Nine Men’s Misery

Have you heard the story of Nine Men’s Misery? Few, but some locals have. The tale is an example of how bloody and brutal that author Russell Bourne has described as ‘The Red King’s Rebellion’ was. The conflict devastated both sides. For the settlers, it would affect them for decades. No one would venture the twenty mile boundary into the destroyed frontier settlements to rebuild for ten years. As for the other side, the English had vanquished an entire culture in blood and enslavement.

The settlers lived in constant fear because a war party could return. After rebuilding their homes and replanting their crops, they were ever fearful of the savagery similar to what occurred on March 26, 1676.

On this date, the English suffered one of the bloodiest losses of the war. It was so vicious that many towns of the United Colonies began refusing their men to fill the ranks of the militias. Smaller villages claimed that the war had already cost the lives of all of their men.

A war party comprising 300-500 warriors commanded by the sachem Canonchet had boldly run amuck the countryside, engaging the Plymouth Colony in a guerilla campaign, then slipping back into Rhode Island where they attacked and burned several homes.

A force comprising sixty-three men from Plymouth and twenty friendly Wampanoag under the Command of sixty-year-old Captain Michael Pierce departed Rehoboth in pursuit. Pierce was one of the principal commanders of the war, much like Benjamin Church. He was present at the Great Swamp Massacre, in command of troops from Plymouth Colony in December 1675. Relying upon his experience, they tasked Pierce to hunt the marauders down.

Having received intelligence that they were sighted near the town Seekonk, Pierce directed his search into that direction and then crossed into the Rhode Island Colony. After sometime Pierce reached where he believed that he had caught up with Canonchet’s in the Pawtucket area. As they reached a point above the Pawtucket Falls on the Blackstone River, his scouts spotted four or five warriors that appeared to spy them and then dart into cover. Pierce ordered an immediate pursuit.

When they followed the Indians into a ravine, the indians stopped as if they were injured. As Pierce approached, Canonchet’s full force of three hundred men befell them. With the ravine and trees behind them, and the river in front of them, Pierce and his men held and made their defense. Canonchet pressed them, but keeping the English in place.

Then Canonchet began to retreat. Slowly pulling back as they fired their weapons from cover behind the trees. Seeing this as their chance for escape, Pierce, with fifty-five surviving English and only ten Wampanoag left, left their cover and crossed the river to make a dash for safety and cover on the opposite bank.

Pierce and his men had retreated down river a scant distance downriver when their path was suddenly obstructed by another sizeable force of Narragansetts. The English turned to reverse direction, but they found that Canonchet had pushed forward to block them in a flanking position. They had fallen for Canonchet’s feint again. Pierce ordered his men back into the woods in the cover of the trees and into a ring, prepared to fight desperately to the end. The natives did not always kill. They had shown mercy many times by taking hostages to barter for food and blankets.

Such was not the fate for Pierce and his men. A great cry came from all who surrounded the ring of English, and a mass rushed in. By English account, the enemy surrounded and swarmed Pierce and his men. The desperate fight lasted for two hours as Pierce’s force bravely defended themselves until only ten remained. Canonchet took these men prisoner.

Nine of the prisoners were taken a distance away to where the Indians may have had a base camp. Here they were gruesomely tortured before they killed them. There is no account of the tenth man’s fate.

The remains of these nine colonists were buried together where they fell. This gravesite exists today on the lands of the Cumberland Monastery in Cumberland, Rhode Island. At this monastery, there are several unmarked paths in the woods. One can get a map of the trails from the Cumberland Library’s website. The trails are not marked, so you need this map to locate the gravesite.

In 1928, the Monks placed a memorial at the site. This site is also popular with lovers of the paranormal. The site and the surrounding trails are reported to be haunted.

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