Siege of Brookfield and Wheeler’s Surprise (1675)

August 2–5, 1675

The Siege of Brookfield took place in August 1675, during King Philip’s War. Following an ambush known as Wheeler’s Surprise, Nipmuc Warriors laid siege to the village of Brookfield for nearly four days but were forced to withdraw when Massachusetts Militia forces arrived.

Siege of Brookfield, 1675, King Philip's War, Illustration

This illustration depicts the Siege of Brookfield. Image Source: Frost’s Pictorial History of Indian Wars by John Frost, 1872,

The Siege of Brookfield

The Siege of Brookfield was a short series of attacks by the Nipmuc tribe on Brookfield, Massachusetts. It took place after Massachusetts tried to negotiate a peace treaty with the Nipmuc, to keep the tribe from joining King Philip’s Confederacy, which was waging war on the New England Colonies. On August 2, 1765, the Massachusetts negotiators were ambushed by the Nipmuc, who chased the survivors to Brookfield and laid siege to the town. The Nipmuc tried and failed to burn the garrison house. The siege was broken by the arrival of New England Confederation troops, who fought the Nipmuc, leading them to withdraw on August 5.

King Philip, Metacom, King Philip's War, Illustration
This illustration depicts Metacom (King Philip). Image Source: Google Books.

Siege of Brookfield Quick Facts

Siege of Brookfield History

The following facts about the Siege of Brookfield in 1675 provide a comprehensive overview of the background and history of the escalation of King Philip’s War.

Origins of King Philip’s War

  • Metacom, also known as King Philip, was the chief of the Wampanoag Tribe.
  • Upset over the treatment of his people by the colonists of Plymouth, he organized a confederation of tribes to carry out raids and attacks on English settlements.

Attack on Swansea

  • The first attack took place at Swansea, Plymouth, from June 20–June 24, 1675.
  • Plymouth and Massachusetts Militia forces rushed to Swansea to protect the settlers and the Indians withdrew.
  • This attack escalated tensions and prompted the New England Confederation to perceive the Wampanoags as hostile, leading it to mobilize the military.

Confederate Forces Pursue King Philip in Rhode Island

  • Confederation forces marched to Mount Hope in Rhode Island, where King Philip’s village was located.
  • By the time they arrived, Philip and his people were gone, but they left a warning. 
  • The militia found the heads of 8 Swansea setters on poles.
  • Captain Benjamin Church found out Philip was at Tiverton, and asked the leaders of the New England Confederation for permission to pursue King Philip.
  • Church and Matthew Fuller received permission to lead a small expedition deeper into Rhode Island to find King Philip.
  • Church and Fuller split up, but both were attacked by King Philip’s forces and had to retreat.
Captain Benjamin Church
Captain Benjamin Church played a key role in King Philip’s War. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

King Philip’s War Escalates

  • King Philip’s forces pressed their advantage, attacking and destroying the town of Mendon, Massachusetts on July 14, 1765.
  • Four days later, Confederation forces learned King Philip was hiding in a swamp. 
  • Although the English surrounded the swamp, Philip escaped and went to the Nipmuc Tribe where he asked them to join his confederacy.

Massachusetts Sets Up Negotiations with the Nipmuc Tribe

  • On July 28, 1675, an English party, accompanied by Native American Indian guides, left Brookfield, Massachusetts (also called Quabaug) to meet with the Nipmuc and other tribes to ask them to remain neutral in the war.
  • The group was led by Captain Edward Hutchinson — the son of Anne Hutchinson — and included Ephraim Curtis and Captain Thomas Wheeler.
  • Hutchinson and his group arrived near New Norwich on July 31 but found the Indians were gone.
  • The party started to return to Brookfield when they learned the Indians were about 10 miles away.
  • Four men were sent to the Indians to inform them the party only wanted to negotiate a peace treaty.
  • The Indian chiefs indicated they would meet with the party on August 2, near a swamp, about three miles outside of Brookfield.

Wheeler’s Surprise

  • Hutchinson and Wheeler led the party of roughly 20 men to the meeting place the next morning.
  • When they arrived, the Nipmuc leaders were not there.
  • Hutchinson led the party toward the Nipmuc village.
  • As the party moved through a passage between a hill and a swamp, they were ambushed by around 300 Nipmuc warriors, led by Chief Muttawmp.
  • led by Muttawmp, ambushed them.
  • Nearly half the men in the party were killed.
  • Wheeler was wounded, and Hutchinson was mortally wounded.
  • The survivors, led by Wheeler, escaped and fled back to Brookfield.

The Siege of Brookfield Begins

  • The Indians chased Wheeler and the others to Brookfield.
  • The survivors took refuge in the garrison house.
  • For two days, the Indians laid siege to the town and burned most of the buildings.
  • They tried, but failed, to set the garrison house on fire.

Failed Attempts to Set the Garrison House on Fire

  • On the first day of the siege, the Nipmucs used flaming arrows and tried to ignite combustible materials — such as flax and hay — they placed at the side of the house.
  • The Nipmucs also launched a “ball of wild fire” at the garrison house.
  • On August 3, they tried filling a cart with flammable material and pushing it into the wall of the garrison house. They used planks to shield themselves from the settler’s gunfire as they pushed the cart toward the house.
  • They constructed a device made from two sets of poles, mounted on wheels, with a barrel that connected the poles on the front end.
  • Every attempt to set the building on fire failed.
  • When rain started to fall on August 4, the Nipmucs stopped trying to burn the garrison house.
King Philip's War, Attack on Brookfield
This illustration depicts one of the attempts to burn the garrison hours. Image Source: New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Militia Forces Arrive

  • On the night of August 4, reinforcements consisting of 46 English and 5 Mohegan Warriors, led by Major Simon Willard and Captain John Parker, arrived at Brookfield.
  • A Nipmuc scout tried to warn the others about the approaching soldiers, but the sound of his warning shots was not heard.
  • Willard and his men reached the garrison house and engaged the Nipumuc in a fierce battle that lasted through the night.

The Siege of Brookfield Ends

  • On the morning of August 5, Muttawmp decided to abandon the siege and withdrew from Brookfield.
  • More Confederation reinforcements arrived, which discouraged the Nipmucs from launching another attack.

Aftermath of the Siege

  • Muttwamp led his men to a fort at Hatfield, Massachusetts.
  • King Philip joined him there and rewarded the Nipmuc chiefs with wampum.

Thomas Wheeler’s Narrative of the Siege of Brookfield

The following is Captain Thomas Wheeler’s account of Wheeler’s Surprise and the Siege of Brookfield, published in 1676. Please note that we have made minor corrections and edits to the text, but have not changed the meaning. Spacing, section headings, and notes have been added to help readers scan and understand the text.

True Narrative Of the Lord’s Providences in various dispensations towards Captain Edward Hutchinson of Boston and myself, and those that went with us into the Nipmuck Country, and also to Quabaug, alias Brookfield. 

Hutchinson’s Commission

The said Captain Hutchinson having a Commission from the Honoured Council of this Colony to Treat with several Sachems in those parts, in order to the publick peace and my self being also ordered by the said Council to accompany him with part of my Troop for Security from any danger that might be from the Indians: and to Assist him in the Transaction of matters committed to him.

The said Captain Hutchinson, and myself, with about twenty men or more marched from Cambridge to Sudbury, July 28, 1675; and from thence into Nipmuck Country, and finding that the Indians had deserted their towns, and we having gone until we came within two miles of New Norwich, on July 31, (only we saw two Indians having an horse with them, whom we would have spoke with, but they fled from us and left their horse, which we took,) we then thought it not expedient to march any further that way, but set our march for Brookfield, whither we came on the Lord’s day about noon.

August 1

From thence the same day, (being August 1,) we understanding that the Indians were about ten miles north west from us, we sent out four men to acquaint the Indians that we were not come to harm them, but our business was only to deliver a Message from our Honored Governor and Council to them, and to receive their answer, we desiring to come to a Treaty of Peace with them, (though they had for several days fled from us,) they having before professed friendship, and promised fidelity to the English. 

Meeting Agreed To

When the messengers came to them they made an alarm, and gathered together about an hundred and fifty fighting men as near as they could judge. The young men amongst them were stout in their speeches, and surly in their carriage. But at length some of the chief Sachems promised to meet us on the next morning about 8 of the clock upon a plain within three miles of Brookfield, with which answer the messengers returned to us.

Whereupon, though their speeches and carriage did much discourage divers of our company, yet we conceived that we had a clear call to go to meet them at the place whither they had promised to come. 

Accordingly we with our men accompanied with the three of the principal inhabitants of that town marched to the plain appointed; but the treacherous heathen intending mischief, (if they could have opportunity,) came not to the said place, and so failed our hopes of speaking with them there. 

Whereupon the said Captain Hutchinson and myself, with the rest of our Company, considered what was best to be done, whether we should go any further towards them or return, divers of us apprehending much danger in case we did proceed, because the Indians kept not promise there with us.

Brookfield Men Encourage Hutchinson and Wheeler to Trust the Nipmucs

But the three men who belonged to Brookfield were so strongly persuaded of their freedom from any ill intentions toward us, (as upon other grounds, so especially because the greatest part of those Indians belonged to David, one of their chief Sachems, who was taken to be a great friend of the English:) that the said Captain Hutchinson who was principally entrusted with the matter of Treaty with them, was thereby encouraged to proceed and march forward towards a Swamp where the Indians then were. 

Nipmuc Ambush

When we came near the said Swamp, the way was so very bad that we could only march in a single file, there being a very rocky hill on the right hand, and a thick swamp on the left, in which there were many of those cruel blood-thirsty heathen, who there way laid us, waiting an opportunity to cut us off; there being also much brush on the side of the said hill,where they lay in ambush to surprise us.

When we had marched there about sixty or seventy rods, the said perfidious Indians sent out their shot upon us as a shower of hail, they being (as we supposed,) about two hundred men or more. We seeing ourselves so beset, and not having room to fight, endeavored to fly for the safety of our lives. 

In which flight we were in no small danger to be all cut off, there being a very miry swamp before us, into which we could not enter with our horses to go forwards, and there being no safety in retreating the way we come, because many of their company, who lay behind the bushes, and had let us pass by them quietly; when others had shot, they came out, and stopt our way back, so that we were forced as we could to get up the steep and rocky hill;but the greater our danger was, the greater was God’s mercy in the preservation of so many of us from sudden destruction.

Myself being gone up part of the hill without any hurt, and perceiving some of my men to be fallen by the enemies’ shot, I wheeled about upon the Indians, not calling on my men who were left to accompany me, which they in all probability would have done had they known of my return upon the enemy. 

They fired violently out of the swamp, and from behind the bushes on the hill side wounded me sorely, and shot my horse under me, so that faultering and falling, I was forced to leave him, divers of the Indians being then but a few rods distant from me. 

Wheeler Rescued by His Son

My son Thomas Wheeler flying with the rest of the company missed me amongst them, and fearing that I was either slain or much endangered, returned toward the swamp again, though he had then received a dangerous wound in the reins, where he saw me in the danger aforesaid. 

Whereupon, he endeavored to rescue me, showing himself therein a loving and dutiful son, he adventuring himself into great peril of his life to help me in that distress, there being many of the enemies about me, my son set me on his own horse, and so escaped a while on foot himself, until he caught an horse whose rider was slain, on which he mounted, and through God’s great mercy we both escaped. But in this attempt for my deliverance he received another dangerous wound by their shot in his left arm.

Casualties of Wheeler’s Surprise

There were then slain to our great grief eight men viz.— Zachariah Phillips of Boston, Timothy Farlow, of Billerica, Edward Coleborn, of Chelmsford, Samuel Smedley, of Concord, Sydrich Hapgood, of Sudbury, Sergeant Ayres, Sergeant Prichard, and Corporal Coy, the inhabitants of Brookfield, aforesaid. It being the good pleasure of God, that they should all there fall by their hands, of whose good intentions they were so confident, and whom they so little mistrusted.

There were also then five persons wounded, viz.— Captain Hutchinson, myself, and my son Thomas, as aforesaid, Corporal French, of Billerica, who having killed an Indian, was (as he was taking up his gun) shot, and part of one of his thumbs taken off, and also dangerously wounded through the body near the shoulder; the fifth was John Waldoe, of Chelmsford, who was not so dangerously wounded as the rest.

They also then killed five of our horses, and wounded some more, which soon died after they came to Brookfield.

Escape to Brookfield

Upon this sudden and unexpected blow given us, (wherein we desire to look higher than man the instrument,) we returned to the town as fast as the badness of the way, and the weakness of our wounded men would permit, we being then ten miles from it. 

All the while we were going, we durst not stay to stanch the bleeding of our wounded men, for fear the enemy should have surprised us again, which they attempted to do, and had in probability done, but that we perceiving which way they went, wheeled off to the other hand, and so by God’s good providence towards us, they missed us, and we all came readily upon, and safely to the town, though none of us knew the way to it, those of the place being slain, as aforesaid, and we avoiding any thick woods and riding in open places to prevent danger by them. 

Refuge in the Garrison House

Being got to the town, we betook ourselves to one of the largest and strongest houses therein, where we fortified ourselves in the best manner we could in such straits of time, and there resolved to keep garrison, though we were but few, and meanly fitted to make resistance against so furious enemies. 

The Inhabitants of Brookfield Flee

The news of the Indians’ treacherous dealing with us, and the loss of so many of our company, thereby, did so amaze the inhabitants of the town, that they being informed thereof by us, presently left their houses, divers of them carrying very little away with them, they being afraid of the Indians sudden coming upon them; and so came to the house we were entered into, very meanly provided of clothing or furnished with provisions.

Wheeler Turns Over the Command

I perceiving myself to be disenabled for the discharge of the duties of my place by the reason of the wound I had received, and apprehending that the enemy would soon come to spoil the town and assault us in the house, I appointed Simon Davis, of Concord, James Richardson, and John Fiske of Chelmsford, to manage affairs for our safety with those few men whom God hath left us, and were fit for any service, and the inhabitants of the said town; who did well and commenorably perform the duties of the trust committed to them with much courage and resolution through the assistance of our gracious God, who did not leave us in our low and distressed state, but did mercifully appear for us in our greatest need, as in the sequel will clearly be manifested. 

Messengers Sent to Boston

Within two hours after our coming to the said house, or less, the said Captain Hutchinson and myself posted away Ephraim Curtis, of Sudbury, and Henry Young, of Concord, to go to the Honored Council at Boston, to give them an account of the Lord’s dealing with us, and our present condition.

When they came to the further end of the town they saw the enemy rifling of houses which the inhabitants has forsaken. The post fired upon them, and immediately returned to us again, they discerning no safety in going forward and being desirous to inform us of the enemies’ actings, that we might the more prepare for a sudden assault by them. 

The Siege Begins

Which indeed presently followed, for as soon as the said post was come back to us, the barbarous heathen pressed upon us in the house with great violence, sending in their shot amongst us like hail, through the walls, and shouting as if they would have swallowed us up alive; but our good God wrought wonderfully for us, so that there was but one man wounded within the house, viz. — the said Henry Young, who, looking out of the garret window that evening, was mortally wounded by a shot, of which wound he died within two days after. 

There was the same day another man slain, but not in the house; a son of Sergeant Pritchard’s adventuring out of the house wherein we were, to his father’s house not far from it, to fetch more goods out of it, was caught by these cruel enemies as they were coming towards us, who cut off his head, kicking about like a foot-ball, and then putting it upon a pole, they set it up before the door of his father’s house in our sight.

The First Attempt to Burn the Garrison House

The night following the said blow, they did roar against us like so many wild bulls, sending in their shot amongst us till the moon rising, which was about three of the clock; at which time they attempted to fire our house by hay and other combustible matter which they brought to one corner of the house, and set it on fire. Whereupon some of our company were necessitated to expose themselves to very great danger to put it out.

Simon Davis, one of the three appointed by myself as Captain, to supply my place by reason of my wounds, as aforesaid, he being of a lively spirit encouraged the soldiers within the house to fire upon the Indians; and also those that adventured out to put out the fire, (which began to rage and kindle upon the house side,) with these and the like words, that God is with us, and fights for us, and will deliver us out of the hands of these heathen; which expressions of his the Indians hearing, they shouted and scoffed, saying: now see how your God delivers you, or will deliver you, sending in many shots whilst our men were putting out the fire. 

But the Lord of Hosts wrought very graciously for us, in preserving our bodies both within and without the house from their shot, and our house from being consumed by fire, we had but two men wounded in that attempt of theirs, but we apprehended that we killed divers of our enemies.

Ephraim Curtis Escapes to Marlborough

I being desirous to hasten intelligence to the Honored Council, of our present great distress, we being so remote from any succor, (It being between sixty and seventy miles from us to Boston, where the council useth to sit,) and fearing our ammunition would not last long to withstand them, if they continued to assault us, I spake to Ephraim Curtis to adventure forth again on that service, and to attempt it on foot, as the way wherein there was most hope of getting away undiscovered; he readily assented, and accordingly went out, but there were so many Indians everywhere thereabouts, that he could not pass, without apparent hazard of life, so he came back again, but towards morning the said Ephraim adventured forth the third time, and was fain to creep on his hands and knees for some space of ground, that he might not be discovered by the enemy, who waited to prevent our sending if they could have hindered it. 

But through God’s mercy he escaped their hands, and got safely to Marlborough, though very much spent, and ready to faint by reason of want of sleep before he went from us, and his sore travel night and day in that hot season till he got thither, from whence he went to Boston; yet before the said Ephraim got to Marlborough, there was intelligence brought thither of the burning of some houses, and killing some cattle at Quabaug, by some who were going to Connecticut, but they seeing what was done at the end of the town, and hearing several guns shot off further within the town, they durst proceed no further, but immediately returned to Marlborough, though they then knew not what had befallen Captain Hutchinson and myself, and company, nor of ourbeing there, but that timely intelligence they gave before Ephraim Curtis his coming to Marlborough, occasioned the Honored Major Willard’s turning his march toward Quabaug, for their relief who were in no small danger every hour of being destroyed; the said Major being, when he had that intelligence, upon his march another way, as he was ordered by the Honored Council, as is afterwards more fully expressed.

The Siege Continues

The next day being August 3d, they continued shooting and shouting, and proceeded in their former wickedness, blaspheming the name of the Lord, and reproaching us, his afflicted servants, scoffing at our prayers as they were sending in their shot upon all quarters of the house, and many of them went to the town’s meeting house, (which was within twenty rods of the house in which we were) who mocked saying, come and pray, and sing psalms, and in contempt made an hideous noise somewhat resembling singing. 

But we, in our power, did endeavor our defense, sending our shot amongst them, the Lord giving us courage to resist them. and preserving us from the destruction they sought to bring upon us. 

On the evening following, we saw our enemies carrying several of their dead or wounded men on their backs, who proceeded that night to send in their shot, as they had done the night before, and also still shouted as if the day had been certainly theirs, and they should without fail, have prevailed against us, which they might have the more hopes of in regard that we discerned the coming of new companies to them to assist and strengthen them, and the unlikelihood of any coming to our help. 

Wild Fire

They also used several stratagems to fire us, namely, by wild fire in cotton and linen rags with brimstone in them, which rags they tied to the piles of their arrows, sharp for the purpose, and shot them to the roof of our house, after they had set them on fire, which would have much endangered the burning thereof, had we not used means by cutting holes through the roof, and otherwise, to beat the said arrows down, and God being pleased to proster our endeavors therein. 

More Attempts to Burn the Garrison House

They carried more combustible matter, in flax and hay, to the side of the house, and set it on fire, and then flocked apace towards the door of the house, either to prevent our going forth to quench the fire, as we had done before, or to kill our men in their attempt to go forth, or also to break into the house by the door; whereupon we were forced to break down the wall of the house against the fire to put it out. 

They also shot a ball of wild fire into the garret of the house, which fell amongst a great heap of flax or tow therein, which one of our soldiers, through God’s good Providence espyed, and having water ready presently quenched it; and so we were preserved by the keeper of Israel, both our bodies from their shot, which they sent thick against us, and the house from being consumed to ashes, although we were but weak to defend ourselves, we being not above twenty and six men with those of that small town, who were able for any service, and our enemies, as I judged them about, (if not above) three hundred, I speak of the least, for many there present did guess them to be four or five hundred. 

It is the more to be observed, that so little hurt should be done by the enemies’ shot, it commonly piercing the walls of the house, and flying amongst the people, and there being in the house fifty women and children besides the men before mentioned. 

Thomas Wilson Shot

But abroad in the yard, one Thomas Wilson of that town, being sent to fetch water for our help in further need, (that which we had being spent in putting out the fire,) was shot by the enemy in the upper jaw and in the neck, the anguish of which wound was such at the first that he cried out with a great noise, by reason whereof the Indians hearing him rejoiced, and triumphed at it; but his wound was healed in a short time, praised be God.

Nipmucs Fortify the Meeting House

On Wednesday, August the 4th, the Indians fortified themselves at the meeting house, and the barn, belonging to our house, which they fortified both at the great doors, and at both ends, with posts, rails, boards, and hay, to save themselves from our shot. 

Nipmuc Devices

They also devised other stratagems, to fire our house, on the night following, namely, they took a cart, and filled it with flax, hay and candlewood, and other combustible matter, and set up planks, fastened to the cart, to save themselves from the danger of our shot. 

Another inventive they had to make the more sure work in burning the house. They got many poles of a considerable length and bigness, and spliced them together at the ends one of another, and made a carriage of them about fourteen rods long, setting the poles in two rows, withrails laid cross over them at the front end, and dividing them said poles about three feet asunder, and in the said front of this their carriage they set a barrel, having made an hole through both ends, and put an axle-tree through them, to which they were spliced, they set up a pair of truckle wheels to bear up the said carriages, and they loaded the front or fore-end thereof with matter fit for firing, as hay, and flax, and chips, &c. Two of these instruments they prepared, then they might convey fire to the house, with the more safety to themselves, they standing at such a distance from our shot, whilst they wheeled them to the house; great store of arrows they had also prepared to shoot fire upon the house that night; which we found after they were gone, they having left them there.

The Rain Begins

But the Lord who is a present help in times of trouble, and is pleased to make his people’s extremity his opportunity, did graciously prevent them of effecting what they hoped they should have done by the aforesaid devices, partly by sending a shower of rain in season, whereby the matter prepared being wet would not so easily take fire as it otherwise would have done, and partly by aid coming to our help. 

Willard and Parker Arrive

For our danger would have been very great that night, had not the only wise God (blessed forever) been pleased to send to us an hour within night the worshipful Major Willard and Captain Parker of Groton, and forty-six men more with five Indians to relieve us in the low estate into which we were brought; our eyes were unto him the holy one of Israel; 

In him we desired to place our trust, hoping that he would in the time of our great need appear for our deliverance, and confound all their plots by which they thought themselves most sure to prevail against us; and God who comforted the afflicted; as he comforted the holy apostle Paul by the coming of Titus to him, so he greatly comforted as his distressed servants both soldiers and town inhabitants, by the coming of the said Honored Major, and those with him. 

In whose so soon coming to us the good providence of God did marvelously appear; for the help that came to us by the Honored Councils’ order (after the tidings they received by our post sent to them) came not to us till Saturday August 7, in the afternoon, nor sooner could it well come in regard of their distance from us, i.e. if we had not had help before that time, we see not how we could have held out, the number of the Indians so increasing, and they making so many assaults upon us, that our ammunition before that time would havebeen spent, and ourselves disenabled for any resistance, we being but few, and always fain tostand upon our defense;that we had little time for refreshment of ourselves either by food or sleep; the said Honored Major’s coming to us so soon was thus occasioned; he had a commission from the Honored Council (of which himself was one) to look after some Indians to the west-ward of Lancaster and Groton (where he himself lived) and to secure them, and was upon his march towards them on the aforesaid Wednesday in the morning, August 4th, when tidings coming to Marlborough by those that returned thither as they were going to Connecticut, concerning what theysaw at Brookfield as aforesaid, some of Marlborough knowing of the said Major’s march from Lancaster that morning, presently sent a post to aquaint him with the information they had received; the Major was gone before the post came to Lancaster; but there was one speedily sent after him, who overtook him about five or six miles from the said town;he being acquainted, that it was feared, that Brookfield, (a small town of about fifteen or sixteen families) was either destroyed or in great danger thereof,and conceiving it to require more speed to succor them (if they were not past help) then to proceed at present, as he before intended, and being also very desirous (if it were possible) to afford relief to them, (he being then not being above thirty miles from them,) he immediately altered his course and marched with his company toward us; and came to us about an hour after it was dark aforesaid; though he knew not then, either of our being there nor of what had befallen us at the Swamp and in the house those two days before.

Divine Providence

The merciful providence of God also appeared in preventing the danger that the Honored Major and his company might have been in, when they came near us, for those beastly men, our enemies, skillful to destroy, endeavored to prevent any help from coming to our relief, and therefore sent down sentinels, (some nearer and some further off) the furthest about two miles from us, who if they saw any coming from the Bay they might give notice by an alarm. 

And there were about an hundred of them who for the most part kept an house some little distance from us, by which if any help came from the said Bay, they must pass, and so they intended (as we conceive) having notice by their sentinels of their approach to way-lay them, and if they could, to cut them off before they came to the house where we kept.

Nipmucs Distracted

But as we probably guess, they were so intent and busy in preparing their instruments (as abovesaid) for our destruction by fire, that they were not at the house where they used to keep for the purpose aforesaid, and that they heard not their sentinels when they shot;and so the Major’s way was clear from danger till he came to our house. 

And that it was their purpose to have fallen upon him, or any other coming to us at that house, is the more probable, in that (as we have since had intelligence from some of the Indians themselves) there were a party of them at another place who let him pass by them without the least hurt or opposition, waiting for a blow to be given him at the said house, and then they themselves to fall upon them in the rear, as they intended to have done with us at the swamp, in case we had fled back as before expressed. 

Nipmucs Attack Willard’s Company

The Major and company were no sooner come to the house, and understood (though at first they knew not they were English who were in the house, but thought that they might be Indians, and therefore were ready to have shot at us, till we discerning they were English by the Major’s speaking, I caused the trumpet to be sounded) and the said Captain Hutchinson, myself, and company with the town’s inhabitants were there, but the Indians also discerned that there were some come to our assistance, whereupon they spared not their shot, but poured it out on them: but through the Lord’s goodness, though they stood not far asunder one from another, they killed not one man, wounded only two of his company; and killed the Major’s son’s horse; after that, we within the house perceived the Indians shooting so at them, we hastened the Major and all his company into the house as fast as we could, and their horses into a little yard before the house, where they wounded five other horses that night; after they were come into the house to us, the enemies continued their shooting some considerable time, so that we may well say, had not the Lord been on our side when those cruel heathens rose up against us, they had then swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us. But wherein they desist proudly, the Lord was above them.

Nipmucs Withdraw on August 5

When they saw their divers designs unsuccessful, and their hopes therein disappointed, they then fired the house and barn (wherein they had before kept to lie in wait to surprise any coming to us) that by the light thereof they might better direct their shot at us, but no hurt was done thereby, praised be the Lord. 

And not long after they burnt the meeting house wherein their fortifications were, as also the barn, which belonged to our house, and so perceiving more strength come to our assistance, they did, as we suppose, despair of effecting any more mischief against us. 

And therefore the greatest part of them, towards the breaking of the day, August the fifth, went away and left us, and we were quiet from any further molestations by them; and on the morning we went forth of the house without danger, and so daily afterwards, only one man was wounded about two days after, as he was out to look after horses, by some few of them skulking thereabouts. 

We cannot tell how many of them were killed, in all that time, but one that was afterwards taken, confessed that there were killed and wounded, about eighty men or more. 

Blessed be the Lord God of our salvation, who kept us from being all a prey to their teeth. But before they went away they burnt all the town except the house we kept in, and another that was not then finished. They also made great spoil of the cattle belonging to the inhabitants; and after our entrance into the house, and during the time of our confinement there, they either killed or drove away all the horses of our company.

Confederation Forces Remain in Brookfield

We continued there, both well and wounded, towards a fortnight, and August the 10th Capt. Hutchinson and myself with the men there that had escaped without hurt, and also some of the wounded came from them; my son Thomas and some other wounded men, came not from them, being not then able to endure traveling so far as from thence to the next town, till about a fortnight afterwards. 

The Death of Captain Hutchinson

We came to Marlborough on August the 14th, when Capt. Hutchinson being not recovered of his wounds before his coming from Brookfield, and over-tired with his long journey, by reason of his weakness, soon grew worse, and more dangerously ill, and on the 19th day of the same month, died, and was there the next day after buried;the Lord being pleased to deny him a return to his own habitation and his relatives at Boston, though he was come the greatest part of his journey thitherward.

Brookfield Abandoned

The inhabitants of the town also, not long after, men, women, and children, removed safely with what they had left, to several places, either where they had lived before their planting and settling down there, or where they had relatives to receive and entertain them. 

The Honored Major Willard stayed at Brookfield some weeks after our coming away, there being several companies of soldiers sent up thither and to Hadley, and the towns thereabouts, which are about thirty miles from Brookfield, whither the Major went for a time upon the service of the country in the present war, and from whence there being need of his presence for the ordering of matters concerning his own regiment, and the safety of the towns belonging to it, he through God’s goodness and mercy returned in safety to his home and dear relatives at Groton.

Wheeler Thanks God

Thus I have endeavored to set down and declare both what the Lord did against us in the loss of several persons’ lives, and the wounding of others, some of which wounds were very painful in dressing, and long are they were healed, besides many dangers we were in, and fears we were exercised with; and also what great things He was pleased to do for us, in frustrating their many attempts, and vouchsafing such a deliverance to us. 

The Lord avenge the blood that has been shed by those heathen who hate us without a cause, though he be most righteous to all that hath befallen us there, and all other parts of the country, he help us to humble ourselves before him, and with our whole hearts, to return to him, and also to improve all his mercies, which we still enjoy, that so his anger may cease towards us, and he may be pleased either to make our enemies at peace with us, or may destroy them before us. 

Wheeler Recovers at Concord

I tarried at Marlborough with Capt. Hutchinson until his death, and came here to Concord August 21 (though not then quite recovered of my wound) and so did others that went with me. 

But since I am reasonably well, though I have not the use of my hand and arm as before; my son Thomas, though in great hazard of his life for some time after his return to Concord, yet is now very well cured, and his strength well restored. 

Oh. that could praise the Lord for his great goodness towards us, that he was pleased to spare so many of us, and add unto our days; he helps us whose souls he hath delivered from death and eyes from tears, and feet from failing, to walk before him in the land of the living, till our great change come, and to sanctify his name in all his ways about us, that our afflictions and our mercies may guide us to live more to his glory all our days.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Siege of Brookfield and Wheeler’s Surprise (1675)
  • Date August 2–5, 1675
  • Author
  • Keywords Siege of Brookfield, Wheeler's Surprise
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 20, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 3, 2024

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