King Philip


Public life


NA/New England region


Anglo-American Atlantic World (1641-1750)




aka Metacom


Leader of the Wampanoag tribe of New England� Metacom was the younger brother of Wamsutta, who became the Wampanoag leader after Massasoit died in 1660. Soon afterward Wamsutta requested the rulers of the Plymouth colony to give him and his brother English names. The colonists responded by naming Wamsutta Alexander and Metacom Philip, after the rulers of ancient Macedonia. When the newly named Alexander died suddenly in 1662, Philip became the new chief sachem, or leader, of his tribe.

A suspicious Plymouth suspected that the new sachem planned to war against it, but Philip had no such intention. To the contrary, the colonists and the Wampanoags signed a treaty in August 1662 in which Philip declared the English monarch Charles II to be his sovereign. The sachem accepted all earlier treaties, and the colonists agreed to be friendly to the Wampanoags.

Increasingly, the two cultures began to clash. More colonists became hostile to the Indians because most refused to abandon their paganism. Some unscrupulous colonists cheated Indians in land purchases. In addition, the animals of careless colonists damaged the natives' unfenced cultivated fields. In May 1666 Philip still seemed friendly to the English, but a year later Sassamon seems to have left the Wampanoags, and Philip made hostile statements regarding the English.

In 1671 the Wampanoags seemed to be preparing for war. Philip actually admitted this to the Plymouth leaders, but instead of war the sachem chose peace. However, the Treaty of Taunton, signed in April 1671, actually worsened relations because of a dispute over its interpretation� In September 1671 Philip--opposed now by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Plymouth--signed a harsh treaty that placed him under the control of Plymouth and forced him to pay a very heavy fine.

[In] January 1675, Sassamon was killed by Wampanoags who hated him. Another Indian informed on the murderers. Tried in June 1675 by Plymouth, they were found guilty by separate English and Indian juries and executed. Philip, however, denied that he was involved in Sassamon's murder.

Youthful Wampanoag warriors were infuriated by the execution of their comrades and demanded that Philip go to war. Other tribes were recruited. Still, Philip seems to have been reluctant to risk war. When, in June 1675, John Easton of Rhode Island suggested a fair arbitration--two arbitrators, one of whom would be Indian--Philip was evidently interested. But the Wampanoag advocates of war opposed the idea and appear to have decided to prevent arbitration by having the English start hostilities. Wampanoags came to the community of Swansea and began looting. When a colonist shot and killed one of the looters, King Philip's War (1675-1676) commenced.

In July 1676 Church captured Philip's wife and son. Soon after, the despondent Philip shot one of his warriors. The man's brother would lead Church to the sachem, and on 12 August 1676 Church and his forces attacked Philip's encampment. Philip was shot and killed by an Indian named Alderman, and the corpse was drawn, quartered, and beheaded. Philip's head was placed upon a pole at Plymouth, where it served as a grisly reminder of the war�

Related Images

external image kingphilip.jpg