King Phillip's War: Reaction To The Puritan Expansion

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King Phillip's War: Reaction to the Puritan Expansion

King Phillip's War: Reaction to the Puritan Expansion

Thesis Statement

“King Philip's War was a brief but particularly bloody and consequential conflict”.


Though relations between the Wampanoag and the English colonists had deteriorated for a number of years, the immediate cause of war was the death of John Sassamon, a Christian Indian and interpreter. Plymouth judges tried and convicted three Wampanoag Indians for his death and hanged two of them, prompting the tribe to attack colonists.Roughly 4,000 Algonquian and 2,000 colonists (and allies) died, making King Philip's War per capita the most devastating in American history. A Crown agent estimated that colonists spent £100,000 to prosecute the war and suffered £150,000 in property losses.

The Wampanoag and their allies were virtually destroyed as tribal units. The tactics employed by both sides led to a deepening racial division in colonial New England; disease and the decimation of belligerent tribes opened much of southeastern and central New England to further European expansion.


There had been certain times in American history when neighbors who had for years peacefully coexisted suddenly turned on each other with malice. King Philip's War (1675-76) is one particularly brutal example of warfare informed by unremitting cultural difference. The war echoes through American history because of the outrages committed on both sides, the cultural impact of the war experience on participants, and the portent of an evolving and expansive New England society where Indians would be made subject to colonial rule and culturally invisible.

The Wampanoag, an Algonquian tribe based in southeastern New England, had engaged in trade and diplomacy with English colonists for decades. An important sachem, Massasoit, had helped the Pilgrims survive their early years and negotiated a far-reaching peace with the Plymouth colony in 1621. He had also obtained symbolic European names for his two sons, Wamsutta, who became known as Alexander, and Metacom, who became known as Philip. It was this second son, Philip, who in 1675 initiated the first large-scale pan-Indian offensive against English colonists in New England. Father and son held different views on the expanding presence of English in Wampanoag lives. Whereas Massasoit had fostered an alliance with Plymouth to counter his tribe's traditional enemies, Philip nursed grievances that were increasingly shared by other New England tribes. Massasoit's alliance with Plymouth and their tribe's increasing dependence on English trade goods combined to increase the pressure to sell tribal lands. This was exacerbated by the failure of colonial authorities to compel settlers to rein in their livestock, which competed with wild animals for forest nuts and trampled native fields. As the Wampanoag faced a looming subsistence crisis, Plymouth attempted with greater frequency to place limits on Indian autonomy, directing that Wampanoag land sales be made exclusively to Plymouth and calling for Philip's warriors to disarm.

King Philip's War began in the context of struggles over trade, land, and sovereignty that turned violent as a result of the John Sassamon case. Sassamon was a Wampanoag Christian convert and interpreter, a schoolteacher in missionary John Eliot's ...
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