Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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UNCAS, Indian chief, born in the Pequot settlement, Connecticut, about 1588; died there in 1682. He was a Pequot by birth, but rebelled against his chief, Sassacus, was expelled from his tribe, and, gathering a band of malcontents, became their head, calling his followers Mohegans, an ancient title that the Pequots once bore. His territory lay to the east and north of Lyme, Connecticut He conquered the Nipmucks in northern and northeastern Connecticut and the adjacent parts of Massachusetts, adding their country to his own. He then made overtures to the colonists, signed a treaty of peace with them, and in 1637 accompanied Colonel John Mason's expedition against the Pequots, proving a powerful auxiliary. He afterward received part of the Pequot lands as his reward, but, when the war was over, manifested so much sympathy for his former tribe that he was suspected of infidelity by the English. He soon reinstated himself in their confidence, and the Pequots forthwith attempted to assassinate him. Uncas accordingly attacked and conquered Sequasson, sachem of the Connecticut river, and bravely defended himself in a constant warfare with the neighboring tribes. His principal opponent at that time was the great Narragansett chief Miantonomo, who, jealous of his intimacy with the colonists, and eager to prove the superiority of his people to the Mohegans, invaded Uncas's territory with 1,000 men. He was incited to this by Samuel Gorton, a settler, who for "his damnable errors" had been banished from the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies. Hastily collecting all his force, about 500 warriors, Uncas marched to the unequal conflict. The armies met on the plain about a mile west of Yantic river falls, and the fight was about to begin when Uncas advanced and demanded a parley with Miantonomo. "You have," said he, "a number of brave warriors with you, and so have I with me. It is a pity that our warriors should be killed in a private quarrel between their chiefs. Step forward like a brave man, as you profess to be, and let us fight the battle ourselves. If I fall, the Mohegans shall serve the Narragansetts. But if Uncas kills Miantonomo the Narragansetts shall be mine." Miantonomo declined the single combat, a furious fight ensued in which the Mohega, ns were victorious, and Miantonomo was captured. Uncas took him to Hartford to consult with the colonial authorities as to what should be done with him. The commissioners decided that "there could be no safety for Uncas in the event of Miantonomo's liberation, but that by secret treachery or open force his life would be in continual danger." Six elders and six clergymen of Massachusetts decided that the Narragansett chief should be put to death. Acting on their instructions. Miantonomo was taken to Norwich and brained with a tomahawk by Uncas's brother, in his presence and that of two Englishmen, in September, 1643. Reverend Richard Hyde in 1669 said in a letter that after Miantonomo's death Uncas cut a piece out of his shoulder and ate it, but this had no authority but rumor. The colonists sent a detachment of soldiers to defend the Mohegans against the tribes that on all sides combined against them. For two years Uncas fought against the Mohawks, Pocomotocks, and Narragansetts, defending himself with bravery and skill. In 1656 he was besieged in his stronghold on Connecticut river by the Narragansett chief Pessacus, and nearly forced by hunger to surrender, but almost at the last moment he was relieved by an English ensign, Thomas Leffingwell, who managed to reach him at night in a canoe laden with provisions. In gratitude for this assistance, he gave Leffingwell a deed of all the lands upon which the town of Norwich, Connecticut, now stands. Leffingwell afterward sold it to a company. Although Uncas was too old to be of much service during King Philip's war, his son, Oneco, with 200 Mohegan warriors and a greater number of subjugated Pequots, marched with Major John Talcott to Brook-field and Hadley, and at the latter place aided in defeating 700 of King Philip's force. Uncas was never in favor with the clergy, by one of whom in 1674 he is described as " an old and wicked, wilful man, who had always been an opposer of praying to God." But on one occasion he so far yielded to the influence of a good missionary as to ask his prayers for rain during a continued drought. When it fell the next day, he professed himself almost ready to adopt the Christian religion. Although he was cruel and tyrannical, Uncas had a conception of the obligation of a treaty that was possessed by no other Indian. He kept faith with the colonists in all their warfare with other tribes, and was a singularly generous and magnanimous foe. His admirers claim that great injustice has been done him by historians, who almost unanimously praise Miantonomo at his expense. A granite obelisk was erected to his memory in Norwich in 1825, the foundation-stone being laid by General Andrew Jackson. See " Uncas and Miantonomo," by William L. Stone (New York, 1842).
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