views updated May 18 2018


Philip (died 1676), Native American chief, led his Wampanoag tribe and their allies in a losing fight against the encroachments of New England colonists.

Philip was born probably at the tribal village of the Wampanoag Indians at Mount Hope, R.I. His father, Massassoit, sachem (chief) of the tribe, took his two sons to the Plymouth settlement and asked that they be given English names; the elder son was renamed Alexander, and the other was called Philip.

Alexander became sachem of the Wampanoag upon the father's death. In 1661, however, Alexander was arrested by the Plymouth Bay colonists; on the way to Plymouth he sickened and died suddenly, causing the Native Americans to believe that he had been poisoned. The next year Philip became sachem.

As sachem, Philip renewed his father's treaty with the colonists and lived peacefully with them for 9 years. But gradually Philip became hostile to the whites because their increasing numbers resulted in scarcity of game, failure of the Native Americans' fisheries, and encroachment on Native American lands. Purchasing English goods or guns with land, the Native Americans were gradually being forced into marginal swamplands.

Philip's arrogance contributed to the growing tensions. He declared himself the equal of his "brother, " Charles II. He also began plotting against the settlers. In 1671 he was summoned to Taunton, Mass., and confronted with evidence of his plotting, but he was released after signing a statement of submission, paying a fine, and surrendering part of his tribe's firearms.

The open break between the two races came in 1675. Philip's former secretary, Sassamon, was murdered by the Wampanoag, who believed that Sassamon had betrayed Native American secrets to the settlers. Three Wampanoag braves were executed for this crime. Philip reacted by sending his tribe's women and children to live with the Narragansett Indians and by making an alliance with the Nipmuck. On June 24, 1675, their attack on a colonial village triggered King Philip's War.

The fighting spread to Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay colonies, west to the Connecticut River, and north to Vermont. The Native Americans killed men, women, and children in these raids. The United Colonies of New England sent a combined army to try for a decisive battle, but Philip preferred stealth, ambush, and surprise raids in which he generally displayed wily and effective leadership. However, he was unsuccessful in persuading the Mohegan and Mohawk Indians to join him.

The colonists tried a new strategy. On Dec. 19, 1675, Governor Josiah Winslow and 1, 000 troops attacked the Narragansett village, killed 1, 600 Native Americans, and captured the Wampanoag women and children, selling many of them into slavery in the West Indies and South America. They also destroyed Native American crops, offered amnesty to deserters, and advertised a reward for any Native American killed in battle.

Philip saw his army melt away. With a few faithful followers he was pursued from place to place; meanwhile, his wife and son were captured and sold into slavery. In the swamps near Mount Hope he was shot on Aug. 12, 1676, by a Native American serving the colonials. Philip's body was beheaded and drawn and quartered, and his head was exhibited at Plymouth for 20 years.

Philip's war saw 12 colonial towns destroyed, thousands of deaths, and colonial debts of £100, 000. His victories were largely the result of colonial inefficiency, but the war was the result of increasing pressure for land from the growing number of British colonists in America.

Further Reading

Accounts of Philip are in George Madison Bodge, Soldiers in King Philip's War (1892; 3d ed. 1906); G. W. Ellis and J. E. Morris, King Philip's War (1906); James Truslow Adams, The Founding of New England (1921); and Douglas Edward Leach, Flintlock and Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War (1958).

Additional Sources

Apes, William, Eulogy on King Philip, as pronounced at the Odeon in Federal Street, Boston, Brookfield, Mass.: L.A. Dexter, 1985. □


views updated May 29 2018

Philip, Or Metacomet (also known as King Philip) (c. 1640–1676), Wampanoag sachem and leader in King Philip's War. Son of the powerful Massasoit, who had helped early Plymouth Colony survive, Metacom accepted the English name Philip when he replaced his deceased brother as the Wampanoags' principal sachem in 1662. His resistance to English territorial expansion and judicial authority offended Plymouth officials, who subjected him to accusations and humiliating rebukes before 1675, when Wampanoag warriors launched the raids that escalated into King Philip's War. The operational role that he played in this costly struggle is not clear; several capable leaders were involved in the guerrilla action that stunned the New England colonies. Philip did travel long distances through the forests, encouraging bands from various Algonquian tribes to join the desperate rebellion. A mixed force of Indians and English militiamen finally killed him in 1676. According to eyewitness Benjamin Church, an Indian executioner making a speech over Philip's body said that “he had been a very great man and had made many a man afraid of him.” Even in defeat, Philip remained a fearsome symbol of Native American resistance and military prowess.
[See also Native American Wars: Wars Between Native Americans and Europeans and Euro‐Americans.]


Russell Bourne , The Red King's Rebellion, 1990.
Jill Lepore , The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, 1998.

Patrick M. Malone