King Philip’s War

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Church Commissioned By The Court At Plymouth

As Church took so prominent a part in the final reduction of Philip and his chief sachems, we will now briefly review his proceedings during this summer until the death of Philip and the close of the war. He had been summoned to Plymouth in the spring, to assist at the council of war, and, at that time, proffered advice, which, if approved by his associates, might have saved much havoc and bloodshed. His plan was to “make a business of the war, as the enemy did;” to employ large forces; to enlist all the friendly Indians who were available, and to pursue their opponents into their own country, and fight them in their own manner. Not being able to persuade the authorities to his views, he remained inactive, with his family, at Duxbury and on Rhode Island, until early in June, when he again betook himself to Plymouth, where he was gladly welcomed by the general court, then in session. The members “told him they were glad to see him alive. He replied, he was as glad to see them alive, for he had seen so many fires and smokes towards their side of the country, since he left them, that he could scarce eat or sleep with any comfort, for fear they had all been destroyed. For all traveling was stopped, and no news had passed for a long time together.”

The court had now concluded, according to Church’s plan, to raise a large force of English and Indians, and eagerly accepted the captain s offer of cooperation. He was to return to Rhode Island, and there enlist a company for the campaign. Reaching Elizabeth’s Island, he could find no conveyance homeward other than a canoe, manned by two Indians. Their course took them near Sogkonate (commonly called Seaconnet) point, the wild mass of rocks which juts into the ocean, at the southern extremity of Awoshonks domains. Church saw some of the Indians fishing upon the rocks, and bethought him that here might be further opportunity of communicating with his old friend, the squaw sachem. Notwithstanding her early counsel with Church, she, or her people, against her inclinations, had been drawn into Philip s plans, and the Sogkonates had taken active part in the hostilities.

The canoe was soon hailed from shore, but the surf beat so heavily against the rocks that the reply could not be heard. Two Indians, one of whom was George, the interpreter, therefore came out upon a long point of sand, where Church could land without danger of being surprised, and, on his approach, they informed him that Awoshonks had left Philip, and would be glad to have a conference with him. An appointment was therefore made for a meeting, on the next day that the weather would permit, at a well-known rock, upon the Richmond farm. None were to be present except the queen, her son Peter, and Nompash, an Indian known to Church.

Arriving at Newport, and detailing his plans to the authorities, they pronounced him demented to think of risking himself unprotected among such a body of the enemy. He replied that he had always wished for an opportunity to confer with the Sogkonates, not doubting but that he could secure their friendship, and that he was determined to prosecute the adventure.

He accordingly crossed over the next day, to the place appointed, accompanied only by “his own man,” and the Indian who had paddled him from Elizabeth’s. He was met by the queen and the other two, who had been designated; but, upon retiring a short distance, to a convenient spot for discussion, a crowd of armed and painted warriors sprang up from amid the long grass around them.

His Interview With Awoshonks

Church betrayed no signs of surprise or fear, but, having first obtained directions from Awoshonks that the Indians should lay down their guns, he pulled out a bottle of rum, and opened the conference by proffering her a dram, asking, ” if she had been so long at Weetuset as to forget to drink Occapeches.” Having first swallowed some himself, from the hollow of his hand, to quiet any suspicions of treachery that she might entertain, he distributed the rest, together with some tobacco that he had brought, among those standing by. He then answered her inquiries as to the reasons why he had absented himself so long, using all his powers of persuasion to revive her old friendship for the English; promising favor and protection from the government, if she would enlist her forces against Philip; and by his bold and frank demeanor, disarming the suspicions and softening the surliness of the warriors.

At one time, as related by Church, “there arose a mighty murmur, confused noise and talk among the fierce-looking creatures; and, all rising up in a hubbub, a great surly-looking fellow took up his tomhog, or wooden cutlass, to kill Mr. Church, but some others prevented him.”

This man had lost a brother in the fight at Punkatese, but Church explained how, with only a handful of men, he had been suddenly set upon, and how his intentions were, even then, friendly to the Sogkonates.

His counsels finally prevailed, and it was agreed that an offer of services should be made at Plymouth, in behalf of the tribe; five men being chosen to accompany Church on the embassy.

Having returned to Rhode Island, and, with much difficulty, procured a vessel, Captain Church set sail for Sogkonate, whence the Indians espied him, and stood waiting upon the rocks with an old canoe, ready to come on board. The sea ran so high that no one but Peter Awoshonks was able to reach the vessel; and when, after much danger and trouble, he was taken in, a strong head wind prevented the prosecution of the voyage, and all returned to New port, making the circuit of Rhode Island.

Church, after this delay, the arrival of the army at Pocasset being shortly expected, was unwilling to leave the Island, and accordingly sent Peter back to Sogkonate, with directions to take the selected number of his companions, and proceed across the country to Plymouth, with letters for the governor.

The Plymouth forces reached Pocasset, under command of Major Bradford, and, having been joined by Church, marched to Punkatese. Awoshonks and most of her warriors, having been notified to attend, came to this place, and proffered their services; but, to their great grief and disappointment, were ordered to repair to Sandwich, on the coast to the eastward, and await further directions from the government at Plymouth. Church advised them to comply quietly, and promised to join them himself, within a week, with a commission to employ them, if he could obtain it.

During the ensuing week, according to the opinion of some, an opportunity was lost of surprising and destroying nearly the whole of Philip s remaining force, who had gone to Wepoiset, in search of clams; provisions being very scarce with them.

Captain Church, with only one companion, rode from Rehoboth to Plymouth, starting at sunset, and reaching the town early in the morning. He there saw the governor, who had received the messengers from Sogkonate with favor, and who readily promised him the desired commission, and ratified his agreement with Awoshonks.

With The Sogkonates At Sandwich

Not finding the Indians at Sandwich, Captain Church, with a few companions, proceeded along the coast, and finally came upon the whole tribe, scattered over the level sand-beach, engaged in various occupations and diversions “A vast company of Indians, of all ages and sexes, some on horse-back running races, some at football, some catching eels and flat-fish, some clamming, &c.”

He was received by Awoshonks and her chiefs, and royally entertained. When night came on, an immense heap of dry pine branches and other fuel was set on fire, and all the Indians, gathering round it, commenced those dances and ceremonies deemed by them so essential in cementing a league, or in entering upon any important adventure.

A stout chief would step within the circle, armed with spear and hatchet, and appear to fight the fire, with every gesture and expression of energy and fury, naming successively the several hostile tribes; “and, at the naming of every particular tribe of Indians, he would draw out and fight a new fire-brand, and at finishing his fight with each particular fire-brand, would bow to him and thank him.” He would then retire, and another would repeat the same operation, “with more fury, if possible, than the first.”

Awoshonks and the chiefs told Church that hereby they were his sworn soldiers, and, one and all, at his service. He therefore selected a number of them, and took them to Plymouth the next day, where he was regularly commissioned, by Governor Winslow, to raise volunteers, both English and Indian; to fight the enemy at his discretion; and to make treaty and composition with any, as he should see reason, “provided they be not murderous rogues, or such as have been principal actors in those villainies.” The commission was given, under the public seal, the 24th day of July 1676.

Being now furnished with a sufficient force, and being at liberty to carry out his own plans, Church commenced a vigorous and effective campaign. Spreading through the forest with his men, keeping himself continually in formed by scouts of the position and number of the enemy, and following up his advantages with unwearied energy, he reduced his opponents to the greatest straits. The army, under Bradford, remained at Taunton and vicinity, cutting off Philip s return from the eastward, while Church and his corps scoured the woods, surprising and killing, or taking captive, large numbers of hostile Indians.

On one occasion, he fell in with Little Eyes, the Sogkonate who attempted to make way with him at the first interview with Awoshonks, and who had separated from the rest of the tribe with a few companions. His Indian allies urged Church to take this opportunity for revenging himself; but he refused, and showed the unfriendly chief quarter and protection.

With The Sogkonates At Sandwich

Philip and his party, chiefly Narragansetts, anxious to effect a retreat to the Narragansett country, came to the banks of Taunton River, and felled a large tree over the stream for the purpose of crossing. At this spot, Church, with his company and a detachment from Bridgewater, attacked him on the 1st of August. As the English secretly approached the fallen tree, a single warrior was seen seated upon the stump across the river, and as Church was taking aim at him, one of his Indian followers called to him not to fire, thinking that it was a man of their own party. At this moment the Indian sprang from the stump, and affected his escape down the riverbank; but as he turned his face, he was distinctly recognized to be Philip himself.

The whole body of the enemy then scattered and fled through the woods, but succeeded in effecting a passage of the river at a ford, some distance beyond, hotly pursued by the English. Many women and children were captured; among the rest, Philip s wife, Wootonekanuske, and his son, a lad only nine years of age. The Sogkonates, following closely upon the fugitives, killed several, and made thirteen prisoners.

As the flight was continued, the women and children became wearied, and, being unable to keep pace with the company, fell into the hands of the pursuers. They were ordered to follow the trail, and were assured that, if sub missive and obedient, they should be the more favorably treated.

Philip and his band, being suddenly surprised, while they were busily engaged in preparing breakfast, fled into a swamp, leaving “their kettles boiling, and meat roasting upon their wooden spits.” Here they were hemmed in, and, after some hard fighting, no less than one hundred and seventy-three, including those who had followed the party, as directed, were taken prisoners or killed. A large division of these were so surprised and panic-struck by the number and determination of the pursuers, that they stood still and let the English come and take the guns out of their hands, when they were both charged and cocked.” Philip, and some of his principal chiefs, escaped.

The prisoners, having been well supplied with food, were confined in the pound, at Bridgewater, and passed the night in merriment, expressing little despondency or apprehension. They reported Philip s condition and frame of mind as being miserable in the extreme. His wife and son made prisoners; his allies overpowered, or treacherous; reverses coming thick upon him; and his force dwindling to a handful of warriors, nothing but destruction seemed to await him.

Death Of Weetamore, Queen Of Pocasset

On the 6th of August, Weetamore, queen of Pocasset, and widow of Alexander, Philip s eldest brother, who throughout the war had been a most valuable and faithful coadjutor to her brother-in-law, perished in attempting to escape over the Tehticut river, into her own country, upon a raft. She had been surprised, with twenty-six of her subjects, who were all taken prisoners. The dead body of the poor queen was found stark naked, near the riverbank, where she had probably crouched, half drowned, and died from exposure and famine. Her head was cut off by those who discovered her, and fixed upon a pole at Taunton, where it was recognized by some of her loving subjects kept there in captivity. Their burst of unrestrainable grief at the sight, is characterized by Mather as “a most horrid and diabolical lamentation.”

Church returned to Plymouth, where he received the thanks and granulations of the authorities, but was allowed little rest, as some of the enemy, under the great sachem Totoson, were lurking around Dartmouth, and his aid was required to dislodge them. The expedition was successful, but Totoson, with an old squaw and his little son, escaped. The squaw afterwards came to Sandwich, and reported the chief’s death, saying that, “reflecting upon the miserable condition he had brought himself into, his heart became a stone within him, and he died.” She said that she had covered his body with a few leaves and brush.

Worn out by hard service, hard fare, and exposure, Captain Church now sought to recruit his strength by rest; but, being urged by the government to pursue Philip to the death, and receiving promises of satisfaction for former neglect, he marched to Pocasset with a company of volunteers, and thence crossed over to Rhode Island.

He there visited his wife, whom he had left at a Mrs. Sandford’s, and who fainted with surprise and joy at meeting him alive; but hardly had the first greetings been exchanged, when tidings came post that Philip was to be found at his old quarters in Mount Hope neck. The horses upon which Church and his companions had just arrived stood at the door; and, telling Mrs. Church that “she must content herself with a short visit when such game was ahead,” they all mounted and spurred off.

Death Of Philip

Capture Of King Philips Fort
Engraving depicting the attack on Metacomet’s fort in King Philip’s War.

They learned from the deserter who had brought the intelligence, that Philip was encamped upon a spot of dry land in a swamp hard by the mount; and Church, being well acquainted with the locality, lost no time in taking advantage of his information. He crossed the ferry with his men, and approached the spot during the night. Having distributed a portion of the force in such a manner as to command all the places where the enemy would be likely to attempt escape, another detachment, under Captain Golding, proceeded to “beat up Philip’s head-quarters;” with directions to make all the noise possible, while pursuing the fugitives, that they might be known by those who lay in ambush.

The Indians, startled by the first fire, rushed into the swamp, with Philip at their head. Half clothed, and flinging his “petunk” and powder-horn behind him, the doomed chief came, at full speed, fully within range of the guns of an Englishman and an Indian, who lay concealed at one of the points of ambuscade.

The white man s gun snapped, but the fire of his companion was fatal. Philip fell upon his face in the mire, shot through the heart. This event took place early in the morning of Saturday, the 12th of August 1676.

Thus the main object of the campaign was accomplished; but most of the hostile party managed to escape. Among them was the old chief, Annawon, a great captain under Philip, and Massasoit, his father. He “seemed to be a great surly old fellow,” hallooing, with a loud voice, “lootash lootash!” Peter, Church’s man, said that he was calling on his men to fight bravely, and hold their ground.

Several of Church s Indians dragged the body of poor Philip out of the mire, “and a doleful, great, naked beast he looked.” By the direction of the captain, who averred that, having ” caused many an Englishman s body to be unburied and to rot above ground, not one of his bones should be buried,” one of the Indians beheaded and quartered the body of the fallen sachem, as was the custom towards traitors. The old executioner, who was appointed to this office, first made a short speech, which, but that it was rather more coarsely expressed, might remind one of the exultation of the heroes of Homer over a conquered foe. However far removed from that absurd and morbid sensibility which perceives greater tokens of depravity in an indignity offered to a senseless carcass than in acts of cruelty and injustice towards the living, we do not care to de fend this act of Church. One of Philip’s hands, which had been formerly marred by the bursting of a pistol, was given to Alderman, the Indian who shot him. The exhibition of it proved a source of no small profit. The head was long exposed at Plymouth, and the devout Mather exults in having, with his own hand, displaced the jaw from the skull of ” that blasphemous leviathan.”

Pursuit of Annawon and his Party

After the death of Philip, the company returned to Plymouth, and received, as premium for their services, thirty shillings for each Indian killed or taken.

Toward the end of August, Church was again called from Plymouth to go in pursuit of Annawon, who, with the feeble remains of his force, was scouring the country around Rehoboth and Swansey. He accordingly took a few faithful soldiers, with his brave and tried lieutenant, Jabez Howland, and hastened through the woods to Pocasset. He intended passing the Sabbath on Rhode Island, but hearing that Indians had been seen crossing from Prudence Island to Poppasquash Neck, he hastened at once in quest of them. As they were passing the river in canoes, so heavy a gale sprang up that, after the captain and fifteen or sixteen Indians were over, the boats could no longer venture. Without waiting for their English companions, this little company marched round through the northern part of the present town of Bristol, and spreading across the narrow portion of the neck, sent scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy. They there passed “a very solitary, hungry night,” having no provisions. Early in the morning, Nathaniel, an Indian of the scouting party, appeared, and told how he, with his companion, had taken ten prisoners, by lying concealed, and attracting the enemy s attention, by howling like a wolf. One after another, they would run to see what caused the noise, and Nathaniel, “howling lower and lower, drew them in between those who lay in wait.” They afterwards secured the wives and children of these captives, all of whom said that Annawon never “roosted twice in a place,” but continually shifted his quarters. They represented Annawon as the bravest and most subtle of all Philip s warriors, and said that the men who still adhered to him were valiant and resolute.

Daring Procedure Of Captain Church

An old Indian, accompanied by a young squaw, were next taken, both of whom had come direct from the great chief s encampment, which was in Squannaconk swamp, in the south-easterly part of Rehoboth. The old man, in consideration that his life was spared, agreed to pilot Church to the spot, but begged that he might not be compelled “to fight against Captain Annawon, his old friend.”

It was a bold act, indeed, on the part of Church, to under take the capture of such a warrior, with so small a force; for, having been obliged to send some back with the prisoners, only half a dozen Indians now accompanied him. He was not a man to let slip an opportunity, and started at once for the camp, having much .ado to keep pace with the hardy old Indian who led the way.

Annawon s “camp or kenneling place” was pitched in a recess in a ledge of precipitous rocks, which stood upon a rising ground in the swamp, and the only way to approach it unperceived was by clambering down the cliff. It was night when Church arrived there; stopping the guide with his hand, he crawled to the edge of the rock, and looked down upon the scene below. Annawon s hut consisted of a tree felled against the wall of rock, with birch bushes piled against it. Fires were lit without, over which meat was roasting, and kettles were boiling, and the light revealed several companies of the enemy. Their arms were stacked together, and covered with a mat, and in close proximity to them lay old Annawon and his son. An old squaw was pounding corn in a mortar, and, as the noise of her blows continued, Church, preceded by the guide and his daughter, and followed by his Indian allies, let himself down by the bushes and twigs which grew in the crevices of the rock. With his hatchet in his hand, he stepped over the younger Annawon, who drew himself into a heap, with his blanket over his head, and reached the guns. The old chief sat up, crying out “Howoh!” but, seeing that he was taken, lay down again in silence. The rest of the company made no resistance, supposing that the English were upon them in force. Church s Indians, going among them, enlarged upon his benevolence and kindness, and advised them to submit quietly, which they did, delivering up all their arms.

Annawon ordered his women to get supper for Captain Church and his men, and they all supped together in harmony. The captain, wearied out by long watching and labor, now tried to get a little sleep, but was unable to compose himself. Looking round, he saw the whole party, friends and foes, sleeping soundly, with the exception of Annawon; and there lay the two rival leaders, looking at each other for near an hour.

Annawon then got up and retired a short distance, and as he did not immediately return, Church suspected that he might have secured a gun, with intent to dispatch him, and therefore crept close to young Annawon, as security. The old man soon reappeared, bringing with him Philip’s regalia, and, kneeling down before Church, to his great surprise addressed him in English: ” Great captain, you have killed Philip and conquered his country; for I believe that I and my company are the last that war against the English, so suppose the war is ended by your means, and there fore these things belong to you.” He then handed him two broad belts elaborately worked in wampum, one of which reached from the shoulders nearly to the ground, “edged with red hair, from the Mahog’s country;” two horns of powder, and a red cloth blanket. He said that Philip used to ornament himself with these upon great occasions.

All night long the two captains continued their converse, and Annawon detailed his adventures, and “gave an account of what mighty success he had formerly, in wars against many nations of Indians, when he served Asumequin (Massasoit), Philip’s father.”

The next day the party proceeded to Taunton, and Church, with Annawon in his company, went to Rhode Island, and so on to Plymouth. There, to his great sorrow, the authorities refused to spare the old chief, but put him to death. At the same time they executed Tispaquin, the last of Philip s great sachems, who had surrendered himself upon promise of mercy.

End Of The War, And Final Disposal Of Prisoners

The war was now at an end, with the exception of a few “hunting excursions,” after some stragglers of Philip’s men who yet lurked in the woods. Such of the prisoners, now in the hands of the English, as had been active in hostilities, were put to death: the rest were sold in slavery in the colonies, or sent to toil in the West Indies. It was much discussed whether the poor boy who was so culpable as to be the son of Philip, should die. The clergymen seemed inclined to the belief that such should be his fate; Increase Mather cited the case of Hadad, saying that, “had not others fled away with him, I am apt to think that David would have taken a course that Hadad should never have proved a scourge to the next generation.” He was finally sent a slave to Bermuda.

Summary Of The Colonial Losses

Baylies thus sums up the disasters of the eventful period of Philip s hostilities: “In this war, which lasted but little more than a year and a half, six hundred Englishmen were killed. Thirteen towns in Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Rhode Island, were destroyed, and many others greatly injured. Almost every family had lost a relative. Six hundred dwelling houses had been burned. A vast amount, in goods and cattle, had been destroyed, and a vast debt created. But the result of the contest was decisive; the enemy was extinct; the fertile wilderness was opened, and the rapid extension of settlements evinced the growing prosperity of New England.”


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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. 19 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/king-philips-war.htm - Last updated on Jun 9th, 2014


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