Pequot War 1637-1638
During the early formation of America, there were several battles fought between Native Americans and white settlers. The first of those battles took place in 1837 and 1638. It was known as the Pequot war because it involved the Pequot tribe. They lived in southeastern Connecticut, near the Thames River.
In 1630, Sassacus was their chief, and he had pushed the tribe to the Connecticut River in the west. They had several skirmishes with the colonists who were settled there, which led to an incident on July 20, 1636 in which the Pequots killed John Oldham, who was a trader living in that area.
On August 24, 1637, an order was given to punish the Indians by then Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Endicott.
Shortly thereafter, on May 26, 1637, the Pequot War’s first battle was fought. That battle occurred when a Pequot stronghold near what is now New Haven, Connecticut was attacked by a group of New England settlers led by John Underhill and John Mason.
When the forts in the stronghold were burned, around 500 Pequot tribe members were killed, including children and women. Some survived and split into smaller groups. One of those groups, led by Chief Sassacus, escaped, but was captured on July 28 near what is now Fairfield, Connecticut. Some of the group members died on that date, while others were simply held captive and enslaved.
Some of the enslaved Pequots were sent to the West Indies, while others were forced to serve the colonists. Sassacus and a few others escaped again, but the Mohawk Indians killed many of them. Those Pequots that remained after that wound up being absorbed into other tribes across New England.
In September, the Mohegans and Narragansetts met at the General Court of Connecticut and agreed on the disposition of the Pequot survivors. The agreement is known as the first Treaty of Hartford and was signed on September 21, 1638.
About 200 Pequots survived the war; they finally gave up and submitted themselves under the authority of the sachem of the Mohegans or Naragansetts:
There were then given to Onkos, Sachem of Monheag, Eighty; to Myan Tonimo, Sachem of Narragansett, Eighty; and to Nynigrett, Twenty, when he should satisfy for a Mare of Edward Pomroye’s killed by his Men. The Pequots were then bound by Covenant, That none should inhabit their native Country, nor should any of them be called PEQUOTS any more, but Moheags and Narragansatts for ever.
Other Pequots were enslaved and shipped to Bermuda or the West Indies, or were forced to become household slaves in English households in Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay. The Colonies essentially declared the Pequots extinct by prohibiting them from using the name any longer.
The colonists attributed their victory over the hostile Pequot tribe to an act of God:
Let the whole Earth be filled with his glory! Thus the lord was pleased to smite our Enemies in the hinder Parts, and to give us their Land for an Inheritance.
This was the first instance wherein Algonquian peoples of southern New England encountered European-style warfare.
After the Pequot War, there were no significant battles between Indians and southern New England colonists for about 38 years.
This long period of peace came to an end in 1675 with King Philip’s War. According to historian Andrew Lipman, the Pequot War introduced the practice of Colonists and Indians taking body parts as trophies of battle.
Honor and monetary reimbursement was given to those who brought back heads and scalps of Pequots.