Connecticut River

The Connecticut River, the longest river in New England, flows just over 400 miles from its origins in the mountains of New Hampshire, near Canada, into the Atlantic Ocean near the town of Saybrook, Connecticut. A sandbar at the mouth of the river kept any significant urban development from occurring near its juncture with the Atlantic, though European settlements of some consequence did spring up farther upriver. The physical history of the Connecticut River began about 11,000 years ago, when the last glaciers receded. The human history began shortly thereafter, when Paleo-Indians moved into the area in pursuit of game. When Europeans specifically a Dutch fur trader named Adriaen Block explored the river in 1614, the region was home to a number of Native American communities, including the Narragansett and the Niantic. From 1614 until the 1630s, the Connecticut River was the center of a fur trading network between the Dutch, operating out of New Amsterdam, and their Native American neighbors. In the 1630s, increasing immigration of both English settlers (from Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony) and Pequots gradually forced the Dutch out of the picture. The English settlement at Windsor in 1633 marked an early effort to thwart the Dutch. In 1636, Thomas Hooker brought his congregation to the Connecticut River Valley and founded the town of Hartford. By the end of that year, around 1,000 English people lived in five settlements along the river. The Pequot moved into the area at approximately the same time as the English, and the two groups almost immediately clashed. In the main action of what became known as the Pequot War (1637–1638), English Puritans burned Mystic Fort, a fortified Pequot village on the nearby Mystic River. Hundreds of Native American noncombatants lost their lives, and the English, spurning acceptable rules of combat, offered no quarter to those attempting to surrender. After the Pequot War, new English settlements continued to grow in the Connecticut River Valley. In a move that would be considered genocidal by twenty-first-century standards, the English sold many of the surviving Pequots into slavery in the West Indies and proclaimed that to identify oneself as Pequot was illegal. Almost four decades later, Metacom’s (King Philip’s) War (1675–1676) touched the Connecticut River Valley. Frustrated by English land greed and renewed missionary vigor, the tribal leader Metacom led a coalition of Wampanoags, Nipmucs, and Narragansetts against Plymouth colony. The conflict soon spread to the west and expanded to pit Metacom’s forces against the English and their native allies. Because native peoples fought on both sides of the conflict, one historian has called Metacom’s War a “civil war.” The Massachusetts towns of Deerfield, Hatfield, Northampton, and Springfield, all lying near the Connecticut River, came under attack. When the ferocious fighting subsided, many English settlements took more than a decade to rebuild Northfield, for instance, was not resettled until 1714. Many Native American communities were permanently destroyed; some Native Americans took refuge among the Five Nations (who had nominally aided the English cause). The conflict also produced one of the most famous of the “Indian captivity narratives,” that of Mary Rowlandson. The intensity of the fighting and the extent of the casualties have rarely been rivaled in North America, and one of the results of the conflict was that the English asserted their dominance over the Connecticut River Valley. During Queen Anne’s War, in the first decade of the eighteenth century, the Connecticut River Valley was again the site of conflict, this time, between the English and the French, although each side boasted Native American allies in the war. As the English slowly conquered more territory from their French and Native American neighbors, settlements in the Connecticut River Valley prospered and expanded farther to the north. This halting and uneven process continued throughout the Revolutionary and early Republican periods in the history of the United States. Matthew Jennings See also: Connecticut; Connecticut (Chronology); King Philip’s War. Bibliography Bacon, Edwin M. The Connecticut River and the Valley of the Connecticut: Three Hundred and Fifty Miles from Mountain to Sea, Historical and Descriptive. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1911. Hard, Walter. The Connecticut. Rivers of America Series. New York: Rinehart, 1947. Steckl, William F., and Evan Hill. The Connecticut River. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1972. Connecticut River – CT Waterfront Life alltravel8National “Blueways” | New Hampshire Public Radio alltravel8Sediment Spews from Connecticut River : Image of the Day alltravel8

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