Today’s installment concludes King Philip’s War,
our selection from History of the United States by Richard Hildreth published in 1853. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of four thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in King Philip’s War.
Yet this enterprise was not without its drawbacks. As the troops returned, Captain Turner fell into an ambush and was slain with thirty-eight men. Hadley was attacked on a lecture-day, while the people were at meeting; but the Indians were repulsed by the bravery of Goffe, one of the fugitive regicides, long concealed in that town. Seeing this venerable unknown man come to their rescue, and then suddenly disappear, the inhabitants took him for an angel.
Major Church, at the head of a body of two hundred volunteers, English and Indians, energetically hunted down the hostile bands in Plymouth colony. The interior tribes about Mount Wachusett were invaded and subdued by a force of six hundred men, raised for that purpose. Many fled to the north to find refuge in Canada — guides and leaders, in after-years, of those French and Indian war parties by which the frontiers of New England were so terribly harassed. Just a year after the fast at the commencement of the war, a thanksgiving was observed for success in it.
No longer sheltered by the River Indians, who now began to make their peace, and even attacked by bands of the Mohawks, Philip returned to his own country, about Mount Hope, where he was still faithfully supported by his female confederate and relative, Witamo, squaw-sachem of Pocasset. Punham, also, the Shawomet vassal of Massachusetts, still zealously carried on the war, but was presently killed. Philip was watched and followed by Church, who surprised his camp, killed upward of a hundred of his people, and took prisoners his wife and boy.
The disposal of this child was a subject of much deliberation. Several of the elders were urgent for putting him to death. It was finally resolved to send him to Bermuda, to be sold into slavery — a fate to which many other of the Indian captives were subjected. Witamo shared the disasters of Philip. Most of her people were killed or taken. She herself was drowned while crossing a river in her flight, but her body was recovered, and the head, cut off, was stuck upon a pole at Taunton, amid the jeers and scoffs of the colonial soldiers, and the tears and lamentations of the Indian prisoners.
Philip still lurked in the swamps, but was now reduced to extremity. Again attacked by Church, he was killed by one of his own people, a deserter to the colonists. His dead body was beheaded and quartered, the sentence of the English law upon traitors. One of his hands was given to the Indian who had shot him, and on the day appointed for a public thanksgiving his head was carried in triumph to Plymouth.
The popular rage against the Indians was excessive. Death or slavery was the penalty for all known or suspected to have been concerned in shedding English blood. Merely having been present at the Swamp Fight was adjudged by the authorities of Rhode Island sufficient foundation for sentence of death, and that, too, notwithstanding they had intimated an opinion that the origin of the war would not bear examination. The other captives who fell into the hands of the colonists were distributed among them as ten-year servants. Roger Williams received a boy for his share. Many chiefs were executed at Boston and Plymouth on the charge of rebellion; among others, Captain Tom, chief of the Christian Indians at Natick, and Tispiquin, a noted warrior, reputed to be invulnerable, who had surrendered to Church on an implied promise of safety.
A large body of Indians, assembled at Dover to treat of peace, were treacherously made prisoners by Major Waldron, who commanded there. Some two hundred of these Indians, claimed as fugitives from Massachusetts, were sent by water to Boston, where some were hanged and the rest shipped off to be sold as slaves. Some fishermen of Marblehead having been killed by the Indians at the eastward, the women of that town, as they came out of meeting on a Sunday, fell upon two Indian prisoners who had just been brought in, and murdered them on the spot.
The same ferocious spirit of revenge which governed the contemporaneous conduct of Berkeley in Virginia toward those concerned in Bacon’s rebellion swayed the authorities of New England in their treatment of the conquered Indians. By the end of the year the contest was over in the South, upward of two thousand Indians having been killed or taken. But some time elapsed before a peace could be arranged with the Eastern tribes, whose haunts it was not so easy to reach.
In this short war of hardly a year’s duration the Wampanoags and Narragansetts had suffered the fate of the Pequots. The Niantics alone, under the guidance of their aged sachem Ninigret, had escaped destruction. Philip’s country was annexed to Plymouth, though sixty years afterward, under a royal order in council, it was transferred to Rhode Island. The Narragansett territory remained as before, under the name of King’s Province, a bone of contention between Connecticut, Rhode Island, the Marquis of Hamilton, and the Atherton claimants. The Niantics still retained their ancient seats along the southern shores of Narragansett Bay. Most of the surviving Narragansetts, the Nipmucks, and the River Indians, abandoned their country and migrated to the north and west. Such as remained, along with the Mohegans and other subject tribes, became more than ever abject and subservient.
The work of conversion was now again renewed, and, after such overwhelming proofs of Christian superiority, with somewhat greater success. A second edition of the Indian Old Testament, which seems to have been more in demand than the New, was presently published, revised by Eliot, with the assistance of John Cotton, son of the “Great Cotton,” and minister of Plymouth. But not an individual exists in our day by whom it can be understood. The fragments of the subject tribes, broken in spirit, lost the savage freedom and rude virtues of their fathers without acquiring the laborious industry of the whites. Lands were assigned them in various places, which they were prohibited by law from alienating. But this very provision, though humanely intended, operated to perpetuate their indolence and incapacity. Some sought a more congenial occupation in the whale fishery, which presently began to be carried on from the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. Many perished by enlisting in the military expeditions undertaken in future years against Acadia and the West Indies. The Indians intermarried with the blacks, and thus confirmed their degradation by associating themselves with another oppressed and unfortunate race. Gradually they dwindled away. A few hundred sailors and petty farmers, of mixed blood, as much African as Indian, are now the sole surviving representatives of the aboriginal possessors of Southern New England.
On the side of the colonists the contest had also been very disastrous. Twelve or thirteen towns had been entirely ruined and many others partially destroyed. Six hundred houses had been burned, near a tenth part of all in New England. Twelve captains, and more than six hundred men in the prime of life, had fallen in battle. There was hardly a family not in mourning. The pecuniary losses and expenses of the war were estimated at near a million of dollars.
This ends our series of passages on King Philip’s War by Richard Hildreth from his book History of the United States published in 1853. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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