"Pyquaagg nowe called Wythersfeild": Connecticut River Communities and Conflict in the Pequot War

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0001-5490-0846
King, Alice, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Edelson, S. Max, AS-History, University of Virginia
Taylor, Alan, AS-History, University of Virginia

During the spring of 1638, in the wake of the Pequot War, the elders and magistrates of Massachusetts Bay ruled on a case from the Wethersfield colonists along the Connecticut River about the Pequot attack on their village in April 1637. They determined that the attack had been justified because Sowheage, the local Wangunk Indian sachem, had been forced from his village of Pyquag through aggressive expansion by the Wethersfield colonists. The Wangunk belonged to the Pequot tributary network and sought their aid in countering the damage inflicted by the English. The Wethersfield attack prompted Connecticut and Plymouth to join Massachusetts Bay in their offensive war against the Pequot. The war violently rearranged the region’s tributary networks, and both the River Indians and the English had to decide how to approach each other in its aftermath. Connecticut towns sought to replace the Pequot as beneficiaries of the region’s rich agricultural production without taking responsibility for defending those Indian bands from the Mohawk, the Dutch, or the French. In addition to fear of retaliatory action by Pequot survivors and former allies, the Massachusetts elders tried to position themselves as brokers of the relationship between Connecticut River Indians and colonists, securing settler and Native dependence alike. The Pequot War was not simply a colonial-Native or a Native-Native conflict: it also encouraged competition for control over the Pequots’ former tributary network between Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut. This masters thesis frames the Connecticut River as the center of a distinct region where a variety of people vied for dominance and self-determination: the Wangunk and other River Indian groups, the Pequot who absorbed the region into their tributary network in the 1630s, the Dutch who sought to dominate trade, and the English who came with the intent of owning, occupying, and controlling the land. Their interests converged and clashed along the river. From this vantage point, the conflict appears as a series of strategic moves by various English parties to take over the Pequots’ former tributary networks, a competition ultimately won by the Connecticut colonists in 1638.

MA (Master of Arts)
Connecticut, Colonial History, Pequot War
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