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Kieft's War - 1643-45

The colony of New York was founded in 1623, when the territory was called New Netherland.” When Peter Minuit” arrived as governor, in May, 1626, he purchased of the Indians, for about twenty-four dollars, the whole of the island of Manhattan, on which the city of New York now stands," and began vigorously to perfect the founding of a state similar to those of Holland. He erected a strong fortification near the site of the present Battery.

To encourage emigration to New Netherland, the Dutch West India Company’ offered [1629] large tracts of land and certain privileges to those persons who should lead or send a given number of emigrants to occupy and till the soil. Directors of the Company availed themselves of the privilege, and sent Wouter Van Twiller to examine the country and select the lands. Immigrants came; and then were laid the foundations of the most noted of the manorial estates of New York. The proprictors were called patroons, or patrons.

Van Twiller was appointed governor in 1633, and after a rather quiet administration, he was succeeded in 1638 by Sir William Kieft, a haughty, rapacious, and unscrupulous man, who soon brought serious trouble upon the colony. He sought to make his own will the supreme law; and he treated the people with disdain. His turbulent spirit soon led him into strife with the Swedes on the Delaware," the English on the Connecticut, the Indians all around him, and the colonists at his door.

At length the murmurs against him were too loud not to be heeded by him. He had determined to make war upon the neighboring Indians, but thought it prudent to consult some of the leading men. He called a meeting of the heads of twelve families in New Amsterdam, in August, 1641, and these, on the 29th of that month, chose “twelve select men,” who were opposed to Kieft's war projects. They also talked freely about the grievances of the people; and the governor, alarmed by this appearance of the democratic principle, dissolved them in February, 1642. Released from the restraint imposed by these representatives of the people, the governor made war upon the Indians. With cruel treachery he caused an attack to be made upon some at Hoboken, who had craved his protection from savage foes. The Hollanders and some Mohawk warriors fell upon them at midnight [February, 1643], and before the dawn almost one hundred men, women, and children had perished. This atrocity created an intense thirst for revenge among the savages. The frontier settlements were devastated, and for a while the very existence of the Dutch colony was in peril.

The records contain a memorandum of the peace concluded with the Long Island Indians immediately following the visit to Rockaway on March 4, 1643. "Whereas some troubles and misunderstandings have arisen between the Indians of Long Island and our nation, whereby on both sides blood has been shed, houses destroyed and bumed, cattle slaughtered and the Indians maize plundered. Therefore between us and them, who now already resort under the great _chief Pennawitz, a peace has been concluded and all injuries are forgotten and forgiven, all our good inhabitants are, then, hereby ordered and commanded, as we do hereby order and command them, to observe said peace in every respect,"

The peace was temporary. Apparently the Indians had no faith in Kieft. If Kieft had earned the detestation of the Dutch colonists, he was even more hated by the savages.

One of Kieft’s most shocking acts in this “war” was the massacre at Pavonia. Brodhead says, under date of 1643: “During the night between the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth of February, the tragedy which Kieft and his coadjutors had been meditating, was terribly accomplished. Crossing over to Pavonia, Rodolf cautiously led his force of eighty soldiers to the encampment of the refugee Tappans, near the bouweries of Bout and Wouterssen. About midnight, while the savages were quietly sleeping in fancied security from their Mohawk subjugators, the murderous attack commenced. The noise of muskets mingled with the shrieks of the terrified Indians. Neither age nor sex were spared. Warrior and squaw, sachem and child, mother and babe, were alike massacred. Daybreak scarcely ended the furious slaughter. Mangled victims, seeking safety in the thickets, were driven into the river; and parents, rushing to save their children whom the soldiers had thrown into the stream, were driven back into the waters, and drowned before the eyes of their unrelenting murderers. Eighty savages perished at Pavonia."

The theory that Penhawitz was the “enemy," and that it was his head that was brought back to Fort Amsterdam, will be developed as the story of Kieft’s war with the Indians progresses. As we shall see, the formal ending of that war followed less than three months after the return of this mysterious expedition in one of the Company's sloops, against an unnamed enemy. Under the theory that the expedition had been fitted out against the great chief Penhawitz, possibly with Captain Underhill himself in command, the significance of the granting of Bergen Island, Flatlands, to Underhill by Kieft, in part recompense of Underhill's “service in warre," will become apparent. The grant bore date May 14, 1646. This was well within the year following the final concluding of peace in the ending of Kieft’s war, and lacked only ten days of being the first anniversary of the appearing at Fort Amsterdam on May 24, 1645, of the Shinnecock Sachem and his forty-seven armed followers. and of the resolving by the Dutch authorities to fit out the expedition that apparently aided if it did not directly result in bringing the war to a close.

The Indians were finally subdued, and the cruel Kieft, the author of all the serious trouble in the colony, was recalled, and succeeded by Peter Stuyvesant, a just, prudent, honest, and energetic man. He arrived at New Amsterdam in May, 1647, and entered upon his duties with vigor. As a military leader, he had been accustomed to arbitrary rule. He was stern and inflexible, and could play the tyrant admirably when disposed to do so. Stuyvesant cultivated the friendship of the Indians, and treated his white neighbors with respect.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 18:29:41 ZULU