Battle on the Ice – John Knight, 1606

The explorer John Knight was shipwrecked off the coast of Canada. Upon going to shore with three men, Knight and his party were killed by natives. A member of Knight’s crew, Oliver Browne, took over composing Knight’s journal for the remainder of the expedition.

While in the process of salvaging supplies from the wrecked ship onto a new-built shallop, natives attacked during the night and captured the shallop. Despite a heavy rain and being outnumbered, Knight’s men were able to repulse the natives with their muskets. Contrast with this post where rain did disable the muskets, and this post where Japanese musketeers were able to do good execution despite a heavy rain. Bad weather it seems was not always totally disabling to firearms.

On Saturday, the eight and twentieth, we did likewise save what things we could, and gat all our things out of our Ship, and made her cleane in hold, having faire weather, hoping in God to save her, and to mend all things, as well as we could ; for she lay upon hard rocks : wherefore we kept her as light as we could, for beating and bruising of her hull.

The Savages of the Countrie assault our men at one of the clocke at night.

That night about nine of the clocke, it began to raine very sore, and so continued all night : and about one of the clocke at night, our Boate-Swaine and our Steward being at watch, and their watch almost out, the Steward went aboord the Ship to pumpe, leaving the Boate-Swaine at watch some Musket shot length from our Tent : while he was in pumping, there came over the rocks a great sort of the Countrey people toward the place where the Boate-Swaine was : who when they saw him, they shot their arrowes at him, running toward him as fast as they could. Whereupon hee discharged his Musket at them, and fled to our Tent as fast as hee could, thinking they had beset us, they were so many of them in sight.

The Steward hearing his Musket goe off, came out of the Ship, and as he was comming, saw the Savages running to our Shallop, and cryed out to us that were asleepe in our Tent, to come and to rescue the Boate-Swaine, and the Shallop. We made what haste we could; when we came towards them, and saw so many of them in our Shallop, we were afraid we were betraid.

Our men expulse the Savages.

At this time it rained very sore; yet calling our wits together, we sent two of our men back unto our Tent, the rest of us made toward them, and shot at them some three or foure Muskets : who when they saw us shoote, they stood in our Shallop, and held up their hands unto us, calling one to another. Then thought we with our selves, that we were better to dye in our defence in pursuing of them, then they us, being but eight Men and a great Dogge.

Above fiftie Savages in sight.

When they saw us marching toward them so fiercely, our Dogge being formost, they ranne away : but we durst not pursue them any further, for it was in the night, and they were in sight above fiftie men. Thus we recovered our shallop.

Very greate Boates of the Savages.

Then we sent some more of our men to our Tent to keepe it ; and the rest followed toward the place wither they fled. But before we could overtake them, they were gotten into their Boates, and were rowing away through the Ice ; which was so thicke, that they could not passe away, but stucke fast ; for their Boates were very greate: wee seeing them sticke fast in the Ice, some setting with Oares, and some rowing, came so neere them, as we could, and shot at them some dozen shot, before they could get cleere : which shot caused them to cry out very sore one to another: for their Boates were full of men.

The description of the Savages.

As farre as we could judge, they be very little people, tawnie coloured, thin or no beards, and flat nosed, and Man-eaters.

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