The latest colonial war raged on several fronts, with battles erupting at the French/English borderlands in Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nova Scotia. In Maine, soldiers trekked constantly between the forts in Brunswick and Richmond, both owned by the Pejepscot Proprietors. Always there was the danger of surprise attack by the Wabanaki and their allies.
Even proximity to the forts was no guarantee of safety. On March 22nd, 1724, Andrew Dunning Jr and his brother Robert were crossing the Androscoggin River, at Mason’s Rock near Fort George, when they were shot and killed. Their bodies were recovered and then buried at the increasingly crowded graveyard alongside the fort.
The previous winter, English soldiers had tried twice more to capture Sébastien Rale, the French missionary at Norridgewock. Finally, Maine-born cousins, Captains Johnson Harmon and Jeremiah Moulton, led more than 200 men from Fort Richmond to Norridgewock. This time, Wabanaki scouts were unable to warn Rale.
English and French accounts of what happened August 23rd, 1724 differ widely in details, each group twisting the tale to their own political needs:
The English recorded that Jeremiah Moulton ordered Rale seized alive. According to Capt. Harmon, the Catholic rabble-rouser was “huddling in his house trying to load his gun” when English lieutenant Richard Jacques ordered him to come out. When Rale replied that he would “neither give quarter nor take it,” Jaques responded by kicking open the door. Then, against Moulton’s orders, Jaques shot Rale in the head. The lieutenant seems to have suffered no punishment for disobeying his superior officer, perhaps because the English were pleased to be rid of Rale, or because Jaques was Capt. Harmon’s son-in-law.
The Jesuits sketch a scene in which Rale went out into the village center, alone, hoping to draw attention away from the Wabanaki so that they might escape. He was “ shot down without mercy at the foot of the giant cross in the middle of the mission.” Though Rale had never intended it, he had become a martyr in the cause of Catholicism.
Both sides agreed that the English disrespected Rale’s body, culminating with his scalping.
That day English soldiers also killed Obomsawin, the Wabanaki leader who had been a thorn in their sides since King William’s War thirty years earlier. They also killed Obomsawin’s immediate family: his wife; as well as their daughter, and her husband, and children.
All told, the English and Ulster Scot soldiers “massacred nearly two dozen women and children.” They also burned the Wabanaki farms, effectively destroying the village. Native survivors moved north to St. Francis (Aroostook County, Maine) or Becancour (Quebec).
Col. Harmon, as had been his practice when he fought at York years earlier, brought physical proof of his successful raid to Boston–four prisoners of war and the scalps of twenty-six dead enemies, including Father Sebastien Rale. The prisoners were valuable to colonial forces for their information and for future use as bargaining chips. The scalps, though, were valuable to Harmon’s company for the bounty paid for each one.
The Mainers’ success at Norridgewock encouraged other English soldiers to collect scalping bounties. One such man was Capt. John Lovewell who led three raids on New Hampshire and Maine Wabanaki. The first two raids were successful, netting the soldiers £1200. They celebrated their win by parading through Boston, led by Lovewell who wore a wig fashioned from some of the scalps.
Lovewell’s third expedition brought him to what is now Fryeburg, Maine, home to the Pequawket tribe. On May 9, 1725, while Lovewell and his men chased a lone Wabanaki through the woods, Pequawket leader Paugus set up an ambush. Ultimately, after a daylong battle, Paugus and Lovewell were both dead and only seventeen English soldiers out of the original forty-six made it back to their fort in Ossipee, New Hampshire.
Meanwhile, perhaps thanks to military patrols, Merrymeeting Bay had been quiet for nearly a year. Then, on April 13th, Private James Cochran, who was stationed at Maquoit, went hunting for birds on the nearby marsh. There, two Wabankis captured the young Ulster Scot and took him by canoe to Ten-Mile Falls (Lisbon).
Private Cochran spent the first night tied up, expecting to be killed as soon as Native reinforcements arrived. T he second night, the Wabanaki soldiers untied Cochran, and placed him between them to sleep. As soon as the guards fell asleep, Cochran tried to escape, waking one of his captors. Since each Native kept “his hatchet under his head and his gun by his side,” the terrified Cochran quickly changed his movement, pretending to warm himself. Satisfied, his guard slept once more.
Cochran, heart in his throat, hardly daring to breathe, waited. Once all was quiet, he pulled the hatchet from the newly sleeping man and killed him. When the second guard awoke, Cochran killed him, too. He scalped both men as proof of kill and commandeered their guns and hatchets.
Then he ran for his life.
When he forded a cold river high from spring melt and rain, Cochran lost a gun and the scalp of one Wabanaki soldier. Finally, exhausted, wet, and cold, he arrived on the Topsham bank of the Androscoggin, in view of Fort George. The soldiers, hearing his cry for help, launched a boat to bring him across to the fort.
The fort’s commander, Capt. Gyles, sent out a search party who found the dead men and their canoe up river. They brought the canoe back to Brunswick, but there is no record of whether or not they buried the two Wabanaki soldiers.
James Cochran was “both rewarded for his bravery and promoted in his rank.” Sometime after war’s end, he left for Londonderry, New Hampshire, where he became a farmer, and lived to be eighty-five.
Next Blog: Beyond the Grave: Alternative Facts
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- Yale Indian Papers Project: Bomazeen, – 1724. http://yipp.yale.edu/bio/bibliography/bomazeen-1724 Accessed May 18, 2017.