Colonial retaliation to the Indian uprising of 1675-1676, known as King Philip's War, was extreme. Modern historians define it as one of extermination. The widespread response engulfed even those who converted to Christianity and were close allies of the colonists, including the Pawtuckets that once called Chelsea their home. In 1675, Wenepoykin, also known as Sagamore George Rumney Marsh, (1616 or 1620 - 1684) was the last Sachem (leader) of the Pawtucket tribe and imprisoned on Deer Island. Half of the roughly 500 people in this concentration camp perished due to exposure and starvation. Wenepoykin/Sagamore George survived only to be sold into slavery and sent to Barbados. After years of appeals for his release he was eventually returned to the area only to die not long after.
Metacomet (aka “Philip”) (1638-1676) became the new Wampanoag Chief in 1662 and led the Pokanoket and the Wampanoag Confederacy. Metacomet’s father, Massasoit, who maintained a cordially relationship with the Mayflower Pilgrims as Chief had died just a year before. Eldest son Wamsutta (aka “Alexander”) succeeded him as Grand Sachem but not, long after, he is arrested suspicion of plotting war and killed under questioning.
Despite this troubled start, for the next twelve years Metacomet leads the Wampanoag in a peaceful but an increasingly strained relationship with the colonists. Colonists are lax, leaving their livestock to trample Wampanoag farms and invade food stores. Indians are pushed out of their traditional land for hunting and fishing. Colonial missionaries pressure them to convert to Christianity. The English enforce the law unjustly and compensate for land and goods unfairly. Metacomet seeks to rebalance power.
John Sassamon (aka Wussausmon) (c 1620-1675) was a Native raised in a colonist’s home as an indentured servant. A Christian convert, he closely allied with missionary John Elliot who enabled his studies at Harvard. Sassamon straddled identities of Indian and English and became a “cultural mediator,” serving as a translator and advisor to both English and Indian leaders. In January 1675 Sassamon reported to the governor of Plymouth County of Metacomet’s plans to attack colonial settlements. The colonists disregarded the warning. Later that month Sassamon was found dead in an icy pond. For the murder, three Wampanoags, including an advisor to Metacomet, were convicted and hanged.
Within weeks of the hangings Metacomet launched raids on colonial homesteads and villages. Other tribes, even those trying to stay neutral, were swept up including Narragansetts, Podunks, & Nipmucks. Colonialists muster 1000 militia and 150 native allies, calling on every male over age 14 to serve. Battles, raids and massacres occur all across New England over the next year.
Rivalries among tribes hinder Metacomet in forging a united front against the colonists. His attempt to enlist the Mohawk fails terribly as Mohawk forces kill hundreds of Womanpoag and raid Algonquian settlements. Fear of further attacks from the English and the Mohawk lead some Womanpanoag to surrender. Indians were unable to replenish ammunition. Indians captured in attacks on colonial settlements were hanged, enslaved, or put into indentured servitude. Metacomet fled to Mount Hope (in Rhode Island). There, the war came to an end with his death on August 12, 1676. Metacomet’s wife and son were sent to Bermuda as slaves.
1000 colonists and 3000 Indians died
More than half of New England's towns were attacked by Natives. 12 of the region's towns destroyed and many more were damaged
Hundreds of Wampanoags and allies publicly executed. More than 500 are enslaved. Metacomet’s son and other natives enslaved sent to Bermuda
Restrictions are enacted affecting all indigenous people. Hundreds were imprisoned at Deer Island to face starvation and exposure. The survivors were then enslaved and sent to Barbados. Among the imprisoned are the Nipmuks Indians and Chelsea’s Pawtucket Indians including Sagamore George, the last of the Sachems.