Colonial

The Sudbury Fight: A Troop of Horse and The Marlborough Garrison

Part Two of Series

About mid-morning, the Marlborough soldier garrison troops under Captains Wadsworth and Brocklebank headed to Sudbury with between sixty and eighty men. It appears that they reached the present day Sudbury line when they heard some gunfire behind them.

Captain Cowell had arrived in Marlborough with a ‘troop of horse’ of about eighteen men. They were ambushed behind the garrison troops, about three miles from Sudbury. The garrison men responded to their aid, but not before four of Cowell’s men were killed.

Cowell remained to bury them, then apparently took the southern route over the Sudbury bridge near the present day Framingham line which was built by the town of Marlborough in 1663. This was the only other bridge that crossed the Sudbury River for miles. There was no bridge on today’s Boston Post Road.

Meanwhile, the garrison troops chased the small native force into Sudbury and into the wooded area between Green Hill and Goodman’s Hill. There were two forces of Indians in the area. One that was attacking Deacon Haynes garrison house on Water Row and the other that was holding off the more substantial English force from crossing the bridge on present day Old Sudbury Road.

When the Marlborough Garrison force reached the wooded area, these two forces abandoned their previous targets and came upon the Marlborough Garrison with full force. This caused the Watertown and Sudbury forces to believe that they had somehow broken through, for they were able to cross the bridge and were in full chase of the enemy. But when they reached the wooded area, the native force turned to face them and with their superior numbers caused the English to retreat to the Goodnow Garrison on today’s Route 20.

Meanwhile, the Marlborough Garrison force was in a world of hurt. Surrounded on three sides by natives, and their backs to the very steep Green Hill, they scrambled to the top of the hill where they had a strategic advantage. This advantage was short lived, however. The natives created a fire on the side of the hill which disoriented the English. Gasping for air, they sought to find refuge in the mill building to the southwest of Green Hill in the present day Mill Village on Route 20. The natives anticipated their flight, however, and as they descended the west side of the hill they were met by a force of Indians that cut them to pieces. Only a very small number reached the mill.

The top of Green Hill, Sudbury, MA.

Of the other English forces that day, twelve men came from Concord by boat, but as they approached the Haynes Garrison they were intercepted by natives and almost all were lost. As dusk approached, the two garrisons held those driven by force including the Watertown-Sudbury men and the few survivors of Green Hill. Captain Cowell also arrived but saw no more fighting. Captain Prentiss arrived from Charlestown with a troop of horse but also saw no fighting. Finally, a force of Praying Indians arrived just as the enemy was retreating. They spent their time burying the dead on Green Hill.

It is a mystery as to why the Indians retreated. It may be that their reluctance to attack another English garrison (the attack on the Haynes Garrison ended in failure) discouraged further fighting. But with the English trapped in the garrisons and unlikely to wander out, they would have had full rein to destroy the town. It may also be that the fighting had decimated their store of ammunition, leaving hand-to-hand fighting as the only option.

My favorite theory is that the arrival of the Praying Indians was a huge factor. The English never lost a battle when the Praying Indians were at their side. The Praying Indians were great warriors and had a perfect understanding of Indian tactics. Together with English firepower, the combination was unbeatable.

In any case, the enemy passed through Marlborough on their way back to Mount Wachusett and the few men left in Marlborough could hear them bragging about the numbers they had killed. They had penetrated to within twenty miles of Boston and put great fear into the English.

Next in the series: Indian Victory Spells Their Doom

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