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Wampanoag Sachem
Preceded byWamsutta
Succeeded byAnnawan
Personal details
DiedAugust 12, 1676(1676-08-12) (aged 37–38)
Bristol, Rhode Island
Cause of deathGunshot Wound

Metacomet (1638 – August 12, 1676), also known as Pometacom,[1]: 205  Metacom, and by his adopted English name King Philip,[2] was sachem (elected chief) to the Wampanoag people and the second son of the sachem Massasoit. His older brother Wamsutta (or King Alexander) briefly became sachem after their father's death in 1661. However, Wamsutta also died shortly thereafter and Metacom became sachem in 1662.

His brother's widow Weetamoo, female sachem of the Pocasset, became Metacom's ally and friend for the rest of his life. Metacom married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske.[citation needed] It is unclear how many children they had or what happened to them. Wootonekanuske and one of their sons were sold to slavery in the West Indies following the defeat of the Native Americans in what became known as King Philip's War.[3]

Initially, Metacom 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,[4] and bought his clothes in Boston, Massachusetts.[citation needed]

The colonies continued to expand. To the west, the Iroquois Confederation also was fighting against neighboring tribes in the Beaver Wars, pushing them from the west and encroaching on Metacom's territory. Finally, in 1671, the colonial leaders of the Plymouth Colony forced major concessions from him. Metacom 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.[citation needed]

Name change[edit]

In the spring of 1660, Metacom's brother Wamsutta appeared before the court of Plymouth to request that he and his brother be given English names in accordance with Wampanoag custom, in which new names marked significant moments in time (such as, in this case, Wamsutta's father's death). The court agreed and Wamsutta had his name changed to Alexander, and Metacom's was changed to Philip. Author Nathaniel Philbrick has suggested that the Wampanoag may have taken action at the urging of Wamsutta's interpreter, the Christian neophyte John Sassamon.[5] Metacom was later called "King Philip" by the English.

King Philip's War[edit]

Depiction of King Philip's death
The death of King Philip as depicted by Harper's Magazine in 1857.

King Philip 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 Assowampset 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, King Philip 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. He was shot by Alderman for killing his brother. 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 Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees.[6] Alderman was given Philip's right hand as a trophy.


  • Mary Rowlandson, who was taken captive during a raid on Lancaster, Massachusetts, later wrote a memoir about her captivity, and described meeting with Metacom while she was held by his followers.
  • Washington Irving relates a romanticized but sympathetic version of Metacom'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 Benét portrays Metacom as a villain to the colonists, and as being killed by a blow to the head (he was shot in the heart). Webster is portrayed as respecting Metacom as one of those who "formed American history." Metacomet, together with other famous historical villains, is a juror in the "trial of the damned". When convinced that his damnation resulted in his loss of admiration for the natural world, he ultimately takes Webster's side against the Devil. In the film he is replaced by Asa, the Black Monk.
  • Metacom is featured in the 1995 film The Scarlet Letter as the Wampanoags' 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 historical novel that imagines Metacom's son becoming a pirate after having been sold into slavery in the West Indies.
  • The novel My Father's Kingdom (2017, by James W. George) focuses on the events leading to King Philip's War.
  • There is a short section about Metacomet in the prologue of Tommy Orange’s novel There There.


The site of King Philip's death in Miery Swamp on Mount Hope
"King Philip's Seat", a meeting place on Mount Hope, Rhode Island

Numerous places are named after Metacomet:

One insect species is named after Metacomet:

  • Tipula metacomet, a species of large crane fly with a type locality in Amherst, Massachusetts

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silverman, David (2019). This Land Is Their Land. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
  2. ^ Lepore, Jill. The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Note: King Philip "was also known as Metacom, or Metacomet. King Philip may well have been a name that he adopted, as it was common for Natives to take other names. King Philip had on several occasions signed as such and has been referred to by other natives by that name."
  3. ^ Lepore, J. (2019). "Chapter 2: Rulers and the Ruled". In These truths: A History of the United States. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  4. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Philip, King" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 389.
  5. ^ Philbrick, p. 196
  6. ^ "Blood and Betrayal: King Philip's War", History Net
  7. ^ Plat filed in the real property records of Bexar County, Texas at Vol. 5870, P. 88
  8. ^ History: MGA Links at Mamantapett, MGA Links (archived 2006)
  9. ^ "King Philip Woods Conservation Land". Town of Sudbury, Massachusetts. June 5, 2014. Retrieved October 15, 2020.


  • Bourne, Russel (1990). The Red King's Rebellion. ISBN 0-689-12000-1.
  • Philbrick, Nathaniel, Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking Penguin. ISBN 0670037605.
  • Tilton, Rev. George Henry. (1918) "A History of Rehoboth, Massachusetts: Its History for 275 Years, 1648–1918." Boston, MA: Published by the author.

External links[edit]