“Here Ended the Pequot War” – The Fairfield Swamp Fight

Skeletons found near Durham cathedral were Oliver Cromwell's prisoners
The "Preston-Foster House" of Ipswich, Massachusetts
The Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face: “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.”

The Swamp Fight Monument, dedicated in 1904 by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars, today sits on a small triangle of land along the Post Road. A large stone monument bears the simple inscription on its east face: “the great Swamp Fight here ended the Pequot War.”

During the Pequot War, my 9th g-grandfather Thomas Stanton (1616-1677) provided service initially as an interpreter at Fort Saybrook. In the performance of this service, during the “Fairfield Swamp Fight” of 13-14 Jul 1637, Thomas Stanton nearly lost his life. He had arranged a temporary cease-fire and managed to negotiate the surrender of 200 non-combatant Indians under a guarantee of safe passage. After these people passed beyond Thomas’ exposed, forward position, the 100 remaining Pequot warriors opened fire without warning and advanced toward him. He was rescued at the last moment by nearby colonial troops.

In the 1630s, the Connecticut River Valley was in turmoil. The Pequot aggressively worked to extend their area of control, at the expense of the Wampanoag to the north, the Narragansett to the east, the Connecticut River Valley Algonquians and Mohegan to the west and the Algonquian people of present-day Long Island to the south. The tribes contended for political dominance and control of the European fur trade. A series of smallpox epidemics over the course of the previous three decades had severely reduced the Indian populations, due to their lack of immunity to the disease. As a result, there was a power vacuum in the area. The Dutch and the English were also striving to extend the reach of their trade into the interior to achieve dominance in the lush, fertile region. By 1636, the Dutch had fortified their trading post, and the English had built a trading fort at Saybrook. English Puritans from Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies settled at the newly established river towns of Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield. The Pequot War was an armed conflict between 1634-1638 between the Pequot tribe against an alliance of the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Saybrook colonies, who were aided by their Native American allies (the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes). Hundreds were killed; hundreds more were captured and sold into slavery to the West Indies. Other survivors were dispersed. At the end of the war, about seven hundred Pequots had been killed or taken into captivity. The result was the elimination of the Pequot as a viable polity in what is present-day southern New England.

The “Fairfield Swamp Fight” of 14 Jul 1637 (sometimes known as the “Great Swamp Fight”) was the last engagement of the Pequot War, which took place on the site on modern-day Fairfield, Connecticut. Most, if not all, of the Pequot warriors were killed during the engagement. The 180 Pequot non-combatants were taken captive and dispersed among the English and their allies. Many of the slaves taken prisoner did not remain in captivity for long because of their inability to adapt to their roles in servitude. Some of those captured were shipped off to the West Indies into the slave trade. In the ensuing weeks after the battle, the Mohawk Indians of New York tracked down Sassacus and the Pequot warriors accompanying him. The Mohawk murdered Sassacus, sending his head to Hartford as evidence of his capture. (This engagement should not be confused with another battle, also known as the “Great Swamp Fight”, which occurred on 19 Dec 1675, during King Philip’s War, between colonial militia of New England and the Narragansett tribe).

On 21 Sep 1638, the Treaty of Hartford formally ended the Pequot War and eliminated the Pequot political and cultural identity. The survivors were not allowed to live on tribal lands, and any geographic locations bearing the name of the Pequot were changed. Among these were the Pequot River, renamed the Thames, and Pequot Village, which was renamed New London. Thomas Stanton was a delegate at the Treaty of Hartford ending the Pequot War in 1638 and, in 1643, was appointed Indian Interpreter for all of New England by the Commissioners of the United Colonies.

 

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