Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Philip
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|Edition of 1900. Written by John William Weidemeyer. See also Metacomet on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.|
PHILIP, Indian chief, d. near Mount Hope, R. I., 12 Aug., 1676. His original name was Metacomet, and he is frequently spoken of as King Philip and Pometacom. His father was Massasoit (q. v.), and his domain extended from Narragansett bay to Massachusetts. Several years before his death Massasoit took two of his sons, Wamsutta and Metacomet to Plymouth, and asked that English names be given them. Thereafter one became known as Alexander and the other as Philip. In 1661. Alexander, the eldest, who succeeded his father in authority, was led to Plymouth as a prisoner, on suspicion of having hostile designs, and on the way suddenly sickened and died in a few hours. His tribe suspected treachery, and maintained that he had been poisoned. In 1662 Metacomet, or Philip, became the chief of his tribe, which was known as the Wampanoags, or Pokanokets. His record shows him to have been brave, sagacious, enterprising, and not without traits of friendship and generosity. At the outset the sachem realized the decline of his race. He saw how the colonists had shrewdly possessed themselves of most of the desirable lands, thereby destroying the ancient hunting-grounds of the Indians. Game was less plentiful, and the yield of their fisheries had become diminished by the superior and exhaustive methods of the white man. Besides the pestilential swamps, the remaining retreats for the Indians were little more than the present peninsulas of Bristol and Tiverton, “most suitable and convenient for them,” where they could be observed and easily controlled. Already partial civilization rendered them dependent on their English neighbors. Muskets and ammunition, blankets, and liquor had become necessities. When Philip assumed the leadership he formally renewed the treaties of his father, and for several years faithfully kept them, and, although many of his tribe were becoming restless and discontented, the sachem himself was one of the last to entertain open hostility. The principal village of the Wampanoags was at Mount Hope, a conical hill 300 feet in height, not far from the present town of Bristol, R. I. As early as 1665 Philip had gone to Nantucket, Mass., to slay an Indian who profaned the name of Massasoit, a retaliation in accordance with their national custom. During 1670 frequent overt acts and trespasses were indulged in by both natives and foreigners. By this time the Indians felt that they had suffered insupportable injuries, and secretly planned a defensive alliance of all the New England tribes against the encroachments of the whites. The leaders of various tribes, numbering from 8,000 to 10,000 warriors, gave their adhesion to this purpose. Meanwhile John Eliot, the apostle, had made his way into the wilderness to the red men to preach the gospel. When Philip lifted the tomahawk there were more than 400 converts, or so-called “praying Indians,” scattered among the various tribes, who held to the interest of the whites, and were, more or less, ready to sacrifice their own people. Philip and his Wampanoags withstood all missionary efforts, and boldly and openly iterated their firm belief in the religion of their fathers. In 1671 the Wampanoags were suspected of secret plottings against the whites, and, with Philip at their head, their principal men were summoned by the Boston colonists to appear before them in Taunton, Mass. After some hesitation Philip attended, with about seventy armed warriors in his retinue. In his explanation he said that the Wampanoags were only arming defensively against the Narragansetts, and with four others he had signed an article of submission, wherein they agreed, as a token of permanent peace, that his tribe should deliver up their muskets and ammunition, and pay a sum of money to defray the expenses caused by their conduct. In 1673 one of the “praying Indians,” known as John Sausamon, who had been educated among the whites for a teacher, committed a misdemeanor, and fled to Philip for protection. He was well received, and eventually became a kind of secretary to him. After a time the colonists persuaded Sausamon to return to them, that they might learn from him something concerning the plans and purposes of the Indians. When he was safely in their midst, Sausamon said that the surrounding tribes, with Philip as their leader, had made preparations for war; he also reported their movements, and repeated many declarations that Philip had made to his people. For this betrayal Sausamon was waylaid by the Wampanoags and slain. Three Indians, suspected of the deed, were formally tried by a jury of six persons, half of whom were friendly Indians, and convicted and hanged. Up to this time Philip had been passive, hesitating, and cautious. But the tribes had become aroused, and events were precipitated before the chief's plans had come to maturity. In 1675 Philip began his war preparations by sending the women and children of his people from Mount Hope to the Narragansetts for protection. He then warned away several of the settlers to whom he had become attached, and bade his followers swear eternal hostility to the white race. The Indians struck their first blow at Swansea, about thirty-five miles south of Plymouth, on 24 June, 1675. The attack was made on a fast-day, when the villagers returned from public worship. About ten or twelve persons were killed and wounded. The colonists acted promptly, volunteers from Massachusetts united with the men of Plymouth, and on 29 June the Wampanoags, with Philip at their head, fled before superior numbers to the encampment of their allies, the Nipmucks, in the interior of Massachusetts. The armed colonists, under Gov. Josiah Winslow, then entered the territory of the Narragansetts, and extorted a treaty from Canonchet, their chieftain. Terror now spread throughout the entire frontier, all men went armed, and women and boys were provided with weapons for the defence of their homes. The Indian mode of warfare throughout was one of ambush, stealth, and surprises; they never faced the colonists in the open field. No quarter was given, none was asked. Fire, exposure, and starvation added their horrors to this mode of warfare. Meanwhile, Philip, with about 1,500 warriors, wandered over the land to arouse the savages to a general war of extermination. Then he made his way to the valley of the Connecticut, spreading destruction from Springfield, Mass., north to the Vermont line. Brookfield was fired, Deerfield burnt, and Hadley surprised, but at the last place the Indians were severely checked and repelled by the villagers under the leadership of Col. William Goffe, the regicide (q. v.). It had come to the knowledge of the colonists that the Narragansetts gave shelter to the Wampanoags and their families. The settlers considered this a breach of faith, and, moreover, they had hope of capturing Philip, who was reported to be among the Narragansetts. It was therefore resolved to fall upon the tribe suddenly and put them to the sword. For this purpose 1,000 well-armed, picked men, under Gov. Winslow, were guided by a renegade Indian to the exposed parts of the fort of the Narragansetts, and made familiar with its entrance and passages for escape. In December, 1675, the colonists marched through deep snows, and on the 19th, during a tempestuous day, surprised the Indians. Their fort was on an elevation of three or four acres, surrounded by a swamp, studded with brambles and dense underbrush, situated in the present township of Kingston, R. I.; 3,000 Indians, largely made up of women and children, were surprised, their palisades and straw-covered wigwams fired, and many were driven forth by the flames to be either burnt, suffocated, frozen, butchered, or drowned, 500 wigwams were destroyed, 600 warriors killed, 1,000 women and children massacred, and the entire winter provision of the tribe reduced to ashes. Canonchet escaped, but was defeated, captured, and put to death in the following summer. During the winter of 1675-'6 Philip vainly endeavored to enlist the Mohegans and Mohawks for his purposes, but he succeeded in winning over only some minor tribes eastward of Massachusetts. With the return of spring in 1676 came retaliation on the part of the Indians. Weymouth, Groton, Medfield, Lancaster, and Marlborough, Mass., and Warwick and Providence, R. I., were attacked and laid in ashes. Up to the month of July the Indians vigorously pushed their attacks with great disaster to the colonists, and only little reward for themselves. Their numbers were much diminished. When Philip's cause was evidently becoming a losing one, some of the neighboring tribes fell away; others that had remained neutral turned their influence on the English side. Dissension arose, some bands surrendered, to avoid starvation, and others wended their way to the distance, intermingling with other tribes to escape recognition and punishment. The government set a price of thirty shillings per head for “every Indian killed in battle,” and many captured Indian women and children were sold into slavery in South America and the West Indies. Toward the last Capt. Benjamin Church (q. v.), the noted Indian fighter, headed an expedition to seek Philip and destroy the remainder of the Wampanoags. Philip was hunted from place to place. Several peace overtures were made him, all of which he spurned. On one occasion he smote an Indian that came to him with a proposal for submission. During one of Capt. Church's pursuits, Philip narrowly escaped capture, and was forced to leave his squaw and nine-year-old son in the keeping of his enemies. In the usual manner they were both sold as slaves in the Bermuda islands. After a long absence the sachem and some of his followers took refuge in a swamp near Mount Hope. But one of their band, named Alderman, proved treacherous, and for a consideration exposed their hiding-place. On 12 Aug., 1676, the renegade Indian guided a large party of armed men at midnight to the camp of the Wampanoags. The attack was made promptly while the Indians were asleep. After the first shot or two Philip was aroused, and sprang to his feet, gun in hand, but on attempting to escape he was recognized by an Indian ally of the whites and shot dead as he stumbled and fell in the mire. His body was dragged forward, and Church cut off his head, which was borne on the point of a spear to Plymouth, where it remained for twenty years exposed on a gibbet. According to the colonial laws, as a traitor, his body was drawn and quartered on a day that was appointed for public thanksgiving. Philip's death ended the war. Of the two once powerful nations there remained only about 50 Wampanoags and 100 Narragansetts. Eunice Cottrill, who died on the Pequod Indian reservation, North Stonington, Conn., 7 Jan., 1888, at the age of 115 years, was a great-grandchild of King Philip. See Benjamin Church's “Entertaining History of King Philip's War” (1716; with additions by Samuel G. Drake, Boston, 1825), and “Philip of Pokanoket,” in Irving's “Sketch-Book.” The incidents of King Philip's war have also been made the subject of an historical romance by Gideon H. Hollister, entitled “Mount Hope” (New York, 1851).