Metacom (King Philip)

Picture of Metacom (King Philip)

Fast Facts about Metacom (King Philip)
Who was Metacom, aka King Philip, and why was this Native Indian chief famous? Summary: King Philip (1638-1676) was famous as an Wampanoag Indian sachem and chief of a confederation of Algonquian tribes. Pilgrims broke a peace treaty and in 1675 this subsequently led to a bitter conflict with the colonists known as King Philip's War.

He was killed on August 12, 1676 and his body was beheaded and quartered, and his head was displayed on a pole for 25 years at Plymouth. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts, background history and information about the life of Metacom and the events in history that led to his fame as a great Native American Indian leader.

Fast Facts about Metacom (King Philip)

  • Title: The tradition of crowning a Native American Indian chief as a king started in 1608 when Chief Powhatan, the father of Pocahontas, was crowned as a king. 
  • Tribe: Wampanoag
  • Alternate Name: The Wampanoag were sometimes referred to as the Pokanoket, from the name of their principal village
  • Power: Metacom was chief of a confederation of Algonquian tribes including the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Abenaki, Nipmuck, and Mohawk tribes
  • Names: Metacom and his elder brother Wamsutta were renamed, in English, as Alexander and Philip, by the governor of the colony of Plymouth
  • Lifespan of Metacom: (1640-1676)
  • Place of Birth: In Rhode Island, on the east shore of upper Narragansett Bay at the royal seat of Montaup, or Mount Hope, at the village Pokanoket
  • Date of Birth: 1640
  • Date of Death: August 12, 1676
  • Place of Death: Plymouth Colony
  • Name of Father: Massasoit
  • Name of Brother: Wamsutta (Alexander)
  • Name of Wife: Wootonekanuske
  • Native Indian Allies: Narragansett, Nashaway, Wampanoag, Nipmuck and Podunk tribes
  • Famous Battles: King Philip's War that was fought from June 1675 to August 1676. Metacom was joined by Canonchet, the chief of the Narragansett and Muttawmp, the chief of the Nipmuck

Metacom (King Philip) - Early Life
Metacom was the second son of Massasoit who had negotiated peace with the Pilgrims in 1621. A time of peace followed and during this time the Algonquian tribe exchanged Indian land for English guns, alcohol, and blankets. His father, Chief Massasoit, died in 1661, and Alexander became grand sachem of the Wampanoag league. He died after just a few months, amid rumors that he had been poisoned by the colonists and the grieving Metacom became sachem in 1662 and later assumed the role of chief of a confederation of Algonquian speaking tribes. There was an uneasy peace between the Native American Indians at this time

Metacom (King Philip) - John Sassamon (Wassausmon)
The peace was shattered in the first half of 1675 when the affair of John Sassamon, whose Indian name was Wassausmon, occurred. John Sassamon was an educated Native American Indian who had returned to the Wampanoag tribe, after being converted to the Christian religion. He spoke English, and was used by Metacom as and interpreter and secretary. John Sassamon believed that he had discovered Wampanoag war plans, and he carried the secrets to the Plymouth colony. His treachery was discovered and in March 1675 his body was discovered under the ice of a pond of Plymouth Colony. His neck had been broken as a legal execution that had been ordered by the sachem. The colonists arrested three of Metacom's men who tried in court before a jury of twelve colonists and five Indians. They were found guilty and put to death.

Metacom - King Philip's War
Metacom was incensed by the executions which he believed was as an encroachment of his tribal authority. The betrayal by John Sassamon, and his subsequent murder, antagonised both the Native Indians and the colonists. In June 1675 the conflict known as King Philip's War began when on June 20, 1675, Metacom mounted a sudden raid on the English border settlement of Swansea. The war involved the New England colonies and the confederation of the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nashaway, Nipmuck and Podunk tribes. Metacom was joined in the leadership of the confederation by Canonchet, the chief of the Narragansett and Muttawmp, the chief of the Nipmuck tribe. The colonists retaliated and attcks were ordered on other settlements including major attacks on the Plymouth colony. On March 26, 1676 the setttlement of  Providence was completely destroyed. In May 18, 1676 Captain William Turner of the Massachusetts Militia led 150 men against the Narragansett tribe and their chief, Canonchet, was killed. During the remainder of the summer other Native Indian defeats prompt the surrender of some tribes allied to Metacom (King Philip). Metacom's wife and son were captured and imprisoned (they would later be sold into slavery).

The Death of Metacom (King Philip)
On August 12, 1676  Metacom (King Philip) was betrayed by a Native Indian informant in the service of Captain Benjamin Church who revealed the chief's hiding place at Mt. Hope in Rhode Island. He was killed in the ambush and his body was then beheaded and quartered. The head of Metacom was displayed on a pole for 25 years at the Plymouth colony.

The Story of Metacom (King Philip)
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and the
Story of Metacom (King Philip).

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