King Philip’s War was the last major effort of the Native Americans to drive the English colonists out of New England. It happened in 1675 and 1676, and the Natives were led by Metacom (called King Philip by the English), a Pokunoket chief. The Wampanoags, Nipmucks, Pocumtucks, and Narragansetts all banded together in a bloody war that went on for 14 months and demolished 12 frontier towns. No one really knows the sequence of events leading up to the war, but the Natives had been getting tired of the colonists being there since the 1660s. They had started to completely depend on the English for food and weapons, as the fur trade slowed, their lands were sold without consent, and leaders had to conform to english jurisdiction. The war didn’t have a pretty end, resulting with Metacom being captured and beheaded. Some of those who survived fled to Canada, while an unlucky group who surrendered were sold as slaves and sent of to the West Indies. The natives who survived and remained in New England usually died of disease or were forced to be servants. This war was one of the worst disasters of 17th century New England, and in correlation to population size, is considered to be the deadliest war in American history.
For the second part of this essay, I’m going to be focusing specifically on Metacom. Metacom was the youngest son of Massasoit, a Wampanoag tribe leader who had been able to keep the peace between the English settlers of Massachusetts and Rhode Island for years. Metacom married Wootonekanuske, the daughter of the Pocasset Sachem. They were believed to have at least four children together. Following the death of Massasoit and Metacom’s older brother, Metacom was named Sachem (chief). He was made chief during a time where the main trade was English weapons and goods for Indian land, and Metacom realized that all of this threatened Native American reign. The colonists also constantly subjected the Natives to humiliation, which further concerned Metacom. He was brought to Taunton in 1671 and was forced to sign an agreement which surrendered Indian guns. Metacom’s calm leadership and steely will impressed and scared the settlers, which led to them demonizing him and labeling him as a menace. Metacom kept everyone on edge and in line with threats of starting a rebellion, but everything was relatively peaceful until 3 Wampanoags were executed in Plymouth for murdering a tribal informer. Violence ensued, and the deadly war began. For the first few battles, Metacom led his battalion comprised of many New England tribes to victory. But things started to go downhill from there. Food became scarce and the tribes that once were banded together tightly started to fall apart. During the rest of the war, over 3,000 Natives and 600 settlers were killed. Metacom, seeing that Native defeat was unavoidable, returned to his original home at Mount Hope. While he was there, an informant betrayed him and he was killed in one final battle. He was beheaded and his head was mounted on a stake for 25 years in Plymouth. Overall, King Philip’s War ended a generally peaceful period of time among New England Settlers and Natives. After the war, the English population grew rapidly, resulting in pressure for Natives to give up their land and move elsewhere. The war was lost by the Native Americans, and as a result, many of those tribes that participated in that rebellion so long ago are gone or much smaller now. Thousands of people lost their lives, and it’s important that we remember disasters like this so we can learn from them and ensure that these tragedies don’t happen again.
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