English Scouting Parties In The Connecticut Valley

 

It is not generally known at the present day, and history of the past seldom makes mention of the fact, that during several years of the conflict between the Indians of this locality and the white men, bounties were offered, and paid, by the governments of both France and England for the scalps of Indians. The barbarous act of scalping by the Indians of their white victims is frequently referred to, but for a period of 13 years previous to the termination of the war between England and France, in 1763, the French in Canada, by offering bounties for captives and white men's scalps, incited the natural cupidity of the St. Francis tribe to more than their usual activity in harassing the English settlers in this section of New England.

On the other hand, the records of the province of Massachusetts show that in 1765, the governor of that province, with authority from King George the 2nd, offered and paid a bounty of thirty pounds, nearly $150, for every Indian scalp. In 1748, this bounty was increased to 100 pounds, and was to be divided in equal parts among the officers and soldiers of any scouting party that might capture an Indian, or produce the scalp of one they had killed. The price was paid only upon the delivery of the captives or their scalps in Boston. The effect of these bounties upon both sides was to stimulate the opposing forces to deeds of the greatest cruelty and barbarity.

Scouting parties were organized and sent out by both sides to lay in ambush for the others, and secure as many scalps as possible. Authentic records are not available from the French side to show the results, but those of the English side, which were nearer to our vicinity, and so of greater interest to us, are on file now in Boston. They show that each party hunted through this territory up and down the Connecticut River for scalps of the red men. They were required to keep daily records of their marches and observations, many of them being unique and thrilling. The official records show many references to the "Great Falls" and to the "Great Mountain by ye Great Falls," referring to the falls, and what is now called "Mount Kilburn", opposite this village. The mountain was an important point at which watches were kept and all movements of the enemy noted.

The main path by the falls here was upon the New Hampshire side of the river, along the base of the mountain, and not upon this side of the river. The trails up the Williams River, Black River, and White River, which were the principal highways to and from Lake Champlain, were frequently described in the records, and make very interesting reading to those interested in this locality. They frequently describe details of deadly encounters, resulting in great suffering, and showing great hardships endured by the scouting parties. In addition to the mountain here, the records describe experiences on Wantastiquet at Brattleboro, and Ascutney at Windsor, as being important points. They "lodged on ye top" and "viewed for smoaks" of the hostile campfires.

The wages allowed are thus stated. "One Captain to have 25 shillings per month, one Lieutenant to have 13s. 6d. per month; One Sergeant to have 13s. 6d. per month; one Corporal 12s. per month, and 16 Centinels to have each 10s. per month; and each of the 20 men be allowed 8s. for providing themselves with provisions."

Among the voluminous records, the following is a good sample:

"Thursday. We travailed upon ye great River within two miles of ye Great Falls in said River, then we went upon Land to the Black River above ye Great Falls, went up that River and lodged about a mile and a half from the mouth of Black River, which days travail we judged was about ten miles.

"Fryday. We cross Black River at ye falls (now Springfield Village) afterwards travail through ye woods N. N. W. then cross Black River again.

" Sabbath Day. Soon after we began our days work, an old pregnant squaw that travailed with us, stopt alone and was delivered of a child, and by Monday overtook us with a living child upon her back."

 

Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

 

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