The Bounty Teacher's Guide

The Fifth Anglo-Abenaki War

Fifth Anglo-Abenaki War (1744-1749)

aka King George’s War

During this conflict, the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Nova Scotia issued 24 known bounty proclamations. At least 15 bounty claims were awarded in cash, and 1 for land. For a detailed list see e-timeline.

Seventeen years of relative peace followed the Fourth Anglo-Abenaki War and during that time, English colonists resettled in northern New England. But the treaty [Dummer’s] did not last. The peace unraveled when war between English and French powers embroiled the Dawnland in renewed violence. The Wabanaki had welcomed English to resettle as far as the St. George River, as long as they did not “croud us in our settlements,” in the words of orator and diplomat Loron, who was nearly killed in a bounty raid during the war. [169] Massachusetts Governor William Shirley, also a land speculator and proprietor in the Muscongus Company, was personally invested in negating Wabanaki land claims and often touted the Madockawando deed, which had been rejected by the Wabanaki. Shirley violated agreements made with Wabanaki leaders over land rights, leading to rampant land speculation and violence.

In 1744, Shirley issued a scalp-bounty proclamation. Wabanaki people were pursued by English scalp hunters and the historical record is full of references to successful “hunts.” One happened in late October 1744, near Annapolis Royal, where John Gorham and his bounty hunters encountered a group of Mi’kmaq women and children. Mi’kmaw historian and ethnologist Ruth Holmes Whitehead shares from her research how Gorham’s Rangers

ransacked, pillaged, and burnt the two huts, and massacred the five women and three children…. It is observed that the two pregnant women were found with their bellies ripped open. An act which the Micmac cannot forget, especially as at that time they made fair war with the English. [170]

The following year, First Peoples from Canada attacked Pemaquid and Fort St. Georges, and despite minimal Penobscot and Kennebec participation, Massachusetts again declared war on the Penobscots and Kennebecs in August 1745.

In this war, colonial forces, including those from Maine, prevailed against the French stronghold at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, but in Maine military action was limited to occasional skirmishes. Colonial authorities in Boston even authorized payment to Native people if, when accompanied by an Englishman, they would

… go out by order & direction of this Government to Canada or the Borders of Canada in Quest of the Enemy; viz For each Male, of the Enemy above the Age of twelve Years who shall be killed & whose Scalp shall be brought as Evidence of his Death into this or any of the Neighbouring Governments, as the Indian shall be directed, the sum of Thirty five Pounds; And for each Male under twelve years & for every Female killed, & whose Scalp shall be brought as aforesaid, Ten pounds: But that the said Parties may not be onduced [sic] to kill or destroy the Enemy, after quarter given for the Sake of the afores Bounty on their Scalps…. [171]

Many Native warriors who fought under English commanders as part of ranger companies such as Gorham’s, did so while indentured to masters who took any pay they might have received. Others were deeply indebted, signing over their base wages, even before they deployed. By law, masters and creditors could attach wages, but not bonuses, including bounties. Most had already been dispossessed of their land and their way of life had been destroyed by settler society. They fought under duress and their only form of compensation was often bounties, although payment promised by Governor Shirley and Lt. Governor Phips never made its way to them, thereby further impoverishing them. This rendered them even more dependent on the English.[172]

In 1747, Gorham placed an ad in the Boston Gazette newspaper, publicly stating that the scalp bounty payments promised by Governor Shirley were never received by him or any of the Native rangers in his company who fought at Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia in 1744. There is no record that these bounties were ever paid.

On May 25, 1748, Captain Eleazer Melvin and a company of 18 bounty hunters set out on a scalping expedition. Encountering Wabanaki in canoes near Crown-Point, Melvin's men fired 50 or 60 guns. According to one source, "The Indians made a great Lamentation whilst they were shooting at them. Crown-Point immediately took the Alarm; fired their Cannon." Melvin pursued the Natives who killed six of his company: Joseph Petty, John Howard, John Dod, Daniel Man, Isaac Taylor, and Samuel Severance. "This struck a great Damp into the Spirits of our Men who had Thoughts of going into their Country." [173] The War ended with the Treaty of Falmouth, which was signed in October 1749.

Bounty Acts in the Province of Connecticut

In May 1746, the Connecticut Colony Committee of War passed “An Act for the More Effectual Carrying on the War and Defending of the Frontiers.” Officers and soldiers who provide their own arms and provisions will receive a bounty of 300 pounds for Indigenous male captives above 16; 150 pounds for male scalps above 16; 150 pounds for female or child captives; 75 pounds for scalps of females and children. Half these amounts are rewarded for soldiers in pay of the colony. Officers and soldiers who go out entirely at their own expense are offered 400 pounds for male captives over 16; 350 pounds for male captives over 16; 200 pounds for captive women and children; 175 pounds for scalps of women and children.[174]

Bounty Acts in the Province of New-Hampshire

For additional historical context, in the mid-1600s, New Hampshire was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. While it did not separate from Massachusetts until 1691 when it became an English colony of the Crown, it was often under Massachusetts’s jurisdiction regarding the issuance of bounty acts and proclamations. After 1741, when Benning Wentworth was appointed New Hampshire’s governor, the colony began to issue its own bounty proclamations, often mirroring those made in Boston. It is worth noting that Bennington, Vermont and Bennington, New Hampshire were named after the governor. [175]

During the Fifth Anglo-Abenaki War, English officials issued a number of bounties in the Province of New-Hampshire. Here we include just a selection. For more information, see the e-timeline.

In 1744, the New-Hampshire House

Resolved, that in case the Indians make any rupture on the English settlements between this and the 19th of June next (and his Excellency shall declare War against them) That the House desires his Excellency to Commission Volunteers to hunt & seek the Indians where they can find them, and take or destroy them, and that for every scalp of Indian such volunteers shall bring in, his Excellency may engage the payment of fifty pounds for every such scalp or Indian that shall be brought in by those acting under his Excellency’s commission and that this House at their Session in June will take care to make an act for the payment of such scalp money.

As also for the two hundred men that are to guard the Frontiers, if they shall bring in any scalps or Indians, to be paid five pounds for every scalp or Indian.

On September 25, 1745, the house voted that Col. Peter Gilman and Mr. Henry Sherburne, Jr. form a committee to vote for the “encouragement of volunteers to kill or take Indians being our Enemies.” That was followed by a declaration of war that evening.

–––– Whereas his Excellency Ben Wentworth Esq. Captain General, Governor and Commander in Chief of this his Majesties Prov. of N. Hamp. With the advice of his Majesties Council for Weighty Reason hath declared War against the Penobscot, Neridgewock, Saint Francis, Wowenock, St. John & Cape Sables Indians & those in confederacy with them,
It is therefore voted that there shall be paid out of the Publick Treasury for the encouragement of any Company Party or Person of his Majesties subjects belonging to & residing within this Province who shall voluntarily & at their own proper cost & charge go out in quest of & kill a male Indian of the age of twelve years or upwards of such Penobscot Neridgewock St. Francis Wowenock St. Johns & Cape Sables Indians or  of those in confederacy with them or such others as may be found with them at any Time within twelve months from the Date hereof, (provided the war should so long continue) & produce scalp in evidence of his Death the sum of one Hundred Pounds in Bills of Credit on this Province of the new Tenor & the sum of one Hundred & five Pounds in said Bills for any male of like age who shall be taken captive & delivered to the order of the Capt. General to be at the Disposal & for the use of the Government and the sum of fifty Pounds [p. 267.] in said Bills for each woman & the like sum for children under the age of twelve years killed in fight & fifty five Pounds in said Bills for such when taken Prisoners & the Plunder & to such Person or Persons of this Province as aforesaid for whom the Province shall provide ammunition & Provisions namely. Provisions from the Day they go forth until they Return to be paid in said Bills for each male above the age of twelve years killed & scalp produced the sum of Seventy five Pounds, and Captives seventy eight Pounds fifteen shillings and for Females & others as aforesaid killed & scalp produced Thirty-seven Pounds ten shillings & captives of the like sort sixteen Pounds ten shillings Provided no payment be made as aforesaid for killing and captivating any Indian as aforesaid until Proof be made to the acceptance of the Governour & Council. [177]

According to the House journal entry on the following day, legislators voted that the Committee of War provide provisions for 350 men to embark on the “Expedition against Louisburg” and upon their return home “pay each officer & soldier … what shall be found due to each of them respectively.”


When the House met on July 9, 1746, members discussed how to better defend “the Frontiers & the Further Encouragement of Volunteers to go out in Pursuit of the Indian enemy … & kill a male Indian of the age of twelve years or upwards of any of the Tribes which his Excellency has declared War against…” This further encouragement took the form of a significantly increased promise of payment for those who brought scalps as...

[p]roper evidence of his Death the sum of two Hundred Pounds in Bills of credit on this Province & the sum of two Hundred & five Pounds for any Male Indian of said Tribes of like age who shall be taken captive & delivered to the order of the Capt. General….

In 1747, New Hampshire authorities increased the payment of scalp bounties to four hundred pounds.

Guidance for Teaching

Ask upper level students to make inferences about the significant spike in the bounty amount. What might explain the increase in the bounty payments promised to colonial settlers who hunted Abenaki people? Students will make their arguments using evidence provided in this lesson as well as from additional sources they find.

The Wiscasset Massacre: No Justice, No Peace

Hostilities between Wabanaki and English spiked after a well-documented assault in 1749 on Wabanaki families in Wiscasset Harbor. This incident is seen as an historical antecedent to the many scalp bounty proclamations issued six years later, in 1755. Take note of the tribal names in these passages as they will appear again in scalp proclamations issued by Governor William Shirley.

Wiscasset, Maine, on the Sheepscot River, was a rustic seaport village. Seven [white European] Massachusetts men… appeared in Wiscasset… [and] went out hunting… and encountered a hunting encampment of peaceful Abenaki families, who were slowly heading back home from the Falmouth [present day Portland] treaty conference. The whites fired on the Indians without provocation, killing one Indian man and wounding two others; they tried to hide the dead man’s body. Later, back in town, they bragged about their exploit (MA 31:666-685; Thayer 1899)….

The dead man was Saccarry Harry, also known as Hegen. He was a Norridgewock (Kennebec) who also had resided at Wawenock (Wolinak/Becancour). The wounded men were Capt. Job, a Norridgewock, and Andrew, an Arosagunticook (Odanak/St. Francis). Thus, they were from three separate but related Abenaki bands. This greatly worried the Massachusetts governor and council … because it could cause a pan-Abenaki uprising, endangering the entire New England frontier, in this time of supposed peace (BM 23:366).

For our analytical purposes, the Wiscasset case shows both Abenaki unity-in-separation (Kidder 1867:307-9) and Abenaki diaspora-and-return (Haefeli and Sweeney 1994)…. This pattern included eventual reoccupation of formerly abandoned sites, if and when this was feasible. The victims of the Wiscasset attack were back hunting in former Abenaki territory—the original Wawenock region in particular. Such flexibility and fluidity as this was difficult for the sedentary English to comprehend, and lack of understanding enhanced suspicions (Ghere 1993).

To reassure settlers they would be safe and that the authorities were capable of governing, English colonial authorities took action. This was crucial given the strength of Wabanaki resistance and proximity of the French, who contested English territorial control and worked tirelessly to gain and keep Wabanaki allies. Complicating matters for the English colonists were their growing disputes with the Crown over who owned the land in Ckuwaponahkik.

Scalp proclamations were one weapon the English used to try to destroy Native peoples while reinforcing their own authority. Assaults and violence against persons and property were unrelenting. There were kidnappings and captives taken by all sides in the conflict. After diplomacy was unsuccessful, Wabanaki attacked garrisons to rid the land of the English invaders. When that didn’t work, they attacked cattle and set fire to settler homes. Settlements and villages were abandoned by both sides, many times. Each time the people came back, often a generation later, thinking that peace had been achieved, it hadn’t. Each time they thought they could rebuild homes and villages and resume trade in fish, timber, sawed lumber, firewood, and mighty masts for ships, they were wrong.

As English occupation of Native peoples’ territory intensified, Wabanaki sought to protect their families and defend their communities by attacking English towns. Colonial authorities turned to payment of scalp-bounty rewards to grow the ranks of provincial militia.

In 1751, Wabanaki leaders, aided by the diplomacy of Penobscot statesman and tribal leader Loron, succeeded in renewing the terms of Dummer’s Treaty, forging another fragile peace. For more information about Loron, see the Fourth Anglo-Abenaki War.

We now turn to the Sixth Anglo-Abenaki War, when events referred to in the documentary film, Bounty, transpired.

Work Cited

169 ​​Saxine, Properties of Empire, 151.
170 ​​Ruth Holmes Whitehead, The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Mi’kmaw History 1500-1950 (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 1991), 102.
172 Brian D. Carroll, “‘Savages’ in the Service of Empire: Native American Soldiers in Gorham’s Rangers, 1744-1762,” The New England Quarterly 85, no. 3 (2012): 406,
173 ​​November 18, 1748, Chapter 123, 185, Council Legislative Records (CLR), Massachusetts Archives Collection, Boston, Massachusetts.
174 J. Hammond Trumbull, and Charles J Hoadly, The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut (Hartford: Press of Case, Lockwood & Brainard, 1850), Vol. 9, 228-29.
177 ​​Ibid, 374-375.
178 ​​David L. Ghere and Alvin H. Morrison, “Sanctions for Slaughter: Peacetime Violence on the Maine Frontier, 1749-1772,” Papers of the 27th Algonquian Conference, edited by David H. Pentland (December 1996): 107-108.

Continue to the Next Lesson:

The Sixth Anglo-Abenaki War