How is it that King Philips War devastated the colonists so much, but the Colonists were not driven out?

How is it that King Philips War devastated the colonists so much, but the Colonists were not driven out?

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King Philips War, or Metacom's War if you will, was pretty devastating to the Northeast Colonies in the pre-United States - yet even after this the tribes that could have realized that the English and other colonists were a threat never retaliated in any significant way. I know many of the local tribes in the Northeast were already decimated from previous contact with other Europeans but there were plenty of tribes nearby that could have moved in after the peace was settled. Considering that many tribes took land and spoils from others who were weak, a new tribe could have come in and then fought the remaining colonists and probably done significant damage.

This seemed like a great time to take back what was theirs and I often wonder why not. If there are local sources to check please note them, I do live in the Northeast US so I can check but this is something that I have never seem much written on and often interested me.

The Indians of the North-East had become dependent on the Colonists for supplies of ball and powder for their newly favoured ranged weapon, the flintlock musket. Their supplies of these rarely exceeded a season's worth, and they had failed to stockpile additional reserves in preparation for the war.

Although the initial onslaught had chased the Colonists out of their outlying communities and into their larger towns, the war then became one of attrition in which the hostile Indians could only replenish ammunition through expenditure of the same, rarely making a net gain and never large. The Colonist militias also improved training and adopted the tactic of forming combined-nationality combat teams with their Indian allies.

Further, although the colonist suffered badly in the initial onslaughts, they still outnumbered the indigenous Indian population several times. It is estimated that there were 80,000 Colonists in New England in 1676 compared to only 10,000 Amerinidians (many of whom were friendly), with about 20% of colonists and 25% of Amerinidains being militia/warriors respectively.

This combination of increased combat effectiveness by the colonists, supply depletion for the hostile Amerindians, and being vastly out-numbered, doomed the rebels.

There were several reasons. The first was that most of the LOCAL (to Massachusetts and parts of Connecticut) Indians had either been involved with King Philip, and were defeated, or conversely, had allied with the settlers, and were sharing the spoils of war. The second reason is that most of the damage was done in the initial part of the war against isolated settlements. A result of the war was than many settlements were abandoned, and people moved to major towns, where there were militias on guard.

A third issue might be why Indians from OTHER parts of the country didn't come in and try to drive the settlers out. Transportation (and communications) were poor in those days, and different Indian tribes seldom cooperated between themselves. There was no sense of "Native Americans" taking back "American" land. Most tribes only cared about what was going on within their immediate vicinity (e.g., within a modern American state).

How is it that King Philips War devastated the colonists so much, but the Colonists were not driven out? - History

Philip's War: America's Most Devastating Conflict
By Walt Giersbach

King Philip's War (1675-76) is an event that has been largely ignored by the American public and popular historians. However, the almost two-year conflict between the colonists and the Native Americans in New England stands as perhaps the most devastating war in this country's history. One in ten soldiers on both sides were wounded or killed. At its height, hostilities threatened to push the recently arrived English colonists back to the coast. And, it took years for towns and urban centers to recover from the carnage and property damage.

The war is named for King Philip, the son of Massasoit and chief of the Wampanoag nation. In his language, his name was Metacom, Metacomet, or Pometacom. In 1662, the court at Plymouth Colony arrogantly summoned the Wampanoag leader Wamsutta to Plymouth. Major Josiah Winslow (later Colonel) and a small force took Wamsutta, Philip's brother, at gunpoint. Soon after questioning, Wamsutta sickened and died and his death infuriated the Wampanoag nation.

Upon the death of his brother, whom the Indians suspected the English of murdering, Philip became sachem and maintained a shaky peace with the colonists for a number of years. Friendship continued to erode over the steady succession of land sales forced on the Indians by their growing dependence on English goods, and Plymouth's continued unyielding policy toward Native leaders, it is reported by the Connecticut Society of Colonial Wars ( ) and other sources.

Suspicions of the Indians remained, and in 1671, the colonists questioned Philip, fined him and demanded that the Wampanoag surrender their arms, which they did.

Metacom, chief of the Wampanoag,
known also as King Philip.

Col. Josiah Winslow, 1628-80, the first
American-born governor of Massachusetts.

War Flames Are Ignited

In January 1675, the Indian John Sassamon died at Assawampsett Pond, about 15 miles north of present-day New Bedford. Sassamon was literate and a Christian convert. He may have been acting as an informer to the English and was murdered, probably at Philip's instigation. Increase Mather, writing after the war, suggested he was killed "out of hatred for him for his Religion, for he was Christianized, and baptiz'd, and was a Preacher amongst the Indians. and was wont to curb those Indians that knew not God on the account of their debauchereyes". [1]

Events moved quickly, and on June 8 Sassamon's alleged murderers were tried and executed at Plymouth. Three days later, Wampanoags were reported to have taken up arms near Swansea, about 15 miles from Providence.

By the mid-17th century, settlements had been established throughout southeast Massachusetts. "Though there were many events that led to the war, the attack on the settlement on the banks of the Kickemuit River may be attributed to the growing perception that Indian land had been increasingly encroached upon by settlers, leaving cornfields overrun by settlers' livestock and traditional hunting grounds inaccessible. In fact, since the arrival of the English at Plymouth Rock in 1620, land under Native control had been reduced from all of Southeastern Massachusetts to merely the area of the Mount Hope peninsula." (A map and local points related to the war can be found at

Less than a week later, authorities in Rhode Island, Plymouth, and Massachusetts attempted negotiation with Philip, and sought guarantees of fidelity from the Nipmucks and Narragansetts. However, before the end of the month, Wampanoags made a sudden raid on the settlement of Swansea on the Taunton River. On June 26, Massachusetts troops marched to Swansea to join Plymouth troops.

When news of the attack on Swansea reached Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Colony quickly came to the aid of The Plymouth Colony. An example of the orders of the General Court is the following: "To the Militia of the Town of Boston, Cha. Camb. Watertown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Dedham, Brantrey, Weymouth, Hingham, Maulden—You are hereby required in his Majesty's name to take notice that Govr & Council have ordered 100 able shouldjers forthwith impressed out of the severall Towns according to the proportions hereunder written for the aid and assistance of our confederate Plymouth in the designe afoote agst the Indians, and accordingly you are to warne and proportions to be ready at an hours warning from Capt Daniel Henchman who is appointed Captain and Commander of the Foote Company that each souldjer shal have his armes compleat and Snalsack ready to march and not faile to be at the randevous."

In the coming days, Wampanoags attacked Rehoboth and Taunton, eluded colonial troops, and left Mount Hope for Pocasset. Meanwhile, the Mohegans of Connecticut traveled to Boston and offered to fight on the English side.

Other raids followed towns were burned and many whites—men, women, and children—were slain. Unable to draw the Indians into a major battle, the colonists resorted to similar methods of hit-and-run warfare in retaliation, and antagonized other tribes. The Wampanoag were joined by the Nipmuck and by the Narragansett (after the latter were attacked by the colonists), and by that summer of 1675 all the New England colonies were involved in the war.

While English encroachments on Native American land may be a general cause of the war, three cultural points are worth noting as incendiaries that inflamed the English:

- The English, many of whom were veterans of Europe's Thirty Years War, were introduced to guerrilla warfare by necessity. Indians fought from behind trees and, according to a poet of that period, "every stump shot like a musketeer / And bows with arrows every tree did bear." [2] Worse yet, the new continent featured dark forests and swamp lands that made it impossible to maintain orderly battle lines. "To the colonists, swamps were hideous and dangerous places, thae most foreign and un-English land in all the New World. The word itself, swamp only entered the English language with the first reports from North America in 1624. [3]

- English houses had evolved from wattle and daub huts to framed structures by the mid-17th century, and the loss of "English houses" was a major crisis of the war. The loss of property was, at that time, often counted first before the loss of human life.

- And, the English had insurmountable differences with the Native Americans. They were deeply suspicious even of Indians who had learned to read and write English. Further, nakedness signaled both cultural and spiritual depravity. In other words, the Native Americans were not "civilized." Adding indignity to injury during the war, the Indians sometimes stripped dead men and women of their clothes, leaving them lying prominently naked.

Other raids followed towns were burned and many whites—men, women, and children—were slain. In September, George Ingersoll described in a letter how he arrived at a neighbor's farm after hearing gunshots: "When I came to the place, i found an house burnt down, and six persons killed, and three of the same family could not be found. An old man and a woman were halfe in, and halfe out of the house neer halfe burnt. Their owne Son was shot through the body, and also his head dashed in pieces. The young mans Wife was dead, her head skinned." The woman was "bigg with Child," and two of her children he reported as "haveing their heads dashed in pieces." The three missing family members were taken captive. [4]

Unable to draw the Indians into a major battle, the colonists resorted to similar methods of hit-and-run warfare in retaliation, antagonizing other tribes. The Wampanoag were joined by the Nipmuck and by the Narragansett (after the latter were attacked by the colonists), and by that summer of 1675 all the New England colonies were involved in the war.

On July 8, Wampanoags attacked Middleborough and Dartmouth. On the 14th, Nipmucks attacked Mendon. In the quickly changing tide of alliances, the Narragansetts signed a peace treaty with Connecticut on July 15th, while a Massachusetts envoy attempted to negotiate with the Nipmucks.

On July 19th, Philip and his troops escaped an English siege and fled Pocasset for Nipmuck territory. In a matter of a few days, the Nipmucks attacked Massachusetts troops and besieged Brookfield about 10 miles west of present-day Worcester.

Most Natives who had converted to Christianity—called "Praying Indians" or "Christian Indians"—fought with the English or remained neutral. The English, however, did not always trust these converts and interned many of them in camps on outlying islands. Also, some Native communities on Cape Cod and the Islands did not participate in the war. On Aug. 13, the Massachusetts Council ordered Christian Indians confined to praying towns—a dark foretaste of America's suspension of civil liberties in later wartimes. But the carnage was continuing: On Aug. 22, a group of unidentified Indians killed seven colonists at Lancaster, Mass. Perhaps in retaliation, on Aug. 30, Capt. Samuel Moseley arrested 15 Hassanemesit Indians near Marlborough for the Lancaster assault and marched them to Boston.

The war was spreading to the West, and on Sept. 1, Wampanoags and Nipmucks attacked Deerfield, Mass. Massachusetts forces under the command of Capt. Moseley attacked the town of Pennacook. By the 12th of the month, colonists had abandoned Deerfield, Squakeag, and Brookfield.

Warfare continued throughout the fall months. The Narragansetts signed a treaty with the English in Boston. Massachusetts troops were ambushed near Northampton. Pocumtucks attacked and destroyed Springfield.

For their part, the Colonists retaliated forcefully. The Massachusetts Council relocated Christian Indians to Deer Island in Boston Harbor and repelled Indians from Hatfield. And Commissioners of the United Colonies ordered a united army to attack the Narragansetts at the Great Swamp. The Christian Indians may have been perceived as a possible threat, but they were also the enemy to the hostile Indians. Before the end of 1675, the Nipmucks had taken captive Christian Indians at Magunkaquog, Chabanakongkomun, and Hassanemesit, including James Printer. Printer was not only a literate Christian Indian from Cambridge, he took the surname of the trade he pursued.

A University of Massachusetts study notes, "During September, 1675, bands of warriors roamed the Connecticut River valley, attacking villagers as they worked in the fields or traveled between villages on business. Unlike the English who were accustomed to fighting fixed battles on open plains, Amerindians fought from concealed spots and attacked small groups. This 'American' way of fighting would be a problem for the British during the next century also. The colonists used these same guerilla tactics, which they learned fighting the Amerindians, to fight against the British troops in the American Revolutionary War." [5]

The Indians, it was said, were warrior societies. Despite the imbalance of arms, since they lacked cannon and depended upon the English or French for muskets and powder, they were effective against European military formations. Colonial militia, which quickly adopted the Indian's style of guerrilla or insurgency warfare, were better able to deal with Indian tactics than the English officers, some of whom had fought under Cromwell in England.

The new year of 1676 saw Philip weakened—somewhat. In January, he and his band traveled further west to Mohawk territory, seeking, but failing to secure, an alliance. The winter months saw pitched battles as the Narragansetts attacked Pawtuxet Nipmucks attacked Lancaster then Medfield. As Philip and the Wampanoags returned and attacked Northampton, the Massachusetts Council debated erecting a wall around Boston assaults were taking place within ten miles of Boston.

Fighting continued in March, as Nipmucks attacked Groton Longmeadow, Marlborough, and Simsbury were attacked Nipmucks attacked English forces near Sudbury. Then, Indians attacked Rehoboth, and Providence was destroyed.

The Massacre at Cumberland

One of the bloodiest massacres—and darkest moments for the English—occurred at Cumberland, R.I.

On Sunday morning March 26, 1676, after receiving word that a party of the enemy lay near Blackstone's house at Study Hill in Cumberland, Capt. Michael Pierce marched from Rehoboth, leading a company of 63 English and 20 friendly Wampanoag Indians. Pierce was born about 1615 in Bristol, England, and emigrated to America in about 1645. He settled in Hingham, Mass., in 1646, moved to Scituate the following year, and was commissioned a Captain by the Colony Court in 1669.

Upon reaching a ravine near Attleborough Gore on the Blackstone River above Pawtucket Falls, his company were ambushed by about 500 to 700 Narragansett led by chief sachem Canonchet. According to an account related by Hon. Edwin C. Pierce of Providence, the English retreated across the river to set up a defense on the west bank (now part of the City of Central Falls), but were attacked by a blocking force of about 300 Indians. Pierce formed his men into a circle and they continued to fight in ever decreasing numbers for about two hours, until only a few remained. Pierce was killed early in the battle. A few of the Wampanoags managed to escape by disguising themselves as attackers. Nine English were captured and taken to a spot in Cumberland, now called Nine Men's Misery, where they were tortured to death.

Arriving too late, a relief force found and buried the bodies of the nine. A few days later, Canonchet was captured and executed.

These were the essentials of the battle. A more personal and detailed account of the massacre of Pierce's party by the Indians gives us a flavor of the emotion felt by the English:

"Sunday the 26th of March was sadly remarkable to us for the Tidings of a very deplorable Disaster brought unto Boston about 5 a Cloak that Afternoon, by a Post from Dedham, viz., that Captain Pierce (of) Scituate, in Plimmouth Colony, having Intelligence in his Garrison at Seaconicke, that a Party of the Enemy lay near Mr. Blackstones, went forth with 63 English and twenty of the Cape Indians, (who had all along continued faithful, and joyned with them) and upon their March, discovered rambling in an obscure woody Place, four or five Indians, who, in getting away from us, halted, as if they had been lame or wounded. But our Men had pursued them but a little Way into the Woods, before they found them to be only Decoys to draw them into their Ambuscade: for on a Sudden, they discovered about 500 Indians, who in very good order, furiously attacqued them, being as readily received by ours. So that the Fight began to be very fierce and dubious, and our Men had made the Enemy begin to retreat but so slowly that it scarce deserved that Name, when a fresh Company of about 400 Indians came in so that the English and their few Indian Friends were quite surrounded, and beset on every Side. Yet they made a brave Resistance, for about two Hours: during all that Time they did great Execution upon the Enemy, whom they kept at a Distance, and themselves in Order. For Captain Pierce cast his 63 English and 20 Indians into a Ring, and fought Back to Back, and were double-double Distance, all in a Ring, whilst the Indians were as thick as they could stand, thirty deep. Overpowered with those numbers, the said Captain, and 55 of his English and ten of their Indian Friends were slain upon the Place which, in such a Cause, and upon such Disadvantages, may certainly be stiled 'The Bed of Honour.' However, they sold their worthy Lives at a gallant Rate it being affirmed by those few that (not without wonderful Difficulty, and many Wounds) made their Escape, that the Indians lost as many Fighting Men, (not counting Women and Children,) in this Engagement, as were killed at the Battle in the Swamp, near Narraganset, mentioned in our last Letter, which were generally computed to be above three Hundred." [6]

The Turning of the War

The battles were not all in favor of the Natives. An early history records that on May 18, "At North Hampton, Hadly, and the Towns thereabout, two English Captives, escaping from the Enemy, informed that a considerable body of Indians (30) seated themselves not far from Pacomtuck, and that they were very secure: so that should Forces be sent forth against them, many of the Enemy would (in probability) be cut off, without any difficulty."

Peskeompscut, the Indian name for present-day Turners Falls on the Connecticut River, was a favored site for fishing with the local tribes. The narrow river at that time plunged over a 40 to 50 foot drop. In May 1676, warriors, women, children and old people were gathered there to catch and cure fish. "Months of war with the English had used up their limited food stores. While some people fished, others went down river to the abandoned fields at Deerfield where they planted seed. With luck they would be able to harvest a crop in the late summer. Warriors organized cattle raids on the nearby English settlements." [7]

Local colonists, some from Springfield 30 miles south, and a few garrison soldiers, responded to the call. By May 18, 150 men and boys assembled in Hatfield. Capt. William Turner led the group past Bloody Brook and the edge of Deerfield, where they crossed the Deerfield River. Then they wound through about two miles of unbroken forest, crossed the Green River, and then pushed on to Mount Adams which was within a mile of the falls.

The history continues, that the English "sent to their neighbors in Conn. for a supply of men, but none coming, they raised about an hundred and four score out of their own towns, who arrived at the Indian Wigwams betimes in the morning, finding them secure indeed, yea all asleep without having any Scouts abroad, so that our Soldiers came and put their guns into their Wigwams before the Indians were aware of them, and made a great and notable slaughter amongst them. Some of the souldiers affirm, that they numbred above one hundred that lay dead upon the ground, and besides those, others told about an hundred and thirty, who were driven into the River, and there perished, being carried down the Falls."

The much-needed victory immediately turned sour. Turner's attack had alerted other Indians camped along the river. One groups crossed the river below the falls and took up a position across the trail leading to Deerfield. Capt. Turner apparently had not thought about securing his retreat, reasoning that the attack had been successful and several hundred of the enemy had been slain at the cost of only one English life.

Then, they heard from a captive that Philip was coming. The English party was torn by indecision. Which route should they take in retreat? The Hatfield force broke into small groups, some insisting on one route, others taking a different path back to where the horses had been left. A few fortunate men managed to get to their horses just before the warriors got to them. Other settlers were forced to push homeward on foot.

Warriors followed the panicking English, inflicting casualties whenever possible. Capt. Turner was killed as he tried to cross the Green River. Of the 150 English participants, at least 40 were killed on the retreat. Some got separated from the main body and had to find their way alone a few were successful while others never returned.

Fear was contagious, as this account shows:

"An English Captive Lad who was found in the wigwams spake as if Philip were coming with a thousand Indians which false report being famed among the Souldiers, a panick terror fell upon many of them, and they hasted homewards in a confused rout: In the mean while a party of Indians from an Island (whose coming on shore might easily have been prevented, and souldiers before they set out from Hadly were earnestly admonished to take care about that matter) assaulted our men yea, to the great dishonor of the English, a few Indians pursued our Souldiers four or five miles, who were in number near twice as many as the Enemy. In this disorder, he that was at this time the chief Captain, whose name was Turner, lost his life, he was pursued through a River, received his fatal stroke as he passed through that which is called Green River, etc. as he came out of the Water he fell into the hands of the Uncircumsised, who tripped him (as some who saw it affirm) and rode away upon his horse and between thirty and forty more were lost in this Retreat. The power of the Indians was broken in this battle."

War's End, and the Aftermath

By mid-year, the war had turned. The Narragansett were completely defeated and their chief, Canonchet, had been killed in April. The Wampanoag and Nipmuck were gradually subdued. In June, Indians attacked Hadley but were repelled by Connecticut soldiers. Massachusetts issued a declaration of amnesty for Indians who surrendered. And by July, Maj. John Talcott and his troops begin sweeping Connecticut and Rhode Island, capturing large numbers of Algonquians who were transported out of the colonies as slaves throughout the summer.

On July 4, Capt. Benjamin Church and his soldiers begin sweeping Plymouth for Wampanoags. Two weeks later, nearly two hundred Nipmucks surrendered in Boston. Capt. Church was finally successful in capturing Philip's wife and son. An Indian soldier named Alderman in the service of Capt. Church killed Philip after his hiding place at Mt. Hope (Bristol, R.I.) was betrayed. Philip's body was drawn and quartered and his head exposed on a pole in Plymouth. Increase Mather wrote,

The war, which was extremely costly to the colonists in life and property, resulted in the virtual extermination of tribal Indian life in southern New England and the disappearance of the fur trade. The New England Confederation then had their way completely clear for white settlement.

Rhode Island found itself the victim of a war it had neither instigated nor declared, and suffered as much as its Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth neighbors. Providence lost 72 homes and was deserted by most of its inhabitants. Warwick was burned to the ground except for one stone house, while places like Wickford and the ancient settlement of Pawtuxet were utterly destroyed. By March 1676, the area south of the Pawtuxet River had been largely deserted by the English, and by the war's end only the village of Portsmouth and the town of Newport had been spared the ravages of King Philip's War.

Connecticut's military played a crucial role in the war, and the colony escaped assault with the exception of Simsbury, which was abandoned and burned to the ground. The colonists of Connecticut did not suffer much from hostile Indians, excepting some remote settlers high up the Connecticut River. "They furnished their full measure of men and supplies, and their soldiers bore a conspicuous part in that contest between the races for supremacy," according to the Society for Colonial Wars.

In all, more than half of New England's 90 towns were assaulted by native warriors. For a time in the spring of 1676, it appeared to the colonists that the entire English population of Massachusetts and Rhode Island might be driven back into a handful of fortified seacoast cities. Between 600 and 800 English died in battle during King Philip's War. Measured against a European population in New England of perhaps 52,000, this death rate was nearly twice that of the Civil War and more than seven times that of World War II. The English Crown sent Edmund Randolph to assess damages shortly after the war and he reported that 1,200 homes were burned, 8,000 head of cattle lost, and vast stores of foodstuffs destroyed. One in ten soldiers on both sides was injured or killed.

Nathaniel Saltonstall noted in 1676, the Indian attacks left "in Narraganset not one House left standing. At Warwick, but one. At Providence, not above three. At Potuxit, none left. Besides particular Farms and Plantations, a great Number not be reckoned up, wholly laid waste or very much damnified. And as to Persons, it is generally thought that of the English there hath been lost, in all. above Eight Hundred."

The outcome of King Philip's War was equally devastating to the traditional way of life for Native people in New England. Hundreds of Natives who fought with Philip were sold into slavery abroad. Others who might be rehabilitated, especially women and children, were forced to become servants locally. As the traditional base of existence changed due to the Colonists' victory, the Wampanoag and other local Native communities had to adapt certain aspects of their culture in order to survive.

It is curious that such a conflict is little remembered today, not because of its bloody devastation but for the extent that such a great proportion of the population—English and Native American alike—was affected. Jacques Arsenault, writing for the University of Georgetown, indicates this is because many of the realities of King Philip's War do not fit the classical myth of America as the Land of the Free. He states, "The final reason for the poor understanding of King Philip's War is that the events of the war really don't fit into American Mythology. The evidence of King Philip's resistance to an encroaching colonial population would not sit well with peaceful images of the first Thanksgiving, or with the vision of the founders of our nation gathering together to create a nation of freedom, equality and liberty."

[1]. Increase Mather, Brief History , 49-50, b. 1639-d. 1723, Mather was pastor of North Church in Boston and father of Cotton Mather.

[2]. Benjamin Thompson, New-England's Crisis , p. 220.

[3]. Jill Lepore, The Name of War , p. 85, First Vintage Books, 1999.

[4]. George Ingersoll to Leif Augur, Sept. 10, 1675.

[5]. Narratives of the Indian Wars 1675-1699 , edited by Charles H. Lincoln, Ph.D: A World Wide Web Site Containing Information About the Biology, History, and Geology of New England's Largest River, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

[6]. The battle in which Captain Michael Pierce lost his life is detailed in Drakes Indian Chronicles (pp. 220-222).

[7]., Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA.

Published online: 07/17/2004.

Written by Walter Giersbach. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact Walter Giersbach at: [email protected].

About the Author:
Walter Giersbach’s fiction has appeared in a score of online and print publications. He also writes extensively on American history, with 10 pieces published in Military History Online. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, published by Wild Child ( were available from online retailers until his publisher ceased operations. He served for three decades as director of communications for Fortune 500 companies, helped publicize the Connecticut Film Festival, managed publicity and programs for Western Connecticut State University’s Haas Library, and moderates a writing group in New Jersey.

Special Note about the Author:
Walter Giersbach is descended from four colonists who fought in King Philip's War, including Michael Pierce, who died in the Cumberland Massacre.

King Philip's War

Juliana Bisson
American History 1301
Instructor Angela Ragan
Fall 2014
The tale of how our country came to be has been told time and time again in our history books as a story of courage, bravery, sacrifice, and then finally, triumph. Brave Englishmen sailing to the New World and ridding the land of the ruthless savages residing inside of it and valiantly stomping through the unknown wilderness claiming lands has inspired the American spirit for centuries. However, this long told famous tale scarcely mentions the important roles and participation of the Native Americans contributing in shaping our country today. King Philip’s War, also known as Metacom’s Rebellion, was neither the first nor would it be the last settler to savage dispute. Being in proportion the bloodiest and most gruesome battle in American History, it is surprising to know that this war is also one of the most forgotten ones, too. (Native Peoples 50) In the course of only 3 short years, King Philip’s War completely reshaped and reformed the Northeast area of New England. The war caused the destruction of many English settlements and decimated Indian cultural groups from their ancestral homeland already affected by decades of colonial settlement and foreign diseases. (The Journal of American History 975) “By proportion of population, it [the war] inflicted greater casualties than any other war in American History, and with more than the usual atrocities. Men, women, even children, white and Indian, were killed.” (Native Peoples 50) The extravagant loss in population of both the Indians and the English settlers greatly affected the nation. Nearly half of all Puritan settlements in New England were attacked with their whole towns burned to the ground. In population proportion, the Native Americans lost ten times as many men than the Englishmen, not to mention the thousands more sold into slavery. Before King Philip’s War began, the great Indian chief Massasoit worked hard to keep the relationship between the Native Americans and Englishmen fair, humble, and free of conflict. Generously welcoming the Puritans and aiding the starving men and women, then joining the two in what later would be known as the First Thanksgiving was more than kind of the Wampanoag’s. However, the Indians tribes and Massasoit’s kindness towards the helpless Puritans is typically ignored when learning of the Wampanoag’s history today. Once Massasoit passed away, however, the Englishmen began becoming worse at honoring their peaceful and fair relationship with the Wampanoag’s as they grew larger and stronger. Massasoit’s son, Metacomet, known as Philip to the Englishmen, took over as chief and under his rule did the war begin. The ever-growing tension between the Englishmen and Native Americans lasted for decades until finally reaching its breaking point in 1675. In late January, Sassamon, fearing for his life, admitted to telling Governor Josiah Winslow of Metacom’s conspiracy with other tribes to wipe of the English. Although the Governor did not take Sassamon all too seriously, three Wampanoag men still murdered Sassamon and left his body in a river bank. The war itself began on June 24 of that year, when two adolescent members of the New England colonies shot and wounded an Indian. Upon learning this, the Native Americans struck back towards the Englishmen. In a rage, the Wampanoag Indians “exercised more than brutish barbarians beheading, dismembering, and mangling” as recorded by Benjamin Church. Through the murders of many Englishmen, King Philip’s War had begun. (American History 62) The night of the attack a full moon shown itself and the Native Americans saw this as a good omen in response to attacking the Englishmen. Soon thereafter, on June 28th, colonists from Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay retaliated against the Native Americans, engaging more colonies.

Bibliography: McNAMEE, GREGORY. "Metacom 's Rebellion Or King Philip 's War." Native Peoples Magazine 23.6 (2010): 50. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.
McCue, Michael Westaway. "The Soldier And The 'King '." American History 37.2 (2002): 44. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 1 Oct. 2014
DeLucia, Christine. "The Memory Frontier: Uncommon Pursuits Of Past And Place In The Northeast After King Philip 's War." Journal Of American History 98.4 (2012): 975-997. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.
Lafantasie, Glenn W. "The Long Shadow Of King Philip." American History 39.1 (2004): 58. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 1 Oct. 2014.

Ipswich, the Brookfield Massacre and King Philip’s War

In May 1660, a group of colonists moved from Ipswich to the Indian town Quaboag in Western Massachusetts, which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks known as “King Philip’s War” resulted in the destruction of Brookfield and the deaths of a dozen settlers on August 2, 1675. English soldiers accompanied by Mohegan allies were eventually able to break the siege at Brookfield, with casualties on both sides. Hatfield, Deerfield and Northfield were attacked in September, and Springfield was burned on October 5th.

The leader of the Indian attacks was Metacomet (aka Metacom) leader of the Pokanoket tribe, known by the English as King Philip, who led a bloody uprising of Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Pocumtuck and Narragansett tribes that lasted over a year and destroying twelve frontier towns, the bloodiest war, per capita, in North American history.

In January of 1675, John Sassamon, a Christian Native-American, told Plymouth’s governor, Josiah Winslow, that King Philip was planning an attack against the colonists. Later that month Sassamon was found dead and three Wampanoags were arrested, tried and executed them at Plymouth plantation on June 8. On June 20, Pokanoket warriors looted and set fire to homes in Swansea, then attacked residents returning from church. Officials from Plymouth and Boston responded on June 28 with a military expedition that destroyed the Wampanoag town at Mount Hope (modern Bristol, Rhode Island). The destruction of their village enraged the Narragansett and brought them into into the conflict. Philip escaped but the women and children of the village were sold into slavery by the English.

Ipswich settlers of Brookfield

William Prichard arrived in the colony in 1630 and settled in Ipswich in 1649. In the summer of 1660. By 1675 he was a selectman of Brookfield and serving as Sergeant in the military. On August 2, 1675, Sergeant Prichard, Corporal Coy, and Sergeant Ayres, were slain in an ambush at Braintree. William Pritchard’s son was outside the garrison at Brookfield when the attack began and was slain by the Indians. They cut off his head, tossed it about like a ball in sight of the settlers, and then set on a pole against his dead father’s house.

John Ayres Sr. was a prominent Ipswich resident who promoted the settlement in Quaboag. He also was killed in the ambush by the Indians in New Braintree the same day as the Brookfield massacre. His wife Susannah Ayres survived the attack at Brookfield and moved back to Ipswich with her six sons and one daughter.

Daniel Hovey and his wife Abigail joined the new town in 1668 accompanied by their five younger children, Thomas aged 20, James 18, Joseph 15, Abigail 13, and Nathaniel 11. Their older children, Daniel Jr. and John remained in Ipswich. Daniel Hovey moved again to Hadley and returned to Ipswich after the massacre.

Metacomet’s forces attacked the settlement at Brookfield and tried to set it on fire.

In the early moments of that siege, Daniel’s son James was overtaken and killed by the Indians somewhere near his house. His wife Priscilla and their children took refuge in a tavern surrounded by hundreds of hostile Nipmucs, who tried unsuccessfully to burn it. After three days Major Simon Willard arrived with 46 troops, and they chased off the attackers. James Hovey was buried with the eleven other victims, and the traumatized survivors returned to Ipswich or dispersed to other better-protected communities along the Massachusetts frontier.

After the attack on Brookfield, Priscilla took her three children to join James’ brother Daniel Hovey in Hadley. She left her eldest son also named Daniel in Hadley to be raised and educated by James’ other brother Thomas. The widow returned to Ipswich with her daughter Priscilla and the infant, James Jr. She filed an inventory of the estate in March 16, 1676 and received a small stipend as a war widow from the General Court of Ipswich. James’ death was officially listed as a military casualty.

John Warner and his father William Warner were among the first settlers in the Ipswich Colony, arriving in 1635. The father died in Ipswich in 1648. John Warner married Priscilla, daughter of Mark Symonds of Ipswich where they continued to live for about twenty years. In 1670, he sold to John Woodam his property in Ipswich, consisting of his dwelling house, barn, orchard, and 7 acres of upland “which formerly was part of my father Warner’s meadow in Ipswich.” and he and Priscilla moved to Brookfield. He was one of three men there who arranged the transfer of land with the Indians, built the first house in the new town and is referred to as the “Father of Brookfield”. John and Priscilla survived the attack and retreated with their younger children to Hadley, MA to join their oldest son Mark Warner. Priscilla died in 1688 and John died in 1692.

King Philip’s War

The following excerpts are from Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters (with additional information added):

Since the year 1653, there had been no fear of Indian assaults. The settlers went to work in the fields, or assembled for public worship, and journeys were made over the lonely roads through the forests without suspicion of danger. But, at last, there were signs of an approaching rupture in the peaceful relations between the English and the Indians.

A chief of commanding influence, Metacun, the son of Massasoit, known commonly by his English name, Philip, dwelt at Mount Hope, near the present town of Bristol, Rhode Island. He had sold his tribal lands so extensively, that his people began to feel the pressure of civilization. The settlers had dealt unfairly in many instances in their traffic with the natives. They had deprived them of their arms, on pretence of treachery, and had occupied their lands without purchase.

Brooding over his wrongs, Philip organized a plot for the extermination of his dangerous neighbors. It was discovered by a Christian Indian, who reported it to the authorities of Plymouth Colony. Philip condemned the informer to death, and he was slain in January, 1674. Three Indians were brought to trial for the crime and sentenced to death. Two of them were executed in June, 1675, and Philip began at once to plan for his revenge.

On the 24th of June, 1675, the first blow was struck. The town of Swansea in the Plymouth colony was attacked and eight or nine of the English were slain. A foot company under Captain Daniel Henchman and Captain Thomas Prentice with a troop of horse were dispatched from Boston toward Mount Hope on the 26th. The state of affairs was critical and with true Puritan reverence, the 29th of June was set apart as a day of humiliation and prayer. The troops met the enemy near Swansea and some lives were lost on both sides.

It soon became evident that a general Indian uprising was imminent. On the 14th of July, Mendon, about 36 miles from Boston and within the bounds of the Massachusetts Colony, was assailed and four or five of the settlers were killed.

In May 1660, a group of colonists moved from Ipswich to the Indian town Quaboag in Western Massachusetts, which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks resulted in the destruction of Brookfield and the deaths of a dozen settlers on August 2, 1675. The full horrors of an Indian war were revealed in the bloody affair at Brookfield. Captain Edward Hutchinson, accompanied by his troopers, and some of the men of Brookfield went to the place agreed on with the Indians for a conference, near the town of Brookfield, and not meeting them there, pushed on to find them. In a narrow defile, shut in by a rocky hill on one side and a swamp on the other, they were suddenly fired on, and in the short, sharp fight that followed eight were slain.

Retreating to the town, they made their stand in the garrison house. The Indians assailed them hotly with loud yells. One young man, the son of William Pritchard, who had been slain in the morning, was killed while venturing away from the garrison. They cut off his head, tossed it about in plain sight of the beleaguered settlers, and then set it on a pole against the door of his father’s house. The Indians endeavored repeatedly to burn the garrison house, and, after several unsuccessful attempts, were just completing a long cart filled with combustibles, and provided with poles, with which they could push it against the house. A providential shower wet the kindling wood so thoroughly that it would not burn readily.

The news of this affair must have caused many a panic in Ipswich. The plantation six miles square, near Quabaug Ponds, had been granted by the General Court in 1660 to some persons of Ipswich, if twenty families and an approved minister be there in three years. In 1667, on the 15th of May, the Court voted that the time be extended for a year from the next midsummer, as only six or seven families had settled there. John Warner and William Pritchard removed from Ipswich to the new settlement in the year it was granted, and Captain John Ayres was a resident there in 1672. Sergeant Prichard, Corporal Coy, and Sergeant Ayres, were slain in an ambush at Braintree. The tale of the tragic death of Ayres and the Pritchards, and the sufferings of their families in the garrison house made the war vivid, real and terrible.

The Essex regiment was commanded by Major Denison. The Ipswich company had for its officers, Denison as Captain, Samuel Appleton as Lieutenant and Thomas Burnham as Ensign. The first Essex troop, recruited in Salem and vicinity, and the second Essex troop, which was composed of Ipswich and Newbury men, were also attached to this regiment. Upon the breaking out of the war, Denison had been appointed commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts troops. In the latter part of July a levy of troops had been made in Essex County and immediately after the disaster at Brookfield, Captain Lathrop of Salem was sent with a company from Salem and the neighboring towns, including some from Ipswich. Captain Beers also marched from Watertown with his command. The troops gathered at Brookfield and Hadley, but no body of Indians was discovered. Many towns were threatened and the soldiers were kept on the move.

With the beginning of September, the war was pressed most vigorously along the Connecticut River. On the first of that month, Deerfield was burned and one man killed. Two or three days later, the Indians attacked Squakeag, now Northfield, where they killed nine or ten of the people. The next day Captain Beers, with thirty-six men, marched to relieve the garrison at Squakeag, not hearing of the disaster of the day before, and was ambushed by a large number of Indians. He made a brave defence, but after a valiant fight, he and about twenty of his men were slain.

Rev. William Hubbard, in his History of the Indian Wars, remarks, in this connection:

“Here the barbarous villains showed their insolent Rage and Cruelty, more than ever before, cutting off the Heads of some of the Slain, and fixing them upon Poles near the Highway and not only so, but one was found with a Chain hooked into his under Jaw, and so hung up on the Bow of a Tree (’tis feared he was hung up alive) by which Means they thought to daunt and discourage any that might come to their Relief, and also to terrify those that should be Spectators with the Beholding so sad an object insomuch that Major Treat with his Company, going up two days after, to fetch of the Residue of the Garrison, were solemnly affected with that doleful Sight, which made them make the more Haste to bring down the Garrison, not waiting for any Opportunity to take Revenge upon the Enemy, having but a hundred with him, too few for such a purpose. Captain Appleton going up after him, met him coming down, and would willingly have persuaded them to have turned back, to see if they could have made any Spoil upon the Enemy but the greatest Part advised to the Contrary, so that they were all forced to return with what they could carry away leaving the Rest for a Booty to the Enemy, who shall ere long pay a sad Reckoning for their Robberies and Cruelties, in the Time appointed.”

Samuel Appleton

Captain Samuel Appleton had taken the field with his company about the first of September, and he and his Ipswich soldiers had a gruesome beginning of their warfare, marching over the road lined with the dismembered bodies of their fellow soldiers, and the smoking ruins of the farms. The troops were distributed at garrisons at Northampton, Hatfield, Deerfield and Hadley. Captain Appleton was stationed at Deerfield and arrived there about the tenth of September. On the 17th of August, Gen. Denison sent orders from Boston to Major Richard Waldron to proceed to Pennicook (Concord), “supposed to be the rendezvous of ye enemy where you may expect to meet Capt. Mosely, who is ordered thither.” He instructed him to take a surgeon with him, and informed him that the main body of the soldiers was at Hadley.

The Battle of Bloody Brook was fought on September 18, 1675 between English colonial militia from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and a band of Indians led by the Nipmuc sachem Muttawmp. The Indians ambushed colonists escorting a train of wagons carrying the harvest from Deerfield to Hadley during King Philip’s War. They killed at least 40 militia men and 17 teamsters out of a company that included 79 militia. Image from “Pioneers in the settlement of America” by William A. Crafts

Bloody Brook

On Sunday the 12th of September, the soldiers and settlers at Deerfield gathered for worship in the stockade. Returning, the north garrison was ambushed with the loss of one man captured. Appleton rallied his men and attacked them and drove them off, but the north fort had been plundered and set on fire, and much of the settlers’ stock stolen. As he had not force enough to guard the forts and engage in offensive operations, the Indians still hung round insultingly and burned two more houses. A storm prevented action that night, but the next night a party of volunteers, with a few from Hadley, and some of Lathrop’s men came up to the relief of the town.

On the 14th, the united forces under Appleton marched to Pine Hill. Spies had doubtless reported the arrival of reinforcements, and the Indians had all fled. It was decided that Deerfield should be abandoned, and as there was a large amount of corn already threshed, it was loaded on carts and Captain Lathrop was detailed to guard the teams on their way to Hadley. No Indians were known to be in the neighborhood. The Ipswich Historian, Rev. Hubbard wrote, “Upon September 18, “that most fatal Day, the Saddest that ever befell New England, as the Company were marching along with the Carts never apprehending Danger so near, were suddenly set upon, and almost all cut off (not above seven or eight escaping).”

The number of the slain, including Captain Lathrop, as reported by Rev. John Russell of Hadley in a letter written shortly afterward, was seventy-one. Only a few escaped. Among the dead, were several Ipswich men, Thomas Hobbs, Caleb Kimball, John Littlehale, Thomas Manning, Thomas Mentor, and Jacob Wainwright. They were all buried in a single grave near the place where they fell. Rev. Mr. Hubbard narrates:

“As Captain Mosely came upon the Indians in the Morning, he found them stripping the Slain, amongst whom was one Robert Dutch of Ipswich, having been sorely wounded by a Bullet that grazed to his Skull, and then mauled by the Indian Hatchets, was left for dead by the savages, and stript by them of all but his skin yet when Captain Mosely came near, he almost miraculously, as one raised from the Dead, came towards the English, to their no small Amazement, by whom being received and clothed, he was carried off to the next Garrison, and is living and in perfect Health at this Day.”

Battle at Hadley

Captain Appleton and his Ipswich company were stationed at Hadley, and his value as a military leader was becoming more and more evident to the Council of the Col ony. Instructions were sent to Captain Wayte: “It is ordered that there be a commission issued forth to Capt. Samuel Appleton to command a foot Company of 100 men In the service of ye country. On the 5th of October, Captain Mosely wrote from Hadley, “Major Pinchon is gone with Capt. Appleton with a company of above 190 soldiers. They hurried to Springfield but found the town in flames, and the Indians already fled. Major Pynchon’s grist mills, Rev. Mr. Glover’s Parsonage with his valuable library, and nearly all the buildings were destroyed.” Rev. John Russell wrote a letter which described the disaster, and lamented that Hadley would be the next to drink the bitter cup.

Captain Samuel Appleton was Commander in chief at the headquarters at Hadley. The position to which he was called was full of difficulty. The Indians had ravaged the country so sorely and had inflicted such terrible losses upon the forces sent against them, that a general feeling of discouragement prevailed. On the 19th of October, an attack was made upon Hatfield, but Appleton had foreseen the danger and provided for it. Mr. Hubbard gives a vivid narrative of the fight:

“According to the good Providence of Almighty God, Major Treat was newly returned to Northampton, Captain Mosely and Captain Poole were then garrisoning the said Hatfield, and Captain Appleton quartering at Hadley, when on the sudden seven or eight hundred of the Enemy came upon the Town in all Quarters, having first killed or taken two or three Scouts belonging to the Town, and seven more belonging to Captain Mosely his company. But they were so well entertained on all hands where they attempted to break in upon the Town, that they found it too hot for them, by the Resolution of the English instantly beaten off, without doing much harm. Captain Appleton’s Sergeant was mortally wounded just by his side, another bullet passing through his own hair, by that whisper telling him that Death was very near but did no other harm.”

Major Appleton led a two-hour attack against Metacom’s fighters in Springfield which resulted in the first setback by the Indians. This was the first decisive defeat inflicted upon the Indians. Col. Appleton began the distribution of the Massachusetts troops among the exposed towns. Twenty-nine soldiers under Captain Aaron Cooke were stationed at Westfield. Twenty-nine were sent to Springfield under command of Major Pynchon, Lieut. Clarke and twenty-six men. 197 were left at Northampton, thirty at Hadley commanded by Captain Jonathan Poole, and thirty-six at Hatfield.

Return to Ipswich

Having made this provision for the defense of the frontier towns, Major Appleton marched home, probably about November 24th. A feeling of comfortable security filled the town, when the Major and his soldiers returned. A few weeks before, the Indians had appeared at Salisbury, and General Denison marched thither with his troops. The outposts at Topsfield and Andover were greatly alarmed at seeing Indians.

“It is hardly imaginable,” Denison wrote from Ipswich on the 28th of October, “the panic and fear that is upon our upland plantations, and scattered places, respecting their habitations.” The General Court on October 13th had ordered a guard of two men, appointed by General Denison or the chief commander of the town of Ipswich, to keep watch at Deputy Governor Symonds’s Argilla farm, as it was “so remote from neighbours, and he so much necessitated to be on the country’s service.”

No doubt the distracted people slept more soundly, and gathered hope and strength. But the interval of calm was short. Scarcely had Appleton and his men returned from their campaign, when they were summoned into the field for a united assault upon the Narragansett Indians in their stronghold.

The Great Swamp Fight

Major Appleton marched away on the eighth of December as the whole Massachusetts force mustered on Dedham Plain on the ninth. There were five companies, commanded by Captains Mosely, Gardner, Davenport, Oliver and Johnson, beside the company of which Major Appleton was Captain. Major Appleton led his force on that winter’s day, December 9th, a long march of twenty-seven miles to “Woodcoks” now Attleboro, and another day brought them to Seekonk. On December 14th, as his scouts had brought in some Indians, he led his troops, foot and horse, on a detour into the Indian country, and burned a hundred and fifty wigwams, killed seven of the enemy and brought in eight prisoners. As the army advanced, several of the soldiers, straggling from their companies, were slain by roving bands of Indians.

By the 18th of December, the Connecticut and Plymouth soldiers had joined the Massachusetts regiment, and as provisions were scarce and the cold was sharp, an advance was made at once. A heavy snowstorm came on. There was no shelter for officers or common soldiers, and after a long and trying march, they lay down in the snow, “finding no other defense all that Night, save the open air, nor other covering than a cold and moist fleece of snow.” At daylight the march was resumed.

Rev. Mr. Hubbard, recording the substance of many conversations with the Major and his men, informs us that “They marched from the break of the next day, December 19th till one of the Clock in the Afternoon, without either Fire to warm them, or Respite to take any Food save what they could chew on their March.” They wallowed through snow, two or three feet deep, with many frostbitten in their hands and feet, fourteen or fifteen miles to the edge of a swamp, where their Indian guides affirmed the Narragansetts had their stronghold. Captain Mosely and Captain Davenport led the vanguard, Captain Gardner and Captain Johnson followed, Major Appleton and Captain Oliver brought up the rear of the Massachusetts force. The Plymouth soldiers with General Winslow marched in the center, and the Connecticut men under Major Treat formed the rear guard of the little army.

Depiction of the colonial assault on the Narragansetts’ fort in the Great Swamp Fight in December 1675

Notwithstanding the hardships of their march, the soldiers rushed impetuously into the swamp, without waiting the word of command, and pursued the Indians, who had shown themselves to the fort, which had been built on an island, and strongly defended with an impassable palisade of logs, stuck upright, and a dense hedge. The Indians held their ground with great determination, but after several hours of sharp fighting, their wigwams were set on fire, and they were put to rout with great slaughter. It was a dearly bought victory. Three of the six Massachusetts Captains, Davenport, Gardner and Johnson, and three Connecticut captains lay dead, and many officers and men were wounded.

The short winter day was spent before the battle was done, and as the Indian fort was deemed an unsafe camp, the desperate alternative remained of marching back to the nearest settlement, full fifteen or sixteen miles, after night had fallen. Bearing their dead, and helping the wounded, the survivors struggled back. The horrors of that night march pass imagination. Many of the wounded perished by the way, and the strongest were completely spent before a safe shelter was reached. Four of Major Appleton’s soldiers were killed, Samuel Taylor of Ipswich, Isaac Ellery of Gloucester, Daniel Rolfe of Newbury and Samuel Tyler of Rowley. Eighteen were wounded, including John Denison, George Timson, and Thomas Dow of Ipswich.

It is believed that up to 150 Indian inhabitants, many of them women, children, and the elderly, were killed or burned alive, while others fled across the swamp and died from exposure. Seventy of the Colonial forces died, and many more wounded. A second body of recruits was sent to Major Appleton a little later. Provisions were scant, and men and horses were sorely pinched with hunger. Many of the horses were killed and eaten and the campaign was long remembered as the Hungry March.

The soldiers arrived home early in February, and Major Appleton seems to have retired from active service. Within a week after their return, the weary soldiers, scarcely restored from the exhausting ordeal of the Hungry March, were again in the field. Alarming reports had come of the disaster at Lancaster, where Nipmucs from Nashaway staged an attack, led by the sachem Monoco. Redfield was soon burned, and on February 25th, Weymouth was partly destroyed. In March, Groton was surprised and burnt, and the inhabitants fled in terror, abandoning the settlement. Wrentham was abandoned in similar fashion. The Indians moved rapidly from point to point small parties appeared suddenly in the most unexpected localities, killing a man or two, and then disappearing, “skulking up and down in swamps and holes, to assault any that occasionally looked never so little into the woods.”

The towns in the Connecticut Valley were panic struck. A new army was immediately ordered, and fresh levies of foot and horse soldiers were ordered by the General Court on the 21st of February. Cornet John Whipple of Ipswich, who had already served with honor in the earlier campaigns, was made Captain of the new troop of horse, and Major General Denison was ordered to Marlborough to dispose the soldiers gathered there under the several captains, and take charge of the campaign. Captain Brocklebank of Rowley was placed in command of the Marlborough garrison.

Attack on Sudbury

Alarming reports were soon brought to Ipswich of the approach of marauding bands. General Denison was at home, and his letter of the 19th of March to Secretary Rawson reveals a time of alarm and nervous apprehension of an attack, in which his presence must have been a source of great comfort to the community. But the hours wore on, no alarm was given, and gradually confidence returned to the distressed town. The fortification was around the meeting-house, and one of the garrison houses was near the River. Every able-bodied man was trained and disciplined. Every family was anxious. Meanwhile the men at the front were eager for release. Spring was at hand and the planting of their fields required their presence.

On April 21st, the neighboring town of Sudbury was surprised. Captain Wadsworth was sent from Boston with fifty soldiers to relieve the Marlborough garrison. They made a hurried march of twenty-five miles, reaching Marlborough at night. Finding that the enemy was at Sudbury ten miles away, without allowing themselves time for rest, they hastened thither, with Captain Brocklebank and some of the garrison, accompanying them. Near Sudbury, they met a small body of Indians, who withdrew at their approach and lured them into the woods. There a great body assailed them. The weary soldiers made a brave defense, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. Captain Wadsworth fell, and Captain Brocklebank, whom Mr. Hubbard characterizes as “a choice spirited Man, much lamented by the Town of Rowley, to which he belonged.” More than thirty soldiers, it is believed, were slain, as they were making their retreat from the hilltop, where they had made a brave stand for four hours. This was the last great tragedy of the War. Later operations against the Indians were uniformly successful.

Death of King Philip

On August 12, 1676, Philip’s secret headquarters in Mount Hope near Bristol Rhode Island was discovered. Captain Church had been informed of Philip’s secret hideout by one of his warriors whose brother was killed by Philip for offering to negotiate with the English. Philip was slain along and his wife and children taken captive and sold into slavery in the West Indies. Five of his warriors died by his side while the others escaped through the woods. In Plymouth, King Philip’s body was drawn and quartered and his head was publicly displayed on a stake.

The Eastern War

Many of the Indians, who had been scattered by the successful tactics on the Connecticut, made their way to the Indian tribes in the neighborhood of Casco Bay, and incited them to rise against the white men. Hostilities began there in September, 1676, and attacks were soon made on Oyster River and Durham, N. H., and Exeter. An old man was shot down on the road to Hampton. York suffered on the 26th of September, and the whole country about the Piscataqua was in alarm. Men, women and little children were killed and scalped, houses and barns burned, and cattle driven away.

Mr. Hubbard gives a distressing account of the outrages committed by the Indians in the neighborhood of the Kennebec river. The whole country was a scene of desolation, houses burned, crops destroyed, and many lives lost. Early in October, the alarming tidings came that the settlement at Cape Neddick had been burned. Major Appleton was dispatched to the Eastward under orders, dated October 19th, to take charge of all the forces. He seems to have declined this responsibility, as the order was rescinded.

Mugg’s visit to Ipswich

A vigorous march was made to Ossipee, where it was reported there was a great gathering of Indians. The confrontations spread into a series of battles in Maine known as the Eastern War. On October 12, 1676 about 100 Indian warriors made an assault on an English settlement at Black Point near Portland, Maine and took a number of captives. A couple of weeks later an Arosagunticook chief named Mugg Hegon visited General Dennison in Piscataqua (Portsmouth) and declared that the Indians were desirous of peace. Mugg was taken, perhaps forcibly, to Boston for negotiations with a promise of safe passage, and on Nov. 6 he concluded a treaty with the English for the Eastern Indians.

While Mugg was away however, a force was sent to attack the Indians at their winter quarters. The fortification was burned but the Indians managed to escape. Among the captives in the first attack was the son of Harvard-educated Rev. Thomas Cobbett of Ipswich.

The pastor was not universally popular. A former parishioner claimed he “had as leave to hear a dog bark as to hear Mr. Cobbett preach” and Luke Perkins who lived near the wharf was whipped for saying the minister was “more fit to be in a hog sty than in a pulpit”. You can imagine the townspeople’s surprise when the ship carrying Mugg arrived at the Ipswich wharf, allowing Mugg to visit Rev. Cobbet at his home on East Street to negotiate a ransom for his son. The deal was struck, and when Mugg returned to Maine the young Cobbett was soon released in exchange for a coat as ransom to the Sagamore who was holding him. Mugg proposed to the English that he be allowed to go into the wilderness to bring back the captives, promising to return with them within four days. The vessels awaited his reappearance in vain.

An expedition was dispatched to the East under Major Walderne early in February, but it accomplished little and arrived back in Boston on the 11th of March. When Mugg heard about the attack during his absence, and knowing that his own people felt he had betrayed them, he rejoined the war and resumed hostilities in April. Again came the call for soldiers and again the dauntless men of Ipswich had their place in the little army that was hurried to the front. The enemy was close at hand in Wells, York, and Portsmouth, but the decisive event of the campaign happened at Black Point, where Captain Lovett’s company was led into an ambush and he and about forty of his command were slain. Mugg was killed at the reestablished garrison at Black Point on May 16, 1677, the place his forces had captured the preceding year, after conducting a second attack against the English. (read William Hubbard’s different version of this story)

General Denison

The contribution of Ipswich to the army was notable. General Denison was the commander-in-chief of all the forces of the Colony. Major Appleton brought the first campaign to a victorious close, and by his decisive repulse of the Indians at Hatfield and elsewhere saved not only the Connecticut towns from destruction, but delivered the Colony from their invasions. His services in the Narragansett winter campaign were of great value.

The danger came no nearer to Ipswich. Peace settled gradually upon the community wearied and worn with so many alarms. The strain upon the life of the Colony had been intense. The financial burden of equipping troops, maintaining them in the field, and meeting losses occasioned by the burning of houses and of whole towns was most oppressive. The drain upon the young life was exhausting. Scarcely a family could have escaped the anxiety due to the presence of some member in the field, or the grief over his death.

Ipswich soldiers in King Philip’s War

The following list of names has been compiled, which may be presumed to be substantially correct. Nathaniel Adams, Simon Adams, Alexander Alhor, Thomas Andrews, Richard Bidford, Job Bishop, Samuel Bishop, Christopher Bolles, Thomas Bray, Richard Briar, Josiah Briggs, John Browne, James Burbee, Andrew Burley, James Burnam, Thomas Burns, Samuel Chapman, John Chub, Josiah Clark, Isaac Cumins, Philemon Deane, John Denison, Thomas Dennis, Thomas Dow, Robert Dutch, John Edwards, Nathaniel Emerson, Peter Emons, Jonathan Fantum, Thomas Faussee, Ephraim Fellows, Isaac Fellows, Joseph Fellows, Abram Fitz, James Foord, Thomas French, Samuel Giddings, John Gilbert, Amos Gourdine, Simon Grow, Thomas Hobbs, William Hodgskin, Israeli Hunewell, Samuel Hunt, Jr., Samuel Itigols, Joseph Jacobs, Richard Jacobs, Thomas Jaques, Jeremiah Jewett, Joseph Jewett, Thomas Killom, Caleb Kimball, Abraham Knowlton, John Knowlton, John Lambert, Nathaniel Lampson, Richard Lewis, John Leyton, John Line, John Littlehale, Nathaniel Lord, Jolin Lovel, Jonathan Lummus, Peter Lurvey, Thomas Manning, Joseph Marshall, Thomas Meritor, Edward Neland, Benjamin Newman, Thomas Newman, Zaccheus Newmarsh, Richard Pasmore, Samuel Peirce, John Pengry, Aaron Pengry, John Pengry, Moses Pengry, Isaac Perkins, John Perkins, Samuel Perkins, Andrew Peters, Thomas Philips, Samuel Pipin, Samuel Pooler, Edmond Potter, John Potter, Richard Prior, Joseph Proctor, William Quarles, Daniel Ringe, Nathaniel Rogers, Israh Ross, Ariel Saddler, Joseph Safford, Thomas Scott, Samuel Smith, Thomas Smith, Thomas Sparks, Samuel Stevens, George Stimson, Seth Story, William Story, Samuel Taylor, John Thomas, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Wade, Uzall Warden. Francis Wainwright, Jacob Wainwright, Thomas Wayte, Benjamin Webster, John Whipple, Nathaniel Wood, Francis Young, and Lewis Zachariah.

Treatment of the Indians

In the treatment of the Indians, there was an excess of virulent hate that is painful, though not surprising. Allowance must be made for the natural hatred roused by the craft and cruelties of the Indians, and their ingratitude for kind treatment, yet a fair-minded man like Major Ciookin found much to blame in the unrighteous dealings of the English with “the inferior race.” Two hundred were captured by craft at Dover, though no crime was proved against them, and sold into slavery. King Philip’s son, a lad of tender years was sent to Barbadoes as a slave. Twenty shillings bounty was offered for every Indian scalp and forty shillings for every prisoner in the Eastern campaign. Captain Mosely captured an Indian woman early in the war, and in the postscript of his letter to the Governor, he wrote: “This aforesaid Indian was ordered to be torn in pieces by Dogs and she was so dealt withal.”

The Praying Indians

In 1646, the General Court of Massachusetts passed an “Act for the Propagation of the Gospel amongst the Indians.” Christian Indian towns were established in Eastern and Central Massachusetts, including Littleton, Chelmsford, Grafton, Marlborough, Hopkinton, Canton, Mendon and Natick, serving as a barrier between the Colonists and local tribes. At the beginning of King Philip’s War, Praying Indians offered their service as scouts to the English in Massachusetts but were generally confined to their villages. An Order for their removal was passed in October 1675, and 500 Christian Indians were confined to Deer island in Boston Harbor. When they were released in 1676, only 167 had survived. After the war, in 1677 the General Court of Massachusetts disbanded 10 of the original 14 towns and placed the rest under English supervision.

Daniel Gookin was a missionary to the Nipmuck Indians who he claimed were wrongly persecuted by Colonial forces. In his letter, Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the Years 1675-1677 he accuses the New England colonists as overcome by a “spirit of enmity and hatred” for not realising that they were subjugating those who had “proved so faithful to the English interest.”

The war had terrible consequences for both sides. Thousands of Algonquians were killed and hundreds were sold into slavery, resulting in the end of the Algonquian world.

References and further reading:

    by Thomas Franklin Waters by William M. Hubbard Ellis and Morris by J. H. Temple by George M. Bodge by John Stevens Cabot by Henry Trumbull, Mrs. Johnson (Susannah Willard), Zadock Steele

The Legend of Heartbreak Hill - "In Ipswich town, not far from the sea, rises a hill which the people call Heartbreak Hill, and its history is an old, old legend known to all." The Great Dying 1616-1619, “By God’s visitation, a wonderful plague” - An estimated 18,000,000 Native Americans lived in North America before the 17th Century. The arrival of 102 Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower at Plymouth in 1620 and the settlements by the Puritans a decade later were accompanied by the demise of the native population of North America. Who Were the Agawam Indians, Really? - It’s hard for people to change their stories—so embedded in deep time and official canon, even when there is a better explanation or a closer truth. I hope it will be possible to change public knowledge about the Native Americans who lived here and get closer to the truth.

The Amazing Story of Hannah Duston, March 14, 1697 - Hannah Duston was born in Ipswich in 1657 while her mother was visiting her relatives the Shatswells. A bronze statue in Haverhill honors her daring escape, killing and scalping a dozen Abanaki captors.

The Bull Brook Paleo-Indian Discovery - in the early 1950's, a group of young amateur archeologists men discovered one of the largest Paleo-Indian sites in North America along the banks of Bull Brook and the Egypt River in Ipswich, with over 6,000 artifacts uncovered.

Emma Jane Mitchell Safford - Emma Jane Mitchell Safford was a descendant of Massasoit, Sachem of the Wampanoag. Her daughter, also Emma, tried to help her relatives regain land taken from them on the reservation.

Ipswich, the Brookfield Massacre and King Philip’s War - In 1660, a group of Ipswich families settled in Quaboag which they renamed Brookfield. Indian attacks in 1675 resulted in its destruction.

Living Descendants of the Native Americans of Agawam - Descendants of the Pawtucket are living in Abenaki, Pequaket, Penobscot, and Micmac communities today in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Nova Scotia. The Tragedy of the Wilderness: The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 4 - Native Americans and settlers managed to impoverish themselves through overexploitation of the wider environment. At the same time, they both also selectively protected species, custom-designed habitats for them, and practiced common-sense conservation of trees, soil, fish stocks, and water

“Brought to Civility” — The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 2 - The idea of private property was alien to Native Americans, but the practice of private ownership apparently was not a feature of colonial life either. Discovery of native American shell heap on Treadwell’s Island, 1882 - In1882, a shell heap on the shore of Treadwell's Island was observed to contain nearly two quarts of human bones, broken into short pieces. Native American Influence on English Fashions - In contact situations in the early 17th century, Europeans were quick to grasp the essential humanity of Native Americans and admired their appearance and physical fitness. Soon, upper-class English wore American feathers and furs, Native Americans prized English woven fabrics and garments, especially tailored shirts.

PTSD in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - The Great Migration brought nearly 14,000 Puritan settlers, unprepared for the hardships and trauma that awaited them. Building a new society in the wilderness induced transgenerational post-traumatic stress and mass conversion disorder, culminating in the Salem Witch Trials.

The Bones of Masconomet - On March 6, 1659 a young man named Robert Cross dug up the remains of the Agawam chief Masconomet, and carried his skull on a pole through Ipswich streets, an act for which Cross was imprisoned, sent to the stocks, then returned to prison until a fine was paid. Ancient Prejudice against “the Indians” Persists in Essex County Today - Beneath broad acceptance of Indian rights and benign admiration for aspects of Native culture lies inherited hostility toward Native people. Unrecognized, it has gone unchallenged, but locally I have found it evident in these six ways. Disorder in the Corn Fields: The Colonists and Indian Land, Part 3 - Today, vestiges of the Commons survive here as city parks or conservation lands, such as the South Green in Ipswich, and public gardens, such as Boston Common.

“That we may avoid the least scrupulo of intrusion” – The Colonists and Indian Land, Part I - More than the concepts of sovereignty and private property, the commodification of nature in the service of mercantile capitalism was the crux of the problem.

Manitou in Context - The creator power was regarded as the equal of other powers in the skyworld and the underworld, but it is Kitanitowit’s Gitchi Manitou that ascended to prominence under the influence of Christianity. Of all the great spirits, it most resembled the Christian God and was transformed accordingly during the Contact Period.

Rhode Island, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and New Haven colonies

The Rhode Island, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and New Haven colonies each developed separate relations with the Wampanoags, Nipmucks, Narragansetts, Mohegans, Pequots, and other tribes of New England, whose territories historically had differing boundaries.

Many of the neighboring tribes had been traditional competitors and enemies.

As the colonial population increased, the New Englanders expanded their settlements along the region’s coastal plain and up the Connecticut River valley. By 1675, they had established a few small towns in the interior between Boston and the Connecticut River settlements.

The Wampanoag tribe under Metacomet’s leadership had entered into an agreement with the Plymouth Colony and believed that they could rely on the colony for protection.

However, in the decades preceding the war, it became clear to them that the treaty did not mean that the Colonists were not allowed to settle in new territories.

Throughout the Northeast, the Indians had suffered severe population losses as a result of pandemics of smallpox, spotted fever, typhoid, and measles, starting in about 1618, two years before the first colony at Plymouth had been settled.

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On this date in 1676, an indigenous Nipmuc named Matoonas was marched into Boston, condemned by a summary judicial proceeding, and immediately shot on Boston Common.

Though he was a so-called “Jesus Indian” — a converted Christian — Matoonas had become a principal adversary of the European colonists once long-building tensions exploded into King Philip’s War.

To the communal grievances that made up this war, Matoonas brought a very personal injury: back in 1671, his son Nehemiah had been accused by English colonists of murder and executed on that basis. And not just executed, but his rotting head set up on a pike at the gallows, to really rub it in.

Matoonas bided his time, but when the opportunity to fight back arrived he joined King Philip (Metacomet) with gusto. On July 14, 1675, Nipmuc warriors under his command raided the town of Mendon, Massachusetts, leaving five dead — the very first Anglo casualties of the war.

“A dark cloud of anxiety and fear now settled down upon the place,” a bicentennial a Rev. Carlton Staples recalled in a bicentennial address on Mendon’s history 1867. “With tears and lamentations they tenderly gathered the bodies of the slain and laid them away in some pleasant spot, we know not where. The houses and farms remote from this central point were abandoned, and the people fled to other places, or gathered here to save their flocks and growing crops. All sense of security was gone. They only dared to go abroad in companies. While some worked in the fields and gardens, others watched for the lurking foe.” A few months later, the settlers had to abandon Mendon altogether, and the Nipmuc burned the ghost town to the ground.

But the tide of the war soon turned against the natives, and Matoonas would find that he had his own lurking foe.

Sagamore John comes in, brings Mattoonus and his sonne prisoner. Mattoonus shot to death the same day by John’s men.

–diary of Samuel Sewall

A mysterious Nipmuc leader known as Sagamore John (“Sagamore” designates a sachem or chief) betrayed Matoonas in exchange for a pardon from the Massachusetts colony, marching Matoonas and his son right into Boston on the 27th of July.

After an improvised tribunal set down the inevitable punishment, Matoonas was lashed to a tree on Boston Common. Sagamore John performed the execution himself — although whether he volunteered or “volunteered” is not quite clear. The late Nipmuc raider’s head, too, was set on a pole — just opposite Nehemiah’s.

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1675: Little John

On this date in 1675, an Indian (tribe uncertain insofar as I can ascertain) named Little John (or John Littlejohn) was publicly executed on Boston Common for murder.

Though the attributed crime was of a venial variety, the situation was conditioned by a dirty war of ethnic cleansing that had only just that summer erupted — King Philip’s War.

Strained by a series of Native American raids, Little John — lying in jail for murder — apparently became a popular target of Bostonian fury, which was a very bad place to be. Just a few days before this execution, two accredited Indian envoys in the city had been hailed as King Philip’s warriors by two whites, and upon that “recognition” put to death.

about the 10th of September, at nine O’clock at Night, there gathered together about forty Men (some of Note) and came to the House of Captain James Oliver two or three of them went into the Entry to desire to speak with him, which was to desire him to be their Leader, and they should joyn together and go break open the Prison, and take one Indian out thence and Hang him: Captain Oliver hearing their Request, took his Cane and cudgelled them stoutly, and so for that Time dismist the Company which had he but in the least countenanced, it might have been accompanied with ill Events in the End. Immediately Captain Oliver went and acquainted Mr. Ting his Neighbor, (a Justice of Peace) and they both went next Morning and acquainted the Governour, who thank’d Captain Oliver for what he had done last Night, but this rested not here For the Commonalty were so enraged …

an Order was issued out for the Execution of that one (notorious above the rest) Indian, and accordingly he was led by a Rope about his Neck to the Gallows when he came there, the Executioners (for there were many) flung one End over the Post, and so hoised him up like a Dog, three or four Times, he being yet half alive and half dead then came an Indian, a Friend of his, and with his Knife made a Hole in his Breast to his Heart, and sucked out his Heart-Blood: Being asked his Reason therefore, his Answer, Umh, Umh nu, Me stronger as I was before, me be so strong as me and he too, he be ver strong Man fore he die.

Thus with the Dog-like Death (good enough) of one poor Heathen, was the Peoples Rage laid in some Measure, but in a short Time it began to work (not without Cause enough).

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1675: The murderers of John Sassamon, precipitating King Philip’s War

On this date in 1675, Puritan colonists’ hanging of three Wampanoag Indians helped trigger a brutal bout of ethnic cleansing, King Philip’s War.

The condemned men’s victim, Wassausmon — known by his Christian, Anglicized name of John Sassamon — was a converted Massachuseuk, briefly a Harvard attendee (1653)*, and eventually a translator for several tribes when dealing with the early settlers. Sassamon fought on the colonists’ side during the Pequot War, which has graced these pages before, and was generally seen as very sympathetic to the colonial cause, at one point becoming a schoolmaster at the inception of the towns of Natick and Ponkapoag.

After his work as a translator, Sassamon returned to the Puritan fold to become a minister in the Plymouth Colony.

Because of his high position in both the white and native worlds, though, he drew some resentment from both sides. It was Sassamon’s sense of loyalty to both sides of the growing tension between the natives and colonists that led to his demise.

King Philip (natively known as Metacomet) became head (Sachem) of the Wampanoag Confederacy in 1662 after his brother’s death.

Though initially trade-friendly with the burgeoning colonies to the north and east, the Wampanoag were also feeling the squeeze from the Iroqouis Confederation gaining power to the west. In 1671, the colonies presented the Wampanoag with an ultimatum: give up their arms and submit to English law, or be forced out.

The colonists had tried this tactic before with the Pequot (hence the Pequot War), Narragansett, and other native tribes with great success. As expected, Philip blinked, and the English moved in.

But the Sachem was predictably unhappy with the relationship. Three years later, he had assembled a band of warriors and was ready to, er, renegotiate.

Sassamon got wind of Philip’s planned attack on Plymouth Colony and warned its governor Josiah Winslow. Two months later, Sassamon was fished out from under the ice of Assawompset Pond.

With one witness claiming that a trio of King Philip’s men had knocked off the translator and dumped the corpse, the Puritans became convinced that Philip was already getting involved in their affairs.

In June 1675, four months after Sassamon’s body was found, a mixed jury of Indians and colonists convicted three Pokanoket Indians of murdering Sassamon, and on June 8, they were hanged.**

The executions helped bring tensions to the breaking point, and Philip decided it was his time.

On June 18, he launched an attack on homesteads in Swansea, and the war was on. The colonists struck back, laying siege to Mount Hope with the thought of gutting the insurgency by capturing its leader. That move failed, and King Philip escaped to recruit more tribes to his cause. Eventually, the forces included five major native tribes fighting colonists and two other major tribes.

Things got ugly fast: the conflict would become one of North America’s bloodiest colonial wars, and touch everyone who lived in the region. In September, the New England Confederation officially declared war on the Native Americans of the area.

After suffering months of casualties, the colonists finally gained a foothold in the conflict in December. By spring, King Philip’s War was in full swing, with atrocities happening on both sides. But the native forces were being worn down, and the colonists began clawing back. Despite rampant destruction of towns across the colonies (including complete abandonment of a dozen or more), the colonists had fortresses to retreat to and boats to resupply them the natives needed to trade with the colonists to get their arms. The situation was unsustainable, and when Canadian supply lines fell through, King Philip’s adventure was over.

Persistent enemies of many of the raiding tribes, the Plymouth-allied Mohegans took the offensive and broke up Philip’s warrior bands, scattering them across the Northeast. By the following summer, the Narragansett were defeated and dispersed, and the colonists were granting amnesty to natives who surrendered and could document non-participation. (Others were not so lucky.) In July, King Philip himself was isolated and on the run, taking refuge in Mount Hope. It was there that John Alderman, a Native American, shot him on August 12, 1676.

Philip’s body was mutilated: he was quartered and beheaded, and his head was displayed in Plymouth Colony Fort for years to come.

After the war, Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive by Philip’s men, wrote a memoir about her experience. Philip’s escapades were also later made into a play.

* Harvard, founded in 1636, started its “Indian Harvard” in 1655 which saw a total of five students: Caleb Cheeshahteamuck (Aquinnah Wampanoag) took a degree in 1665 and died of tuberculosis a year later classmate Joel Iacoombs (Aquinnah Wampanoag) disappeared in a shipwreck off Nantucket before walking John Wampus (Aquinnah Wampanoag) bailed after a year and went to sea and Benjamin Larnell and an otherwise unnamed “Eleazer” caught smallpox and died the year they enrolled.

** One account reports that only two of the Indians died on the first drop the third was spared by his rope breaking, and after confessing the guilt of all three, he was re-executed.

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1676: Joshua Tefft, drawn and quartered in Rhode Island

On this date in 1676, Puritan colonist Joshua Tefft (or Tifft, or Tift) became perhaps the only person ever to suffer the traitor’s death of hanging and quartering in what is now the United States.

The 30-ish Rhode Island farmer got sucked into King Philip’s War and was captured by colonists apparently fighting for the Narragansett Indians during a the Great Swamp Fight.

Lacking a first-person account from Mr. Tefft, we are left to descry (or project) his purpose. Tefft himself claimed that he had been enslaved by the Indians, but he made this claim in the context of trying to avoid a grisly execution opposing witnesses said he’d been much more enthusiastic in the fight, raising an evident horror of civilized man gone native.

Without English clothes and with a weather-beaten face, he looked like an Indian to the English. Tefft was a troubling example of what happened to a man when the Puritan’s god and culture were stripped away and Native savagery was allowed to take over. (Source)

He was one man caught up in a war, so of course he could have been many things. But Tefft invites speculation on racial self-identification on this still-tenuous New World frontier.

Living immediately adjacent to the Narragansett, Tefft was probably on good terms with the natives, something that at least some Anglos had keenly worked after for fifty-plus years. Some sources report (or charge) that he had taken an Indian wife,* and the Narragansett redoubt attacked in the Great Swamp Fight was a fortified encampment full of non-combatant types, hundreds of whom were eventually slaughtered.

And Rhode Island had a long-running border dispute with its Puritan fellow-colonists that intersected their historical differences on religious toleration. (Tefft is also decried as irreligious, though whether that’s literally true or just an extra heaping of opprobrium is anyone’s guess.) Why, after all, should a man not cohabit among the friendly peoples of his wife, and assist them when attacked — for the Narragansett were not at war until they were attacked — by a bunch of Connecticut and Plymouth colony prigs who’d want to shanghai him into their army?

One colonist able to sympathize with the Indians’ situation wrote of them that “perhaps if Englishmen, and good Christians too, had been in their case and under like temptations, possibly they might have done as they did.” Who knows but that some were, and they did.

Our Scouts brought in Prisoner one Tift, a Renegadoe English man, who having received a deserved punishment from our General, deserted our Army, and fled to the Enemy, where had good entertainment, and was again sent out by them with some of their forces he was shot in the knee by our scouts, and then taken before he could discharge his musket, which was taken from him and found deep charged, and laden with Slugs: He was brought to our army, and tryed by a counsel of war, where he pretended that he was taken prisoner by the Indians, and by them compelled to bear Arms in their Service but this being proved to be false, he was condemned to be hanged and Quartered, which was accordingly done. (Source)

But while some Indian tribes allied with some whites, European identification ultimately proved much too strong to admit any possibility of not banding together against the “savages.” When vengeful Narragansett warriors raided Providence the following spring and torched the house of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, Massachusetts in sympathy lifted its 39-year-old exile on the man they’d have hung as a heretic in days gone by.

By then, it had long been over for Joshua Tefft, whose trial preceded execution by only two days. Joshua’s son Peter and other descendants of the Tefft family, however, would be fruitful and multiply.

By the time these New World settlements became the United States a century later, drawing and quartering was still on the books in England. But the New York legislature expressed (pdf) the sense of that realm’s North American offspring that this sentence even for treason was “marked by circumstances of Savage Cruelty, unnecessary for the Purpose of public Justice, and manifestly repugnant to that Spirit of Humanity, which should ever distinguish a free, a civilized, and Christian People.”

* Joshua Tefft’s previous wife, Sara, had died from childbirth a few years before. For Sara, also notable as the owner of what was once thought to be the oldest marked headstone in New England, it was her second husband … the first, Thomas Flounders, was hanged for murder.

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1638: Three (of four) English colonists for murdering a Native American

Four hundred years removed from the events surrounding the colonization of Massachusetts by English settlers through the 1620’s, it’s difficult to properly evaluate the mindsets of either colonist or colonizer in this time of violent encounters and expansive cultural shifts.

The 1638 case of Arthur Peach, Thomas Jackson, Richard Stinnings, and Daniel Cross serves as a potent reminder that the relationship between the interlopers and natives in the early years of these meetings was driven as much by tribal politics as by interpersonal attitudes.

Peach, by all accounts, was not on track to be elected Plymouth Man of the Year. A servant of Edward Winslow, one of the Mayflower originals responsible for political gaming with the native leaders, Peach was dispatched to serve in the Pequot War in 1637. The war pitted English colonists and some of their tribal neighbors against the Pequots and resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of Pequot in several attacks.

Peach went work-idle in the post-war years, enjoying his remaining youth: he frequently drank and spent evenings in merriment with his friends, accumulating a sizable debt in the process said merriment also extended to impregnating Dorothy Temple, a servant of Stephen Hopkins (who was, in one of the less surprising twists, later charged with allowing drunken merriment of his servants in his house).

William Bradford speculates that it was to escape punishment for this latter social offense that Peach convinced three other indentured servants to break their bonds and follow him to the nearby Dutch plantations. No matter the motive, they were ill-advised to join him.

Along the way, the quartet came across a man of the Nipmuc tribe (allied with the English and Narragansett during the recent war) named Penowanyanquis. They convinced him to stay, smoked a pipe and talked trade, then stabbed and robbed him, leaving him for what they thought was dead Penowanyanquis was found on the road and lived for several more days, plenty of time to describe his attackers to first his tribesmen, then the Englishman Roger Williams.

The Plymouth authorities accepted the case (in Plymouth, though the event occurred far from its apparent jurisdiction) in the interests of maintaining the tenuous peace with the New England natives — in Bradford’s words, “The Gov[ernment] in the Bay were aquented with it, but refferrd it hither, because it was done in this jurissdiction but pressed by all means that justice might be done in it or els the countrie must rise and see justice done, otherwise it would raise a warr.”

Peach, Jackson, and Stinnings were caught at Aquidneck Island, while Cross fled to Piscataqua (New Hampshire), where it was traditional for locals to refuse to help Plymouth colonials. The three detainees were tried, with much of the trial devoted to proving that Penowanyanquis was, in fact, dead. It took two Narragansett to affirm upon pain of their own heads that Penowanyanquis had succumbed to his injuries, but their testimony sent three whites to the gallows for killing an Indian for the second time since the Plymouth colony was established 18 years prior, a murderer was hanged.*

The oddity of the affair is not that such a conviction occurred — it was a long-standing colonial tradition to uphold treaties with natives through civil law and break them in a variety of other ways — but the reaction of persons involved before and during the trial. To wit:

Ousamequin coming from Plymouth told me that the four men were all guilty. I answered but one he replied true, one wounded him, but all lay in wait two days and assisted. Also that the principal must not die, for he was Mr. Winslow’s man and also that the Indian was by birth a Nipmuck man, so not worthy that any other man should die for him.

Ousamequin, here making the case that Peach should be spared, was another name for Massasoit, the old chief of the Pokanoket whose special kinship with Peach’s indenturerer Winslow was cemented after the settler brought a severely ill Massasoit European remedies when the chief was struck with an unnamed ailment in 1623.

Nor, indeed, were the colonists uniformly positive about the event: Bradford reports that “[s]ome of the rude and ignorant sorte murmured that any English should be put to death for the Indean.”

Massasoit himself seems to have been the only thing holding the colonial relationship together: Metacomet (“King Philip”) took the title of Great Sachem shortly after Massasoit’s death, and his alliances with other tribes exacerbated the harsh feeling towards English attempts to Christianize their neighboring “heathens”. With the white population expanding swiftly beyond its early boundaries, a small event was bound to spell trouble, and when the Christian convert John Sassamon (an Indian) was found murdered and three Wampanoag were executed for the deed, Indian sovereignty was impugned.

King Philip’s War was on, and it did not end well for the native Americans.

To his credit, Peach still produced a son, and Temple’s pregnancy ended the public life of Hopkins. Hopkins was charged with mistreating Temple, who was his indentured servant, and ordered to pay for both her and her child through the two years remaining on her contract.

Hopkins dissented and was jailed, bailed out four days later by John Holmes, who purchased Temple’s servitude for a whopping three pounds (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 the price of a cow). Her son remains unnamed in the record, but after giving birth, Temple was charged with producing a bastard child and whipped. Her fate thereafter is lost to the mists of history, as are the future exploits of Daniel Cross.

* The first was Mayflower original John Billington, who was executed in 1630 for shooting John Newcomen to resolve what was apparently a long-standing dispute.


Plymouth, Massachusetts, was established in 1620 with significant early help from local Native Americans, particularly Squanto and Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Subsequent colonists founded Salem, Boston, and many small towns around Massachusetts Bay between 1628 and 1640, at a time of increased English immigration. With a wave of immigration, and their building of towns such as Windsor, Connecticut (est. 1633), Hartford, Connecticut (est. 1636), Springfield, Massachusetts (est. 1636), Northampton, Massachusetts (est. 1654) and Providence, Rhode Island (est. 1636), the colonists progressively encroached on the traditional territories of the several Algonquian-speaking tribes in the region. Prior to King Philip's War, tensions fluctuated between tribes of Native Americans and the colonists, but relations were generally peaceful. [ citation needed ]

Twenty thousand colonists settled in New England during the Great Migration. Colonial officials of the Rhode Island, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut and the New Haven colonies each developed separate relations with the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Narragansett, Mohegan, Pequot, and other tribes of New England, whose territories historically had differing boundaries. Many of the neighboring tribes had been traditional competitors and enemies. As the colonial population increased, the New Englanders expanded their settlements along the region's coastal plain and up the Connecticut River valley. By 1675 they had established a few small towns in the interior between Boston and the Connecticut River settlements. [ citation needed ]

Disease and war [ edit | edit source ]

Throughout the Northeast, the Native Americans had suffered severe population losses as a result of pandemics of smallpox, spotted fever, typhoid, and measles, infectious diseases carried by European fishermen, starting in about 1618, two years before the first colony at Plymouth had been settled. Η] Shifting alliances among the different Algonquian peoples, represented by leaders such as Massasoit, Sassacus, Uncas and Ninigret, and the colonial polities negotiated a troubled peace for several decades. [ citation needed ]

For almost half a century after the colonists' arrival, Massasoit of the Wampanoag had maintained an uneasy alliance with the English to benefit from their trade goods and as a counter-weight to his tribe's traditional enemies, the Pequot, Narragansett, and the Mohegan. Massasoit had to accept colonial incursion into Wampanoag territory as well as English political interference with his tribe. [ citation needed ] Maintaining good relations with the English became increasingly difficult, as the English colonists continued pressuring the Indians to sell land. [ citation needed ]

Failure of diplomacy [ edit | edit source ]

"King Philip's Seat", a meeting place on Mount Hope (Rhode Island)

Metacomet, called "King Philip" by the English, became sachem of the Pokanoket and Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy after the death in 1662 of his older brother, the Grand Sachem Wamsutta (called "Alexander" by the English). The latter had succeeded their father Massasoit (d. 1661) as chief. Well known to the English before his ascension as paramount chief to the Wampanoag, Metacomet distrusted the colonists. Wamsutta had been visiting the Marshfield home of Josiah Winslow, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, for peaceful negotiations, and became ill after being given a "portion of working physic" by a Doctor Fuller.

The colonists had put in place laws making it illegal to do commerce with the Wampanoags. When the Plymouth colonists found out that Wamsutta had sold a parcel of land to Roger Williams, Josiah Winslow, the governor of the Plymouth Colony, had Wamsutta arrested even though Wampanoags that lived outside of colonist jurisdiction were not accountable to Plymouth Colony laws. Wamsutta's wife, Weetamoe, attempted to bring the chief back to Pokanoket. However, on the Taunton River the party saw that the end was near, and after beaching their canoes, Alexander died under an oak tree within viewing distance of Mount Hope. ⎖]

Metacomet began negotiating with the other Algonquian tribes against the Plymouth Colony soon after the deaths of his father Massasoit and his brother Wamsutta. His action was a reaction to the colonists' refusal to stop buying land and establishment of new settlements, combined with Wamsutta / Alexander's suspicious death. ⎖]

Population [ edit | edit source ]

The white population of New England totaled about 80,000 people. They lived in 110 towns, of which 64 were in the Massachusetts Colony, which then included the southwestern portion of the present state of Maine. The towns had about 16,000 men of military age who were almost all part of the militia—universal training was prevalent in all colonial New England towns. Many towns had built strong garrison houses for defense, and others had stockades enclosing most of the houses. All of these were strengthened as the war progressed. Some poorly populated towns without enough men to defend them were abandoned. Each town had local militias, based on all eligible men, who had to supply their own arms. Only those who were too old, too young, disabled, or clergy were excused from military service. The militias were usually only minimally trained and initially did relatively poorly against the warring Indians until more effective training and tactics could be devised. Joint forces of militia volunteers and volunteer Indian allies were found to be the most effective. The officers were usually elected by popular vote of the militia members. [ citation needed ] The Indian allies of the colonists—the Mohegans and Praying Indians—numbered about 1,000, with about 200 warriors. ⎗]

By 1676, the regional Native American population had decreased to about 10,000 Indians (exact numbers are unavailable), largely because of epidemics. These included about 4,000 Narragansett of western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut 2,400 Nipmuck of central and western Massachusetts and 2,400 combined in the Massachusett and Pawtucket tribes, living about Massachusetts Bay and extending northwest to Maine. The Wampanoag and Pokanoket of Plymouth and eastern Rhode Island are thought to have numbered fewer than 1,000. About one in four were considered to be warriors. By then the Indians had almost universally adopted steel knives, tomahawks, and flintlock muskets as their weapons of choice. The various tribes had no common government. They had distinct cultures and often warred among themselves. ⎘] Despite different cultures they each spoke a version of the Algonquian language family.

The trial [ edit | edit source ]

Engraving depicting the colonial assault on the Narragansetts' fort in the Great Swamp Fight in December 1675

John Sassamon, a Native American Christian convert ("Praying Indian") and early Harvard graduate, translator, and adviser to Metacomet, was a figure in the outbreak of the war. He told the governor of Plymouth Colony that Metacomet was intending to gather allies for Native American attacks on widely dispersed colonial settlements. ⎙]

King Philip was brought before a public court to answer to the rumors, and after the court officials admitted they had no proof, they warned him that any other rumors—baseless or otherwise—would result in their confiscating Wampanoag land and guns. [ citation needed ] Not long after, Sassamon was murdered and his body was found in the ice-covered Assawompset Pond. Historians disagree on the reasons for his death, and Jill Lepore notes that most relate to his role as "cultural mediator," negotiating with both sides and no longer belonging to either. ⎚]

On the testimony of a Native American, the Plymouth Colony officials arrested three Wampanoag, who included one of Metacomet's counselors. A jury, among whom were six Indian elders, convicted the men of Sassamon's murder. The men were executed by hanging on June 8, 1675 (O.S.), at Plymouth. Some Wampanoag believed that both the trial and the court's sentence infringed on Wampanoag sovereignty. [ citation needed ]

Arms and Armor of the Roanoke Colonists

In 1584 or early 1585, someone aware of Ralegh's intentions prepared detailed written advice on how to build, man, and run a military base in the New World. Expecting little trouble from the "naked" natives, but sharp engagements with the Spanish, the anonymous writer suggested that Ralegh establish a colony of 800 soldiers-400 arquebusiers, 150 archers, 100 swordsmen, and 150 armored men carrying pikes and other shock weapons.

About the same time, Richard Hakluyt published his discourse of Western Planting, a defense of English expansion into North America and a handbook for colonists and investors. Hakluyt recommended "provisions tendinge to force" that included not only arquebusiers and archers, but also makers of bows, arrows, arrowheads, saltpeter, and gunpowder pike makers and makers of doublets and targets.

Ralegh may have considered the two proposals, but he clearly reduced the suggested number of settlers. He did not send 800 soldiers to Roanoke Island the actual number was slightly more than 100. While there is no extant narrative description of military personnel in the 1585-1586 colony, there are numerous references to arms and armor-both English and Algonquian. John White's paintings add considerable detail, especially to the latter. After the failure of the military settlement, Ralegh, in 1587, launched his second full-scale colony, again with a membership barely in excess of 100. Accounts of the settlement in 1587, and the search for the colonists in 1590 make scant reference to arms and armor, perhaps because the character of the venture differed from that of 1585.

Most of the weaponry mentioned in the reports, paintings, and proposals can be classified as either shock weapons, missile weapons or firearms.

Shock Weapons: Many English soldiers of the period carried a sword as an auxiliary weapon, sometimes with a dagger. Steel swords, though harder to make and maintain, could hold a keen edge and were useful in many sizes, both for cutting and thrusting. (They were also useful for clearing light brush and killing animals wounded in a hunt. Jean Carl Harrington, who restored Fort Raleigh, found brick fragments that colonists may have worn into odd shapes while sharpening swords or other edged weapons, but no recognizable remains of the weapons themselves.) Harriot reported that the Indians used wooden swords, or "flat edged truncheons. about a yard long." Barlowe noted that the natives he met "would haue giuen any thing" for English swords.

The pike, which military theorist Sir John Smythe called "the chiefest weapon to defend," was a small-pointed spear with a shaft of ash or other heavy wood up to 20 feet long. Developed to protect footsoldiers against calvary charges, it was also used in naval operations. An early seventeenth century work mentions "pikes of wild fire to strike burning into a ship side to fire her." Some Western navies used non-incendiary pikes well into the nineteenth century. Most expert pikemen were also adept at using the sword in conjunction with their primary weapon. The pikes in John White's drawings of the 1585 expedition are probably more manageable half-pikes, 9-10 feet long. Harrington notes that pikes outnumber firearms 3:2 in White's drawing of the "Salt Fort" in Puerto Rico. He surmises that the colonists built this fort and the one on Roanoke Island to be defended mainly with pikes.

Documents from the Roanoke ventures mention "short weapons" which undoubtedly included the battle axe, the partisan, a broad-bladed spear often 6-7 feet long and halberds, and bills, long-shafted combinations of spear and axe designed for use against cavalry. By the late sixteenth century many of these weapons were in transition to ceremonial use (Yeomen Warders in the Tower of London still carry partisans) but because of their size, weight, an ability to cut as well as puncture, they served better than pikes in close combat. Harrington's discovery of a sickle in the fort ditch may suggest that the colonists used cutting tools as emergency weapons.

The Indians' shock weapons, in contrast, were few and simple. Besides wooden swords, they had clubs of several descriptions and knives made of stone imported from far inland. They used light spears for fishing, but apparently not for fighting.

Missile Weapons: By the 1580s, the longbow, the traditional English weapon, had fallen into disfavor. Despite royal endorsement, English armies, after 1595 use the longbow only as a backup weapon. Typically about six feet long and made of a single piece of seasoned yew, free of knots, the longbow had a draw strength of about 100 pounds, and usually shot steel tipped arrows a cloth yard (37 inches) long. A skillful longbowman could fire six aimed shots a minute, and with the wind at his back could reach distances in excess of 200 yard. Albeit unwieldy and fragile, the longbow was light and easier to fire rapidly than any other missile weapon in the English arsenal. Trained archers could fire simultaneously in ranks five or six deep without killing one another. The longbow was more accurate, and had a greater range than many firearms. It was also less affected by inclement weather-a wet bow worked after a fashion, a wet firearm did not work at all. Narratives of the Roanoke colonies make no mention of the longbow, but the colonists may have used it. White mentions a "wild fire arrowe," which could have been shot from a crossbow or firearm as well.

By the late 1500s however, the crossbow had fewer proponents and users than the longbow. Its powerful bow mounted on a stout wooden stock and drawn by a crank or lever could fire a variety of specialized bolts for piercing armor, cutting the rigging of ships, and setting fires. But power and versatility did not compensate for awkwardness. The lightest crossbow was far heavier than a longbow and incapable of rapid fire. Although the Roanoke colonists did not mention the crossbow in their accounts, they may have used it. The Spanish colonists certainly did.

In contrast, Indian bows were weaker than the crossbow or the longbow. Indian arrows, usually made of reeds or canes tipped with sharp shells, fish teeth or other non-metals, had little effect on English armor, but could pierce clothing and flesh easily enough.

Firearms: Ralegh's colonists probably had several kinds of foreign and domestic firearms. First among small arms of the period was the arquebus (harquebus, hackbut), a smooth-bore muzzle-loading weapon of fifteenth century origin, with a barrel about 3 feet long. It was so common that Barlowe and some of his contemporaries used the arquebus shot (perhaps 150-200 yards) as a rough measure of distance. Arquebusiers often supported the stock of the weapon with a forked staff, which improved their aim and absorbed some recoil. Although there was no standard size, most arquebuses were about 16 gauge. Inaccurate beyond 50 or 60 yards and useless in a rainstorm, the weapon was nonetheless effective at short range, and its flash and loud report were frightful for a while to the Indians.

The arquebus employed a matchlock. The operator ignited the priming powder with a smoldering saltpeter-impregnated cord (slow match) attached to a trigger mechanism. Quickly loading an arquebus in the proper order (powder, wadding, ball, wadding) without bringing the powder into unintended contact with the match, was difficult. Related equipment-staff, powder flasks, match, shot, shot mold-was heavy and easy to lose. Because loading, tamping, priming, blowing on the match, planting the staff and aiming consumed a considerable amount of time, arquebusiers were often vulnerable. To compensate, they, like the pikemen, usually carried swords, which only added to their burden. At Fort Raleigh, Harrington found four lead balls outside the fort, one flattened by impact all have diameters of 14-17 mm, consistent with use in an arquebus.

Ralph Lane, leader of the 1585-1586 colony reported that his men had shot the Indian king Wingina with a pistol and a petronel. Many pistols of the period had a wheel lock, which ignited the priming powder with sparks from a spring driven metal wheel striking a piece of iron pyrite. The petronel, a short arquebus like weapon, often with a wheel lock, was braced against the chest for firing. In 1586, Lane asked Sir Francis Drake, who had called on the colonists, for calivers, matchlock shoulder weapons with a larger bore than the arquebus (usually 10-12 gauge) and correspondingly greater weight and stronger recoil. In addition, the colonists used the musket, a firearm recently introduced in Spain. It was so ponderous (6-8 gauge, 5-6 feet long, 20 pounds or more) that two men were often needed to work it. The colonists may also have had the shorter bastard musket. A pistol-sized piece of gunflint unearthed at the fort suggests that the settlers had advanced flintlock firearms.

The Roanoke Island colonists had many kinds of brass, bronze, and iron ordnance with vague or overlapping names. Narratives omit the culverin (18 pounder) and the demi-culverin (9 pounder), both of which were probably mounted on the colonist' ships. But they do mention smaller guns such as the saker, with a bore of 3-4 inches, a shot weighing 5-7 pounds, and an overall weight around 1400 pounds the minion, with a bore of about 3 inches and a four-pound shot the falcon, with a bore of 2.5-3 inches the slightly smaller falconet and the breech-loading fowler, often used to clear the decks of ships. The colonist probably used these small sorts at the fort. Round shot (the familiar cannonballs, usually iron), crossbar shot (round shot joined by a spike), and trundle shot (sharpened iron bolts) would not have proved very useful against attacking Indians but grape shot (small projectiles packed in rigid canvas bags), case shot (small projectiles packed in wooden cylinders), and chain shot (ball joined by chain, often used against rigging) would have been devastating.

On his return to Roanoke Island in 1590, John White found "foure yron fowlers, Iron sacker-shotte, and such like heauie things," but none of "the last Falkons and small Ordinance which were left with" the missing colonists. The Elizabeth II State Historic site in Manteo, North Carolina, has on display a well-preserved sixteenth century falcon, which fishermen found, still loaded, off the North Carolina coast.

ARMOR: By the late sixteenth century, improved missile weapons were gradually retiring full plate armor to decorative status but partial armor of different kinds remained popular. Some Spaniards experienced in fighting Indians preferred light fabric armor. Writing to King Philip III in 1600, Gonzalo Mendez de Canzo recommended the quilted cotton escupil:

The Roanoke Island colonists may have used buff coats and mail. Militias in Virginia were still using the latter in the 1620s. But many Englishmen seem to have preferred the corselet, which limited mobility, increased susceptibility to heat exhaustion and required aggressive upkeep. Hakluyt praised doublets, or brigandines, sleeveless leather coats with steel plates riveted to the inside, as "defensive, light, and gentle to lye in." Some of the Roanoke Island colonists probably wore these or jacks, cheap rivetless doublets often made of cloth, that proved popular a few years later in Virginia. Doublets and jacks were lighter and more flexible than corselets, but not much cooler.

To protect their heads, some of the colonists may have worn a high-ridged morion, made of steel or, less often, of cuir bouilli (stiff, waxed leather) and lined with quilted linen. Its low width-to-height ratio enabled the morion to withstand straight-on blows that would crush some other helmets, but increased the risk that a blow from the side would knock it off or break the wearer's neck. The morion was open-faced however, and so did not obstruct vision.

Swordsmen generally carried targets, small round or oval shields, usually of wood and leather. Earlier in the century shields attached to, or with openings for, firearms were popular in some circles but they had been abandoned by the time of the Roanoke Island colonies.

The Indians of the region sometimes used light shields of wicker or bark, and armor made of sticks tied together, but may have had no protective headgear. At first they thought highly of steel plate armor. Barlowe reported that Granganimeo, a Roanoke nobleman, took up a tin dish in imitation and "clapt it before his breast. making signes, that it would defende him against his enemies arrowes." Eventually Granganimeo traded "twentie skinnes, woorth twentie Crownes" for this trifle and hung it around his neck. But having seen steel armor in use, the Indians seem to have concluded that it had no special value. White left his armor, probable a corselet, on Roanoke Island when he departed for England in 1587. On his return in 1590 he found it "almost eaten through with rust." Neither the colonists nor the Indians had bothered to take it.

THE BIG PICTURE: The English came to the New World expecting to fight an old enemy, Spain, in accustomed ways. But no one associated with the Roanoke colonies except Sir Francis Drake and the personnel on his West Indian voyage ever fought Spaniards on the North American mainland.

Despite ambitious exploring and mapping, the colonists paid little attention to the land, climate, or population. Roanoke Island, surrounded by treacherous waters and warring Indian tribes was less than ideal as a site for a settlement. Chesapeake Bay, the original destination of the 1587 colonists, offered safer navigation but dealings with the Spanish in the 1570s and reports of the Lane colonists' actions had very likely prejudiced the Indians of the area against Europeans. In 1585 and again in 1587, the colonists arrived too late in the year to plant, and consequently relied on the Native Americans for their food supply.

The colonists considered the indigenous peoples primitives with no martial skill from whom they might extort food, labor, and information indefinitely. Even Thomas Harriot, an otherwise perceptive and humane observer in the Lane colony, dismissed them:

Convinced of their own supremacy, the colonists antagonized several powerful Indian groups.

In fact, the Indians of the region were numerically, tactically, logistically, and strategically superior to any group of Englishmen that set foot here in the sixteenth century. The Chowanoke alone had 700-800 fighting men who could effectively use "ambushes or some suttle deuises" and survive on the move for long periods without cumbersome rations or long supply lines. Some Indian leaders were wise enough to set aside their disputes in order to fight a common enemy. By Lane's own admission, Wingina was at the time of his death making alliances against the colony with tribes living as far away as Chesapeake Bay. The Indians had a weapon more potent than all their bows and clubs combined-food. They could not only withhold food that they had produced, but also disrupt the colonists' halfhearted efforts to feed themselves. In extremity, whole Indians towns could relocate, leaving the colonists little to steal and no one to conquer. Nowhere are the Indians' advantages clearer than in White's third-hand account of their rout of the small garrison that Grenville left on Roanoke Island in 1586:

The Indians' advantages were not insuperable, as the later European conquest of North America proved. The Roanoke Island colonists could have become self-sufficient, learned native tactics, and forsaken their unsatisfactory and obsolescent material. Against a lightly armed, highly mobile enemy making full use of dense cover and familiar terrain, the colonists' eclectic arms and armor were often worse than useless. Long accepted military practices and conventional arms and armor were insufficient to preserve a small colony in the New World, much less to provide the foundation of colonial expansion.

Text based on "The Arms and Armor of Raleigh's Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590,"
by Phillip W. Evans expanded and edited by lebame houston and Wynne Dough.

How is it that King Philips War devastated the colonists so much, but the Colonists were not driven out? - History

Read the Articles of Confederation
of the United Colonies.

Read more about King Philip's War.
Follow the link to read about the reasons, events, and political and economic aftermath of the war.

At the 1621 feast of thanks in Plymouth, Wampanoag chief Massasoit was an honored guest of the Pilgrims, who were grateful for his tribe's help in the colony's struggle for food, shelter and survival. Relations soon worsened, however, and a little more than 50 years later, in 1676, colonial troops paraded the severed head of his son Philip as a war trophy through the streets of Plymouth—the town his father had saved from starvation. His skull was displayed on a pole for years afterwards. His corpse was cut into quarters, the pieces distributed to different colonies. His wife and son were sold into West Indian slavery.

The war lasted only 14 months, but it nearly destroyed Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Rhode Island—and exterminated the tribes of southern New England. Some 13 New England towns were destroyed and 52 damaged, out of 90 white settlements. English expansion into New England was halted for the next 50 years. Nearly 3,000 settlers were killed. Measured against the total European population of New England, this death rate was twice that of the Civil War and seven times more deadly than World War II. More than 1,200 homes were destroyed, 8,000 cattle were slaughtered, and countless crops and food supplies wiped out.

The New England colonies were made nearly destitute by the costs of the war. The English would survive, however, and they proceeded to hunt down and wipe out tribal culture and village life from southern New England. American Indian battle casualties were eclipsed by deaths from starvation, disease, and exposure. Surviving American Indians across New England were captured and executed. Many captives were sold into West Indian slavery for profit. Even the Praying Indians, who had converted to Christianity and had helped the colonial forces defeat Philip's forces, were sent for a time to an internment camp on Deer Island in Boston Harbor. Many of them died due to the poor conditions before the group was allowed to return to the mainland at the end of the war.

How did goodwill and tolerance dissolve into hatred and revenge? What triggered the uprising of Wampanoags, Nipmucks, and Narragansetts that threatened to send settlers fleeing to England? And what caused the brutal backlash by the English that nearly exterminated the New England tribes?

In 1643 after the Pequot War, a confederation known as the United Colonies of New England was formed in part for the mutual security against any American Indian uprising. It was comprised of the colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Haven (which later merged with Connecticut), and Plymouth. (Rhode Island would join much later.) The New Englanders mistakenly thought they were well prepared to defend their settlements.

In 1675, the Algonquian Indians all over southern New England attacked the Puritan colonists. The resulting series of raids and skirmishes which raged through the towns and villages of New England over the next year became known as King Philip's War—one of the bloodiest wars in American history.

Read an online book — Soldiers in
King Philip's War, Being A Critical
Account of that War with a Concise
History of the Indian Wars of New
England From 1620-1677.
It includes
official lists of soldiers, biographies
of some of the officers, copies of
documents, and more.

The conflict was the result of population pressure on the native peoples immediately to the west and north, notably the Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Mohegans, Poducks, and Nipmucks. The native peoples were upset with the white settlers' livestock that strayed into their fields and trampled their crops. Their economies were destroyed as the game was driven away and the fur trade ceased, and they went into debt as the steady succession of land sales created a growing dependence on English goods. Missionaries like John Eliot tried to preserve the culture of the American Indians, but the underlying pressure to conform to the ways of the settlers threatened to destroy the cultures of the various tribes. Before his death, Massasoit, the Wampanoag sachem who had befriended the Pilgrims, petitioned the Plymouth General Court to give English names to his two sons. The eldest Wamsutta was renamed Alexander, and his younger brother Metacomet—also known as Metacom or Pometacom—became Philip.


There is no known portrait of
Metacomet, or King Philip, but
his likeness has been depicted in
in various ways. The image above
was drawn by Paul Revere in an era
when American Indians were still
viewed as hostile.

After Massasoit's death, Alexander became grand sachem of the main Wampanoag village, Pokanoket. In the early 1660s, Plymouth officials heard rumors that the Wampanoags had sold land to the white colonists of Rhode Island. It was their contention that treaties between Plymouth and the Wampanoag gave their colony exclusive rights to any land the tribe might be willing to give up. The colony's government brought Alexander to Plymouth for interrogation, after which Alexander became ill and died. Some believe he was poisoned. The following year, Metacomet, or Philip, succeeded his brother as grand sachem.

Alexander's widow, Weetamoo, soon became the sachem of the Wampanoag town of Pocasset, a position of authority that placed over 300 warriors under her guidance and thus made her a political power in her own right. Weetamoo was not only the widow of Philip's brother, Alexander, but Philip's wife was her sister, Wootonekanuske. During the next ten years, as Alexander's successor Philip tried to accommodate English demands, Weetamoo and her soldiers kept the peace.

Read a brief biography of
Governor Josiah Winslow.

In February 1675, the body of John Sassamon was found at Assawompset Pond near Namasket, the Christian Indian town where he had served as minister. Sassamon was an American Indian who had once served as Philip's secretary. He eventually left to teach American Indians near Middleborough, and, shortly before his death, had met with Governor Josiah Winslow to warn that Philip "was Indeavouring to engage all the Sachems round about in a war." Sassamon told Winslow he believed his life was in danger—that Philip would surely murder him if his betrayal was discovered.

Many colonists probably believed that Philip was behind the murder, though others wondered whether Sassamon had been murdered at all and had not simply drowned. In June, a trio of American Indians—Tobias, his son Wampapaquan, and Mattashunannamo—were brought to trial for the murder of Sassamon. Due to the unusual circumstances, the Plymouth authorities added six "of the most indifferentest, gravest, and sage Indians" to the usual jury, and all six of these concurred with the verdict, which was that the three accused American Indians were guilty of murder. While John Sassamon may indeed have been murdered, the evidence against Tobia, Wampapaquan and Mattashunannamo was insubstantial. However, the court sentenced the three to be hanged. Tobias and Mattashunannamo were executed on June 8, 1675. Wampapaquan was reprieved briefly, but within a month was shot to death.

In retaliation to the executions, open hostilities commenced on June 20 by American Indians who plundered the houses of the English inhabitants in the town of Swansea. The attacks continued over the next several days, and on June 24, as the English were returning from religious worship, they were fired upon by the American Indians, who looted and burned several houses, killed three inhabitants, and wounded two others. Two other colonists who went to find a surgeon to help the wounded were themselves overtaken by the American Indians and slain.

The first help to arrive came from a company of seventeen men from Bridgewater, who were quartered at a fortified house at Gardiner's Neck in Swansea. There they collected seventy people—sixteen men and fifty-four women and children—whom they defended until reinforced. The non-combatants were later transported to Rhode Island for safety.

Massachusetts was quick to respond to Plymouth's appeal for help. Plymouth Colony troops had been ordered to rendezvous at Taunton in preparation to uniting with those from Boston, where they were severely harassed by the American Indians. Lieut. John Freeman, in a letter dated at Taunton, said, "This morning three of our men are slain close by one of our courts of guard, houses are burned in our sight, our men are picked off at every bush. The design of the enemy is not to face the army, but to fall on us as they have advantage."

The Cocheco Massacre occurred when
Penacook Indians attacked the garrisons
in New Hampshire.

The forces that converged on Swansea consisted of a company of infantry under Capt. Daniel Henchman, and a company of one hundred and ten volunteers under Capt. Samuel Moseley, and a company of mounted men under Capt. Thomas Prentice. These three companies, as well as a company from Plymouth Colony under Capt. James Cudworth, of Scituate, were placed under the command of the ranking officer, Capt. Cudworth.

The Bay Colony had also sent emissaries to try to reconcile Philip and Plymouth, but when the colonial troops arrived in Swansea and discovered the mangled bodies of the first colonists killed in the war, authorities were convinced that mediation could not be successful.

The Englishmen had hoped to keep the war confined to Philip's home area of Mount Hope. However, Philip quickly moved beyond the Mount Hope area, and the war could no longer be contained. Within a short period of time, Philip and his men attacked Rehoboth and Taunton and then moved on to Dartmouth and Middleborough. Using a hit-and-run tactic, the American Indians could quickly fall on a town and either destroy it, or loot and burn the outlying houses and steal the livestock.


John Eliot took upon himself the immense
task of translating the Bible into Algonquian.
In 1663 this translation became the first
Bible printed in America.

As the colonials became more organized, Philip and his warriors escaped and fled to the temporary safety of Weetamoo's territory.

By July, the Mohegans offered to fight on the English side. Philip, in turn, escaped another English trap and fled for Nipmuck territory where he was able to persuade the Nipmucks to enter the war. In August, fighting spread to endanger Massachusetts towns on two sides, both the ring of towns west of Boston and those settlements on both sides of the Connecticut River. After a raid at Northfield, a relief force under Captain Beers was ambushed south of town and more than half were killed. Three survivors were captured and burned at the stake.

From August 2-4, the Nipmucks besieged the town of Brookfield. On August 22, a group of unidentified Indians killed seven colonists at Lancaster. In retaliation, Capt. Moseley arrested fifteen Hassanamesit (Grafton) Indians near Marlborough for the Lancaster assault and marched them to Boston. In early September, Moseley and his troops attacked the American Indian town of Pennacook.

Meanwhile, the Council of War deliberated over the fate of the American Indian men, women, and children, who had fallen into custody. They concluded that most of the American Indians would be sold as slaves. American Indians south of Plymouth were ordered to come no closer to the colony than Sandwich, under penalty of death or imprisonment. Throughout the colonies, all American Indians, even the friendly Praying Indians, were regarded with suspicion, and they were ordered confined to their Praying Towns.

In September 1675, Deerfield and Hadley were attacked, forcing the colonists to leave their homes and move into forts. Facing a winter with limited food, Capt. Thomas Lothrop led 80 soldiers to gather crops near Hadley. As they returned, the expedition was ambushed by 700 Pocumtucks at Bloody Brook, south of Deerfield. An English force with 60 Mohegan fighters found only seven survivors at the site.

Leaving the northern settlements on the Connecticut River, Philip's warriors moved south, attacking Hatfield, Westfield, and Northampton. The Pocumtucks attacked and destroyed Springfield. The English and Mohegan fighters in western Massachusetts were on the defensive, and by late fall, they were confined to a handful of forts.

By the beginning of November, the Massachusetts Council ordered all of the Praying Indians removed to Deer Island. Despite these precautions, the Nipmucks capture dozens of Christian Indians at Magunkaquog, Chabanakongkomun, and Hassanamesit (Grafton), including James Printer, a Christianized Nipmuck Indian.

Explore the history of the town of
Natick, founded by John Eliot.

Up to this point, the Narragansetts of Rhode Island had remained neutral, but the colonists were suspicious of their intentions. Roger Williams, in the role of peacemaker, had been laboring with the American Indians to avert further bloodshed. During the summer, an American Indian trading post called Smith's Castle (Cocumscussoc) near Warwick, RI, had served as a base for Williams' diplomatic labors with the Narragansetts in an all-out effort to keep them from joining King Philip. Information was received in November that the Narragansetts were harboring some women and children who were aligned with Philip. For harboring Wampanoag refugees, the Commissioners of the United Colonies accused the Narragansetts of being in collusion with the enemy tribes, and ordered the raising of an army to proceed against them. Despite his age (he was now seventy-two), Roger Williams accepted a military commission with the title of Captain and became active in the defense of his Rhode Island home and his fellow citizens.

Plymouth's governor, Josiah Winslow, son of Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, was named commander-in-chief of the United Colony forces. Richard Smith's trading post, Smith's Castle, was chosen as military headquarters and advance base for the expedition. On December 10, the Massachusetts and Plymouth forces were met at Rehoboth by Richard Smith with several vessels to conduct an advance party to Smith's Castle. The main body followed on foot, arriving three days later with several prisoners taken on the way. One prisoner agreed to guide the English forces to the Narragansetts' main fortress about 12 miles to the southwest, near present-day South Kingstown, RI.

Guided by the American Indian prisoner, General Winslow moved the army near the American Indians' winter stronghold on an "island" in the middle of Great Swamp. A palisaded village of crowded huts, five or six acres in extent, it housed probably as many as a thousand natives of all ages, besides large stores of corn and other provisions.

The bitterly cold weather, though causing much suffering among the troops on the march, proved to be a decisive advantage to the attacking forces. The swamp was so solidly frozen that they were able to move against the fortress normally rendered inaccessible by the surrounding marsh. In the ensuing fight, which raged through a freezing blizzard, the colonial forces stormed the stockade, set fire to the wigwams and turned the village into a funeral pyre. Non-combatant women and children died along with defending warriors. However, Winslow's losses were heavy, too, and he could not sustain the momentum. Many colonials died that night on the return march to Smith's Castle through heavy snow.

Read more about Smith's Castle
and its builder, Richard Smith.

The Great Swamp assault promptly increased support for Philip. The Abenaki people to the north joined the war, as did the surviving Narragansett warriors. Their devastating attacks on the outer ring of the Boston area began in February. Groton came under fire, as did Medfield, Marlboro, and Sudbury. While Nipmucks inflicted these damages, Wampanoags and Narragansetts made their way back into Plymouth Colony and Rhode Island to attack Rehoboth and Providence. In the west, Longmeadow, Northampton, and Hatfield were attacked.

Weetamoo and her new husband, the Narragansett sachem, Quanopin, together with the Nipmuck Indians, successfully raided the town of Lancaster and succeeded in storming the garrison where settlers had taken refuge. Among those inside was Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan minister's wife, who was taken captive and spent the next six weeks of the winter being taken back and forth across Massachusetts, barely clinging to life. After three months she was ransomed, an indication of the declining power of the American Indians, who were now without food, short on muskets and powder, and facing large numbers of colonists.

Mary Rowlandson published an account
of her time with her Indian captors. Here
you can read her captivity narrative,
Narrative of the Captivity and the
Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.

In March 1676, Roger Williams lost the home where he had lived for some years when a large force of American Indians descended on Providence and burned about fifty houses. In the same month, Plymouth Colony suffered a serious blow. Near Providence, on the Pawtucket River, Capt. Michael Pierce leading a company consisting of colonists and some American Indians, was defeated by a large group of Narragansett. Despite the fact that the colonists fought fiercely, the militia was decimated.

The first part of the war favored Philip and his allies, whose daring raids had proved too much for the colonists. While the colonists were regularly drilled in their town militias, they were not trained or familiar with the fighting methods and strategies used by the American Indians. In addition, colonial troops did not have adequate provisions because food was in short supply. Crops were lost in towns that were burned and in towns that were not attacked the crops could not be harvested because men were away fighting.

After their initial defeats, however, the colonists began to learn how to fight in the same way that the American Indians did. Philip and his allies had little chance in the long run against the combined resources of the United Colonies with their population of seventy thousand and reserves of food and ammunition. Winter fighting had robbed Philip's people of their reserves of food, ammunition, and shelter. Women and children were especially vulnerable once their crops and homes had been destroyed at the onset of winter. Since they were never unified, the various tribes were never able to subordinate their individual interests to a total war effort. As the war progressed, many of the American Indians who were aligned with the colonists were of great help, and they made up substantial parts of the colony's forces.

Read more about Roger Williams. He was
the founder of Rhode Island and played
a role in King Philip’s War. Although
there are images that purport to depict
Roger Williams, the New England Historical
Society states that there are no known
authentic images of Williams.

By May of 1676, the colonists were able to repel an attack on Hadley. Going on the offensive, they attacked sleeping American Indians near Deerfield. Mary Rowlandson was also released and returned to Boston that month, as her captors were quickly running out of provisions for themselves and unable to support prisoners.

In June, Massachusetts issued a declaration of amnesty for American Indians who were willing to surrender. Parties of half-starved American Indians surrendered all over New England. Nearly two hundred Nipmucks surrendered in Boston alone. Major John Talcott and his troops began moving through Connecticut and Rhode Island, capturing Algonquians who were moved out of the colonies and enslaved.

An important figure in the war for Plymouth was Capt. Benjamin Church, son of Richard Church and Elizabeth, who was the daughter of Mayflower passenger Richard Warren. Church had distinguished himself early on in fighting at Swansea, in the Great Swamp Fight, and in guerrilla-type operations throughout Plymouth Colony. Church had been on friendly terms with American Indians before the war, and during the war he was sometimes able to get them to change sides almost instantly.

Around the beginning of August, Church just narrowly missed capturing Philip on the Taunton River, but was able to capture his wife and son. After a quick return to Plymouth, Church headed out again to find Philip. The war had completed a full circle, and Philip, now destitute and with but a few tired, hungry men, had come back to where it all started, his one-time home at Mount Hope. Church was across the water at Aquidneck Island when a deserter from Philip's camp told him where the Wampanoag chief was hiding. Before leading a charge on Philip's camp, Church posted pairs of men in a circle surrounding the camp. When his main force charged, Church knew Philip would have nowhere to flee except into the ambush. A waiting pair of men, a colonist and an American Indian, saw someone running toward them. The colonist aimed his gun first, but his gun misfired. The American Indian killed the runner. It was Philip. A victorious Church announced that since Philip "had caused many an Englishman's body to be unburied and to rot about ground, not one of his bone should be buried." He ordered Philip's head severed and his body quartered. Philip's head was taken to Plymouth where it was displayed for months.

Steadily, the various tribal groups were captured, killed, or sold into slavery in the West Indies, as indeed were Philip's own family. On August 28, 1676, Philip's captain, Anawan, was captured by Church at a place known today as Anawan's Rock, in the east part of Rehoboth.

Quinapin, Weetamoo's Narragansett husband who had been second in command in the Great Swamp Fight, was captured in 1676, taken to Newport, RI, and shot. Weetamoo and her followers fled to the Niantic country (Westerly, RI). Still pursued, she headed for Swansea, where she was betrayed by someone who deserted her camp. A force from Taunton captured her followers. Weetamoo attempted to escape on a hastily-built raft. She drowned and her corpse was eventually found on the beach of Gardiner's Neck, in Swansea. Her head was cut off and taken to Taunton.

Although some sporadic fighting continued in Maine, by the summer of 1676 the war was over. The American Indians of southern New England had been reduced to a few small groups cooped up in special villages, their way of life and environment destroyed forever. Among the casualties were Eliot's Praying Towns, most of whose inhabitants, though friendly, had been interned on Deer Island near Boston in conditions of great hardship. Afterwards only four towns remained, with the prospects for racial harmony even among the converted hopelessly compromised.

The net result for the colonists was the clearing of the coastal areas for settlement. The war had been fought, however, at a terrible price. Twelve towns had been destroyed, half the rest had suffered some damage, almost one out of every fifteen men of military age had been killed, and all of the United Colonies had incurred large debts. The scars of the war were to remain for a long time.