When the Pilgrims first came to New England they found that the nearest tribe of Indians, the Wam-pa-no'-ags, of which Massasoit was chief, had been much reduced in number by a dreadful sickness. The bones of the dead lay bleaching on the ground.
The next neighbors to the Wampanoags were the Narragansetts. These had not been visited by the great sickness, but were as numerous and strong as ever. Massasoit was, therefore, very glad to have the English, with their strange guns and long swords, near him, to protect his people from the Narragansetts.
The two sons of Massasoit had been named by the white people Alexander and Philip, and they were very proud of their names. These young men remained friendly to the settlers for some time after their father's death. But many things made the Indians discontented. They readily sold their lands to the white people for blankets, hatchets, toys, and such things. The ground was all covered with woods, and, as they used it only for hunting, it was of little value. But when they saw how much the white men made out of it they wished to be paid over again.
Many of this tribe of Indians became Christians through the preaching of John Eliot, who was called "The Apostle to the Indians." These were called "praying Indians." They settled in villages and tried to live like white people, though they continued to dwell in bark houses, because they found that the easiest way to clean house was to leave the old one and built a new one. They no longer followed their chiefs or respected the charms of the medicine men. It made the great men among the Indians angry to see their people leave them.
The young chief Alexander began to show ill feeling toward the white people. The rulers of Plymouth Colony took harsh measures with him. They sent some soldiers and brought him to Plymouth to answer for his conduct. When this proud Indian saw himself arrested and degraded in this way he felt it bitterly. He was taken sick at Plymouth, and died soon after he got home.
The Indians imagined that Alexander had died of poison given him by white men. Some time afterwards the white people heard that Alexander's brother, Philip, was sharpening hatchets and knives. They immediately sent for him, and forced him and his men to give up the seventy guns they had brought with
69 them. They also made Philip promise to send in all the other guns his men had.
When the white people first came, the Indians had nothing to shoot with but bows and arrows. In Philip's time they had given up bows, finding guns much better for killing game. You may be sure that when Philip once got away from the white people he did not send in any more guns. But he hid his anger, as an Indian always does, and waited for a chance to strike.
Though Philip lived in a common, dirty wigwam, and was probably often in need of food, he was called King Philip, and he proudly called himself a king and thought himself as great a man as the King of England. He had a coat made of shell beads, or wampum. These beads were made by breaking and polishing little bits of hard-clam shells, and then boring a hole through them with a stone awl, as you see in the picture. Wampum was used for money among the Indians, and even among the white people at that time. Such a coat as Philip's was very valuable. Philip dressed himself, also, in a showy red blanket; he wore a belt of wampum about his head and another long belt of wampum around his neck, the ends of which dangled nearly to the ground.
The quarrel between the white people and the Indians grew more bitter. An Indian, who had told the white men of Philip's plans, was put to death, probably by Philip's order. The white people hanged the Indians who had killed their friend.
The Indians under Philip were now resolved on war. But their medicine men, or priests, who pretended to talk with spirits, told them that whichever side should shed the first blood would be beaten in the war. The Indians burned houses and robbed farms, but they took pains not to kill anybody, until a white man had wounded an Indian. Then, when blood had been shed, they began to kill the white people.
This Indian war broke out in 1675. The New England people lived at that time in villages, most of them not very far from the sea. The more exposed towns were struck first. The people took refuge in strong houses, which were built to resist the Indians. But everywhere those who moved about were killed. Some were shot in going for water, others were slain as they ran out after the savages had set fire to their houses.
The white men sent out troops, but the Indians sometimes waylaid soldiers and killed them suddenly. Philip cut up his fine wampum coat and sent the bead money of which it was made to neighboring chiefs to persuade them to join him. Soon other tribes, anxious to share in the plunder and slaughter, entered the fight.
As the Indians grew bolder, they attacked the white men in their forts or blockhouses. At Brookfield they shot burning arrow son the roof of the blockhouse, but the white men tore off the shingles and put out the fire. Then the savages crept up and lighted a fire under one corner of the house; but the men inside made a dash and drove back the enemy and put the fire out. Then the Indians made a cart with a barrel for a wheel. They loaded this with straw and lighted it, and backed the blazing mass up against the house, sheltering themselves behind it. Luckily a shower came up at that moment and put out the fire.
A very curious thing happened at Hadley. An old gentleman named General Goffe was hid away in a house in that town. He was one of the judges that had condemned Charles I to death twenty-six years before. When the son of King Charles I came to be king he put to death such of these judges as he could find, and Goffe had to flee from England and hide. Nobody in the village knew that Goffe was there, except those who entertained him. While all the people were at church one Sunday, the old general ventured to look out of the window, which he did not dare to do at other times. He saw the Indians coming to attack the town. He rushed out and gave the alarm, and, with long white hair and beard streaming in the wind, the old soldier took command of the villagers, who soon drove back the savages. But when the fight was over, the people could not find the old man who had led them, nor did they know who he was or where he came from. They said that a messenger had been sent from heaven to deliver them.
The powerful tribe of the Narragansetts promised to remain peaceable, but young savages are too fond of war to miss a chance to engage in a battle. Some of the Narragansetts joined Philip, and their great fort was a refuge for Philip's men. They were probably waiting for spring to come before openly joining in the war.
The white men resolved to strike the first blow against them while it was yet winter. A thousand men from Massachusetts and Connecticut pushed through the snow and made a desperate assault by night on the Narragansett town, which was inside a fortification having but one entrance, and that by a bridge. Nearly two hundred of the white men were killed in this fight, and many hundreds of Indians were slain, and their fort and all their provisions were burned. The white men marched back, carrying their wounded through the bitter cold.
The Narragansetts took a terrible revenge. They joined Philip at once. Towns were now burned and people killed in every direction. The white men in armor could not catch the nimble Indians, who massacred the people in one village only to disappear and strike another village far away. Many women and children were carried into captivity by the Indians.