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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
King Philip’s War
By George Bancroft (1800–1891)
 
From ‘History of the United States’

THUS was Philip hurried into “his rebellion”; and he is reported to have wept as he heard that a white man’s blood had been shed. He had kept his men about him in arms, and had welcomed every stranger; and yet, against his judgment and his will, he was involved in war. For what prospect had he of success? The English were united; the Indians had no alliance: the English made a common cause; half the Indians were allies of the English, or were quiet spectators of the fight: the English had guns enough; but few of the Indians were well armed, and they could get no new supplies: the English had towns for their shelter and safe retreat; the miserable wigwams of the natives were defenseless: the English had sure supplies of food; the Indians might easily lose their precarious stores. Frenzy prompted their rising. They rose without hope, and they fought without mercy. For them as a nation, there was no to-morrow.  1
  The minds of the English were appalled by the horrors of the impending conflict, and superstition indulged in its wild inventions. At the time of the eclipse of the moon, you might have seen the figure of an Indian scalp imprinted on the centre of its disk. The perfect form of an Indian bow appeared in the sky. The sighing of the wind was like the whistling of bullets. Some heard invisible troops of horses gallop through the air, while others found the prophecy of calamities in the howling of the wolves.  2
  At the very beginning of danger the colonists exerted their wonted energy. Volunteers from Massachusetts joined the troops from Plymouth; and, within a week from the commencement of hostilities, the insulated Pokanokets were driven from Mount Hope, and in less than a month Philip was a fugitive among the Nipmucks, the interior tribes of Massachusetts. The little army of the colonists then entered the territory of the Narragansetts, and from the reluctant tribe extorted a treaty of neutrality, with a promise to deliver up every hostile Indian. Victory seemed promptly assured. But it was only the commencement of horrors. Canonchet, the chief sachem of the Narragansetts, was the son of Miantonomoh; and could he forget his father’s wrongs? Desolation extended along the whole frontier. Banished from his patrimony, where the pilgrims found a friend, and from his cabin, which had sheltered the exiles, Philip, with his warriors, spread through the country, awakening their brethren to a warfare of extermination.  3
  The war, on the part of the Indians, was one of ambuscades and surprises. They never once met the English in open field; but always, even if eightfold in numbers, fled timorously before infantry. They were secret as beasts of prey, skillful marksmen, and in part provided with firearms, fleet of foot, conversant with all the paths of the forest, patient of fatigue, and mad with a passion for rapine, vengeance, and destruction, retreating into swamps for their fastnesses, or hiding in the greenwood thickets, where the leaves muffled the eyes of the pursuer. By the rapidity of their descent, they seemed omnipresent among the scattered villages, which they ravished like a passing storm; and for a full year they kept all New England in a state of terror and excitement. The exploring party was waylaid and cut off, and the mangled carcasses and disjointed limbs of the dead were hung upon the trees. The laborer in the field, the reapers as they sallied forth to the harvest, men as they went to mill, the shepherd’s boy among the sheep, were shot down by skulking foes, whose approach was invisible. Who can tell the heavy hours of woman? The mother, if left alone in the house, feared the tomahawk for herself and children; on the sudden attack, the husband would fly with one child, the wife with another, and, perhaps, one only escape; the village cavalcade, making its way to meeting on Sunday in files on horseback, the farmer holding the bridle in one hand and a child in the other, his wife seated on a pillion behind him, it may be with a child in her lap, as was the fashion in those days, could not proceed safely; but, at the moment when least expected, bullets would whizz among them, sent from an unseen enemy by the wayside. The forest that protected the ambush of the Indians secured their retreat.  4
 
 
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