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King Philip's War of 1675 - 1677

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King Philip's War, sometimes called the First Indian War, Metacom's War, Metacomet's War, or Metacom's Rebellion, was an armed conflict between Native American inhabitants of present-day New England and English colonists and their Native American allies in 1675–78. The war is named for the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet, who had adopted the English name "King Philip" in honor of the previously-friendly relations between his father and the original Mayflower Pilgrims. The war continued in the most northern reaches of New England until the signing of the Treaty of Casco Bay in April 1678.

In June 1675, the war, named for the Wampanoag leader Metacomet (or King Philip), broke out in the town of Swansea in Plymouth Colony. Hostilities spread north and west, soon threatening much of New England. Boston itself was threatened. Colonial resources and manpower ultimately prevailed. King Philip's War lasted little more than a year.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, was established in circa 1620 with significant early help from Native Americans, particularly Squanto and Massasoit, Metacomet's father and chief of the Wampanoag tribe. Salem, Boston, and several small towns were established around Massachusetts Bay between 1628 and 1640. The building of towns such as Windsor, Connecticut (est. 1633), Hartford, Connecticut (est. 1636), Springfield, Massachusetts (est. 1636), and Northampton, Massachusetts (est. 1654) on the Connecticut River and towns such as Providence, Rhode Island, in Narragansett Bay (est. 1638) progressively encroached on Native American territories.

Prior to King Philip's War, relations were generally peaceful. As the colonists' small population grew larger over time and the number of their towns increased, the Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Narragansett, Mohegan, Pequot, and other small tribes were each treated individually by the English officials of Rhode Island, Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, and New Haven.

John Sassamon, a Native American Christian convert ("Praying Indian") and adviser to Metacom, contributed to the outbreak of the war. He told Plymouth Colony officials about King Philip's attempts to arrange Native American attacks on colonial settlements. Before colonial officials could investigate, Sassamon was murdered on January 29, 1675, allegedly killed by a few of Philip's Wampanoag, angry at his betrayal. The hanging of several of Metacom's men on June 8, 1675, who were accused of the murder of John Sassamon, precipitated the attack on Swansea.

The white population of New England totaled about 80,000 people, including 16,000 men of military age. They lived in 110 towns, of which 64 were in Massachusetts.

The region included about 10,500 Indians, including 4000 Narragansett of western Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, 2400 Nipmuck of central Massachusetts, and 2400 combined in the Massachusetts and Pawtucket tribes, living about Massachusetts Bay and extending northwest to Maine. The Wampanoag and Pokanoket of Plymouth and eastern Rhode Island by then numbered fewer than 1000 each.


Beginning of the War Summer 1675

The war quickly spread, and soon involved the Podunk and Nipmuck tribes. During the summer of 1675, the Native Americans attacked at Middleborough and Dartmouth (July 8), Mendon (July 14), Brookfield (August 2), and Lancaster (August 9). In early September they attacked Deerfield, Hadley, and Northfield (possibly giving rise to the Angel of Hadley legend.)

Battle of Bloody Brook (Hadley) September 18, 1675

The New England Confederation declared war on the Native Americans on September 9, 1675. The next colonial expedition was to recover crops from abandoned fields for the coming winter and included almost 100 farmers/militia. They were ambushed and soundly defeated in the Battle of Bloody Brook (near Hadley) on September 18, 1675. The Battle of Bloody Brook was 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; at least 40 militia men and 17 teamsters out of a company that included 79 militia were killed. Among them was their commander, Captain Thomas Lathrop. The attacks on frontier settlements continued at Springfield (October 5) and Hatfield (October 16).

Great Swamp Fight

On November 2, 1675, Plymouth Colony governor Josiah Winslow led a combined force of colonial militia against the Narragansett tribe. The Narragansett had not been directly involved in the war, but they had sheltered many of the Wampanoag women and children. The colonists distrusted the tribe and did not understand the various alliances. As the colonial forces went through Rhode Island, they found and burned several Indian towns which had been abandoned by the Narragansett, who had retreated to a massive fort in a swamp. Led by an Indian guide, on December 16, 1675, the colonial force found the Narragansett fort near present-day South Kingstown. A combined force of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Connecticut militia numbering about 1,000 men, including about 150 Pequots and Mohicans, attacked the fort. The battle that followed is known as the Great Swamp Fight. It is believed that the militia killed about 300 Narragansett.

Many of the warriors and their families escaped into the frozen swamp. Facing a winter with little food and shelter, the entire surviving Narragansett tribe was forced out of quasi-neutrality and joined the fight. The colonists lost many of their officers in this assault: about 70 of their men were killed and nearly 150 more wounded.

Colonial officers and Indian chiefs in Great Swamp Fight were:

After the War

The fate of Indians taken as prisoner during King Philip's War was not a happy one. Many were massacared. If they were guilty of destroying property or had caused the death of a colonist, they were executed. Others were tortured for information. Old men, women, and children were sold into slavery. Rhode Island was the only exception. The captives were sold as slaves, but time limits were set on the length of their servitude, and they were kept within the state. Some who had surrendered were given land to dwell on. A few who were young and single, particularly in Connecticut, were settled in English homes as apprentices.


Let's document the families whose members fought in this war.

  • Captain Issac Johnson of Roxbury, son of Captain John Johnson and Mary Heath Johnson - Capt. of the Roxbury Company 1663, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company 1667, and in the Narragansett Expedition 1675. Killed at head of his company in the 'Great Swamp Fight' of King Philip's War. His military career is detailed in Soldiers in King Philip's War, by George M. Bodge (Leominster, MA: 1896), pages 159-163.

On July 6, 1675, a body of fifty-two praying Indians, Eliot's converts, marched from Boston for Mount Hope under the " intrepid " Capt. Isaac Johnson, of Roxbury, who afterward certified that the most of them acquitted themselves courageously and faithfully. He, with five other captains, was killed while storming the Narraganset stronghold when that fierce tribe was destroyed at the famous Fort Fight, Dec. 10, 1675. The roll of his company, which also embraces men from the adjacent towns, includes these of Roxbury —

  • Henry Bowen
  • Thom. Cheney
  • Isaac Morrick
  • Ariel Lamb
  • Tho. Baker
  • Samuel Gardiner
  • John Watson
  • John Scot
  • Onesiphorous Stanley
  • Nathaniel Wilson
  • John Corbin
  • John Newell
  • William Lincolne
  • Wm. Danforth
  • Joseph Goad
  • John Hubbard

Some who escaped from this sanguinary engagement were less fortunate in the Sudbury fight in the following April, in which Thos. Baker, Jr., Samuel Gardiner, John Roberts, Jr., Nathaniel Seaver, Thos. Hawley, Sr., William Cleaves, Joseph Pepper, John Sharpe, and Thomas Hopkins, of Roxbury, were slain.

  • Captain Benjamin Church, son of Richard Church of Plymouth and Elizabeth Warren, daughter of Mayflower Pilgrim, Richard Warren, was the principal aide to Governor Josiah Winslow of Plymouth Colony. He is best known for his actions during this time in commanding a company of men independent of the governor's direct command. Church's men were the first colonial force successful in raiding the Indians' camps in forests and swamps. During the Great Swamp Fight, Church was wounded while playing a leading role in the battle in which an estimated 300 Narragansetts were killed. The war soon ended after an operation by Church's company on August 12, 1676, when one of Church's Indian allies (John Alderman) killed the chieftain King Philip (also known as Metacomet).

Colonel Benjamin Church (c. 1639-January 17, 1718) is considered the father of American ranging.[1] He was the captain of the first Ranger force in America (1676).[2] Church was commissioned by the Governor of the Plymouth Colony Josiah Winslow to form the first ranger company for King Philip's War. He later employed the company to raid Acadia during King Williams War and Queen Anne's War.

Church designed his force primarily to emulate Indian patterns of war. Toward this end, he endeavored to learn to fight like Indians from Indians.[3] Americans became rangers exclusively under the tutelage of the Indian allies. (Until the end of the colonial period, rangers depended on Indians as both allies and teachers.)

Church developed a special full-time unit mixing white colonists selected for frontier skills with friendly Indians to carry out offensive strikes against hostile Indians and French in terrain where normal militia units were ineffective. His memoirs "Entertaining Passages relating to Philip's War" were published in 1716 and are considered the first American military manual.


American Indian history

Settler / Native Conflicts / History

Monuments and Art About King Philip's War

  • Mogg Megone a poem by James Greenleaf Whittier

Mugg, Mogg, Mogg Heigon, deeded in 1664 a tract of land lying between the Kennebunk and Saco Rivers to Major William Phillips. In the deed of conveyance he describes himself as "Mogg Heigon of Saco River in New England, sunn and heyer of Walter Heigon sagamore of sayd river." He was the subject of Whittier's poem, "Mogg Megone." There appears to be some dispute as to his position. Drake (Book of the Indians) says he was chief of the Androscoggins. Hubbard says, "He was the principal minister of Madockawando." Willis calls him "Prime Minister of the Penobscot sachem." He was alternately friend or foe of the English settlers along the coast, and was killed at Black Point (Scarborough), May 13, 1677, during an attack upon the garrison there.

Supplemental Reading (online / offline resources)

  1. King Philip's War, by George M. Bodge (Leominster, MA: 1896)
  3. Wikipedia article on the term "Praying Indian"
  4. main Wikipedia article on King Philip's War
  5. Account of The Battle of Bloody Creek and list of those killed there
  6. Tracy, Cyrus M., and Henry Wheatland. Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts, Embracing a History of the County from Its First Settlement to the Present Time, with a History and Description of Its Towns and Cities. The Most Historic County of America. Boston: C.F. Jewett &, 1878. Print. Digital copy available at:
  7. Meryl Streep Ancestor Linked to Native American Battle

Timeline for the war

June 1675 The war, named for the Wampanoag leader Metacom (or King Philip), broke out in the town of Swansea in Plymouth Colony.

August 1675 Hostilities expanded to the Connecticut River Valley; many settlements were burned.

December 1675 Philip's winter quarters in Rhode Island's Great Swamp were destroyed in a crucial colonial victory.

February 1676 Native forces swept east; Boston seemed threatened. War returned to Plymouth Colony, with a raid in Plymouth itself. Colonists considered abandoning the frontier, but time was on their side.

June 1676 The tide of war had turned. Native forces, lacking food, manpower and arms, retreated.

August 1676 King Philip's death at Mount Hope in August 1676 effectively ended the war.

April 1678 Fighting continued in northern New England (primarily on the Maine frontier) after King Philip was killed, until a treaty was signed at Casco Bay in April 1678.

A detailed timeline can be found here.