Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal

Author: William Bradford  | Date: 1622

An Excersion to Cape Cod

MONDAY, the 13th of November, we unshipped our shallop, and drew her on land, to mend and repair her, having been forced to cut her down in bestowing her betwixt the decks, and she was much opened with the people’s lying in her; which kept us long there, for it was sixteen or seventeen days before the carpenter had finished her. Our people went on shore to refresh themselves, and our women to wash, as they had great need. But whilst we lay thus still, hoping our shallop would be ready in five or six days, at the furthest, (but our carpenter made slow work of it, so that) some of our people, impatient of delay, desired for our better furtherance to travel by land into the country, (which was not without appearance of danger, not having the shallop with them, nor means to carry provision but on their backs,) to see whether it might be fit for us to seat in or no; and the rather, because, as we sailed into the harbour, there seemed to be a river opening itself into the main land. The willingness of the persons was liked, but the thing itself, in regard to the danger, was rather permitted than approved; and so with cautions, directions, and instructions, sixteen men were set out, with every man his mus- ket, sword, and corslet, under the conduct of Captain Miles Standish; unto whom was adjoined, for counsel and advice, William Bradford, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Tilley.

Wednesday, the 15th of November, they were set ashore; and when they had ordered themselves in the order of a single file, and marched about the space of a mile by the sea, they espied five or six people, with a dog, coming towards them, who were savages; who, when they saw them, ran into the wood, and whistled the dog after them, &c. First they supposed them to be Master Jones, the master, and some of his men, for they were ashore and knew of their coming; but after they knew them to be Indians, they marched after them into the woods, lest other of the Indians should lie in ambush. But when the Indians saw our men following them, they ran away with might and main; and our men turned out of the wood after them, for it was the way they intended to go, but they could not come near them. They followed them that night about ten miles by the trace of their footings, and saw how they had come the same way they went, and at a turning perceived how they ran up a hill, to see whether they followed them. At length night came upon them, and they were constrained to take up their lodging. So they set forth three sentinels; and the rest, some kindled a fire, and others fetched wood, and there held our rendezvous that night.

In the morning, so soon as we could see the trace, we proceeded on our journey, and had the track until we had compassed the head of a long creek; and there they took into another wood, and we after them, supposing to find some of their dwellings. But we marched through boughs and bushes, and under hills and valleys, which tore our very armor in pieces, and yet could meet with none of them, nor their houses, nor find any fresh water, which we greatly desired and stood in need of; for we brought neither beer nor water with us, and our victuals was only biscuit and Holland cheese, and a little bottle of aquavitae, so as we were sore athirst. About ten o’clock we came into a deep valley, full of brush, wood-gaile, and long grass, through which we found little paths or tracks; and there we saw a deer, and found springs of fresh water, of which we were heartily glad, and set us down and drunk our first New England water, with as much delight as ever we drunk drink in all our lives.

When we had refreshed ourselves, we directed our course full south, that we might come to the shore, which within a short while after we did, and there made a fire, that they in the ship might see where we were, as we had direction; and so marched on towards this supposed river. And as we went in another valley, we found a fine clear pond of fresh water, being about a musket shot broad, and twice as long. There grew also many small vines, and fowl and deer haunted there. There grew much sassafras. From thence we went on, and found much plain ground, about fifty acres, fit for the plough, and some signs where the Indians had formerly planted their corn. After this, some thought it best, for nearness of the river, to go down and travel on the sea sands, by which means some of our men were tired, and lagged behind. So we stayed and gathered them up, and struck into the land again; where we found a little path to certain heaps of sand, one whereof was covered with old mats, and had a wooden thing, like a mortar, whelmed on the top of it, and an earthen pot laid in a little hole at the end thereof. We, musing what it might be, digged and found a bow, and, as we thought, arrows, but they were rotten. We supposed there were many other things; but because we deemed them graves, we put in the bow again, and made it up as it was, and left the rest untouched, because we thought it would be odious unto them to ransack their sepulchres.

We went on further and found new stubble, of which they had gotten corn this year, and many walnut trees full of nuts, and great store of strawberries, and some vines. Passing thus a field or two, which were not great, we came to another, which had also been new gotten, and there we found where a house had been, and four or five old planks laid together. Also we found a great kettle, which had been some ship’s kettle, and brought out of Europe. There was also a heap of sand, made like the former, but it was newly done, we might see how they had paddled it with their hands, which we digged up, and in it we found a little old basket, full of fair Indian corn; and digged further, and found a fine great new basket, full of very fair corn of this year, with some six and thirty goodly ears of corn, some yellow, and some red, and others mixed with blue, which was a very goodly sight. The basket was round, and narrow at the top. It held about three or four bushels, which was as much as two of us could lift up from the ground, and was very handsomely and cunningly made. But whilst we were busy about these things, we set our men sentinel in a round ring, all but two or three, which digged up the corn. We were in suspense what to do with it and the kettle; and at length, after much consultation, we concluded to take the kettle, and as much of the corn as we could carry away with us; and when our shallop came, if we could find any of the people, and come to parley with them, we would give them the kettle again, and satisfy them for their corn. So we took all the ears, and put a good deal of the loose corn in the kettle, for two men to bring away on a staff. Besides, they that could put any into their pockets, filled the same. The rest we buried again; for we were so laden with armor that we could carry no more.

Not far from this place we found the remainder of an old fort or palisado, which, as we conceived, had been made by some Christians. This was also hard by that place which we thought had been a river; unto which we went, and found it so to be, dividing itself into two arms by a high bank, standing right by the cut or mouth, which came from the sea. That which was next unto us was the less. The other arm was more than twice as big, and not unlike to be a harbour for ships; but whether it be a fresh river, or only an indraught of the sea, we had no time to discover; for we had commandment to be out but two days. Here also we saw two canoes; the one on the one side, the other on the other side. We could not believe it was a canoe, till we came near it. So we returned, leaving the further discovery hereof to our shallop, and came that night back again to the fresh water pond; and there we made our rendezvous that night, making a great fire, and a barricado to windward of us, and kept good watch with three sentinels all night, every one standing when his turn came, while five or six inches of match was burning. It proved a very rainy night.

In the morning, we took our kettle and sunk it in the pond, and trimmed our muskets, for few of them would go off because of the wet; and so coasted the wood again to come home, in which we were shrewdly puzzled, and lost our way. As we wandered we came to a tree, where a young sprit was bowed down over a bow, and some acorns strewed underneath. Stephen Hopkins said, it had been to catch some deer. So as we were looking at it, William Bradford being in the rear, when he came looked also upon it, and as he went about, it gave a sudden jerk up, and he was immediately caught by the leg. It was a very pretty device, made with a rope of their own making, and having a noose as artificially made as any roper in England can make, and as like ours as can be; which we brought away with us. In the end we got out of the wood, and were fallen about a mile too high above the creek; where we saw three bucks, but we had rather have had one of them. We also did spring three couple of partridges; and as we came along by the creek, we saw great flocks of wild geese and ducks, but they were very fearful of us. So we marched some while in the woods, some while on the sands, and other while in the water up to the knees; till at length we came near the ship; and then we shot off our pieces, and the long boat came to fetch us. Master Jones and Master Carver being on the shore, with many of our people, came to meet us. And thus we came both weary and welcome home; and delivered in our corn into the store to be kept for seed, for we knew not how to come by any, and therefore were very glad, purposing, so soon as we could meet with any of the inhabitants of that place, to make them large satisfaction. This was our first discovery, whilst our shallop was in repairing.

Our people did make things as fitting as they could, and time would, in seeking out wood, and helving of tools, and sawing of timber, to build a new shallop. But the discommodiousness of the harbour did much hinder us; for we could neither go to nor come from the shore but at high water, which was much to our hindrance and hurt; for oftentimes they waded to the middle of the thigh, and oft to the knees, to go and come from land. Some did it necessarily, and some for their own pleasure; but it brought to the most, if not to all, coughs and colds, (the weather proving suddenly cold and stormy,) which afterwards turned to the scurvy, whereof many died.


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Chicago: William Bradford, "An Excersion to Cape Cod," Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0 (Irvine, CA: World Library, Inc., 1996), Original Sources, accessed April 25, 2018,

MLA: Bradford, William. "An Excersion to Cape Cod." Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal, in Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, Irvine, CA, World Library, Inc., 1996, Original Sources. 25 Apr. 2018.

Harvard: Bradford, W, 'An Excersion to Cape Cod' in Bradford’s and Winslow’s Journal. cited in 1996, Library of the Future ® 4th Edition Ver. 5.0, World Library, Inc., Irvine, CA. Original Sources, retrieved 25 April 2018, from