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"Philip. King of Mount Hope", a 1772 engraving of a caricature of King Philip by Paul Revere.[1]

Metacom (1638–1676), also known as Metacomet and by his adopted English name King Philip,[2] was chief to the Wampanoag people and the second son of the sachem Massasoit. He became a chief in 1662 when his brother Wamsutta (or King Alexander) died shortly after their father Massasoit. Wamsutta's widow Weetamoo (d. 1676), sunksqua of the Pocasset, was Metacomet's ally and friend for the rest of her life. Metacomet married Weetamoo's younger sister Wootonekanuske. No one knows how many children they had or what happened to them all. 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.

At the beginning 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, 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 from the west and encroaching on his territory. Finally, in 1671, the colonial leaders of the Plymouth Colony forced major concessions from him. Metacomet 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. Metacomet led the opponents of the English, with the goal of stopping Puritan expansion.


Name changeEdit

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 the Wampanoag may have taken action at the urging of Wamsutta's interpreter, the Christian convert John Sassamon.[3] Metacomet was later called "King Philip" by the English.

King Philip's WarEdit

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 Plymouth, Massachusetts, where it remained for more than two decades. His body was cut into quarters and hung in trees.[4] Alderman was given Metacomet'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 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). Webster is portrayed as respecting Metacomet as one of those who "formed American history." Metacomet, together with other famous historical villains, takes Webster's side against the Devil. In the film he is replaced by Asa, the Black Monk.
  • Metacomet is featured in the 1995 film The Scarlet Letter as the Wampanoag'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 historical novel that imagines Metacomet'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.


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 species is named after Metacomet:

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bourne, p. 4
  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. ^ Philbrick, p. 196
  4. ^ "Blood and Betrayal: King Philip's War", History Net
  5. ^ Plat filed in the real property records of Bexar County, Texas at Vol. 5870, P. 88
  6. ^ History: MGA Links at Mamantapett, MGA Links (archived 2006)
  7. ^ Retrieved 2018-10-11


  • 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.

External linksEdit