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CHAPTER IV. PHILIP'S CHIEF CAPTAINS

[168] In writing the lives of distinguished men, and particularly those in whose personal history military achievments form the main feature, it has often been found convenient, and in fact nearly indispensable, to enter to some extent upon the biographies of others who were their chief assistants and reliable friends and hence we have seen the works entitled "Napoleon and his Marshals," "Washington and his Generals,: and so on. In fact, this course has been so long pursued by writers and approved by readers, that the author of this little book need offer no apology for making his humble effort in Indian History, Biography and Genealogy to be a true story of METACOM (alias PHILIP) AND HIS CHIEF CAPTAINS - brave leaders upon the war path, noble sufferers in a thoroughly just though an irretrievably "lost cause."

Now whether these aiders, abettors and followers of the great Wampanoag sachem, like the disciples *(IV-1) of Jesus Christ whom we have been taught to honor with the title of "Apostles," ever entered upon the disreputable contest among themselves as to who should be accounted the greatest, we do not know; but we presume that their business in hand was of so much greater moment that they did not. For upon them devolved the destiny not only of themselves but of their entire race, and they were, therefore, from necessity, if not by inclination, led to

" ... leave all meaner things
To low ambition and the pride of kings."

[169] It is, perhaps, comparatively non-essential in the enumeration of these chief captains of Philip, that we trouble ourselves to study and so criticize the character, judge of the natural or acquired ability or even the practice, of each, as to be qualified to name them in such order that the first may not be mentioned last, or the last first. Each was good for the service he sought to perform - at least, good in a reasonable degree; and comparisons, which are proverbially "odious," would in this case be difficult, and in the eye of justice at this date nearly impossible.

That we commence our personal descriptions with a particular chief, therefore, does not signify that we consider him greater than another whose biography shall occupy our thoughts and engage our pen afterward.

Without further preliminary, let us enter upon the biographies of these chief captains, commencing with the Narraganset sachem, Nanuntenoo, better known to readers of history under the name of

CANONCHET

This chief was a son of Miantunnomoh, grandson of Mascus, grand-nephew of Canonicus, and nephew of Otash, Mossup and Canjanaquond. At the date of King Philip's war, Nanuntenoo, alias Canonchet, was chief sachem of the then powerful tribe called the Narragansets. This tribe, it is said, was to have furnished four thousand warriors to aid King Philip in the great conflict that he had planned against the whites, but one of the stipulations of that contract was that those hostilities on the part of the Indians should not commence until 1676, or about one year later than they actually occurred. Doubtless the time when this assistance was to have been afforded was that set by Philip, when, to have been successful, the war should [170] have commenced, and when, too, could Philip have restrained the rashness of his youthful warriors, it would have begun. Conduct is as essential as courage in war, and King Philip lacked neither, though many of his youthful warriors were entirely deficient in the former, and when that chief could curb their misguided zeal no longer, he consented to what he could not avoid and deeply deplored, although he foresaw the suicidal tendency of commencing unprepared. Not so, however, was it with Nanuntenoo, who, with his Narragansets, hesitated and for a considerable time delayed to assume the responsibility of joining in the ill-timed movements of the short-sighted Wampanoags.

That hesitation and delay came near proving fatal to Philip and his cause at the very commencement of hostilities, and this it was that made it necessary for him to fight on the defensive, and continually retreat at every advance of the English army. With the four thousand Narragansets added to his band, Philip could have maintained his situation at Pokanoket, and this was unquestionably what he had intended to do. *(IV-2) Yes, more, he could have carried the scenes of blood and fire into the heart of the English settlements, and the white instead of the red man would have been put entirely on the defensive - the English instead of the Indians would speedily have been upon the retreat - Plymouth, perhaps, instead of Pokonoket, occupied by an enemy.

[171] Few readers of history ever stop to consider the disadvantages under which the great sachem of Pokonoket labored at the commencement of the war that cost him his kingdom and his life, but rendered his name immortal. Nearly six months had elapsed from the commencement of hostilities at Swansea before that powerful ally, the Narraganset, could be brought into an active participation in the war; and Philip's inherent greatness as a man, and his ability as a warrior, need no further proofs than his adroit management during that half year, by which he saved his band of fleeing Wampanoags from being totally destroyed before the Narragansets came to his aid. There was no bad faith intended or enacted, on the part of the Narragansets, in their conduct towards the Wampanoags at this cricical [sic] period. The fatal difficulty was, that, among the Wampanoags, those fit only for the field had got into the council. It is but reasonable to believe that the Narragansets were as unprepared as the Wampanoags for the issue; and their judgment foresaw, if war was forced upon them then, it would result in disaster to all the Indians concerned. Philip, doubtless, greatly feared what the Narragansets foresaw, but, as the matter then stood, he was obliged to be governed by his necessities, instead of counselled by his reason. With Philip it was everything or nothing - to gain all or to lose all. He had labored, but labored in vain, to induce his Wampanoags to wait until they were ready to fight, and their friends the Narragansets were also ready to join with them in that fight; but the former would do neither, and, as a matter of dire necessity, Philip took the field at the head of his Wampanoags, who to their cost soon found that to begin a war was an easy matter compared with successfully conducting it. The first had been their act against the remonstrances of their chief, the last [172] became his task to perform; their weakness of judgment being sufficient for the first, all his skill and foresight unequal to the last.

Mr. Drake's Book of the Indians, page 61, says: "In the beginning of Philip's war, the English army, to cause the Narragansets to fight for them, whom they had always abused and treated with contempt since before the cutting off of Miantunnomoh's head, marched into their country, but could not meet with a single sachem of the nation. They fell in with a few of their people who could not well secrete themselves, and who concluded a long treaty of mere verbosity, the import of which they could know but little, and, doubtless, cared less; for, when the army left their country, they joined again in the war."

The term "joined again" I think expresses more than the truth, as it implies that the Narraganset tribe had before that date participated therein, which I think lacks proof. That the hearts of the Narragansets had been with King Philip in his cause against the English, I have no doubt; but, that their hands had been to any considerable degree active, I do not believe; and, therefore, to say that they 'soon after joined' in the war, I am constrained to think is a much more truthful expression than that they 'joined again' in that conflict.

As an example of the injustice that the English intended, exercised and practiced toward the Narragansets, need we add more than that they caused (doubtless compelled) four Indians of that tribe to subscribe to the articles of the treaty just alluded to, in the names of the chiefs of that nation. Now who that is governed by a particle of the principles of justice would say such a treaty as that was at all binding upon those chiefs or on that tribe? That the Narragansets might fulfil this unrighteous treaty, which they had really no [173] part in making, the English seized upon and held as hostages four Indians of that tribe. *(IV-3)

If the Narragansets had before lacked cause for a war against the English, this conduct on the part of the latter certainly afforded a sufficient provocation. It was also an insult no high minded people could bear (which, to the honor of that tribe be it said, and ever remembered, they did not submit to), and served only to cement yet more firmly the union of their hearts with those of the Wampanoags, binding the tribes more closely in sentiment and in sympathy - a unity of principles which speedily found vent in unity of action. What the appeals of King Philip and his people could not effect, this unrighteous conduct of the English successfully accomplished, viz., a warlike alliance between the Narragansets and Wampanoags; not an alliance that should bring the warriors of the former into the field of strife a year or even six months hence, but immediately; and thus were they brought half a year earlier than they had formerly agreed with King Philip that they should be furnished.

The miserable farce enacted in the Narraganset country was enlarged upon at Boston, October 18, 1675, when Nanuntenoo under pressure was induced to sign an additional treaty, by which it was stipulated that the Narragansets should in ten days deliver to the English every one of the Indians who had taken refuge or were sojourning in their country, whether belonging to the tribe of King Philip, of Weetamoo the squaw sachem of Pocasset, or of Awashonks the squaw sachem of Sogkonate, the Quabaug or Hadley Indians, or any other sachems or people that had been or at this [174] time were in hostility with the English. To that remarkable document the chief Nanuntenoo affixed his mark, and the English amanuensis added that it was that of "Quananchett," who signed not only in behalf of himself but also for "Conanacus," "Old Queen," *(IV-4) "Pomham" and "Quaunapeen."

 

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