King Philip’s War began 340 years ago today at the home of my 9th g-grandfather
One of the deadliest wars in American history, known as King Philip’s War, literally began at the home of my 9th g-grandfather, Rev. John Myles in Swansea, Massachusetts. On 20 Jun 1675, the first Indian attack of King Philip’s War had all 70 settlers confined to their stockade when the Indians attacked Swansea, Massachusetts at the time of worship. Many were wounded, one was killed, and much of the town was burned. John Myles‘ house was made a fortification. John Myles subsequently repaired to Boston and became a leader in the Baptist church there for a few years. After the war, the Swansea church erected a new house of worship in 1679, and a parsonage was built for John Myles about the same time, where he dwelt until his death in 1684.
King Philip’s War (sometimes known as Metacomet’s War or the First Indian War) was an armed conflict between Native American inhabitants of present-day New England and English colonists and their Native American allies in 1675–78. The war is named for the main leader of the Native American side, Metacomet (c. 1638-1676), who had adopted the English name “King Philip”. Metacomet was the second son of Wampanoag chief Massasoit, who had coexisted peacefully for decades with the original Mayflower Pilgrims of Plymouth and their descendants.
However, the peace was first shattered by the Pequot War in 1637, and by the 1660s, English settlers had outgrown their dependence on the Indians for wilderness survival techniques and had substituted fishing and commerce for the earlier lucrative fur trade. From 1640 to 1675 new waves of land-hungry settlers pushed into Indian territory, particularly in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Indians fought back to protect their homelands.
The war began with various atrocities, insults and attacks between the Native American Indians and the English settlers, and resolved itself into a series of ruthless Indian raids on frontier settlements from the Connecticut River to Massachusetts and Narragansett Bay, followed by brutal retaliatory assaults on Indian villages by the colonial militia. One of the first garrisons that was attacked was Swansea, MA, where the English sought refuge in the garrison house of John Myles. By the end of 1675 many frontier towns had been devastated, and the Narragansett had been wiped out in what was called the Great Swamp Fight. The Indians maintained a distinct advantage in the fighting until the spring of 1676, when their efforts were undermined by the threat of starvation after the destruction of their crops and when the English began to use “Praying Indians” (those who had converted to Christianity) as scouts. Following Metacomet’s death in August, Indian resistance collapsed, although Articles of Peace were not signed for two years.
King Philip’s War was the single greatest calamity to afflict seventeenth-century New England and is considered by many to be the deadliest war in American history, when casualties are compared to the overall population of the time. It is believed that more than half of the 90 settlements in the region had been attacked and a dozen destroyed. The colony’s economy was all but ruined, and both the English and Native populations were decimated, with the English settlers losing one-tenth of all men available for military service. Whole Indian villages were massacred, entire tribes were eradicated, and indigenous refugees fled westward and northward. Thereafter settlers felt free to expand without fear into former Indian territory across southern New England.