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The Gloucester Leaguers






Category: TALES OF PURITAN LAND

Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

Strange things had been reported in Gloucester. On the eve of King
Philip's War the march of men was heard in its streets and an Indian bow
and scalp were seen on the face of the moon, while the boom of cannon and
roll of drums were heard at Malden and the windows of Plymouth rattled to
the passage of unseen horsemen. But the strangest thing was the arrival
on Cape Ann of a force of French and Indians that never could be caught,
killed, or crippled, though two regiments were hurried into Gloucester
and battled with them for a fortnight. Thus, the rumor went around that
these were not an enemy of flesh and blood, but devils who hoped to work
a moral perversion of the colony. From 1692, when they appeared, until
Salem witchcraft was at an end, Cape Ann was under military and spiritual
guard against the spectre leaguers.

Another version of the episode, based on sworn evidence, has it that
Ebenezer Babson, returning late on a summer night, saw two men run from
his door and vanish in a field. His family denied that visitors had
called, so he gave chase, for he believed the men to have a mischievous
intention. As he left the threshold they sprang from behind a log, one
saying to the other, The master of the house is now come, else we might
have taken the house, and again they disappeared in a swamp. Babson woke
the guard, and on entering the quarters of the garrison the sound of many
feet was heard without, but when the doors were flung open only the two
men were visible and they were retreating. Next evening the yeoman was
chased by these elusive gentry, who were believed to be scouts of the
enemy, for they wore white breeches and waistcoats and carried bright
guns.

For several nights they appeared, and on the 4th of July half a dozen of
them were seen so plainly that the soldiers made a sally, Babson bringing
three of ye unaccountable troublers to the ground with a single shot,
and getting a response in kind, for a bullet hissed by his ear and buried
itself in a tree. When the company approached the place where lay the
victims of that remarkable shot, behold, they arose and scampered away as
blithely as if naught had happened to them. One of the trio was cornered
and shot anew, but when they would pick him up he melted into air. There
was fierce jabbering in an unknown tongue, through all the swamp, and by
the time the garrison had returned the fellows were skulking in the
shrubbery again. Richard Dolliver afterward came on eleven of them
engaged in incantations and scattered them with a gunshot, but they would
not down. They lurked about the cape until terror fell on all the people,
remaining for the best part of a month together, so it was deemed that
Satan had set ambushments against the good people of Gloucester, with
demons in the shape of armed Indians and Frenchmen.

Stones were thrown, barns were beaten with clubs, the marching of unseen
hosts was heard after dark, the mockers grew so bold that they ventured
close to the redoubtable Babson, gazed scornfully down the barrel of his
gun, and laid a charm on the weapon, so that, no matter how often he
snapped it at them, it flashed in the pan. Neighboring garrisons were
summoned, but all battling with goblins was fruitless. One night a dark
and hostile throng emerged from the wood and moved toward the blockhouse,
where twenty musketeers were keeping guard. If you be ghosts or devils I
will foil you, cried the captain, and tearing a silver button from his
doublet he rammed it into his gun and fired on the advancing host. Even
as the smoke of his musket was blown on the wind, so did the beleaguering
army vanish, the silver bullet proving that they were not of human kind.
The night was wearing on when a cry went out that the devils were coming
again. Arms were laid aside this time, and the watchers sank to their
knees in prayer. Directly that the name of God was uttered the marching
ceased and heaven rang with the howls of the angry fiends. Never again
were leaguers seen in Gloucester.





Next: Satan And His Burial-place

Previous: Salem And Other Witchcraft



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