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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
The Death of King Philip
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


[After the defeat of the Pequots the New England colonies escaped the horrors of Indian warfare for a period of nearly forty years. This era of peace was destined to be followed by an era of terror and massacre, beginning with the celebrated King Philip's War, and continuing through the successive wars between the French and English, known as King William's and Queen Anne's Wars, and at a later period King George's and the French and Indian Wars, in which all the barbarity of savage warfare was let loose upon the devoted colonies of New England. During the life of Massasoit, the sachem of the Wampanoags, the treaty of peace which he had early made with the Plymouth colony continued unbroken. After his death his sons, Alexander and Philip, were suspected of hostile intentions. Alexander soon died, and Philip became sachem of the tribe. According to the early New England writers, he for several years occupied himself in organizing a secret confederacy of the Indian tribes against the whites, of whose growing power he was jealous. Later historians doubt this, and are inclined to believe that he was driven into hostility by outrages committed by the whites, and impulsive reprisals by Indians. However that be, the existence of a plot, real or spurious, was declared by an Indian missionary, who was soon after murdered. Three Indians were arrested and hung for the crime. Philip now, by his own inclination, or by the determination of his tribe, prepared for war. The women and children of the tribe were sent to the Narragansetts for protection, and in July, 1675, an attack was made on the village of Swanzey, in Massachusetts, and several persons were killed.

The whole country quickly took the alarm, and troops from Plymouth and Boston marched in pursuit of the enemy. It must be borne in mind that the long interval of peace had greatly changed the conditions of both parties to the war. On the one hand, the whites of New England had greatly grown in strength, and now numbered about sixty thousand souls, while numerous settlements had been founded. On the other hand, the Indians no longer looked upon powder and ball as "bad medicine," which it was dangerous to touch. On the contrary, they had adopted the European methods of fighting, and exchanged the bow and arrow for the musket and bullet. We may briefly relate the events of the war. The pursuing troops made their way to Mount Hope, the residence of Philip, but he fled, with his warriors, at their approach. He was shortly afterwards attacked in a swamp at Pocasset, but after a thirteen days' siege managed to escape. Other tribes were now brought into the war, and a party of twenty whites were ambushed and most of them killed. The remainder intrenched themselves in a house at Brookfield, where they sustained a siege for two days, until relieved.

On September 5 the Indians were attacked and defeated at Deerfield, and on the 11th they burned the town. On the same day they attacked the town of Hadley. The tradition goes that during the fight a venerable stranger suddenly appeared, put himself at the head of the townsmen, and drove back the foe. This is said to have been General Goffe, one of the judges of Charles I., then concealed in that town. The story is entirely traditionl, and has been called in question. On the 28th a party of eighty teamsters were assailed by a large body of Indians, and nearly all killed. The Indians were subsequently repulsed by a reinforcement of soldiers. Philip's next attack was upon Hatfield, where be met with a defeat.

By this time the hostility to the whites had extended widely among the Indians. The Narragansetts had as yet kept the treaty of peace which had been made with them, but they were suspected of favoring Philip and of intending to break out into hostilities in the spring. It was therefore determined to crush them during the winter. A force of fifteen hundred men marched against their stronghold,--a fort in the midst of a great swamp, surrounded with high palisades, and having but a single entrance, over a fallen tree, which but one man at a time could cross. Here three thousand Indians had collected, with provisions, intending to pass the winter. They were attacked with fury, on December 29, by the English, but the latter were driven back with heavy loss. Another party of the invaders waded the swamp, and found a place destitute of palisades. They broke through this, with considerable loss, while others forced their way over the tree. A desperate conflict ensued, ending in a defeat of the Indians. The wigwams were then set on fire, contrary to the advice of the officers, and hundreds of women and children, and old, wounded, and infirm men, perished in the flames. Of the Narragansett warriors a thousand were killed or mortally wounded, and several hundreds taken prisoners. Cold and famine during the winter killed many more, but the weak remnant of the tribe joined Philip and became bitterly hostile. The war now extended to Maine and New Hampshire, whose settlements were exposed to the fury of Indian attack. The power of the Indians rapidly diminished, however, before the energy and discipline of the whites, and Philip found himself steadily growing weaker. It is said that he endeavored to persuade the Mohawks to join him, but in vain. In August, 1676, he returned, with a small party of warriors, to Pokanoket, or Mount Hope, the seat of his tribe. Tidings of this fact were brought to Captain Church, one of the most active of his adversaries, who repaired with a small party to the spot. Captain Church has left on record the story of his connection with this war. It is the artless and prolix narrative of one better acquainted with the sword than with the pen, yet has the merit of being an exact relation of the facts, and of showing clearly the spirit of the Indian-fighters of that day. We therefore extract from the "History of the Great Indian War of 1675 and 1676," by this grim old Indian-fighter, an account of the death of King Philip. This history was written by the son of Captain Church, from the notes of his father.]

Captain Church being now at Plymouth again, weary and worn, would have gone home to his wife and family, but the government being solicitous to engage him in the service until Philip was slain, and promising him satisfaction and redress for some mistreatment that he had met with, he fixes for another expedition.

He had soon volunteers enough to make up the company he desired, and marched through the woods until he came to Pocasset. And not seeing or hearing of any of the enemy, they went over the ferry to Rhode Island, to refresh themselves. The captain, with about half a dozen in his company, took horses and rode about eight miles down the island, to Mr. Sanford's, where he had left his wife. [She] ("Who," in the original text.) no sooner saw him, but fainted with surprise; and by that time she was a little revived, they spied two horsemen coming a great pace. Captain Church told his company that "those men (by their riding) come with tidings." When they came up, they proved to be Major Sanford and Captain Golding. [They] ("Who," in the original text.) immediately asked Captain Church, what he would give to hear some news of Philip ? He replied, that was what he wanted. They told him they had rode hard with some hopes of overtaking him, and were now come on purpose to inform him that there were just now tidings from Mount Hope. An Indian came down from thence (where Philip's camp now was) to Sandy Point, over against Trip's, and hallooed, and made signs to be brought over. And being fetched over, he reported that he was fled from Philip, "who (said he) has killed my brother just before I came away, for giving some advice that displeased him." And said he was fled for fear of meeting with the same his brother had met with. Told them, also, that Philip was now in Mount Hope neck. Captain Church thanked them for their good news, and said he hoped by to-morrow morning to have the rogue's head. The horses that he and his company came on, standing at the door (for they had not been unsaddled), his wife must content herself with a short visit, when such game was ahead. They immediately mounted, set spurs to their horses, and away.

The two gentlemen that brought him the tidings told him they would gladly wait on him to see the event of the expedition. He thanked them, and told them he should be as fond of their company as any men's; and (in short) they went with him. And they were soon at Trip's ferry (with Captain Church's company), where the deserter was, who was a fellow of good sense, and told his story handsomely. He offered Captain Church to pilot him to Philip, and to help to kill him, that he might revenge his brother's death. Told him that Philip was now upon a little spot of upland, that was in the south end of the miry swamp, just at the foot of the mount, which was a spot of ground that Captain Church was well acquainted with.

By that time they were over the ferry, and came near the ground, half the night was spent. The captain commands a halt, and bringing the company together, he asked Major Sanford's and Captain Golding's advice, what method was best to take in making the onset; but they declined giving him any advice, telling him that his great experience and success forbid their taking upon them to give advice. Then Captain Church offered Captain Golding the honor (if he would please accept of it) to beat up Philip's head-quarters.

[He designed to place the remainder of his men in ambush, and fire upon the Indians when they should endeavor to escape through the swamp.]

Captain Church, knowing that it was Philip's custom to be foremost in the flight, went down to the swamp, and gave Captain Williams of Scituate the command of the right wing of the ambush, and placed an Englishman and an Indian together behind such shelters of trees, etc., that he could find, and took care to place them at such distance that none might pass undiscovered between them; charged them to be careful of themselves, and of hurting their friends, and to fire at any that should come silently through the swamp. But, [it] being somewhat farther through the swamp than he was aware of, he wanted men to make up his ambuscade.

Having placed what men he had, he took Major Sanford by the hand, [and] said, "Sir, I have so placed them that it is scarce possible Philip should escape them." The same moment a shot whistled over their heads, and then the noise of a gun towards Philip's camp. Captain Church, at first, thought it might be some gun discharged by accident; but before he could speak, a whole volley followed, which was earlier than he expected.

[Captain Golding had fired at a single Indian whom he perceived.]

And upon his firing, the whole company that were with him fired upon the enemy's shelter, before the Indians had time to rise from their sleep, and so overshot them. But their shelter was open on that side next the swamp, built so on purpose for the convenience of flight on occasion. They were soon in the swamp, but Philip the foremost, who started at the first gun, threw his petunk and powder-horn over his head, catched up his gun, and ran as fast as he could scamper, without any more clothes than his small breeches and stockings; and ran directly on two of Captain Church's ambush. They let him come fair within shot, and the Englishman's gun missing fire, he bid the Indian fire away, and he did so to purpose; sent one musket-ball through his heart, and another not above two inches from it. He fell upon his face in the mud and water, with his gun under him.

[This event occurred on the 12th of August, 1676.]

By this time the enemy perceived they were waylaid on the east side of the swamp, [and] tacked short about. One of the enemy, who seemed to be a great, surly old fellow, hallooed with a loud voice, and often called out, "Jootash, Jootash." Captain Church called to his Indian, Peter, and asked hi, who that was that called so? He answered that it was old Annawon, Philip's great captain, calling on his soldiers to stand to it, and fight stoutly. Now the enemy finding that place of the swamp which was not ambushed, many of them made their escape in the English tracks.

The man that had shot down Philip ran with all speed to Captain Church, and informed him of his exploit, who commanded him to be silent about it and let no man more know it, until they had driven the swamp clean. But when they had driven the swamp through, and found the enemy had escaped, or at least the most of them, and the sun now up, and so the dew gone, that they could not easily track them, the whole company met together at the place where the enemy's night shelter was, and then Captain Church gave them the news of Philip's death. Upon which the whole army gave three loud huzzas.

Captain Church ordered his body to be pulled out of the mire to the upland. So some of Captain Church's Indians took hold of him by his stockings, and some by his small breeches (being otherwise naked), and drew him through the mud to the upland; and a doleful, great, naked, dirty beast he looked like. Captain Church then said that forasmuch as he had caused many an Englishman's body to be unburied, and to rot above ground, that not one of his bones should be buried. And calling his old Indian executioner, bid him behead and quarter him. Accordingly he came with his hatchet and stood over him, but before he struck he made a small speech, directing it to Philip, and said "he had been a very great man, and had made many a man afraid of him, but so big as he was, he would now chop him in pieces." And so he went to work and did as he was ordered.

Philip having one very remarkable hand, being much scarred, occasioned by the splitting of a pistol in it formerly, Captain Church gave the head and that hand to Alderman, the Indian who shot him, to show to such gentlemen as would bestow gratuities upon him; and accordingly he got many a penny by it.

[All this is brutal enough to have been the action of Indians instead of whites, and shows that disposition to insult a fallen foe which is a characteristic of the warfare of barbarous peoples, but has happily died out in civilized nations. There was a strong spice of savagery in the Indian-fighters of the pioneer days of America, who looked upon the Indians as little better than wild beasts. The fall of Philip ended the war in southern New England, the tribes suing for peace. But hostilities were continued in Maine and New Hampshire till 1678, when a treaty of peace was concluded with the tribes of this locality. The forces of the Indians, and the results of the war, are summarized by Trumbull in the following statement: "When Philip began the war, he and his kinswoman, Wetamoe, had about five hundred warriors, and the Narragansetts nearly two thousand. The Nipmuck, Nashawa, Pocomtock, Hadley, and Springfield Indians were considerably numerous. It is probable, therefore, that there were about three thousand warriors combined for the destruction of the New England colonies, exclusive of the eastern Indians. The war terminated in their entire conquest and almost total extinction. At the same time, it opened a wide door for extensive settlement and population. This, however, in its connection with the war with the eastern Indians, was the most impoverishing and distressing of any that New England has ever experienced from its first settlement to the present time.. About six hundred of the inhabitants of New England, the greatest part of whom were the flower and strength of the country, either fell in battle or were murdered by the enemy. A great part of the inhabitants of the country were in deep mourning. There were few families or individuals who had not lost some near relative or friend. Twelve or thirteen towns, in Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Rhode Island, were utterly destroyed, and others greatly damaged. About six hundred buildings, chiefly dwelling-houses, were consumed with fire. An almost insuperable debt was contracted by the colonies, when their numbers, dwellings, goods, cattle, and all their resources were greatly diminished."]

Benjamin Church

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