The Pequot War of 1637

Maya Welch, Adam Richards
  • Author
    Maya Welch

    Maya Welch is an experienced and Massachusetts certified history teacher who spent over seven years teaching middle and high school. She earned her Masters degree from Fordham University in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelor of Arts from the College of the Holy Cross in History and Education. Maya has developed curriculum, learning experiences, and lesson plans for geography, ancient civilizations, US history, and government and civics.

  • Instructor
    Adam Richards

    Adam has a master's degree in history.

Learn about the controversial and costly Pequot War of 1637. Discover who won the Pequot War and the results of the devastating Pequot massacre of 1637. Updated: 01/26/2022

Table of Contents


Background of European Colonization in North America

The Age of Exploration in Europe marked a period where European countries sought new lands for God, gold, and glory. In the 17th century, explorers sailed the seas in search of resources, new trade routes, and land. France, Spain, the Netherlands, and England gained a presence in North America and established colonies across the continent.

European colonization caused tension between settlers and Native Americans whose land was being colonized after hundreds of years of indigenous occupation. The English established colonies along the Atlantic coast of North America with Jamestown in present-day Virginia becoming the first permanent English settlement. England continued to send settlers to North America, including the Puritans who sailed over in search of religious freedom and landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620 in present-day Massachusetts. As the colonial population grew, English settlements expanded and European colonizers established the Connecticut Colony.

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  • 0:02 Background of Pequot War
  • 1:22 English Expansion
  • 2:50 A Lopsided War
  • 4:04 Backlash and Legacy
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Who Were the Pequot?

The Pequot Nation occupied approximately 250 square miles of what is now southeastern Connecticut for thousands of years. The Pequots expanded their power at the beginning of the 17th century, bringing more tribes under their jurisdiction and establishing a confederacy of tribes in order to gain control of the fur and wampum trade. By 1635, the Pequots had expanded their control through war, diplomacy, and intermarriage. The Pequot were originally a single tribe with the Mohegan, with a population numbering around 6,000 in the early 17th century. However, their numbers were almost cut in half after two significant events, the Mohegan separating for their independence and the smallpox epidemic in 1633.

Wampum Belts. Wampum was also used as currency.

Examples of wampum belts that was a resource disputed over in Pequot and European tension

In the beginning, around 1620, there was a period when the Pequots and English colonists engaged in peaceful trade along with the Dutch who also had trade influences in the region. Other Native American tribes were resentful of Pequot control of trade and their relationship to the Dutch. However, as English colonists neared and encroached on Pequot land, tensions increased and so did Pequot resentment of the Europeans. Pequot territory was already reduced from its original boundaries, and growing tensions over the occupation of land and trade driven by Puritan expansion led to a larger conflict between the Pequots and the English settlers.

What Was the Pequot War?

What was the Pequot War? The Pequot War definition is described as the 17th-century conflict between the Pequots, English settlers, and other Native American tribes that allied with both sides. The war was the result of decades of tension between the Pequots and other Native American tribes in the region that was exacerbated by Dutch and English competition over trade.

What caused the Pequot War was the rising tension between English settlers and the Pequots over Pequot tribal lands and control of trade. The English wanted to intervene and dethrone Dutch-Pequot control of the fur and wampum trades in the region.

Pequot War Battles

When was the Pequot War? The Pequot War lasted from 1636 - 1638, though tension and fighting occurred before the official start of the war. The killing of a Boston trader on Block Island angered English settlers and a group of Massachusetts colonists went to retaliate.

Map of Pequot War Battle Sites

Pequot War Battle Sites Map; mainly across Connecticut

Warfare and combat of the Pequot War took place mainly in raids that were carried out between forces. After the Endicott Raid of soldiers from Massachusetts, the Pequot retaliated in a surprise attack at Saybrook, CT. Pequot forces attacked the encampment at Saybrook and destroyed fields, cattle, and warehouses. After that, the Pequots also attacked the Wethersfield, CT encampment, which was when English colonists determined they finally had grounds to declare war on the Pequot. The Connecticut Colony formally declared war on the Pequots in 1637.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the Pequot Massacre happen?

The Pequot Massacre was a military response from Pequot-initiated raids. The Narragansett and the Mohegan tribes, who were allied with the English and objected against Pequot power and influence, led English forces to the fortified Pequot village on the Mystic River.

Why was the Pequot War fought?

The Pequot War was fought over two predominant issues: trade and colonist expansion of territory. The Pequot were the leaders of a confederacy of native nations who formed to trade furs for European goods with the Dutch. The Dutch had a virtual monopoly on the fur trade until the 1630s when masses of English Puritans migrated to Massachusetts and Connecticut. The Dutch and Pequot fought the Puritans allied with the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes over control of the fur trade and land.

What was the result of the Pequot War?

The result of the Pequot War was the utter destruction of the Pequot Nation. The Pequots who survived the war were sent into slavery or forced to live with neighboring native nations. The Pequot War ended with the erasure of the Pequot tribe and tribal name.

Why did the Pequot attack a Connecticut village in 1637?

The Pequot laid siege to Saybrook, CT after the Endicott Raid committed by Massachusetts colonists. The attack was retaliation for what the Pequots viewed as an unprovoked attack of one of their villages.

What was the main cause of the Pequot War?

The main cause of the Pequot War was competition over control of trade and land. The English Puritans expanded into Pequot territory, which resulted in growing tension. The English also wanted stake in the fur and wampum trade in the region, which was already being controlled by the Dutch and the Pequot. The immediate causes include the killing of English traders and the deadly and violent raids from both sides that followed.

Who won the Pequot War?

The English Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Connecticut won the Pequot War. They completely eradicated the Pequot Nation and gained control over trade with native nations, diminishing Dutch influence in the area.

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