The Pilgrim Fathers are immortal! No hand can snatch the laurel from their brows. For two hundred and fifty years their fame has steadily grown. Their history has been written with faithful accuracy and elaborate detail. It is a part of our common knowledge, our universal heritage. We see them as they were. In the dark and narrow cabin of the Mayflower, as it passes the farthest reach of human laws, we see them calmly signing a compact to make and keep laws for themselves. We see them, men, women, and children, in an open shallop, pelted by storms of sleet and hail, their clothing stiff with frozen spray, beating their way through the wintry tempest to the bleak and rocky New England shore. A narrow street of log dwellings arises in the wilderness. Some have exchanged luxury and elegance for these humble homes. We see them struggling with starvation, disease, and death. The s little graveyard swiftly grows, until, before the flowers of spring, the number of the dead exceeds that of the living. For liberty of opinion they lay down their lives. When all but eight men are stricken down, these few toil day and night in service for the sick, refusing no task, however mean. We see them daily in dread of an attack from brutal savages.
Yet in the midst of these toils and dangers, they are prayerful and contented. In spite of the demoralizations of a life in the wilderness, their conduct is as correct as the law itself; their moral principles as rigid as iron; their hearts as loyal as love. Though starving to death, they will not trade for an ounce of the corn which some Indians bring, because it is the Sabbath day. We see them for weeks at a time with nothing but a few claims and some cold water to place before themselves at meals, yet giving thanks in prayer to God that they "could suck of the abundance of the seas, and of the treasures hid in the sands." For a while the daily allowance of corn is five kernels to the person. These kernels are carefully parched, a blesing pronounced over them with all solemnity, thanking God for his abundant mercy, and then they are eaten with cheerful hearts. All this they endured, and infinitely more. Yet not one person gave up and went back to England. They came to stay.
The pure and lofty character of the Plymouth colonists is in marked contrast with that of the thieves and cut-throats of many another colony.
We have seen how the English robbed and murdered Powhatan's people, and abducted his daughter. The Puritans, in spite of their more fearful hardships, took nothing, not a bushel of corn, not an acre of land, without making compensation. The Indians immediately surrounding them were ruled by Massasoit. With him the Pilgrims made a treaty, and by him it was faithfully kept for forty years.
This treaty, though carefully regarded in letter and spirit by the Pilgrims themselves, was not so well kept by their descendants. They gradually narrowed Massasoit's territory and encroached on his rights. He had formally submitted to the English king and laws. Every time a horse was stolen or a hen-roost pilfered, every time an Indian boy got into a quarrel with his white playmates, old Massasoit was summoned to Plymouth to be tried in court for breach of faith. To these things he had submitted quietly, and his prestige and influence which had kept loyal his own subject tribes, gradually waned.
In 1661 Massasoit was gathered to his fathers. His two sons, Alexander and Philip, had been deeply impressed by the decline of their father's power and the alarming increase of the English. They represented the younger and more radical element of their people. Alexander succeeded to the sachemship. The colonists were shrewd enough to see the change in the Wampanoags. They detected a more independent air in the braves, and a less friendly disposition in their chief.
It was decided to summon Alexander before the Plymouth court to answer charges of plotting against the colony. The young chief refused to come. Greatly excited, the English sent an armed force to arrest him. He was marched to Plymouth with the muzzle of a gun against his head. His rage knew no bounds. The indignity offered him crushed his kingly spirit. He was taken alarmingly ill, the effect of his fury and his grief. The Indians begged to take him home. The privilege was granted, but he never reached Mount Hope. While on the way his brief and bitter reign was ended by death. This event filled the hearts of his people with sullen hate. They believed him to have been poisoned by the English.
Philip of Mount Hope, one of the few Indians who is acknowledged by the white men to have been truly great, succeeded his brother. His determination was made to have revenge and drive the English from the country. But this great scheme required time. He renewed the treaty with the English and sought in every way to allay their suspicion. It was a work of years to restore to his people their supremacy and power, but in time his superior diplomacy placed him at the head of nearly all the tribes of New England.
The Mohegans alone remained faithful to the English. Philip exerted every effort to accumulate guns and ammunition for his warrios. His men became expert marksmen, and continually practiced athletic exercises, all in pursuit of their common purpose. So carefully were these preparations concealed that the colonists did not suspect Philip until 1671. At that time the frequent assemblies of Indians, their incessant grinding of hatchets, the mysterious threats and insolent manners of the savages, who had for sixty years lived as the colonists' neightbors and friends, were too plain to be misunderstood.
Philip was summoned to explain his conduct. He refused to come unless accompanied by his men. The conference took place in the meeting-house at Taunton. On one side of the house were ranged Philip's ferocious warriors. Their long black hair, their eyes glittering with treachery and hate, their fantastic plumes and decorations contrasted strangely with the prim and austere Puritans, with plain garb, close-cut hair, and solemn countenances, as they ranged themselves on the opposite site of the church. Philip claimed that his military preparations were for war with the Narrangasetts. Evidence was at hand, however, to show that he was on better terms with their people than ever before, and had been planning an attack on the colony. His plans were by no means ripe, and he denied any hostile purposes, signed a new treaty, and agreed to surrender all his guns. He is said to have been frightened into this agreement, but his history is written only by his foes. Seventy guns were given up at once, but the summer wore away without any more being surrendered.
At last Philip was notified from Plymouth that, unless the arms were given up by September 13th, resort would be had to force to compel the act. Messengers were also dispatched to the great and wealthy Massachusetts colony, at Boston, to secure its co-operation. Philip, shrewd enough to have perceived the jealousy and rivalry between the two colonies, set off at once to Boston. With the rarest diplomacy he flattered the Massachusetts colony by certain territorial concessions, and made such an adroit statement of his case, representing that Plymouth had encroached on the other colonies by summoning him for trial before her own court, and virtually declaring war without consulting them, that the Bostonians not only refused to help Plymouth, but coolly criticised her action as wrong and unwarrantable. The dispute was referred to mediators. Philip, bent on gaining further time for his plans and preparations, signed a new treaty, and for three years nothing further occurred to bring on a collision.
The three years were used by the sachem to concert a most elaborate plan for the extermination of the English. Ancient enmities were forgotten. All New England tribes were to unite in a confederacy of which Philip was to be chief. The Narragansetts alone were to furnish four thousand warriors. The spring of 1676 was fixed for the destruction of the colonists. But an accident brought on the war at an earlier date, and before Philip's arrangements were complete.
Among the "praying Indians," converts of the Rev. John Elliot, was a savage named Sassamon, who had received an English education, and acted for a while as a teacher. Philip, needing a secretary to write his letters, employed Sassamon, who was thus admitted to the confidence of the sachem, and learned his bloody plans. Partly owing to Elliot's persuasions to resume Christianity, from which he had apostatized while with Philip, partly from a quarrel with his chief, Sassamon resigned is position and informed the colonists of the conspiracy. Although secrecy was pledged, the wily Philip found out the betrayal.
One winter morning Sassamon was missing. His hat and gun were found near a hole in the ice on a deep pond. His body was recovered and exhibited marks of violence. Three Indians were arrested as the murderers. Guilty or innocent, the three wretches were hung.
Philip continued to organize his army. Strange Indians enlisted by hundreds. When the colonists mildly remonstrated he replied with insults. Awashonks, the squaw sachem or queen of one of the tribes, sent word to Plymouth that Philip wanted her to unite in a war. Philip himself had, for several weeks, been holding a war-dance at Mount Hope. Its length indicated the greatness of the conflict. The women and children of his tribe were sent away to be cared for by the Narragansetts. Just before the outbreak, John Borden, a Rhode Island man, and a great friend of Philip, tried to dissuade the Indian monarch from war. His reply is remarkable:
"The English who came first to this country were but a handful of people, forlorn, poor, and distressed. My father did all in his power to serve them. Others came. Their numbers increased. My father's counselors were alarmed. They urged him to destroy the English before they became strong enough to give law to the Indians and take away their country. My father was also the father to the English. He remained their friend. Experience shows that his counselors were right. The English disarmed my people. They tried them by their own laws, and assessed damages my people could not pay. Sometimes the cattle of the English would come into the cornfields of my people, for they did not make fences like the English. I must then be seized and confined till I sold another tract of my country for damages and costs. Thus tract after tract is gone. But a small part of the dominion of my ancestors remains. I am determined not to live till I have no country."
"This," says a writer, "is a declaration of war more striking in its origin, more true in its statements, than any with which we are acquainted. It is the mournful summary of accumulated wrongs that cry aloud for battle, not for revenge alone, but for the very existence of the oppressed. It is the sad note of preparation sounded by a royal leader that summons to their last conflict the aboriginal lords of New England."
These burning words were followed by burning deeds. The pent-up fury of his people could no longer be restrained. The 20th of June, 1675, was Sunday. Eight Indians, bent on mischief, entered the little settlement of Swanzey, ransacked a house, and shot the peaceful cattle pasturing on the green. In trying to prevent them from forcing their way into his house, a settled fired at and wounded one of the savages, who went sullenly away with bloody threats. In view of the alarming state of affairs, messengers were dispatched to Boston and Plymouth. Thursday, the 24th, was appointed as a day of fasting and prayer.
On that day the village wore the stillness of a Sabbath. The pious colonists were returning with thoughtful faces from the log church. The rough street, filled with stumps, wound past the cabins with their little clearings and through the noonday shadows of the primeval forests. Suddenly the glint of a gun-barrel shone through the thicket--two puffs of smoke, two sharp reports, and two manly forms, clad in their sober gray, lay prostrate forever. The Puritans were dumb with horror. Two of the party started to run for a surgeon. At the bend of the road each fell dead with a ball in his heart. In a moment red flames burst through the roofs of a dozen cabins.
Leaving their slain in the street, sixteen men and fifty-four women and children fled to a large house, where they prepared for defense. Others were killed in attempting to reach a place of safety. One story comes to us of a servant girl in a cabin who hid two little children under a brass kettle, fired at an Indian entering the house, and, failing to kill him, beat him off by throwing live coals in his face, so that he was found in the woods dead from his wounds.
As the terrible news spread like wildfire through the colonies, little companies of men were quickly raised. The houseful of people at Swanzey was relieved. From every direction came news of other outrages. In a day or two the force at Swanzey numbered over a hundred. An expedition set out for Mount Hope to attack Philip. On the way were seen the ashes of many a cabin, with the heads and hands of the family placed in front on sharp stakes. Philip, fearing a trap, had withdrawn from the little peninsula of Mount Hope, and the expedition was a failure.
The war quickly became general. The Indians appeared at various points at once. Isolated cabins were fired and their occupants murdered. Men were shot from thickets as they galloped along the highway. Women were killed as they went to draw water from the well or gather green corn in the fields. Everywhere was terror and apprehension.
The colonial forces fought to little advantage. The Massachusetts and Plymouth troops, under different commanders, failed to co-operate. The mode of Indian warfare, or indeed, of any kind, was ill understood. One company insisted on ransacking a large tract of country in which there was not a sign of an Indian. Another little detachment was bent on building a fort at Mount Hope.
Captain Benjamin Church alone seems to have had a genius for warfare. With sixteen men he successfully resisted for six hours one hundred and fifty savages. He ridiculed the notion of a fort, and laughed away the fears of his undisciplined men. The great difficulty was to meet the Indians in force and strike a decisive blow. A deserting Indian offered to conduct the Plymouth troops to a place where a large body of his people were encamped. They had proceeded about two miles when their gallant captain called a halt, and wanted to know of Church what certainty there was that the Indians had not already left the camp. Church told him the thing, though not impossible, was unlikely, and urged an advance. "If I was sure of killing all the enemy, and knew that I must lose the life of one of my men in this action, I would not attempt it," said the chicken-hearted commander. "Then," said Church, "take your men to the windmill in Rhode Island, where they will be out of danger and be far less trouble to feed."
Church, with a small detachment of men, succeeded in maneuvering Philip into the great Pocasset swamp. The Massachusetts troops had pushed into the Narragansett country, and with great show of force concluded a treaty with the Narragansetts, which they observed faithfully so long as their enemies were in sight. The united forces then marched on Philip, who still lurked in the great swamp.
The English supposed that, three sides of the swamp being surrounded with water, if they guarded the land side, when his provisions ran out, Philip would be forced to surrender. So they built a fort and waited, One fine morning they discovered that the game had fled. Leaving his starving women and children to fall into the hands of the English, Philip and his warriors, under cover of the night, had escaped by swimming the river, and were on their way north. Wetamoo, the widow of his brother Alexander, who was ever at Philip's side, had escaped with him.
One incident of this period of the war was the caputre of one hundred and sixty Indians, and their sale into perpetual slavery by the Plymouth colony. Strange inconsistency in men whose fathers had suffered so much for liberty! A force of Massachusetts troops were in pursuit of Philip, but for some reason were recalled and disbanded. It is more than hinted that this failure to pursue Philip, while in his enfeebled condition, grew out of a jealously of the Plymouth colony, and a desire in the Massachusetts colony to magnify her own services to Plymouth by letting Philip annoy her longer. The history of colonial jealousies is a monumental proof of the value of the nation.
The policy of Massachusetts was a mistake. She sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind. The war was transferred to her own borders. A thousand happy homes were destroyed from the face of the earth by the avenging foe.
Brookfield, an exposed settlement of twenty families, suffered first. Twenty horsemen, coming to its defense, were ambushedin a deep gully through which their road ran, and eleven killed. Frenzied by this success, three hundred Indians rushed into the settlement. The frightened people gathered for defense in one house. From the window they saw the torch applied to their homes, rude, but dear to every heart. In an hour, every cabin, with all its precious little collection of household furniture, all the more prized because brought over from the old home in England, was a heap of smoldering embers.
The Indians then besieged the only remaining house, the one in which the people were gathered. Inside the women fastened feather-beds to the walls for protection. Outside, the savages exerted their infernal ingenuity to fire the building. Long torches and brands were thrown on the roof. One night a fire was built against the very door, and the colonists had to rush out to a well for water to quench the flames. A cart was filled with hemp and combustibles, fired, and pushed against the house, but a heavy rain saved it. At the end of two days, the besieged were relieved by a force of fifty men from Boston. One Englishman and eighty Indians had been killed. This solitary house was garrisoned for a while, and then the settlement was abandoned. Its site again became a part of the surrounding wilderness.
Major Willard, who had marched to the assistance and rescue of the people, suffered military censure and disgrace for having gone there instead of remaining at Hadley, where there were no Indians. The poor man died of a broken heart.
The fate of Brookfield was also the fate of Hatfield, Deerfield, Northfield, North Hampton, Springfield, and Worcester. In one battle, one hundred of the picked soldiers of Massachusetts were slain.
The attack on Hadley, on September 1st, affords a curious illustration of the superstition of the times. This town had three organized companies for defense. But the attack took place during public worship on Sabbath morning, and the panic-stricken people started to fly in the wildest confusion. Suddenly, a stranger of immense stature, with flowing white hair, and commanding voice, appeared in their midst, with a rallying cry. His strange aspect and authoritative manner quickly rallied the frightened colonists. They believed him to be an angel of the Lord. Men fought under his leadership with the wildest courage, and after a bloody battle the savages gradually retreated from the place.
When the colonists turned to look for their benefactor, he had disappeared. That he was a part of the age to believe it. It is to be remembered that the colonists believed in witchcraft, and burnt many a man and woman at the stake for it. They had sentenced an Indian to death for killing Sassamon, on the testimony of a man, that when the corpse of four days was approached by the Indian, its wounds commenced bleeding afresh. They believed in haunted houses, in legerdemain, in spooks. No story of an old woman riding through the sky on a broomstick, or of an Indian with bow and arrows, in the moon, was too much for their credulous imaginations.
Six years after the attack on Hadley, when a great comet appeared in the heavens, the whole population of New England abandoned the usual tasks of life, and passed their days and nights in horrified prayer, regarding the wild visitor, with his flaming tail reaching half across the sky, if not as a portent of the end of the world, at least, as one of wars, famine, and the plague. The dark, but romantic genius of our Hawthorne has caught the gloomy tints of early New England superstition, and woven them into the strange web of his thrilling romances.
So the story of the angel of the Lord, who had saved Hadley, passed into the traditions of the place. Years afterward, it was discovered that the stranger was one of Cromwell's soldiers, a regicide judge, who had aided in condemning Charles I to the scaffold. He had lived for many years, during the Restoration of the Stuarts, concealed in the house of the minister of Hadley, unknown to his nearest neighbors. The truth was scarcely less strange than the fiction. But when once the mind has clasped a slimy superstition to its bosom no logic can avail to loosen the embrace. The good people of Handley continued to believe the myth.
Hitherto the colonies had acted independently of each other. Their only hope to avoid utter destruction lay in UNION. Commissioners were appointed from Massachusetts, Plymouth, and Connecticut, to form a confederation, and concert united action. They called for a thousand troops.
Each colony quickly raised her quota. No uniform and epaulets were necessary. Every man with a gun and a blanket was equipped. Though it was the dead of winter, it was determined to attack the Narragansetts in their winter quarters, where four thousand warriors were preparing to join Philip in the spring. "Not a Wampanoag nor the paring of a Wampanoag's nail shall be delivered up," had been the answer of their haughty sachem, Canonchet, to the demand for a surrender, in accordance with the treaty, of some of Philip's men, who were with him.
About the middle of December the expedition of twelve hundred men, under General Winslow, set out through the snow for Narragansett. It was about one o'clock on Sunday afternoon, that they came in sight of the Narragansett fort. It was on high ground, in the center of an immense swamp, and covered five acres. The walls were an impenetrable hedge, with palisades and breastworks. Within this inclosure were five hundred solid bullet-proof log houses. The whole plan of the place was an admirable proof of Philip's genius for war.
The only entrance was by a bridge, consisting of the trunk of an immense tree thrown across deep water, along which persons were forced to walk in single file. This bridge was flanked by a block-house.
As the English charged on the entrance the deadly fire from the block-house again and again repulsed them. Some crossed the tree and reached the inclosure, only to fall pierced by a dozen balls from the shrieking savages within. At last Church, with thirty picked men, gained a foothold behind some logs near the palisade, and rushed into the inclosure. In a moment they were supported by hundreds more.
Once within the fort, the struggle was but commenced. The shrieks of the savages mingled with the road of the musketry. The living made barricades of their own dead. It was the great struggle of New England. On the one hand, fought three thousand Indian warriors, inspired by every feeling of patriotism, hatred, revenge, the sense of oppression, and love for their families. They fought for their native land. On the other, were the colonists, the offspring of an age of intolerance and fanaticism, of war and revolution. Exiled from their native land, these men of iron had wrought out for themselves rude homes in the wilderness. Unless they could maintain their settlements in New England against the savages, there was no place under the bending sky where they might live in liberty and peace. The inhospitable earth would disown her children.
So they fought, nerved by thought of wife and child, by the memory of the past, by the hopes of the future. The ground within the palisade was red with bloody mire. For three hours the conflict raged without decisive result. The slaughter on both sides was immense. The English could not be driven from the fort, nor could they dislodge their foes. At this point a battle which had also been raging without the fort turned in favor of the English. The victors pursued their foes within the palisade. The ammunition of the Indians ran low. A cry arose among the English to fire the wigwams.
The scene was terrific. To the din of battle were added the dull and thunderous roar of the flames, and the shrieks and wailings of old men, women, and children, who, unable to escape through the murderous volleys of the English, were driven back to be roasted alive in the fiery furnaces.
Wilder and wilder grew the conflict. The combatants no longer fought as men but as demoniacs. Quarter was neither asked nor given. Corpses were piled up in vast heaps. Little by little the English advanced. Little by little the Indian fire slackened. When night closed in with a heavy snow storm, the English were leftmasters of the fort. The savages retreated to the gloomy and smoky depts of the swamp, where many perished with the cold.
The colonists had since day-break marched sixteen miles, and fought a terrible battle, all without a mouthful of food. But they had yet to retrace their steps, in the darkness, through a dense forest, a deep snow beneath their feet, and a December storm roaring through the leafless trees. By the glare of five hundred smoldering wigwams, they collected their dead and wounded, and wearily trudged away into the forest. As the exhausted men stumbled along over the rough ground, bearing their slain, many brave comrade sank down by the way to rise no more. Soon after the colonial army dispersed.
It was too soon to have disbanded. The power of the Narragansetts was broken, but the master spirit of Philip still survived. The course of the war was hardly checked by the great swamp fight. In the early spring Philip swept the country from one end to the other with resistless fury. Lancaster, Medfield, Weymouth, Groton, Seekonk, Providence, and Sudbury were plundered and burnt. In one action, every man in a company of seventy picked men from Plymouth was killed. It was no longer a war of conquest. It was a was of extermination.
Once a colonist was on one side of a rock, an Indian on the other, watching their opportunities to kill each other. The colonist put his hat on the end of his gun and carefully raised it little above the top of the rock. The Indian, thinking it was the head of his foe, instantly fired at the object. In a moment the colonist left his hiding-place, and shot the Indian who had uselessly emptied his gun. Another time an indian was separated from his white antagonist by the upturned roots and clinging earth of a fallen tree. The savage cautiously dug a little hole through the mass of earth, presented the muzzle of his gun, and shot his antagonist dead.
The prospects of the colonies had never seemed so dark. From every direction came reports of disaster and defeat. A new call for men was made. The settlements were literally drained of their defenders. A happy stroke turned the tide somewhat in their favor. Canonchet, the great chief of the Narragansetts, Philip's principal captain and a masterful warrior, was surprised and captured by a party of English. He was offered his life on condition of bringing about a peace, but the suggestion was scornfully rejected. When informed that he must die, he made this memorable answer: "I like it well: I shall die before my heart is soft, or I have said any thing unworthy of myself." Because he had refused to violate the laws of hospitality by surrendering his friends, the Wampanoags, his father had been murdered, his warriors slain by the hundred, his women and children burnt alive in the flaming wigwams of the fort. Yet for all this he uttered not a word of reproach. Scorning to save his life by the submission of his people to such conquerors, he calmly folded his arms across his kingly breast, and with head erect and check unblanched, received the fatal bullets to his heart. In all the lore of chivalry and war there can be found no more heroic soul.
As the summer wore on, though the ferocity of the Indian ravages was not abated, yet influences were at work which were surely undermining the power of Philip. Having had their stored corn destroyed by the English, and being prevented from planting new crops by the desolation of war, his warriors, to escape starvation, had changed their diet almost entirely to meat. This caused many to fall a prey to disease. The allied tribes murmured loudly, saying that Philip had promised them much plunder; but, instead, they had gained nothing by this war, save hardship and suffering and the enmity of the English. Philip's foresight of the future of his people, unless the encroachments of the English were forever stopped, was not shared by the common Indian. It was not the first nor the last time that a blind mob rejected the wisdom of leaders.
These murmurings soon blazed into open quarrels. Nothing fails like failure. The fights began to results favorably for the colonists. Offers of peace were made to all who would submit, and various bands of Indians began to accept these offers. The English were about to succeed in spite of their own folly. Their troops were without discipline, and openly threated their inefficient commanders. Church, who had inspired every successful movement, had been deposed from command and dismissed from the service, for opposing the sale of Indians into slavery. He was recalled, however, in June, and went alone to Awashonks, queen of the Saonets, and negotiated a treaty of peace. Not only this, but the Saconets entered the English army, and fought faithfully till the close of the war.
This, and several other distinguished successes, forced the jealous colonists to enlarge the powers of Captain Church, giving him authority to raise men and make peace or levy war, just as he thought best. With a large force of Indians and a few whites, Church toiled day and night, now surprising and capturing a large force of Philip's warriors, now making peace with his allies, now squarely whipping them in open fight. The English method of warfare was abandoned. He fought the Indians with their own methods. On half dozen different occasions he made captures of over two hundred men. Once he was unable to leave a guard for his prisoners while he went into battle. He told them that, if they attempted flight, he would shortly recapture them, and inflict severe punishment; but if they would follow him and not run off, they should be well treated. Such was his power over them that, after the fight, every Indian voluntarily surrendered again as a prisoner.
These repeated blows hurried on the final crisis. Philip, with a broken and siheartened remnant of his own people, retired to a swamp near his old home of Mount Hope. To Church was allotted the closing act in the tragedy. Philip was encamped on a little knoll in the swamp. Church forseeing that flight would be attempted, silently posted his men in the swamp, so as to completely encircle the knoll. Philip was sitting on a log, relating to a friend a troubled dream which he had had, omen of his approaching fate.
At the first fire the Indians fled. Philip ran right towards an ambush of the English. A Saconet Indian fired. With a terrific leap in the air, the great captain of Mount Hope fell dead, a fulfillment of the prophecy of his people that Metacomet should never fall by English hands. The corpse was dragged out of the swamp; the head sent to Plymouth, where it was set up on a gibbet for twenty years; the body quartered and nailed to four trees, a terrible exhibition of the barbarism of the age. All of Philip's principal friends were executed or sold into slavery, and shipped to the West Indies. This last was the fate of young Metacomet, Philip's only son.
"Such," said Edward Everett, "was the fate of Philip. He had fought a relentless war, but he fought for his native land, for the mound that covered the bones of his parents; he fought for his squaw and papoose; no--I will not defraud them of the sacred names which our hearts understand; he fought for his wife and child."
Philip of Mount Hope was a great man. He proved himself so, both in diplomacy and war. He foresaw the dark destiny of his people, and held himself completely aloof from the insinuating influence of the English, who had so infatuated his father. Before the war, Rev. John Elliot, of the Massachusetts colony, the great apostle to the Indians, made the most persistent efforts to induce Philip to embrace Christianity. The courtly savage had always received his arguments and persuasions politely, but without other effect. One day he took hold of a button on Elliot's threadbare coat, and said: "I care no more for your religion than I do for that old button. Let me hear no more about it."
The Puritan imagination pictured Philip and his warriors as infernal fiends. But fifty years later the descendants of those who nailed his quartered corpse to trees, and sold his child into burning slavery, learned to understand him better. He was a hero, a patriot, who suffered much. His people were destroyed. A handful of his warriors escaped to the far West and joined La Salle at Fort St. Louis. But the proud name of the Wampanoags was buried in oblivion.
With the close of the war, the bruised and bleeding colonies began to survey the extent of their sufferings. Between fifteen and twenty towns had been destroyed from the face of the earth by the swift and terrible vengeance of Philip. A few charred timbers, and a heap of ashes marked the site of many a loney farm house. Among the ashes often lay the bleaching bones of its defenders. The mangled remains of the little herd of cattle lay scattered about the pasture, while overhead slowly circled on wide extended pinions, the black and ominous birds of prety. Now and then a bedraggled and sickly chicken, weakened by starvation, sole survivor of the desolation, tottered feebly around the yard, listening, waiting for the kindly call to feasts of yellow grain that never came. The fields so hardly won by cruel toil and valiant struggle from the unwilling forest, lay desolate and abandoned.
Hardly a family was there in all the colonies from which a father or a son had not gone out to battle to return no more forever. There were few cripples. Their enemy had seldom wounded except unto death. The war had been a destroyer, with one exception. In that it was a creator. It had created for the colines a debt of half a million dollars.
"New England had suffered terribly. Six hundred men, the flower and pride of the country, had fallen in the field. Hundreds of families had been butchered in cold blood. Gray-haired sire, mother, and babe, had sun together, under the vengeful blow of the red man's gory tomahawk. Now there was peace again. The Indian race was swept out of New England. The tribes beyond the Connecticut came humbly submissive, and pleaded for their lives. The colonists returned to their desolated farms and villages to build new homes in the ashes of old ruins."
But the vitality of the colonies was inexhaustible. The ordinary tasks of life, sowing and reaping, bartering and manufacturing, were resumed with tireless zeal and vigor. In a few years the crimson footprints of the war were effaced, and peace and prosperity smiled throughout the land.
Retyped and reformatted by Ray and Kathy Leigh
The Fate of Philip
Created November 16, 2000
Web design and graphics by Kathy Leigh