First Encounter-Thanksgiving

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 147
  • Published : February 4, 2013
Open Document
Text Preview
I EXPLORATIONS

The Pilgrims were hungry
and weak from scurvy after
two months at sea by the time
the Mayflower anchored in the
icy waters on the bay side of
Cape Cod in the winter of
1620. Miles Standish led a small
group of explorers on desperate
scouting missions that predate
the landing at Plymouth Rock

First
Encounter
By Stephen Harrigan

‘I

I
NDIANS! INDIANS!” one of the members
of the Mayflower’s shore party screamed as

he came running in from the woods toward a

tidal beach on the lee side of Cape Cod. His
warning arrived only moments before a flur-

ry of arrows flew through the barricaded

camp the explorers had built, though none found its
target. It was dawn of December 8, 1620. There were
16 men in camp, half of whom were “saints,” members
of the religious separatist group that formed the
nucleus of the Mayflower enterprise. The others were
sailors and pilots from the ship’s crew, along with a
few “strangers,” the servants, hired men and families
who were unaffiliated with the congregation and for
reasons of their own had joined the Atlantic crossing.

WARNING

Among these was Miles Standish, hired by the sepahoped to establish far from the repressive reach of

A late 19th-century woodcut depicts Pilgrims dodging
arrows upon first setting foot in the New World. The landing party recovered 18 arrows—headed with brass, harts’ horn or eagles’ claws—as souvenirs of the hostile native greeting.

58 AMERICAN HISTORY

© NORTH WIND/NORTH WIND PICTURE ARCHIVES

ratists to serve as military adviser in the colony they

Used with permission, American History Magazine, ©Weider History Group

PHOTO CREDIT

DECEMBER 2012

59

Clark’s Island

I EXPLORATIONS

May ower
Anchored

Pilgrim
Spring
Corn
Hill

Plymouth

Cape Cod
Bay

King James and his corrupted
Church of England. Together,
the saints and strangers would
come to be known as Pilgrims.
Most of the men carried matchlock muskets, which were slow to load and prime and were fired by
a burning match cord held in a
clamp that ignited powder in a
flash pan. Only four members of
the shore party had their arms
ready. The rest had set theirs
near an open boat, a shallop, that
PATHFINDER
was tied up on the beach. As
Miles Standish, who
the men ran down to the shallop
had served in the army,
led the Pilgrim scouting
to retrieve their muskets and
missions on Cape Cod.
armor, Standish—who carried a
more efficient flintlock firearm—
got off several shots. By then, three other men in the barricade had their matchlocks ready to fire. According to a narrative known as Mourt’s Relation
that was probably written by William Bradford and
Edward Winslow, two of the participants in the fight, the
Englishmen were alert and dexterous enough to duck the
arrows that came flying out of the trees. As they fought,
the Indians let out a spine-chilling war cry. “Their note
was after this manner,” the account informs us: ‘Woath!
Woath! Ha! Ha! Hach! Woach!’ ”
In the end, no one was hurt, though one of the assailants
gave an “extraordinary cry” after a musket was discharged in his direction and before he disappeared with the rest of the natives into the brambly forest that covered the dunes. The relieved Pilgrims christened the spot

where the skirmish took place “The First Encounter.”
The resonant story of the Pilgrims—shocking hardship, flinty endurance, alliances and wars and accommodations with native tribes—has always centered around the arrival of the Mayflower at Plymouth and the first

Thanksgiving. But the First Encounter on Cape Cod,
Mass., and the events leading up to it provide a historical
snapshot of arresting clarity, in which English outcasts
searching for a home and an indigenous population
struggling to hold on to one found themselves in conflict
before a single word could be exchanged.

T

HE PLACE IS STILL called First Encounter
Beach. Heading north on Highway 6...
tracking img