Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History


U.S. History, Anthropology & Archaeology



First Advisor

Rod Mather


On August 12, 1676, Benjamin Church, an English colonizer and military leader, led a company of Englishmen and Indian allies in an attack on a group of Wampanoags with the goal of killing the Wampanoag sachem known as Metacomet, Metacom, or King Philip. According to colonial records, the attack took place at Mount Hope in Bristol, Rhode Island during King Philip’s War. This conflict began in southern Massachusetts in June 1675 and eventually engulfed most of New England. The Wampanoags and English fought on opposing sides.

This study will analyze the attack that resulted in Philip’s death, guided by the question: How did the colonial forces, with their Indian allies, defeat the group of Wampanoags they fell upon? The major argument that underlies this study is that Indian war tactics- adopted by the English in the final and fatal attack on Philip, rather than a disparity in weaponry between the two sides- helped assure the military victory. The relative equity in military hardware supports the assertion that the use of Indian war tactics was more influential than advanced weaponry in determining battle victories.

Investigation of these questions is difficult due to a lack of Native American written accounts of the attack. The problem is partially remedied using archaeological evidence. The colonial weapons buried with Native Americans at a seventeenth-century Wampanoag burial ground suggests a level of value attributed to them, and supports historic accounts of the Indians' use of colonial weapons during King Philip's War. This study will also examine how King Philip's War, specifically the attack which resulted in Philip's death, is remembered today and how the conflict fits into the broader history of colonial Rhode Island.

Chapter One introduces the study. Chapter Two details what historians and researchers have argued about the reasons for colonial victory. Chapter Three is a cultural comparison of weapons and war tactics between the English and Native Americans. It will demonstrate that Native Americans adopted and mastered European weapons, which helped level the wartime playing field and narrowed military discrepancies. This in turn suggests that other factors- such as the adoption of Native American war tactics- more heavily contributed to battle victories. Chapter Four focuses on archaeology; it details the archaeological study of Burr’s Hill, a seventeenth-century Wampanoag burial ground. Chapter Five analyzes the final attack on Philip using historical and archaeological evidence and demonstrates the use of Native American military tactics by the English colonists and their Native American allies; it also explains the archaeological significance of the site where Philip allegedly fell. Chapter Six discusses how the attack and the overall war is remembered in Rhode Island with writings, monuments and events. Chapter Seven is the conclusion.



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