The Forgotten War

What a great find for a quarter! King Philip’s War: America’s Forgotten Conflict by Eric B. Schultz and Michael J. Tougias. I have been deeply engaged in this book because there is so much here to ruminate upon, so much that could be applied to other conflicts around the world.

The great Sachem Massassoit is pictured at the emblematic First Thanksgiving. If he had not helped the Plymouth Colony with food and information, they would have died. Yet the inhabitants of the Plymouth Colony put his son’s head on a stick and displayed it for twenty years at a prominent crossroads in their town.

King Philip’s War, which is never given more than a paragraph in any modern history book, was the war in which most New England Indians, from Maine to Rhode Island, were exterminated. Indian women and children who tried to surrender were slaughtered. The Indians were brutal, too, but at least they took captives.

It was caused by the buttheads who were in charge of the Plymouth Colony, who wanted King Philip’s land. They harassed and terrorized him until he had no choice. These buttheads, through their greed, provoked a war that caused thousands of deaths from Maine to Rhode Island.

In fact the Rhode Islanders, outcasts from Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colonies, who had always been on good terms with the Indians, suffered as much or more as the acquisitive butthead colonists who started the war on purpose. Providence was burned to the ground. There was no room for friendship.

The so-called “Praying Indians,” Christian Indians who helped the English colonists win the war? They lost their right to hold property and were shipped off to locations where many died and the rest had to flee.

If it weren’t for the European-borne plagues that had reduced the native population by about 75 percent in the previous generation, many times the devastation of the Black Plague in Europe, the war might have come out differently. And we’d be better off if it had, because the paradigm of extermination set down in King Philip’s War was repeated again and again and again.

That’s why it’s been forgotten in the textbooks. It’s just so hard to deal with. We’d much rather tell our children nice things about the English colonists and have stupid little pageants about the First Thanksgiving.