King Philip's War

Depiction of King Philips War
Depiction of King Philips War - Encyclopedia Britannica
Metacom, also known as Metacomet, Pometacom, or King Philip, was a tribal leader of the Pokanoket tribe and the Wampanoag nation. In 1675, he brought together a coalition of native people from various tribes to declare war on the local settlers and drive them out of this territory once and for all. He enlisted clans from the Narragansett and the local Nipmuck to his cause. This was the very first of the "Indian Wars" but unlike the ones that would come afterward, this conflict would truly determine which culture would remain on the North American continent. The native people would never realistically have an advantage in war after this and their fate would be sealed. It would be the white man that would have a future in North America. The settlers on the frontier of Massachusetts Bay Colony were completely outnumbered by the indigenous coalition that was at war with them and they were wholly unprepared for the carnage that would come. It was a true war of survival. It is a war that was fought in the woodlands and towns next door to Lake Maspenock. It is the most important war fought on American soil that most people have never even heard of. More than one half of New England's ninety towns were attacked. There were 800 settlers killed, 3000 indigenous warriors killed, 1200 homes burned, and 8000 head of cattle slaughtered. One-fifth of the New England Native American population died in the war. The per-capita death rate for the settlers was twice the Civil War and seven times the death rate of world WWII. On July 14, 1675, the next door town of Mendon was one of the first to be attacked in King Philip's War. The surviving townspeople were able to identify three of the victims and point to where they were killed. We know Mrs. Puffer and her son, a boy of only twelve, and John Rockwood Jr., another boy around the same age, were most likely out picking berries in the swamp when Philip's warriors surprised them and killed them. They were the only ones positively identified through petitions sent to the General Court. A monument now stands in Mendon near the site of those who were killed. John Albee, Richard Post, John Garnsey, and Joseph Stevens the Blacksmith, were the names of some of the other settlers killed that day. So few of the original settlers returned, and the ones that did were so traumatized, that they left very few eye-witness accounts of the attack in the Mendon records. The attack on Lancaster Massachusetts was much more well documented because of the captivity of Mary Rowlandson. She was taken prisoner and lived among the Nipmuck and Narragansett and had to not only survive her captivity, but also the extremely harsh life the wandering native clans were left living at the time. This included surviving on small amounts of ground acorns, berries and the occasional delicacy, boiled horse hooves. In her book, A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, published in 1682, she wrote the following account of the brutal attack and massacre that was inflicted on Lancaster Massachusetts in February of 1675. "On the Tenth of February 1675, came the Indians with great numbers upon Lancaster: their first coming was about sunrise; hearing the noise of some guns, we looked out and several houses were burning, the smoke ascending to heaven. There were five persons taken in one house; the father, the mother, and a suckling child, they were knocked on the head; the other two they took and carried away alive". There were two others, who were out of their garrison upon some occasion were set upon; one was knocked on the head, the other escaped; another there was who running along was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money (as they told me) but they would not hearken to him but knocked him in the head. They stripped him naked and split open his bowels. Another, seeing many of the Indians about his barn, ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn had the advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification. Thus these murderous wretches went on, burning, and destroying before them. At length, they came and beset our own house, and quickly it was the worst day that ever my eyes saw. The house stood upon the edge of a hill and some of the Indians got behind the hill, others into the barn, and others behind anything that could shelter them; from all the places they shot against the house so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail. Quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, and then a third. About two hours they had been about the house before they prevailed to fire it, which they did with flax and hemp, which they brought out of the barn, they fired it once and one of ours ventured out and quenched it, but they quickly fired it again, and that took. Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in their blood, the house on fire over our heads, and the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head, if we stirred out. Then I took my children and my niece to go forth and leave the house but as soon as we came to the door the Indians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house as if one had taken a handful of stones and threw them. No sooner were we out of the house, but my brother-in-law, who was shot in the throat defending the house, fell down dead, whereat the Indians scornfully shouted, and hallowed, and were presently upon him, stripping off his clothes, the bullets flying thick, one went through my side, and the same bullet went through the bowels and hand of my dear child in my arms. One of my elder sisters' children, named William, had then his leg broken, which the Indians perceived, they knocked him on his head. Thus were we butchered by those merciless heathen, standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels. My eldest sister was still in the house, and seeing those woeful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way, and children another, and some wallowing in their blood: and her elder son telling her that her son William was dead, and myself was wounded, she said, "And Lord, let me die with them," which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet and fell down dead over the threshold". King Philip's War lasted three years and cast a dark shadow upon the remaining native people. The colonists feared them and they feared the colonists. All the remaining local clans, whether peaceful, praying, or not, were taken and sent to Deer Island with little or no provisions. The land belonging to Magunkaquog was eventually sold to the Hopkins Trustees in 1715 and later became part of the town of Hopkinton. The genocide of the native people perpetrated on Deer Island was not as successful as some of the English had hoped for and when some native people finally returned to their praying villages they found them pillaged. It was decided that the returning Magunkoquok Indians would join the Praying Indians in Natick. On November 10, 1676, the Massachusetts Praying Indians were concentrated into four camps. The first in Medfield had 25 people, 50 people remained in Natick, 62 people camped in Newton near the Charles River, and 25 more in Newton on Nonantum Hill. The records show that in 1676, there were only 42 men and 120 women and children left for a total of 162 native people from the praying villages who survived King Philip's war. By 1729, there were only 30 Indian families left living in Natick. The last minister to the Indian congregation in Natick was the Reverend Stephen Badger. In a letter he wrote in 1797, he detailed the sad fact that there were only two living Indian members left at Natick. According to Reverend Badger: "The causes of the decrease and degradation of the Indians were drunkenness, wandering, laziness, thriftlessness and intermarriage with negroes and whites of low intelligence and bad character. Originally, however, they were a proud, self-respecting people who considered themselves on a standing of equality with the English, held up their heads and retained their native dignity. Being a race of warriors and hunters, to them labor in a field was proper work only for squaws. But when there were no longer enemies to fight, when civilization closed around them so that they could no longer live by hunting and fishing, they became shiftless and lazy. Ownership of land meant little or nothing to them and, indeed, wilderness land was of small value in its undeveloped condition. So they sold their lands to the English who with great effort and labor turned those wild acres into productive farm lands. Hemmed in more and more by spreading farms, the Indians took to a wandering life, they neglected or abandoned their small plots of land, or bartered them away for rum and firearms. Thus they became a dependent race and lost their self-respect. Meanwhile, rum, tuberculosis and poverty completed their destruction. This is the sad story of the Indians of New England, a tragic end for a race which had once possessed many innate noble qualities." His convenient history leaves out any responsibility the settlers and religious leaders had in the demise of the indigenous people who had lived and prospered on these lands for millenia.