- Written by Joseph B. Barnes, Esq.
Indian fighter leads settlers to Milford
A resident of Wethersfield, Connecticut’s first town and then part of Massachusetts Colony, Thomas Tibbals was one of Connecticut's first residents having sailed at age 20 to Massachusetts in 1635 aboard the "Truelove." He passaged as a "person of Quality" mainly meaning that he paid his fare and wasn't a servant of any other passenger(s). According to Henry Whitmore of Brooklyn, New York in the 1800's, The name Tibbals derives from Theobald, one of the castles used by Queen Elizabeth 1st. It was shortened to Thebald then Tebald and in this country, the phonetic spelling Tebais or Tibbals. In English records it is sometimes spelled "Tibaiz" in phonetic spelling." According to "English Church Times" of April 11, 1938, "Theobalds" is pronounced "Tibbals".
At the time he arrived in America, a powerful Indian tribe dominated Southern New England. Well organized and aggressive warriors, the Pequots under Sassacuss, ruled from Narragansett Bay to the Hudson, Block and Long Islands. A number of Pequot killings of white settlers and traders starting in 1634, including Capt. John Oldham a founder of Wethersfield while trading at Block Island, and a Capt. Stone, who would occasionally drink and thus be unsuitable for Puritan civilization but nevertheless was English. Violence escalated in what could only be termed a war of annihilation against the settlers.
Early in 1637 Pequot raiders killed seven farmers, a woman and child and abducted two young women at Wethersfield. Both Massachusetts and Plymouth Colonies mobilized and the Court at Hartford on May 1, 1637 authorized war against the Pequots. Capt. Mason with 90 men from Wethersfield, including Tibbals who served as an Indian expert and scout, and 70 Braves under “Mohegan” Chief Uncas, moved to Saybrook to fight. From there the party took their boats to the Thames where a powerful Pequot force was ensconced on the ridge at Groton. Seeing a frontal assault uphill as not propitious, Mason sailed back out of he Thames and moved east.
Thinking they had won, Sassacus led a body of several hundred to destroy Wethersfield and Hartford. Far from giving up, Mason with Uncas and the Saybrook men under Capt. Underhill sailed to present day Rhode Island landing on Narraganset Bay. Joined by Narraganset Indians, they moved 38 miles through the wilderness to attack the Pequot fortified village "Misistuck" near Mystic. Attacking into the two entrances of the fort the men quickly got bogged down in close quarter combat and started suffered casualties. Mason withdrew and used the ultimate weapon of the age, he fired the village.
The result was more massacre than a battle; 600-700 men, women and children were killed. Only swift young braves escaped dodging the surrounding troops and their muskets. Many Pequots, abandoning the strong Harbor fort on the Thames, raced to the village to fight only to be cut down in open battle having given up their geographic advantage. Pequot survivors, joined by the Wethersfield raiding party recalled after the battle, fled west. Hot on their heels, Mason, bolstered by newly arrived Israel Stoughton’s 120 Massachussans and their Mohegan allies, pursued them on land and sea.
At the Connecticut River, Pequots found two or three white trappers, possibly Dutch, tied them to a tree and gutted them as a warning. The grisly sight did not deter the English who followed with all dispatch and, if anything, even more determination.
Soldiers chasing the fleeing Pequots passed through "Quinnipiak," called by the soldiers “Red Mount,” undoubtedly for East Rock. Peaceful Quinnipiac Indians, whose camp fires had brought the colonist's attention, were left unmolested. Massachussans who tracked through the area deemed it the finest land in all of New England.
The final battle in the Southport area swamps decimated the remaining Pequots. Not wishing the repeat the carnage at the Mystic village, women, children and non-Pequots mostly Mattabesic whose village, Sasqua, was nearby, were allowed free exit but the Pequot braves fought on. Only a relative handful escaped in the fog the next morning but found few friends or safety. Mohawks, historic Pequot enemies and constant threat to the peaceful Iroquois (including the Wepawaugs), took the head of Sassacus and presented it as tribute to the English.
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