My father taught me to kill.
‘Killing is a chore.’
That simple statement is one that has remained with me for close to four centuries, and while killing is occasionally enjoyable, my father spoke the truth.
I learned this in 1640.
I was close to my twelfth birthday, and I had already slain my mother at the table several months earlier.
We were having trouble with the Wampanoag tribe that lived within a day of us, and they had decided to raid Cross. They had killed a pair of brothers working in their field and chased myself, my sister, and my brother into the garrison house which – at the time – stood between our property and that of the Coffins. With my father and the elder Coffins at the firing-ports, we held the Wampanoags off until they grew tired of attacking us.
We did not wait long to visit our revenge upon them.
My father brought me and some of the older Coffin boys and men to the Wampanoag village.
Our attack was swift.
We set fire to their outbuildings, destroyed the food they were setting in for winter, killed several of the men and took the remaining eighty-one Wampanoags prisoner.
My father recorded it succinctly.
‘I was right to bring Duncan with me on this raid. He has a steady hand for one so young, and he had no remorse when putting the torch to the village. Would I not have to train him in this fashion, but I am afraid it is for the best.
‘These prisoners shall illustrate a point to the other tribes, for I have asked their war chiefs to send me representatives. With these emissaries on the banks of the Cross River, they shall learn that we shall not falter. Duncan, as my son and as a child of this place, shall show them that our children are strong.’
I remember the day well.
I helped to bring the prisoners out to the center of the river, and with the representatives of the other tribes watching, I helped drown the Wampanoag men, women, and children we had taken prisoner.
Killing is a chore, one my father taught me not to shirk from.