Thursday, November 19, 2009

King Phillip's War

King Phillip's war (1675-76) was named after the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet, Metacom, or Pometacom, known to the English as "King Philip."

Plymouth, Massachusetts, was established in 1620 with significant early help from Native Americans, particularly Squanto and Massasoit, Metacomet's father and chief of the Wampanoag tribe.

For several decades they worked out all the squabbling and competing alliances among the different Algonkian and Iroquois peoples and the colonial polities of Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

Massasoit died in 1661. His son, Wamsutta, became Sachem. Wamsutta had been engaged in negotiations with Plymouth Colony Governor Josiah Winslow when he collapsed and died suddenly in 1662. Metacomet succeeded his brother as Sachem of the Pokanoket and Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy.

What sparked it

Colonists developments expanded rapidly. Metacomet was determined to stand up to the encroachment. One of his advisers, Christianized Indian John Sassamon, was murdered after ratting out the Wampanoag's plans to raid colonial settlements. Three Wampanoags, including one of Metacomet's counselors, were arrested, convicted, and hung. Some Wampanoag consider these actions insults to Wampanoag sovereignty.

A band of Pokanoket assaulted homesteads in the small Plymouth colony settlement of Swansea. Officials from Plymouth and Boston sent a military expedition that destroyed the Wampanoag town at Bristol, Rhode Island.

The war expanded quickly to Middleborough, Dartmouth, Mendon, Brookfield, Hadley, Northfield, Springfield, and Hatfield. Soon the conflict involved the Podunk and Nipmuck tribes.

Gov. Winslow led a combined force of colonial militia against the Narragansett tribe, who had not been directly involved in the war but had sheltered Wampanoag women and children.

The colonial force burned Narragansett towns and tracked the survivors to a five-acre fort in the swamp. On a bitterly cold storm-filled day, about 1,000 colonials and about 150 Pequots and Mohicans attacked the fort, killing 300, burning the fort and most of the tribe's winter stores. Many of the warriors and their families escaped into the frozen swamp. Facing starvation, they turned to fight, killing about 70.

Attacks continued at Andover, Bridgewater, Chelmsford, Groton, Lancaster, Marlborough, Medfield, Millis, Medford, Portland, Providence, Rehoboth, Scituate, Seekonk, Simsbury, Sudbury, Suffield, Warwick, Weymouth, and Wrentham.

When it started to end

The colonists aligned themselves with the Mohegan and Pequot tribes. Metacomet tried and failed to form an alliance with the Mohawk, and failed to receive promised aid from the French in Canada.

Many of Metacomet's supporters drifted into Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Canada. In April 1676 the Narragansett were defeated and their chief, Canonchet, was killed. The Massachusetts Militia attacked a fishing party at Turner Falls and killed 200 Native Americans.

The colonists formed raiding parties of militia and Native Americans who kept any plunder and earned rewards for captives and KIAs. Metacomet was killed by a bounty hunting Indian named John Alderman. Metacomet was beheaded, drawn and quartered, and his head was kept on display in Plymouth for 20 years.

A few attacks in Maine lasted until 1677.

Over 600 colonists and 3,000 Native Americans died in the war. Many more Native Americans were devastated by famine and disease, and some were shipped out as slaves, including a group that was sent to Bermuda.

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