The country is in flames! Smoke rises high above the forest spurring on Major Lathrop and his small supply column. Flour, freshly ground at the Hadley Mill, critical for surviving the long winter ahead. But the natives had risen in anger and devastation had touched the Connecticut Valley even as the amber, crimson, and gold leaves fell from the trees and the first cold winds swirled down from the north. Villages, towns, and isolated houses all along the great river, from its mouth to where white habitation lagged in the mountains of western Massachusetts, had been struck. Residents had died in their fields, on their stoops, and down the trails.
Lathrop had thought the natives might strike the mill or his wagon and haulers and so had stripped Springfield of its militia. A single platoon was left with instructions to retreat to the blockhouse if attacked. From the pall on the horizon, he hoped to God! they had made it to the blockhouse. He also hoped Major Pynchon had gotten his message and was hurrying to catch up.
The major had lived the past fifteen years on the frontier and had scouts deployed to both flanks as he rode behind the creaking wagon and the few bearers. Yet the command was still surprised when the three bands suddenly rose form the undergrowth and poured lead balls and ash arrow shafts tipped with sharpened flint.
Captains Moseley on the left and Treat on the right steadied their men and got them firing. As always the natives proved elusive. Shot after shot would thunder from the militia muskets only to be met with unremitting and unslowed. Not so the militiamen. Lathrop saw them one after another be struck by missiles from the unseen enemy. A man with a musket ball through his elbow, the arm hanging limply unusable as blood poured from the severed artery. Another foaming from an arrow lodged in his chest, lung pierces, gasping for breath.
After less than five minutes the whoops came from the left. Lathrop pulled his pistol and braced with the wagoneers as a band of warriors, painted, screaming, and brandishing tomahawks emerged from the forest and struck Moseley’s depleted company. Lathrop watched Moseley stop a tomahawk with the butt of his musket but then have his skull split in two by a second warrior.
And then, the warriors were upon Lathrop and the wagoneers. The pistol misfired and Lathrop went down, the light fading from his eyes.
Two days later he woke, in a straw bed, Captain Marshfield nursing a bottle of rotgut in the chair nearby. Marshfield, in his perpetually slurred speech, related the rest of the battle. The natives, being led overall by Mettawump and with the bands of Nonotuck in the front of the trail and Pocotuc on the right, had followed Mettawump’s charge and converged on the wagons. Only a handful of Captain Treat’s company survived, racing back down the trail to find Major Pynchon advancing.
Lathrop had survived because he fell under the wagon which the natives soon set ablaze. None ventured underneath the flames to scalp the unconscious officer, leaving him to the fire. Once the wagons were fully engulfed they pulled out, the barrel of rum and the militiamen’s muskets their only spoils – and 42 locks of hair.
By the time Pynchon’s force cautiously advanced there was nothing to do but pull the major to safety and hurry on to Springfield. There they found the Widow Morgan leading the survivors in a spirited defense of the blockhouse and the 67 souls who had crowded in. Five unfortunates had been caught on the street. 22 houses, five barns, and a dozen other buildings had been destroyed in part or whole.
It would be a long winter.
Diatribes are simply often humorous recountings of the games played by the Long Island Irregulars. We play with toy soldiers and are unabashedly happy to have never lost this part of our childhoods..