Pequot War: John Underhill’s Landing on Block Island

The Pequot War was a series of small battles fought between the English colonists of New England and the Pequot tribe, 1636-1638. Two of the English captains John Mason and John Underhill, would later write accounts of the war. Of the two, Underhill’s is the more readable and informative.

This section tells of the English militia’s landing at Block Island, 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Note the line, wee gave fire upon them, they finding our bullets to out-reach their arrowes, they fled before us.

But some knowing them for the generality to be a warlike nation, a people that spend most of their time in the studie of warlike policy were not perswaded that they would upon so slender termes forsake the Island, but rather suspected they might lye behind a banke, much like the forme of a Baracado: my selfe with others rode with a Shallop made towards the shore, having in the Boat a dozen armed souldiers drawing neere to the place of landing, the number that rose from behind the Barracado, were betweene 50. or 60. able fighting men, men as straite as arrowes, very tall, and of active bodyes, having their arrowes nockt, they drew neere to the water side, and let flie at the souldiers, as though they had meant to have made an end of us all in a moment; they shot a young Gentleman in the necke thorow a coller for stiffenesse, as if it had beene an oaken boord, and entered his flesh a good depth; my selfe received an arrow through my coate sleeve, a second against my Helmet on the forehead, so as if God in his providence had not moved the heart of my wife to perswade mee to carrie it along with me which I was unwilling to doe, I had beene slaine.

[Here Underhill goes on a long tanget about the treatment of women in the colonies]

But to the matter,the Arrowes flying thicke about us, wee made hast to the shore, but the suffe of the Sea being great, hindered us, so as wee could scarce discharge a Musket, but were forced to make hast to land : drawing neere the shore through the strength of wind, and the hollownesse of the Sea, wee durst not adventure to runne ashore, but were forced to wade up to the middle, but once having got up of our legges, wee gave fire upon them, they finding our bullets to out-reach their arrowes, they fled before us; in the meane while Colonell Hindecot made to the shore, and some of this number also repulsed him at his landing, but hurt none: wee thought they would stand it out with us, but they perceiving wee were in earnest, fled; and left their Wigwams or houses, and provision to the use of our souldiers : having set forth our Sentinels, and laid out our Pardues, wee betooke our selves to the guard, expecting hourely they would fall upon us; but they observed the old rule, ’tis good sleeping in a whole skin, and left us free from an alarum.

John Underhill’s full account of the war is available here:

One thought on “Pequot War: John Underhill’s Landing on Block Island

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s