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Myles Standish was a British-American military officer appointed to the Pilgrims of North America, hired to help coordinate their future colony’s defenses. Known for signing the Mayflower Compact, Myles Standish proved his leadership in the Plymouth Colony.
See the fact file below for more information on the Myles Standish or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Myles Standish worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Little is known about Myles Standish’s early life. Although there were no records about his childhood, Nathaniel Morton, a secretary of Plymouth Colony, wrote in his 1669 book New England’s Memorial that Standish was born in Lancashire, England in 1584 to unidentified parents.
- As a young man, he started his military career as a drummer, then served as a soldier in Holland (one of the “Low Countries,” a western region now called the Netherlands) during the Eighty Years War of 1568. His battle experience honed his learnings in military trade and developed his leadership skills.
- During these times, he became acquainted with the Pilgrims, then hired to serve as their military captain in 1620.
- Pilgrims, also called Separatists, were a religious faction from England who went to Holland because they were against the union of their state and the church.
ABOARD THE MAYFLOWER
- Myles and his wife Rose, together with the Pilgrims, sailed for the New World on their ship called the Mayflower. It left Plymouth, England on September 16, 1620, with 102 passengers and 30 to 40 crew aboard.
- Not everyone were Pilgrims, and soon two factions were formed: the ‘Saints’ (Pilgrims) and the ‘Strangers’ (remaining people).
- Standish was about 40 years old when he led the voyage. He was short and stout, and very impatient. The Indians gave him a nickname, the “little pot that soon boils over,” but they also called him the “strong sword,” which shows how much they admired his bravery.
- Both of these parties realized that they needed to support one another once they landed in America, thus, the Mayflower Compact. While out at sea, these factions wrote an agreement and formulated laws in order to systematize their future colony. Among the 41 men, Myles Standish was the fourth person to sign the Mayflower Compact.
- In November 1620, they spotted land. The Mayflower was supposed to sail to the Colony of Virginia, but strong seas forced them to land at Cape Cod, present-day Provincetown Harbor.
THE FIRST WINTER
- Myles led a group ashore to find a suitable settlement. He accompanied two parties into the area, one in November and another in December. The latter was raided by a group of Native Americans while sleeping in the woods, and this incident became known as the First Encounter.
- The Pilgrims set camp upon a street, now known as Leyden Street. Myles affixed cannons atop the hill to protect their settlement.
- Their first winter became fatal – many Pilgrims became sick and had pneumonia as they were not used to the climate.
- Unfortunately, his wife Rose Standish was one of the many people who passed away.
- In March 1621, Standish’s camp came in contact with the Native Americans through Samoset, a sagamore (subordinate chief) from the Abenaki tribe who talked with the Plymouth leaders as he arranged a meeting for the English and the Indians of the Pokanoket tribe.
- On March 22, 1621, Governor John Carver of the Plymouth Colony signed a treaty with Massasoit, establishing friendly accord between the Pokanoket and the Englishmen, requiring the two factions to defend and support each other in times of need.
- Upon Carver’s death that same year, William Bradford succeeded the position. He and Standish maintained peace and mitigated threats against both the Pilgrims and the Indians, such as the Massachusetts and the Narragansetts.
- As risks emerged, Standish’s tactic was to intimidate their rivals to discourage them from pursuing their plans.
- Standish had five main barriers to overcome: Nemasket Raid, Palisade, Wessagusset, Merrymount Settlers, and Penobscot Expedition.
- Nemasket Raid. In August 1621, Corbitant, a Wampanoag Indian sachem of the Pocasset tribe, began to sabotage Massasoit’s command.
- Standish schemed a night attack to kill Corbitant. At nightfall, he and Hobbamock raided the shelter, and cried for Corbitant. The sachem escaped, and two Pokanokets got injured and were taken to Plymouth to be treated. Although he failed to arrest Corbitant, the surprise attack had the desired effect. On September 13, 1621, Corbitant and eight other sachems fled to Plymouth to sign a treaty of loyalty to King James.
- Palisade. In November 1621, a bundle of arrows encased in a snakeskin was handed by a Narragansett messenger. Tisquantum and Hobbamock informed the Pilgrims that this was both a threat and an insult from Canonicus, sachem of the Narragansett tribe. Short-tempered Standish encouraged the Pilgrims to build a palisade around their village. A palisade, often called a stakewall, is a defensive structure made from tall, upright logs encircling an area. Standish’s plan worked and the attack on their village did not push through.
- Wessagusset. In 1620, the English received a threat from the Massachusett tribe. Standish scheduled a “peaceful” meeting over a meal with a warrior from the tribe, Pecksuot, in one Wessagusset’s single-room houses. The Indians brought another warrior named Wituwamat, his brother, and a number of women. Standish, on the other hand, brought with him three Englishmen and Hobbamock. This was actually an ambush by the English; they massacred everyone in the meeting. Standish and his men fled to the walls of Wessagusset to search for their sachem, Obstakiest; however, the later escaped during their encounter. Although Standish was judged for his savery, his ploys maintained the safety of the colonists.
- Merrymount Settlers. In 1625, the English received another threat from a group of men who created an outpost outside the city. In response, Standish came with his men and found them barricaded at Merrymount. Thomas Morton, founder of the Merrymount settlers, signaled the attack but his men were too drunk to fire their weapons. Instead, Morton pointed his weapon at Standish. He was then arrested, taken to Plymouth, and was brought back to England. Years later, Morton authored his book New English Canaan, in which he called Standish “Captain Shrimp,” and added, “I have found the Massachusetts Indians more full of humanity than the Christians.”
- Penobscot Expedition. The last quest on Standish’s list, this was the battle between the Pilgrims and the French, defending Plymouth from Native Americans and Englishmen. In 1613, the French built a trading post at the Penobscot River (now Castine, Maine). In 1628, the English army confiscated the settlement and handed it over to the Plymouth colony. Seven years later, the French took back what was originally theirs. Governor Bradford assigned Standish to lead the expedition and reclaim the trading post. Unfortunately, Standish failed his mission as the cannons on the ship Good Hope lost ammunition, moments before it was supposed to bombard the French.
LAST YEARS AND LEGACY
- In the 1640s, Standish ended his role as a soldier and became a surveyor of highways, inspector of waterways, and treasurer of the colony from 1644 to 1649.
- In 1656, he died in his home in Duxbury at the age of 72, leaving his second wife Barbara and six children: Alexander, John, Lora, Myles Jr., Josiah, and Charles.
- Two monuments were built to honor him. One is over his grave at the Myles Standish Burial Ground.
- Standish, Maine was named after him. Two forts, one in Boston Harbor and another in Plymouth’s Saquish Neck, were also named after Standish.
Myles Standish Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Myles Standish across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Myles Standish worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Myles Standish who was a British-American military officer appointed to the Pilgrims of North America, hired to help coordinate their future colony’s defenses. Known for signing the Mayflower Compact, Myles Standish proved his leadership in the Plymouth Colony.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Metacomet Facts
- Captain Shrimp
- Standish Checkpoint
- Into the New World
- State vs Church
- Mayflower Compact
- Plymouth Colony TImeline
- Standship’s Military Career
- More on Standish
- Colors of the WInd
- A Quote From Myles
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Use With Any Curriculum
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