King Philip’s War was an armed conflict between Native American inhabitants of present-day New England and English colonists and their Native American allies in 1675–78.
The war is named for the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet, known to the English as “King Philip”.
Metacom succeeded his father in 1662 and reacted against the European settlers’ continued encroaching onto Wampanoag lands.
At Taunton in 1671, he was humiliated when colonists forced him to sign a new peace agreement that included the surrender of Indian guns.
When officials in Plymouth Colony hanged three Wampanoags in 1675 for the murder of a Christianized Indian, Metacom’s alliance launched a united assault on colonial towns throughout the region.
Metacom’s forces enjoyed initial victories in the first year, but then the Native American alliance began to unravel.
By the end of the conflict, the Wampanoags and their Narragansett allies were almost completely destroyed.
The population of New England immigrants from Europe totaled about 80,000 people.
They lived in 110 towns, of which 64 were in the Massachusetts Colony, which then included the southwestern portion of the present state of Maine.
The towns had about 16,000 men of military age who were almost all part of the militia—universal training was prevalent in all colonial New England towns.
Many towns had built strong garrison houses for defense, and others had stockades enclosing most of the houses.
All of these were strengthened as the war progressed.
Some poorly populated towns without enough men to defend them were abandoned.
Each town had local militias, based on all eligible men, who had to supply their own arms.
Only those who were too old, too young, disabled or clergy were excused from military service.
The militias were usually only minimally trained and initially did relatively poorly against the warring Indians until more effective training and tactics could be devised.
The war actually began after Wampanoag braves killed some English owned cattle near their tribal headquarters in what is now Bristol, Rhode Island.
English livestock was always a source of friction as cattle repeatedly trampled Indian corn.
A farmer then retaliated by killing an Indian, setting in motion a native uprising that would eventually threaten to wipe Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Bay Colonies out of existence.
One of the first towns they attacked was Brookfield, a frontier settlement deep in the land of the Nipmucks.
The siege of Brookfield would turn out to be one of the most dramatic incidents of the entire war.
The natives first laid an ambush for soldiers led by Captains Hutchinson and Wheeler.
Eight soldiers were killed in the trap.
The rest of the company barely made it back to the garrison at Brookfield.
The war ended in August 1676, shortly after Metacom was captured and beheaded.
Some of his supporters escaped to Canada; those who surrendered were shipped off as slaves to the West Indies.
The Puritans interpreted their victory as a sign of God’s favor, as well as a symbolic purge of their spiritual community.
The Indians who remained faced servitude, disease, cultural disruption, and the expropriation of their lands.