book report: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

What a well written and informative history. I immensely enjoyed Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. The scope of his work is so much more than the Pilgrim's arrival at Plymouth. He starts with the childhood of key players in England. He doesn't skim over their time in Holland. He gives the background of the Indians who played such important roles when the Pilgrims arrived. I read half of Jennings' Invasion of America but I didn't come near the satisfaction of understanding the history of this area like I feel from Philbrick. The satisfaction from Philbrick arises from his attempt to give all the characters flesh and blood with good and bad choices and motives. He does have sympathy for the Indians, but none of them are pure and virtuous. Squanto's machinations and choice of appellation are intriguing. This history continues through King Philip's War when the Christian English manifested their willingness to commit atrocities.
Ritual torture was a long-standing part of Indian warfare, and Talcott later provided the Puritan historian William Hubbard with a detailed account of how the Mohegans cut the young warrior apart, finger by finger and toe by toe, "the blood sometimes spurting out in streams a yard from his hand," before clubbing him to death.

No matter how shocking such incidents might have seemed in English eyes, they obfuscated an essential truth about King Philip's War. Atrocities were expected in both European and Native conflicts. And yet the English had to admit that compared to what was typical of European wars, the Indians had conducted themselves with surprising restraint. As Mary Rowlandson could attest, the Native warriors never raped their female captives - a common occurrence in the wars of seventeenth-century Europe. p.320

Why were the Christianized invaders worse when it came to making war? That's the question that depresses me about the church.


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