Captain Myles Standish (c. 1584 – October 3, 1656), (sometimes spelled Miles Standish) was an English born military officer hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for Plymouth colony. Arriving on the Mayflower, he worked on colonial defense. On February 17, 1622, he was appointed the first commander of Plymouth colony. Later, he served as Plymouth's representative in England, and served as assistant governor and as the colony's treasurer. He was also one of the founders of the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts (named after his ancestral seat at Duxbury Woods, Chorley) in 1632. In January 2008 in Chorley a new road was opened called the Myles Standish Way and sometime this year or next year a Myles Standish visitor centre will be opened in Chorley.
Standish is often remembered for his bravery in battle and his reputation as the military captain of the Pilgrims, as well as a character in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's fictitious poem The Courtship of Miles Standish.
The former Fort Standish, located on Lovell's Island, Massachusetts, was named in his honor, as well as the town of Standish, Maine.
In North America
After the Pilgrims hired Standish as Military Captain for the voyage to North America, he was soon to be one of the members to sign the Mayflower Compact
at Cape Cod November 11
. After the voyage, Standish was elected Military Captain of the colony by the leadership of the Pilgrims, with Lieutenant William Holmes
as his second in command, both to be paid 20 pounds sterling in corn or beaver pelts.
Soon after arriving at Plymouth
, the first illness struck the Pilgrims and this sickness took his wife Rose’s life, on January 29
; In 1623, a woman named Barbara came to Plymouth on the ship Anne
, and Myles married her that same year. Myles and Barbara had seven children together. They were Charles (died young), Alexander (who married Sarah Alden, daughter of John Alden
and Priscilla Mullins
), John, Myles, Loara
, Josiah, and Charles
Through all the continued sickness, Standish was one of the seven that did not get sick; William Bradford quoted:
- But that was most sad and lamentable was, that in two or three months’ time half of their company died, especially in January and February.... So as their died some times two or three of a day in the foresaid time, that 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendation, be it spoken, spared no pains night or day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed their meat, made their beds, washed their clothes clothed and unclothed them… Two of these seven were Mr. William Brewster, their reverend Elder, and Myles Standish, their captain and military commander, unto whom myself and many others were much beholden in our low and sick condition.
Standish was quick to make friends with the natives, including one named Hobomok.
In the second year at Plymouth, Standish led a force to Wessagusett to save the settlement from native attack. Responding to reports of a military threat to the colony, Myles Standish organized a militia to defend Wessagussett. However, while he found that there had been no attack, he did find evidence that one was planned. He therefore decided on a preemptive strike. Unfortunately, while Standish returned to Plymouth a hero after the raid, the impact of his attack had larger implications.
Edward Winslow quoted in Good News From New England about this incident:
- Also Pecksuot, being a man of great stature than the Captain, told him, though he were a great Captain, yet he was but a little man; and said he, thought I be no sachem, yet I am a man of great strength and courage. These things the Captain observed, yet bare with patience for the present. . . On the next day he began himself with Pecksuot, and snatching his [Pecksuot's] knife from his neck, though with much struggling, killed him therewith. . . Hobbamock stood by all this as a spectator, and meddled not observing how our men demeaned themselves in this action. All being here ended, smiling, he brake forth into these speeches to the Captain: Yesterday Pecksuot, bragging of his own strength and stature, said, though you were a great captain, yet you were but a little man; but today I see you are big enough to lay him on the ground.
Word quickly spread among the Native American tribes of Standish's attack; many Native Americans abandoned their villages and fled the area. Edward Winslow, in his 1624 memoirs Good News from New England, reports that "they forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof very many are dead". Now lacking the trade in furs provided by the local tribes, the Pilgrims lost their main source of income for paying off their debts to the Merchant Adventurers. Rather than strengthening their position, Standish's raid had disastrous consequences for the colony, a fact noted by William Bradford, who in a letter to the Merchant Adventurers noted "[W]e had much damaged our trade, for there where we had [the] most skins the Indians are run away from their habitations..." However, one positive effect of Standish's raid was the increased power of the Massasoit-led Wampanoag, the Pilgrims' closest ally in the region.
Standish was also, from 1644 to 1649, the treasurer of the town of Duxbury, which was named after the original Standish estate in Chorley
, England. Standish had never joined the Plymouth church (though he attended every Sunday), and to his death supposedly never did. This was possibly because of the constant conflict over religious beliefs in his family.
Standish died in Duxbury Massachusetts on October 3, 1656. Nathaniel Morton wrote of his death:
- This year  Captain Myles Standish expired his mortal life. . . .In his younger time he went over into the low countries, and was a soldier there, and came acquainted with the church at Leynden, and came over into New England, with such of them as at the first set out the plantation of New Plymouth, and bare a deep share of their first difficulties, and was always very faithful to their interest. He growing ancient, became sick of the stone, or stranguary, whereof, after his suffering of much dolorous pain, he fell asleep in the Lord, and was Honorably buried at Duxbury.
Standish’s last will and testimony states even though leaving his family in England that he had land in various parts of England. His will states: “9 I give unto my son & heir apparent Allexander Standish all my land as heire apparent by lawful Decent in Ormistick [Ormskirk], Borsconge [Burscough], Wrightington, Maudsley [Mawdesley], Newburrow [Newborough], Crawston [Croston] and the Ile of man [Isle of Man ] and given to me as right heire by lawful Decent but Surruptuously Detained from my great Grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standosh [Standish] of Standish. March the 7th 1655 by me Standish.” These lands now make up the Lancashire towns of Chorley and Ormskirk.
Myles Standish was the deputy governor.
Jawna Standish, International Fashion Designer known to be linked to The Mayflower and direct descendant to Myles Standish,
Citations and notes
- Jawna Standish, International Fashion Designer to the entertainment industry in US & Asia, known to be linked to The Mayflower, a direct descendent to Myles Standish
- Jawna Standish Official Site
- Sumner, William Hyslop, An Inquiry Into the Importance of the Militia to a Free Commonwealth: In a Letter from William H. Sumner ... to John Adams, Late President of the United States; with His Answer, Cummings and Hilliard, Boston, 1823
- Myles Standish from MayflowerHistory.com
- Myles Standish article by Helen Moorwood
- Myles Standish by Dr Jeremy Bangs, PhD.