Dummer's War

Dummer's War
Dummer's War
Death of Father Sebastian Rale of the Society of Jesus.jpg
Battle at Norridgewock (1724): Death of Father Sebastian Rale
Date July 25, 1722–December 15, 1725[1]
Location Northern New England and Nova Scotia
Result Negotiated peace treaty, 1725.
New England Colonies
Wabanaki Confederacy

Dummer's War (1722–1725), also known as Lovewell's War, Father Rale's War, Greylock's War, the Three Years War, the 4th Indian War or the Wabanaki-New England War of 1722–1725,[2] was a series of battles between British settlers of the three northernmost British colonies of North America of the time and the Wabanaki Confederacy (specifically Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, and Abenaki), who were allied with New France. The war took place variously in Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts (which included present-day Maine and Vermont).[3] The root cause of the conflict was tension over the ownership of these regions.

The treaty that ended the war marked a significant shift in European relations with the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet. For the first time a European power formally acknowledged that its dominion over Nova Scotia would have to be negotiated with the region's indigenous inhabitants.[4]

The war was commemorated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his poem, "The Battle of Lovells Pond", and by Nathaniel Hawthorne with his story, "Roger Malvin's Burial".


Historical context

The war occurred as a result of an expansion of New England settlements along the Kennebec River (in present-day Maine) and of the movement of more New England fishermen into Nova Scotia waters (particularly at Canso). The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which ended Queen Anne's War, had facilitated this expansion. The treaty, however, had been signed in Europe and had not involved any member of the Wabanaki natives. None had been consulted, and they protested through raids on British fishermen and settlements.[5] For the first and only time, Wabanaki would fight New Englanders and the British on their own terms and for their own reasons and not principally to defend French imperial interests.[6] In response to Wabanaki hostilities toward the expansion, the governor of Nova Scotia, Richard Phillips, built a fort in traditional Mi'kmaq territory at Canso in 1720, and Massachusetts Governor Samuel Shute built forts on traditional Abenaki territory around the mouth of the Kennebec River: Fort George at Brunswick (1715); St. George's Fort at Thomaston (1720); and Fort Richmond (1721) at Richmond.[7] The French claimed the same territory on the Kennebec River by building churches in the Abenaki villages of Norridgewock and Medoctec further upriver.[8]

These fortifications escalated the conflict. A Jesuit missionary named Sébastien Rale (also spelled Rasles) was stationed at Norridgewock, while an Abenaki named Gray Lock led raids against the encroaching New England settlements. In the fall of 1721, the Abenakis burned the farms and killed livestock in the settlements around Casco Bay.[9]

Governor Shute chose to launch a punitive expedition against Father Rale at Norridgewock in March 1722. While the New England Rangers were unsuccessful in capturing Father Rale, they plundered the church and Rale's cabin.[10] While most of the tribe was away hunting, 300 soldiers under the command of Colonel Thomas Westbrook surrounded Norridgewock to capture Rale, but again he was forewarned and escaped into the forest. Found among the priest's possessions, however, was his strongbox with a hidden compartment containing letters implicating Rale as an agent of the French government, promising Indians enough ammunition to drive the English from their settlements.

In response, on June 13, the Abenakis raided Brunswick, a British settlement at Merrymeeting Bay near the mouth of the Kennebec River.[11] In early July 1722, 500-600 natives laid siege to Fort St. Georges at Thomaston for twelve days. Five New Englanders were killed, as were twenty natives.[12] Following this raid, Brunswick was raided again and burned.[13]

In Nova Scotia, the Mi'kmaq raided the new fort at Canso (1720). Under potential siege, in May 1722, Lieutenant Governor John Doucett took 22 Mi'kmaq hostage at Annapolis Royal to prevent the capital from being attacked.[14] In July 1722 the Abenaki and Mi'kmaq blockaded Annapolis Royal with the intent of starving the capital.[15] The natives captured 18 fishing vessels and prisoners from present-day Cape Sable Island to Canso. They also seized prisoners and vessels from the Bay of Fundy.[16]

As a result of the escalating conflict, Massachusetts Governor Shute officially declared war on the Abenaki on July 25, 1722.[17] Shute, who had ongoing political disputes with the Massachusetts assembly, abruptly sailed for England on January 1, 1723, leaving Lieutenant Governor William Dummer to manage Massachusetts involvement in the war.

Northern New England theatre

Battle at Georgetown (1722)

On September 10, 1722, 400 or 500 St. Francois and Mi'kmaq Indians fell upon Arrowsick, Georgetown, Maine. Captain Penhallow discharged musketry from a small guard, wounding three of the Indians and killing another. This defense gave the inhabitants of the village time to retreat into the fort. In full possession of the undefended village, the Indians killed fifty head of cattle and set fire to twenty-six houses outside the fort. The Indians then assaulted the fort, killing one New Englander, but otherwise making little impression.

That night Col. Walton and Capt. Harman arrived with thirty men, to which were joined about forty men from the fort under Captains Penhallow and Temple. The combined force of seventy men attacked the natives but were overwhelmed by their numbers. The New Englanders then retreated back into the fort. Viewing further attacks on the fort as useless, the Indians eventually retired up the river.[18] During their return to Norridgewock the natives attacked Fort Richmond.[18]

1723 campaign

On March 9, 1723, Colonel Thomas Westbrook led 230 men to the Penobscot River and traveled approximately 32 miles (51 km) upstream to present-day Old Town, Maine, next to the Indian Island. They marched through the woods for days and found a large native fort—70 yards (64 m) by 50 yards (46 m), with 14-foot (4.3 m) walls surrounding 23 wigwams. There was also a large chapel (60 by 30 feet). The village was vacant of people, and the soldiers burned it to the ground.[19]

Throughout 1723 there were fourteen native raids on the Protestant settlements, primarily in present-day Maine. In April 1723, there was a raid on Falmouth in which the raiders mistook Chubb to be Captain Harmen and killed him. On April 19, 1723, Scarborough was raided, in which Roger Deering, his wife, two other inhabitants, and two soldiers were killed. Taken captive were three adults and three of Deering's children.[20]

In May 1723, the natives killed two people in a raid on Berwick, one at Wells and two on the way to York.

On August 13, 1723 Gray Lock raided Northfield, Massachusetts, and four warriors killed two citizens near Northfield. The next day they attacked Joseph Stevens and his four sons in Rutland. Stevens escaped, two boys were killed, and the other two sons were captured.[21] In August and September 1723, there were also raids on Saco, Maine and Dover, New Hampshire.[20] Captain Heath and 13 men including two Mohawks met with 30 natives in the battle at Richmond, Maine. They killed two and drove off the rest. One New Englander was killed and two wounded.

On October 9, 1723, Grey Lock struck two small forts near Northfield, inflicting casualties and carrying off one captive.[22] In response, Fort Dummer was built near Brattleboro, Vermont. The fort became a major base of operations for scouting and punitive expeditions into Abenaki country.[22]

In an October raid at Mount Desert, one Capt. Cogswell and his crew were surprised and taken as they were stepping ashore; and about the same time, Smith and Bailey were killed at Cape Porpoise, one on Vaughan's Island, and the other on the seashore, not far from the site of the old meeting-house.[23]

On December 25, 1723, 60 natives laid siege to St. Georges fort at Thomaston, Maine for thirty days. But Capt. Kennedy, the commanding officer, held out till Col. Thomas Westbrook arrived and put the enemy to flight.[23] The Indians killed another man, Reverend Willard.

1724 campaign

During the spring of 1724, primarily in present-day Maine, natives killed, wounded or imprisoned over 30 New Englanders in ten raids. On March 23, the fort at Cape Porpoise was attacked and a sergeant was killed. On April 17 a farmer was killed at Black Point, while his two sons were imprisoned at Norridgewock. In Kennebunk harbor, a sloop was taken, and the whole crew was put to death. About the same time, three men were killed at a saw-mill on the same river.

At Berwick in May, a father was killed, one of his children was imprisoned, and the other escaped being scalped but was seriously wounded. Another man also survived a scalping attempt although his body was badly mangled. One other person was killed.[23] On May 1, 1724, on the St. Georges river Captain Josiah Winslow and thirteen men were ambushed by over 90 natives in 30 canoes.[24] The native Tarrantines were reported to have lost over 25 warriors.

On May 27 at Purpooduck, the natives killed one man and wounded another. On the same day, a man was killed at Saco.

On June 18, 1724 Grey Lock attacked a group of men working in a meadow near Hatfield, Massachusetts. Grey Lock retired from the area and killed men at Deerfield, Northfield, and Westfield over the summer. In response to the raids, Dummer ordered more soldiers for Northfield, Brookfield, Deerfield and Sunderland.[25]

On July 17 at Spurwick, one New Englander was killed and one native.[26]

During this campaign, assisted by the Mi'kmaq from Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, the natives also engaged in a naval campaign. In just a few weeks they had captured twenty-two vessels, killing 22 New Englanders and taking more prisoner (p. 127). They also made an unsuccessful siege of St. George's Fort.

To defend against Gray Lock attacks at Northfield and Rutland, the English built Fort Dummer, near present-day Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1724.[27]

Battle of Norridgewock

In the second half of 1724, the New Englanders launched an aggressive campaign up the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers. Never before had the New Englanders been so successful in penetrating Abenaki lands.[28]

On August 22, 1724, Captains Jeremiah Moulton and Johnson Harmon led 200 rangers to the main Abenaki village on the Kennebec River, Norridgewock, Maine, to kill Father Sébastien Rale and destroy the settlement. There were 160 Abenaki, many of whom chose to flee rather than fight. At least 31 chose to fight, which allowed the others to escape. Most of the defenders were killed.[29] Rale was killed in the opening moments of the battle, a leading chief was killed, and the rangers massacred nearly two dozen women and children.[30] The English had casualties of two militiamen and one Mohawk.[31] Harmon destroyed the Abenaki farms, and those who had escaped were forced to abandon their village and moved northward to the Abenaki village of Odanak, Quebec.[32]

After Norridgewock, the natives settled at St. Francis and Becancour.[33]

Raid on Winnipiscogee Lake

On December 10, 1724, Captain John Lovewell along with a company of rangers killed two Abenakis.[34]

Lovewell and his militia company (often called "snowshoe men") of 30 men left Dunstable, New Hampshire on their first expedition in December of 1724, trekking to the north of Lake Winnipesaukee ("Winnipiscogee Lake") into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. On December 19, 40 miles (64 km) north of Winnipesaukee, the troop came upon a wigwam, where they killed and scalped an Abenaki man and took an Abenaki boy captive in response to the abduction of two men from Dunstable and the ambush and killing of eight others by Abenaki warriors. The company was paid 200 pounds for the scalp (150 pounds plus 50 pounds over and above).

1725 campaign

Battle of Wakefield

In February 1725, Lovewell made a second expedition to the area and killed another ten Indians near Lake Winnipesaukee.[34]

On February 20 they came across a recently inhabited wigwam and followed tracks for some five miles. On the banks of a pond at the head of the Salmon Falls River in the present town of Wakefield, New Hampshire they came upon more wigwams with smoke rising from them. Some time after 2:00 AM Lovewell gave the order to fire. A short time later ten Indians lay dead. The Indians were said to have had numerous extra blankets, snowshoes, moccasins, a few furs and new French muskets, which would seem to indicate that they were on their way to attack frontier settlements. Preventing such an attack is probably the true success of this expedition.

Early in March Lovewell's troops arrived in Boston. They paraded their Indian scalps through the streets, Lovewell himself wearing a wig made of Indian scalps. The bounty paid was 1000 pounds (100 per scalp).

Raid on Fryeburg

During his last expedition, Lovewell died in a fight against the Pequawket tribe at Fryeburg, Maine, on May 8, 1725.

The third expedition consisted of only 46 men and left from Dunstable on April 16, 1725. They built a fort at Ossipee and left 10 men, including the doctor and John Goffe, to garrison the fort while the rest left to raid the Abenaki town of Pequawket, now Fryeburg. On May 9, as the militiamen were being led in prayer by chaplain Jonathan Frye, a lone Abenaki warrior was spotted. Lovewell's men waited until the warrior was close and fired at him but missed. The Abenaki returned fire, killing Lovewell. Ensign Seth Wyman, Lovewell's second in command, killed the warrior with the next shot. Chaplain Frye then scalped the dead Indian. The militia had left their packs a ways back so as to be unencumbered by them in battle. Two returning war parties of Abenaki led by Paugus and Nat found them and waited in ambush for the returning militia. Eight men were killed in the first volley by the Indian warriors. The battle continued for more than 10 hours until Ensign Wyman killed the Indian war chief Paugus. With the death of Paugus the rest of the Indians soon vanished into the forest. Only 20 of the militiamen survived the battle; three died on the retreat home. The Abenaki losses except for Paugus are unknown. The Abenaki deserted the town of Pequawket after the battle and fled to Canada.

In September 1725, a scouting party of six men was sent out from Fort Dummer. Grey Lock and 14 others ambushed them just west of the Connecticut River – killing two and wounding and capturing three others. One man escaped, while two Indians were killed.[35]

Nova Scotia theatre

The first battle of Dummer's War happened in the Nova Scotia theatre.[3] In response to the blockade of Annapolis Royal, New England launched a campaign to end the blockade at the end of July 1722, and retrieved over 86 New England prisoners taken by the natives. One of these operations resulted in the Battle at Winnepang (Jeddore Harbour), in which 35 natives and five New Englanders were killed.[36] Only five native bodies were recovered from the battle, and the New Englanders decapitated the corpses and set the severed heads on pikes surrounding Canso's new fort.[37]

In 1723, the village of Canso was raided again by the Mi'kmaq, who killed five fishermen. In this same year, the New Englanders built a twelve-gun blockhouse to guard the village and fishery.[38]

The worst moment of the war for Annapolis Royal came on 4 July 1724 when a group of sixty Mi'kmaq and Maliseets raided the capital. They killed and scalped a sergeant and a private, wounded four more soldiers, and terrorized the village. They also burned houses and took prisoners.[39] The British responded by executing one of the Mi'kmaq hostages on the same spot the sergeant was killed. They also burned three Acadian houses in retaliation.[40] As a result of the raid, three blockhouses were built to protect the town. The Acadian church was moved closer to the fort so that it could be more easily monitored.[41]

In 1725, sixty Abenakis and Mi'kmaq launch another attack on Canso destroying two houses and killing six people.[42]


On 31 July 1725, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Dummer announced a cessation of arms.[43] Negotiations began in Boston on 11 November, and peace treaties were signed in Maine on 15 December 1725 and on 15 June 1726 in Nova Scotia.

Unlike the Abenaki in Maine, the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet of Nova Scotia refused to declare themselves British subjects.[44] The war had been as much a native victory as it was a British one. The British were forced to acknowledge that the natives had a right to possess their land.[45]

The goal of the colonies was less the defeat of the aboriginal populations than influencing the Wabanaki to become allies of the British king and enemies of the French.[46]

The peace in Nova Scotia would last for eighteen years.[47]

See also


  • William Durkee Williamson. The history of the state of Maine: from its first discovery, A.D ..., Volume 2. 1832.
  • Haynes, Mark. The Forgotten Battle: A History of the Acadians of Canso/ Chedabuctou. British Columbia: Trafford. 2004
  • John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire. University of Oklahoma Press. 2008
  • William Wicken. Mi'kmaq Treaties on Trial. University of Toronto Press. 2002.
  • John Mack Faragher. A Great and Noble Scheme. New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005.
  • William Wicken. "Mi'kmaq Decisions: Antoine Tecouenemac, the Conquest, and the Treaty of Utrecht". In John Reid et al. (eds). The Conquest of Acadia, 1710: Imperial, Colonial and Aboriginal Constructions. University of Toronto Press. 2004.
  1. ^ Hatch, Louis Clinton (ed.) (1919). Maine: A History. American Historical Society. p. 53. http://books.google.com/books?id=EcUMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA53. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  2. ^ William Wicken uses the latter name to refer to the war. See Wicken, 2002, p. 71.
  3. ^ a b The Nova Scotia theatre of the Dummer War is named the "Mi'kmaq-Maliseet War" by John Grenier. The Far Reaches of Empire: War in Nova Scotia 1710-1760. University of Oklahoma Press. 2008.
  4. ^ William Wicken, 2002, p. 72.
  5. ^ William Wicken. "Mi'kmaq Decisions: Antoine Tecouenemac, the Conquest, and the Treaty of Utrecht". In John Reid et al (eds). The Conquest of Acadia, 1710: Imperial, Colonial and Aboriginal Constructions. University of Toronto Press. 2004. p. 96.
  6. ^ William Wicken, p. 96. Wicken acknowledges, however, that while France was not officially involved, the French did offer material support for the Wabanaki. See Mi'kmaq Treaties on Trial, University of Toronto, 2002, p.73.
  7. ^ The history of the state of Maine: from its first discovery, A.D ..., Volume 2, by William Durkee Williamson. 1832. p.88, 97.
  8. ^ John Grenier, The Far Reaches of Empire. University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, p. 51, p. 54.
  9. ^ Faragher, p. 163
  10. ^ John Grenier, p. 55
  11. ^ Grenier, p. 55; William Williamson, p. 114
  12. ^ Grenier, p. 59; William Williamson, p. 115
  13. ^ William Williamson, p. 116
  14. ^ Grenier, p. 56
  15. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia or Acadia, p. 399
  16. ^ Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia or Acadia, p. 399. William Wicken notes that between June 25 and 24 September 1722, the three Boston newspapers printed thirteen separate stories describing violent altercations along the east coast of mainland Nova Scotia. See Wicken, 2002, p. 83.
  17. ^ Carr, James Revell (2008-10-14). Seeds of discontent: the deep roots of the American Revolution, 1650-1750. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 134. ISBN 9780802715128. http://books.google.com/books?id=HRR_j-glWhMC&pg=PA134. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  18. ^ a b William Williamson, p. 119
  19. ^ (William Williamson, p. 120)
  20. ^ a b (William Williamson, p. 123)
  21. ^ The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800: War, Migration, and the Survival... p. 117
  22. ^ a b The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800: War, Migration, and the Survival... p. 119
  23. ^ a b c (William Williamson, p. 125)
  24. ^ William Williamson, p.126.
  25. ^ William Williamson, p. 121
  26. ^ (p. 127)
  27. ^ A history of the town of Northfield, Massachusetts: for 150 years, with an... Josiah Howard Temple, p. 195
  28. ^ William Wicken. Mi'kmaq Treaties on Trial. p. 80
  29. ^ William Wicken, 2002, p. 80
  30. ^ John Grenier, p. 84
  31. ^ The Boston authorities gave a reward for the scalps, and Harmon was promoted. Harmon was known for his bloodthirsty attitude towards the Indians. In 1715, male members of the Harmon family massacred Native Americans at a pow-wow in York, Maine. The local minister, Samuel Moody, stated that God would punish the Harmons so that there would be no more males to carry on the name.
  32. ^ William Wicken, 2002, p. 81
  33. ^ The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600-1800: War, Migration, and the Survival ...p. 123 –
  34. ^ a b John Grenier, p. 65
  35. ^ William Williamson, p. 126
  36. ^ Beamish Murdoch. A history of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie, Volume 1, p. 399
  37. ^ Geoffrey Plank, An Unsettled Conquest, p. 78
  38. ^ Benjamin Church, p. 289; John Grenier, p. 62
  39. ^ Faragher, John Mack, A Great and Noble Scheme. New York; W. W. Norton & Company, 2005, pp. 164-165.
  40. ^ Brenda Dunn, p. 123
  41. ^ Brenda Dunn, pp. 124-125
  42. ^ Haynes, p. 159
  43. ^ William Wicken, 2002, p. 83
  44. ^ John Grenier, p. 70
  45. ^ John Grenier, p. 71
  46. ^ William Wicken, 2002, p. 87
  47. ^ John Faragher, p. 167

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