Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent, "A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England"

And Representations of the Pequots and the Pequot War

Seminar Paper, 2007
23 Pages, Grade: 2


Table of Contents

1 Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent, A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The Natural Aggressive People – How the Pequots are presented as being unable to cooperate and be educated
1.3 The Success of the Initial Attack Animates the English to the Massacre
1.4 Setting Fire as Climax for the English Cruelty
1.5 Attempts to Explain the Violence
1.6 Conclusion

2 Representations of the Pequots and the Pequot War (Periodicals)
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Initial Steps Towards the Cultural Clash
2.3 Stereotypes of the Pequots Sustain the Pequot’s Otherness
2.4 The Pequots as Threat
2.5 Lack of Impartial Narrations Distort the Pequot’s Image
2.6 Influences of Descriptions
2.7 Conclusion

1 Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent,A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England.

1.1 Introduction

In 1637, the English colonists had already had several encounters with the native inhabitants of New England. Most of them had taken place in a peaceful manner, with the exception of their encounter with the Pequots. Despite great efforts to negotiate for peaceful coexistence, the Pequots occasionally committed sudden assaults on the English colonists and thereby broke mutual agreements. The increasing Pequot aggressiveness soon exhausted the English endurance. As a consequence, the English decide to counterattack. John Mason, who commanded the Connecticut forces, focuses on the causes of war, while Captain John Underhill, commander of the Massachusetts Bay forces, relies on his theory of the successful massacre at God’s interaction. As a contemporary narrator, Philip Vincent relates on information of people who witnessed the occurrences. The applied cruelty and systematic annihilation of almost the whole Pequot tribe, of course, raise the question about justification of the reasons. Is it providence, as Underhill interprets it, that the Pequots were so cruelly attacked? Is it an act of self-preservation as Mason concludes? Or did the Pequots deserve to be massacred for their tenacious aggressiveness and insult against the English as Vincent claims? It is a fact that Mason, Underhill as well as Vincent endorse and defend the massacre from their own point of view. Since all three narratives are from the first-person point of view, the interpretations of the Pequot massacre are biased and reflect individual reasons and emotions. Religious-based racism using the Christian bible as reference; desperation and anger are the sources of the cruelty of the massacre. The strong desire for vengeance and the quest for Puritan identity cause the English describe the Pequots as God’s tool.

1.2 The Natural Aggressive People – How the Pequots are presented as being unable to cooperate and be educated

Strong collective frustration and helplessness in the face of the Pequot’s assaults stirred up the desire for vengeance and retaliation of the colonists. The peaceful wait-and-see attitude and their efforts for negotiation have failed, and therefore, the Colonists see no other option than to attack them. Vincent, Underhill and Mason first reflect their individual impressions of the Pequots in order to arouse sympathy for their justification. Mason considers the Pequots as the “most terrible of all those Nations.”1 Unlike Underhill and Mason, Vincent represents the aggressions by the Pequots not as characteristic for them but for human behavior in general: “Man’s nature insulteth in victory and prosperity, and by good successe is animated even in the worst of wicked actions.”2 On the one hand, he weakens the prejudice against the native Indian’s affinity to barbarism and killing; on the other hand, he justifies the English brutality at the Mystic Fort massacre, because the English counterattack the same barbarous way. By generalizing the disposition toward brutality as a natural human instinct, Vincent attempts to explain the merciless violence towards the Pequots at Mystic Fort.

On the other hand, John Mason, who is keen to focus on details, refers to the Pequots as “enemy”, and a “great People, being strongly fortified, cruel, warlike, munitioned.” Mason is convinced that the Pequots deserve to be attacked and destroyed for “their Grounds being Just.” 3 He believes that “it pleased God so to stir up the Hearts of all Men in general”4, but there is no explicit evidence for God’s ordain to destroy the Pequot. Mainly, Mason reveals his insult and frustration when he considers the former English’ helplessness towards the violent Pequots.

1.3 The Success of the Initial Attack Animates the English to the Massacre

As the massacre was the result of oppressed anger and lacked preparation and analysis of the location behind the fort, the English acted by intuition. Whereas Mason spent little emotional narration on the initial shooting, Underhill revealed his marvellous observations as Providence and created the image of doomsday for the Pequots:

Giving a volley of shotte upon the Fort, so remarkable it appeared to us, as wee could not but admire at the providence of God in it, that soldiers so unexpert in the use of their armes, should give so compleat a volley, as though the finger of God had touched both match and flint.5

Vincent’s narrative reveals far less amazement at the scene. Nevertheless, he creates an impressive, awesome image of the moment when the English started their assault by pointing out the number and simultaneousness of shooting soldiers: “70 English gave the Fort a Volly of shot” 6 The rhetorical question Underhill asked his soldier, “What shall wee enter said Captaine Underhill? What come we for else”7, was the first step towards the massacre, since afterwards the soldier Hedge, encouraged by his own boast, entered the fort. Mason, in comparison to Underhill, did not consult his soldiers to make the first step but marched ahead animating his soldiers to follow. Vincent describes the initial moments after entering the fort in great detail. He reveals images of elaborate killings by the English soldier Hedge, who demonstrates the violent, merciless but heroic character of his superiority: “He slasht the Salvage betwixt the arme and shoulder, who pressing towards the dore, was killed by the English.”8 Thereafter, an individual English soldier made the first step to burn a Wigwam when he was counterattacked by a Pequot, whom he immediately eliminated very brutally:

“he whipt out his sword and runne him into the belly, that his bowels followed.”9 The pitiless exhibition of explicit killing also reflects Vincent’s anger and desire for vengeance. Thereby, the narration becomes a dynamic visualization with fast movements which creates an atmosphere full of terror. The slow motion presentation of killings contrasts to the following fast motion narration when “about half the English entered, fell on with courage, and slew manie.” After managing the first hurdle and breaking through the Fort entrance, the next hurdle pops up: the high concentration of Wigwams. At this point Vincent again slows down his narration to elaborate how the English managed this time to overcome their obstacle: “they called for fire to burn them.”10 Only Mason mentioned that they formerly had another plan than to burn the dwellings: “We had formerly concluded to destroy them by the Sword and save the Plunder.”11 Their initial intention was to attack the Pequots and awe them by showing strength and the capability of self-defence. The image of a blazing inferno implies the very flames of God and evokes the connotation of hell or even Armageddon. Nevertheless, Vincent reveals the evident predominance of the English, when he refers to the massacre as “whole worke” that “ended”, implying that the English encountered almost no resistance when they performed according to God’s order. Mason makes an effort to be impartial by shifting his narration from a first person narrator to an omniscient: “Captain Mason seeing no Indians, entred a Wigwam; where he was beset with many Indians, waiting all opportunities to lay Hands on him, but could not prevail.”12 Mason dwells on the situation of the Pequots and reveals their reaction when they are attacked: “The Indians some fled, others crept under their Beds.”13 In contrast to Vincent and Underhill, Mason refuses to create visualizations of cruel killings by the English. Instead, he focuses on details and also on the scared Pequot; thereby, he slightly insinuates compassion. Like Vincent, Mason writes from a close point of view. He selects particular scenes, which he witnessed or experienced by himself: He enters the Wigwams and elaborates the proceedings and reactions of the affected. He mentions names, provides details without being sentimental or too vivid. To defend his point of view, Underhill first explains the mood of the soldiers and their motives: “Every man being bereaved of pitty fell upon the worke without compassion, considering the bloud they had shed of our native Countrey-men, and how barbarously they had dealt with them.”14 He addresses the reader directly, involves him into his decisions in order to create comprehension, always arguing that “deliverance was given to us that command, as well as to private soldiers.”15 He mainly reflects his view of the Pequot’s inferiority, and that the Pequots acted only as tools for affliction in God’s providence.

1.4 Setting Fire as Climax for the English Cruelty

The scene of setting fire is presented with different focal points by the three narrators, according to their own impression. Underhill chooses a remote perspective to describe the setting: “Captain Mason entering into a Wigwam, brought out a fire-brand, after he had wounded many in the house”16 Unlike Mason and Vincent, he refuses to elaborate the behaviour of individual Pequots, though he praises them in general, and devotes his narrative to the part when the fire is set. He deploys a vivid language by using metaphors, like “train of Powder”, or by creating impressive images: “the fires of both meeting in the center of the Fort.”17 Deprived of any compassion, Underhill reveals the most voyeuristic image of the setting implying his hatred towards the Pequot:

Many courageous fellows were unwilling to come out, […[ , so as they were scorched and burnt with the very flame, and were deprived of their armes, in regard the fire burnt their very bowstrings and so perished valiantly […] many were burnt in the Fort, both men, women, and children, others forced out, and came in troopes to the Indians,

…, which our souldiers received and entertained with the point of the sword; down fell men, women, and children. 18

It might be beyond the reader’s comprehension to imagine 400 bodies of men, and explicitly women and children lying around burnt, mutilated and bloody as presented. The scene presented supports the assumption that the violence applied by the English was extreme. When Mason and Vincent refer to the end of the massacre, they call it “work done”, while Underhil, according to his faith says: “ended this service.”19 Unlike Underhill and Vincent, to Mason it is important to mention the fact that they initially tried to fight them by sword: “Two Soldiers standing close to the Pallizado with their Swords pointed to the Ground: the Captain told them that We should never kill them after that manner: The Captain also said, We must Burn them.”20 Mason, by depicting the setting of fire, suddenly shifts into regretful grief, as if God himself unleashed this terror happen on the Pequots. However, he implies that the massacre is just revenge in terms of God’s will, and that the English are only the chosen executors: “such a dreadful Terror did the Almighty let fall upon their Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished.”21 Vincent almost completely omits details of the burning Pequots and explains only the fact, why it was set: “This Fort was so crowded with these numerous dwellings, that the English wanted foote- roome to graple with their adversaries, and therefore set fire on all.”22

1.5 Attempts to Explain the Violence

Vincent explains the applied cruelty by the fact that the English were provoked by their remembrance of their own victims “the bloodshed, the captive Maids, and cruell insolency”. However, the argument for brutality lacks credibility, since the same argument is used for thejustification of the assault as such which does not implicitly authorize the excessive cruelty.


1 Mason 6

2 Vincent 7

3 Mason 19

4 Mason 19

5 Underhill 37

6 Vincent 10

7 Vincent 11

8 Vincenz 11-12

9 Vincent 12)

10 Vincent 11

11 Mason 27

12 Mason 28

13 Mason 28

14 Underhill 37

15 Underhill 38

16 Underhill 39

17 Underhill 39

18 Underhill 39

19 Underhill 40

20 Mason 28,29

21 Mason 29

22 Vincent 14

Excerpt out of 23 pages


Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent, "A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England"
And Representations of the Pequots and the Pequot War
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Seminar Fighting Words
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
531 KB
Undehill, John Mason, King Philip, John Smith, Pocahontas, Pequot, Pequot War
Quote paper
Gerlinde Didea (Author), 2007, Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent, "A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/120726


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Title: Underhill’s and Mason’s account of the Pequot War compared to Philip Vincent, "A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought in New England"

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