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Pequot War, 1637

the culmination of numerous conflicts between Massachusetts colonists and one of the most powerful native tribes in New England

Two events weakened the Pequots prior to the war. In 1631, the tribe was divided into pro-English and pro-Dutch factions. The second event that weakened the Pequots was the smallpox epidemic which they suffered in 1633-1634. The separation of the pro-English group to form the Mohegan tribe and the smallpox epidemic together cost the Pequots almost half of their people.

Indian tribes of the region in 1636
Indian tribes of the region in 1636

Chronology of the Pequot War

Early 1634 In a desperate attempt to regain their trade monopoly lost to other tribes, the Pequot attack and kill some Narragansetts attempting to trade at the House of Hope, a Dutch trading post and fort. The Dutch retaliate by kidnapping the Pequot Grand Sachem Tatobem and then executing him.

Spring 1634 Englishman John Stone sails up the Connecticut River and kidnaps several Indians for ransom. Unidentified Indians later board the vessel and kill all nine Englishmen aboard. The English blame the Pequot and demand that they deliver the heads of those responsible for Stone's death. The Pequot refuse to acknowledge that any Pequot was involved in the killing, but that if any of them were it was in retaliation for the Dutch murder of Tatobem.

1635 Pequot Uncas, concerned that the only way for his people to survive is to create a peaceful alliance with the English, breaks clan ties with the Pequot. Assuming the ancient Wolf Clan name of Mohegan, he forms his own tribe, aligns with the English, and settles with his followers at Shantok.

July 1636 On Block Island, members of a Narragansett tributary tribe kill Captain John Oldham. An expedition sets sail from Boston under the command of John Endecott to punish the Block Islanders and to again demand the killers of John Stone from the Pequots in Connecticut. After a brief Indian resistance on Block Island, the Indians disappear. Endicott spends two days burning their empty villages, shooting stray dogs, and destroying Indian food supplies. Proceeding on to Pequot territory, Endicott meets with Pequot envoys. Believing they are procrastinating, Endicott breaks off the talks and goes on a destruction and looting rampage.

Fall and Winter 1636 The Pequot besiege Fort Saybrook and attack the Wethersfield settlement. In response, the English declare war on the Pequot.

May 26, 1637 English Puritans, with Mohegan and Narragansett allies, surround the fortified Pequot village at Missituck (Mystic). Within an hour, 400-700 men, women, and children are put to the sword or burned to death as the English torch the village. This singular event broke the Pequot resistance, and many Pequot in other villages escape and hide among other tribes.

17th-century woodcut portraying the massacre at Mystic
17th-century woodcut portraying the massacre at Mystic

The English, supported by the Mohegan, pursue the retreating Pequot down the New England coast until most are either killed or captured. Some are taken by the English as domestic servants, a few are sold into slavery, and others are captured and executed by the Mohawk as a token of their friendship toward the English.

1638 The Treaty of Hartford outlaws the name Pequot, forbids the Pequot from regrouping as a tribe, and requires that other tribes in the region submit all their inter-tribal grievances to the English and abide by their decisions.

The Pequot War, A Documentary
The Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Connecticut

John Endecott

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This page was last updated on 12/20/2017.