Our exhibit, Making Connecticut, showcases over 500 objects, images, and documents from the CHS collection. “What is this?” posts will highlight an object from the exhibit and explore its importance in Connecticut history every other week. What is this object? What is the story behind it? To find out more,
In the 1630s, English men, women, and children came from Massachusetts to establish colonies of England in Connecticut. These colonists were Puritans, a religious group that wanted to reform or “purify” the Church of England. They believed they had a special assignment from God to create an ideal religious community, and they also hoped to profit economically by using and trading the resources they found, especially the timber from the tall New England forests. The English colonists brought European ideas and culture with them, introducing new customs, products, materials, and domesticated animals into North America, all of which profoundly affected Native American ways of life.
Clashes between English colonists and Native Americans occurred from the beginning of colonial settlement. Times of uneasy coexistence were broken by attacks, skirmishes, wars, enslavement, and captive-taking. Two wars bracket this first period of English settlement. The Pequot War, between the Pequot Indians and the English colonists and their Native allies, began at Wethersfield in 1637 and ended with the Treaty of Hartford in 1638. Later, King Philip’s War (1675-1676), named for the Rhode Island Wampanoag leader Metacomet, who called himself “King Philip,” threw New England into violence.
The most common weapons in the 1600s were swords, arrows, axes, and clubs. Guns of this time were less efficient than other weapons because they were heavy and took time to load. However, their noise and the destruction they caused was new and terrifying to Native Americans. The English were not as skilled as Native Americans in woodland warfare, but they learned from the Natives. The Natives, in turn, adopted techniques from the English, such as burning entire villages, a tactic introduced during the Pequot War in 1637. Later, Metacomet turned the technique against the colonists during King Philip’s War.
Sergeant William Hayden (d. 1669), of Hartford and Windsor, Connecticut, carried this sword during the Pequot War conducted by Captain John Mason. The Pequot Indians had attacked the English settlers in Wethersfield killing John Oldham in 1637. In retribution for this murder, the colonists mounted an attack on the Indian’s fort in Mystic, burning the fort and killing the survivors. The story that accompanies the sword is that Hayden used it to save the life of his commander, Captain Mason, reputedly using this sword to cut through the bow-string of one of the Pequot warriors aiming his weapon at Mason.