Tuesday, October 20, 2009

King Philip's War, by Eric Schultz

I presume the majority of people choosing to read about King Philip's War (1675–76) do so out of an interest in local history. As evidence of this, the authors on this conflict appear to all be New Englanders. My schooling in Pennsylvania completely skipped the subject. We were taught about the landing of the Pilgrims (one generation before King Philip's War), then we jumped ahead 150 years to the American Revolution. I wonder if school kids in New England learn anything about it—I suspect not. It rather spoils our fond Thanksgiving story. I, of course, knew relations between the Colonists and Indians eventually deteriorated, but I was surprised at how sudden the two groups went from guarded tolerance to mass bloodshed. As soon as the first generation of English became established in the New World, their land-hungry children set about killing off the native inhabitants.

Eric Schultz's King Philip's War is a fine book to start your research. Back to the whole regional interest thing: To get a copy of this book I had to make a request through interlibrary loan. The nearest available copy came from a library in New York. That's right next to New England, but 400 miles away from me!

The text is divided into three parts. Part I sets the scene with events leading up to the conflict, then gives a chronological general history of the war.

The middle bit, Part II, offers greater detail on each of the ambushes, battles, and incidences. This section moves from location to location using modern landmarks to aid the reader. I am completely unfamiliar with the area, so this organizational format wasn't so helpful. To use this section I picked an event first and then used the book's index to find the right page.

Part III offers first person narratives of the war. Benjamin Church lead a company of rangers. He wrote of the surprise attack on an Indian town known as the Great Swamp Fight. Mary Rowlandson gave an account of her capture by Indians. The author picks out only a few of her passages. There are several editions of her journal, which I intend to read next. Finally, Captain Thomas Wheeler provides a harrowing account an Indian ambush, the escape of the few survivors, and the Indian siege of the town to which they had retreated.

What I would like to find is a book that clearly sets out the combatants. Numerous English and Indian personalities are mentioned in this text, but there is no list describing the people each man represented: Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, Connecticut, Narragansett, Pokanoket, etc. I'd also like a break-down of the various leaders: colony governors, generals, chiefs. Maybe that's a chart I should draw-up myself!


quaint proper blogger said...

what a quaint little blog you have there,,, twas' a quaint read!!

--love and giggles--

Lando123 said...

Yes, New England is full of fascinating history, including the unfortunate warfare between the natives and the English colonists. This looks like an interesting read. I'm from New York, so I'm thinking about actually taking a trip up to New England for a historical field trip someday! Great review!

allison said...

Nice blog, I enjoyed looking at the pics and reading about the projects you work on with your kids. I'd love to do things like this with my daughter when she is old enough. Thanks for the inspiration!