On this day: King Phillip’s War was ended

King Philip’s War of 1675-1676 was a predictable Indian rebellion against continuing Puritan incursions into Native American lands. Though Indian attacks were vicious, they were no more so than those the Puritans had waged with less provocation.

In May of 1637, several hundred recent Connecticut Valley settlers led by English Captain John Mason, formerly of Boston’s Dorchester settlement, surprised and torched a Pequot village while its warriors were absent. The Puritans surrounded the village and shot hundreds of women, old men and children attempting to escape the flames.

An eyewitness account of that horror reads “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the flames, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.” John Mason wrote back to Dorchester that God had “laughed at his enemies and the enemies of his people,…making them as a fiery oven.”

William Bradford died in 1657. Massasoit died around 1660 and was succeeded by his son Wamsutta. With the passing of the first generation, the personal bonds which had maintained peace between the two very different groups were broken.

Tensions had long existed due to the two cultures’ different ways of life. Colonists’ livestock trampling Native cornfields was a continuing problem. Competition for resources created friction. Regional economic changes forced many Natives to sell their land.

In 1662, in an arrogant attempt to exert control, colonial forces took Wampanoag leader Wamsutta at gunpoint to Plymouth. The Wampanoag were greatly angered when Wamsutta sickened and died shortly afterwards. Wamsutta’s brother Metacom (King Philip) became leader and ultimately led his people into war to preserve their traditional way of life.

The causes

Colonist’ hunger for land and their heavy-handed treatment of Natives led to one of the most disastrous wars in American history. The mysterious murder of John Sassamon, a Native liaison between the two groups, resulted in a complete breakdown in relations.

In 1675, the war, named for the Wampanoag leader Metacom (or King Philip), broke out in the town of Swansea. Hostilities spread north and west, soon threatening much of New England.

The conflict

King Philip’s War lasted little more than a year. Beginning in Plymouth Colony in June of 1675, the war spread throughout New England. Boston itself was threatened. Colonial resources and manpower ultimately prevailed.

Captain John Mason

King Philip’s warriors attacked the town of Swansea in western Plymouth Colony in June of 1675. Encouraged by success, they carried the war to neighboring Plymouth Colony towns. In August of 1675, hostilities expanded to the Connecticut River Valley; many settlements were burned. In December, Philip’s winter quarters in Rhode Island’s Great Swamp were destroyed in a crucial colonial victory. In February of 1676, Native forces swept east; Boston seemed threatened. War returned to Plymouth Colony, with a raid in Plymouth itself. Colonists considered abandoning the frontier, but time was on their side. By June of 1676, the tide of war had turned. Native forces, lacking food, manpower and arms, retreated. King Philip’s death at Mount Hope in August 1676 effectively ended the war.

Not all Native Peoples sided with King Philip. Native soldiers joining with the colonists helped turned the tide of war. Those Natives who fought alongside the English or remained neutral were, however, not always trusted by the English. Many Native neutrals were interned on outlying islands under inhumane conditions.

King Phillip’s death

The war ended in 1676 when Philip was killed by a Wampanoag soldier in Captain Benjamin Church‘s force.

The Effects

King Philip’s War resulted in the destruction of families and communities, Native and colonist alike, throughout New England. It took decades for the colonists to recover from the loss of life, the property damage and the huge military expenditures.

Indian warrior

The war was devastating for Native Peoples. Entire families were sold into slavery abroad; others were forced to become servants locally. The Wampanoag had to adapt aspects of their culture to survive; their political independence ended. Nevertheless, Native Peoples continued to live in Plymouth Colony. Many maintained tribal ties and a strong sense of community.

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One Response to On this day: King Phillip’s War was ended

  1. Video Zeum says:

    >Interesting website. Keep blogging!

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