The Gloucester Leaguers

: 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


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.