Sunday, September 18, 2016

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Locating Aquascogooc
 
The showdown battle I will stage between Wingina’s warriors and Piemacum’s braves will be just south of the village of Aquascogooc on the eastern bank of the Pungo River just south of Fishing Creek.  Here is a map.
 
 
I took several weeks to decide where I wanted to locate the village.  Historians do not know the exact location.  Each seems to have his own opinion of the location.  Archeological digging has revealed several sites containing potsherds of various pottery styles as well as animal bones, chipped stone, hammerstones, and rocks used as tools.  Stephen Davis, Associate Director of the Research Laboratories of Archaeology at the University of North Carolina answered my email inquiry about the location of the three important archeological sites along the Pungo River where it is generally believed Aquascogooc existed in 1584.
 
“These three sites are located on the east shore of Pungo River between the mouth of Slade Creek and Fishing Creek.”  The most northerly site (greater access to fresh water) is where I located the village.
 
My next task was to determine the route Wingina’s canoes would take to reach Aquascogooc from Croatoan, where I have the Dasemunkepeuc and Roanoke braves gather prior to their crossing Pamlico Sound.  Here is an inaccurate map (wrong locations of Aquascogooc and Secotan and too many openings in the Outer Banks) of where the crossing would take place.  I estimated that the open-water crossing to Bluff Point on the southeast corner of the Pamlico Sound mainland would be 42 miles.  The map gives you some perspective of distance and risk.
 
 
Their journey begins.
 
It was definitely arduous.  Wanchese knew it. He had traveled to Aquascogooc once before.  He knew how the wind god could make travel from Croatoan across the endless waters impossible.  The wind-blown wavelets were striking the canoe’s left side, forcing its five paddlers – three on the left side – constantly to correct its course. Well ahead, Wingina’s two long canoes carried his warriors and the women. An entire day of paddling toward a landless horizon might find them – near the disappearance of the sun – north of the point of marsh [Bluff Point] shaped like a deformed foot, or at it, or to the south in vast open water. Finding it, they would paddle past it and turn north along the saw grass, black needlerush shoreline to a little creek where they would push the canoes into the marsh vegetation, eat smoked trout, drink fresh water from their gourds, and arrange themselves, touching their weapons and each others’ arms and legs, to sleep until the new day’s rays awakened them.
 
What follows is the route that the three canoes take to reach a final destination close to Aquascogooc.  Use this map and move the cursor to follow along.
 
 
Second Day
 
Continue east past Juniper Bay Point (6.5km/4 miles)
 
Go through Great Island Narrows to Crab Point before Swanquarter Bay (8km/5 miles)
 
Travel through Shell Narrows north of Swanquarter Island and two islands north of Swanquarter Island and the huge Judith Island farther north to reach the west end of the long lateral Swanquarter Island (7.5km/4.7 miles)
 
Pass through the narrows between the southernmost peninsula of Judith Island and a smaller island south of it and head northwest to reach Point of Narrows on the westernmost point of Judith Island. (5.5km/3.4 miles)
 
Travel slightly northwest in open water to Roos Point, passing the expansive opening to Spencer Bay (3500m/2.2 miles)
                                                                                                                            
Travel northwest along the swampy coastline past Abel Bay to Currituck Point and the very wide mouth of the Pungo River (9000m/5.6 miles)
 
Stay second night (24.5 miles)
 
General Information about the Marshland Passed
 
More than one-half of the Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge has been designated Wilderness: Judith Island, Swanquarter Island, Great Island, Marsh Island, and portions of the mainland along Juniper Bay. Judith, Swanquarter, and Great Islands are entirely estuarine, dominated by black needlerush, intermittently under water usually due to wind tides. Marsh Island is almost entirely estuarine, with a small upland forest section on the extreme northern boundary. Along the mainland of Juniper Bay, the Wilderness is approximately half estuarine and half upland forest.  In uplands forested in loblolly pine you may catch a glimpse of white-tailed deer, opossums, raccoons, and squirrels. Pond pine and bald cypress are also present.  Yellow-bellied turtles and water snakes inhabit the needlerush and saw grass that blankets most of the refuge, and a few of the northernmost American alligators live here in brackish water.  Most visitors come to fish from May through November for croaker, spot, speckled trout, flounder, puppydrum (young redfish), and bluefish. Crabbing is a popular sport in the warmer months.
 
Here are a few pictures to help you visual this area.
 
Swan Quarter Bay
 
 
Judith Marsh
 
 
Here is what one sailboat traveler had to say about the area.
 
November 12, 2012 – “We turned back toward North Creek and decided to take a shortcut behind Judith Island.  I wish I could properly capture this place on film, but I haven't managed it at all.  The marsh grass goes on for miles, with watery channels all running through it so all you see is water, grass and sky all around.  When the sky is blue, the water is blue and at dusk and dawn the grass turns all shades of brown, gold and rust.  It's very quiet sailing in there.  The water is smooth and gentle, protected by the marshes, everything is wild and free.  We find this deeply soothing.”
My narration:
Wanchese awoke suffering pain.
His right shoulder seemed locked in place. He rotated his arm, slowly, thoughtfully; tightened the center of his face; increased gradually the arc of the motion. Both knees were sore. Sitting in the bottom of the canoe, he flexed them. He wondered if standing in the three foot depth of water might soothe them.  Keme was already in the water.
Wanchese looked westward. The contour of the marsh shoreline meandered. The water was calm. He looked across the mainland; flat saw grass and needlerush extended beyond his vision! No place to sit on ground and build a fire. They would again follow the sun for most of its journey before they found earth upon which to sleep.
Wanchese labored now at the left side of the canoe, the waves striking behind when they paddled northwest, against their left side when they traveled due west, Wanchese could not remember accurately which island of marsh grass, which passage between islands of marsh grass, which point of a distant marsh island to be reached over extensive water determined how much farther they had to labor. His mind fixated on his frustration, and his pain.
          There were diversions, though. The shore birds especially. He had always loved to watch birds in flight. Laughing gulls had swooped at them when the canoe had approached their transitory territories. In one inlet of water, slicing through needlerush, seven or eight black-headed royal terns bobbed. One, then two more -- “kree, tsirr,”they  sounded -- had taken flight, running and flapping initially across the water. They had headed north, their beautiful bodies arrow-straight, in search of more welcoming marshland to search for shrimp and crabs.
          While Wanchese and his companions had rested, while he had been bent over, he had seen two feet below the surface of the water the drifting shapes of two speckled trout. He knew that elsewhere in tiny coves and narrow channels red and black drum and young speckled trout co-existed. Fishing was excellent here but too far from where a man could hunt, drink fresh water, build a fire, and sleep! Diverted, he had looked for yellow-bellied turtles and water snakes but had not been rewarded. He had hoped to see within a partially closed channel a sleeping alligator. There was hope yet.
          The sun was still visible when Tanaquincy returned from attending the meeting of leaders. They had beached their canoes in a little cove [Hobb Creek] that gave them some protection against the southwest wind. “You may take your chances sleeping on land,” Tanaquincy gestured, grimaced. “I will be drier in the canoe.”
          “What have they decided?” Taraquine moved closer  to Wanchese, placed his left hand on Wanchese’s right shoulder. Wanchese winced.
          “Ah, too hard for you?” Tanaquincy grinned. “Today we traveled a little more than half what we did the sleep before.” He laughed.
          “And the next day we fight,” Wanchese answered.
          “No, actually,” – he paused to enjoy their anticipatory expressions – “ we mostly rest.”
          Wanchese, Taraquine, and Machk continued  to stare.
          “We, Wingina, and Andacon paddle to a meeting place across the river. Where Osacan and his canoe waits.”
          “This river? This is the river?” Taraquine pointed outside the canoe.
          “The River of Many Fish! We have reached it! This is your first time here?”
          Taraquine nodded.
          “It has been an experience,” Machk said. He smiled. “Kiwasa must have enjoyed watching us.”
          “We will all be spreading tobacco tomorrow on these waters!”
          “Where is this place where we meet?” Wanchese asked quickly. How close to Aquascogooc would it dare be? he thought.
          “Not far. We have to cross the river, which is very wide. We do not want to be seen paddling along this side where we know small settlements might be located. Then we rest, wait for dark. Before first light we go our separate ways.”
 
Third Day
Cross the river in the northwest direction to Grass Point (3.4 miles)
Travel up the west bank to Wilkins Point and enter Jordan Creek and rest (2.6 miles)
During the night:
Osacon’s Canoe:
Travel north to Woodstock Point (2,2 miles)
Cross the river, arrive just south of fishing Creek, and land occupants 200 meters above Aquascogooc (2.2 miles)
Altogether 4.4 miles 
Wingina’s Two Canoes: 
Travel north to Woodstock Point (2.2 miles)
Cross the river due east and land occupants 200 meters south of Aquascogooc (2.3 miles)
Altogether 4.5 miles
Wanchese’s Canoe: 
Cross the river near dusk in a northeast direction to Sandy Point near the mouth of Slade Creek (2.2 Miles)
Enter Slade Creek and travel to July Point 1 mile)
Travel along the north bank to Hog Pen Point (1.75 miles)
Travel across Slade Creek and enter the mouth of Neal Creek (.5 miles)
Travel up Neal Creek to its navigable end (1.25 miles)
Travel overland in a northwesterly direction toward the Indian village to await dawn (1.7 miles)
Altogether 8.4 miles 
Pungo River Information
 
The Pungo River begins in the East Dismal Swamp in Washington County, about 10 miles south of Plymouth. As it flows southeast, it becomes the Beaufort and Hyde County border. Less than 20 miles from the source, the Pungo begins to widen rapidly as it passes under US 264 at Leechville. Several miles downstream, the Pungo River is connected to the Alligator River by a 21-mile canal, which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway. The Pungo is over a mile wide here, and the Intracoastal Waterway follows the Pungo as it turns west to pass Belhaven. Below Belhaven, the Pungo turns south to join the Pamlico River close to Pamlico Sound. At its mouth, the Pungo River is over 3 miles wide. In the 1950s, the Pungo River Canal was dug to improve drainage for farmland in the upper Pungo watershed. The canal runs near the natural river channel. Pungo Lake is part of the Pungo National Wildlife Refuge and connects to the river by a canal. 
 
Not as renowned as the Neuse or the Roanoke, the Pungo River is a prolific fishery loaded with pristine shorelines and waters that are rich in speckled trout. Early Native Americans identified it as "matcha punga" or the "river of many fish."   The name stuck, and the river continues to maintain its rich heritage.  The influx of fresh and salt waters, as well as a high variation in depths, creates every condition available for fish and plant species utilizing the area. The river and the Pamlico Sound contain thousands of acres of premier habitat important to more than 75 species of finfish and shellfish.
 
 
I wanted to know specifically what vegetation lined the banks of the Pungo River.  I could not find any internet source to inform me.  I asked via email a prominent fisherman based in Belhaven to provide me information.  He has not responded. I must depend, therefore, on pictures.  Here are several.
 
Looking toward Jordon Creek
 
Slade Creek
 
Upper Slade Creek near Sladeville
 
Pictures near Belhaven, which is north of where I place Aquascogooc
 
 
 
 
Pictures near Pantego Creek
 
 
 
Now to narrate the battle.