King Philip’s War raged from 1675-1676, pitting King Philip, as the English called Metacomet, or Metacom, chief of the Wampanoag, and his Indian allies against the English in New Enlgand. Though the war started over issues in and around Plymouth it soon exploded thoughout the region as long held tensions between the Indians and English turned violent. Even those wishing to remain neutral like the Narrangansett Indians of Rhode Island and the English colonists led by the Narrangansett’s friend Roger Williams eventually fought each other. The modern states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and even Maine were the settings for battles during the war.
The war was a total war. Both sides engaged in devastating attacks on men, women, children, villages, animals, and crops. More than half of the colonial towns were attacked and a dozen were destroyed. In some places eight to ten percent of eligible fighting men died. 600 of the 80,000 New England colonists were killed, which in today’s numbers would mean over 2 million. The Indians suffered far greater with over 3,000 deaths. The total Indian population in New England during the war declined by more than 50 percent, but they never recovered. Disease was the largest killer on both sides.
There are many horrible accounts of the brutality on both sides. Both the English and Indians engaged in raids against enemy towns, often while the opposition fighting men were gone doing the same thing. Women and children were often the casualties on both sides. Babies were brained, women raped, children kidnapped and people and animals mutilated. Eventually King Philip was captured and executed, and his wife and son sold into slavery. For 20 years, Philip’s head was impaled on a post at the gate to Plymouth, where less than a century before his father enjoyed the first Thanksgiving.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.