For awhile the affairs of this colony went on very prosperously. But in May, 1632, an expedition, consisting of two ships, was fitted out from Holland. with additional emigrants and supplies. Just before the vessels left the Texel, a ship from Manhattan brought the melancholy intelligence to Amsterdam that the colony at Swaanendael had been destroyed by the savages, thirty-two men having been killed outside of the fort working in the fields. Still DeVrees, who commanded the expedition, hoping that the report was exaggerated, and that the colony might still live, in sadness and disappointment proceeded on his way. One of his vessels ran upon the sands off Dunkirk, causing a delay of two months. It was not until the end of December that the vessels cast anchor off Swaanendael. No boat from the shore approached; no signs of life met the eye. The next morning a boat, thoroughly armed, was sent into the creek on an exploring tour.
Upon reaching the spot where the fort had been erected they found the building and palisades burned, and the ground strewn with the hones of their murdered countrymen, intermingled with the remains of cattle. The silence and solitude of the tombs brooded over the devastated region. Not even a savage was to be seen. As the boat returned with these melancholy tidings, DeVrees caused a heavy cannon to be fired, hoping that its thunders, reverberating over the bay, and echoing through the trails of the wilderness, might reach the ear of some friendly Indian, from whom he could learn the details of the disaster.
The next morning a smoke was seen curling up from the forest near the ruins. The boat was again sent into the creek, and two or three Indians were seen cautiously prowling about. But mutual distrust stood in the way of any intercourse. The Dutch were as apprehensive of ambuscades and the arrows of the Indians, as were the savages of the bullets of the formidable strangers.
Some of the savages at length ventured to come down to the shore, off which the open boat floated, beyond the reach of arrows. Lured by friendly signs, one of the Indians soon became emboldened to venture on board. He was treated with great kindness, and succeeded in communicating the following, undoubtedly true, account of the destruction of the colony:
“One of the chiefs, seeing the glittering tin plate, emblazoned with the arms of Holland, so conspicuously exposed upon the column, apparently without any consciousness that he was doing anything wrong, openly, without any attempt at secrecy, took it down and quite skilfully manufactured it into tobacco pipes. The commander of the fort, a man by the name of Hossett, complained so bitterly of this, as an outrage that must not pass unavenged, that some of the friendly Indians, to win his favor, killed the chief, and brought to Hossett his head, or some other decisive evidence that the deed was done.”
The commandant was shocked at this severity of retribution, so far exceeding anything which he had desired, and told the savages that they had done very wrong; that they should only have arrested the chief and brought him to the fort. The commandant would simply have reprimanded him and forbidden him to repeat the offence.