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     Four RISEUP investigators chose to make a day outing to the site of the last stand of the Narragansett Indian tribe against the Colonists during King Phillip's War. While this excursion should in no way be misconstrued or misrepresented as an actual paranormal investigation, the reports of activity as well as the surviving legends that surround the location were of particular interest to us. While the trip was cut short because of inclement weather, we certainly plan to return to this beautiful, fascinating and historically significant locale sometime in the very near future.

 

Temperature: 72 degrees (outdoors)

      Weather: Cloudy/Rain

RISEUP Investigators Present:       Ken DeCosta

                                                                                                      David DeCosta                                                  

                                                      Chris Blanchette

                                                Jay McCray

                                                  

 

 

Geographical and Historical Data

 

 

 

     The Great Swamp covers a total land area of 3349 acres. Acreage is divided among the following cover types: wetlands (2262 acres), forest cover (897 acres), agricultural land (eighty-eight acres) and other lands (102 acres; brush, utilities etc.). The area contains extensive forested freshwater wetlands, dominated by red maple swamps with some cedar swamp.

     The Great Swamp at South Kingston, Rhode Island, was the site of the last stand of the Narragansett Indians in King Philip's War against the Colonists. In the bloody engagement which took place there on Sunday, December 19, 1675, troops from the Confederation of the United Colonies of New England including Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut and Rhode Island took part and because of the numbers participating, killed and wounded, the battle had been unequalled in New England up to that time. As a result of the battle, the military strength and resources of the most powerful Indian tribe in New England were broken forever.

     A fort in the Great Swamp had been built by the Narragansett Sachem, Canonchet, as a place of refuge. Because of its location on a small island of dry land in the midst of a great swamp, he no doubt considered it impregnable. It was, however, only partially completed and consisted of "pallisadoes stuck upright in a hedge of about a rod in thickness." Two fallen trees formed natural bridges which were the only entrances and the principal one was guarded by a block house. Inside the fort the stores, harvests and accumulated wealth of the Narragansetts had been brought and there asylum had been offered the aged and infirm and the women and children of the Wampanoags of King Philip.

     The United Colonies of New England declared war against the Narragansett Indians on November 2, 1675, charging them, among other things, with "relieving and succouring Wampanoag women and children and wounded men" and not delivering them to the English, and also because they "did in a very reproachful and blasphemous manner, triumph and rejoice" over the English defeat at Hadley. They voted to raise a thousand soldiers to be sent against the Narragansetts unless their sachems gave up the fugitive Wampanoags.

     The forces of the United Colonies under Governor Winslow marched across Rhode Island and on December 14 attacked the village of the Squaw Sachem Matantuck near Wickford and burned 150 wigwams, killing seven Indians and taking nine prisoners. The Narragansetts then began a guerrilla warfare, sniping Colonial troops wherever occasion offered.

     On the night of December 15 the Indians surrounded Jireh Bull's large stone house on Tower Hill and massacred all but two of the occupants. The smoldering ruins of the house were found by English scouts the next day. It is possible that the Indians had learned of a plan for the Connecticut contingent to join the other forces at this house and had destroyed it in order to handicap the colonies. Three days later the two English forces joined at Pettaquamscutt and planned to attack the Indians the next day.

     Ordinarily the swamp was practically impenetrable, as it is to this day, but due to the severe December weather the marshy ground had frozen and the English soldiers gained easy access to the island. The Indian outposts retreated into the fort where they were followed by the English. The terrible battle which then began took place amidst ice, snow, under brush and fallen trees.

     At first repulsed, the English continued the assault, though with heavy losses. They contested almost every foot of ground until the Narragansetts, also suffering many casualties, were driven gradually from their fort into the swamp and woods.

     Meanwhile, the English had set fire to the wigwams, some 600 in number, and flames swept through the crowded fort. The "shrieks and cries of the women and children, the yelling of the warriors, exhibited a most horrible and appalling scene, so that it greatly moved some of the soldiers. They were in much doubt and they afterwards seriously inquired whether burning their enemies alive could be consistent with humanity and the benevolent principle of the gospel," says one early account.

     The retreating Indians were driven from the woods about the fort, leaving the English a complete, though costly, victory. They had lost five captains and 20 men and had some 150 wounded that must be carried back to a house some ten miles distant. To the terrors of the battle and fire were added the bitter cold and blinding snow of a New England blizzard through which the English toiled back to Cocumcussa. The hardships of that march took a toll of 30 or 40 more lives. The Indians reported a loss of 40 fighting men and one sachem killed and some 300 old men, women and children burned alive in the wigwams.

     In 1906 a rough granite shaft about 20 feet high was erected by the Rhode Island Society of Colonial Wars to commemorate this battle. Around the mound on which the shaft stands are four roughly squared granite markers engraved with the names of the colonies which took part in the encounter and two tablets on opposite sides of the shaft give additional data.

 

-  Gerald H. Hyde, Inspector for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, December, 1938

 

Phenomena

     Many who reach the granite monument say they are overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness. Occasionally the surrounding forest will fall deathly and eerily silent. At times the piercing sounds of cries and screams will then follow this unnatural silence. Some visitors cannot bring themselves to venture into the area, even after driving long distances specifically to do so. Many who enter report an ominous feeling they are being watched.

     There are also reports of more extreme activity such as the sounds of gunshots (the area is sometimes hunted, at times illegally and there is a shooting range nearby) and the apparitions of tribesmen in full war regalia that have been seen.

 

Orientation

 

      The four RISEUP investigators arrived at the main entrance to the site, where they would leave their vehicle and walk a reasonable distance into the woodlands area. Access to the Great Swamp is by Liberty Lane which leads into the management area along Great Neck Road. A large public parking area is provided which allows access to several gravel roads and trails that are gated to limit vehicle access.

 

       There are considerable and varied forms of wildlife that inhabit the Great Swap Management Area. Their presence is quite pronounced and they make themselves known both audibly and visually.

 

     After walking a considerable distance we came upon the basis for its name - The Great Swamp. 

 

 

 

       The perimeter of the water body can be traversed and we did so. The terrain is uneven and as one would expect, in a pristine form. Power lines run through the middle of the Great Swap (below) providing power to many of the surrounding communities of North and South Kingston as well as Richmond, R.I.

 

 

        There are pathways cut into the meadow areas to allow easier passage for visitors. On this particular day, we seemed to be the only persons present this day, although we did pass some hikers on the way in.

 

 

 

 

Analysis

 

      A great number of paranormal groups have entered the Great Swamp area in the hopes of documenting some of the reported activity that is said to manifest itself. Because our visit would be cut short by a quick-moving, but ample rain storm that moved through the area, we thought our time would be better served to explore alternate explanations for some of these claims.

 

     Being an outdoor location with a great deal of natural wildlife, misidentification of sounds - especially during night investigations - would quite obviously be front and center as a catalyst for claims of the paranormal. Combined with the ghastly history and the resulting legends  surrounding the location, it is not difficult to imagine people already anticipating a supernatural event might jump to conclusions about the source of these sounds. There is then, a very real possibility that the "cries and screams" many say they hear might simply be attributed to the vast number of mammals and waterfowl who reside there. Fox and coyote can easily be pointed to as the main culprits.

 

 

 

       Anyone familiar with the events and the savagery that took place here might certain become empathic to the plight of those who once inhabited the area. This might account for the "feelings of sadness" that are said to affect many who tread on these grounds. The mere thought and realization that little aesthetically has changed since Native Americans roamed, lived and died on this ground can be overwhelming and at times, disconcerting.

 

     As previously noted, there is a shooting range very close by. This would not explain any nocturnal sounds of gunshots, but without possessing first-hand reports, we can not accurately analyze their validity. 

 

      

 
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