Little is known about Miles Standish’s early life, but he was likely born in Lancashire, England and later served as a soldier in Holland during the Eighty Years War. In 1620, he was hired by the Pilgrims living in the area to advise them in military matters in the New World—they had first contacted John Smith about the position, but they feared his fame and boldness might lead him to take over their new colony. Miles and his wife accompanied those living in Holland aboard the Mayflower, embarking on their journey in the summer of 1620.
By February 1621, the Pilgrims had had several Indian sightings, and they looked to prepare themselves in case of attack. Miles was made commander of the Plymouth militia, as had been decided in Holland, and he continued to serve in this position throughout his life. Only a month later, the small army met with the chief Massasoit, leader of the local Pokanoket tribe. The Plymouth governor, John Carver, swore an allegiance with the Pokanoket, promising to help each other in any need. That same year, Carver passed away and William Bradford became governor. He and Standish were different in many respects, but they worked well together and created an effective government.
The Pilgrims’ first difficulties with the treaty began shortly after it was signed, when another Pokanoket chief, Corbitant, tried to turn the people against Massasoit. Corbitant captured the settlers’ interpreters as well, driving Standish to lead an attack on the Pokanoket city. Upon their arrival, they learned that Corbitant had fled, but the raid was nevertheless effective; shortly thereafter, the rebel chief and several others came to Plymouth to announce their future loyalty to King James. Later that year, the colonists received another threat, this time from the Narragansett tribe. Standish ordered that the settlement be surrounded by a wooden barricade equipped with platforms from which the men could shoot. Within four months, construction was complete, and Standish divided his men around the fort in case of an attack. The people’s greatest threat, however, came from the Massachusett tribe in the north. Another colony had been established by this time, a poorly organized village known for recklessness and thievery. The Massachusetts, fed up, determined to slaughter both colonies, and Standish’s interpreter advised him to attack first. Miles gathered a small troop and set off to kill those in charge of the plot. He arranged a meeting with one of the chiefs, then, at the signal, leapt forward and killed everyone in the hut. Many disapproved of Standish’s brutal methods, but Bradford, despite his own discomfort, defended the commander.
In 1625, another group, led by Thomas Morton, landed near Plymouth. The new colonists engaged in heavy drinking, refused religious rules, and sold weapons to the Native Americans. Standish was sent to arrest Morton, and when he encountered the man in question, he found that he was too drunk to even fight. Miles sent Merton back to England, where he later wrote a work slighting Standish for his conduct. That same year, Plymouth Colony leaders gave the commander leave to travel to England, where he tried on two occasions to negotiate terms with the company to whom the Pilgrims owed money for their land. His second attempt was successful, and the debt was soon paid off. Following his final return to America, Standish began to settle down. He moved to Duxbury, where he worked several administrative roles until his death in 1656.
|Travelled to England aboard the Mayflower.
|Pilgrims drew up an agreement with the Pokanoket.
|Wife Rose passed away.
|Establishment of the Wessagusset colony.
|Launched an attack on the Massachusett Indians.
|Married his second wife Barbara.
|Arrival of the Merrymount settlers and arrest of Thomas Merton.
|Travelled to England to negotiate terms with the Pilgrims' debtors.
|Establishment of Duxbury as a separate town from Plymouth.
|Served as Treasurer of the Colony.
|New England Indians in
|Indian History for Young Folks by Francis S. Drake
|Captain Myles Standish in
|A First Book in American History by Edward Eggleston
|Miles Standish in
|America First—100 Stories from Our History by Lawton B. Evans
|Plymouth Rock in
|Story of the Thirteen Colonies by H. A. Guerber
|Story of the Pilgrim Fathers in
|This Country of Ours by H. E. Marshall
|Sword of Miles Standish in
|Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret B. Pumphrey
Samoset, the Indian Visitor
in King Philip
The First Thanksgiving
There was joy at setting foot on land once more
The footsore messenger from Weymouth fell fainting at the gate of the town.
Standish and his men find corn
in Stories of American Life and Adventure
Departure of the Mayflower
in Back Matter
in Builders of Our Country: Book I
The March of Miles Standish against the
in Builders of Our Country: Book I
|One of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed on the Mayflower. Elder in Congressional Church.
|Governor of the Plymouth Colony of Pilgrims. Wrote the Mayflower Compact.
|New England Indian who helped the pilgrims their first year in Plymouth Colony.