King Philip’s War
An even more destructive war broke out in New England less than 40 years later, again over a murder. On June 11, 1675, a farmer saw an Indian looting his cattle. He killed the Indian. The local Wampanoag chief, called Metacomet by the Indians and (with contempt) King Philip by the English, sought justice from the local garrison. Rebuffed, the Indians took justice into their own hands and killed the hot-tempered farmer, then killed his father and five other settlers.
But the war had actually been brewing for some time. King Philip was the son of Massasoit, the chief who had been so friendly to the New Englanders. Faced with the colonists’ insatiable land hunger, their rising population, and their highhanded, contemptuous treatment of himself, King Philip was not inclined toward friendship. Beginning about 1662, he stirred rebellion among the Narragansetts and the Nipmucks as well as his own Wampanoags. At first, the colonists were hobbled by the same problem they had during the Pequot War. Disorganized and apparently incapable of unified action, the New Englanders suffered very heavy losses during the first months of the war. It was only after they managed to join forces as the United Colonies that Massachusetts, Plymouth, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the more remote “Eastern Colonies”—Maine and New Hampshire—began to take the initiative.
King Philip’s War was an unmitigated catastrophe for colonists and Indians alike. During 1675-76, half the region’s towns were badly damaged and at least 12 utterly wiped out. The colonial economy was left in tatters because of the disruption of the fur trade, coastal fishing, and the West Indian trade. The Wampanoags, Narragansetts, and Nipmucks lost a great many of their number. As for the colonists, proportional to the population at the time, King Philip’s War stands to this day as the costliest conflict in American history.