Those who are currently attacking every vestige of what is good and noble in America continue in their deconstruction by now assaulting Thanksgiving. That’s right…the celebration that hearkens back to Christians giving thanks to God for survival from a harsh winter, freedom to worship as they please, and the providential help of Native Americans…is now being trashed. Somehow, modern day writers are trying to link a massacre by Englishmen in the Pequot War to the original Pilgrims to say that our Thanksgiving is actually a celebration of the slaughter of innocents.
The Pequot War was fought between 1636 and 1637, and was the first full scale war between Englishmen and Indians on the North American continent. The battles covered parts of modern day Massachusetts and Connecticut and was waged by Englishmen (descendants of the original Pilgrims and the more recent Puritans) and their Indian allies (Narragansett and Mohegan tribes) against the Pequot Indians. The Pequots had subjugated dozens of other tribes throughout the area in the past 20 years or so, and they wanted to corner the market for control of the region’s fur and wampum trade. The idea that all Indians were peace-loving children of nature is just as ridiculous as the notion that all Europeans were murderous racist slavers of the human race. The Pequot were just as war-like as anyone else, and there were plenty of Indians who did not like their oppressive rule. The facts are, there were several tribes (such as the Wampanoags) who saw the English (or Dutch) as potential allies against the neighboring tribes they were constantly fighting.
The first event in the war was the murder of an English trader, John Stone, and his crew by the Pequot Indians in 1634. The Pequot admitted that they had killed the Englishmen, but justified their actions. We don’t know why they killed the English.
Later, John Oldham was found killed by Indians. The English suspected the Pequot of the murder, so John Endicott gathered some 90 soldiers and marched on Block Island in Pequot territory (southeastern Connecticut) to exact retribution. They burned Indian villages and cornfields and skirmished with Indians, but did not kill any women or children. At this point, neither side committed any atrocities on non-combatants. The Pequot laid siege to the English colonists at Saybrook from September 1636 to April of 1637. They destroyed English warehouses full of food and other supplies and killed any Englishmen who got out of the fort. In the first six months of the war, the Pequot won every single battle. They were a highly skilled, experienced mobile force of warriors who gave the English as much as they could handle. It was certainly in doubt as to which side would win.
The turning point came when the Pequot attacked an English settlement in Connecticut (Wethersfield) and slaughtered English women and children. This was the first time “non-combatants” were killed, and the English in Connecticut united with the English in Massachusetts—determined to avenge the deaths of their women and children and to completely eliminate the threat of the Pequots. In May of 1637, 77 English soldiers, plus about 250 of their Indian allies attacked and burned the fortified Pequot village of Mistick. (This is sometimes called “the Battle of Mistick Fort”.) Approximately 400 Indians were killed, among them were some 150 women and children. Many of the Indians were burned alive in the fort. The Pequot who somehow managed to escape were hunted down by the English and Indian allies and killed.
The Pequot were later finished off as a fighting force during the ten hour long battle known as “the Battle of the English Withdrawal”. The survivors were hunted down and sold into slavery in the Caribbean. The Pequot were eliminated completely as a threat to either the English or their Indian allies. During the last half of the war, the English demonstrated their ability to adapt to Indian tactics in the dense forests, and to give back the same “total war” that the Pequot had dished out to their enemies. None of this is nice, clean, or peaceful. However, these are the facts…both sides were brutal and relentless. This is the way of all warfare on every continent for the past 6000 years of recorded history—no one does it “humanely.” And although the English involved in the Pequot War did indeed proclaim a day of thanksgiving to be celebrated because of their triumph over the Pequot, historically that particular proclamation had nothing to do with the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving 16 years earlier, or our memorial for the past 400 years of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving. Call the English in 1637 whatever you wish, but their actions against the Pequot have nothing to do with the celebration with the Wampanoags several years earlier.