Sunday, September 12, another blow fell upon Deerfield. The place had now a garrison under Captain Samuel Appleton. The Indians could see from the hills the soldiers gathering in one of the forts for public worship. They laid an ambush to waylay the soldiers and people returning after service to the north fort, but all escaped their fire save one, who was wounded. Nathaniel Cornbury, left to sentinel the north fort, was captured, and never again heard from. Appleton rallied his men, and the marauders, after inflicting much loss on the settlers, drew off to Pine Hill.
But a sadder blow was to fall upon the dwellers in this little vale. The accumulated result of their industry and toil was to disappear in flame and ashes.
In their wanton destruction the Indians had spared the wheat in the field for their own future supply; “3000 bushels standing in stacks,” says Mather. This wheat was needed at headquarters to feed the gathering troops, and Colonel Pynchon, the Commander-in-Chief, gave orders to have it threshed and sent to Hadley. Captain Thomas Lothrop, with his company, was sent to convoy the teams transporting it.
September 18, 1675, “that most fatal day, the saddest that ever befel New England,” says a contemporary, “Captain Lothrop, with his choice company of young men, the very flower of the county of Essex,” marched boldly down the street, across South Meadows, up Long Hill, into the woods stretching away to Hatfield Meadows. Confident in his strength, scorning the enemy, Captain Lothrop pushed on through the narrow path, with not a flanker or vanguard thrown out. Extending along his left lay a swampy thicket through which crept a nameless brook. Gradually, the swamp narrowed, and turned to the right across the line of march. At this spot the combined force of the enemy lay in ambush, and into this trap marched Lothrop and his men. While the teams were slowly dragging their loads through the mire, it is said the soldiers laid down their guns to pluck and eat the grapes which grew in abundance by the way. Be this true or not, at this spot they were surprised and stunned by the fierce war-whoop, the flash and roar of muskets with their bolts of death. Captain Lothrop and many of his command fell at the first fire. The men of Pocumtuck sank, the “Flower of Essex” wilted before the blast, and—
“Sanguinetto tells ye where the dead
Made the earth wet, and turn’d the unwilling waters red.”
The sluggish stream was baptized for aye, “Bloody Brook.”