The Battle of Strickland Plains: aka The Cos Cob Massacre

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Strickland Plains0001.jpg   In a previous blog on Laddin's Rock, mention was made of the Cos Cob Massacre. I was surprised that many Greenwich residents were unaware of this event, and decided it would be a good topic for this week's blog.

Everyone is familiar with the story of how Captain Daniel Patrick, Robert Feaks and Elizabeth Feaks bought land in Sound Beach (Old Greenwich) from the Indians (Native-Americans) for 25 coats in 1640. ( Eleven were actually delivered at the time of signing. I couldn't find any proof that the other coats were ever delivered!) This sounds very much like the transaction for Manhattan Island.

     There were four tribes that inhabited southern Greenwich: Miossehassaky (central Greenwich), Petuquapaen (Siwanoy, Cos Cob), Asamuck and Patomuck (Sound Beach). They were used to fishing in the Sound and growing crops on the land. When the settlement began to increase in size, the Native-Americans began to feel "the squeeze" from expansion. They didn't have as much room or freedom as they used to. A new Governor in New Amsterdam (New York) - Governor William Kieft - mistreated the Native-Americans. This added another element of aggravation. The Dutch added fuel to the fire. They had settled New Amsterdam to the west of Greenwich in New York. The English were established in Connecticut and were rivals. The primary cause of friction between the settlers and Indians was that the Dutch were dishonest, cruel and revengeful.  These Dutch fed "firewater" to the Native-Americans and incited the natives against the English! This resulted in many incidents between the settlers and the Native-Americans. There were many cases of Traders cheating Indians out of their goods. The Indians retaliated by killing the first settlers they set eyes on and vice versa.

In a strange turn of fate, the Dutch and English eventually joined forces to fight the Indians.  It was estimated that 300 to 500 Petuquapaen Indians lived on Strickland Plains on a piece of land which was located west of the Strickland Brook in Cos Cob, near Central Middle School. The number grew to over 1,000 as the Dutch pushed several tribes out of New Amsterdam. After the Laddin's Rock incident, Captain Daniel Patrick sought assistance from Governot Kieft of New Amsterdam.

The Governor decided to eradicate the Indians completely. In 1642, Governor Kieft assigned the militasry to seek out the Indians on the east banks of the Hudson and in Cos Cob (Petuquapaen). Since the expeditions were held up for one reason or another, one expedition failed and one was delayed. Governor Kieft assigned Ensign Van Dyck to seek out the Indian Village in Cos Cob.The expedition stopped at nightfall and the next day, the Ensign couldn't find any Indians. He returned to new Amsterdam, deflated.

In 1643, some Mohawk Indians attacked the Hudson tribes. The warriors were killed and survivors were scattered among the Dutch in New Amsterdam. Dutch soldiers massacred 100 plus Native-Americans. They finally realized the Mohawks were behind the recent atrocities.

Meanwhile, 1500 warriors from Long Island to Manhattan to the Hudson to Stamford began gathering. In two famous incidents, Ann Hutchinson was taken by surprise and massacred by previously friendly Indians; and Sachem Mayn Mayano was killed by Captain Daniel Patrick.

In 1643, a combined force of Dutch and Englsh soldiers (120 men) under General La Matagne landed in 3 boats in Sound Beach. Despite marching all night, the task force was not able to locate the Indians. It was thought that Captain Patrick had either given them wrong directions or tipped off the Indians. When confronted, Captain Patrick spit in a Dutchman's face and was shot in the head. He died. The Dutchman was tried, but never convicted

Settlers from Stamford offered assistance. Four scouts came back and reported the location of the Indian settlement in Cos Cob. Twenty troops were dispatched, but only killed 18 - 20 "savages". An old Indian who had been captured, promised to lead them to the main village. More than 65 men travelled to a location about 8 or 9 miles away, but only found an empty village. They returned to Stamford.

About this time, General Kieft found out that a Sachem had told the local tribes to wait for things to die down, distribute themselves evenly amongst the settlers and wait for an opportune time to slaughter and kill everyone! This hardened General Kieft even more. He ordered Capt John Underhill of Stamford to join General LaMontagne and eradicate the Indians. On Long Island, 1230 Indians were killed. Captain Underhill ordered a reconnaisance of Cos Cob, which indicated 500 Indians were at Petuquapaen.

In February 1644, Capt. Underhill left Fort Amsterdam and arrived in Sound Beach (Old Greenwich). Since there was a snowstorm, he ordered his troops to stay the night. The next day he hiked his 130 men across rocky terrain and through two rivers, and arrived at Petuquapaen at 8 pm. He did not want to attack right away because it was not dark. Underhill ordered the attack in moonlight at 10 pm. The Native-Americans stayed in their huts, firing arrows through the windows. Capt Underhill ordered the huts to be burned. The Indians tried to escape, but only about 8 were successful. Rather than be killed by the combined force of Dutch and English, the Indians jumped back into their burning huts. They would rather burn than be tortured by Underhill's forces. It's reported that they never uttered a sound or screamed.

Later, the Indians would claim that 500 Indians were killed. Others said it was more like 700. It was reported that those killed were buried in a huge mound on the east side of the road. Some time later, the mound was leveled.

The soldiers returned to Stamford and then to Fort Amsterdam. A Thanksgiving was observed because the Siwanoys were exterminated.

SOURCEYe Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich; Mead, S.; Knickerbocker Press, NY: 1913


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on September 17, 2010 12:10 PM.

Covert Operation was the previous entry in this blog.

TIME CAPSULES is the next entry in this blog.

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