Metacomet[pronunciation?] (ca. 1639 – August 12, 1676), also known as King Philip or Metacom, or occasionally Pometacom, was a war chief or sachem of the Wampanoag Indians and their leader in King Philip's War, a widespread uprising against English colonists in New England.
Metacomet was the second son of the sachem Massasoit. He became a chief in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta (or King Alexander) died shortly after his father Massasoit. Wamsutta's widow Weetamoo (d. 1676), sachem of the Pocasset, was Metacomet's ally and friend for the rest of her life. Metacom married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske. No one knows how many children they had or what happened to them, but Wootonekanuske and one of their sons were sold to slavery in the West Indies. Also, no one knows what King Philip was like. Some[who?] considered him as a strategic leader and he both impressed and scared the settlers, but other people[who?] beg to differ.
At the beginning he sought to live in harmony with the colonists. As a sachem, he took the lead in much of his tribes' trade with the colonies. He adopted the European name of Philip, and bought his clothes in Boston, Massachusetts.
But the colonies continued to expand. To the west, the Iroquois Confederation also was fighting against neighboring tribes in the Beaver Wars, pushing them west and encroaching on his territory. Finally, in 1671 the colonial leaders of the Plymouth Colony forced major concessions from him. He surrendered much of his tribe's armament and ammunition, and agreed that they were subject to English law. The encroachment continued until hostilities broke out in 1675. Metacom led the opponents of the English, with the goal of stopping Puritan expansion.
In the spring of 1660 Metacomet's brother Wamsutta appeared before the court of Plymouth to request that he and his brother be given English names. The court agreed and Wamsutta had his name changed to Alexander, and Metacomet's was changed to Philip. Author Nathaniel Phibik has suggested that this might have been at the urging of Wamsutta's interpreter, the Christan convert John Sassamon. Metacomet was later called "King Philip" by the English.
King Philip's War
Philip, King of Mount Hope, 1772, by Paul Revere. Revere made a caricature of King Philip.
Metacomet used tribal alliances to coordinate efforts to push European colonists out of New England. Many of the native tribes in the region wanted to push out the colonists following conflicts over land use, diminished game as a consequence of expanding European settlement, and other tensions.
As the colonists brought their growing numbers to bear, King Philip and some of his followers took refuge in the great Assowamset Swamp in southern Massachusetts. He held out for a time, with his family and remaining followers.
Hunted by a group of rangers led by Captain Benjamin Church, he was fatally shot by a praying Indian named John Alderman, on August 12, 1676, in the Miery Swamp near Mount Hope in Bristol, Rhode Island. After his death, his wife and nine-year-old son were captured and sold as slaves in Bermuda. Philip's head was mounted on a pike at the entrance to Fort Plymouth, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees. Alderman was given Metacomet's right hand as a reward.
In his short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1937), Stephen Vincent Benet portrays Metacom as a villain to the colonists, and as being killed by a blow to the head (he was shot in the heart) - however, Webster respects Metacomet as one of those who "formed American history" and finally Metacomet - together with other famous historical villains - takes Webster's side against the Devil.
King Philip. From Metacomet. The clipper ship built in 1856 that is periodically seen at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California. It is considered the best-preserved wooden shipwreck on the West Coast of North America.