Miles Standish - John S. C. Abbott

The Standish Monument

The Will of Captain Standish.—His Second Wife—Captain's Hill—The Monument.—Letters from President Grant and General Hooker.—Oration by General Horace Binney Sargent—Sketch of his Life.—Other Speakers.—Laying the Corner Stone.—Description of the Shaft.

None of the particulars of the last hours of Captain Standish have been transmitted to our day. So far as is known he enjoyed good health until his last sickness. His will was dated March 1st, 1655. In it he expressed the wish that, should he die at Duxbury, his body should be buried by the side of his two dear daughters, Lora Standish, and Mary Standish, his daughter-in-law. One-third part of his estate he bequeathed to his dear and loving wife, Barbara Standish. The following extract from his will indicates the devout character of the man:

"I do, by this my will, make and appoint my loving friends, Mr. Timothy Hatherly and Captain James Cudworth, supervisors of this my last will; and that they will be pleased to do the office of Christian love, to be helpful to my poor wife and children, by their Christian counsel and advice; and if any difference should arise, which I hope will not, my will is that my said supervisors shall determine the same, and that they see that my poor wife shall have as comfortable maintenance as my poor state will bear, the whole time of her life, which if you my loving friends please to do, though neither they nor I shall be able to recompense, I do not doubt that the Lord will."

There is a tradition that Captain Standish's second wife, Barbara, was a sister of his first wife, Rose. When the Mayflower  sailed, she was left an orphan in England. She afterwards reached the colony a full grown woman, and became the wife of the Captain.

Captain Standish died the 3rd of October, 1656. But his character and achievements were such that for two hundred years since his death, his name has been one of the most prominent in our retrospects of the Pilgrim days. His descendants are very numerous. For some time it has been, by these his descendants, in contemplation to rear a monument to his memory. On the 17th of August, 1871, there was a very large gathering of these descendants at Duxbury, to consecrate the spot on Captain's Hill, where the monument was to be reared. Many others, of the most distinguished men of our land, were also present, who wished to unite in this tribute to the memory of one of the most illustrious names in American annals. President U. S. Grant wrote, regretting his inability to be present:

"I am heartily with your association in sympathy, with any movement to honor one who was as prominent in the early history of our country as Miles Standish; but my engagements are such that I regret I am unable to promise to be present in August."

In the reply from General Hooker to an invitation to attend the celebration, he writes:

"I regret to state that my engagements for the month of August are such as to render it impossible for me to join you on that memorable occasion. It is unnecessary for me to say that I deeply sympathize with the object of your meeting. I have been an admirer of the character of Myles Standish from my boyhood up, and would like to be identified with any body of gentlemen engaged in commemorating his great virtues. To me, his civil and military character towers far above his contemporaries, and they, if I mistake not (when history shall be truthfully written), will be made to appear to be the most remarkable body of men that ever lived. Viewed from our present standpoint, in my opinion, they are now entitled to that judgment. It will be a graceful act on the part of our friends, to erect a monument to his memory; but it must not be expected to add to his fame or immortality. Industry, valor, and integrity were regarded as the cardinal virtues of our forefathers, and I hope they will never be held in less estimation by their descendants. One of our gifted poets has happily named 'Plymouth Rock' as the corner-stone of the nation. The superstructure promises to be worthy of the foundation. With great respect, I have the honor to be your friend and servant,

"J. HOOKER, Major-General."

Replies of a similar character were returned by Generals Sherman, Sheridan and Burnside, and by W. C. Bryant. General Horace Binney Sargent delivered the oration on this occasion. It was very eloquent in its truthful delineation of the character and career of the illustrious Puritan Captain. Every reader will peruse with interest the following graphic sketch from its pages:

"About the time that all Christendom was in mourning for the murdered Prince of Orange, and deploring in his death the overthrow of the bulwark of the Protestant faith, a little fair-haired child was playing among the hedge-rows of England, who was destined to learn the art of war in the armies of that king's more warlike son, Prince Maurice, then a boy of seventeen, and to be a tower of defense to the unsoldierly Pilgrim colony of Protestant America.

"That child whose bones, after nearly fourscore years of toil and war, were laid somewhere on this hill-side, perhaps under our unconscious feet was Myles Standish, the great Puritan Captain! He was born about the year 1580, of English ancestry, dating back to rank and opulence as far as the thirteenth century. Of his childhood, little is known. To defeat the title of his line to lands in England, the rent-roll of which is half a million per annum, the hand of fraud is supposed to have defaced the page that contained the parish record of his birth.

"Unjustly deprived of these vast estates, as he avers in his will, in which he bequeaths his title to his eldest son, it seems probable that he went to Holland near the time of his majority. Queen Elizabeth signed his commission as lieutenant in the English forces, serving in the Netherlands against the cruel armies of the Inquisition. As she died in 1603, about two years after his majority, it is not improbable that we are indebted to that first disappointment, which may have driven him, in his early manhood and some despair, into the army.

"From 1600 to 1609, the year of the great truce between Prince Maurice and the King of Spain, the contest was peculiarly obstinate and bloody. In this fierce school the Puritan captain learned the temper and art of war.

"From 1609 to 1620, a period of truce but not of civil tranquility, the Low Countries were inflamed by those theological disputes of the Calvinists and Arminians which brought the excellent Barneveldt to the scaffold, and drove the great Grotius—a fugitive from prison into exile. In this school, perhaps, Myles Standish learned some uncompromising religious opinions, which brought him into strange sympathy and connection with the Pilgrim church in Leyden. Both periods seemed to leave their impress on his character. The inventory, recorded with his will, mentions the Commentaries of Caesar, Bariffe's Artillery, three old Bibles, and three muskets, with the harness of the time, complete. His Bibles were old. A well-worn Bible for every musket; and, thank God, a musket, not an old one, to defend each Bible!

"The schedule of his books, some forty in number, records nearly twenty which are devotional or religious. With the memory of one act of singularly resolute daring, when, in obedience to the colonial orders to crush a great Indian conspiracy, he took a squad of eight picked men into the forests, and deemed it prudent to kill the most turbulent warrior with his own hands, we may imagine how the Pilgrim soldier, friend and associate of Brewster, disciple of the saintly Robinson, rose from the perusal of one of the old Bibles, or of Ball on Faith, Spasles against Heresie, or Dodd on the Lord's Supper, to stab Pecksuot to the heart with his own knife; a giant who had taunted him with his small stature, in almost the very words of Goliah in his insulting sneer at David, long before; and to cut off the head of Watawamat, which bloody trophy the elders had ordered him to bring home with him. We can imagine him on the evening of that cheaply victorious day, taking more than usual pleasure in the exultant psalms of the warrior David, and in a chapter of Burrough's Christian Contentement  and Gospel Conversation  especially as he had his three muskets with bandoleers, and Bariffe's Artillery, close at his hand. One can feel the unction with which the valorous Pilgrim would religiously fulfill the colonial order to smite the heathen hip and thigh, and hew Agag in pieces before the Lord.

"Not originally, and perhaps never, a member of the Pilgrim church, and possessing many traits which might have belonged to the fierce trooper, in an army whose cavalry was the legitimate descendant of Caesar's most formidable enemies,—the Batavi, celebrated for cavalry qualities, and long the body-guard of the Roman emperors,—the appearance of the somewhat violent soldier, in the saintly company of Parson Robinson's church, is an anomaly.

"It has been proven many a time, from the days of Bannockburn, when the Scottish host sank on its knees to receive the benediction of the Black Abbot of Inchaffray, even to our own late day, when many of the best fighting regiments were blessed with the most earnest chaplains, that men never tender their lives more gallantly to God and motherland than when they are fervently preached to and prayed for.

"Yet the all-daring contempt for peril, the roughness of temper, the masterly economy with which Standish saved human life by consummate indifference to personal homicide upon prudent occasion, his power of breathing his own fiery heart into a handful of followers, till he made them an army able to withstand a host in the narrow gates of death, would lead us to expect such a colleague for the saintly Brewster as little as we should expect to see Sheridan— prominent among the Methodists.

'Cavalry Sheridan,

Him of the horses and sabers we sing'—

"In truth, with the poem of our sweetest and most cultured bard in our minds, and with the memory of those fierce monosyllables with which our great cavalry leader rolled back defeat upon the jubilant rebel host, and rescued victory at Winchester, fancy can depict the foaming black horse pressed into the rush of the shell-shattered guidons by the iron gripe of knees booted in "Cordovan leather," and imagine that little Myles Standish rode that day in the saddle of little Phil. Sheridan.

"To the genealogist, who believes that names represent qualities and things, it is not unpleasing to find in the family record of Standish and Duxbury Hall, in the parish church of Chorley, Old England, the name Milo Standanaught. To stand at nothing, in the way of a duty commanded by the civil authority, seemed the essence of character in Myles Standish; and thoroughness stamps the reputation of the name and blood to-day.

"The materials for personal biography are scanty. His wife, Rose Standish,—an English rose,—whose very name augurs unfitness for a New England winter on an unsettled cape, died within a month of the landing. A light tradition exists that his second wife, Barbara, was her sister, whom he left an orphan child in England, and sent for. She arrived a woman grown, and the valorous captain added another illustration to the poet's story, that Venus and the forger of thunderbolts were married.

"From the first anchorage, Captain Standish, as the soldier of the company, was charged with all deeds of adventure. At first, certain grave elders were sent with him for counsel. But ultimately his repute in affairs, both civil and military, was such that he was for many years the treasurer of the colony, and, during a period of difficulty, their agent in England. As a soldier, he was evidently the Von Moltke of the Pilgrims They invested him with the general command. Even in extreme old age—the very year that he died very auncient and full of dolorous paines"—he received his last and fullest commission against new enemies, his old friends, the Dutch.

"It is singular that among the primitive people, who must often in the later Indian wars have missed his counsel and conduct, as the poet describing Venice, sighs,

"'Oh! for one hour of blind old Dandole.'

no clear tradition has descended of the place where the war-worn bones of the soldier-pilgrim lie. Sent, like Moses, to guide and guard a feeble people to a promised land of power that he might never see, no man knoweth his burial-place until this day.

"More than one hundred years ago, the following paragraph appeared in the Boston Newsletter," dated Boston, January 22, 1770: We hear from Plymouth that the 22d day of December last was there observed by a number of gentlemen, by the name of the Old Colony Club, in commemoration of the landing of their ancestors in that place."

"The fourth toast on that occasion, a hundred and one years ago, was, 'To the memory of that brave man and good officer, Capt. Miles Standish.'

"Over the graves of the guests at that dinner,—

"'For fifty years the grasses have been growing.'

"But the principle of public fidelity shares the immortality of God and Truth. Reverence for it never dies till the decay of nations. And to-day we come together, the dwellers in the city and the dwellers on the shore, men of every age and all professions, to dedicate one spot of this parental soil for an enduring monument to the same Myles Standish of the same unfaded record. The sunlight of near three hundred years, that has shone fatal on many a reputation since his baby eyes first saw the light of England, has only brought out the lasting colors of his fame.

"Believing, as I firmly do, that he was a useful, a necessary citizen, because he was that brave man and good officer at a time when soldierly qualities were essential to the very life of the infant colony, it seems to me providential for the colonists that one of their number was, by temper and training, unable to sympathize with that soft tenderness for human life which is wont to characterize saintly-minded men, like the Rev. Mr. Robinson, who, when he heard of the marvelous conflict where Standish, with three or four others, in a locked room, killed the same number of hostile chiefs that were gathering their tribes to exterminate the English, uttered these sorrowful words: 'Oh! that you had converted some before you had killed any!'

"The soldier practiced that terrible piece of economy which no saint of the company would have dreamed of doing with his own hand. To borrow the diction of the time, the gauntlet of the man of wrath was the fold of the lambs of God. It was fortunate for us who believe in Plymouth Rock, that one trained soldier, who had faced war conducted by the Duke of Alva, came out in the Mayflower.

"Myles Standish represented the true idea of public service, vigorous fidelity, and trained fitness for his place. In his single heroic person he presented the true idea of the army, skilled military force in loyal subordination to the civil authority. The confidence that the colony reposed in him to execute their most difficult commands as a soldier, seems to prove that he revered, in the words of Mr. Robinson's farewell sermon, 'the image of the Lord's power and authority which the magistrate beareth.''

"To be the founders of states is the first of glories, according to Lord Bacon. The career of our Pilgrim hero is a beautiful illustration of an education fitted to the great mission for which he seemed peculiarly, strangely ordained.

"In grateful memory we consecrate this spot of earth to a monument of the great Puritan Captain. May its shadow fall upon his grave! For two centuries the stars have looked upon it. At what moment of the night the circling moon may point it out with shadowy finger, no mortal knows. No mortal ear can hear the secret whispered to the night, 'Beneath this spot lies all of a hero that could die."

Several other eloquent addresses were made upon the occasion by General B. F. Butler, Dr. Loring, and other gentlemen of the highest social standing. The community is deeply indebted to Stephen M. "Allen, Esq., one of the prominent citizens of Duxbury, for the time and money he has devoted to furtherance of this good enterprise. As Corresponding Secretary of the Standish Memorial Association, he has been one of the most efficient agents in pushing forward the truly patriotic undertaking.

On Monday, the 7th of October, 1872, the corner stone of the Standish monument was laid. It was indeed a gala day in the ancient town of Duxbury. It is estimated that ten thousand people were present. The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, of Boston, acted as escort to the procession. Several Masonic Lodges, with their glittering paraphernalia took part in the imposing ceremonies. As the long procession wound up the slope of Captain's Hill, thousands of spectators lined their path on either side. A memorial box was deposited under the corner-stone with a metallic plate which bore the following inscription"

of the

in commemoration of the Character and Services


Laid on the summit of Captain's Hill, in Duxbury, under
the superindendence of


in presence of
by the
M. W. Grand Lodge of Free Masons of Massachusetts
M. W. Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Master,

On the seventh day of October, A. D. 1872
Being the Two Hundred and Fifty-Second Year since
the First Settlement of New England
By the


Site Consecrated August 17, 1871
Association Incorporated May 4, 1872
Association Organized, and Ground Broken, June 17, 1872
Corner of Foundation Laid, August 8, 1872

This fine shaft rises one hundred and ten feet from its base, and is surmounted by a bronze statue of the Captain, in full uniform, twelve feet in height, and is said to be a truthful likeness. The diameter of the shaft, at its base, is twenty-eight feet. The structure is of the finest quality of Quincy granite. I will close this brief narrative with the eloquent words of Gen. Horace Binney Sargent:

"High as the shaft may tower over headland and bay; deep as its foundation-stones may rest; brightly as it may bleam in the rising or setting sun upon the mariner returning in the very furrow that the keel of the Mayflower made, the principles of common-sense, a citizen soldier's education for a citizen soldier's work, the principles of moral truth, manly honesty, prudent energy, fidelity incorruptible, courage undauntable, all the qualities of manhood that compel unflinching execution of the states' behest,—are firmer and higher and brighter still. And to crown them all is reverence to the Supreme Executive of Earth and Heaven, who knows no feebleness of heart or heand, and whose great purpose moved the war-worn Pilgrim's feet to seek his home upon this rock-bound continent, where the unceasing waves of two unfettered oceans roar the choral hymn of Freedom."