King Philip’s War

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Philip Driven From The Neck

They struck an Indian trail leading towards an extensive pine swamp, but the company becoming alarmed by the numbers of rattlesnakes, which abounded there, left the track, and went down into Punkatese neck. At this place, which is situated on the southwestern part of the modern town of Tiverton, they encountered a large body of the natives in and around a Pease field of Captain Almy. They numbered, as Church was afterwards told by some of their own party, about three hundred; but, as they pursued the usual course of savage warfare, firing from behind trees and thickets, the English could form no estimate of the force with which they were to contend.

In this extremity the courage, coolness, and self-possession of the gallant captain were eminently conspicuous. As forcibly expressed in Church’s narrative, ” the hill seemed to move, being covered over with Indians, with their bright guns glittering in the sun.”

A detachment had been sent down the river in boats to support the troops on land, and could be plainly seen, landed upon the Rhode Island shore, across the river. Church bade his men strip to their shirtsleeves, and fire signal guns to attract attention, and show their allies that the party engaged was English. This course succeeded, and a boat put out, and approached the combatants; but, on approaching the shore, the crew received such a volley from the guns of the Indians that they pulled off again. Church, enraged at their pusillanimity, finally ordered the boat off, and threatened to fire into her himself. These few men, thus left to shift for themselves, now seemed to be in a desperate condition. They were faint for want of food, as they had neglected to bring any provisions, other than a few cakes of rusk, and had been driven from the pease-field while endeavoring to allay their hunger with the crude nourishment within their reach. The Indians beset them on all sides, and, gaining possession of the ruins of an old stone house, poured their bullets upon the English from its shelter. The ammunition of Church s party was nearly expended, and their powder was poor and in efficient. In the midst of these difficulties, the captain succeeded in preserving the courage and spirit of his men, pointing out to them how providentially the balls seemed to be directed.

Church At Punkatese

They were finally relieved from their perilous situation by the arrival of a sloop of Captain Golding, an acquaintance of Church. Mooring the vessel at a short distance, he cast off a canoe, and suffered it to drive ashore. In this slight vehicle, which would carry but two at a time, the whole of the party got off to the sloop, by a repetition of the same operation. Church, who had left his hat at a spring, declared that the enemy should not have it as a trophy; and, loading his gun with his last charge of powder, he went up alone, in the face of the Indians, and re covered it. When going on board in the canoe, a ball struck a small stake just before his breast, and another passed through his hair.

Joining company next day with Fuller s party, who had also been engaged with the Indians at Pocasset, they all returned to the encampment at Mount Hope, where the army, as Church averred, “lay still to cover the people from nobody, while they were building a fort for nothing.”

Shortly after this, being upon Rhode Island, in pursuit of supplies for the garrison, Church fell in with Alderman, a deserter from the forces of Weetamore, queen of Pocasset. By conversation with this Indian, he learned the precise spot at which the squaw sachem was encamped, and, in pursuance of his suggestion, an expedition was immediately set on foot against her. The attempt terminated in an unimportant skirmish; the chief officer of the Plymouth men being timid, and the Indians retiring to a swamp of difficult access.

On the 18th of July, the united forces of the colonists drove Philip, with a large body of his warriors, into an extensive swamp in Pocasset. After an imperfect examination of the Indians place of retreat, the forces were drawn off, having sustained considerable loss by the fire of the lurking enemy. It was averred, indeed, by some, that half an hour more of energetic pursuit would have secured Philip, and perhaps have ended the war. One hundred newly-erected wigwams were found deserted in the vicinity of the swamp; and an old man, who had been left behind in the precipitate retreat, confirmed the supposition that Philip had but lately fled from the camp.

Not far from this time, the town of Dartmouth having been, in great measure, destroyed by the enemy, a large number of Indians, no less than one hundred and sixty, who had dwelt in the country thereabout, and were not active partakers in the destruction of the town, delivered themselves up to one Captain Eels, upon promises of good treatment. They were, nevertheless, taken to Plymouth; sold by the colonial authorities as slaves; and transported to foreign parts. Captains Church and Eels made, upon this occasion, the most vehement remonstrance’s, expressed by Church with his characteristic energy and spirit; but all to no purpose, as it only secured him the ill-will of the government. The act was grossly impolitic, as well as perfidious and cruel.

The English entertained hopes of being able to confine Philip within the limits of the swamp to which he had retired, and proceeded to erect another fort at Pocasset, an expedient which seems to have been as ill-advised and futile as the garrisoning of Mount Hope. The sachem had abundant leisure to prepare canoes, an opportunity of which he diligently availed himself, and secretly passed the river with all his warriors. They were seen by the people of Rehoboth, crossing the open country, which ex tended for some distance, and offered no means of protection or concealment to the fugitives.

A party was speedily sent in pursuit, under Captain Henchman, accompanied by Owenoco, the son of Uncas the Mohegan, and a considerable band of warriors. Uncas had sent this detachment to Boston, upon the summons of the Massachusetts authorities, to renew his assurances of good faith, and proffer assistance in the campaign against Philip.

Henchman’s company proceeded up the river to Providence, and being there somewhat reinforced, hastened at once on the trail of the Wampanoag. Coming up with a portion of the enemy, a sharp engagement ensued, and about thirty of Philip s warriors were killed, but the Mohegans stopping for plunder, the principal force escaped, and from that time were no more seen by the pursuers. Henchman returned with his men to the eastern colonies, while the Mohegans took their way southward to their own country, leaving Philip to pursue his course towards the Hudson, and to rouse up the war among the western settlements of Massachusetts.

The Nipmucks, a large tribe inhabiting the north-eastern portion of the present state of Connecticut, and the adjoining Massachusetts districts, appear, ere this period, to have become involved in Philip s undertaking. Mendon, a small town, twenty-four miles westward from Providence, and standing at some distance from any other settlement, had been attacked on the 14th of July, and a number of men killed by shots from an unseen enemy. The whole of the inhabitants deserted the place in terror, and it was reduced to ashes by the assailants.

The colonies attempted, after this, to treat with the Nipmuck sachems, but found them reserved and “surly.” A meeting was, however, appointed between them and an embassy from the Massachusetts government. Captains Wheeler and Hutchinson, with a considerable body of mounted men, repaired to the place of meeting at the time designated, viz.: the 2d of August; but, instead of coming forward in friendly conference, the Indians, to the number of two or three hundred, formed an ambuscade, and, firing suddenly from their cover, killed eight of the whites at the first discharge. Hutchinson was killed and Wheeler wounded.

Destruction Of Brookfield

The company, avoiding the other spots where they suspected the enemy to be lying in ambush, made the best of their way to Brookfield, a solitary village near the principal head-quarters of the Nipmucks. The Indians, in great numbers, pursued them into the town. They found the terrified inhabitants collected in a single house, which stood on a rising ground, where they had fortified them selves as well as possible, upon such an emergency, by piling logs and hanging feather beds against the walls. Wheeler and his companions also entered the house, and the savages, after burning all the buildings in the town, with the exception of a few immediately adjoining that where the whites had retreated, laid close siege to the frail fortification. Seventy people, including women and children, were here crowded together, with such slight defenses as we have mentioned; while an enraged and remorseless enemy was pouring showers of bullets through the walls, and using every endeavor to fire the house. The Indians shot burning arrows upon the roof, and, attaching rags dipped in brimstone to long poles, they set fire to them, and thrust them against the walls. From the afternoon of Monday the 2d of August, till “Wednesday evening, these assaults continued; and, as a last attempt, the besiegers loaded a cart with hemp and other inflammable materials, and binding together a number of poles, so attached to the vehicle that it could be moved from a safe distance, wheeled it blazing against the building. This was in the evening, and, according to Wheeler s account, nothing could have preserved the unfortunate inmates, had not a heavy shower of rain suddenly extinguished the burning mass. In the words of Hubbard, by ” this devilish stratagem,” but for the rain, “all the poor people would either have been consumed by merciless flames, or else have fallen into the hands of their cruel enemies, like wolves continually yelling and gaping for their prey.”

To exclude all assistance from without, the Indians had placed watchers and ambuscades upon all sides of the town; but Major Willard, who had been dispatched against the Indians west of Groton, hearing of the probable condition of Brookfield, marched to its relief, and succeeded in effecting an entrance to the fortified house on this same night. He had with him forty-six men, but it is said that, as they passed through the ruins of the town, a large number of terrified cattle, who had not been destroyed in the conflagration, followed them for protection; and that, in the darkness, the Indians were deceived by this circumstance, as to the number of the party, and accordingly drew off their forces early the next morning. They retired to a swamp, twelve miles distant, where they met Philip with a band of his warriors. Only one of the whites was killed on this occasion, while the Indians lost, it is said, nearly eighty.

A garrison was maintained at the only remaining house for some months, but was finally drawn off, the building was burned by the savages, and the town left entirely desolate.

Philip moves Westward

“All died the wailing babe the shrieking maid
And in the flood of fire that scathed the glade,
The roofs went down.” Bryant.

We can do little more, in continuing this account of Indian ravages, than enumerate the towns and settlements destroyed, and the little communities massacred or driven from their homes in utter destitution.

The terrible uncertainty which attended these calamities rendered them the more distressing. No one could tell, for many months from this time, where Philip was to be found, or at what point he meditated the next attack. He continued his westward progress, as is supposed, nearly to the Hudson, through the Mohegan country. He was thought to be present at many of the successful and murderous assaults that were made upon the white settlements; but, if so, he was enabled so to disguise himself as not to be distinctly recognized.

Mosely and others in vain scoured the country in pursuit of the Indians. The enemy, neglecting agriculture, and deserting their usual haunts, concealed themselves in swamps and thickets, retiring unperceived at the approach of regular troops, and ever ready to take advantage of any weak and unprotected quarter.

Attacks On Hadley And Deerfield

Angel of Hadley
Angel of Hadley

The Indians in the vicinity of Hadley and Springfield, on the Connecticut, were relied upon by the whites as friendly and well-disposed; but ere long it was sufficiently plain that they had made common cause with Philip.

On the 1st of September, Hadley and Deerfield were both fiercely assaulted, and the latter town in great measure destroyed. At Hadley the Indians were driven off after much hard fighting. The inhabitants were engaged in religious exercises at the meeting-house, with arms, as usual, by their sides, when the Indians came upon them. So sudden and desperate was the attack, that they became confused, and might have been totally discomfited, but for a strange and unlooked-for champion. This was an old man, with white and flowing locks, and unusual costume, who appeared from some unknown quarter, and at once assumed the command of the panic-stricken congregation. With military skill and coolness he directed every manoeuvre, and so reestablished their confidence and spirit, that the enemy was speedily put to flight. He disappeared immediately after the engagement, and many of the astonished inhabitants were persuaded that an angel from heaven had been miraculously sent for their deliverance.

Goffe The Regicide

The old warrior was no other than Major General Goffe, who, with his companion, Whalley, lay for a long time concealed at the house of Mr. Russell, the minister of Hadley.

Ten men were killed at Northfield about this time, and a party of thirty-six, under a Captain Beers, who had been sent to relieve the town, were nearly all cut off by an ambush. The bodies were mutilated, and the heads set on poles. “One, (if not more,”) says Hubbard, “was found with a chain hooked into his under jaw, and so hung up on the bough of a tree, (it is feared he was hung up alive.”)

Destruction Of Lathrop’s Command

Several thousand bushels of corn had been stored at Deerfield, and a company of nearly one hundred young men, “the flower of the country,” under the command of a youthful and gallant officer, Captain Lathrop, marched to secure it. On their way, an immense body of Indians fell upon them, and slew nearly the whole party; among the rest, the brave commander; only seven or eight survived. This defeat is attributed to the circumstance that Lathrop, aware of the disadvantages which a compact body of troops must labor under, when contending with an enemy who always fired from cover, ordered his men to separate, and take to the trees, like their opponents. This being done, the disproportion of numbers proved so great, that the Indians were enabled to surround the English, and cut them off separately.

The Springfield Indians had pretended unbroken friend ship for the whites, and had given hostages as pledges of good faith; but the hostages succeeded in escaping, and the whole body joined the hostile confederacy, with those of Hadley, “hanging together like serpents eggs.” The town of Springfield received great injury from their attack, more than thirty houses being burned; among the rest, one containing a “brave library,” the finest in that part of the country, which belonged to the Rev. Pelatiah Glover. Hubbard considers that this act ” did, more than any other, discover the said actors to be the children of the devil, full of all subtlety and malice,” as they had been upon friendly terms with the whites for more than forty years.

On the 19th of October, seven or eight hundred of Philip s coadjutors made an attempt upon Hatfield; but, the place being well defended, by Mosely and others, the enemy ” were so well entertained on all hands, that they found it too hot for them.”

This was the last important engagement at the westward part of the colony. Most of Philip s men are supposed to have betaken themselves, before winter, to the Narragansett country; and whether the great sachem himself remained concealed among them during that season, or wandered to the west, hatching new plots in the vicinity of the Hudson, is not certainly known.

The condition of the hostile Indians, notwithstanding their signal successes, must by this time have become sufficiently miserable. Living almost exclusively upon animal food; ill protected from the inclemencies of the weather; and continually shifting their quarters, it is surprising that they should so long have retained their energy and fixedness of purpose.

In September of this year, 1675, the commissioners of the united colonies of Plymouth, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, being in session at Boston, concluded arrangements by which the war should be jointly and systematically prosecuted. One thousand men were to be levied and equipped; the proportion which each colony should furnish being settled according to their comparative population and resources.


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MLA Source Citation:

Brownell, Charles De Wolf. Indian Races of North and South America: Comprising an account of the principal aboriginal races; a description of their national customs, mythology, and religious ceremonies, the history of their most powerful tribes, and of their most celebrated chiefs and warriors; their intercourse and wars with the European settlers; and a great variety of anecdote and description, illustrative of personal and national character. Hartford, Conn., Chicago,E. B. & R.C. Treat; [etc., etc.]: Hurlbut, Scranton & Co. 1864. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 16 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/king-philips-war.htm - Last updated on Jun 9th, 2014


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