King Philip's War

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King Philip's War

King Philip's War is sometimes called the First Indian War. It took place between 1675 and 1678. 

Who fought in King Philip's War?
King Philip's war was fought between the English colonists of New England and a group of Native American tribes. The main leader of the Native Americans was Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoag peoples. His English nickname was "King Philip." Other tribes on the side of the Native Americans included the Nipmuck, Podunk, Narragansett, and Nashaway peoples. Two Native American tribes, the Mohegan and the Pequot, fought on the side of the colonists. 

Where was it fought?
The war was fought throughout the Northeast including Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.

Leading up to the War
For the first 50 years after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth in 1620, the English colonists had a fairly peaceful relationship with the local Native Americans in New England. Without the help of the Wampanoag people, the Pilgrims would have never survived the first winter. 

As the colonies began to expand into Indian territory, the local tribes became more concerned. Promises made by the colonists were broken as more and more people arrived from England. When the chief of the Wampanoag died while in captivity in Plymouth Colony, his brother Metacomet (King Philip) became determined to drive the colonists out of New England.

Major Battles and Events
The first major event of the war was a trial in Plymouth Colony that resulted in the execution of three Wampanoag men. Metacomet had already been preparing for war, but it was this trial that caused him to first attack. He attacked the city of Swansea, burning the town to ground and killing many of the settlers. The war had begun. 

Over the course of the next year, both sides would mount attacks against each other. The colonists would destroy an Indian village and then the Indians would respond by burning down a colonial settlement. Around twelve colonial towns were completely destroyed during the fighting. 

One particularly bloody battle is called the Great Swamp Fight which took place in Rhode Island. A group of colonial militia attacked the home fort of the Narragansett tribe. They destroyed the fort and killed around 300 Native Americans.

Benjamin Church

End of the War and Results
Eventually, the greater numbers and resources of the colonists allowed them to take control of the war. Chief Metacomet tried to hide in the swamps in Rhode Island, but he was hunted down by a group of colonial militia led by Captain Benjamin Church. He was killed and then beheaded. The colonists displayed his head at Plymouth colony for the next 25 years as a warning to other Native Americans. 

The war was devastating for both sides. Around 600 English colonists were killed and twelve towns completely destroyed with many more towns suffering damages. The Native Americans had it even worse. Around 3,000 Native Americans were killed and many more were captured and shipped off to slavery. The few Native Americans left were eventually forced off their lands by the expanding colonists. 

Interesting Facts about King Philip's War

  • King Philip (Metacomet) was named after the Ancient Greek King Philip of Macedonia.

  • The English colonists largely fought the war without the help of the King of England.

  • Over half of the 90 or so towns in New England were attacked at some point during the war.

  • King Philip was shot and killed by an Indian named John Alderman who had allied with the colonists.

  • Although King Philip was killed on August 12, 1676, the fighting continued in some areas until a treaty was signed in 1678.

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