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  • 12 Jul 2021 3:02 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Views of the Country

    I will let Edward Winslow speak for himself: “Having here again refreshed ourselves we proceeded in our journey, the weather being very hot for travel, yet the country so well watered that a man could scarce be dry, but he should have a spring at hand to cool his thirst, beside small rivers in abundance:  but the savages will not willingly drink but at a springhead. When we came to any small brook where no bridge was, two of them desired to carry us through of their own accords, also fearing we were or would be weary, offered to carry our pieces, also if we would lay off any of our clothes, we should have them carried: and as the one of them had found more special kindness from one of the messengers, and the other savage from the other so they showed their thankfulness accordingly in affording us all help and furtherance in the journey.  As we passed along, we observed that there were few places by the river but had been inhabited, by reason whereof much ground was clear, save of weeds which grew higher than our heads. There is much good timber, both oak, walnut tree, fir, beech, and exceeding great chestnut trees. The country, in respect of the lying on it, is both champaign and hilly, like many places in England. In some places it is very rocky both above ground an in it: and though the country be wild and overgrown with woods, yet the trees stand not thick, but a man may well ride a horse amongst them.”

  • 11 Jul 2021 3:30 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Tense encounter

    Edward Winslow almost sounds like a television announcer: “But to return to our journey:  the next morning we broke our fast, took our leave and departed, being then accompanied with some six savages. Having gone about six miles by the river side, at a known shoal place, it being low water, they spake to us to put off our breeches, for we must wade through. Here let me not forget the valor and courage of some of the savages on the opposite side of the river, for there were remaining alive only two men, both aged, especially the one being above threescore; these two, espying a company of men entering the river, ran very swiftly and low in the grass, to meet us at the bank, where with shrill voices and great courage standing charged upon us with their bows; they demanded what we were, supposing us to be enemies, and thinking to take advantage on us in the water:  but seeing we were friends, they welcomed us with such food as they had, and we bestowed a small bracelet of beads on them. Thus far we are sure the tide ebbs and flows.”

  • 10 Jul 2021 3:03 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Sharing food

    “After this Tisquantum told us we should hardly in one day reach Pokanoket, moving us to go some eight miles further, where we should find more store and better victuals than there: being willing to hasten our journey we went, and came thither at sunsetting, where we found many of the Namascheucks (they so calling the men of Nemasket) fishing upon a weir which they had made on a river which belonged to them, where they caught abundance of bass. These welcomed us also, gave us of their fish, and we them of our victuals, not doubting but we should have enough where'er we came. There we lodged in the open fields:  for houses they had none, though they spent the most of the summer there. The head of this river is reported to be not far from the place of our abode; upon it are and have been many towns, it being a good length. The ground is very good on both sides, it being for the most part cleared: thousands of men have lived there, which died in a great plague not long since: and pity it was and is to see so many goodly fields, and so well seated, without men to dress and manure the same.”  Bradford described it in far more sombre terms: “They not being able to bury one another, their skulls and bones were found in many places lying still above the ground where their houses and dwellings have been, a very sad spectacle to behold.”  Winslow continued, “Upon this river dwelleth Massasoit: it cometh into the sea at the Narraganset Bay, where the Frenchmen so much use. A ship may go many miles up it, as the savages report, and a shallop to the head of it; but so far as we saw, we are sure a shallop may.”  The Narragansett still lived on the other side of the bay, untouched by the plague, a continuing threat to the weakened Pokanoket and their allies.

  • 9 Jul 2021 3:58 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    First leg

    While the Pilgrims had a horseman’s coat, they did not (yet) have any horses, and so they had to walk the forty or so miles to Pokanoket.  “With these presents and message we set forth, about nine o'clock in the morning, our guide resolving that night to rest at Nemasket, a town under Massasoit, and conceived by us to be very near, because the inhabitants flocked so thick upon every slight occasion amongst us: but we found it to be some fifteen English miles.”  Winslow recorded that along the way they came upon about a dozen men, women and children who were returning to Nemasket (modern Middleboro) after gathering lobsters in Plymouth harbour -- they “had pestered us till we were weary of them, perceiving that (as the manner of them all is) where victual is easiest to be got, there they live, especially in the summer: by reason whereof, our bay affording many lobsters, they resort every spring-tide thither; and now returned with us to Nemasket.  Thither we came about three o'clock after noon, the inhabitants entertaining us with joy, in the best manner they could, giving us a kind of bread called by them maizium [i.e., corn bread], and the spawn of shads, which then they got in abundance, insomuch as they gave us spoons to eat them.” With these they boiled “musty acorns, but of the shads we ate heartily.” After this they desired “one of our men to shoot a crow, complaining what damage they sustained in their corn by them, who shooting some fourscore off and killing, they much admired it, as other shots on other occasions.”

  • 8 Jul 2021 3:52 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Bearing gifts

    The section of Mourt’s Relation on the visit to Pokanoket begins: “It seemed good to the company for many considerations to send some amongst them to Massasoit, the greatest commander amongst the savages bordering upon us; partly to know where to find them if occasion served, as also to see their strength, discover the country, prevent abuses in their disorderly coming unto us, make satisfaction for some conceived injuries to be done on our parts, and to continue the league of peace and friendship between them and us. For these, and the like ends, it pleased the governor to make choice of Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Winslow to go unto him, and having a fit opportunity, by reason of a savage called Tisquantum (that could speak English) coming unto us; with all expedition provided a horseman's coat of red cotton, and laced with a slight lace, for a present, that both they and their message might be the more acceptable amongst them.”  I was not all that sure what a horseman’s coat was, so a little research on the internet (which, as we know, is never wrong) produced the following description from Wikipedia: “A duster is a light, loose-fitting long coat. The original dusters were full-length, light-colored canvas or linen coats worn by horsemen to protect their clothing from trail dust. These dusters were typically slit up the back to hip level for ease of wear on horseback. Dusters intended for riding may have features such as a buttonable rear slit and leg straps to hold the flaps in place. For better protection against rain, dusters were made from oilcloth and later from waxed cotton.”  Whether this even comes close to what Winslow and Hopkins brought to Massasoit, I leave to you to decide.

  • 7 Jul 2021 3:54 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Timeline

    Mourt’s Relation states that the Pilgrims left for Nauset in order to bring back John Billington on 11 June 1621: this is the only source to give an exact date for this event.  Bradford, in his journal (written decades after the events) placed that expedition after the embassy of Winslow and Hopkins to Massasoit.  Most modern writers (Philbrick, Cheney, et al.) have followed Bradford’s order, even though he gave no dates and wrote many years after the fact: this is probably because the capture of Massasoit and Squanto can easily and logically  be placed after the trip to Pokanoket.  I have retained the chronology of Mourt’s Relation in part because it was written several months after the events, rather than several decades, and because the emphasis on the return of the corn taken from Cape Cod makes more sense if the Pilgrims had already been to Nauset and had actually met the man whose corn they had taken in their hunger.  Upon learning of Massasoit’s release, which all sources agree took place after the Pilgrims were in Nauset, it would be only natural for the settlers to enquire after Massasoit’s well being, as well as to look around and see what they could learn for themselves about their neighbours and to assure themselves of the state of their alliance.

  • 6 Jul 2021 3:39 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    The Message for Massasoit

    Winslow wrote in Mourt’s Relation of the message they were instructed to carry to Massasoit: “The message was as followeth; that forasmuch as his subjects came often and without fear, upon all occasions amongst us, so we were now come unto him, and in witness of the love and good-will the English bear unto him, the governor hath sent him a coat, desiring that the peace and amity that was between them and us might be continued, not that we feared them, but because we intended not to injure any, desiring to live peaceably, and as with all men, so especially with them, our nearest neighbors. But whereas his people came very often, and very many together unto us, bringing for the most part their wives and children with them, they were welcome; yet we being but strangers as yet at Patuxet, alias New Plymouth, and not knowing how our corn might prosper, we could no longer give them such entertainment as we had done, and as we desired still to do: yet if he would be pleased to come himself, or any special friend of his desiring to see us, coming from him they should be welcome; and to the end we might know them from others, our governor had sent him a copper chain, desiring if any messenger should come from him to us, we might know him by bringing it with him, and hearken and give credit to his message accordingly. Also requesting him that such as have skins should bring them to us, and that he would hinder the multitude from oppressing us with them. And whereas at our first arrival at Paomet (called by us Cape Cod) we found there corn buried in the ground, and finding no inhabitants but some graves of dead new buried, took the corn, resolving if ever we could hear of any that had right thereunto, to make satisfaction to the full for it, yet since we understand the owners thereof were fled for fear of us, our desire was either to pay them with the like quantity of corn, English meal, or any other commodities we had to pleasure them withal; requesting him that some one of his men might signify so much unto them, and we would content him for his pains. And last of all, our governor requested one favor of him, which was, that he would exchange some of their corn for seed with us, that we might make trial which best agreed with the soil where we live.”

  • 5 Jul 2021 3:50 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    A new kind of pass

    The Pilgrims had been beset by an interminable stream of Indians since the treaty with Massasoit had been concluded in the spring.  If this continued, and it showed no sign of abating, they would have no food left by the time winter rolled around.  But they also did not want to offend either their neighbours or their treaty partner, Massasoit.  The second purpose of this proposed expedition was to propose an ingenious solution.  The Pilgrims would present Massasoit with a copper chain; if the sachem had a messenger or a friend he wanted the Pilgrims to entertain, he would give that person the chain, and the Pilgrims would know that this was legitimate and would happily provide him with food and fellowship.  All others would be denied.

  • 4 Jul 2021 3:41 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Planning the reconnaissance

    Bradford wrote in his journal, “Having in some sort ordered their business at home, it was thought meet [wise] to send some abroad to see their new friend Massasoit, and to bestow upon him some gratuity [gift] to bind him the faster unto them; as also that hereby they might view the country and see in what manner he lived, what strength he had about him, and how the ways were to his place, if at any time they should have occasion.”  This was, however, only part of the reason for the expedition.

  • 3 Jul 2021 3:29 AM | Soule (Administrator)

    Ambassadors

    The Pilgrims learned that Corbitant had released Massasoit from captivity.  The determination now turned to re-establishing communication with Pokanoket.  Given the small size of the settlement, the question arose regarding whom the Pilgrims could send on what would likely be a long journey, particularly during the summer planting season.  It was important that whomever they sent be comfortable in an Indian environment and capable of some conversation with the Indians.  Stephen Hopkins, who had some familiarity with Indians in Virginia from his Jamestown experience was certainly one of them.  Samoset had stayed with him the first night he spent in Plymouth.  The other settler chosen was Edward Winslow.  From the vantage point of four centuries later, while the choice of Stephen Hopkins makes perfect sense, it is obscure why Winslow was chosen as the other.  He was 25 years old, newly married, and may have displayed particular interest in the Indians, their customs, and arrangements.  He had two servants, but one (Elias Story) had died during the last winter, as had Ellen More, who had been entrusted to his care.  His new wife, Susanna (Jackson) (White) Winslow, brought her two children, Resolved White, now about five or six, and eight month old Peregrine White.  Winslow’s servant, George Soule, would also have been part of this household, making the number of people in this house five, not far from our average of seven.  There may have been another of the single men bunking with them; Winslow’s plot could thus have been tilled in his absence, and there would be assistance for his wife.

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