It makes sense to conceive of King Philip’s War as a civil war. The people engaged in killing each other in 1675 and 1676 knew each other relatively well.
Native American and English worlds had overlapped to a great extent, and separating ally from enemy was a daunting task for those on both sides of the
On June 20, 1675, a group of Wampanoags looted English homes in Swansea and set two on fire. The English settlers raised an army of 200 men to
protect the town. The Puritans at Boston assembled three separate negotiating parties, dispatching one to Nipmuc territory (which was deserted, an
indication that something was amiss), one to travel to Rhode Island (where Roger Williams could help defuse any situation with the Narragansett), and
one to meet with Philip. On June 23, colonists defending Swansea shot another looter dead; on June 24, Wampanoags killed nine Swansea colonists.
While the English skirmished around Swansea, Philip traveled to other Wampanoag villages to muster support for in the rapidly growing conflict.
The conflict spread quickly to other colonies. Narragansetts began to probe Rhode Island, and Nipmucs attacked Mendon, in Massachusetts Bay. Philip’s
growing army met a combined force of English and Mohegans on July 30, but English bumbling allowed Philip to escape to the west, effectively spreading
the war to the Connecticut River Valley and Maine. Through the summer and fall of 1675, Wampanoags and their allies outmaneuvered English forces,
burning houses and then retreating into the woods. At Springfield, Massachusetts, on October 5, Nipmucs and Agawams burned 300 homes before being
chased off. What had begun as a relatively minor series of skirmishes was escalating into a full-scale war.
By December, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Connecticut had assembled an army of 1,000 men. This large force was intended to
make the Narragansett turn over Wampanoag refugees. The colonial army did succeed in laying siege to a fortified village, killing 600 Narragansetts in
what became known as the Great Swamp Fight. The immediate result of this battle was to draw the Narragansett into the war, but it also weakened the
colonial army, so that it had to stop for the winter.
Early 1676 was the high-water mark for the Wampanoag in their battle against the English. The frontier towns of Lancaster and Groton were attacked with
great success, forcing their abandonment. Native ambushes struck militia companies in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Narragansetts burned part of
Providence, including Roger Williams’s home. Eleven frontier towns had been abandoned by colonists, and one more had become nothing more than a
Around this time, the English shifted tactics to great effect; instead of seeking to engage their enemies in pitched battles, they struck at supply lines and
food stores. They began to capture small bands of rebel natives. The English also employed the assistance of other native peoples at an increasing rate.
Moreover, even if forces loyal to Philip were able to force the abandonment of a town, they paid dearly in terms of lives and food lost.
In June 1676, the Puritans launched another combined offensive. By this point, most of the Native American combatants seem to have tired of war and
retreated. In southeastern Massachusetts, on August 12, King Philip was shot and killed by a Native American known as Alderman, a former ally working
with Benjamin Church and the Puritans. Resistance to the English melted away following Philip’s death.New England Emigrant Aid Company | Civil War on the Western Border … Ltf
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