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King Philip's War



The Wampanoag assisted the early colonists in establishing colonies in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Squanto and Massasoit were the chiefs that help them survive their first winter. However, as more colonists came over, tensions between the Native Americans and the colonists increased.


Some of the colonists believed that they were sent to the area to Christianize and civilize the "barbarian savages". To that end, they created "Praying Towns" when Natives who had converted to Christianity could live and learn more about their faith and also learn how to be "civilized". Massasoit refused to allow the Puritans entrance to his tribal home, but he would let them talk to those who were interested outside of his camp.


Although many believe that all the Natives were on one side or the other, there were in fact many tribes in the area. In the fifty-five years since Squanto and Massasoit helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter, tensions had increased. The tensions between colonist and Native American increased. The tensions between assorted tribes also increased.


In 1660, Massasoit died and his son Wamsutta became the Grand Sachem. In 1662, Wamsutta mysteriously died after being held in Plymouth. Metacom then became the sachem. Metacom was also known as King Philip for his stern and distrustful demeanor towards the colonists.


Tensions reached a head in 1675.


The conflict began when some warriors from the Wampanoag tribe killed some English cattle near present day Bristol, Rhode Island. The colonists cattle were a source of tension to the Natives because they trampled their corn. In retaliation, a farmer killed one of the warriors.


John Sassamon, a Native Christian convert, was a scholar, a translator and an advisor to King Philip. He gave a report to Plymouth Colony officials that King Philip was planning to attack or arrange to be attacked several colonies. Before any investigation could be done by the colonists, Sassamon was found murdered and his body beneath the ice on Assawompset Pond. Three Native Americans were charged with his murder. A jury, on which some of the Native converts were a part, convicted the three and they were hanged 8 Jun 1675. This angered the Wampanoags who believed that this was an insult to tribal sovereignty. In response, on 20 Jun, a band of warriors (whether it was with or without Philip's approval is unknown) attacked several isolated homesteads around Swansea, Massachusetts. Laying seige to the town, they destroyed it five days later.


In response, the colonists destroyed the Wampanoag town Mount Hope (present day Bristol, Rhode Island) on 28 Jun.


The conflict quickly spread. On 8 Jul, Middleborough and Dartmouth were attacked. Mendon was attacked on 14 Jul.


The Nipmuck tribes lived in what is now central Massachusetts. They joined with King Philip's Wampanoags and made a formidable foe for the colonists.


The warriors from the Nipmuck and Wampanoag tribes attacked Brookfield 2 Aug. Brookfield was a frontier settlement deep in the heart of Nipmuck lands. The Natives first laid a trap for the soldiers led by Captains Hutchinson and Wheeler. Eight were struck down and the rest barely made it back to the garrison. The native warriors pursued them, burning the town as they went. Surrounding the wooden garrison where the soldiers and settlers huddled, the pushed a flaming cart against one wall. Those inside the garrison used the last of their drinking water to slow the flames. A rain put out the remaining blaze and soldiers from another garrison arrived to rescue those remaining inside. Brookfield will not be rebuilt for eleven years.


They attacked Lancaster 9 Aug.


Along the Connecticut River lived the Pocumtucks (living along the north side of the river), the Squakheags (present day Northfield), and the Norwottocks (greater Hadley). These three tribes joined the warpath, concentrating attacks in an area referred to as Pioneer Valley. They attacked Deerfield, Hadley and Northfield.


ON 18 Sep after the attack on Deerfield, Captain Lothrop was ordered to march his men back to collect any remaining grain. The trip to Deerfield went without incident, the soldiers and farmers were able to load several wagons with grain and crops. On the return trip south, they put their muskets on top of wagons and picked wild grapes. At the point where their paths crossed a brook, the warriors had felled a tree, blocking their path. The soldiers and farmers were quickly surrounded and 71 were killed. The brook turned red with the blood, giving the name Bloody Brook. Captain Moseley, hearing the musket fire, responded as quickly as possible with his troops, but could not rescue Captain Lothrop or his men. Captain Moseley soon retreated. They returned the next day to bury the dead, many of whom were still lying in the water.


After this, the colonists were quick to choose scapegoats, persecuting some Quakers and neutral Christian Natives, even hanging some.


In order to keep the Agawam tribe "peaceful", the colonists kidnapped some of their children. Agawams had remained apart from the warpath until then. Angered, they joined the Wampanoags, Nipmucks, Pocumtucks, Squakheags and Norwottocks, attacking Springfield 5 Oct. Thirty houses were burned.


With winter setting in, the number of attacks reduced. Although the natives normally wintered at present day Turner Falls, many wintered at Mount Wachusett, which was a short distance from Boston.


The colonists, fearing that the Narragansett tribe, although remaining neutral to then, would join in the fight, the Plymouth Colony decided to attack their winter home. This would become known as the Great Swamp Fight. Their winter fortress was located where present day South Kingston, Rhode Island is. On 16 Dec, in a blizzard, a combined force of about a 1000 militia with another 150 Mohicans and Pequots attacked the fortress in the swamp. They felled a tree to cross the moat and proceeded to attack. About 70 colonists died and another 150 were wounded. Estimates of the number of Narragansetts killed range from 300 to 500. However, many homes were burned and they lost their winter stores. This brought the Narragansett tribe into the fray.


Throughout the winter months, the natives attacked many settlements. Bull Garrison House was destroyed. Andover, Bridgwater, Chelmsford, Groton, Marlborough, Medfield, Medford, Millis, Portland, Providence, Rehoboth, Scituate, Seekonk, Simsbury, Sudbury, Suffield, Warwick, Weymouth, Wrentham were all attacked. In Feb 1676, Lancaster was attacked and prisoners were taken. One prisoner was Mary Rowlandson.


On 12 Mar, the natives attacked Plymouth Plantation. Although the settlement withstood the assault, the natives demonstrated their abilities to strike deep in the colonial territory. Two weeks later, Longmeadow, Marlborough and Simsbury were attacked. Captain Pierce and his company were wiped out between Pawtucket and Blackstone's settlement. Several were allegedly tortured and buried at Nine Men's Misery near Cumberland. The Providence, Rhode Island, although abandoned, was burned to the ground 29 Mar. That same night, Springfield, Massachusetts was attacked and partially burned.


On 18 May, the colonists led by Captain William Turner and Captain Holyoke attacked a group of warriors who were spearfishing at the falls at Peskeopscut on the Connecticut River (now known as Turner Falls). Many jumped in the water to escape and were sent over the falls. About 200 warriors were killed. Turner and about 40 of the militia were killed during their retreat.


On 12 Jun 1676, colonists, aided by their allies the Mohicans, won at Hadley, Massachusetts. Many of the warriors who survived were scattered into New Hampshire. Later that month at Marlborough, Massachusetts, a group of 250 Native Americans were routed. Other forces continued to attack Narragansetts as they attempted to return to their homes in present day Rhode Island.


Philip's allies began to desert him. Many were surrendering to the colonists. Philip took refuge in the Assowamsett Swamp below Providence, Rhode Island. Philip was finally tracked down by Captain Benjamin Church and his party. On 12 Aug 1876 he was shot by John Alderman, a Native American who had revealed to Church Philip's whereabouts. Philip was then beheaded, drawn and quartered. His head was displayed in Plymouth for twenty years. This was the end except for a few minor attacks in Maine in 1677.


In the aftermath, however, over 3000 Native Americans died. Many of those who survived were sent to Bermuda as slaves, including Philip's son and wife. Many Bermudians claim ancestry to these tribes. The Nipmucks, Narragansetts, Wampanoag, Podunk and other smaller tribes were virtually eliminated as organized bands. Those not enslaved and sent to Bermuda were forced to join other tribes further west, usually as lower caste members.



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