Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pratt/Woodruff History-King Philips War

King Philip's War, the bloodiest war in American history on a per capita basis, took place in New England in 1675. I have identified at least eight Pratt or Woodruff ancestors who fought in that war, two of whom were killed. There probably were more.
Pilgim leader William Bradford, whom I quoted in my First Thanksgiving tome, died in 1657. Massasoit, the Pilgrim-friendly Wampanoag chief, died around 1660 and was succeeded by his son Wamsutta. With the passing of the first generation the personal bonds which had maintained peace between the Pilgrims and the Indians were broken.
Tensions had long existed due to the two cultures different ways of life. Colonist's  livestock trampling Indian cornfields was a continuing problem. Competition for resouces created fiction.
In 1662  Colonial forces took Wamsutta at gunpoint to Plymouth. The Wampanoag were greatly angered when he sickened and died shotly afterwards. Wamsutta's brother Metacom, called by th English "King Philip" because of his haughty manner, became chief and ultimately led his people into war to preserve their traditional way of life.
King Philip's War lasted little more than a year. Beginning in Plymouth Colony in June of 1675 (we had no ancestors left in Plymouth at that time) the war spread throughout New England. Boston itself was threatened. Colonial resources and manpower ultimately prevailed.
King Philip's warriors attacked first the town of Swansea in western Plymouth Colony. Encouraged by success, they carried the war to neighboring Plymouth Colony towns. In August of 1675, hostilities expanded to the Connecticut River valley; many settlements were burned (we had many ancestors living along the Connecticut).
In December Philip's winter quarters in Rhode Island's Great Swamp were destroyed in a crucial colonial victory (some of our ancestors were involved).
In February of 1676 Indian forces swept east: Boston seemed threatened. War returned to Plymouth Colony, with a raid on Plymouth itself. Colonists considered abandoning the frontier, but time was on their side. By June of 1676, the tide of war had turned. Indian forces, lacking food, manpower and arms, retreated.
Not all Indians had sided with King Philip. In fact, Indians joining with the colonists helped turn the tide of war. The war effectively ended with the death of King Philip at the hand of a Wampanoag Indian ally of the colonists at Mt. Hope, King Philip's hiding place near Bristol in present day Rhode Island.
The war rresulted in the destruction of families and communities, Indian and colonist alike. It took decades for the colonists to recover frm the loss of life, property damage and huge military expenditures. The Indian tribes never did recover.
NEXT: Our ancestors who fought.

Emailed Nov. 30

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