Metacomet was the second son of the sachem Massasoit. He became a chief in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta (or King Alexander) died shortly after his father Massasoit. Wamsutta's widow Weetamoo (d. 1676), sachem of the Pocasset, was Metacomet's ally and friend for the rest of her life. Metacom married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske. No one knows how many children they had or what happened to them, but Wootonekanuske and one of their sons were sold to slavery in the West Indies.
At the beginning he sought to live in harmony with the colonists. As a sachem, he took the lead in much of his tribes' trade with the colonies. He adopted the European name of Philip, and bought his clothes in Boston, Massachusetts.
But the colonies continued to expand. To the west, the Iroquois Confederation also was fighting against neighboring tribes in the Beaver Wars, pushing them west and encroaching on his territory. Finally, in 1671 the colonial leaders of the Plymouth Colony forced major concessions from him. He surrendered much of his tribe's armament and ammunition, and agreed that they were subject to English law. The encroachment continued until hostilities broke out in 1675. Metacom led the opponents of the English, with the goal of stopping Puritan expansion.
In the spring of 1660 Metacomet's brother Wamsutta appeared before the court of Plymouth to request that he and his brother be given English names. The court agreed and Wamsutta had his name changed to Alexander, and Metacomet's was changed to Philip. Author Nathaniel Philbrick has suggested that this might have been at the urging of Wamsutta's interpreter, the Christan convert John Sassamon. Metacomet was later called "King Philip" by the English.
King Philip's War
Metacomet used tribal alliances to coordinate efforts to push European colonists out of New England. Many of the native tribes in the region wanted to push out the colonists following conflicts over land use, diminished game as a consequence of expanding European settlement, and other tensions.
As the colonists brought their growing numbers to bear, King Philip and some of his followers took refuge in the great Assowamset Swamp in southern Massachusetts. He held out for a time, with his family and remaining followers.
Hunted by a group of rangers led by Captain Benjamin Church, he was fatally shot by a praying Indian named John Alderman, on August 12, 1676, in the Miery Swamp near Mount Hope in Bristol, Rhode Island. After his death, his wife and nine-year-old son were captured and sold as slaves in Bermuda. Philip's head was mounted on a pike at the entrance to Fort Plymouth, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees. Alderman was given Metacomet's right hand as a reward.
- Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive during a raid on Lancaster, Massachusetts, later wrote a memoir about her captivity, and described meeting with Metacomet while she was held by his followers.
- Washington Irving relates a romanticized but sympathetic version of Metacomet's life in the 1820 sketch "Philip of Pokanoket," published in his collected stories, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1820).
- John Augustus Stone wrote the play, Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoags (1829) for the notable actor Edwin Forrest as lead.
- In his short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1937), Stephen Vincent Benet portrays Metacom as a villain to the colonists, and as being killed by a blow to the head (he was shot in the heart) - however, Webster respects Metacomet as one of those who "formed American history" and finally Metacomet - together with other famous historical villains - takes Webster's side against the Devil.
- Metacomet is featured in the 1995 film The Scarlet Letter as the Algonquian people's new chief after his father's death.
- David Kerr Chivers' Metacomet's War (2008) is an historical novel about King Philip's War.
- Narragansett journalist John Christian Hopkins's novel, Carlomagno, is a swashbuckling pirate story that imagines the fate of Metacomet's son, sold into slavery in the West Indies after the war.
Numerous places are named after Metacomet:
- Metacomet Mill in Fall River, Massachusetts, built in 1847 and named for the chief, is the oldest remaining textile mill in the city.
- King Philip Stockade, a large park named after the chief, where the Pocumtuc Indians planned and began the Sack of Springfield, is now a part of Forest Park in Springfield, Massachusetts
- King Philip Mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, built 1871.
- The USS Metacomet, an 1863 United States Navy ship.
- The Metacomet Ridge, a 100-mile long mountain range in southern New England.
- The 51-mile Metacomet Trail in central Connecticut.
- The 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.
- Metacomet Country Club, a golf course.
- King Philip Regional High School, which serves as the high school for Plainville, Wrentham, and Norfolk, Massachusetts.
- King Philip Regional Middle School in Norfolk, Massachusetts, which serves as the middle school for the above three towns.
- Metacom Avenue, a major road running through Bristol and Warren, Rhode Island.
- Metacomet Street in Walpole, Massachusetts and Belchertown, Massachusetts.
- Metacomet Road in Longmeadow, Massachusetts.
- King Philip Avenue, a street in Bristol, Rhode Island.
- King Philip Mountain, a peak on Talcott Mountain, near Hartford, Connecticut
- King Phillip's Cave in Norton, Massachusetts, a cave said to have been used by the chief as a hiding place towards the end of his reign.
- King Phillip's Nose – a rock island in the Connecticut River, south of Northfield, Massachusetts.
- Phillips Pond and Phillipswood Road in Sandown, New Hampshire.
- Metacomet Park in Medfield, Massachusetts.
- King Philip. From Metacomet. The clipper ship built in 1856 that is periodically seen at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, California. It is considered the best-preserved wooden shipwreck on the West Coast of North America.
- King Philip Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut.
- Multiple Metacomet street names surrounding the Metacomet Trail in Connecticut.
- Lake Metacomet, a point of interest in Belchertown, Massachusetts
- Metacomet Street in Belchertown, Massachusetts
- King Philip Street in Fall River, Massachusetts
- King Philip Street in Raynham, Massachusetts
- King Philip Road in Worcester, Massachusetts
- Metacomet conservation land in Easton, Massachusetts
- King Philip Drive and Metacomet Rd in Longmeadow, Massachusetts
- Metacomet Pond aka Comet Pond in Hubbardston, Massachusetts
- King Philip Avenue in Bristol RI along Mt. Hope Bay
- King Philip Avenue in Somerset, MA
- Philbrick, p. 196
- Bourne, p. 4
- History: MGA Links at Mamantapett, MGA Links (archived 2006)
- Bourne, Russel, The Red King's Rebellion, 1990, ISBN 0-689-12000-1
- Philbrick, Nathaniel, "Mayflower : a story of courage, community, and war" New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 0670037605.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Metacomet.|
- The Royal Gazette article: The struggle to honour Bermuda’s Native American heritage.
- Rootsweb: New England Indians. Bermuda Reconnection Festival 2002 Photo Album.
- Rootsweb: Edward Randolph on the Causes of the King Philip's War (1685).
- Rootsweb: St. David's (Bermuda) Indian Committee.
- Pokanoket/Wampanoag Constitution. With History.
- US History.com: King Philip's War, 1675–76.
- "Philip". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900.
- King Philip's Biography