Metacom, known as King Philip by the English, is the second son of Massasoit, the Wampanoag Sachem who had dealt peacefully with early English settlement of Massachusetts and Rhode Island (most famously with the Puritans at Plymouth). Metacom succeeds his father as Sachem of the Pokanoket tribe and Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag nation, but given English settlement and expansion in the region, conflict was inevitable. By the 1670s, the Wampanoag are forced to defend their territory. For a dozen years or more, English settlers fear an “uprising.” It comes in 1675 after the English hang three Wampanoag men. Leading an alliance of Wampanoag, Narraganset, Abenaki, Nipmuc, and Mohawk, Metacom is victorious at first. His common tactic is best described by an eyewitness: “[H]is custom… was, to creep, with his company, on their bellies, until they came as near as they could; and that as soon as the enemy discovered them they would cry out; and that was the word for his men to fire and fall on. Directed him, when the enemy should start, and take into the swamp, they should pursue with speed, every man shouting and making what noise they could; for he would give orders to his ambuscade to fire on any that should come silently.” These are common, highly effective tactics of Native Americans: attack from ambush or other surprise attack; lure the enemy into ambush; attack and withdraw quickly; withdraw or retreat into difficult territory and defend from cover. An outstanding military leader, Metacom is eventually defeated by a combination of food scarcity that leads the alliance to fall apart, increasing casualties, defeats by an enemy who adapt European tactics with those of Native Americans, and a betrayal which leads to his death in his final battle.
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