GROTON, Conn. (AP) - An area where hundreds of Pequots died in a bloody massacre by colonial settlers and other American Indians in 1637 is being eyed as a possible National Battlefield site.
The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is researching land there and elsewhere in Connecticut in hopes of having the area included in the federal list of such sites.
A team from the museum is using a $22,000 grant from the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program to study land in Groton and other communities, hoping to find artifacts from the 17th century Pequot War battles.
The area of Groton that is now Pequot Avenue is the site where colonists and their American Indian allies surrounded the Pequots' Mystic Fort in May 1637. They killed more than 500, the start of what amounted to a cultural extermination of the tribe, said Kevin McBride, the museum's director of research.
The war involved more than just the massacre, he said.
Researchers are also looking at land in Old Saybrook, Fairfield, Wethersfield and Dover Plains, N.Y., that lay within the bloody path of the 1636 - 38 war. Marching routes and camp sites are also part of the study.
The museum has sent letters to about 250 Groton landowners whose properties may be within the battle site areas. Participation will be voluntary and the homeowners would not risk losing their land to the tribe or government, or be forced to restore or open their homes to the public.
''There's no disadvantage to assisting us, and it could be to their advantage,'' McBride said. ''It's pretty cool to know you're part of a battlefield site.''
Rather than digging large test pits, the research team wants to canvass large areas with metal detectors in a search for musket balls, brass points and possibly flint and pottery, McBride said. Recovering specific items found by the detector would disturb the property much less, he said.
To designate an area a battlefield, a historically significant event had to happen; there had to be bloodshed; and the boundaries and locations have to be defined, McBride said.
Researchers are poring over old maps, letters and eyewitness accounts to define the sites in modern-day Groton and elsewhere that were significant spots in the Pequot War. The team has also discovered two new narratives of the war in other historical documents.
They plan to work with the Office of the Connecticut State Archaeologist, the Connecticut state historian, the State Historic Preservation Office and local historical societies.
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