Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Abenaki War, First (1675–1678)

Abenaki War, First (1675–1678)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Abenaki Indians vs. English settlers

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Maine frontier


MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The Abenakis’ object was to counter English incursion into their lands.

OUTCOME: Although the English settlers remained in the region, colonial authorities promised annual tribute payments.



TREATIES: Untitled treaty of 1678

The Abenaki (or Abnaki) Indians lived in the border region between New England and New France and were often staunch allies of the French against the English. The Abenakis were not a single tribe, but a loosely confederated collection of Algonquian tribes (including the Penobscots, Kennebecs, Wawenocks, and Androscoggins of New England’s eastern frontier; the Pigwackets, Ossipees, and Winnipesaukes of the White Mountains; the Pennacooks of the Merrimack Valley; the Sokokis and Cowasucks in the upper Connecticut Valley; and the Missisquois and other groups in Vermont) broadcast throughout the region of present-day Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and southern Quebec. The English often referred to these tribes collectively as “the Eastern Indians.”

While friendly relations were established with the French at first contact by Samuel de Champlain during 1604–05, enmity between the Indians and the English developed simultaneously after English colonists abducted five Abenakis and shipped them to England. From this time forward the Abenakis allied themselves with the French and periodically fought against the English. Although some historians treat the First Abenaki War as part of KING PHILIP’S WAR, its action was sufficiently distant from the theater of that conflict to classify it separately.As English colonists made increasingly deeper incursions into Abenaki territory along the Maine border, the Abenakis conducted guerrilla warfare against outlying frontier settlements. In hit-and-run raids a number of settlers were taken captive and were either adopted into the tribe or sold to the French.

During the course of this conflict, the English defeated King Philip (d. 1676) and his geographically adjacent allies but failed to defeat the Abenakis. With outlying northern settlements terrorized and devastated, colonial authorities concluded a treaty with the Abenakis in 1678, pledging an annual tribute in return for permission to retain frontier settlements. The treaty brought no lasting peace, and the Abenaki War proved to be a prelude to other conflicts involving Abenaki warriors, who often fought under the command of French officers.


Further reading: Alan Axelrod, Chronicle of the Indian Wars: From Colonial Times to Wounded Knee (New York: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1993); Colin G. Calloway, The Western Abenakis of Vermont, 1600–1800 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990); Alan Gallay, ed., Colonial; Wars of North America 1512–1763 (New York: Garland, 1996); Mrs. Johnson, Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson (New York: Garland, 1990)

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