Boys' Book of Frontier Fighters - Edwin Sabin

The Capture of Old Chief Annawan

Bold Captain Church in the Lion's Den

Captain Benjamin Church, born in Plymouth Colony of old Massachusetts, was a rousing Indian fighter. He earned his title when in 1675 the Pokanoket League of nine Indian tribes, under King Phillip the Wampanoag, took up the hatchet against the whites. Then he was called from his farm in Rhode Island Colony, to lead a company into the field. So he bade his family good-by, and set forth.

He was at this time aged thirty-six, and built like a bear—short in the legs, broad in the body, and very active. He knew all the Indian ways, and had ridden back and forth through the Pokanoket country, between his Aquidneck home on Rhode Island, and Plymouth and Boston on the Massachusetts coast. In his Indian fighting he never turned his face from a trail. The famous Kit Carson of the West was no bolder.

King Phillip's War lasted a year and two months, from June of 1675, into August of 1676. Captain Church soon became the Indians' most hardy foeman.

He was constantly trailing the King Phillip warriors to their "kenneling places," routing them out and killing them, or taking prisoners, whom he spared for scouts.

At the terrible battle of Sunke-Squaw, when in dead of winter the colonist soldiery stormed the Indian fort in southern Rhode Island, he was struck by three balls at once. One entered his thigh and split upon the thigh-bone; one gashed his waist; and one pierced his pocket and ruined a pair of mittens—which was looked upon as a real disaster, in such cold weather.

It was while his wounds were still bandaged, and he was yet unable to mount a horse, that the bold Captain Church had a fierce hand-to-hand tussle with a stout Netop, which gave him great renown.

Now the Netops were of the allies in the Pokanoket League, and this warrior had been captured by a Mohegan ally of the Captain Church men. Captain Church wished to save him, in order in order to get information from him; but owing to a wound in the leg the Netop could not travel fast, therefore the Mohegan was granted leave to kill him, that night.

Accordingly the Netop was seated by the large fire, with a Mohegan at either side of him, to hold him fast until the tomahawk had been sunk into his head. Although captain Church had seen much blood-shedding and had made short work of many other Indians, to-night he walked away, with his heart a little sick.

The Netop had appeared to be waiting for the tomahawk, as if he intended to die like a brave. But when the Mohegan struck, he suddenly jerked his head aside so cleverly that the tomahawk not only missed him entirely, but flew from the Mohegan 's hand and almost killed one of the others.

That was a surprise. With a quick writhe the Netop broke loose, and bolted headlong, fairly into Captain Church himself, among the baggage and the horses. This was a surprise for the captain, too. He grabbed him but could not keep him, because he was a naked Indian and as slippery as an eel.

Away they two went, both lame. The captain had not wished the Netop to be killed, but he was bound that he should not escape. In the darkness the Netop stumbled, and again the captain grabbed him. No use. This Netop was an eel and a panther as well—slippery and strong. A second time he wrenched free. Once more away they went, with the captain now grasping for his hair. On through the surrounding swamp they pelted, crunching the ice so loudly that the captain thought everybody within a mile should hear. And he knew that the swamp was full of other Pokanokets. However, that did not stay the angry Captain Church.

The Netop was getting off, when he was barred by a fallen tree, breast high. He began to shout for help from his own people, hiding in the swamp. Captain Church charged into him—and found himself seized by the hair! The Netop tried to twist his head and break his neck. Captain Church gained a hair hold; and he, too, tried neck-breaking. Thus they wrestled in the swamp, in the darkness, with their hands in one another's hair, and the captain bunting the Netop in the face whenever he might.

On a sudden there was a new sound. Somebody else came running. They could hear the ice crunching under rapid footsteps. Each hoped that it was one of his own party; but the captain hung on, like a bull-dog, and called in English.

Horrors! The on-comer did not reply, which was a bad sign for the captain. Very soon the man arrived. They could not see him and he could not see them; and the next thing the captain knew, a pair of hands were feeling him over, as if to pick out a good spot on him. They crept up to where his own hands were fastened in the Netop's hair. While the captain was still hanging on grittily, and expecting to feel a blow, down thudded the hatchet, right between his hands, into the Netop's crown.

It was the Mohegan!

Now that the fight was done, the Mohegan hugged his captain and thanked him for holding the prisoner. He cut off the Netop 's head, and together they bore it back to the camp fire.

Of such bull-dog stuff Captain Church was made. His fight with the Netop, in the darkness of the dangerous swamp, raised him high among his scouts.

He finally cornered King Phillip in another swamp, August 12, 1676. There King Phillip fell, with two bullets in his breast from the gun of a deserter. Captain Church's Indians hacked King Phillip into quarters, to be hung upon a tree.

Only a remnant of King Phillip's people were left at large, under two principal chiefs, Tispaquin and old Annawan. Of these chiefs Annawan was the more important; he had ranked as Phillip's head captain. In the swamp battle where Phillip was killed, his great voice had boomed through the mist of morning, calling "Iootash! Iootash!"—"Fight stoutly! Fight stoutly!" But in the mix-up he had escaped, and when the dew had dried the Captain Church scouts could not trail him.

Having shattered the league of the Pokanokets and killed King Phillip, Captain Church withdrew to Plymouth headquarters, to report. For the campaign his men were granted only about $1.10 each, and he himself was well tired out.

But right soon a message reached him, from Rehoboth, of southern Massachusetts north of Rhode Island, that Head Captain Annawan was "kenneling" in Squannaconk Swamp, and plundering the farms outside. Being a true citizen, and knowing that the settlers looked to him for aid, Captain Church, instead of resting up, sought his faithful lieutenant, Jabez Howland, and others of his former company.

"Old Annawan is out," he said. "He is among the last of King Phillip's men. I have reliable word that he is kenneling in Squannaconk and doing much damage. You have been poorly paid, but I want hands to go with me to bunt him."

"We will go with you wherever you please to take us, as long as there is an Indian left in the woods," they answered. Which made him very glad.

So again he set forth, from Plymouth, with Lieutenant Jabez Howland and a few soldiers, and with Scout Captain Lightfoot, the friendly Sogkonate Indian who had charge of the scouts. He led westward across southern Massachusetts to the eastern border of Rhode Island Colony. He arrived there at the end of the week. He had hoped to spend Sunday, at least, with his family on Aquidneck Island, just opposite, in the bay; but in the morning there came a courier to tell him that Indians had been sighted, landing from canoes upon Poppasquash Neck.

Poppasquash Neck was a narrow point, northwest of him, in the upper portion of Narragansett Bay. It is a fork of the same point upon which King Phillip had his "royal seat" of Mount Hope, and upon which the present city of Bristol is located.

Captain Church marched for Poppasquash at once; he was that kind of a man. He had to cross the arm of the bay here in canoes. By the time that he had made a round trip and a half, such a wind was blowing that he was stranded on the point side with only two white soldiers and fifteen or sixteen scouts.

Yet no whit daunted was bold Captain Church.

"My brave boys, if you are willing, we shall march on across to Poppasquash and see whether we may not catch some of those enemy Indians," he said.

March they did, through the thickets and swamps of the base of the main point, to enter the upper part of the Poppasquash Neck. Here the captain sent forward Lightfoot the Sogkonate, with three other Indians, to scout. Lightfoot took with him, as one, a Wampanoag of King Phillip's defeated army, named Nathaniel. He explained that Nathaniel knew the signals of the Annawan band, and would be a good decoy.

"If you come upon any of the rogues, do not kill them but take them prisoner, so that we may learn where Annawan is," Captain Church directed, to Lightfoot; and Lightfoot promised.

Lightfoot was gone ahead a long time. Captain Church and his little band proceeded, until they reached the narrowest part of upper Poppasquash Neck; and here he posted his men, and waited for Lightfoot to drive the enemy to him, or else appear and report. He waited until dark, but Lightfoot did not come, nor did any of the enemy. So night fell without news or stir. This night he dared make no fire, and they had nothing at all to eat, for the supplies were behind with Lieutenant Howland. The scouts began to fear that Nathaniel had deserted—perhaps had given Lightfoot the slip or tolled him into ambush, for there had been several gunshots in the distance.

In that case, old Annawan himself was likely to turn up and make serious trouble. Therefore the night passed gloomily and hungrily, on this lonely, swampy Poppasquash Neck, with water at two sides.

As soon as day dawned, Captain Church took his party to a better position, on a brushy little hill just outside the neck. Scarcely had he done so, when they saw an Indian come running. It was Lightfoot.

"What news?" Captain Church hailed anxiously.

"Good news, great captain," Lightfoot panted. "We are all safe and sound and we have 'catched' ten of the Annawan people!"

Nathaniel had done this. First there had been sighted two strange Indians skinning a horse in an old Indian burying-ground. Nathaniel had decoyed them on by howling the Wampanoag wolf signal. After they had been taken they had told of eight others near by. Nathaniel had howled those in, also. The ten had been carried to the rude fort built last year on the main point, of Mount Hope. Lieutenant Howland was waiting there, with them.

This August 28 was to be Captain Church's busy day. He and his men had had nothing to eat for twenty-four hours; but without pausing to eat of the horse-flesh brought by Lightfoot they hastened across eastward, to talk with the prisoners, and see what they knew about Chief Annawan.

They found the prisoners happy. Nathaniel had assured his friends that it was better serving Captain Church than hiding in swamps, and they now agreed with him. Indeed, they wished the captain to send out for their families, who were not far away. First the captain ordered that enough horse beef be roasted to last a whole day. Then he easily bagged the prisoners' families, until his captives numbered thirty.

These Wampanoags had been with Annawan only yesterday, but one and all declared that they did not know where Annawan might be to-day, for he never stayed long in one place. Then a Wampanoag young man asked leave to go out and get his old father, four miles distant in a swamp. Captain Church decided to go with him and explore. So taking a soldier, Caleb Cook, whom he especially liked, and five scouts, he went—for he was a man who did things. He never missed a chance.

This time he rode horseback, being tired. At the swamp the Indian who was looking for his father scurried ahead, to howl the wolf signal. While waiting for him, the captain saw an old Indian man coming down through the swamp, with a gun on his shoulder, and with a young squaw close behind, carrying a basket. They were quickly ambushed and seized. The captain questioned them separately, after telling them that if they lied to him they should be killed. He questioned the young squaw first.

"What company have you come from last?"

"We come from Captain Annawan's."

"How many are there with him?"

"Fifty or sixty."

"How many miles is it to the spot where you left him'?"

"I do not know how to count in miles," she said.

"He is up in the great Squannaconk swamp.

The old man proved to be one of Annawan's councillors. He gave the same answers as the young squaw, his daughter.

"Can we get to Annawan by night?" Captain Church queried.

"If you start at once and travel stoutly, you might get to him by sunset," replied the old man.

"Where were you going when I seized you?"

"Annawan had sent me down to look for some of his Indians who were to kill provisions on this Mount Hope Neck."

"Those Indians have all been taken by me," Captain Church informed him. "They are with my men and will not be harmed. Now I mean to take Captain Annawan."

He asked his little squad if they were willing to pay Annawan a visit. That rather startled them. They made their reply.

"We are your soldiers and ready to obey your commands," said the scouts. "But we know Captain Annawan to be a great soldier, too. He was a captain under Massasoit, Phillip's father, and under Phillip also. He is a man of courage and strong mind, and we have heard him say that he will never be taken alive by the white people. We know the men with him. They are warriors and very determined; and we are but a handful. It will be a pity if after all your great deeds you should throw your life away at last."

"I do not doubt that this Captain Annawan is a valiant man," Captain Church admitted. "But I have hunted him a long time, and not until this moment have I got exact news of his quarters. So I am loth to let him escape again. If you will cheerfully go with me, by the protection of Providence we shall take him, I think."

The scouts agreed to go.

"What is your mind, in the matter?" the captain next asked, of Caleb Cook.

Caleb Cook was brave: a. Plymouth man who had been in the fight when King Phillip was killed. Yes, he had tried a shot at King Phillip, there, but his gun' had failed him.

"Sir, I am never afraid of going anywhere when you are with me," asserted Caleb Cook.

Captain Church made ready. No time was to be lost, for Squannaconk swamp contained three thousand acres, and if he did not start at once he might lose Annawan in the darkness. He sent his horse back. The old Indian said that the swamp was too thick with brush, for a horse. He sent the Indian young man and two other prisoners back, with the horse. They were to tell Lieutenant Howland to move on to the town of Taunton, but to expect him in the morning on the Rehoboth road—where he would surely come out, if he were alive, with Chief Annawan.

He kept the old man and the girl.

"Now if you will guide me to Captain Annawan, your lives shall be spared," he said to them.

The old man bowed low to him.

"Since you have given us our lives, we are obliged to serve you," he answered. He was a courtly old man. "Captain Annawan and his people are camped under a great rock in the midst of the swamp, north from here. Come and I will show you."

Thereupon Captain Church pressed forward to the vast swamp, with his one white man and five Indians, to capture Chief Annawan and his fifty or sixty.

The old councillor was nimble. He scuttled fast, but whenever he got out of sight from them, he would wait. They traveled all the rest of the day, until sunset. Then when amidst the twilight deep in the swamp they came upon the old man again, he was sitting down. They all sat down.

"What news now?" Captain Church demanded.

"We must wait here," the old man replied. "Captain Annawan is not far. At this time he sends out his scouts, to see that there are no enemies near about. They return at dark, and then we may move without fear."

When the swamp was dark, the old man arose. "Let us go on," he said.

"Will you take a gun and fight for me," Captain Church invited.

The old councillor bowed lower than before.

"I beg you not to ask me to fight against my old friend, Captain Annawan," he pleaded. "But I will go in with you, and help you, and will lay hands upon anybody that shall offer to harm you."

They moved forward, keeping close together, for the swamp was growing dark indeed. Suddenly Captain Church heard a strange sound. He grasped the old man by the arm to hold him back. They all listened.

"It is somebody pounding corn in a mortar," they agreed; and by that they knew they were approaching the Chief Annawan camp.

Presently a great outcrop of rock loomed before them, and there was the glow of fires. The corn pounding sounded plainer. Now Captain Church took two of his scouts, and crawled up a long slope of brush and gravel to the crest of the rock pile, that he might peer over. He saw the Annawan camp. There were three companies of Wampanoags, down in front of the rock pile, gathered about their fires. And right below, at the foot of the cliff, he saw big Annawan himself.

Chief Annawan and several of his head men had made their own camp here. They had leaned brush against a felled tree trunk to keep the wind from the cliff face. The rocks overhung, forming a sort of cave that narrowed upward in a split; and at the mouth of the cave Annawan and his young son were lying watching the squaws cook meat in pans and kettles upon the fires.

The guns of the party had been stacked along a stick set in two crotches, and covered with a mat to keep the dampness off. Annawan's feet, and his son's head, opposite, almost touched the gun butts.

It was a snug, well-protected kenneling place, surrounded by the swamp.

The face of the rock pile was so steep that there was no way of getting down except by holding to the shrubs and small trees. That did not look very promising. So Captain Church crept back to ask the old man guide if there was not some other trail. The old man shook his head.

"No, great captain. All who belong to Annawan must come in by that way, down the cliff. Whoever tries to come by another way will likely be shot."

"Very well," said the captain. He made up his mind to beard the lion in the den. "You and your daughter shall go down before us, so that Annawan shall suspect nothing. We will follow close behind, in your shadows."

This they set about to do. The old man and his daughter climbed the slope of the rock pile, and passed over, and down by the narrow trail, for the fires at the bottom. Captain Church, his hatchet in his hand, followed close, stooping low and keeping in the shadow of his guides, cast by the firelight. His six men trod after.

The corn pounding helped them. Whenever the squaw paused to shake the corn together, they paused also, and crouched. When she began to pound again, they hastened. The trail ended just at one side of Captain Annawan. The old man and daughter passed on—and suddenly darting forward Captain Church stepped right over the son's head, at Annawan's feet, and stood by the stacked guns.

He was here. They knew him well. The surprise was perfect. Young Annawan, seeing, instantly "whipped his blanket over his head and shrunk in a heap." Old Annawan straightened half up, astonished.

"Howoh (I am taken)!" he gasped.

Then he fell back, without speaking farther, while Captain Church, with his men on guard, gathered the guns. No one dared to resist. None, there, dreamed that he had only the six men.

"Go to those other companies," ordered Captain Church of his scouts, "and tell them that I have taken their captain, Annawan, and it will be best for them to surrender peaceably; for if they try to resist or to escape, they will find themselves entrapped by a great army brought by Captain Church and will be cut to pieces. But if they stay quiet till morning, they will have good quarter and be carried to Taunton, to see their friends already there. As for you," he spoke to Annawan, "you will be well treated, also; and at Plymouth I will ask my masters to spare your life."

The scouts made the talk, and brought in all the guns and hatchets, so that now Captain Church was in possession of the whole camp. His nerve had won out for him.

So far, Chief Annawan had not uttered another word.

He seemed dumb with his astonishment.

Captain Church maintained a bold front, as though he truly had a great army at his back.

"What have you for supper?" he asked. "You see I have come to sup with you."

Chief Annawan aroused. He was a strong, burly man, and spoke in a deep voice.

"Taubut (beef)." He called to the squaws, bidding them bring food for the Captain Church men. "Will you have cow beef or horse beef?" he queried.

"Cow beef would pleasure me the most," answered the captain, in Indian. So he supped heartily upon cow beef and the dried corn that the squaw had been pounding into meal in the mortar.

He had not slept any for two days and a night had traveled hard upon only one meal. Now he stretched himself out by the fire, to sleep for two hours while his party watched. But he was so nervous that he closed his eyes in vain. When he opened them, he saw that everybody was asleep except himself and Chief Annawan!

This was a curious situation—and not very comfortable, either. The moon had risen, flooding the swamp with pale light. He and Annawan lay for a few minutes, eyeing one another—the white captain and the red captain. Captain Church would have given a great deal to know what Captain Annawan was thinking. Presently Annawan cast off his blanket and stood up. Without a word, he walked away through the moonlight, until he disappeared among the trees.

Captain Church did not call out. That would have been sign of fear. But he was much alarmed. He drew the guns closer to him and shifted over to lie against young Annawan, so that if the chief found a gun outside he would not be able to shoot in without risk of hitting his son.

Pretty soon, here came Annawan back again, through the moonlight, with a bundle in his arms. He knelt beside Captain Church and spoke in good English:

"Great captain, you have killed Phillip, and conquered his country, for I believe that I and my company are the last that war against the English. Therefore, these things belong to you."

He unwrapped the bundle. It contained the royal treasures of the Wampanoags. There was a large wampum belt of black and white beads woven into figures of persons and animals and flowers. Hung upon Captain Church, it reached from his shoulders to his ankles, before and behind. There was another wampum belt, with flags worked into it, and a small belt with a star. And these all were edged with red hair got in the country of the Mohawks. There were two fine horns full of glazed powder, and a red blanket.

They had been the tokens of kingship, when King Phillip had sat in state. They had passed to Annawan, as the next chief. Now they had passed to Captain Church, the conqueror of both.

After having given them, Chief Annawan seemed to feel relieved. While the camp slept, he and Captain Church spent the rest of the night talking like brother warriors. Annawan told of the mighty deeds that he had done, as a young man under Phillip's father Massasoit, in battles against other Indians. Captain Church gladly listened. He appreciated bravery.

There was great joy, the next morning, when with all his prisoners Captain Church was met by Lieutenant Howland on the Rehoboth road—for nobody had expected to see the captain alive again. He sent the most of the prisoners to Plymouth, by way of Taunton, but he took Annawan and the scouts to his home in Rhode Island, and there kept them for two or three days. Then he went with these also, to Plymouth.

If Captain Church had stayed at Plymouth, very likely he would have saved the life of old Annawan, whom he much admired. However, he was ordered out upon another hunt, which resulted in the surrender, this time, of Chief Tispaquin. That over with, he went to Boston; and when he returned to Plymouth from Boston he found the heads of Annawan and Tispaquin cut off and stuck up for all to see.

This is what had occurred: Tispaquin had claimed to be a wizard whom bullets could not harm. "In that case," said the Plymouth people, "we will shoot at you, and if your wicked claim is true, you shall live"; so the government soldiers stood him up and shot at him, and of course he died. And as old Annawan could not deny that he had put some of his prisoners to death, he was shot, also.

Captain Church served New England in other Indian wars through almost thirty more years. He was made commander-in-chief of all the Plymouth Colony forces, and as major and colonel campaigned by horse, foot and boat clear up to Canada. He prospered in business, and likewise grew very large in body, until, in January, 1718, he was killed, aged seventy-eight, by a fall from his horse.