Pequot War of 1637: Summary & Timeline

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  • 0:02 Background of Pequot War
  • 1:22 English Expansion
  • 2:50 A Lopsided War
  • 4:04 Backlash and Legacy
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

Between 1636 and 1637, one of the first engagements between the Native Indians and the English Puritans transpired in the newly formed colony of Connecticut. Learn about the preliminary events, the conflict, and the outcome of the Pequot War.

Background of Pequot War

The decade of the 1630s in colonial America was a time of great migration and expansion. Each year produced a growing stream of English to the eastern shores of America. Massachusetts had been established as a powerful colony. Northern Connecticut was on the rise; however, land was becoming less available. In order to remedy this situation, the English, more specifically the Puritans (technically, for the sake of historical accuracy, this group should be called the New English Puritans to differentiate between colonial Puritans and those still in England), pursued territory in the southern Connecticut region, more specifically the Mystic River Valley. This was home to the Pequot Indians, and the expansion of the authoritative white settlers into the region was not welcomed by the Pequot.

War was inevitable. As the English began encroaching on the territory of the Pequot and establishing draconian policies, the Pequot Indians held their ground. Ultimately, the Pequot War of 1637 ensued. The battle raged for the entirety of 1637, with the Puritans utilizing small battalions, as well as the Narragansett and Mohegan Indians as proxy soldiers against the determined Pequot. The battle was largely lopsided, ending in an English Puritan victory.

English Expansion

As mentioned, the English looked to expand into southern Connecticut. The Mystic River Valley offered tremendous land benefits and a valuable river transport, not to mention it would enlarge the English sphere of influence and power. By mid-1636, the English moved into the region and quickly pursued policies and actions in the hope of driving the Pequot off of the land. Colonists required Pequot Indians to pay extortionate sums of wampum (the native form of currency), provide their children for labor, and surrender any individual who was accused of crimes against the English. Additionally, the English, led by John Endicott, launched a surprise attack on the Pequot at Block Island, Rhode Island.

The Pequot were willing to accept the new policies in order to remain within the Mystic River Valley; however, they viewed the Endicott raid as a provocation of war. In response to this encounter, the Pequot began organizing plans of guerrilla warfare against their adversary. Between the end of 1636 and April 1637, the Pequot attacked the English twice, resulting in burned homes and facilities, damaged farm land, and several casualties. The surprise attacks at Saybrook and Wethersfield, Connecticut, prompted an English response.

The English quickly organized small battalions of colonists, as well as employing the assistance of the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes, both of whom had a long rivalry with the Pequot. Relations had hit a melting point.

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