took a long time also to write the letter, and when both horses and letter were ready it was too late to start that night. The next day was Sunday and nobody was allowed to travel on Sunday in the New Haven Colony. So the messengers waited impatiently for Monday, and meantime they heard rumors that the judges had been seen in New Haven, and that Mr. Davenport must be protecting them still, because he had lately put ten pounds’ worth of fresh provisions in his house; all of which made them still more impatient.
On Monday, at last, they got to New Haven, and some hours later Governor Leete followed them—very slowly—and called the magistrates together. It took the magistrates so long to decide what to do that Kellond and Kirk asked bluntly whether they meant to honor and obey the king or not. The governor answered, “We honor his Majesty, but we have tender consciences.” At last a search was ordered to be made for the regicides, but Kirk and Kellond were convinced by this time that it would be useless, and they left in disgust for New York.
They were right, it was useless; for an Indian runner had come quickly from Guilford on Saturday, and Goffe and Whalley had disappeared.
Several stories are told of their narrow escapes at this time. One says they were on the Neck Bridge over Mill River on State Street when they heard the horses of their pursuers behind them and had only time to slip under the bridge and lie there hidden while the men rode over their heads. Another tells how a woman hid them in her house, in a closet whose door looked like a part of the wall with kitchen pots and pans hung on it. When they left the settlement they took refuge in the wild forest, and most of that summer they lived in a cave in a pile of boulders on the top of West Rock. The cave is there still, and is called “Judges’ Cave” to-day. Richard Sperry carried food to them or sent it by one of his boys, and sometimes on very stormy nights they crept secretly down to his house and stayed with him. Once, in June, they went back to New Haven and offered to give themselves up to save their friends, if necessary, and arranged that Governor Leete should always know where to find them. Most people thought they had left the colony altogther then, but they were back in their cave on the Rock, or in some other hiding-place in the deep woods. Rewards were still offered for them and they dared not venture out. They called West Rock “Providence Hill,” because God had provided for them there. And now these two men, who had led such stirring, active lives in England, lived in a great loneliness and silence, with no friends near them, no sounds but the distant crash of a falling tree, or the wind sighing in the forest branches. There were prowling Indians and prowling wild beasts. Once, so the story says, a panther crept up stealthily to the cave at night as they lay in bed and put his head in at the opening, his eyes burning in the darkness like two fires.
In August, when the search for them was pretty much over, they went to Milford. They stayed there very secretly for three years, until, in 1664, there was danger of another search being made. Then they went back to their cave on the Rock; but it was no longer a safe place for them, because “some Indians in their hunting discovered the cave with the bed,” and their friends made a different plan for their concealment.
The exiles set out on another long journey. They traveled only at night, stopping and hiding in the daytime. The trail they followed led them up the valley of the Connecticut River, beyond Hartford and far into the north, until they came to what is now the town of Hadley in Massachusetts. This was then one of the farthest settlements in the wilderness and very remote and lonely. Reverend John Russell, the minister there, gave them shelter and took care of them. There was a cellar under part of his house, and, by taking up some loose boards in the floor above it, they could drop down quickly into it if visitors came unexpectedly. In spite of the danger to himself, Mr. Russell kept them safe in Hadley for twelve or fifteen years. A few friends wrote to them and sent them money, but no one else in the world outside knew what had become of them or whether or not they were still alive.
There is a famous story about one of the regicides in Hadley. Once, it says, in King Philip’s War the Indians attacked the place. They burst out of the woods and rushed upon the settlement on a Sunday morning while every one was at church. Terror-stricken and thrown into wild confusion by the sight of the yelling savages the people of Hadley were helpless, when, all at once, an unknown man, with whitening hair and strange garments, appeared in the midst of them and took command. He rallied them and led them out against the Indians and drove them back into the forest. “As suddenly as he had come, the deliverer of Hadley disappeared.” No one ever saw him again, and the people said God must have sent an angel to help them. Long afterward they learned that it was General Goffe.
There is not much more to tell about the judges after this. Whalley was an an old man now, and Goffe wrote to his wife, who was Whalley’s daughter, “Your old friend” (he dared not say her father, and he signed himself Walter Goldsmith instead of William Goffe) “is yet living, but continues in a very weak condition and seems not to take much notice of anything that is done or said, but patiently bears all things and never complains of anything. The common and very frequent question is to know how he doth and his answer for the most part is, ’Very well, I praise God,’ which he utters with a very low and weak voice.”
After Whalley died, Goffe left Hadley and went to Hartford. We do not know much about him there. We know that he was still an exile with a price on his head, and still hiding. In one of his letters he says to a friend, “Dear Sir, you know my trials are considerable, but I beseech you not to interpret any expression in my letters as if I complained of God’s dealing with me.” His family in England had moved and he did not know their address or how to reach them, and in April, 1679, he wrote to the same friend, “I am greatly longing to hear from my poor desolate relations, and whether my last summer’s letters got safe to them.” What answer he received, whether he ever heard from them again, we cannot tell, for his story ends with that last letter.
The third regicide judge who came to Connecticut; was Colonel John Dixwell. He spent some time with Whalley and Goffe at Hadley and afterward lived seventeen years in New Haven. No search was ever made for him because he was supposed to have died in Europe, and he was known to almost every one in the colony as Mr. James Davids. It was only when he was on his death-bed that he allowed his real name to be told. His house stood on the corner of Grove and College Streets; he married in New Haven and had several children. He was a great friend of Reverend James Pierpont, the minister, and the story goes that they had beaten a path walking across their lots to talk over the fence and that Madame Pierpont used to ask her husband who that old man was who was so fond of living “an obscure and unnoticed life” and why he liked so much to talk with him, and he replied that “if she knew the worth and value of that old man she would not wonder at it.”
Once, so it is said, Sir Edmund Andros came from Boston to New Haven and noticed on Sunday in church a dignified old gentleman with an erect and military air very different from the rest of the people, and asked who he was. He was told that it was Mr. Davids, a New Haven merchant. “Oh, no,” said Andros, “I have seen men and can judge them by their looks. He is no merchant; he has been a soldier and has figured somewhere in a more public station than this.” Some one warned Dixwell and he stayed away from church that afternoon.
When he died he was buried in the old burying-ground behind Center Church on the New Haven Green. In 1849, one of his descendants put up the monument to him which stands there to-day. The monument to Goffe and Whalley is the “Judges’ Cave” on the top of West Rock, and three streets in New Haven are also named for the three regicide judges who came to Connecticut.
A boy named Lion Gardiner was born in England in 1599, toward the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. He was strong, active, and energetic, and as he grew up he was trained to be an engineer. Like a good many other ambitious young Englishmen of his day, he took service in the Low Countries,—that is, in what is now Holland and Belgium,—where the people were fighting against Spain for their independence. He was employed as “an engineer and master of works of fortification in the legers [camps] of the Prince of Orange.”
While he was in Holland he received an offer from a group of English “Lords and Gentlemen” of the Puritan party, who were interested in colonization in America, to go to New England and construct works of fortification there. “I was to serve them,” he says, “in the drawing, ordering, and making of a city, towns, or forts of defence,” and “I was appointed to attend such orders as Mr. John Winthrop, Esq., should appoint, and that we should choose a place both for the convenience of a good harbour and also for capableness and fitness for fortification.”
Lion Gardiner signed an agreement with them for four years at one hundred pounds, or five hundred dollars, a year and expenses paid to America for himself and his family. He was married before he left Holland and he and his wife sailed for London, July 10, 1635, in a small North Sea bark named the Batcheler. A month later they left London in the same little ship bound for Boston. The Batcheler was very small; there were only twelve men and two women on board, and these two women were Gardiner’s wife, Mary Wilemson, and her maid, Eliza Coles. The voyage was rough and stormy and lasted nearly three months and a half. When they arrived in Boston on November 28, the snow was knee-deep, and the winter set in so cold and forbidding that there was some delay in carrying out the plans for the new colony. As Lieutenant Gardiner was an “expert engineer,” the people of Boston were glad to take advantage of his stay with them to employ him in finishing some fortifications for them on Fort Hill.
In the spring he sailed once more on the little Batcheler for the mouth of the Connecticut River, where it had been decided to build the new fort and plant the new colony. This place was selected partly because of its good harbor, and partly because a fort here would command the entrance to this “Long, Fresh, Rich River.”
The “Lords and Gentlemen” who planned this undertaking included Lord Saye and Sele, Lord Brooke, John Pym, and other well-known men in the Puritan party. They were opposed to the Government in England both in politics and religion, and at one time, when matters went strongly against their party, some of them expected to come to America. It is said that Oliver Cromwell, afterward Lord Protector of England, and John Hampden, his cousin, were among this number. It is at least true that Lieutenant Gardiner was ordered to construct “within the fort” houses suitable for “men of quality” and to erect “some convenient buildings for the receipt of gentlemen.” The place was named Saybrook for Lord Saye and Sele and for Lord Brooke. It was not a colony of merchants like the New Haven Colony, nor of farmers like the Connecticut Colony; it was a military post, and it was planned as a refuge in the New World for influential men in public life in England who might be forced to leave their own country.
John Winthrop, Jr., who was to be the governor of the settlement, had sent a ship in November with carpenters and other workmen to take possession of the place and to begin building, but when Lieutenant Gardiner arrived at the mouth of the Connecticut in March, he found that not much had been done—only a few trees cut down and a few huts put up. He set to work at once and built a fort “of a kind of timber called ‘a read oack,’” and across the neck of land behind the fort he built a “palisade of whole trees set in the ground.”
The fort was on a point of land running out into the river just above its mouth. There were salt marshes around it, and on three sides it was protected by water. Dutch sailors had first discovered this place and called it “Kievet’s Hook” from the cry of the birds (pee-wees) whom they heard there. The Dutch themselves intended to establish a trading-post here, but they were driven away by the arrival of the English.
The “Lords and Gentlemen” in England had promised to send Lieutenant Gardiner “three hundred able men” that spring, to help him; “two hundred to attend fortification, fifty to till the ground, and fifty to build houses,” but they did not come and he was greatly disappointed. George Fenwick, acting as agent of the company, however, arrived to see how matters were progressing at Saybrook. Fenwick was the only one of the Puritan “gentlemen” who ever came to New England; for conditions were rapidly changing in English politics, and their party was soon engaged in a struggle with the Government that kept all its prominent leaders at home. But although Lion Gardiner was left without enough workmen and with few supplies, he made the most of his resources, and his little fort, built under such difficulties, soon became an important place because of the protection it gave to the planters against the Indians.
He was scarcely established at Saybrook before trouble broke out with the Pequots, a large and powerful tribe of Indians. There were wrongs and misunderstandings on both sides, and at last the Pequots murdered Captain Stone, a Virginia trader, in his boat on the Connecticut River, and most of the party with him. Not long after this John Oldham, a Massachusetts trader, was killed on Block Island. These and other outrages led the Massachusetts Colony to demand satisfaction of the Pequots and the surrender of the murderers. Lieutenant Gardiner, in his exposed position, felt that a war just then would be a mistake, and he sent a protest to the magistrates of Massachusetts to “entreat them to rest awhile, till we get more strength here about,” he said, “and provide for it; for I have but twenty-four in all, men, women, and boys and girls, and not food for them for two months unless we save our cornfield, which could not be if it came to war for it is two miles from our house. I know, if you make war with these Pequots, myself with these few you will leave at the stake to be roasted or for hunger to be starved; for Indian corn is now twelve shillings per bushel and we have but three acres planted. War is like a three-footed stool; want one foot and down comes all, and these three feet are men, victuals, and munition; therefore, seeing in peace we are like to be famished, what will be done in war? Wherefore I think it will be best only to fight against Captain Hunger.”
But the Massachusetts people did not take his advice. Instead, they sent out an expedition under Captain Endecott, to punish the Pequots. This expedition burnt the Indian wigwams and cornfields on Block Island, and also in the Pequot country near the mouth of the Pequot, or Thames, River; and Captain Endecott and his soldiers came to Saybrook Port and made that place their headquarters, “to my great grief,” said Gardiner, “for you come hither to raise these wasps about my ears and then you will take wing and flee away.”
His prophecy came true, for the expedition returned to Boston without having accomplished anything except to enrage the Indians still further and to make the position of the little garrison at the fort more difficult than ever.
Even before this they had found it dangerous to trade with the Indians. About the time that Gardiner sent his protest to Massachusetts, a Saybrook man, Thomas Hurlburt, had a narrow escape from death in the Pequot country, where he had gone with a trading party, and he was only saved by the kindness and compassion of an Indian woman. He stepped into the sachem’s wigwam to inquire about some stolen horses. While he was there, the Indians having for some reason left him alone for a moment, the sachem’s wife, Wincumbone, came back and made signs to him secretly that the men were planning to kill him. “He drew his sword,” ran to his companions, and barely got aboard the boat in time.
“This caused me,” says Lieutenant Gardiner, “to keep watch and ward, for I saw that they plotted our destruction.”
From this time on the fort was almost besieged by Indians who lay in ambush around it, watching and waiting for a chance to attack any of the garrison who might venture out.
One day two men were “beating samp at the Garden Pales,” not far from the fort, when the sentinels called to them to run in quickly because a number of Pequots were creeping up to catch them. “I, hearing it,” says Gardiner, “went up to the redoubt and put two cross-bar shot into the two guns that lay above, and levelled them at the trees in the middle of the limbs and boughs. The Indians began a long shout, and then the two great guns went off and divers of them were hurt.”
These “two great guns” were two pieces, of three inches each, by which the fort was defended.
“After this,” writes Gardiner, “I immediately took men and went to our cornfield to gather our corn, appointing others to come with the shallop [the boat] and fetch it, and I left five lusty men in the strong house I had built for the defense of the corn. Now, these men, not regarding the charge I had given them, three of them went a mile from the house, a-fowling; and having loaded themselves with fowl, they returned. The Pequots let them pass first, till they had loaded themselves, but at their return they arose out of their ambush and shot all three; one of them escaped through the corn, shot through the leg, the other two they tormented.”
An equally cruel fate befell a trader named Tilly, who was taken alive by the Indians and tortured. Tilly came from Massachusetts Bay and was going up the river to Hartford. When he landed at Saybrook, as all travelers were obliged to do, he saw a paper nailed up over the fort gate with orders that no boat going up the river should stop anywhere between Saybrook and Wethersfield. These orders were put up by Lieutenant Gardiner because a boat with three men well armed in it had lately been captured by the river Indians. Tilly, however, refused to obey, and quarreled with Gardiner. “I wish you, and also charge you,” said Gardiner to him in reply, “to observe that which you have read at the gate; ’tis my duty to God and my masters which is the ground of this, had you but eyes to see it; but you will not till you feel it.” Tilly went up the river safely, obeying orders; but coming down, when he was about three miles above Saybrook, he went ashore with only one man and carelessly fired off his gun. The Indians, hearing it, came up, captured him, and carried him away. Gardiner called the spot where this happened “Tilly’s Folly.”
It was a winter of great responsibility and danger for Lieutenant Lion Gardiner, and all his courage and good sense were needed to carry him safely through it. Once he was himself wounded by Indian arrows and nearly lost his life. On the 22d of February, he “went out with ten men and three dogs, half a mile from the house, to burn the weeds, leaves, and reeds upon the neck of land” behind the fort, when, suddenly, four Indians “started up out of the fiery reeds,” and the sentinels he had set to watch called to him that a great many more were coming from “the other side of the marsh.” The Indians attacked his party, killed three or four men, and tried to get between the rest and the fort and cut off their return. “They kept us in a half-moon,” says Gardiner, “we retreating and exchanging many a shot... defending ourselves with our naked swords, or else they had taken us all alive.... I was shot with many arrows, but my buff coat preserved me, only one hurt me.” The English soldiers of those days wore back and breast pieces of steel over their buff coats. A few days later, the Indians, believing Gardiner dead, came again and surrounded the fort, and, as the old record says, “made many proud challenges and dared the English out to fight,” but Gardiner ordered the “two great guns” set off once more, and the Indians disappeared.
Finding the fort at Saybrook so well defended, the Pequots fell upon the settlement at Wethersfield, killed a number of men working in the fields, and carried off two young girls. Flushed with this success, they paddled down the river in their canoes and when they passed the Saybrook fort they set up poles, like masts, in the canoes and, by way of bravado, hung upon them the clothes of the Englishmen whom they had murdered. The men in the fort fired on the canoes, but the distance was too great. One shot just grazed the bow of the boat in which were the two young English girls. The Indians passed safely and carried their captives with them to the Pequot country.
The Connecticut men now determined to put a stop to the depredations of the Pequots. It was a serious undertaking, for there were only about two hundred and fifty Englishmen in all Connecticut at this time, and there were several hundred Pequot warriors. Help was asked from the colonies in Massachusetts, and, meanwhile, about ninety men were collected from the three settlements of Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor and sent down to Saybrook under the command of Captain John Mason. A number of friendly Indians also went with them, and chief among these was Uncas, sachem of the Mohegans.
While this expedition was at Saybrook, taking counsel with Lieutenant Lion Gardiner and making ready, a Dutch boat put in at the fort on its way to trade in the Pequot country. The officers at the fort were unwilling to let the boat proceed, for there were articles on board for trade with the Indians that might be useful to the latter in war time, such as kettles, out of which the Indians could make arrowheads. The Dutch, however, promised that if they were allowed to go on they would do all in their power to obtain the release of the two captive English girls. So they were given permission and they sailed for the Pequot River. There the master of the boat went ashore and offered to trade with the Indians.
“What do you want in return for your goods?” asked the Pequot sachem.
“The two English maids,” answered the Dutchman.
But the sachem would not consent. After a time, however, the Dutch captain succeeded in enticing several of the principal Indians on board his boat, and, having secured them there as hostages, he called to the others on shore that if they wanted their men returned they must bring the two young girls. “If not,” said he, “we set sail and will turn all your Indians overboard in the main ocean so soon as ever we come out.” The Pequots refused to believe him until the boat was actually under way and sailing down the river; then at last they yielded, gave up the two English girls, and received the seven Indians in return.
These two poor little girls reached Saybrook in a sad condition, worn out and frightened. The Dutch sailors had kindly given them their own linen jackets because the girls had lost most of their clothes, and Lieutenant Gardiner paid ten pounds out of his own purse for their redemption. The Indians seem, on the whole, to have treated them well. They were saved from death at first by the pity and intercession of Wincumbone, the same chieftain’s wife who once before had saved Thomas Hurlburt. She took care of them, the girls said, and they told how “the Indians carried them from place to place and showed them their forts and curious wigwams and houses, and encouraged them to be merry.” But they could not be very merry, and the elder, who was sixteen, said that she slipped “behind the rocks and under the trees” as often as she could to pray God to send them help. The Dutch governor was so much interested in their story that he sent for the girls to come to New Amsterdam (later New York), that he might see them and hear them tell of their adventures. At last, after all these journeyings, they were sent back safely to their homes in Wethersfield.
Soon after this, Captain Mason and his company set out from Saybrook on their expedition against the Pequots. After burning the Indian fort at Mystic, in which many women and children lost their lives, and killing several hundred Pequot warriors, they returned victorious. They reached the bank of the Connecticut opposite Saybrook at sunset, too late to cross the river that night, but they were welcomed by a salute from the guns of the fort; “being nobly entertained by Lieutenant Gardiner with many great guns,” as Captain Mason expressed it. The destruction of the Pequots relieved Saybrook Fort from danger and secured the safety of the colonists in Connecticut; there was never again any serious trouble with the Indians. But the story is a cruel one, and we can only forgive it when we remember that the settlers felt that their own lives, and the lives of their wives and little children, were in constant danger from the attacks of the savages.
When the four years of his contract were ended, in the summer of 1639, Lieutenant Lion Gardiner left Saybrook Fort, which he had defended so bravely, and went to live on an island he had bought from the Indians. This island, still known as “Gardiner’s Island,” is at the end of Long Island and must have been very remote in those days, and far from any white neighbors. But Gardiner was on the best of terms with the Long Island Indians, and between him and their sachem, Waiandance, there was a true and generous friendship, founded on mutual respect and trust, which lasted throughout their lives. When Waiandance died, in 1658, Gardiner wrote, “My friend and brother is gone, who will now do the like?” It is a noble record of friendship between a white man and an Indian.
About the time that Lieutenant Gardiner left the fort, George Fenwick, who had come to Saybrook once before, in 1636, came again and brought his wife, Lady Fenwick. She was Alice Apsley, the widow of Sir John Boteler, and was called “Lady” by courtesy. They lived in Saybrook for a number of years. An old letter of that time says that “Master Fenwick and the Lady Boteler [his wife] and Master Higginson, their chaplain, were living in a fair house, and well fortified.” In 1644, Fenwick, as agent, sold Saybrook to the Connecticut Colony. The next year Lady Fenwick died and was buried within the fort. Her tomb can be seen to-day in the old cemetery on Saybrook Point, to which it was removed in l870.
Although when the Pequot War was over Saybrook was no longer exposed to constant attacks from the Indians, yet, for a woman brought up as Lady Fenwick had been, in ease and comfort, life there must have been full of hardship. But she made no complaint. All that we know of her is good and charming. She loved flowers and fruits and had her gardens and her pet rabbits. She brought with her some red Devon cattle which she gave to Mr. Whitfield in Guilford. She has left behind her a memory of gentleness and kindness that still cling to the story of the rough, little pioneer fort, set in the midst of the salt marshes and surrounded by savage neighbors:—
“And ever this wave-washed shore
Shall be linked with her tomb and fame,
And blend with the wind and the billowy roar
The music of her name.”
One more fact deserves to be remembered in connection with Saybrook. Yale College was organized there in 1701 as the “Collegiate School” of the Connecticut Colony, and was not removed to New Haven until sixteen years later. Its site in Saybrook is marked now by a granite boulder with a tablet and inscription. About half a mile west of this monument are two old millstones which are said to have been in use in the gristmill belonging to the first little fort at Saybrook, the “Fort on the River,” which was built and defended by the “Brave Lieutenant Lion Gardiner.”
Once, in the days of Indian attacks on the small English settlements in Connecticut, a family of children had a narrow escape from capture by the savages. A party of Indians on the warpath passed near their home while their father and elder brothers were away working in the fields with the neighbors. It was the custom in those dangerous times for men to work together in companies, going from one man’s fields and meadows to another’s, and for greater safety they carried their firearms with them. They stacked the guns on the edge of the field with a sentinel to watch them and keep a lookout for possible Indians. Sometimes it was a boy who did this sentry duty, standing on a stump like a sentry in a box.
There was no one left at home that day but a girl fourteen years old and her four younger brothers. The mother had died not long before and the little sister was caring for the family. All unconscious that any Indians were near, she went down to the spring for water. As she lifted the full pail she caught sight of a dark, painted face peering at her from a thicket on the edge of the clearing. She dropped the pail at once and ran as fast as she could to the house, calling to the boys to run in too and help her close the heavy door. Doors were protected then by a thick wooden bar across them on the inside. The children hurried in and, working together, they got the bar in position before the Indians reached the house. But the two halves of the door yielded a little, just enough to let the edge of a tomahawk through, which hacked away at the wooden bar while the children stood watching, paralyzed with fear. Fortunately their own cries as they ran toward the house had reached the men in the fields, who dropped their scythes, seized their guns, and drove off the Indians. But the bar was half cut through before help reached the terrified children.
Stories like this one, and others with less happy endings, are common, not only in the written history of Connecticut, but in the unwritten traditions of Connecticut families. Whenever there was trouble with the Indians the settlers were exposed to these dangers. In the long wars between France and England for the possession of America, the Indians were often allies of the French, and then the English settlements suffered greatly from their attacks.
In 1754, not long before the beginning of the last “French-and-Indian War” (1756-63), there were several reasons why the people of Windham, in the northeastern part of Connecticut, were especially afraid of a surprise and attack by the Indians. Their town was on the border of the colony and less protected than some other places, and they also feared that they had lately given offense to the Indians by planning a new town on what was known as the “Wyoming territory” (in the present State of Pennsylvania). These lands were still held by the Indians, but Connecticut claimed them under her patent, and although the Windham people intended to pay the Indians fairly for them they were not sure that the Indians would not resent being forced to sell and be hostile to them in consequence.
News soon reached them that war had begun in the: Ohio country beyond the Susquehannah, and that an expedition against the French had gone there from Virginia under the command of a young officer named George Washington. They heard this name then for the first time and with indifference, of course, not knowing that it belonged to a man who would become very famous later, and be honored as no other man in America has ever been honored; but they understood at once that war-time was no time in which to plant a new town. The company which had been formed for the purchase of the Susquehannah lands, and which included such well-known men as Colonel Eliphalet Dyer and Jedediah Elderkin, therefore put off the undertaking until peace should come again.
Meanwhile, people in Windham grew anxious about their own safety. If the Indians were in truth offended, would not the French now encourage them to take their revenge? That dread of the cruel savages, which was continually in the minds of all Connecticut settlers in those early days, increased in “Windham as rumors reached there, from time to time, of uprisings among the Indians. On the spring and summer evenings of that year breathless tales were told about Indian attacks: old tales which, like the one at the beginning of this story, had been handed down from earlier days in Connecticut, and new tales of fresh atrocities on the borders of the northern settlements in Maine and New Hampshire. The children listened as long as they were allowed and then went to bed trembling, seeing fierce painted faces and threatening feather headdresses in every dark shadow. Older people asked each other what would happen when the men were called out to serve in the army and the women and children were left helpless at home.
“While the town was in this tense state of anxiety, those of its inhabitants who lived near Windham Green were awakened out of their sleep, one warm June night, by strange and unaccountable noises.” There began to be a rumble, rumble, rumble in the air, and it grew louder and louder and seemed to be like drums beating. A negro servant, coming home late, heard it first. The night was still and black, and clouds hung low over the hot hillsides. He thought it might be thunder, but there was no lightning and no storm coming. He stopped and listened, and the sounds grew stranger and wilder. Perhaps it was witches, or devils; perhaps the Judgement Day was at hand! Terror seized him and he ran home breathless and awoke his master.
By this time others, too, were awake; windows flew open and heads were pushed out, and everybody asked, “What is it? What is it?” Some hurried out half-dressed, and frightened women and crying children gathered on the Green; they could not see one anothers’ white faces in the darkness. The beating of drums drew nearer and nearer. “It is the French and Indians coming,” cried the men; but no one could tell from which direction the enemy was advancing; the dreadful noise seemed to come from all sides at once, even from overhead in the sky.
By and by they thought they could distinguish words in the uproar. Deep bass voices thundered, “We’ll have Colonel Dyer; we’ll have Colonel Dyer,” and shrill high ones answered, “Elderkin, too; Elderkin, too.” As these were the names of the two lawyers in Windham who had been most prominently connected with the Wyoming plan,—the “Susquehannah Purchase” as it was called,—every one was sure that a band of Indians bent on revenge was approaching, and hearts beat fast in fear.
All night long the noises lasted, sometimes coming nearer, sometimes dying away in the distance, and all night long the people of Windham waited in dread and awful expectation. At last, toward daybreak, the dark clouds slowly lifted and with the first light in the east the sounds ceased. In the gray, early morning men looked at each other and then crept silently back, each to his own home. When the sun rose, clear and bright, and no French and no Indians had appeared, Windham regained its courage, and before the morning was over an explanation had been found of the strange noises of the night.
The frogs in the millpond had had a great battle, or some terrible catastrophe had overtaken them. Dead and dying frogs lay on the ground all about the pond, and their gurgles and croaks and clamor had made all the trouble and excitement. The story was soon told all over Connecticut, and everybody laughed, and ballads and songs were written about it, to the great mortification of the people of Windham. Yet the danger that explained the terror of that night was a real one in the history of many a Connecticut town, and therefore the Frogs of Windham have their legitimate place in Connecticut’s story.
One day, long ago, some boys were out bird-nesting. They saw a nest they wanted high up in a tree and far out on a limb, in a hard position to reach, One of the boldest of them climbed the tree to try to get it, but a branch broke with him and he fell. A lower projecting limb caught his clothes, and he hung there head down, arms and legs dangling helplessly. He could not climb back and he could not drop down, because he could not get free.
The other boys below looked up, terrified, for the limb was high above ground; they could not reach him, and they did not know what to do. One of them carried a gun, and Israel,—that was the name of the boy who had climbed the tree,—catching sight of the gun as he swung in the air, cried out, “Shoot! Shoot the branch off near the trunk!”
The boy with the gun was afraid and hesitated. Israel’s position grew more and more uncomfortable and dangerous.
“Shoot, I tell you!” he cried again. “Shoot! I’ll take the risk.”
The boy lifted the gun with shaking hands, took aim, and fired. The branch cracked off and down came Israel with it, head first; but as he fell he managed to grasp another bough with his hands, hold by it, and swing safely to the ground. The next day he went back alone, climbed that tree again, and brought home the nest.
This is a story told of Israel Putnam, afterward major-general in the American army in the Revolutionary War, and it shows the qualities of courage and perseverance, invention and quick decision, which made him useful to his country when he grew to be a man.
He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, January 7, 1718, and most of his boyhood was spent there. It is said that the first time he went to Boston as a little awkward country lad, some city boys made fun of him. Israel stood this as long as he could, then he suddenly challenged a bigger boy than himself, fought him, and beat him, to the great amusement of a crowd of spectators. After that the boys let him alone. He was strong and vigorous and loved all kinds of outdoor sports. Before he was grown he could do a man’s full day’s work in the fields and was very proud of it. When he was twenty-two years old he moved with his wife and baby son to Pomfret, Connecticut, bought a farm there, and cast in his lot with the people of this state, so that he is a son of Connecticut by adoption.
He worked hard in his new home, and in a few years he was in a fair way to be rich and prosperous. It was at this time that the incident happened that gave him his nickname of “Wolf Putnam.”
Just across the narrow valley from his farm there was a steep hillside, and among its rocks a wolf had her den. She was old and wary, and did a lot of damage in the neighborhood by killing sheep and lambs. Traps were set to catch her and the farmers often tried to shoot her, but she always got away safely.
In the winter of 1743, she destroyed many of Israel Putnam’s fine flock and he was greatly exasperated and made a plan with five other men to hunt her regularly, by twos in turn, until she was found and killed. She had once been nearly caught in a trap, and had only got out by leaving the claws of one foot behind her, so that her trail was easy to distinguish on the snow, one foot being shorter than the other, and making a different mark. One night they followed her all night long, and in the morning traced her back to her den in the hillside and made sure of its exact location. Then all day long they worked hard, trying to get her out. They burned straw and brimstone in the entrance of the cave, hoping to smoke her out; they sent in the dogs, but these came back wounded and bleeding and refused to go again. Putnam’s own fine bloodhound refused to go in, and then he decided to try it himself and shoot the wolf inside the cave, since there was no way of making her come out. He took off his coat, tied a rope around his waist, and with a torch and a gun, crawled in on his hands and knees as well as he could. Far back in the deep darkness the blazing eyes of the wolf showed him her lair. She growled and made ready to spring at him, but he fired and fortunately killed her with the first shot, and the men outside dragged him and the wolf out together. Israel Putnam was a young man then and almost a stranger in the place, but his courage and resourcefulness that day made him known to the people and gave him a reputation among them.
In some ways he had been at a disadvantage in Pomfret, for the people there, even in those early times, cared much about education. Soon after the place was settled, a library association was formed to provide reading matter for the families living near. Ten young men from Pomfret graduated at Yale College in the class of 1759. Now, Israel Putnam’s early education had been neglected. He did not love study, he loved outdoor life, and there was no schoolhouse near his home in Salem. He never learned to spell correctly. Some of his letters, which have been preserved, are almost impossible to read now, the spelling is so very curious. Later in his life, when he became a general in the army and was brought in contact with Washington and other educated and trained men, he was mortified and much ashamed of his own lack in this respect. He tried then to dictate his letters as often as possible so that people should not laugh at his ignorance. It made him careful to give his children a better education than his own.
In 1755, when he was thirty-seven years old, Israel Putnam entered the Provincial army for service in the French-and-Indian War, and rose to the rank of colonel before the war was over in 1764. He went with the Connecticut troops on several expeditions against the French forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain and Lake George. He had plenty of exciting adventures in this war, and long afterward, in his old age, he liked to tell them over to his friends and neighbors at home. Some of the stories have come down to us.
Once word came to the English camp at Fort Edward that a wagon train bringing supplies had been plundered by a party of French and Indians, and Major Robert Rogers, with his New England Rangers and a detachment of Provincial troops,—some of whom were under Putnam’s command,—was sent out to intercept the enemy on their retreat. These rangers, or scouts, had been drilled by their famous leader until they almost equaled the Indians in their own mode of fighting, and they were of great use in the war. This time they were too late and the plunderers escaped, but as other parties were said to be hovering near, Rogers spent some days searching for them. He saw no signs of them and at last turned back toward the fort.
One morning, contrary to his usual practice, he allowed some of his men to fire at a mark for a wager. This was a dangerous thing to do because they could never be sure that there were no enemies lurking near. It happened this time that a large body of French and Indians were not far off, and, hearing the firing, they came up quickly and silently through the thick forest and hid themselves in ambush, Indian fashion, near a clearing in the woods where the tall trees had been cut down and a thicket of small underbrush had grown up. The English were obliged to pass this clearing on their way home and the only path across it was a narrow one used by the Indians, who always went through the woods in single file, one behind another, each stepping in the footprints of the man ahead of him.
The English were in three companies, the first commanded by Putnam, the last by Rogers himself. Putnam and his men had got safely across the clearing and were just entering the forest again, when suddenly, the enemy sprang out of their ambush and rushed upon them. Putnam rallied his men and made the best stand he could and the other companies hurried to his assistance. But in the sharp skirmish that followed, as Putnam aimed his gun at a large, powerful Indian chief, it missed fire. The Indian sprang upon him, dragged him back into the forest, and tied him securely to a tree. As the fight went on, bullets from both parties began to fly past him and to hit the tree, so that for a time he was in as great danger from his friends as from his enemies. When, at last, the French and Indians were repulsed, the latter marched Putnam away with them as their prisoner back to their camp. His arms were tied tightly behind him, his shoes were taken away so that his feet were bruised and bleeding, and he was loaded with so many packs that he could scarcely move. When he could stand it no longer he begged the savages to kill him at once. The Indian who had captured him came up just then and gave him a pair of moccasins, and made the others loosen his arms and lighten his load. But when they reached the camping-place a worse ordeal was before him. His clothes were taken off, he was tied again to a tree, dry brushwood was piled in a circle around the tree, fire was set to this, and, as the flames rose up and the heat grew greater, he felt sure that his last hour had come. However, word had reached one of the French officers that the Indians were torturing their prisoner, and he rushed in, scattered the burning brush, and unbound the prisoner.
The Indians who had captured Israel Putnam may not have intended to kill him, but it was their custom to torture prisoners taken in war, and both the French and the English officers often had great difficulty in controlling their savage allies.
Putnam was carried to Canada and treated kindly by the French, and a few months later he was exchanged and sent home with some other prisoners.
Once before he had had a narrow escape from the Indians and only his quick decision and courage saved him. He was on a river-bank when they crept up belind him. Calling to the five men with him, he rushed for the boat and pushed off downstream toward some dangerous rapids. The Indians fired and missed him, and the boat shot down the rapids. It came out safe below them,—the first boat that had ever done so,—and the Indians thought it must be under the protection of their own Great Spirit.
Two years after his unwilling visit to Canada as a prisoner, Israel Putnam went there again, this time with the army under the command of General Amherst. The French-and-Indian War was ending in victory for the English; Quebec had fallen, but a few other posts still held out, and this expedition was against Montreal. On the way there a French ship on Lake Ontario opposed the progress of the English, and a story is told of Putnam’s original way of overcoming this difficulty.
“Give me some wedges, a beetle [that is, a large wooden hammer], and a few men of my own choice, and I’ll take her,” he said to General Amherst. He meant to row under the stern of the ship and wedge her rudder so that she would be helpless. Whether the plan was carried out, we do not know, but in the morning she had blown ashore and surrendered. Montreal, too, surrendered to the English, and in an Indian mission near there Putnam discovered the Indian who had taken him prisoner two years before. The chief was delighted to see him and entertained him in his own stone house.
When he returned to Connecticut at the end of the war, he found himself a hero and a favorite with everybody. So many people came to see him that at last he turned his house into an inn, and hung out a sign on a tree in front of it. That sign is now in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society at Hartford.
The next ten years, until the Revolution, he spent in peace on his farm. Just before that war began he drove a flock of sheep all the way to Boston for the people there who were in distress.
“The old hero, Putnam,” says a letter written from Boston in August, 1774, “arrived in town on Monday bringing with him 130 sheep from the little parish of Brooklyn. He cannot get away, he is so much caressed both by officers and citizens.”
The next spring he was ploughing in the field when a messenger rode by bringing the news of the battle of Lexington. Putnam left the plough in the furrow in the care of his young son Daniel, and without stopping to change his working clothes, set off at once on horseback for Boston, making a record ride for a heavy man fifty-seven years old.
His popularity in Connecticut made men ready to enlist under him. The battle of Bunker Hill was fought at Boston in June, and he took part in it. “The brave old man,” says Washington Irving, “rode about in the heat of the action, with a hanger belted across his brawny shoulders over a waistcoat without sleeves, inspiriting his men by his presence, and fighting gallantly at the outposts to cover their retreat.”
When Washington arrived at Cambridge to take command of the American army, Israel Putnam received from him his appointment by the Continental Congress as major-general. He held this rank through the rest of his life and fought in many campaigns of the Revolution. He was with the army in New York, and at the battle of Long Island; he was sent by Washington to Philadelphia to protect that city when it was threatened by the British, and later, he was put in charge of the defenses of the Hudson River.
One of his last exploits in the Revolutionary War was his famous ride down the stone steps at Horseneck, near Greenwich. The British, under General Tryon, invaded Connecticut in 1779, and threatened Greenwich, and General Putnam, who was in command there, after placing his men in the best position for defense, hurried off alone, on horseback, for Stamford, to bring up reinforcements. Some British dragoons, catching sight of him down the road, started in pursuit. They were better mounted than he and gained on him steadily. Putnam, looking back, saw the distance between them grow less and less. In a moment more they would overtake him; what should he do? He was on the top of the hill near the Episcopal Church, there was a curve in the road ahead, and a precipice at the side, with some rough stone steps up which people sometimes climbed on foot on Sundays, to the church, from the lower road at the bottom of the hill.
Putnam struck spurs into his horse and dashed around the curve at full speed. The instant he was out of sight he wheeled and put his horse over the precipice down the steep rocks. The dragoons came galloping around the corner and, not seeing him, stopped short in astonishment. Before they discovered him again, he was halfway down to the lower road. They sent a bullet after him which went through his beaver hat and he turned, waved his hand in a gay good-bye, and rode on to Stamford. It is said that General Tryon afterward sent him a suit of clothes to make up for the loss of his hat.
That same year he had a stroke of paralysis which disabled him so that he could never again take part in the war. He lived at home in retirement until his death on May 19, 1790. Perhaps no brave deed in his life was quite as brave as the cheerful and resolute way he met this hard blow near its end. He did not die as he would have liked, in the roar and thunder of battle; he was laid aside and the war went on without him. But after the first bitter disappointment, he regained his courage and good spirits, and no one heard him complain. People gathered about him and his last days were honored in his own home. When the war ended in 1783, Washington wrote him a letter which he counted as one of his greatest treasures.
Any number of stories are told of “Old Put,” as the soldiers called him, of his adventures, and his odd humor. It is said that once “a British officer challenged him to fight [a duel]; and Putnam, having the choice of weapons, chose that they should sit together over a keg of powder to which a slow match was applied. The officer sat till the match drew near the hole, when he ran for his life, Putnam calling after him that it was only a keg of onions with a few grains of powder sprinkled upon it.”
We have several descriptions of his personal appearance. He “was of medium height, of a strong, athletic figure, and in the time of the Revolutionary War weighed about two hundred pounds. His hair was dark, his eyes light blue, and his broad, good-humored face was marked with deep scars received in his encounters with French and Indians,”
“Putnam, scored with ancient scars,
The living record of his country’s wars,”
as a poet of those days expressed it.
There were greater generals in the Revolution than Israel Putnam, men who, partly because they were better educated, were better fitted than he to plan and carry out large operations. But he excelled as a pioneer, as a bold leader, and a brave, independent fighter. As a well-known historian says, “He was brave and generous, rough and ready, thought not of himself in time of danger, but was ready to serve in any way the good of the cause. His name has long been a favorite one with young and old; one of the talismanic names of the Revolution, the very mention of which is like the sound of a trumpet.”
In the Museum of the New York Historical Society there is a large flat stone with an inscription cut into one side of it, and in the other, three deep holes for three legs of a horse. Lying on a table near it are several large pieces of heavy metal with the old gilding almost worn off. One piece looks like the tail of a horse and another like a part of his saddle. These fragments of metal and the stone slab are nearly all that is left of a statue of King George the Third on horseback that stood on Bowling Green, at the lower end of Broadway in New York City, before the Revolutionary War.
One evening early in the war a mob gathered on Bowling Green. Led by the Sons of Liberty and helped by some of the soldiers, the crowd tore down the king’s statue and broke it into bits. Bonfires were blazing in the streets and by the light of these ropes were thrown over the king and his charger and both were pulled down and dragged through the streets. An entry in Washington’s Orderly Book at this time, forbidding his soldiers to take part in anything like a riot, shows that he did not fully approve of this proceeding. But the people were very much excited. It was the night of the 9th of July, 1776, and news of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia had just reached New York that afternoon. At evening rollcall the Declaration was read at the head of each brigade of the army and “was received with loud huzzas.”
Independence was declared in Philadelphia on the 4th of July, and that day has been kept ever since as the birthday of the United States, but news traveled so slowly before the telegraph was invented that it was not known in New York until Monday, the 9th. Then bells rang, and as night drew on people lighted bonfires to show their joy, and not content with this, they hurried away to Bowling Green and pulled down the statue of the king and cut off his head. They acted at once on the statement of the famous Declaration which they had just heard read to them, that “A prince whose character is marked by every act that may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Once off his pedestal, however, the king suddenly became valuable and precious to them, for he, as well as his horse, was made mostly of lead and he could be melted down and run into bullets. Lead was dear and scarce, and bullets were needed in the army. The king’s troops now “will probably have melted majesty fired at them,” some one wrote in a letter to General Gates. So the pieces of the statue were carefully saved and most of it was sent away secretly by ox-cart, so it is said, up into the Connecticut hills to the home of General Wolcott in Litchfield, for safe keeping. The general was returning there himself about this time from Philadelphia, and perhaps he took charge of its transportation. We shall hear of it again in Litchfield, for this story, which begins in New York, ends in Connecticut.
The story should really begin in London, for the statue was made there. The colonists sent an order for it after the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766. This act had excited great resentment in the colonies because it was an attempt to tax the people without their consent. When it was at last repealed, they were overjoyed, and New York determined to express its renewed loyalty to the king by erecting a statue of him. The laws of the colony state that it was set up “as a monument of the deep sense with which the inhabitants of this colony are impressed of the blessing they enjoy under his [King George’s] illustrious reign, as well as their great affection for his royal person.”
The statue was of lead, dark, heavy, and dull like the character of the king it represented, but it was richly gilded outside and looked, at first, like pure gold. Some of the pieces in the museum still show the gilding. It must have been a brilliant ornament in the little city when, on August 1, 1770, it was placed on Bowling Green, facing the Fort Gate. But it did not stand there very long in peace, for the stormy days of the Revolution were approaching. England continued to impose taxes and the colonies to resist them, until the discontent of the people broke out in many ways. More than one attempt was made to injure King George’s statue before it was finally torn down on the night of July 9, 1776.
[Courtesy of Mr. Charles M. Lefferts and the New York Historical Society
A drawing by Mr Lefferts from descriptions and measurements of fragments of the statue]
If we want to know what the British thought of this last insult to their king, we shall find out by reading the journal of Captain John Montresor, an officer in the British army.
“Hearing,” he writes, “that the Rebels [that is, the Americans] had cut the king’s head off the equestrian statue in the centre of the Ellipps [near the Fort] at New York, which represented George the 3rd in the figure of Marcus Aurelius, and that they had cut the nose off, clipt the laurels that were wreathed round his head and drove a musket bullet part of the way thro’ his head and otherwise disfigured it, and that it was carried to Moore’s tavern adjoining Fort Washington, on New York Island, in order to be fixt on a spike on the Truck of that Flag-staff as soon as it could be got ready, I immediately sent to Cox, who kept the tavern at King’s Bridge, to steal it from thence and to bury it, which was effected, and was dug up on our arrival and I rewarded the men, and sent the Head by the Lady Gage to Lord Townshend, in order to convince them at home of the Infamous Disposition of the Ungrateful people of this distressed country.”
And there, in London, a year later, Governor Hutchinson, of Massachusetts, saw it at Lord Townshend’s house in Portman Square. Lady Townshend, he said, went to a sofa and uncovered a large gilt head which her husband had received the night before from New York, and which, although “the nose was wounded and defaced,” he at once recognized by its striking likeness to the king. We do not know what became of it after this, or whether it is still in existence.
There were one or two other pieces of this monument which also had eventful histories. The slab, on which the horse had stood with one foot in the air, was used as a gravestone for Major John Smith, of the Forty-second, or Royal Highland, Regiment, who died in 1783, and later it served for a time as a stepping-stone in front of a well-known house in New Jersey.
Nearly one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence the tail of King George’s horse was dug up on a farm in Wilton, Connecticut, and a piece of his saddle was found there at about the same time. The tradition in Wilton is that the ox-cart carrying the broken statue passed through Wilton on its way to Litchfield, and that the saddle and the tail were thrown away there. Just why, no one knows; perhaps the load was too heavy; possibly—some people think—because it was found that they were not of pure lead and could not be used to make bullets. Most of the statue, however, seems to have reached Litchfield safely.
On the beautiful broad South Street of that village, high in the Connecticut hills, the house of General Wolcott, afterwards Governor Wolcott, of Connecticut, still stands under its old trees much as it stood in the summer of 1776.
When the pieces of the leaden statue reached Litchfield, they were buried temporarily in the “Wolcott orchard under an apple tree of the Pound variety” that stood near the southeast corner of the house. And then, sometime later, there came a day when King George, who had once sat so securely on his solid steed, close to his fort in his good city of New York, was taken out of this last hiding-place and, together with his leaden horse, was melted down and run into bullets to be fired at his own soldiers.
Bullet-moulds of the time of the Revolution can be seen now in historical museums. Some of them are shaped like a large pair of shears. The work of running the bullets that day in Litchfield was done by women and girls, for the men were away at the war. The only man who took part in it, besides the general himself, was Frederick, his ten-year-old son, and he, many years later, told how he remembered the event, how a shed was built in the orchard, how his father chopped up the fragments of the statue with a wood-axe, how gay the girls were, his two sisters a little older than himself and their friends, and what fun they all had over the whole affair. A ladle, said to have been used in pouring the lead into the moulds, is still kept in the Historical Museum at Litchfield, and among Governor Wolcott’s papers is a memorandum labeled, “Number of cartridges made.”
|Made by sundry persons,||2,182|
|Gave Litchfield militia on alarm,||50|
|Let the Regiment of Colonel Wigglesworth have,||300|
Mary Ann and Laura were Frederick’s sisters, twelve and fourteen years old. Some of the bullets made, and which were given to the “Litchfield militia on alarm,” were probably used the next year to repulse a British invasion of Connecticut, so that it was said then that “His Majesty’s statue was returned to His Majesty’s troops with the compliments of the men of Connecticut.”
“Attend all ye villains that live in the state,
Consider the walls that encircle Newgate.”
Newgate is the name of a famous prison in London. It is called “Newgate” because it was first built, centuries ago, over a new gate in the wall of the city. Later, when these rooms over the gate became too crowded, a larger prison was built near by and called by the same name.
There was once a Newgate prison in Connecticut. It was named for the old English one, but, instead of being up over a gate, it was down underground in a copper-mine. There was no entrance to it except by a shaft thirty feet deep, and the colonists chose this place for its security, yet the history of Newgate in Connecticut is full of tales of the daring and successful escapes of its prisoners.
Copper Hill, where the prison was, is in what used to be the town of Simsbury, but is now East Granby. The copper-mines there were opened early in 1700, and were worked for about sixty years. The copper is said to have been of good quality. In 1737-39, coins were made from it—some say by Dr. Samuel Higley who owned a mine near his home. These coins were never a legal tender, but were used as “token money,” because small change was scarce in the colonies. They are valuable to-day because they are very rare. Granby coppers have on one side a deer standing, and below him a hand, a star, and III, and around him the legend, “Value me as you please.” On the other side are three sledgehammers with the royal crown on each hammer, and around them either the word “Connecticut,” or the legend, “I am a good copper,” with the date 1737. A third kind has one broadaxe and the legend, “I cut my way through.” There is a specimen of each of the three kinds of Granby coppers in the Connecticut State Library at Hartford.
The mines were quite successful at first, but, as the colonists were not allowed to smelt and refine the ore in America, they were obliged to send it all the way to England, and this was very expensive. Sometimes, too, the ships carrying copper did not reach England at all. One was wrecked in the English Channel and another was seized by the French during a war with England. So in 1773, a few years before our Revolutionary War, the mines were given up and the largest of them was changed into a prison.
At first there were no buildings at all. There was nothing but a hole in the ground, closed by an iron trapdoor that opened into the shaft, where a wooden ladder was fixed to the rock at one side. At the bottom of the ladder there was a flight of rough stone steps leading farther down into the mine. All was dark and still except for the dripping of water along the galleries that led away into the heart of the hill. One cavern was blasted out to make more room and was fitted with wooden cells and bunks for the prisoners to sleep in, and at night a guard was set to watch the entrance up above and prevent any one from climbing the ladder and getting out. When everything was ready, the committee in charge of the work reported that it would be “next to impossible for any one to escape from this prison.”
The first prisoner sent there was a man named John Henson, who was committed on December 22, 1773. He spent eighteen days alone in the mine; then, on the night of January 9, 1774, he disappeared. No one could imagine how he got out. But there was another shaft leading up from the mine, a very deep one, where the copper ore had been drawn out. It had no ladder in it and its opening had not been closed, because it did not seem possible for a prisoner to escape that way. Yet a woman drew John Henson up eighty feet through the shaft in a bucket used for hoisting copper. After that, this shaft, too, was carefully closed and a strong wooden guardhouse was built over the entrance to the other one.
More prisoners were soon committed to Newgate. “Burglars, horse-thieves, and counterfeiters,” according to the law, were sent there and they were set to work mining copper, but instead of doing this, they dug their way out with the mining tools; so workshops were built aboveground where they made nails, boots and shoes, wagons, and other things. They slept in the mine as before, but at daylight they were called and came up the ladder in squads of three at a time under a guard, climbing as well as they could with fetters on their legs. They took their meals in the workshops and were chained to the forges and workbenches until late in the afternoon, when they went down again into the mine for the night.
When the Revolutionary War began, in 1775, political prisoners were sent to Newgate in Connecticut, just as such prisoners had often been sent to old Newgate in England. These men in America were the Tories, or Loyalists, who sympathized with the British and were often found giving them information and help. To protect themselves the Americans arrested them. Some of the first were sent by Washington from the camp at Cambridgik where the American army was besieging Boston.
Here is a part of his letter to the Committee of Safety at Simsbury; its date shows that it was written several months before the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia:—
CAMBRIDGE, December 7th, 1775.
The prisoners which will be delivered to you with this, having been tried by a court martial, were sentenced to Simsbury in Connecticut. You will therefore have them secured so that they cannot possibly make their escape. I am, etc.
But the Tories were just as anxious as any other prisoners to escape if they could. Three times the wooden guardhouse over the entrance was set on fire and burned down. Once, when there were a great many Tories in Newgate, they made a concerted plan and carried it out successfully. The wife of one of them had permission, to visit him, and came to the prison one night about ten o’clock. Only two guards were on duty then at the mouth of the shaft. When the trapdoor was lifted for her, the prisoners were all ready and waiting on the ladder. They rushed out, overpowered the two men, took away their muskets, and got possession of the guardroom. The rest of the watch, who had been asleep, hurried in, and there was a desperate fight; one man was killed and several were wounded. At last the prisoners succeeded in putting all the guards down into the mine and closing the trapdoor upon them. Then they escaped themselves, and few of them were ever retaken.
A story is told of a Tory prisoner who, about the year 1780, made his escape in a remarkable and unexpected way. There was an old drain in the mine which had once carried off water, but when the mine became a prison it was stopped up with stone and mortar, except for a small opening where the water still ran off between iron bars. The outlet of this drain was far down on the hillside beyond the sight of the guards. The prisoner, Henry Wooster, who worked in the nail-shop, contrived to hide some bits of iron nail rods in his clothes and carry them back with him into the mine. He learned, with their help, to take off his fetters at night. Then, with the same bits of iron, he worked at the bars of the drain until, little by little, he loosened some of them and took them out so that he could crawl through into the drain. But the drain was too narrow in some places to let him pass and he was obliged to loosen and remove some of its stones. This was a long and hard task, but he was not easily discouraged. Each night he took off his clothed and his fetters, crawled into the drain, and worked until morning. Then he replaced the iron bars, dressed, put on his fetters, and was ready when the guards came down to go up to the shops with the rest of the prisoners. By and by he got nearly to the end of the drain. Then one night, while he was down there, a stone, which he had accidentally loosened, fell behind him and blocked his way back. He could not turn to reach the stone with his hands, for the drain was too narrow, he could not stir it with his feet, and he dared not cry out for help; time passed, and it was almost morning; he would be called and missed, and he shuddered to think of the consequences. At last, as he was about to give up in despair, he felt the stone move just a little. Bracing himself against the sides of the drain, he pushed it vigorously with his feet. Slowly, inch by inch, it rolled back until it fell into a slight depression so that he could pass over it. Bleeding and exhausted, he got to his bunk and into his clothes and fetters again just as the guards came down the ladder. A few nights later he finished his work and, with several other prisoners, escaped through the drain.
Some of the Tories in Newgate were well-known and educated men. One was a clergyman named Simeon Baxter. He preached a sermon, one Sunday, to his companions in the mine, in which he advised them, if they could, to assassinate Washington and the whole Continental Congress. This sermon was printed afterward in London and proves how bitter the feeling was in those days between the Americans and the Tories.
After the Revolution, Newgate was the state prison of the State of Connecticut until 1827. New workshops and other buildings were added from time to time as they were needed. The wooden guardhouse was replaced by one of brick, and a strong stone room over the mouth of the shaft went by the nickname of the “stone jug.” There was a chapel and a hospital, but the hospital was seldom used because there was very little sickness. The pure air and even temperature in the mine, where it was never too hot in summer nor too cold in winter, kept the prisoners well in spite of darkness and confinement, and men who were sent there in a bad state of health often recovered.
At one time there was a strong wooden fence, with iron spikes on its top, around the enclosure, but in 1802 it was replaced by a stone wall twelve feet high, with watch-towers at the corners and a moat below it. Some of the prisoners helped to build this wall, and when it was finished they were allowed to take part in a celebration. One of them, an Irishman, gave this toast at the feast: “May the great wall be like the wall of Jericho and tumble down at the sound of a ram’s horn.”
But the wall is still standing on Copper Hill after more than one hundred years and, although the prison is empty and the mines deserted to-day, a great many people visit the place every year because of its interesting history. Guides take the visitors down the steep ladder in the shaft and lead them through the underground galleries where copper was mined, and show them the caverns where the prisoners once slept in old Newgate Prison.
“’T was on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness, like the night.”
“Yellow Friday,” or “the Dark Day,” in New England, was the l9th of May, 1780. For nearly a week before this day the air had been full of smoke and haze, and the sun at noontime and the full moon at night had looked like great red balls in the misty sky. Thursday night the sun went down red and threatening.
Friday morning it rose as usual, but, as the weather was overcast, it only peered now and then through the broken gray clouds. There were mutterings of thunder and a few drops of rain fell, big and heavy with black soot. Then the shower stopped and a stillness like that before a great storm settled over the land. The day, instead of growing lighter, grew darker and darker. Yet no storm came.
Strange colors edged the low-hanging clouds, red and brown and a brassy yellow, while the fields and woods below were a deep, unnatural green. The white roads and houses and the white church steeples turned yellow. Even the clean silver in the houses looked like brass. These colors foreboded an eclipse of the sun; yet there was no eclipse.
By noon it was as dark as early night, and the birds sang their evening songs and disappeared. Some of the smaller ones, frightened and fluttering, flew into the houses or dashed themselves against the window panes. Chickens went to roost, the cows came home from pasture, and the frogs croaked in the ponds.
Men planting corn in the fields stopped work because they could not see the corn as it dropped. Women at home lighted candles to find their way about the house. No one could see the time of day by the clocks, and white paper looked like black velvet. Many people were terrified and wondered what was coming. Some expected a great tornado; others said a comet was due and feared it portended some great calamity, perhaps a disaster to the armies in the field who were fighting England in the war of the Revolution. Still others, more ignorant and superstitious, were sure that the end of the world had come, that the last trumpet would soon sound and the dead be raised. One woman sent a messenger in haste to her pastor to ask what this dreadful darkness meant, but he only replied that he was “as much in the dark” as she.
Several gentlemen, who happened to be at the house of Reverend Manasseh Cutler, the minister in Ipswich, Massachusetts, have left us a record of their observations that day.
Mr. Cutler wrote in his journal:—
“This morning Mr. Lathrop of Boston called upon me. Soon after he came in I observed a remarkable cloud coming up and it appeared dark. The cloud was unusually brassy with little or no rain. Mr. Sewell and Colonel Wigglesworth came in. The darkness increased and by eleven o’clock it was so dark as to make it necessary to light candles ... at half-past eleven in a room with three large windows, southeast and south, could not read a word in large print close to windows .... About twelve it lighted up a little, then grew more dark.... At one o’clock very dark.... The windows being still open, a candle cast a shade so well defined on the wall that profiles were taken with as much ease as they could have been in the night. ... We dined about two, the windows all open and two candles burning on the table. In the time of the greatest darkness some of the dunghill fowls went to roost, cocks crowed in answer to one another, woodcocks, which are night birds, whistled as they do only in the dark, frogs peeped, in short there was the appearance of midnight at noonday.... At four o’clock it grew more light.... Between three and four we were out and perceived a strong sooty smell. Some of the company were confident a chimney in the neighborhood must be burning; others conjectured the smell was more like that of burnt leaves.”
These gentlemen went over to the tavern near by and found the people there greatly excited and tried to reassure them. They proved to them from the black ashes of leaves, which had settled like a scum on the rainwater standing in tubs, that the darkness was not supernatural, but probably came from the burning of forests far away.
Dr. Ezra Stiles, who was then president of Yale College in New Haven, gave the same explanation. He says:—
“The woods about Ticonderoga [in New York] and eastward over to New Hampshire and westward into New York and the Jerseys were all on fire for a week before this Darkness and the smoke in the wilderness almost to suffocation. No rain since last fall, the woods excessively dry.... Such a profusion of settlers pushing back into the wilderness were everywhere clearing land and burning brush. This set the forests afire far beyond intention, so as to burn houses and fences.... The woods burned extensively for a week before the nineteenth of May and the wind all the while northerly.”
A quaint old ballad, said to have been written about that time, gives a description of this Dark Day:—
“The Whip-poor-will sung notes most shrill,
Doves to their cots retreated,
And all the fowls, excepting owls,
Upon their roosts were seated.
“The herds and flocks stood still as stocks,
Or to their folds were hieing,
Men young and old, dared not to scold
At wives and children crying.
“The day of doom, most thought was come,
Throughout New England’s borders,
The people scared, felt unprepared
To obey the dreadful orders.”
In Connecticut the legislature was in session at Hartford. It was like night in the streets of this city and candles were burning in the windows of all the houses. Men grew anxious and uneasy. As the darkness became deeper, the House of Representatives adjourned, finding it impossible to transact any business. Soon after, a similar motion for adjournment was made in the Senate, or Council, as it was then called. By this time faces could scarcely be distinguished across the room and a dread had fallen on the assembly; “men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which were coming.”
Then up rose Honorable Abraham Davenport, a judge of Fairfield County and councilor from Stamford, a stern and upright man, strict in the discharge of his duty.
“I am against adjournment,” he said. “The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought.”
His strong words held the assembly. Its members rallied from their fears and, following his example, turned steadily to the transaction of the necessary business of the hour.
“And there he stands in memory to this day,
Erect, self-poised, a rugged face half seen
Against a background of unnatural dark,
A witness to the ages as they pass
That simple duty hath no place for fear.”
On the Green of the old town of Lebanon a mound is shown to-day on the spot where a large brick oven stood in the winter of 1781—an oven in which bread was baked for the soldiers of the American Revolutionary Army. These soldiers, who might have been seen almost any day that winter in their gay uniforms, crossing and recrossing the Green, or gathered in groups about the oven, were, strangely enough, not American soldiers, but French hussars belonging to the Duke de Lauzun’s famous “Legion of Horse.”
France, being herself at war with England, had recently sent an army to America to help the colonies in their struggle against a common enemy, and the French commander-in-chief, the Count de Rochambeau, wrote from Newport, Rhode Island, to Governor Trumbull, of Connecticut, asking if the governor could provide winter quarters in Lebanon for a part of his forces—for the Duke de Lauzun and some of his Legion of Horse.
Governor Trumbull’s home was in Lebanon. His house was near the village Green, and close beside it stood his store, which, by this time, had become famous under the name of the “War Office,” because in this store the governor and the Council of Safety used to meet and talk over the important business of the war, and what Connecticut could do, as her share, to help the American army.
There is a story that Washington used to say when he needed more supplies, “Let us see what Brother Jonathan can do for us,” and that this nickname, which is now used for the United States, belonged originally to Jonathan Trumbull. It is true that Washington often turned to him for help. He had approved the application of the Count de Rochambeau to Governor Trumbull for winter quarters for the French troops. But long before the arrival of these soldiers there had been busy times in Lebanon. Provisions of all kinds were brought from all over the state to the governor’s store to be packed and sent off to the troops in the field. The governor was usually to be found there himself, weighing and measuring, packing boxes and barrels, dealing out powder and lead, starting off trains of loaded wagons and often large herds of cattle to be driven all the way to the army at the front. Messengers came and went, flying on horseback along the country roads, and sometimes they sat on the counter in the store, swinging their spurred boots, waiting for the governor to give them their orders. A piece of that counter, with the marks of their spurs in the soft wood, can be seen now in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. Although there were dark days during the war when the state’s treasury was exhausted and the people discouraged and the demands of the army hard to meet, yet
“Governor Trumbull never quailed
In his store on Lebanon hill.”
Somehow or other the supplies were found and little Connecticut became known as the “Provision State.” Washington spoke of her governor as “the first of patriots.” This is one of Governor Trumbull’s proclamations to the men of Connecticut:—
“Be roused and alarmed to stand forth in our glorious cause. Join yourselves to one of the companies now ordered to New York, or form yourselves into distinct companies and choose captains forthwith;... march on; play the man for God and for the cities of our God, and may the God of the armies of Israel be your leader.”
Lebanon was then on one of the main roads through New England, and many distinguished men stopped there at different times to see the governor. Washington came, and Lafayette, the young French nobleman whom Washington loved almost as a son, and who is, perhaps, “nearer to the hearts of the Americans than any man not of their own people.” Lafayette holds this place in their affections because, before the French Government decided to send help to the colonies, he “came from France of his own accord and brought with him the sympathy of the French people,” among whom also new ideas of liberty were stirring.
“From the moment I first heard of America,” he said, “I began to love her; from the moment I understood that she was struggling for her liberties, I burned to shed my best blood in her cause.”
Lafayette’s countrymen, who spent the winter of 1781 in Lebanon, were the gallant soldiers of France. Their leader, the Duke de Lauzun, was a gay French nobleman, very handsome, very fond of good living, brilliant and witty as well as brave; nobody like him or his men had ever been seen before in Lebanon. The people of that quiet little town opened their eyes in surprise when the dashing French hussars, in their tall black caps and their brilliantly braided jackets, came galloping in over the muddy country roads. Governor Trumbull had made provision for them. Barracks were built for some on a farm which he owned just outside the town, and others camped on the village Green.
With their arrival life in Lebanon changed. At daybreak the French bugles blew the reveille. There were parades and reviews, there were balls and parties. Washington held a review of Lauzun’s Legion when he passed through the place one day in March. The corps was finely equipped. Its horses were good, its men brave and handsome, and their uniforms vivid and trim. The hussars wore sky-blue jackets braided with white, yellow breeches, high boots, and tall caps with a white plume at the side. They made a great impression on the country people, who had seen their own men, dressed in homespun clothes, mount their rough farmhorses and ride away, just as they were, to the war. The duke himself was friendly and pleasant and popular with his new neighbors. He lived in a house lent him by David Trumbull, the governor’s son.
Once, early in the winter, two distinguished visitors from the French army came to see him, the Marquis de Chastellux, who wrote a book of “Travels in North America,” and the Baron de Montesquieu; and he gave a dinner for them to which he invited Governor Trumbull. In the marquis’s book we can read a description of it and of Governor Trumbull as he appeared to these French gentlemen from the Old World.
“On returning from the chase,” says de Chastellux (he had been out hunting squirrels), “I dined at the Duke de Lauzun’s with Governor Trumbull. This good methodical governor is seventy years old. His whole life is consecrated to business, which he passionately loves, whether it is important or not. He has all the simplicity and pedantry of a great magistrate of a small republic, and invariably says he will consider, that he must refer to his council. He wears the antique dress of the first settlers in this colony.” Then the marquis goes on to tell how the small old man, in his single-breasted, drab-colored coat, tight knee-breeches, and muslin wrist-ruffles, walked up to the table where twenty hussar officers were waiting and with “formal stiffness pronounced in a loud voice a long prayer in the form, of a Benedicite.” The French officers must have been surprised; they were not used to simple country manners and to grace before meat on all occasions, but they were too polite and too well trained to laugh. “Twenty amens issued at once from the midst of forty moustaches,” says the marquis, and in spite of the fun he makes of the old Puritan governor’s stiff manners, we feel in reading the story that he fully appreciates his sterling good qualities.
Some of these pleasure-loving French gentlemen met a strange and sad fate, years later, in the terrible days of the French Revolution. The Duke de Lauzun was beheaded in Paris in 1793, his long and adventurous life “ended with a little spurt of blood under the knife of the guillotine”; and Lafayette spent five years in an Austrian prison.
There is another story of old Lebanon which is connected with the visit of the French soldiers. The French commander-in-chief, the Count de Rochambeau, had given to Madam Faith Trumbull, the governor’s wife, a beautiful scarlet cloak, and one Sabbath day she appeared in the governor’s pew in the Lebanon meeting-house wearing the French general’s handsome gift. Now, in those hard times contributions for the army were often collected after service on Sundays, and the people not only gave money, but whatever else they could spare, Indian corn, flax, wood, shoes and stockings, hats and coats. Quietly the governor’s wife rose in her seat and, taking the scarlet cloak from her shoulders, carried it down to the front and laid it with the other gifts. Later, it was cut into narrow bands and used to make red stripes on the soldiers’ uniforms.
All that is left of those stirring times in Lebanon to-day is the little “War Office,”—restored and kept as a memorial of the Revolution,—and the mound on the Green where the brick oven stood in which bread was baked for the French soldiers who fought for American independence.
“To drum-beat and heart-beat
A soldier marches by;
There is color in his cheek,
There is courage in his eye,
Yet to drum-beat and heart-beat
In a moment he must die.”
The story of Nathan Hale is the story of a short life and a brave death. Connecticut has written his name on her Roll of Honor—the name of a man who was executed as a spy in the War of the Revolution. He was born in Coventry, Tolland County, on the 6th of June, 1755. His father, Deacon Richard Hale, who, as well as his mother, Elizabeth Strong, was descended from the earliest settlers of Massachusetts, had moved to Coventry, Connecticut, and had bought a large farm there. The children were brought up strictly, as they were in all New England families in those days, and no doubt there was plenty of hard work for them on the farm, but, as there were ten or twelve of them, we may be sure there was plenty of play, too.
It is said that Nathan was not a strong child at first, but grew vigorous with outdoor life; that “he was fond of running, leaping, wrestling, firing at a mark, throwing, lifting, playing ball,” and used to tell the girls of Coventry he could do anything but spin. Stories told of him say that when he was older he could “put a hand on a fence as high as his head and clear it easily at a bound”; and that the marks of “a leap which he made upon the Green in New Haven were long preserved and pointed out.” One of his comrades in the army wrote of him, “His bodily agility was remarkable. I have seen him follow a football and kick it over the tops of the trees in the Bowery at New York (an exercise which he was fond of).”
But he was fond of study, as well as of play, and he must have done well at the Coventry School, for his parents determined to send him to college. He was fitted for Yale by the minister in Coventry, as there were then no preparatory schools such as we have now. When he was fourteen he entered Yale College at New Haven with his brother Enoch, who was a year and a half older than he. They were known in college as Hale Primus and Hale Secundus.
At Yale Nathan studied well and took a good stand. He became, too, one of the most popular men in his class. He made many friends, and their letters to him show us how much they loved and admired him. At one time he was president, or “chancellor” as it was called, of the Linonia Debating Society; at another he was its secretary, or “scribe,” and the minutes which he kept then can be seen now, in his own handwriting, in the Yale Library.
He was nearly six feet tall, broad-shouldered, wit blue eyes and brown hair, a pleasant voice, and a manner that was both attractive and dignified. A gentleman in New Haven who knew him well said of him, “That man is a diamond of the first water and calculated to excel in any station he assumes.”
After he graduated in 1773, he taught school for a few months in East Haddam. The country schools were very simple in those days. There were few books; a Psalter and a spelling-book were the most important ones used. There were no blackboards, and the teacher set “copies” on paper, and read out the “sums” in arithmetic, and often the whole school studied aloud. One of Nathan Hale’s pupils in East Haddam, who lived to be an old lady, said of him as a teacher, “Everybody loved him, he was so sprightly, intelligent, and kind and withal so handsome.”
He was soon offered a better position in New London as the master of a new school in which he was expected to teach Latin as well as English. He wrote in one of his letters from New London:—
“I am happily situated here. I love my employment and find many friends among strangers. I have a school of thirty-two boys, half Latin, the rest English. In addition to this I have kept, during the summer, a morning school, between the hours of five and seven, of about twenty young ladies.”
The schoolhouses in East Haddam and New London where Nathan Hale taught have been restored and are kept now as memorials of him.
While he was teaching in New London the war with England broke out. There was great excitement when the news came of the battle of Lexington (April 19, 1775), and a public meeting was held at which he is reported to have said, “Let us march immediately and never lay down our arms until we obtain our independence.” He could not march immediately himself, for he was teaching school, but when summer came he entered the army as a lieutenant, and was soon made a captain. In September he went with some of the Connecticut troops to join Washington’s army which was besieging Boston. The American flag was not adopted until the next year, and as the colors appointed for his regiment, the Seventh Connecticut, were blue, they marched away from New London under a blue banner. His camp-basket, a powder-horn made by him, and his army diary are still in existence, and can be seen in the rooms of the Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford.
Here are some of the entries in his diary that fall and winter:—
“Friday 29th (Sept.)—Marched for Cambridge. Arrived 3 o’clock, and encamped on the foot of Winter Hill.
“Sat. 30th—Considerable firing upon Roxbury side in the forenoon.
“October 9th, Monday—Morning clear and pleasant but cold. Exercised men 5 o’clock, one hour.
“Sabbath, 22d—Mounted picket guard. Had charge of the advance picket.
“Monday 6th (November)—It is of the utmost importance that an officer should be anxious to know his duty, but of greater that he should carefully perform what he does know.
“Tuesday, 7th—Left picket 10 o’clock.... Rain pretty hard most of the day. Studied the best method of forming a regiment for a review, manner of arranging the companies, also of marching round the reviewing officer.
“A man ought never to lose a moment’s time. If he put off a thing from one minute to the next his reluctance is but increased.
“Wednesday, 8th—Cleaned my gun, played some football and some checkers.
“22d, Friday—Some shot from the enemy.
“Feb. 14, 1776, Wednesday—Last night a party of Regulars made an attempt upon Dorchester.... The Guard house was set on fire but extinguished.”
During this time many of the soldiers became discouraged with the hard work and poor food and pay, and we learn from his diary that Captain Hale offered to give the men in his company his own pay if they would stay on for a month longer. The diary and all his letters are full of courage and hopefulness.
In March, the British army, which had been shut up so long in Boston unable to get away by land, took ship and sailed for Halifax. Washington believed the next point of attack would be New York and he moved his army there to protect the city. So Hale’s regiment marched back to New London and embarked in transports for New York. The last six months of his short life were passed in and near New York.
The spring was spent in fortifying the city, and in June Captain Hale wrote to his brother Enoch, “The army is every day improving in discipline and it is hoped will soon be strong enough to meet the enemy at any kind of play. My company, which was small at first, is increased to eighty, and a sergeant is recruiting, who I hope has got the other ten which completes the company.”
When the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed, the soldiers received the news with great enthusiasm, and felt that they had at last an independent country of their own to fight for and, if need be, to die for.
The British army arrived and encamped on Staten Island. It was a finely equipped force of twenty-five thousand men with a fleet of ships to support it, and was in every respect better and stronger than the half-trained militia that made up most of the American army. The battle of Long Island, late in the summer, ended in a defeat for the Americans, and Washington’s skillful retreat at night across the East River from Long Island to New York was all that prevented a greater disaster. Many of the men in Captain Hale’s company had been recruited along the Connecticut shores, and there is no doubt that these sailors under his command were very useful that night in getting the troops safely back to New York.
After this the condition of things became very serious, for the British had got possession of Brooklyn Heights, which commanded the city over East River, and they might cross at any time and attack it. Washington ordered companies of rangers, or scouts, to be formed to keep a sharp watch on the enemy’s movements, and Captain Hale accepted an appointment in this body of picked men. It was commanded by Colonel Knowlton, who was also a Connecticut man and had been a ranger himself in the old French-and-Indian War. He was a brave officer, and when he lay dying in the battle of Harlem Heights he said, “I do not value my life if we do but get the day.” Captain Hale must have been glad to serve under such a leader.
Meanwhile, Washington had moved the greater part of his army outside New York to avoid being shut up in the city as the British had been in Boston, and was anxiously expecting an attack. But none came, and his suspense grew greater and greater as time passed and he got no information as to what would happen. “Everything depends on obtaining intelligence of the enemy’s motions,” he wrote to his officers, “I was never more uneasy than on account of my want of knowledge,” and he begged them to send some one into the enemy’s camp in disguise to find out what their plans were, and when and where they would attack.
It was not easy to get any one to go, for it meant being a spy. Spies are necessary in all wars because the commanding general must have information about the enemy’s movements. But soldiers hate a spy, who comes into their camp as a friend when he is really an enemy, and honorable men do not like to do this. It is usually done by men who care most of all for the money it brings. The service, too, is so dangerous that the general may not command it, he may only accept it when it is volunteered. If a spy is caught within the enemy’s lines no mercy is shown him; his trial is swift and his death certain; in those days the penalty was hanging.
This time a man of intelligence was needed and Colonel Knowlton explained the matter to some of his officers. One of them is said to have replied: “I am willing to be shot, but not to be hung.” But there was another who looked at it differently, and this was Captain Nathan Hale. It seemed to him that if his country called it was his duty to go, at the sacrifice, if necessary, of both his honor and his life. And the more he thought of it the more sure he was that it is the motive with which a deed is done that makes it good or evil, and that a service which his country demanded could not be dishonorable.
He asked advice from his friends, especially from Captain William Hull, of his old regiment, who had also been one of his fellow students at college. Captain Hull urged him strongly not to do it. He reminded him how men feel about a spy and told him, too, that it was doubtful if, with his frank, open character, he could ever succeed in deceiving people and pretending to be what he was not. He begged him for the sake of his family and his friends to give it up because it might end for him in a disgraceful death.
Captain Hale replied, “I am fully sensible of the consequences of discovery and capture in such a situation. But for a year I have been in the army and have not rendered any material service while receiving a compensation for which I make no return. Yet I am not influenced by the hope of promotion or reward. I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. But,” he added, taking his friend’s hand affectionately, “I will reflect, and do nothing but what duty demands.”
He decided to go, and left the American camp the second week in September. He was to cross to Long Island and approach the British position from the rear, and he was to go as a schoolmaster looking for employment, which was the best disguise he could assume as he had once been a schoolmaster and might easily pass for one again. Just what his orders and instructions were we do not know, as the service was a secret one.
His faithful sergeant, Stephen Hempstead, of New London, went with him part of the way. On account of British ships cruising in the East Elver and in the Sound, they were obliged to go as far as Norwalk, Connecticut, before it was safe to cross. Hempstead tells us that at Norwalk Captain Hale changed his uniform for a plain suit of citizen’s brown clothes, with a round, broad-brimmed hat, took off his silver shoe-buckles, and left all his papers behind except his college diploma, which he thought might be useful. Then he said good-bye to Hempstead, telling him to wait for him there, and an armed sloop commanded by Captain Pond—probably Charles Pond, of Milford, a fellow officer in Hale’s regiment—carried him over to Huntington on Long Island.
Hempstead waited, but Captain Hale never returned. The next news his friends received was the news of his capture and execution as a spy in the British camp.
We shall probably never know just what happened after he left Huntington, what adventures he met with or what narrow escapes he had. About the time that he crossed the Sound, Sir William Howe, the British general, moved over to New York and took possession of the city, and Washington’s suspense ended. Perhaps Captain Hale did not learn of this until it was too late to return, or, perhaps, knowing it, he chose to go on and finish the work he had begun and take back information of the new position of the enemy.
We know that he passed safely all through the British camps, both on Long Island and in New York, that he did his work thoroughly and well, made plans and drawings of the new fortifications in the city, and was only arrested on the last night, when the work was done and he was ready to return. Just where he was when he was captured we do not know. From the new line of intrenchments made by the British across the city he could have looked northward over to the American camp on Harlem Heights, scarcely a mile away, and could almost have seen the tents of his own company of rangers. Perhaps he made a quick dash for freedom across this short mile and was seized then. Or, perhaps, in the excitement of a great fire which raged all through the lower part of New York City on that day, he may have got safely back to Long Island and have been arrested as he tried to pass the sentries on the outposts. An old tradition says that he had gone as far as Huntington and was taken there. We cannot tell. But just as the difficult task was over, the sudden disappointment came.
The papers and drawings found on him told the story only too plainly, and he was carried before Sir William Howe. When he was questioned he at once gave his name, his rank in the American army, and his reasons for coming inside the British lines. No trial was necessary, and General Howe immediately signed the warrant for his execution on the next morning, Sunday, September 22, at eleven o’clock.
He was handed over to the provost marshal, William Cunningham, a coarse and brutal man who has left a shocking record of cruelty to his prisoners. Hale asked if he might have a minister with him, but Cunningham refused. Then he asked for a Bible, but that, too, was forbidden. How he spent the night we cannot tell; part of it, no doubt, in prayer, for that was the habit of his life.
He could not want to die. He was young and strong, just twenty-one, hardly more than a boy, and life was all before him. He had friends who loved him; he was engaged to be married; he had every prospect of success and happiness. But he had deliberately counted the cost before he undertook the dangerous service, and the training of all his life, at home, at college, and in the army, had taught him not only to do and to dare, but, what is better still, to accept defeat bravely.
The next morning, while the last fatal preparations were being made, an aide-de-camp of General Howe’s, a brave officer of Engineers who was stationed near the place, asked that the prisoner be allowed to wait in his tent. “Captain Hale entered,” he says; “he was calm and bore himself with gentle dignity in the consciousness of rectitude and high intentions. He asked for writing materials, which I furnished him; he wrote two letters, one to his mother, and one to a brother officer.”
These letters Cunningham destroyed, saying that “the rebels should never know they had a man who could die with so much firmness.”
There were few people present at his death. When he reached the foot of the tree where the sentence was to be executed, he was asked if he had anything to say, any confession to make. He told again who he was and why he came, and added quietly, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Then the noose was adjusted, and the cruel end came quickly.
These last words of Nathan Hale have been repeated again and again since that time. They have been cut in bronze and in marble, they have been taught in our schools. They are noble words, because they are simple and brave and unselfish. He could have had no idea that they would ever be heard beyond the little group of people about him when he died, but it so happened that General Howe had occasion to send a letter to Washington late that evening about an exchange of prisoners, and the bearer of the letter was Captain Montresor, the officer in whose tent Nathan Hale had spent the last hour of his life. Inside the American tines Montresor met Captain Hull, Hale’s intimate friend, the man who had warned Hale so earnestly of the fate that might be his. To him Montresor told the tragic story of that morning and repeated the words that have since become famous.
Years afterward a monument was put up in Coventry to the memory of Captain Nathan Hale. There are several statues of him in different places; there is a fountain with his name upon it in Norwalk where he crossed the Sound, and another at Huntington, Long Island; there is an old fort named for him on the shore of New Haven Harbor; but the memorial which comes closest to our hearts is the little stone in the old Coventry graveyard, set there in memory of him by his own family. This is the inscription cut into it:—
“Durable stone preserve the monumental record. Nathan Hale, Esq., a Capt. in the army of the United States, who was born June 6th, 1755, and received the first honors of Yale College, Sept., 1773, resigned his life a sacrifice to his Country’s liberty at New York, Sept. 22d, 1778. Etatis 22d.”
By an unknown poet of 1776
The breezes went steadily thro’ the tall pines,
A-saying “oh, hu-sh!” a-saying “oh, hu-sh!”
As stilly stole by a bold legion of horse,
For Hale in the bush; for Hale in the bush.
“Keep still!” said the thrush
as she nestled her young,
In a nest by the road; in a nest by the road;
“For the tyrants are near, and with them appear,
What bodes us no good; what bodes us no good.”
The brave captain heard it, and thought
of his home,
In a cot by the brook; in a cot by the brook.
With mother and sister and memories dear,
He so gayly forsook; he so gayly forsook.
Cooling shades of the night were coming
The tattoo had beat; the tattoo had beat.
The noble one sprang from his dark hiding-place,
To make his retreat; to make his retreat.
He warily trod on the dry rustling leaves,
As he pass’d thro’ the wood; as he pass’d thro’ the wood;
And silently gain’d his rude launch on the shore,
As she play’d with the flood; as she play’d with the flood.
The guard of the camp, on that dark, dreary
Had a murderous will; had a murderous will.
They took him and bore him afar from the shore,
To a hut on the hill; to a hut on the hill.
No mother was there, nor a friend who
In that little stone cell; in that little stone cell.
But he trusted in love, from his father above,
In his heart all was well; in his heart all was well.
An ominous owl with his solemn bass voice,
Sat moaning hard by; sat moaning hard by.
“The tyrant’s proud minions most gladly rejoice,
For he must soon die; for he must soon die.”
The brave fellow told them, no thing he
The cruel gen’ral; the cruel gen’ral;
His errand from camp, of the ends to be gain’d,
And said that was all; and said that was all.
They took him and bound him and bore him
Down the hill’s grassy side; down the hill’s grassy side.
’Twas there the base hirelings in royal array,
His cause did deride; his cause did deride.
Five minutes were given, short moments,
For him to repent; for him to repent;
He pray’d for his mother, he ask’d not another;
To Heaven he went; to Heaven he went.
The faith of a martyr, the tragedy shew’d,
As he trod the last stage; as he trod the last stage.
And Britons will shudder at gallant Bale’s blood,
As his words do presage; as his words do presage.
“Thou pale king of terrors, thou
life’s gloomy foe,
Go frighten the slave; go frighten the slave;
Tell tyrants, to you, their allegiance they owe.
No fears for the brave; no fears for the brave.”