Thursday, November 17, 2011

King Phillip's War

King Phillips War 1675-1676 was a brief and extremely violent altercation between an alliance of Native American Tribes and the English colonists of southern New England. The war ended the relatively peaceful relations that were established over fifty years earlier by Squanto and the Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit with the Pilgrims in 1621, a peace that was exemplified by the First Thanksgiving of 1621.

After the death of Sachem Massasoit in 1661, his eldest son Wamsutta became Sachem but he died shortly afterward under mysterious circumstances after leaving the home of Plymouth Colony Governor Josiah Winslow. His brother Metacom, known as King Phillip, thus became Sachem in 1662. King Phillip hated the English colonists and spent several years forming alliances with native tribes in southern New England. At the time of the outbreak of the war, Phillip had almost three thousand warriors ready to fall upon the colonies where they planned to murder every colonist in New England.

There were many legitimate causes for Phillip’s anger, among them the simple pressures that naturally accompanied the development of new colonies on native lands.

The triggering event that led to the outbreak was when a Wampanoag native named John Sassamon, a Harvard graduate and a “praying Indian,” exposed King Phillips conspiracy to colonial government
authorities. The term praying Indian was used to describe Natives living in the increasing number of
Native communities who had converted to Christianity. Sassamon was subsequently murdered and three of King Phillip’s men were tried, convicted and hanged on July 8, 1675 for the murder. The jury was made up of natives and colonists of equal number but nevertheless the results triggered King Phillip to launch the war against the colonists.

At first the Native confederation under the command of King Phillip had the upper hand with a
slaughter of colonists first in the Massachusetts settlement of Swansea and then in settlements across
Plymouth Colony, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and western Massachusetts. Native forces attacked
Plymouth were they were repulsed, burned Providence, Rhode Island to the ground, and entered
Springfield, Mass. Then the Narragansett’s, members of the confederacy, were defeated in a fearful
slaughter of natives called the great battle of the swamp.

After failing to secure aid from French Canada, and after failing to form an alliance with the Mohawk Tribe in New York State, King Phillip began to retreat in the winter of 1675-1687 in a war of attrition. The colonialists picked up steam with many native tribes joining their forces against Phillip and many natives began to scatter to points north and west. Colonial forces mercilessly massacred natives loyal to Phillip while granting amnesty to those who declared their neutrality. While Phillips allies deserted him, he made his last stand near where he started the war, south of Providence, Rhode Island. Phillip was shot by a Native named John Alderman on August 12, 1676. His head was displayed on a pole in Plymouth colony for the next twenty years. Except for a few skirmishes, mostly in Maine, the war was over. An estimated

600 colonists and 3,000 Natives had died in the terrible conflagration.

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