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Mayflower : a story of courage, community, and war by Nathaniel Philbrick

mayflowerI expected this well-researched history to be worthy of my time, but rather boring.  Instead, I found the book so interesting that I read it like a novel!

The book goes far beyond the familiar story of the Pilgrims and Indians at the First Thanksgiving.  Did you know these interesting facts?

  • Many of the Mayflower’s passengers weren’t Pilgrims.  However, they were an important part of the community at Plymouth.
  • Before the arrival of the Mayflower, up to 90% of the local Indians had died from a plague brought by explorers.
  • The Englishmen got off to a bad start with the Indians by stealing some of their stored corn but the two groups later formed an alliance that worked well for years.
  • Early writers marveled at the height of the Indians and spoke highly of their intelligence but didn’t seem to notice their color.
  • The Indians didn’t dress like those in the pictures of the First Thanksgiving – in fact, they often wore no clothes at all!

Fifty years after the successful alliance between the Plymouth colony and the local Indian leaders, the story changed.  King Philip’s War broke out between the white men and Indians, “King” Philip being an Indian leader who considered himself the equal of King Charles II of England.  This war, which many of us never even heard of, ended in the deaths of almost 8% of the men of the Plymouth colony, making it much bloodier than the Civil War.  Southern New England lost 60 to 80% of its Indian population, including the Indians whom the English colonists shipped out of the country as slaves.  Sadly, the English colonists all too often considered all Indians as enemies, ignoring the fact that many Indians wanted to remain neutral.  Finally, the colonists recruited “friend Indians,” whose assistance was very important to their victory.

If you have any interest in early American history, read this book; you’ll be glad you did!

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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