Myles Standish Leads Small Band to Assassinate Native American Warriors at Wessagusset
The next day on April 6th there appeared at the gates of the stockade the leaders of the conspiracy.
Pecksuot, a giant warrior and Wituwamat along with two other natives came into the stockade and were allowed to enter the large blockhouse. Standish with four or five men was waiting inside the blockhouse. Standish jumped on the opportunity and signaled to have the door to the blockhouse shut and fastened as he and his men in a ferocious fit of violence sprang upon the Indians. From outside the blockhouse the blood curdling screams and yelling the battle must have sounded sickening.
Though short-lived, the settlement of Wessagussett provided the spark for an event that would dramatically change the political landscape between the local Native American tribes and the English settlers. Responding to reports of a military threat to Wessagussett, Myles Standish organized a militia to defend Wessagussett. However, he found that there had been no attack. He therefore decided on a pre-emptive strike. In an event called "Standish's raid" by historian Nathaniel Philbrick, he lured two prominent Massachusett military leaders into a house at Wessagussett under the pretense of sharing a meal and making negotiations. Standish and his men then stabbed and killed the two unsuspecting Native Americans. The local sachem, named Obtakiest, was pursued by Standish and his men but escaped with three English prisoners from Wessagussett, who he then executed. Within a short time, Wessagussett was disbanded, and the survivors were integrated into the town of Plymouth.
Word quickly spread among the Native American tribes of Standish's attack; many Native Americans abandoned their villages and fled the area. As noted by Philbrick: "Standish's raid had irreparably damaged the human ecology of the region...It was some time before a new equilibrium came to the region." Edward Winslow, in his 1624 memoirs Good News from New England, reports that "they forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof very many are dead". Lacking the trade in furs provided by the local tribes, the Pilgrims lost their main source of income for paying off their debts to the Merchant Adventurers. Rather than strengthening their position, Standish's raid had disastrous consequences for the colony, as attested William Bradford, who in a letter to the Merchant Adventurers noted "[W]e had much damaged our trade, for there where we had [the] most skins the Indians are run away from their habitations..." The only positive effect of Standish's raid seemed to be the increased power of the Massasoit-led Wampanoag, the Pilgrims' closest ally in the region.