Miles Standish

Miles Standish was an officer in the English military who went with the pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 to assist in their defense.

Standish had fought in the Eighty Years War against the Spanish and believed in the belief of religious freedom from the Church of England. As a “Separatist,” Standish was an excellent choice to defend those that were traveling to the New World to establish a colony that validated those religious beliefs.


Where did they live?

Miles Standish and his wife were very much against the staunch religious beliefs of the Church of England. They decided to move the Leiden Netherlands, where the Separatists movement had established a settlement.

Their religion was against the law in England, and yet they were worried that their children would lose the culture and customs of their homeland.

Facts about Miles Standish

  • The couple made the decision to relocate to the New World along with many in the Netherlands to create a new settlement in what was the Americas. The colonists needed someone to protect them on their journey. Their first choice of John Smith ended badly as he wanted too much money. Standish accepted, and he traveled with the group on the Mayflower.
  • The Mayflower voyage had many problems, and by the time they saw the land, the ship was so damaged that they had to land at Cape Cod instead of the Colony of Virginia. Once they landed, Standish assisted in finding a place to live, and they created the Mayflower Compact, which dictated how the group would live and guidelines on how they treated each other.
  • Standish and other men set out on explorations to try to learn about their new home and find the best place to live. They experienced a lot of dangers, including traveling during freezing weather, causing some of their companions to be sick. During their missions, they came across Native Indians, who fled when they saw them.
  • It took the group until late December in 1620 to locate a place to live, and they began building a small fort. In January, Standish’s wife died.
  • Miles Standish became a close friend of William Bradford, who eventually became Governor of the settlement. They worked closely for many years to try to bring strength to the colony.
  • It was important for the settlement to have a good relationship with the Native Indians, and when a Native Indian named Samoset came to visit, he spoke with their leaders. He later brought his tribe leader, and they signed a treaty with the chief, all becoming friends and promising to help each other.
  • The conflict happened when a different Native Indian tried to cause problems, and Standish had to lead a group of ten men, including three Native Indians, to capture him. Rather than have a war between all of them, Standish and others talked and had a treaty signed.
  • Problems didn’t end, as in 1621, a tribal messenger from one of the larger tribes arrived in Plymouth with a bundle of snakeskin wrapped arrows as a threat to the colony. The Governor returned the package with gunpowder as a way to say that the colonists weren’t afraid, and Standish told the settlement to prepare for a fight.
  • Even though there had been another ship that had landed bringing more men to the colony, they were still outnumbered by the Native Indians. A meeting was held, and they sent Standish and some men to find those that wanted to kill them. The situation ended badly, with Standish killing the Native Indians that wanted to cause harm. Unfriendly Native Indians ended up leaving the area.
  • Standish may have been courageous, but he had very little charisma, often being harsh with Native Indians and making even some of the colonists upset.
  • As the settlement grew, Standish was given the job of highway surveyor and colony treasurer.
  • Standish had a farm in Duxbury and died in his home in 1656.

What did you learn?

What war did Miles Standish fight against the Spanish?

Eighty Years War

Why did the colonists heading to the New World think Miles Standish was an excellent choice for defense?

Courage, bravery, and shared Separatists religious beliefs

What was the main job that Standish participated in once the Mayflower landed in the New World?

Looking for a place to live

What bad trait did Miles Standish have?

Lack of charisma that caused problems with Native Indians and colonists

What was the result of the situation of Standish and men being sent out to seek the Native Indians that wanted to harm them?

Miles Standish killed the Native American

What two jobs was Standish later given in the settlement?

Colony treasurer and highway surveyo