The Pilgrims decided to emigrate to America despite the perils and dangers.
On September 6 (September 16), 1620, the Mayflower departed from Plymouth, England, and headed for America. The first half of the voyage went fairly smoothly, the only major problem was sea-sickness. But by October, they began encountering a number of Atlantic storms that made the voyage treacherous.
Arrival at Cape Cod
The voyage itself across the Atlantic Ocean took 66 days; November 9 (November 19), 1620 they sighted Cape Cod. The Pilgrims safe arrival at Cape Cod aboard the Mayflower:
“Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles & miseries therof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente.”
“And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remaine twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious & dreadfull was ye same unto him.” (Bradford)
As the chill of an approaching winter settled in, the native people who lived 400 years ago in what is now the outermost region of Cape Cod were likely spending their days preparing for the change in weather and moving inland to be away from winds coming off the sea.
The men would have been stockpiling meat and catching fish to provide food for their families; the women foraging, gathering nuts and fallenbranches as firewood. In the evenings, family members would have been sharpening tools or making mats and pottery. (Bragg, USA Today Network)
Initial Exploring Party
William Bradford writes of how the exploring party from the Mayflower, sailing in the shallop, survived a storm and landed on Clark’s Island. After spending the Sabbath on the island, the party finally landed for the first time in Plymouth.
“Wednesday, the 6th of December, it was resolved our discoverers should set forth, for the day before was too foul weather, and so they did, though it was well o’er the day ere all things could be ready.”
“So ten of our men were appointed who were of themselves willing to undertake it, to wit, Captain Standish, Master Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Tilley, Edward Tilley, John Howland, and three of London, Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Doty, and two of our seamen, John Allerton and Thomas English.”
“Of the ship’s company there went two of the master’s mates, Master Clarke and Master Coppin, the master gunner, and three sailors.” (Bradford) The narration of which discovery follows, penned by one of the company.
“We landed a league or two from them, and had much ado to put ashore anywhere, it lay so full of flat sands. When we came to shore, we made us a barricade, and got firewood, and set out our sentinels, and betook us to our lodging, such as it was. We saw the smoke of the fire which the savages made that night, about four or five miles from us.”
“In the morning we divided our company, some eight in the shallop, and the rest on the shore went to discover this place, but we found it only to be a bay, without either river or creek coming into it. Yet we deemed it to be as good a harbor as Cape Cod, for they that sounded it found a ship might ride in five fathom water.”
“We on the land found it to be a level soil, though none of the fruitfullest. We saw two becks of fresh water, which were the first running streams that we saw in the country, but one might stride over them. …”
“We then directed our course along the sea sands, to the place where we first saw the Indians. When we were there, we saw it was also a grampus which they were cutting up; they cut it into long rands or pieces, about an ell long, and two handful broad. We found here and there a piece scattered by the way, as it seemed, for haste. …”
“Anon we found a great burying place, one part whereof was encompassed with a large palisade, like a churchyard, with young spires for or five yards long, set as close one by another as they could, two or three feet in the ground. Within it was full of graves, some bigger and some less; some were also paled about, and others had like an Indian house made over them, but not matted.
“Those graves were more sumptuous than those at Cornhill, yet we digged none of them up, but only viewed them, and went our way. …”
“About midnight we heard a great and hideous cry, and our sentinels called, “Arm! Arm!” So we bestirred ourselves and shot off a couple of muskets, and the noise ceased; we concluded that it was a company of wolves or foxes, for one told us he had heard such a noise in Newfoundland.” (Mourt’s Relation)
“About five o’clock in the morning [December 8, 1620] we began to be stirring, and two or three which doubted whether their pieces would go off or no made trial of them, and shot them off, but thought nothing at all.”
“After prayer we prepared ourselves for breakfast and for a journey, and it being now the twilight in the morning, it was thought meet to carry the things down to the shallop. Some said it was not best to carry the armor down; others said they would be readier; two or three said they would not carry theirs till they went themselves, but mistrusting nothing at all.”
“As it fell out, the water not being high enough, they laid the things down upon the shore and came up to breakfast. Anon, all upon a sudden, we heard a great and strange cry, which we knew to be the same voices, though they varied their notes.”
“One of our company, being abroad, came running in and cried, ‘They are men! Indians! Indians!’ and withal, their arrows came flying amongst us. …”
“The cry of our enemies was dreadful, especially when our men ran out to recover their arms; their note was after this manner, ‘Woach woach ha ha hach woach.’ Our men were no sooner come to their arms, but the enemy was ready to assault them. …”
“We followed them about a quarter of a mile, but we left six to keep our shallop, for we were careful about our business. Then we shouted all together two several times, and shot off a couple of muskets and so returned; this we did that they might see we were not afraid of them nor discouraged.”
“Thus it pleased God to vanquish our enemies and give us deliverance. By their noise we could not guess that they were less than thirty or forty, though some thought that they were many more.”
“Yet in the dark of the morning we could not so well discern them among the trees, as they could see us by our fireside.”
“We took up eighteen of their arrows which we have sent to England by Master Jones, some whereof were headed with brass, others with harts’ horn, and others with eagles’ claws. … Many more no doubt were shot”….
“So after we had given God thanks for our deliverance, we took our shallop and went on our journey, and called this place, The First Encounter.” (Mourt’s Relation)
Click the following link to a general summary about the First Encounter: