May 26: Deadly Attack on the Pequot Fort at Mystic

 

Today in 1637, a month after a deadly Pequot attack on the small colonial town of Wethersfield, a group of 77 English soldiers and hundreds of their Native American allies retaliated by attacking and burning a Pequot village at Mystic  Fort, near the Connecticut coastline.

The earlier raid on Wethersfield had prompted Connecticut’s colonial leaders to formally declare war against the Pequots on May 1st — an act they saw as necessary to ensure the survival of their fledgling settlements.  Soon afterward, Connecticut’s three largest towns (Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield) each pledged a contingent of men to join Captain John Mason in a retaliatory attack against the Pequots.  The Connecticans also reached out to neighboring native tribes who had also been victims of Pequot hostility like the Narragansetts and Mohegans, who each contributed men to aid in the attack.

In the early morning hours of May 26, a combined force of nearly 70 Englishmen and 300 of their native allies attacked the fortified Pequot village near present-day Mystic, Connecticut.  The predawn attack took the Pequots completely by surprise; in the course of a single hour over 400 Pequot men, women, and children perished, unable to escape the palisaded village after the English had set it aflame.

A 1638 engraving of the Battle of Fort Mistick by English colonist John Underhill.

While the attack delivered a significant blow to the Pequots, the method employed by the English soldiers ended up alienating their native allies.  The Mohegan and Narragansett warriors were horrified at what they perceived to be ruthless English cruelty, as Mason’s men slaughtered all the Pequot women and children attempted to flee their burning homes inside the palisade. The event became known to history as the Battle of Mystic Fort or, alternately, the Mystic Fort Massacre. It stands as the most infamous example of the brutality that characterized the back-and-forth raids of the Pequot War, which would continue for another sixteen months after the Mystic massacre until the Treaty of Hartford was finally signed on September 21, 1638.

Further Reading

The History of the Pequot War,” Battlefields of the Pequot War, pequotwar.org

Kevin McBride and Laurie Pasteryak Lamarre, “Exploring and Uncovering the Pequot War,Connecticut Explored

Walter Woodward, “Two Controversial Statues Standing… At Least, For Now,” Connecticut Explored