Siege of Springfield

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The Sige of Springfield (October 1675) was a conflict around the colonial settlement of Springfield, Massachusetts during King Philip's War. Springfield was the second and final New England settlement burned to the ground during the war; the first was Providence Plantations. King Philip's War remains, per capita, the bloodiest war in American history. [1]

Portrait of King Philip by Paul Revere


Colonists from Massachusetts Bay Colony established a settlement on the Connecticut River in 1636. They maintained a complex relationship with local Indian tribes. The fur trade stood at the heart of their economic interactions, a lucrative business that guided many other policy decisions. The settlers traded wampum, cloth, and metal in exchange for furs. The tribes sometimes used land as collateral in exchange for English goods on the future promise of beavers. However, trade with the Colonists made pelts so lucrative that the beaver was rapidly overhunted. The volume of the trade fell, from a 1654 high of 3,723 pelts to a mere 191 ten years later, the tribes lost land which they had put up for security.[2]

Springfield settler Samuel Marshfield took so much land from the Indian inhabitants of Agawam that they had "little left to plant on", to the point that the Massachusetts General Court stepped in and forced Marshfield to allocate them 15 acres.[citation needed] Some tribes began to construct and gather in palisaded forts; the Agawam fort outside of Springfield was on Long Hill, although it is commonly believed that it stood in a modern-day park called "King Philip’s Stockade". In 1675, Eastern Massachusetts Wampanoag Indian sachem Metacomet (known as "King Philip" to the Colonists) led his tribe against the colonies after the untimely death of his brother Wamsutta, and the conflict rapidly spread through New England. [3]

The Siege[edit]

As the conflict grew in its initial months, the leaders of Springfield were deeply concerned with maintaining peaceful relations with the tribes around them.[4] The Agawams cooperated, even providing valuable intelligence to the Colonists. In August 1675, Colonial soldiers in Hadley demanded a fort of Nonotuck Indians be disarmed, but they were unwilling to relinquish their weapons and left in the night of August 25. A hundred soldiers pursued them, catching up to them at the foot of Sugarloaf Hill. The Colonists attacked, but the Nonotucks forced them to withdraw and were able to keep moving.[5]

Despite the advance warning, the Indians burned 45 of Springfield's 60 houses to the ground, as well as its grist and saw mills, which belonged to village leader John Pynchon. Much of the town became smoldering ruins, and the Colonists considered abandoning it entirely.[6] The residents of Springfield endured the winter of 1675 under siege conditions. John Pynchon's brick house served as a refuge for many residents during the siege, while Pynchon himself was away leading troops at Hadley.[7] Springfield's Captain Miles Morgan and his sons became known in the village for having defended their settlement, as well. Their blockhouse was another shelter during the attack and was one of a handful of homesteads to survive the siege.[8]

The Indians burned the settlers' mills throughout New England during King Philip’s War, which affected the Colonists' food supplies in some areas.[9] After the loss of their mill, the people of Springfield were forced to walk to Westfield for grain, and Indians attacked them in transit.[10]

Aftermath and legacy[edit]

During King Philip's War, more than 800 settlers were killed and approximately 8,000 Indians were killed, enslaved, or made refugees.[11] Some histories mark the end of the war with the death of Metacom in the summer of 1676, although the conflict extended into Maine, where the Wabanaki Confederation fought Colonists to a standstill and a truce.

Following the war, the greater part of the Indian population left Western Massachusetts behind, although land deeds between Indian tribes and settlers continued into the 1680s. Many refugees of the war joined the Wabanaki in the north, where their descendants remain today. Indian warriors returned to Western Massachusetts alongside the French during the Seven Years' War, and oral histories recall Abenaki visitors to Deerfield as recently as the 1830s.[citation needed]

The Student Prince and The Fort Restaurant in Springfield has a plaque by its entrance to commemorate the site of Pynchon's brick house, which was known as the "fort house". Bronze statues have been erected for Miles Morgan and Toto commemorating them for their roles in defending the settlement from the siege. The Miles Morgan statue stands in front of City Hall, the Toto statue in King Philip's Stockade of Forest Park, Springfield.


  1. ^ Lepore, Jill (1998). The Name of War. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-375-70262-8.
  2. ^ Thomas, Peter. "Chapter 1: Into the Maelstrom of Change". In Buckley, Kerry (ed.). A Place Called Paradise. ISBN 1-55849-485-5.
  3. ^ Brooks, Lisa (2018). Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-19673-3.
  4. ^ Pynchon, John (19 August 1675). "Cherackuson" (Letter). Letter to John Winthrop Jr.
  5. ^ Barrows, Charles (1911). The Story of Springfield in Massachusetts for the Young. The Connecticut Valley Historical Society.
  6. ^ "Homes For Sale in Springfield MA Real Estate". Retrieved 2012-07-09.
  7. ^ James Grant Wilson; John Fiske; Charles Dick; James Edward Homans; John William Fay; Herbert M. Linen; L. E. Dearborn, eds. (1915). "Pynchon". The Cyclopædia of American Biography. V. The Press Association Compilers, Inc.
  8. ^ Ellery Bicknell Crane, ed. (1907). Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County, Massachusetts, with a History of Worcester Society of Antiquity. I. The Lewis Publishing Company. p. 102.
  9. ^ Brooks, Lisa (2018). Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War. Yale University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-300-19673-3.
  10. ^ Wright, Henry Andrew (1949). The Story of Western Massachsetts. Lewis Historical Publishing Party Inc.
  11. ^ "Springfield, MA - Our Plural History". Retrieved 2012-03-23.