By Wayne Curtis
Shortly before dawn on the morning of May 26, 1637, a contingent of seventy-seven English soldiers accompanied by as many as 300 Native American allies quietly advanced upon a palisaded fort of the Pequot tribe, which sat atop a prominence about a half-mile west of a river in Mystic, Connecticut. The soldiers and their allies planned the attack ostensibly in retaliation for a Pequot attack on English settlers the previous month in Wethersfield. But this was also the culmination of months of skirmishes and part of a broader English effort to wrest control of the Northeastern colonial fur trade away from the Pequot and their Dutch allies. These conflicts marked the first of many sustained battles that would follow between Native Americans and the Europeans of the colonial era.
As dawn approached, the English rushed Mistick Fort, intending to surprise and overwhelm. They failed—more warriors had amassed than they’d anticipated—and they quickly pulled back, setting the palisades on fire. The fort was soon engulfed in flames, and an estimated 250 Pequots perished inside, including many women and children; another 150 were killed as they fled the fort and ran headlong into musket volleys.
Today, there’s no trace of the horror that unfolded here. The fort’s site is now a leafy suburb outside of Mystic, which is a popular stop on the New England tourist circuit.