Miles Standish, behind his Wampanoag friend Hobbamock, goes on an expedition against a rival Wampanoag leader, Corbitant. The verses that accompany this scene are from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's popular, romantic, and utterly ahistoric poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish."

Illustration by Armstrong & Co., courtesy Library of Congress

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    On February 17, 1621, Capt. Miles Standish was elected commander, or military leader, of the Pilgrim community in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts. Standish would maintain this position for the rest of his life.
    Although Standish sailed over on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims, he was not one of them. The Pilgrims were a British religious group seeking freedom to worship, and they hired Standish as a military adviser before the Mayflower set sail. The Pilgrims originally wanted to hire John Smith, who had already explored the New World and helped establish the British colony in Jamestown, Virginia, but Smith was too expensive.
    Standish was an important part of the new colony. He signed the Mayflower Compact, one of the oldest documents outlining democratic law in what would become the United States, and organized defense against aggressive Native American groups, including the Massachusett and the Narragansett.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    adviser Noun

    person who offers informed advice about an issue.

    aggressive Adjective

    forceful or offensive.

    colony Noun

    people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

    democratic Adjective

    having to do with a government led by its citizens, who vote for policies and/or representatives.

    elect Verb

    to choose by vote.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    expensive Adjective

    very costly.

    Mayflower Noun

    ship on which the Pilgrims sailed from Southampton, England, to establish their colony in what would become Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    Native American Noun

    person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

    New World Noun

    the Western Hemisphere, made up of the Americas and their islands.

    Pilgrim Noun

    early settler of Plimouth Colony, Massachusetts.

    soldier Noun

    person who serves in a military.

    weapon Noun

    tool to hurt or combat an opponent.