Home Maine The Siege of Scarborough and Maine’s Long War

The Siege of Scarborough and Maine’s Long War

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In 1676, the colonial settlers in Scarborough, Maine, had abandoned the town after fierce fighting with a small army of Indians. That set the stage for the siege of Scarborough the following year.

King Philip’s War had been raging since 1675. Maine — the war’s northern theater — had so few settlers the fighting was on a relatively small scale.

seige of scarborough

West Point, Prout’s Neck by Winslow Homer (owned by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.)

The government in Massachusetts had banned weapons sales to the natives. The natives had generally allied with the French, who encouraged them to harass the English settlements along the Maine coast. Some tried to negotiate a peace between the English and the Maine natives, and the tribes were not of one mind about whether to fight or make a treaty.

Around the mouth of the Saco River, one Wabanaki leader, Mogg Heigon, had gathered a force of perhaps 100 men and some 30 ships. Mogg, who had friendly relations with the English settlers, had been slow to support the war. Nevertheless, by the fall of 1676 his army had successfully harassed the fishermen and farmers until many abandoned the area. In October of 1676, Mogg’s men surrounded the small garrison at Scarborough’s Black Point.

The Surrender of Scarborough

Henry Jocelyn led the English settlers at Black Point. Mogg and Jocelyn knew each other, and Mogg spoke English. Mogg offered Jocelyn a deal. If the colonists would surrender, they could leave peacefully.

It’s not clear why Mogg made the generous offer. It may have been simple decency. Or he may have had some reason to suspect taking the garrison by force would be more challenging than it appeared. It may simply have been that he was accustomed to friendly dealings with the settlers and the negotiation came naturally.

Jocelyn accepted the offer, and Scarborough was left completely in Indian control. Having driven off the settlers in much of the Maine coast, however, the Wabanaki were not nearly numerous enough to protect their lands. In 1677, a group of the settlers came out of hiding and returned to Scarborough, along with a larger military force that included Bartholomew Tippen, most likely a sergeant.

The return of the colonists provoked Mogg to action. He returned to Scarborough with his small army. He sealed off the garrison and lay siege to it. But the colonists inside were better armed in 1677 than they had been in 1676. They were not considering retreat. After three days, during which the Indian’s siege had inflicted only a few casualties, Tippen shot and killed Mogg.

After the Siege of Scarborough

The loss of their leader prompted the Wabanaki to abandon the siege. It also cleared the way for another leader to emerge among the natives, Squando. In retaliation for the death of Mogg, Indians returned to the Black Point garrison and again attacked about a month later. This time they were cleverer, drawing roughly 100 of the settlers outside. The fight killed the colonists’ military leaders and decimated the settlement.

Site of Black Point Fort

According to legend, Squando had become an ardent foe of the English when settlers drowned his son. True or not, his elevation weakened any chance for a peaceful settlement of the disputes. King Philip’s War would continue in Maine until 1678 when it ended by treaty.

But it hardly ended the fighting between the persistent English colonists and the Indians (aided by the French). A new garrison was established at Black Point in 1681, near what was then known as Great Pond. The tug of war with the Native Americans would continue for more than 20 years, and in 1703 a group of Indians attacked and killed a group of settlers at the Black Point garrison, inspiring the name the pond has today – Massacre Pond.

Mogg’s name, meanwhile, was immortalized by John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem, Mogg Megone, which was also turned into a film. Its story line bears little relation to actual history.

This story about the Siege of Scarborough was updated in 2022.

Image of Black Point Fort By John Stanton via FortWiki, CC By-SA 3.0.