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Thomas Munson and the Pequot War

November 16, 2012

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was established in what we now know as New England in 1628 and about 20,000 people migrated there in the 1630s (1). The colony was a dual function as a Puritan religious community and also a business venture. Among those immigrants were The Reverend John Davenport, a fervent Puritan, and Thomas Eaton (2). They had intended to move to Boston but the Boston congregation was in some turmoil, so the men were instrumental in paving the way eastward toward the ocean. Sometime in the 1630s, among the many Puritan immigrants leaving England for religious freedom was my 9th great-grandfather, Thomas Munson (1612 – 1685).

As the Puritans were expanding toward the ocean and the rivers that would support their trade, the native population that was already living on the land were called the Pequot people. There were some attempts in the 1630s to live with the Pequot, but a couple of unfortunate murders that were blamed on the Pequot (rightly or not, it is not known) and the religious passions of the Puritans led to a short, terrible war.

The Puritans believed rather fiercely in the Scriptures and the rights it gave them as a people. By today’s standards of tolerance and respect among faith traditions, their beliefs would be very difficult to accept. But feeling the right and necessity of abolishing the Pequot people, in the midst of a cultural clash, the Puritans attacked at night on May 26, 1637. As it was explained (3):

Captain John Underhill, one of the English commanders, documents the event in his journal, “Newes from America” :

Down fell men, women, and children. Those that ‘scaped us, fell into the hands of the Indians that were in the rear of us. Not above five of them ‘scaped out of our hands. Our Indians came us and greatly admired the manner of Englishmen’s fight, but cried “Mach it, mach it!” – that is, “It is naught, it is naught, because it is too furious, and slays too many men.” Great and doleful was the bloody sight to the view of young soldiers that never had been in war, to see so many souls lie gasping on the ground, so thick, in some places, that you could hardly pass along.

The massacre at Mystic is over in less than an hour. The battle cuts the heart from the Pequot people and scatters them across what is now southern New England, Long Island, and Upstate New York. Over the next few months, remaining resistors are either tracked down and killed or enslaved. The name “Pequot” is outlawed by the English. The Puritan justification for the action is simply stated by Captain Underhill:

It may be demanded, Why should you be so furious? Should not Christians have more mercy and compassion? Sometimes the Scripture declareth women and children must perish with their parents. Sometimes the case alters, but we will not dispute it now. We had sufficient light from the word of God for our proceedings.

It is not known exactly what Thomas Munson’s role was in the war, but he was a Lieutenant in the militia. According to the book, Immigrant Ancestors: A List of 2500 Immigrants to America before 1750, Thomas immigrated in 1637, the same year as the Pequot massacre. Because of his part in the war, he was granted land and the opportunity to be a “freeman”–a man who owned land, was a member of the Puritan church, and could vote in community affairs.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massachusetts_Bay_Colony
(2) http://www.colonialwarsct.org/1638_new_haven.htm
(3) http://www.pequotwar.com/history.html

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