The slab that marks the mass grave is about 400 feet south of the monument that memorializes the event. The Massachusetts Historical Commission does not refer to this mass grave in MACRIS.
The Battle of Bloody Brook took place during King Philip's War, a conflict between certain Native American tribes and colonists in New England in 1675 and 1676. The conflict is named for King Philip, also called Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoag. He was one of several Native American leaders who led warriors from various tribes. The war was touched off by the killing of a John Sassamon, a liaision between the colonists and the Wampanoag, but it followed decades of expanding colonial settlements and challenges by displaced Native Americans.
In June 1675 a gruesome cycle began. Colonists and Native Americans burned one another's settlements. Loyalties of tribes and individual Native Americans shifted, and mistrust fed on itself. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settlers grew so suspicious of Native Americans that they exiled some who still claimed to be their friends. Many colonists stopped believing the sincerity of the "praying Indians," who had converted to Christianity. (In Connecticut, colonists managed to keep somewhat better alliances with Native American tribes, and they enjoyed more safety.)
In the summer, Native Americans who opposed the expansion of colonial settlements tasted victory in attacks on villages in Massachusetts. Assaults drove settlers to abandon their homes in September. They gathered in the blockhouse at Deerfield. Lacking food for winter, the settlers dispatched some eighteen teamsters, under the guard of Captain Thomas Lothrop and about seventy newly recruited soldiers, to retrieve a gathered harvest of grain from their fields.
The men loaded the harvest without incident and possibly began to feel too safe. On September 18, 1675, they attempted to haul the grain back to Deerfield. After traveling some distance, the convoy stopped to rest. The inexperienced soldiers laid their firearms in the carts of grain and picked some wild grapes nearby to eat.
Unbeknown to Lothrop, his soldiers, and the teamsters, a much larger force of hostile Native Americans had been shadowing them. While the colonial troops rested, the Native Americans attacked. As many as ninety colonial soldiers and teamsters were killed. Many, but not all, of their names have been preserved.
Most of the dead were young men, and many were unmarried and childless. Among the teamsters, a father and three of his sons perished. Captain Lothrop, about 65 years old, had no biological children, although probate documents by his widow, Bethiah Lothrop, name an "adopted daughter Sarah Gott."
The battle took place near Deerfield Village on the banks of Muddy Brook, afterward called Bloody Brook. The dead soldiers and teamsters were buried in a mass grave nearby. The bloodshed led the remaining settlers swiftly to abandon Deerfield. For years after the war's end, settlers' attempts to reclaim the land provoked attacks by Native Americans. The settlers gradually prevailed.
The mass grave was marked in 1838 with a flagstone bearing Lothrop's name and an inscription about the event; the site was excavated beforehand to confirm the presence of remains. A taller monument to the tragedy was later erected nearby. The grave, monument, and site of battle are located in South Deerfield, Franklin County, western Massachusetts.
According to Eben Putnam, Lothrop's men were "almost entirely from the county of Essex," which borders the Atlantic coast. This is why fishermen and ship's carpenters are found among the dead of this battle to defend farm settlements along the western frontier. The teamsters, on the other hand, mainly lived in the newly settled area in and around Deerfield.
SURVIVORS. Most of the colonial soldiers at Bloody Brook died and were buried in the mass grave. Find A Grave member Ken - TN has compiled the following list of survivors: Henry Bodwell, Robert Dutch, John Stebbins, John Toppan, and Thomas Very.
A few sources:
Thanks to Find A Grave member Ken - TN for his dedication to researching the soldiers who fought at Bloody Brook and in other battles of the colonial era
History of Deerfield, Sheldon, 1895, v I, pp 16, 40, 43
Report of the Committee Appointed to Revise the Soldiers' Record, Danvers (Mass.), Committee Appointed to Revise the Soldiers' Record, Eben Putnam, 1895, esp pp 94-95
King Philip's War. Ellis, George W., and Morris, John E., 1906
History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts. Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett, 1879
Note from reader, New England Historical and Genealogical Register, v 25, p 435
Soldiers in King Philip's War. Bodge, George Madison, 1906
"Great fights in early New England History. III. The battle of Bloody Brook." Bruce, H. Addington. The New England Magazine, v 40, no 3, May 1909
"King Philip's War—The Battle of Bloody Brook," Goss, E. H. Potter's American Monthly, vols iv and v, 1875
GPS Coordinates: 42.48197, -72.60386
- Added: 22 Mar 2010
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #2347043
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