Massasoit: A Story of the Indians of New England - Alma H. Burton

King Philip's War

Philip of the Wampanoags sent swift messengers to summon his allies to a council of war.

Some came from the country of the Nipmullks in central Massachusetts, others from the tribes which dwelt about the great Niagara Falls, others from the far provinces of Maine.

They glided like swift shadows through the trackless forests, or floated past the chain of bays on the east, rounded Cape Cod, and steered their barks into Narragansett Bay, where the waters were red With the glare of the signal fires on the summit of Mount Hope.

And when all had at last assembled, they were a strange and motley group.

The warriors of each tribe wore their own peculiar dress, and their faces were marked in different symbols, so that each was known from the others.

Some were half naked, others clothed in fine doeskin embroidered with wampum and fringed with moose hair.

Weetamoe, queen of Pocasset, the widow of Alexander, was there in garments of moose skin, finely dressed; a mantle of blue cloth was tied at the shoulders and waist, with girdles of white and blue wampum; a tablet of copper wrought with jewels, shone on her ample breast; and with her were three hundred warriors, fiercer than all the others, in their war-paints.

Those who dwelt far from the white men, had their own weapons, the war clubs of tough, white. oak, the long bow with arrows tipped with jasper, the hatchets of stone, and the spear of hardened wood.

Those who came from near the English settlements, were armed with sharp, steel hatchets. Many had muskets, at which the less fortunate braves gazed with envious eyes.

When night had fallen, Philip took his place upon a stone near the council fire, and row behind row, in one vast circle, his warriors gathered around him. His face was painted in red and black. Upon his head he wore a band of wampum in token of his kingly office; a broad belt of wampum fell from his shoulders to his waist; his mantle was of feathers, and upon his breast was painted an eagle with outstretched wings.

A feast was served on the high white cliff which overlooks the lovely bay of Narragansett; and meats, which had long filled the air with savory odors during the process of cooking, were passed around in baskets by boys.

But, according to ancient custom, Philip, the chief, ate nothing. He set apart, and pondered how he might best move the hearts of his people. His fiery eyes glowed like those of a tiger, though his manner was subdued; and when the feast was over, he rose to his feet to tell his warriors why he had called them together. His voice swelled to majestic tones, when he recalled the ancient splendor of his race.

He pictured their vast domains, the deep forests, the sunny banks along the winding rivers, the smiling bays skirting all the morning waters. Then, in hesitating accents, he bewailed the disasters which had befallen his people-the plague, the coming of the white men, the scarcity of game, the insults of the English traders.

He said the Indians had only sold the right to settle on the lands; they had not sold the lands; yet their forests were cut down, and they, themselves, would soon be driven out like dogs from the seats of their fathers.

The white men had come cold and hungry to the Land of the Bays. They were warmed and fed. They came with no place where their feet might rest, save on a broken ship. The great Massasoit gave them shelter and broad lands; and now, the white beggars had become princes. They said to the red men, "Come hither," and they came. "Go yonder," and they obeyed like slaves.

The warriors were shutting themselves up in praying towns, where they did the work of squaws. They whipped their boys into craven cowards.

A few more years, and there would be no more warriors; there would only be slaves.

He recalled the destruction of the Pequods, the shameful death of Alexander, the betrayal of Miantonomo, the hanging of his own devoted followers, who were innocent of the death of Sausamono

He said that the great Spirit had painted one people red and the other white, that He might know them apart. Then He had stretched the wide salt water between them to keep them apart forever.

But the white men had disobeyed the great Spirit. They had come across the salt sea, and brought plague and ruin with them. Then Philip's voice grew loud and commanding, as he summoned his men to destroy the white tyrants, and win back the old hunting-grounds. As for himself, he would pursue the warpath as long as any man was left to fight. When the king sat down there was loud applause.

But some grizzly old warriors, scarred by many war clubs, urged delay. They said it would take many moons to unite all the tribes on the warpath to the English. The praying towns must be won over. The Mohawks and the Narragansetts must be bribed to joined the league. More guns must be bought from the Dutch and the French.

In the end, this wise counsel prevailed, and it was decided to delay the attack on the settlements until harvest.

But all the vast assembly declared for war; and then the fires were fed with pine-knots for the dance.

They whirled around in a fury which waxed wilder every moment, until a medicine man uttered a loud, shrill cry.

Then all was silent. Every warrior stood in his place like a bronze statue.

Slowly a band of powwows moved toward a forest among the neighboring hills. The warriors followed with noiseless tread.

And in a solitary grove the priests built a fire, calling on the great Spirit of the warpath. One by one the warriors walked to the fire, and threw their most valued treasures into the sacred flames—a scalp lock, an otter skin, a wampum belt, a carved bow with arrows of jasper, a dress of rare feathers, a string of wampum, each threw in an offering to appease the wrath of the god of war.

And so the last step wag taken. No more answer to the summons of white men! War, bloody war, was before all who dwelt in the Land of the Bays.

From this time forth, Mount Hope was the dread spot of all New England. There were sounds of drums and shots in the night, canoes were dimly outlined in the moonlight, as they glided past the coasts; and swift and stealthy messengers sped to and from the lodge of King Philip.

The court wrote Philip, urging him to dismiss his strange visitors, but he gave no reply.