On March 26, 1676 during King Philip’s War, Captain Michael Pierce led approximately 60 Plymouth Colony colonial troops and 20 Wampanoag Christian Indians in pursuit of Narragansett Indians who had burned several Rhode Island towns and attacked Plymouth, Mass. as part of King Philip’s War.
Pierce’s troops caught up with the Narragansett Indians but were ambushed in what is now Central Falls, Rhode Island. Pierce’s troops fought the Narragansetts for several hours, but were surrounded by a larger force of Narragansetts. The battle was one of the biggest defeats of colonial troops during King Philip’s War with nearly all killed in the battle, including Captain Pierce and the Christian Indians (“Praying Indians”) (exact numbers vary by account somewhat). The Narragansetts lost only a handful of warriors.
Nine of the colonists who were among the dead were first taken prisoner (along with a tenth man who survived). These men were purportedly tortured to death by the Narragansetts at a site in Cumberland, Rhode Island, currently on the Cumberland Monastery and Library property. The nine dead colonists were buried by English soldiers who found the corpses and buried them in 1676. The soldiers created a pile of stones to memorialize the colonists. This pile is believed to be the oldest veterans’ memorial in the United States, and a cairn of stones has continuously marked the site since 1676.
A more personal and detailed account of the massacre of Pierce’s party by the Indians gives us a flavor of the emotion felt by the English:
“Sunday the 26th of March was sadly remarkable to us for the Tidings of a very deplorable Disaster brought unto Boston about 5 a Cloak that Afternoon, by a Post from Dedham, viz., that Captain Pierce (of) Scituate, in Plimmouth Colony, having Intelligence in his Garrison at Seaconicke, that a Party of the Enemy lay near Mr. Blackstones, went forth with 63 English and twenty of the Cape Indians, (who had all along continued faithful, and joyned with them;) and upon their March, discovered rambling in an obscure woody Place, four or five Indians, who, in getting away from us, halted, as if they had been lame or wounded.
But our Men had pursued them but a little Way into the Woods, before they found them to be only Decoys to draw them into their Ambuscade: for on a Sudden, they discovered about 500 Indians, who in very good order, furiously attacqued them, being as readily received by ours. So that the Fight began to be very fierce and dubious, and our Men had made the Enemy begin to retreat but so slowly that it scarce deserved that Name, when a fresh Company of about 400 Indians came in; so that the English and their few Indian Friends were quite surrounded, and beset on every Side. Yet they made a brave Resistance, for about two Hours: during all that Time they did great Execution upon the Enemy, whom they kept at a Distance, and themselves in Order.
For Captain Pierce cast his 63 English and 20 Indians into a Ring, and fought Back to Back, and were double-double Distance, all in a Ring, whilst the Indians were as thick as they could stand, thirty deep. Overpowered with those numbers, the said Captain, and 55 of his English and ten of their Indian Friends were slain upon the Place; which, in such a Cause, and upon such Disadvantages, may certainly be stiled ‘The Bed of Honour.’ However, they sold their worthy Lives at a gallant Rate; it being affirmed by those few that (not without wonderful Difficulty, and many Wounds) made their Escape, that the Indians lost as many Fighting Men, (not counting Women and Children,) in this Engagement, as were killed at the Battle in the Swamp, near Narraganset, mentioned in our last Letter, which were generally computed to be above three Hundred
The “Nine Men’s Misery” site was disturbed in 1790 by medical students led by one Dr. Bowen looking for the body of one of the dead colonists, Benjamin Bucklin, who was said to be unusually large with a double row of teeth. They were stopped by outraged locals. The site was desecrated several more times until 1928 when the monks who then owned the cemetery built a cemented stone cairn above the site. The cairn and site can still be visited on the Monastery grounds.
Pierce’s Fight was followed by the burning of Providence three days later, and then the capture and execution of Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts. The war was winding down even at the time that Pierce’s party was destroyed, and in August, King Philip himself was killed.
John LOW (1629 – 26 Mar 1676) died at Nine Men’s Misery a site in current day Cumberland, Rhode Island where nine colonists were tortured by the Narragansett Indian tribe during King Philip’s War. A stone memorial was constructed in 1676 which is believed to be the oldest veterans memorial in the United States. Cumberland was originally settled as part of Rehoboth, Mass which is listed as the location of John’s death.
Respecting Rev. John HOWSE‘ grandson Respecting Shubael Linnel little is known. He is named in 1667 as a guardian of the children of the second Thomas Ewer. A Samuel Linael of Barnstable was killed at the battle of Rehobeth, and as the only Samuel Linnel of Barnstable in 1776 was Samuel, son of David, and as he is named as living in 1688 he could not have been the man killed in 1676. To reconcile these conflicting statements Amos Otis supposed that there is an error in the records, that Shubael, the guardian, is the same person who is called Samuel in the returns of the killed March 26, 1676
John WHELDON served in Plymouth’s 4th expedition against the Narragansett Indians, March, 1675, otherwise known as Pierce’s Ambush, then was exempted from military training in October, 1677 “on consideration that hee hath three sons fitted with armes for publicke service.”.
The site is located on the grounds of the former Trappist monastery of Our Lady of the Valley, now the Cumberland public library, and is an approximately 15 minute walk behind the main building on a rise in the woods.
Directions: Follow the road to the right past the main building, you will come to a low white building on your left and at that point should see a break in the chain link fence that is on your right. There is a low metal guardrail in the break, step over and you should be on a walking path. Turn right and not far up the path will divid, take the left path, it will bring you through a field. In the field, it again branches out – take the left again and keep walking out of the field through the trees. From leaving the field to reaching the monument is about the same distance that you walked to get out of the field from the start. Coming down over a small rise, there is a path to the right that brings you to the elevated area that the monument occupies – you can see the monument from the rise when on the path.