Mayflower : A Story of Courage, Community, and War

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 5/9/2006
  • Publisher: Viking Adult

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That simple question launches acclaimed author Nathaniel Philbrick on an extraordinary journey to understand the truth behind our most sacred national myth: the voyage of the Mayflower and the settlement of Plymouth Colony. As Philbrick reveals in this electrifying new history of the Pilgrims, the story of Plymouth Colony was a fifty-five year epic that began in peril and ended in war. New England erupted into a bloody conflict that nearly wiped out the English colonists and natives alike. These events shaped the existing communities and the country that would grow from them. Book jacket.

Author Biography

Nathaniel Philbrick is the author of the acclaimed international bestseller In the Heart of the Sea and Sea of Glory: The Epic South Seas Expedition,1838-1842.

Table of Contents

List of Maps xi
Preface: The Two Voyages xiii
Part I Discovery
ONE They Knew They Were Pilgrims
TWO Dangerous Shoals and Roaring Breakers
THREE Into the Void
FOUR Beaten with Their Own Rod
FIVE The Heart of Winter
SIX In a Dark and Dismal Swamp
SEVEN Thanksgiving
Part II Accommodation
EIGHT The Wall
NINE A Ruffling Course
Part III Community
TEN One Small Candle
ELEVEN The Ancient Mother
TWELVE The Trial
Part IV War
THIRTEEN Kindling the Flame
FOURTEEN The God of Armies
FIFTEEN In a Strange Way
SIXTEEN The Better Side of the Hedge
EPILOGUE Conscience 345(14)
Acknowledgments 359(4)
Notes 363(52)
Bibliography 415(30)
Index 445(17)
Picture Credits 462


Preface: The Two Voyages We all want to know how it was in the beginning. From the Big Bang to the Garden of Eden to the circumstances of our own births, we yearn to travel back to that distant time when everything was new and full of promise. Perhaps then, we tell ourselves, we can start to make sense of the convoluted mess we are in today.But beginnings are rarely as clear-cut as we would like them to be. Take, for example, the event that most Americans associate with the start of the United States: the voyage of the Mayflower. Weive all heard at least some version of the story: how in 1620 the Pilgrims sailed to the New World in search of religious freedom; how after drawing up the Mayflower Compact, they landed at Plymouth Rock and befriended the local Wampanoags, who taught them how to plant corn and whose leader or sachem, Massasoit, helped them celebrate the First Thanksgiving. From this inspiring inception came the United States. Like many Americans, I grew up taking this myth of national origins with a grain of salt. In their wide- brimmed hats and buckled shoes, the Pilgrims were the stuff of holiday parades and bad Victorian poetry. Nothing could be more removed from the ambiguities of modern- day America, I thought, than the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. But, as I have since discovered, the story of the Pilgrims does not end with the First Thanksgiving. When we look to how the Pilgrims and their children maintained more than fifty years of peace with the Wampanoags and how that peace suddenly erupted into one of the deadliest wars ever fought on American soil, the history of Plymouth Colony becomes something altogether new, rich, troubling, and complex. Instead of the story we already know, it becomes the story we need to know. In 1676, fifty-six years after the sailing of the Mayflower, a similarly named but far less famous ship, the Seaflower, departed from the shores of New England. Like the Mayflower, she carried a human cargo. But instead of 102 potential colonists, the Seaflower was bound for the Caribbean with 180 Native American slaves. The governor of Plymouth Colony, Josiah Winslowoson of former Mayflower passengers Edward and Susanna Winslowohad provided the Seafloweris captain with the necessary documentation. In a certificate bearing his official seal, Winslow explained that these Native men, women, and children had joined in an uprising against the colony and were guilty of imany notorious and execrable murders, killings, and outrages.i As a consequence, these iheathen malefactorsi had been condemned to perpetual slavery. The Seaflower was one of several New England vessels bound for the West Indies with Native slaves. But by 1676, plantation owners in Barbados and Jamaica had little interest in slaves who had already shown a willingness to revolt. No evidence exists as to what happened to the Indians aboard the Seaflower, but we do know that the captain of one American slave ship was forced to venture all the way to Africa before he finally disposed of his cargo. And so, over a half century after the sailing of the Mayflower, a vessel from New England completed a transatlantic passage of a different sort. The rebellion referred to by Winslow in the Seafloweris certificate is known today as King Philipis War. Philip was the son of Massasoit, the Wampanoag leader who greeted the Pilgrims in 1621. Fifty-four years later, in 1675, Massasoitis son went to war. The fragile bonds that had held the Indians and English together in the decades since the sailing of the Mayflower had been irreparably broken. King Philipis War lasted only fourteen months, but it changed the face of New England. After fifty-five years of peace, the lives of Native and English peoples had become so intimately intertwined that when fighting broke out, many of the regionis Indians found themselves, in the words of a contemporary chronicler,

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