The novel ‘Into the Americas’ captures horror of 1803 massacre at Nootka Sound

Posted: September 11, 2015 in Into the Americas
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Young English seaman John Jewitt was one of only two survivors after the crew of the brigantine The Boston was attacked by Mowachaht warriors in Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, one fateful day in 1803.

Jewitt after the massacre…years later.

We capture the horror of that bloody massacre in the following excerpt from our true-life novel Into the Americas. (Keep in mind what’s not shown in this excerpt is the provocation the Mowachahts had received from European traders prior to this awful event):

As Toowin related what happened, Peshwar and the other warriors gathered around. They grew increasingly angry, glaring at the crewmen concerned, as they learned what had transpired ashore. Jostling broke out between the warriors and some of the crew.

Those crewmen who were armed brandished their muskets threateningly.

“Hold your fire, men!” Delouissa ordered. He didn’t want some trigger-happy sailor sparking a pitched battle on deck.

Maquina and his warriors were now highly agitated. Peshwar in particular wanted blood. He approached the crewmen who formed a protective wall in front of Brown and Waters.

Seventeen-year-old, fresh-faced English sailor Thomas Newton happened to be closest to the fierce headman. Newton visibly shook as Peshwar stopped in front of him. Sweating profusely, the youth’s finger tightened around the trigger of his musket.

“Steady lad,” Delouissa cautioned.

Looking on, Salter and Maquina were equally concerned that events were escalating out of control.

“Do not let them provoke us!” Maquina shouted to his warriors. “We are here to trade. Not fight.”

Peshwar ignored the chief and continued to eyeball Newton. The young sailor pissed his breeches, so fearful was he.

Maquina pulled Peshwar back just as Newton fired his musket. The musket ball meant for the headman struck a warrior standing behind him, killing him instantly.

The Mowachahts and Salter’s men couldn’t believe what had just happened. Time seemed to stand still as they stared at the dead warrior.

Still fearing for his life, Newton frantically began to prime his musket. His actions sparked the others to life. Armed crewmen prepared to use their weapons.

Angered by the death of one of their own, the Mowachahts drew clubs, knives and tomahawks from beneath their capes. Their chilling war cries filled the air, causing the crewmen to open fire. Several warriors went down in that first volley.

“Stop shooting!” Salter shouted. His order was lost in the chaos.

Crewmen fired at point-blank range and several more warriors went down. Incensed, the remaining warriors, with Maquina and Peshwar leading the way, flailed at their attackers with their weapons. Dorthy and three crewmates were hacked to death before they could even react.

Newton dived over the brig’s side into the water where he was clubbed to death by one of a dozen more warriors who had just arrived alongside The Boston by canoe. The canoe’s occupants, most of whom carried muskets, scaled the brig’s side. As they poured over the rail, The Boston’s remaining crew found themselves fighting for their lives. 

Brown and Waters fled as Toowin made straight for them. The chief’s son threw his tomahawk, which lodged dead center in Brown’s back, felling him. He then drew his hunting knife and threw it at Waters with equal effect. It struck the young steward between the shoulder blades, causing him to sink to his knees, badly wounded. Toowin hurried over to Waters, retrieved his knife then used it to unceremoniously cut the young man’s throat.

Delouissa shot dead a Mowachaht headman. The chief mate turned around too late to avoid a spinning tomahawk, which lodged between his eyes, catapulting him overboard.

A tall warrior with knife in hand lunged at the unarmed rigger Kelly. The poetic Englishman evaded the flashing blade and scrambled up the nearest mast. His attacker put the blade between his teeth and climbed after him.

Jupiter Senegal ran to intercept the tall warrior. An arrow thudded into Jupiter’s chest, killing him instantly. Around him, crewmates were bludgeoned and shot as still more Mowachahts arrived on The Boston’s deck.

Drawn by the sounds of conflict, John had hurried topside to investigate. A quick glance through an open hatch had told him all he needed to know. A full-scale battle was under way. Realizing he wasn’t armed, the horrified young man returned below to grab a musket. He returned moments later, having located and primed a new musket from the armory.

The brig The Boston.

His heart beating wildly, John cautiously poked his head through the same open hatch. Unfortunately for him, Peshwar happened by at that exact moment. The headman grabbed John by the hair and raised his tomahawk. Just as he brought the weapon down, he lost his grip on the young Englishman’s hair. The tomahawk’s cutting edge clipped John’s forehead. It was only a glancing blow, but it sent him crashing down the steps.

John lay, unmoving, down in the steerage. Blood flowed freely from an ugly head wound.

Peshwar prepared to go down the steps after him, but was prevented by Maquina who lowered a heavy hatch cover and locked it to seal John in. The headman looked strangely at the chief, as if seeking an explanation.

“We need him,” Maquina said simply.

Peshwar was about to argue when he was distracted by the fighting around them. He and Maquina rejoined the fray.

Further along the deck, a desperate Salter tried to rally his remaining crew. “To me!” he shouted. “Form a circle!”

The surviving crewmen fought their way to reach their captain. Not all made it. Those who did, formed a tight circle and faced outward with their muskets and pistols ready.

Salter did a quick headcount. He estimated not a dozen of his men remained alive. Only half a dozen had made it to his side, and those who hadn’t were rapidly being overcome by the Mowachahts’ superior numbers.

At the bow, riggers Wood and Burton tried to keep half a dozen warriors at bay. The pair were armed only with knives, which they used to good effect. Each felled a warrior with deft thrusts of their blades before the inevitable happened and they went down beneath swinging tomahawks and clubs.

Toward the stern, John’s friend William Ingraham flailed at two warriors with a grappling hook he’d managed to grab as he’d been chased along the deck. Blood from a head wound flowed freely, nearly blinding him.

One of William’s assailants was Keno, the warrior whose musket had malfunctioned on shore. Keno threw a tomahawk at the young American’s legs. Its blade lodged in William’s right kneecap, felling him. The second mate rolled around on deck, screaming in agony, as Keno prepared to finish him off. Rather than finishing him quickly, Keno retrieved his tomahawk and, using his foot, pushed his victim through the railing into the sea where waiting sharks tore into him. The sharks had been attracted by the blood of others who had gone overboard.

As they had with the other crewmen who had ended up in the water, warriors in one of the waiting canoes pulled William into their craft before he could be completely devoured. His lifeless body was heaped on top of the others. The victims’ blood turned seawater in the bottom of the canoe red.

Above deck, Kelly was still being pursued up the mast by the tall warrior. Now high in the rigging, Kelly looked down as his pursuer lashed out at his legs with his knife. The rigger lifted his knees to his chest to narrowly avoid the flashing blade then continued climbing for all he was worth.

When he’d climbed as far as he could, he lifted his knees up once more then brought both feet down hard on his pursuer’s head. The tall warrior fell to his death.

From his vantage point, Kelly could only watch as still more warriors swarmed over The Boston’s sides. Arrows, tomahawks and musket-fire struck down more of his crewmates.

By now, only Salter and three of his crew remained alive on deck. They fought with the desperation of men who knew they were about to die.

Salter was the first to fall, an arrow through his throat. He lay rolling about the deck as he struggled to breath. One of the boatswains was next. He went down beneath a flailing club, leaving only Norwegian sailor Peter Alstrom and Irish sailor James McClay still on their feet. A well placed musket ball finished off McClay.

Maquina charged at Alstrom and decapitated him with one swing of his tomahawk. The Mowachaht chief held his victim’s head triumphantly aloft, and his warriors howled war cries at the sight.

Not to be outdone, Peshwar stood over Salter who was still alive although now obviously breathing his last. The headman swung his tomahawk, decapitating the captain. Peshwar then kicked Salter’s head, sending it rolling along the deck to the accompaniment of more war cries. The head came to a rest against the same mast that Kelly had scaled.

Only now did the Mowachahts turn their attention to the wounded English rigger high above them. Two warriors fired arrows at him. One landed in Kelly’s chest, another in his right thigh. Blood flowed freely from both wounds and Kelly had to fight against feelings of faintness.


You have been reading an excerpt from INTO THE AMERICAS (A novel based on a true story). The book is available on Amazon:

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)



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