The Angel of Hadley

 

 

 

The town of Hadley was alarmed by the Indians in 1675, in the time of public worship, and the people were in the utmost confusion. Suddenly a grave, elderly person appeared in the midst of them. In his mien and dress he differed from the rest of the people. He not only encouraged them to defend themselves, but put himself at their head, rallied, instructed and led them on to encounter the enemy, who by this means were repulsed. As suddenly the deliverer of Hadley disappeared. The people were left in consternation, utterly unable to account for this strange phenomenon. It is not probable that they were ever able to explain it. If Goffe had been then discovered, it must have come to the knowledge of those persons, who declare by their letters that they never knew what became of him.

Thomas Hutchinson, History of Massachusetts Bay (1764)

Three of the regicides who sentenced Charles I to death took refuge in New England after the Restoration:  John Dixwell, Major General Edward Whalley and his son-in-law Major General William Goffe.  Goffe and Whalley were both experienced soldiers, having fought throughout the English Civil Wars.  They had also both served as Major Generals in Cromwell’s scheme to have Major Generals rule ten administrative districts in England, the only period of military dictatorship in English history.  All three of the regicides found refuge in New Haven, Connecticut.   Living under the assumed name of James David, Dixwell lived in peace in New Haven until his death in 1689.   Not so Whalley and Goffe who were too well known.  On the run, they ultimately found refuge in the frontier settlement of Hadley, Massachusetts.  Whalley probably died in 1675 while Goffe probably passed away in 1679. 

in 1675 King Philip’s War was raging with frontier settlements like Hadley vulnerable to attack.  It is entirely likely that if Goffe, who never lacked for boldness, were in Hadley during such an attack the old soldier, now an elderly man of 70, very old indeed for the Seventeenth Century would have aided the defense.  There is no mention of him in the accounts written at the time, but that may be because of concern to help him stay hidden from royal vengeance. Legend or fact, the image of a veteran of the English Civil Wars defending Puritans under attack from Indians is certainly one of the more romantic ones to come out of New England.  The tale of the Angel of Hadley inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, The Gray Champion.

The Governor, and the gentlemen of his party, perceiving themselves brought to an unexpected stand, rode hastily forward, as if they would have pressed their snorting and affrighted horses right against the hoary apparition. He, however, blenched not a step, but glancing his severe eye round the group, which half encompassed him, at last bent it sternly on Sir Edmund Andros. One would have thought that the dark old man was chief ruler there, and that the Governor and Council, with soldiers at their back, representing the whole power and authority of the Crown, had no alternative but obedience.
“What does this old fellow here?” cried Edward Randolph, fiercely. “On, Sir Edmund! Bid the soldiers forward, and give the dotard the same choice that you give all his countrymen–to stand aside or be trampled on!”
“Nay, nay, let us show respect to the good grandsire,” said Bullivant, laughing. “See you not, he is some old roundheaded dignitary, who hath lain asleep these thirty years, and knows nothing of the change of times? Doubtless, he thinks to put us down with a proclamation in Old Noll’s name!”
“Are you mad, old man?” demanded Sir Edmund Andros, in loud and harsh tones. “How dare you stay the march of King James’s Governor?”
“I have staid the march of a King himself, ere now,” replied the gray figure, with stern composure. “I am here, Sir Governor, because the cry of an oppressed people hath disturbed me in my secret place; and beseeching this favor earnestly of the Lord, it was vouchsafed me to appear once again on earth, in the good old cause of his Saints.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Gray Champion (1835)

 

Published in: on October 17, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Angel of Hadley  
Tags: , , ,
%d bloggers like this: